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Sound Money Is A Prerequisite To Peace, Prosperity, And Freedom

Sound Money Is A Prerequisite To Peace, Prosperity, And Freedom Authored by Patrick Barron via The Mises Institute, There are many good recommendations promoted by Austrian school economists for improving the economy. Although we enjoy successes periodically, most--such as deregulating trucking and airline pricing--involve eliminating previous government interventions. These successes are to be celebrated, of course. But no one can deny that government intervention into the economy has continued, despite these occasional success stories. The reason Big Government has continued to grow is that it controls money production. Not only does government grow in terms of spending, regulations, and interventions everywhere (both internally and overseas), but it threatens our very freedoms. In other words, government's control of money is diametrically opposed to peace, prosperity, and freedom and eventually will destroy our republican democracy. For this reason, returning to sound money--i.e., money that is created by the private market, is part and parcel of the market, and is controlled by no one--should be goal number one for every lover of peace, prosperity, and freedom. Nothing less than the survival of our western-style way of life is at stake. Here are a few examples of how unsound money progresses and masks its destructive power. One, unsound money allows government to confiscate resources at will. For example, in 2020 America's bloated military spent as much as the next eleven nations of the world combined. Of course, military spending went up in 2021 and will continue to increase in 2022. America's annual budget deficit is projected to be somewhere between $1.84 trillion and $3.4 trillion, depending upon whether you ask the Biden administration or the Congressional Budget Office. All of this money is created out of thin air. Americans' taxes will not increase enough to cover even a fraction of the Biden estimate, and there is no appetite in the bond market for more American debt. Therefore, the Fed will monetize the new debt onto its balance sheet. The resulting increase in base money will cause the prices of most goods and services to rise. This impoverishment of the American people through the hidden tax of inflation is possible only because money is completely fiat; i.e., produced out of nothing except the government's printing press and computer terminals. Two, unsound money masks the destructive power of government market interventions. An example is former President Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods. According to a friend of mine, the data is irrefutable that the tariffs worked. Well, as Mark Twain said, there's lies, damned lies, and statistics. What really is irrefutable is the economic law of opportunity cost; i.e., that choosing one thing means the giving up of another. Another is individual preference. The very fact that people must not be allowed to purchase Chinese goods means that they valued those goods to a higher extent than American goods. The reason does not have to be financial. There's always service, availability, quality, etc. So preventing Americans from buying Chinese goods means less satisfaction for Americans. This is just one example. Another is keeping zombie companies in business through artificially lower interest rates means that capital is misallocated to less productive uses. There's a whole panoply of labor laws that artificially raises the cost of American labor, reduces American productivity, and lowers business income. Some workers are priced out of the market through minimum wage and mandatory benefit packages. Business has less capital to invest for expansion. New business starts are discouraged. There's something there for everyone! The destruction is masked by monetarily inflated GDP numbers, artificially suppressed Consumer Price Index (CPI) statistics, increased unemployment payments, and other government programs and manipulated data. Three, and most importantly, Americans' freedom is threatened. Government can print enough money to buy unlimited enforcers of its rules. More IRS agents. More agents for enforcing arbitrary rules of the Occupational, Safety, and Health Administration (OSHA). More agents for enforcing new environmental regulations and laws arbitrarily established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents. Perhaps even agents to confiscate guns. Conclusion Returning to limited government, creating a more free market order, having a less intrusive government, etc. requires sound money. Sound money is not a guarantee of a free society, but a free society is impossible without sound money. I conclude with these quotes from The Quotable Mises. The last quote is especially pertinent to the point of this brief essay. (Emphases are mine.) The gold standard alone makes the determination of money’s purchasing power independent of the ambitions and machinations of governments, of dictators, of political parties, and of pressure groups. The gold standard alone is what the nineteenth-century freedom-loving leaders (who championed representative government, civil liberties, and prosperity for all) called “sound money.” All those intent upon sabotaging the evolution toward welfare, peace, freedom, and democracy loathed the gold standard, and not only on account of its economic significance. In their eyes the gold standard was the labarum, the symbol, of all those doctrines and policies they wanted to destroy. The classical or orthodox gold standard alone is a truly effective check on the power of the government to inflate the currency. Without such a check all other constitutional safeguards can be rendered vain. I do not want to close on a pessimistic note. Therefore, I offer this final quote from Ludwig von Mises, ever the optimist and ever the gentleman: "Every nation, whether rich or poor, powerful or feeble, can at any hour once again adopt the gold standard." Tyler Durden Sat, 12/04/2021 - 19:30.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 4th, 2021

Ron Paul: "We Need A Revolution"

Ron Paul: "We Need A Revolution" Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity, A recent Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that 34 percent of Americans think violent action against the government can be justifiable. This view is held by 40 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Democrats. The result may seem surprising since leftists have been responsible for much of the recent politically-motivated violence, and many Democrats have called for violence against Trump supporters. However, the cultural Marxists appear to have (temporarily) ceased using violence as a tactic - although had President Trump won reelection, it may well have been ANTIFA members inside the Capitol on January 6 trying to “stop the steal.”  The rising support for violence against government is rooted in the growing (and justified) belief that the people’s liberties are being taken by a ruling class that is indifferent at best, and hostile at worst, to their values and concerns. The devastation wrought by the lockdowns, as well as the conflict over the promotion of masks, vaccines, critical race theory, and transgenderism, heighten these social tensions. Another major contributor to the social unrest is the economy. Rising prices combined with supply shortages and the increasing national debt are all signs that we may be witnessing the final days of the Keynesian welfare-warfare state. Unless Congress immediately begins to cut spending and transition to a free-market monetary system, America will soon face a major economic crisis. The crisis will likely be caused by a collapse of the dollar’s value. This will likely lead to increased violence. The violence will start when those who believe they are entitled to live off the stolen property of their fellow citizens decide to take matters into their own hands because the government can no longer do the looting for them. The only way to avoid this fate is by a revolution. I am not speaking of a violent revolution that replaces one form of authoritarianism with another, but a peaceful revolution of ideas. This revolution aims to replace the authoritarian interventionist ideology that dominates both the left and right wings of the ruling class with the ideas of liberty. Such a revolution would restore respect for individual liberty, constitutional government, free markets, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and sound money. The revolution of ideas would resolve social conflicts by getting the government out of social issues and instead allowing private property owners to, for example, decide who can and cannot use which restroom on their property. It would also restore control over education to parents. The goal is to respect the rights of each individual to live their lives as they choose as long as they do not violate the rights of others to do the same. A free market with a sound currency would release lower-income Americans from the Federal Reserve’s inflation tax as well as provide them with expanded economic opportunities. The growing economy would reduce tensions between races and lead Americans to view immigrants as an asset rather than a burden. A free and peaceful society cannot be brought about by a violent revolution. Instead, it must occur via peaceful conversation of a critical mass of citizens. When that critical mass is reached, even many authoritarian politicians will endorse liberty and limited government out of fear of losing reelection if they do not. Therefore, the best thing those of us who know the truth can do to restore a free society is to convert as many people as possible to the movement for liberty, peace, and prosperity. Tyler Durden Thu, 01/13/2022 - 15:45.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 13th, 2022

51 gifts for teens that they won"t toss away in their closet, from a popular hair dryer to a tie-dye kit

The best gifts for teens are ones they'll actually want to use, like tech gadgets, beauty products, and cool accessories. Here are 51 unique gifts. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.One of the best gifts for teens is a portable, waterproof speaker they can bring with them on trips with friends.Amazon It's never easy to shop for a teenager, especially if their tastes change frequently. We rounded up 51 gifts to make it easier to find the perfect gadget, game, or accessory.  Browse all of Insider Reviews' gift guides for more great gift ideas. Being a teenager is tough, but trying to buy a gift for one is even harder: They can be picky and fickle when it comes to what products they want. Sometimes, the best way to show a teen that you care is just to listen, and sometimes it's a thoughtful gift to show them you see them.To make the gift search easier, we curated 51 gifts ranging from a card game to a smartwatch to a quick-drying hair towel at various price points to ensure as many options as possible.If you are still unsure of what to get (and you can't ask them directly) try consulting their friends. Either way, a smart general rule of thumb is to make sure your gift is returnable. The 51 best gifts for teens: A tie dye kit they can use for a fun at-home activityTargetTulip 37pc One Step Tie Dye Kit, available at Target, $9.99They can revitalize white clothes and spend a few hours having fun doing something creative, whether solo or with family or friends.This one-step hair dryer brushElana Rubin/InsiderRevlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush, available at Target, $54.99Who doesn't love a one-step tool that feels luxurious? This popular round brush acts as a hairdryer while they brush, giving their hair volume without much finesse or time. You can find a full review of the Revlon One-Step here. An Apple AirTag to keep track of their belongingsLisa Eadicicco/InsiderApple AirTag, available at Target, $29.99The teenager in your life can attach this tag to their backpack, wallet, keys, or any other easily lost item and find it easily with the Find My app whenever they've misplaced it. Using the app, they can opt for the tag to play a sound until they've found their keys sandwiched between couch cushions or their wallet in the pantry.A board game that feels like a video gameAmazonCephalofair Games Gloomhaven Multi-Award-Winning Strategy Boxed Board Game, available at Amazon, $111.47This collaborative board game (good for one to up to four players) is sort of like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, and other cult-favorite fantasy adventure games that forces its players to contend with monsters and mercenaries, explore a new world, and discover treasure and fame. Players make tactical decisions, and the game unfolds in reaction to their choices. Disposable cameras to help them stay in the momentAmazonFujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, available at Amazon, $69.04Funsaver One Time Use Film Camera (2-pack), available at Amazon, $45.30Disposable cameras are popular right now, partly because of the nostalgic aesthetic of a polaroid and partly because of their simplicity. Spending so much time immersed in technology — and combatting the temptation to retake and edit photos in real-time — keep us from staying present.Disposable film cameras or polaroids help preserve memories without adding to their screen time. Plus, they give them cute photos to decorate their room with!Glossier's fan-favorite productsGlossierBoy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew Pack, available at Glossier, $42No-makeup makeup is in right now and, if your teen is into beauty products, they may appreciate a gift from Glossier, which is the "natural and glowy" brand Olivia Rodrigo says she wears in her Vogue beauty diary.We'd recommend a gift card or a pack like the Boy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew pack, which covers three of its fan-favorite products.A great bookAmazon"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11Books are an incredible gift if your teen is a reader. It can translate into hours of enjoyment at a minimum and, at its best, a favorite story that follows them well into adulthood.Plus, if you've read the book, it can also mean great conversations about it or movie adaptations to watch together. It's also a gift where money doesn't really matter; you can find a great read for $20 and spending more won't make much difference.Some book suggestions:"All the Bright Places," a popular YA book on TikTok"Scythe," a bestselling dystopian YA book similar to "The Hunger Games"The best young adult books, according to a teenagerThe best young adult romance booksThe best young people's literature of 2021 according to the National Book AwardsThe best books we read in our 20sAn eco-conscious tie-dye beanieFree The EarthFeel the Earth Breathe Tie Dye Beanie, available at Free People, from $40These unisex tie-dye beanies come in cool colors and with a unique plant logo. (To date, the Parks Project has reportedly contributed over $2,000,000 to help fund vital projects in national parks around the US).Ribbed beanies are big right now, à la the popular Carhartt beanie. If they've got that staple covered, the Parks Project also has tube socks. A splashproof, portable Bluetooth speaker perfect for outdoor tripsAmazonUltimate Ears Wonderboom 2, available at Amazon, $98This rugged, compact speaker can go with them anywhere. It's waterproof, has an "outdoor boost" button specifically for listening outside, is "drop-proof," and boasts a 13-hour battery life.A plush toy that they can heat upUrban OutfittersSmoko Mini Toasty Heatable Plushie, available at Urban Outfitters, $18Whenever they need some cozy comfort, they can heat up this cute animal-shaped heating pad for a snuggle.A portable phone chargerAmazonElecjet Powerpie Portable Charger, available at Amazon, $54.99This handheld charger can charge up your teen's smartphone or various devices like an iPad or small laptop so they can stay in touch, turn their paper in on time, or just never have to stress about 5% battery life.Sheet masks to go with a Netflix marathonAmazonTONYMOLY I'm Real Sheet Masks, available at Amazon, $26There are few things my 15-year-old sister loves more than oversized hoodies, Boba, and an endless supply of sheet masks. Grab a pack, throw them on, and make a night out of it with your teen's favorite candy and TV show.A pair of trendy, easy-to-use AirPodsAppleApple AirPods Pro with Charging Case, available at Target, $199.99If you're after the title of their favorite relative of the year, here's a good place to start. AirPods are both easy to use and functional as well as trendy. A Boba-shaped AirPods Pro caseUrban OutfittersSmoko Boba Tea AirPods Pro Case, available at Urban Outfitters, $18As I mentioned, part of my 15-year-old sister's ideal trifecta is Boba. You can pick up a cute, fun case no matter what their interest is — Baby Yoda, gaming, Boba, or whatever else. A Bluetooth water bottle speakerGrommetBluetooth Water Bottle Speakers, available at Grommet, $39.95This Bluetooth water bottle speaker offers a boost of hydration and fun for everyone. The water-resistant speaker resides at the top, ensuring greater sound quality that lasts 6-10 hours. It's the perfect accessory for them to bring to every hang-out session. A slim leather walletAmazonBellroy Slim Sleeve Leather Wallet, available at Amazon and Bellroy, $79This thin wallet is a subtle nudge toward minimalism, something many teens appreciate. The Bellroy Slim Sleeve wallet offers room for up to eight cards and a pocket to stash cash. It comes in a variety of colors and features environmentally certified leather.An eco-friendly phone casePelaPela Phone Case, available at Amazon and Pela, from $38.95Pela offers a wide variety of biodegradable cases for iPhone and Android, all made from plant-based polymers. Pela cases are rugged enough to offer drop protection, and if a phone has both a Pela case and screen protector but still cracks, Pela will cover the bill to get it fixed.A comfortable and sustainable Patagonia pullover they'll wear all the timePatagoniaLightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, Men, available at Patagonia, $119Patagonia Women's Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece, available at Patagonia, $119A Patagonia sweater is a particularly good gift for teens who are interested in sustainability. The company has been turning plastic bottles into polyester for its clothing since 1993 and continues to do so today.Its Snap-T pullover is the unofficial uniform of the cozy adventurer. It and the Better Sweater are long-held favorites, and both are comfortable classics that they'll no doubt come to rely on heavily during colder weather.Not sold on the Patagonia option? They may also appreciate the Acadia Recycled Polar Trail Fleece from the environmentally-conscious Parks Project.A gift card for stylish new glassesWarby ParkerGift Card, available at Warby Parker, from $50Teens are a notoriously picky bunch, so you can never go wrong with a gift card. If they're in the market for new glasses or sunglasses, we recommend Warby Parker because of its versatility, size flexibility, and free at-home try-on program. An Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free calls, alarms, music, updates on the weather, and moreAmazonEcho Dot (4th gen), available at Best Buy, $34.99The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it's compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, news) without any of the bulk. A smartphone-sized travel photo printerTargetHP Sprocket 200 Photo Printer, available at Amazon and B&H Photo, $79.99This tiny, compact device prints photos with sticker backing on ZINK film with Zero Ink technology. It connects to devices via Bluetooth, and multiple devices can connect at once (personalized LED lights indicate who's currently printing). String lights with clips for photosAmazon/Business InsiderPhoto Clip LED String Lights, available at Target, $10Perfect for creating the archetypal teen room that's most often seen in Netflix movies and old Taylor Swift music videos, the photo clip string lights combine warm light and Polaroids (or other memorabilia). A trendy Champion sweatshirtUrban OutfittersChampion Reverse Weave Fleece Crew Neck Sweatshirt, available at Urban Outfitters, $54Like Fila, Champion is a brand that's had a resurgence as of late. If you want to get them something they'll end up wearing all the time, this is a good candidate. A great video game"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD" / Nintendo"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD", available at Amazon, from $49.94If they're really into video games, all other gifts may pale in comparison to a really good new one. Check out "Hades," "NBA 2K22," and "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD."A vinyl record membershipVinyl Me, PleaseGift Membership, 3 months, available at Vinyl Me, Please, $119There's no greater joy than adding to a record collection or playing a new album for the first time. Your recipient gets to choose from three different types of tracks each month and will also receive extra goodies in each package. They'll also get one bonus record as part of the three-month gift membership. A gentle facial cleansing device that removes 98.5% of dirt and makeupFOREOLuna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Men, available at Foreo, $199Luna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Women, available at Foreo, $199FOREO's cult-favorite Luna 3 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touch-points, and it removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it's 100% waterproof and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge.This newest generation also offers an array of massages to tighten the skin for a youthful look. Find a full review on the previous generation Luna 2 from a female reporter and a male reporter here.Comfortable lounge pants that look put-togetherMeUndiesThe Lounge Pant, Men, available at MeUndies, $68The Lounge Pant, Women, available at MeUndies $68MeUndies is a popular LA startup that makes some of the most comfortable underwear we've ever tried. Their lounge pants, however, are the real hidden gem — perfect for lounging around on weekend mornings or heading to the dining hall when they get to college (yep, they'll last that long) while still looking sleek.A subscription to a famous book club that sends them great hardcovers each monthBook of the Month/Instagram3-Month Gift Subscription, available at Book of the Month, $49.99If your teen is a bookworm, Book of the Month is an especially cool gift. It's a book club that has been around since 1926, and it's credited with discovering some of the most beloved books of all time (like "Gone with the Wind" and "Catcher in the Rye" to name a couple).If you gift them a subscription, they'll receive a hardcover book delivered once a month. Books are selected by a team of experts and celebrity guest judges.If they're really more into audiobooks or e-reading now rather than hardcovers, check out a gift subscription to Scribd (full review here).An Apple Watch that combines their smartphone with a fitness trackerAmazonApple Watch SE GPS, 40mm, available at Apple, from $279If you have a little extra to spend on your teen, consider getting them a smartwatch. The Apple Watch SE is like a smartphone, fitness tracker, and music player all in one. Just like on their phone, they can customize the watch to show their favorite apps to pick, including social media.A cute iPhone caseSociety6Coffee Reading iPhone Case, available at Society6, $22This fun iPhone case is funny and unique, and most of their friends probably won't have the exact same one. Reusable strawsAmazonHiware Reusable Silicone Straws (10-pack), available at Amazon, $6.99Help teens do their part to keep single-use plastics out of trash bins, landfills, and the ocean by giving them this pack of reusable silicone drinking straws. They come in various colors and include a few cleaning brushes as well.A set of velvet retro-inspired scrunchiesAmazon/Business InsiderHair Scrunchie Variety Pack, available at Target, $6.99Another trendy gift is as many scrunchies as you can carry. This pack comes with 12 options in enough colors to work with virtually any outfit or mood. A multicolor mini cinema light boxUrban OutfittersMulticolor Cinema Light Box, available at Uncommon Goods, from $20These trendy lightboxes are inspired by cinema marquees, and they come with 100 letters and symbols for personal messages. This one also has color-changing LED lights for further customization.Fun and useful PopSockets for the back of their phoneAmazon/Business InsiderPopGrips, available at PopSockets and Amazon, from $10PopSockets have become their own cultural phenomenon in recent years, and they're surprisingly useful. Get your teen one for their own phone or tablet, and depending on their age, you may find it's the gift they're most excited about. It doesn't hurt that there's free domestic shipping on orders over $20, or that you can actually design your own.A waterproof e-reader with a no-glare screenAmazonAll-New Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $129.99Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is its thinnest, lightest version. It also has double the storage, a built-in light that adjusts to accommodate reading indoors or outdoors, and is waterproof for reading anywhere, including the beach or bath. Plus, a single battery charge lasts weeks rather than hours.Cool backpacks from a popular startup with a charitable missionSTATE Bags/FacebookState bags and accessories, from $15State bags are increasingly popular thanks to their versatile, laid-back aesthetic and characteristically bright nylon colorways. They're also known as #GiveBackPack(s), because for every State bag purchased, State hand-delivers a backpack — packed with essential tools for success — to a local child in need. The Lorimer and Bedford are two of the company's best sellers.A three-month subscription of beauty productsBirchBox3-Month Subscription, available at BirchBox, $45Teens are usually among the most interested in the latest and greatest beauty or grooming products — but may lack the funds to try all the full-sized versions. Birchbox sends samples of new and beloved products once a month, so they can test out new finds and discover products they may want to buy a full size of in the future. (It's also just fun to get an ongoing gift.)Personalized NikesNikeCustomizable Nikes, available at Nike, from $120Nike makes great stuff, but it's nice to get the benefits of a great shoe without forsaking what makes something unique. You can customize a pair of Nikes for them, or give them a gift card so they can get creative making something one-of-a-kind on their own.A great Alexa-enabled speaker they can control by voiceSonosSonos One Smart Speaker, available at Sonos, from $219The new Sonos One smart speaker fills any room with clear, rich sound, and they can use Alexa to play and control their music without ever lifting a finger. Find a full review here.A cult-favorite hair towel that reduces damage and cuts drying time by 50%Aquis/Business InsiderAquis Rapid Dry Hair Towel, available at Amazon and Sephora, from $20.99Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels can cut the amount of time it takes your hair to dry in half — a claim we're happy to report holds up. The proprietary fabric also means there's less damage to wet hair while it dries. If they've ever complained about frizzy hair, this and a silk pillowcase are thoughtful gifts they'll actually use. A Disney+ subscription for access to classic movies and moreDisney PlusDisney+ Gift Subscription Service, available at Disney, $79.99/yearDisney Plus is the new Disney-centric streaming service. The platform includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. You can gift a whole year of access for $80, which is something their entire family can benefit from.If you'd rather test Disney Plus out before buying, you can sign up for a free weeklong trial.A suitcase with an ejectable battery that can charge their devices on the goAwayThe Carry-On, available at Away, from $225Travel startup Away makes a great carry-on thanks to an ejectable battery that can charge devices seamlessly on the go, 360-degree wheels, and a lightweight build that travels easily. In other words, it takes a lot of the angst out of travel and may make family trips far more enjoyable and stress-free.Durable sunglasses that look good, tooAmazonSmith Optics Lowdown2, available at Backcountry, $129Who better to make a pair of durable, performance-based sunglasses than the company known for innovating the ski goggle? The Lowdown2 features bio-based materials for the frame, ChromaPop lens technology which creates high contrast and vibrant colors, and an anti-reflective smudge-resistant coating.Plus, the brand offers peace of mind with free shipping, 30-day returns, and a lifetime warranty.Comfortable, high-quality sheets that come in lots of colors and patternsBrooklinenLuxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle, available at Brooklinen and Amazon, from $240We think Brooklinen makes the best high-end sheets at the best price on the market, and most of the Insider Reviews team uses Brooklinen on their own beds. It's perfect for lazy Saturday mornings or the rare occasion sleeping in is encouraged.The Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle comes in 15 colors and patterns that range from classic to fun, and you can mix and match them to suit their preferences. Grab a gift card (delivered digitally) if you want to give them more freedom.Fidget ballsSpeksSpeks 2.5mm magnet balls, available at Speks, $34.95Made from rare earth magnets, these tiny balls can be molded into an infinite number of shapes and designs. The size of Speks balls makes them ideal for teens to keep with them for those unpredictable moments of nervousness that fill those teenage years.A pack of smart plugs so they can control devices from a distanceAmazon/Business InsiderTP-Link KIT WiFi Smart Plug, 2-Pack, available at Amazon, $35.99Whether they're wondering if they turned off their hot iron or just don't want to get up to turn off the TV, a smart plug lets them control devices from a distance. You can connect to them using any smart device.A Time-Turner clock that actually spinsHarry PotterHarry Potter Time-Turner Clock, available at Pottery Barn, $79It may not be able to take them back in time or help them be in two places at once, but this Time-Turner clock will help them stay on top of their schedule. It even has a functional hourglass on the back so they can time their study breaks. A toothbrush with a timerAmazonOral-B Pro 1000 Electric Toothbrush, available at Amazon, $39.97Rigorous dental hygiene isn't usually on the top of the list of things teens care about, which is all the more reason a rechargeable toothbrush with a timer is a fantastic gift. This rechargeable brush breaks up 300% more plaque on the gum line than traditional brushing and lets them know when two minutes have passed.Compact hand sanitizer sprayTouchlandTouchland Power Mist Hand Sanitizer, available at Touchland, $9It's in the car, the house, and their pocket these days, but many hand sanitizers can smell a little like household cleaner. Touchland comes in scents like Vanilla Cinnamon and Forrest Berry, or keep it simple and choose unscented.The compact sanitizer features 67% alcohol for killing germs but balances it with soothing aloe vera and essential oils to hydrate the skin. A lottery card that donates to charitiesLottoLove/Business InsiderLottoLove Card, available at LottoLove, from $5When you gift this lottery card, you're actually giving the gift of charity. When you "win big," you're winning a charitable prize that gets donated to nonprofits in one of four categories: Clean water, solar light, nutritious meals, or literacy tools. To date, LottoLove and its partners have impacted lives in over 70 countries.Gift cards for concert tickets, food, and clothesChipotleYou can't go wrong with money for their favorite things, especially for teens who are often relying upon part-time jobs to fund their frequent Chipotle meals and concert trips with friends. Check out more gift card ideas here.Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift CardCoffee and food: Starbucks Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardEntertainment and live events: Netflix Gift Card / Xbox Gift Card / Hulu Gift Card / StubHub gift cardMusic: Spotify Gift CardSheets: Brooklinen Gift CardGroceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardClothes: Nordstrom Gift Card / Everlane Gift CardTech: Best Buy Gift CardRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

A Bitcoiner"s Reflection On 2021: A Year Of Awareness

A Bitcoiner's Reflection On 2021: A Year Of Awareness Authored by Shawn Amick via BitcoinMagazine.com, Was 2021 a good year? Depends, as most things do, on perspective. As I sat writing the first line of this article, I asked myself this question. Now, this article might sound harsh at times, and I just ask that you stick with me. There's a method to my madness. As we progress through the months of this year, keep in mind that I could not address every event that happened, and each event spoken to is purposefully chosen to illustrate a larger narrative. To describe this year, I’m met with the conflict of state failure and burdening regulations stifling societal livelihoods and businesses, but also with the substantial growth and prosperity I’ve personally experienced, as well as the enduring betterment of and growth of Bitcoiners, and let’s not forget, Bitcoin itself. So, how best can we answer this question of whether or not this was a good year? Let’s take a review. JANUARY AND CENSORSHIP January 6, to be precise. The attack on the capitol (call it what you want, that’s not the point) was a culmination of a bull-headed figure dead-set on his reelection, a disenfranchised society, polarity at its most extreme, misinformation, and a myriad of other factors. Why is this relevant to Bitcoin? The President of the United States was censored and removed from Twitter and Facebook. I’ll refrain from being political here. Absent opinion of Trump, this was a clear message from Big Tech that they are the ones in control. They control, and allow the dispersion of information, and misinformation. Bitcoin doesn’t allow that sort of centralized control, and we started the year off being reminded just how not in control we really are of our current system. FEBRUARY AND “INFLUENCERS” February seemed to have better connotations looming about. Elon publicly got excited about Bitcoin towards the end of January, and into February, then saying he was “late to the party,” but that he was a supporter. And of course, the Bitcoin community got excited. But then the Dogecoin tweets started, and suddenly there were people all throughout the community trying to figure out if he was serious, as his interest seemed to affect short-term price action with his massive Tesla buy and their acceptance of bitcoin as a payment. This started us down a dangerous road of influencers. MARCH AND $60,000 The good news is pouring in, Tesla is up big on their investment, Saylor is putting out his usual updates of purchases, bitcoin is mooning! Eventually we broke the $60,000 mark! WOOO!!!! Where is all of this good news heading? APRIL AND POLITICS New all-time high? Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the government can no longer ignore Bitcoin. The state is starting to take notice. While the state begins to open their eyes, Coinbase goes public. A cryptocurrency exchange is suddenly in everyone’s ear. Will the listing affect price action, the young Bitcoiner asks? But, how now shall the government regulate this, and what are these ICOs that are popping about? Turkey panics over its failing currency and institutes a ban on crypto on its Official Gazette to take place at the end of April. We enter May with a crisp $53,000 value on bitcoin. Nation-states are taking notice, and whispers begin to fill the air. MAY AND FEAR The Internal Revenue Service says it will seize assets from those violating tax regulations. The hero found in Elon Musk earlier this year has now lived long enough to see himself become Bitcoin’s villain. Citing environmental concerns, Elon’s FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) spreads like wildfire. But it didn’t stop there. A meltdown instigated by one of the many “influencers” of bitcoin sent Musk on a DOGE shilling tirade, further dampening the support previously made. China came out and warned investors they would have no protection in crypto markets. May 20, and suddenly we are back to $37,000. The fighting continued, Bitcoin “toxic maximalism” became the forefront of the discussion as others witnessed the attack on Musk from the sidelines. JUNE AND JACK AND EL SALVADOR Bitcoin Conference 2021! People had a blast (so I’m told). Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter is interviewed and gives great insight into Bitcoin, and now Twitter is becoming a much larger part of the conversation. Suddenly, laser eyes are popping up all over the place (profile pictures on Twitter with red laser eyes), and everyone takes particular notice when Nayib Bukele, the President of El Salvador, dons laser eyes. The President of El Salvador announces he will be making bitcoin legal tender. Within 90 days, it is accomplished. Now, I want to take a short minute on this one. I want to start by saying that I personally attended the Twitter Space when President Bukele passed the legislation to make bitcoin legal tender, and I had the great experience of hearing their chamber erupt with cheers. Twitter, Spaces, Jack Dorsey, and Jack Mallers, all had a hand in changing the world that night. This cannot be understated. The world has become widely more accessible, in a way that allows anyone willing to attend a historic event for the people of El Salvador. Do I think forced merchant adoption by legal definition of tender is how we want bitcoin to be adopted? No. Do I think government-owned wallets are how we want bitcoin to be transacted with? No. Do I think everything is good for Bitcoin? No. I still haven’t fully made up an opinion here, and I hope I never do. But what I do know … is that the world has changed. But that’s not all that happened in June. China returned to tell banks and payment platforms to stop facilitating crypto transactions and issued a mining ban. The great mining migration began and the hashrate plummeted overnight. JULY AND THE FALL TO $29,000 The hype from El Salvador didn’t cause the momentum push Bitcoiners were desperately hoping for. For all that talk of low time preference, patience was running thin. The hype needed to return. Interviews with a political leader of Tonga on Bitcoin were had. An Argentinian bill to pay people in bitcoin was introduced. Suddenly, we fall below $30,000 for a short time, the support level is taken back and maintained, and a slow reversal begins. The space quickly becomes aggressive and defensive. I mention this need and focus on price action for one reason. The narrative of hyperbitcoinization has left the tips of many tongues in the Bitcoin space. It’s dangerous. We must, at all times, be presently focused on low time preference. If we fail to do so, those new to the space are led to false expectations, which inevitably creates weak hands that are more damaging to adoption than anything. These narratives burn newcomers. AUGUST: THE STATE STRIKES BACK Late on August 1, hidden within an infrastructure bill, the state seeks to attack cryptocurrency. Bitcoiners become widely political at an impressively quick rate. Soon, many are trying to figure out the legal definitions and meanings behind these impending tax regulations, and what these implications hold for those who maintain the network. Suddenly, Bitcoin “influencers” are ramping up their politics. If you’d like to read an article about influencers in Bitcoin, see here. It was a call-to-arms. Automatic directories where you simply needed to dial a number would send you directly to your representative to voice your discontent with the bill. It was on every Bitcoin podcast and newsletter. Anger was setting in, and for the first time it became abundantly clear that this would be a fight. The absence of physical violence does not imply peace. This is not a peaceful revolution. August ended back at $47,000. WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS The psychology of support/resistance levels drives people insane, and sadly Bitcoiners are rarely different in that regard. As I type this article on December 2, 2021, I have a Twitter space in the background full of people losing their minds at the $44,000 dip and trying to figure out if we will lose the support of $42,000. I mention this because at the start of September, Bitcoiners started simping for $50,000 and for anything they could get their hands on to provide hope, like getting excited that Starbucks was accepting bitcoin in El Salvador. Being made legal tender in that country, of course this was going to happen. We all clearly understand that bitcoin functions as a medium of exchange, but this was being shouted from the heavens and stuffed down anyone’s throat willing, or unwilling, to listen. The need for hyperbitcoinization was mounting again. Robinhood announced a DCA (dollar cost average) product which got the same people criticizing Robinhood earlier this year for turning off the “buy” button, sharing that all over the place. The mayor of Miami stated we needed a “pro Bitcoin President” in the U.S. But I’m sure this had nothing to do with his own future ambitions. September 7 comes and the $50,000 price is reclaimed. After that, The People’s Bank of China reiterates their ban and declares participation in the financial revolution as “illegal activity.” But, at least El Salvador started working on a volcano mine, so that was cool. We ended September at $41,000. OCTOBER BELONGS TO THE BULLS El Salvador onboards 3 million people with the Chivo wallet. Criticism aside, this is a notable achievement for a largely unbanked nation. With a nation of almost 6.5 million people, this is an achievement of almost half of the population. Previously, statistics floated around that in 2017, less than 30% of the total citizenry even had a bank account. Yet, almost half of them have a Chivo wallet within months. Tesla is up $1 billion on their bitcoin investment. Square doubles their money on their investment into bitcoin. September closes over $60,000 on the month with all of this bullish news, and let’s not forget the most important thing that happened in October … I started writing for Bitcoin Magazine! That’s right, you can thank me for $60,000! November And Taproot I won’t rehash what Taproot is in totality, but the link will take you to a breakdown. Simply put, Taproot allows for a greater level of security, privacy, and scalability, and it went live in November. This resulted in greater privacy and security with a new form of digital signatures, and options within processing, as well as scalability with aggregation tools that can save the network time and effort. Smart contracts have always been on Bitcoin, but Tapscript was an addition within Taproot that allows more flexibility within these contracts and provides attraction for developers to create. This was needed. This was necessary. This was, in my opinion, the single largest event of the year for Bitcoin, and I am not discussing any other event for this month because everything else this month was irrelevant, comparatively. November ends at $57,000. DECEMBER’S CLEANSE Remember the dip I mentioned earlier in the article? Well, it’s still happening. It’s December 4, and liquidations across the market ran rampant. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets bled tonight, and that’s okay. My tone has been marginally sarcastic and mocking through some of this article, mostly because that’s my attitude towards price action. Bitcoin is the world’s greatest asset. I know this. I don’t need a price or market cap to confirm that for me. You shouldn’t need anyone to confirm that for you. This may seem dark and dreary, and maybe it’s because I’m a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. Most of these year-end reviews will shine happy lights on many of the accomplishments of the year, as there are many. Much like technical analysis, if all we do is focus on bullish information, then we miss the larger picture. However, we are here to ask a simple question: Was 2021 a good year for Bitcoin? Yes. The protocol received a well-deserved and absolutely necessary upgrade that provides greater levels of privacy and security, and allows a clear path to further scalability. But let’s ask a second question. Was 2021 a good year for Bitcoiners? Yes. Because we all had to learn some hard lessons about dangerous narratives, and trusting the wrong people. Tyler Durden Mon, 12/27/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 28th, 2021

47 last-minute gifts that teens will love, from portable photo printers to beauty product subscriptions

The best gifts for teens are ones they'll actually want to use, like tech gadgets, beauty products, and cool accessories. Here are 47 unique gifts. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.One of the best gifts for teens is a portable, waterproof speaker they can bring with them on trips with friends.Amazon It's never easy to shop for a teenager, especially if their tastes change frequently. We rounded up 47 gifts to make it easier to find the perfect gadget, game, or accessory.  Browse all of Insider Reviews' gift guides for more great gift ideas. Being a teenager is tough, but trying to buy a gift for one is even harder: They can be picky and fickle when it comes to what products they want. Sometimes, the best way to show a teen that you care is just to listen, and sometimes it's a thoughtful gift to show them you see them.To make the gift search easier, we curated 47 gifts ranging from a card game to a smartwatch to a quick-drying hair towel at various price points to ensure as many options as possible.If you are still unsure of what to get (and you can't ask them directly) try consulting their friends. Either way, a smart general rule of thumb is to make sure your gift is returnable. The 47 best gifts for teens: Disposable cameras to help them stay in the momentAmazonFujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, available at Amazon, $71.44Funsaver One Time Use Film Camera (2-pack), available at Amazon, $45.30Disposable cameras are popular right now, partly because of the nostalgic aesthetic of a polaroid and partly because of their simplicity. Spending so much time immersed in technology — and combatting the temptation to retake and edit photos in real-time — keep us from staying present.Disposable film cameras or polaroids help preserve memories without adding to their screen time. Plus, they give them cute photos to decorate their room with!Glossier's fan-favorite productsGlossierBoy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew Pack, available at Glossier, $42No-makeup makeup is in right now and, if your teen is into beauty products, they may appreciate a gift from Glossier, which is the "natural and glowy" brand Olivia Rodrigo says she wears in her Vogue beauty diary.We'd recommend a gift card or a pack like the Boy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew pack, which covers three of its fan-favorite products.A great bookAmazon"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11Books are an incredible gift if your teen is a reader. It can translate into hours of enjoyment at a minimum and, at its best, a favorite story that follows them well into adulthood.Plus, if you've read the book, it can also mean great conversations about it or movie adaptations to watch together. It's also a gift where money doesn't really matter; you can find a great read for $20 and spending more won't make much difference.Some book suggestions:"All the Bright Places," a popular YA book on TikTok"Scythe," a bestselling dystopian YA book similar to "The Hunger Games"The best young adult books, according to a teenagerThe best young adult romance booksThe best young people's literature of 2021 according to the National Book AwardsThe best books we read in our 20sAn eco-conscious tie-dye beanieFree The EarthFeel the Earth Breathe Tie Dye Beanie, available at Free People, from $40These unisex tie-dye beanies come in cool colors and with a unique plant logo. (To date, the Parks Project has reportedly contributed over $2,000,000 to help fund vital projects in national parks around the US).Ribbed beanies are big right now, à la the popular Carhartt beanie. If they've got that staple covered, the Parks Project also has tube socks. A splashproof, portable Bluetooth speaker perfect for outdoor tripsAmazonUltimate Ears Wonderboom 2, available at Amazon, $91.11This rugged, compact speaker can go with them anywhere. It's waterproof, has an "outdoor boost" button specifically for listening outside, is "drop-proof," and boasts a 13-hour battery life.A plush toy that they can heat upUrban OutfittersSmoko Mini Toasty Heatable Plushie, available at Urban Outfitters, $18Whenever they need some cozy comfort, they can heat up this cute animal-shaped heating pad for a snuggle.A portable phone chargerAmazonElecjet Powerpie Portable Charger, available at Amazon, $54.99This handheld charger can charge up your teen's smartphone or various devices like an iPad or small laptop so they can stay in touch, turn their paper in on time, or just never have to stress about 5% battery life.Sheet masks to go with a Netflix marathonAmazonTONYMOLY I'm Real Sheet Masks, available at Amazon, $26There are few things my 15-year-old sister loves more than oversized hoodies, Boba, and an endless supply of sheet masks. Grab a pack, throw them on, and make a night out of it with your teen's favorite candy and TV show.A pair of trendy, easy-to-use AirPodsAppleApple AirPods Pro with Charging Case, available at Target, $179.99If you're after the title of their favorite relative of the year, here's a good place to start. AirPods are both easy to use and functional as well as trendy. A Boba-shaped AirPods Pro caseUrban OutfittersSmoko Boba Tea AirPods Pro Case, available at Urban Outfitters, $18As I mentioned, part of my 15-year-old sister's ideal trifecta is Boba. You can pick up a cute, fun case no matter what their interest is — Baby Yoda, gaming, Boba, or whatever else. A Bluetooth water bottle speakerGrommetBluetooth Water Bottle Speakers, available at Grommet, $39.95This Bluetooth water bottle speaker offers a boost of hydration and fun for everyone. The water-resistant speaker resides at the top, ensuring greater sound quality that lasts 6-10 hours. It's the perfect accessory for them to bring to every hang-out session. A slim leather walletAmazonBellroy Slim Sleeve Leather Wallet, available at Amazon and Bellroy, $79This thin wallet is a subtle nudge toward minimalism, something many teens appreciate. The Bellroy Slim Sleeve wallet offers room for up to eight cards and a pocket to stash cash. It comes in a variety of colors and features environmentally certified leather.An eco-friendly phone casePelaPela Phone Case, available at Amazon and Pela, from $38.95Pela offers a wide variety of biodegradable cases for iPhone and Android, all made from plant-based polymers. Pela cases are rugged enough to offer drop protection, and if a phone has both a Pela case and screen protector but still cracks, Pela will cover the bill to get it fixed.A comfortable and sustainable Patagonia pullover they'll wear all the timePatagoniaLightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, Men, available at Patagonia, $119Patagonia Women's Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece, available at Patagonia, $119A Patagonia sweater is a particularly good gift for teens who are interested in sustainability. The company has been turning plastic bottles into polyester for its clothing since 1993 and continues to do so today.Its Snap-T pullover is the unofficial uniform of the cozy adventurer. It and the Better Sweater are long-held favorites, and both are comfortable classics that they'll no doubt come to rely on heavily during colder weather.Not sold on the Patagonia option? They may also appreciate the Acadia Recycled Polar Trail Fleece from the environmentally-conscious Parks Project.A gift card for stylish new glassesWarby ParkerGift Card, available at Warby Parker, from $50Teens are a notoriously picky bunch, so you can never go wrong with a gift card. If they're in the market for new glasses or sunglasses, we recommend Warby Parker because of its versatility, size flexibility, and free at-home try-on program. An Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free calls, alarms, music, updates on the weather, and moreAmazonEcho Dot (4th gen), available at Best Buy, $29.99The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it's compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, news) without any of the bulk. A smartphone-sized travel photo printerTargetHP Sprocket 200 Photo Printer, available at Amazon and B&H Photo, $79.99This tiny, compact device prints photos with sticker backing on ZINK film with Zero Ink technology. It connects to devices via Bluetooth, and multiple devices can connect at once (personalized LED lights indicate who's currently printing). String lights with clips for photosAmazon/Business InsiderPhoto Clip LED String Lights, available at Target, $10Perfect for creating the archetypal teen room that's most often seen in Netflix movies and old Taylor Swift music videos, the photo clip string lights combine warm light and Polaroids (or other memorabilia). A trendy Champion sweatshirtUrban OutfittersChampion Reverse Weave Fleece Crew Neck Sweatshirt, available at Urban Outfitters, $54Like Fila, Champion is a brand that's had a resurgence as of late. If you want to get them something they'll end up wearing all the time, this is a good candidate. A new video game"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD" / Nintendo"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD", available at Amazon, from $52.99If they're really into video games, all other gifts may pale in comparison to a really good new one. Check out "Hades," "NBA 2K22," and "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD."A vinyl record membershipVinyl Me, PleaseGift Membership, 3 months, available at Vinyl Me, Please, $119There's no greater joy than adding to a record collection or playing a new album for the first time. Your recipient gets to choose from three different types of tracks each month and will also receive extra goodies in each package. They'll also get one bonus record as part of the three-month gift membership. A gentle facial cleansing device that removes 98.5% of dirt and makeupFOREOLuna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Men, available at Foreo, $199Luna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Women, available at Foreo, $199FOREO's cult-favorite Luna 3 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touch-points, and it removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it's 100% waterproof and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge.This newest generation also offers an array of massages to tighten the skin for a youthful look. Find a full review on the previous generation Luna 2 from a female reporter and a male reporter here.Comfortable lounge pants that look put-togetherMeUndiesThe Lounge Pant, Men, available at MeUndies, $68The Lounge Pant, Women, available at MeUndies $68MeUndies is a popular LA startup that makes some of the most comfortable underwear we've ever tried. Their lounge pants, however, are the real hidden gem — perfect for lounging around on weekend mornings or heading to the dining hall when they get to college (yep, they'll last that long) while still looking sleek.A subscription to a famous book club that sends them great hardcovers each monthBook of the Month/Instagram3-Month Gift Subscription, available at Book of the Month, $49.99If your teen is a bookworm, Book of the Month is an especially cool gift. It's a book club that has been around since 1926, and it's credited with discovering some of the most beloved books of all time (like "Gone with the Wind" and "Catcher in the Rye" to name a couple).If you gift them a subscription, they'll receive a hardcover book delivered once a month. Books are selected by a team of experts and celebrity guest judges.If they're really more into audiobooks or e-reading now rather than hardcovers, check out a gift subscription to Scribd (full review here).An Apple Watch that combines their smartphone with a fitness trackerAmazonApple Watch SE GPS, 40mm, available at Apple, from $279If you have a little extra to spend on your teen, consider getting them a smartwatch. The Apple Watch SE is like a smartphone, fitness tracker, and music player all in one. Just like on their phone, they can customize the watch to show their favorite apps to pick, including social media.A cute iPhone caseSociety6Coffee Reading iPhone Case, available at Society6, $35.99This fun iPhone case is funny and unique, and most of their friends probably won't have the exact same one. Reusable strawsAmazonHiware Reusable Silicone Straws (10-pack), available at Amazon, $6.99Help teens do their part to keep single-use plastics out of trash bins, landfills, and the ocean by giving them this pack of reusable silicone drinking straws. They come in various colors and include a few cleaning brushes as well. A set of velvet retro-inspired scrunchiesAmazon/Business InsiderHair Scrunchie Variety Pack, available at Target, $6.99Another trendy gift is as many scrunchies as you can carry. This pack comes with 12 options in enough colors to work with virtually any outfit or mood. A multicolor mini cinema light boxUrban OutfittersMulticolor Cinema Light Box, available at Uncommon Goods, from $20These trendy lightboxes are inspired by cinema marquees, and they come with 100 letters and symbols for personal messages. This one also has color-changing LED lights for further customization.Fun and useful PopSockets for the back of their phoneAmazon/Business InsiderPopGrips, available at PopSockets and Amazon, from $10PopSockets have become their own cultural phenomenon in recent years, and they're surprisingly useful. Get your teen one for their own phone or tablet, and depending on their age, you may find it's the gift they're most excited about. It doesn't hurt that there's free domestic shipping on orders over $20, or that you can actually design your own.A waterproof e-reader with a no-glare screenAmazonAll-New Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $129.99Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is its thinnest, lightest version. It also has double the storage, a built-in light that adjusts to accommodate reading indoors or outdoors, and is waterproof for reading anywhere, including the beach or bath. Plus, a single battery charge lasts weeks rather than hours.Cool backpacks from a popular startup with a charitable missionSTATE Bags/FacebookState bags and accessories, from $15State bags are increasingly popular thanks to their versatile, laid-back aesthetic and characteristically bright nylon colorways. They're also known as #GiveBackPack(s), because for every State bag purchased, State hand-delivers a backpack — packed with essential tools for success — to a local child in need. The Lorimer and Bedford are two of the company's best sellers.A three-month subscription of beauty productsBirchBox3-Month Subscription, available at BirchBox, $45Teens are usually among the most interested in the latest and greatest beauty or grooming products — but may lack the funds to try all the full-sized versions. Birchbox sends samples of new and beloved products once a month, so they can test out new finds and discover products they may want to buy a full size of in the future. (It's also just fun to get an ongoing gift.)Personalized NikesNikeCustomizable Nikes, available at Nike, from $120Nike makes great stuff, but it's nice to get the benefits of a great shoe without forsaking what makes something unique. You can customize a pair of Nikes for them, or give them a gift card so they can get creative making something one-of-a-kind on their own.A great Alexa-enabled speaker they can control by voiceSonosSonos One Smart Speaker, available at Sonos, from $219The new Sonos One smart speaker fills any room with clear, rich sound, and they can use Alexa to play and control their music without ever lifting a finger. Find a full review here.A cult-favorite hair towel that reduces damage and cuts drying time by 50%Aquis/Business InsiderAquis Rapid Dry Hair Towel, available at Amazon and Sephora, from $20.99Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels can cut the amount of time it takes your hair to dry in half — a claim we're happy to report holds up. The proprietary fabric also means there's less damage to wet hair while it dries. If they've ever complained about frizzy hair, this and a silk pillowcase are thoughtful gifts they'll actually use. A Disney+ subscription for access to classic movies and moreDisney PlusDisney+ Gift Subscription Service, available at Disney, $79.99/yearDisney Plus is the new Disney-centric streaming service. The platform includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. You can gift a whole year of access for $80, which is something their entire family can benefit from.If you'd rather test Disney Plus out before buying, you can sign up for a free weeklong trial.A suitcase with an ejectable battery that can charge their devices on the goAwayThe Carry-On, available at Away, from $225Travel startup Away makes a great carry-on thanks to an ejectable battery that can charge devices seamlessly on the go, 360-degree wheels, and a lightweight build that travels easily. In other words, it takes a lot of the angst out of travel and may make family trips far more enjoyable and stress-free.Durable sunglasses that look good, tooAmazonSmith Optics Lowdown2, available at Backcountry, $129Who better to make a pair of durable, performance-based sunglasses than the company known for innovating the ski goggle? The Lowdown2 features bio-based materials for the frame, ChromaPop lens technology which creates high contrast and vibrant colors, and an anti-reflective smudge-resistant coating.Plus, the brand offers peace of mind with free shipping, 30-day returns, and a lifetime warranty.Comfortable, high-quality sheets that come in lots of colors and patternsBrooklinenLuxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle, available at Brooklinen and Amazon, from $240We think Brooklinen makes the best high-end sheets at the best price on the market, and most of the Insider Reviews team uses Brooklinen on their own beds. It's perfect for lazy Saturday mornings or the rare occasion sleeping in is encouraged.The Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle comes in 15 colors and patterns that range from classic to fun, and you can mix and match them to suit their preferences. Grab a gift card (delivered digitally) if you want to give them more freedom.Fidget ballsSpeksSpeks 2.5mm magnet balls, available at Speks, $34.95Made from rare earth magnets, these tiny balls can be molded into an infinite number of shapes and designs. The size of Speks balls makes them ideal for teens to keep with them for those unpredictable moments of nervousness that fill those teenage years.A pack of smart plugs so they can control devices from a distanceAmazon/Business InsiderTP-Link KIT WiFi Smart Plug, 2-Pack, available at Amazon, $16.99Whether they're wondering if they turned off their hot iron or just don't want to get up to turn off the TV, a smart plug lets them control devices from a distance. You can connect to them using any smart device.A Time-Turner clock that actually spinsHarry PotterHarry Potter Time-Turner Clock, available at Pottery Barn, $49It may not be able to take them back in time or help them be in two places at once, but this Time-Turner clock will help them stay on top of their schedule. It even has a functional hourglass on the back so they can time their study breaks. A toothbrush with a timerAmazonOral-B Pro 1000 Electric Toothbrush, available at Amazon, $39.97Rigorous dental hygiene isn't usually on the top of the list of things teens care about, which is all the more reason a rechargeable toothbrush with a timer is a fantastic gift. This rechargeable brush breaks up 300% more plaque on the gum line than traditional brushing and lets them know when two minutes have passed.Compact hand sanitizer sprayTouchlandTouchland Power Mist Hand Sanitizer, available at Touchland, $9It's in the car, the house, and their pocket these days, but many hand sanitizers can smell a little like household cleaner. Touchland comes in scents like Vanilla Cinnamon and Forrest Berry, or keep it simple and choose unscented.The compact sanitizer features 67% alcohol for killing germs but balances it with soothing aloe vera and essential oils to hydrate the skin. A lottery card that donates to charitiesLottoLove/Business InsiderLottoLove Card, available at LottoLove, from $5When you gift this lottery card, you're actually giving the gift of charity. When you "win big," you're winning a charitable prize that gets donated to nonprofits in one of four categories: Clean water, solar light, nutritious meals, or literacy tools. To date, LottoLove and its partners have impacted lives in over 70 countries.Gift cards for concert tickets, food, and clothesChipotleYou can't go wrong with money for their favorite things, especially for teens who are often relying upon part-time jobs to fund their frequent Chipotle meals and concert trips with friends. Check out more gift card ideas here.Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift CardCoffee and food: Starbucks Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardEntertainment and live events: Netflix Gift Card / Xbox Gift Card / Hulu Gift Card / StubHub gift cardMusic: Spotify Gift CardSheets: Brooklinen Gift CardGroceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardClothes: Nordstrom Gift Card / Everlane Gift CardTech: Best Buy Gift CardRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 17th, 2021

Fifty Years Since The End Of Bretton Woods: A Geopolitical Review

Fifty Years Since The End Of Bretton Woods: A Geopolitical Review Authored by Mauricio Metri via The Strategic Culture Foundation, On August 15th, 1971, the then-president of the United States, Richard Nixon, made an eighteen-minute speech to the country whose effects impacted the world. Among other subjects, he announced the end of the dollar-gold parity, which was a shock. First of all, that decision meant the death of the Bretton Woods Monetary System without telling what would replace it. This fact represented an abrupt change in the international economic order. Secondly, Nixon’s initiative undermined the economic development strategies used since 1947, when the Cold War had started. Those strategies were called “development by invitation” in the center countries and “national developmentalism” in the peripheral ones. Thirdly, the decision strengthened the attacks against the dollar as the main currency in the world, putting more pressure on the international currency hierarchy since then. Finally, in the history of monetary standards, the abandonment of precious metals, as a reference of value, revealed the “charter nature” of money to the detriment of the metallist one. In the debates on the Bretton Wood system, from its birth and development to its crisis and implosion, a particular narrative seems to prevail. This mainstream interpretation ascribes to the traumas of the great social-economic crisis in the thirties, the system’s origins. Besides the austerity public policies and the automatic recessive adjustments, at the heart of the twenties’ liberal economic order was the freedom of capital movements, whose behavior destabilized the exchange rates, the payments balances, and even the national economies. They were the root causes of the great depression of the thirties, mainly after the Wall Street crash of 1929 when the social and economic context got pretty worse. This scenario fostered the rise of far-right wings mainly in Europe, which created the elements of the beginning of the Second World War. According to this view, to avoid another experience such as the great economic depression of the thirties and its disastrous effects, the diplomatic representatives of forty-four countries gathered in July 1944 in Bretton Woods, aiming to negotiate a new economic order to the post-war. The talks concluded that the most relevant cause of the economic crisis was the financial capital and its liberty to act against markets, currencies, and national economies. The central proposal was to guarantee the autonomy of the national economic policies. For this reason, they agreed on some points. For instance, capital controls; a system of fixed exchange rates but manageable when necessary; and stabilization funds via IMF without counterparts of recessive policies. It was a victory of Keynesianism against liberal economic orthodoxy. The very participation of John Maynard Keynes as the British government representative in the negotiations was a symbol of it, despite his defeat in defense of a supranational currency, the Bancor, as a new monetary standard. As a result, the capitalist world, mainly Europe and Japan, achieved excellent economic outputs during the 50s and 60s in terms of product, income, and employment growth, just as international trade and foreign direct investments. Finally, the mainstream narrative alleges that, during the period, the deficits in the U.S. balance of payments led to the sprawl of the dollar liquidity in the international system without an increase in the Fed’s gold reserves. According to this argument, the military spending growth due to the Vietnam War, above all, triggered such macroeconomic imbalances. So, pressures and speculative attacks against the dollar-gold parity became inevitable. Therefore, in 1971, the situation turned out to be unsustainable. Nevertheless, from a geopolitical view, it is possible to consider another interpretation for the Bretton Wood system, from its creation to its collapse. First of all, although the authorities of different countries had signed the accords in July 1944, since Roosevelt’s death in March 1945, relevant parts of the agreements were shelved. Henry Morgenthau and Harry White, architects of the postwar new economic order, lost room in the Truman administration. In their place, the bankers constrained the president to implement the Key Currency Plan, which proposed to rebuild a liberal international financial order as it had been in the twenties. However, the new system would rest on the dollar and Wall Street instead of the Pound and the City. Regarding Germany and Japan, the new U.S. orientation aimed to wreck their large industrial conglomerates, transforming their national economies into semiperipheral ones. Indeed, the international economic order established from 1945 to 1947 operated quite differently than the Agreements of 1944, and the results were terrible. The attempts to recover the national economies stumbled upon the dollar shortage and the difficulties in the Balances of Payments. In this context, the financial capitals in Europe ran to the United States, destabilizing the exchange rates, the external accounts, and, therefore, the national economies in Western Europe. As is natural to all liberal finance orders, not considering capital controls was the core of the economic problems. Furthermore, during the war, Josef Stalin expanded the borderlines of the Soviet Union and its area of influence to a position unthinkable to any Romanov Emperor. Not to mention that Russia found itself, for the first time in its history, without a single great rival power in all of Eurasia, as said by George Kennan himself, in an official document of May 1945, entitled The International Position of Russia at the End of the War with Germany. Anyway, the change in the strategy of the Truman Administration lingered to happen. And it took place only in 1947 for two reasons: the civil war in Greece between the old monarchy supported by the British against the anti-fascist forces led by communists and upheld by the Kremlin; and the pressure of Moscow on Ankara to control territories in Anatolia and install two military bases at the straits. Since then, the U.S. president opted for occupying part of the Rimland that Nicholas Spykman had written about before, in his book of 1942, America’s Strategy in the World Politics. From a geo-historical point of view, it meant a long-standing tradition of Anglo-Saxon geopolitical thought of maintaining Russia outside of the Mediterranean Sea. Its roots had already been in the British imperial policy of the 19th century, as the Greek independence process during 1821-1830 demonstrates. The head orientation of the new security doctrine launched by Truman in 1947 pointed to the necessity of permanent and global containment of the USSR. The objective was to freeze their respective areas of influence, leaving both countries, in effect, in a continuous opposition against each other. The U.S. projection of securities lines from their Atlantic borders to the Eurasian continental mass required the stabilization of the new disputed regions, mainly in the fimbriae of Asia. Working out the social and economic problems in these regions became part of the U.S. national security strategy. And, at that moment, the main actions prioritized Europe and Japan. Then, to avoid the Soviet projection in a Europe marked by a severe economic crisis, the United States resumed rebuilding an international order focused on national product expansions, income growths, and employment improvements. The Marshall Plan and the rescue of the Bretton Woods proposals shaped the core of American economic initiatives. Therefore, both of them had a main geopolitical objective. They were an expression of the submission of the economic order to the geopolitical one. In other words, one could define both Marshall Plan and Bretton Woods system as pieces of economic geostrategy of a new kind of conflict, born around 1947, the Cold War. So, the starting point of the Bretton Woods implementation relies essentially on geopolitics, not on social-economic traumas from the thirties. It could be said, in this way, that the Soviet Union and its leader, Josef Stalin, were respectively the entity and personal genuinely responsible for the economic reconstruction of Europe and the Bretton Woods system’s birth. As a result, the United States could stabilize the national economies in the sensitive regions relative to Cold War and freeze the frontiers with the communist nations. In the limit, they promoted a quarter-century of extraordinary development in first-world countries. In short, the Cold War was the background that allowed the Bretton Woods System to work out from 1947 until the moment when the U.S. economic strategy to its geopolitical struggles changed. Concerning Bretton Woods’ contradictions, the creation of Euromarkets in 1958 within England, supported by U.S. authorities, allowed the British government to conciliate two different challenges: on the one hand, carrying out a growth-oriented economic policy; and, on the other, defending London’s position in the international financial business. However, these new markets, out of the control of any monetary authorities, expanded more and more the dollar liquidity in the system. Unlike the mainstream narrative, the U.S. external accounts weren’t unbalanced, shown in the rather unexpressive U.S. compensatory capital flows in its Balance of Payments during the Bretton Woods period. Part of the system dollar liquidity arose from what Charles Kindleberger and Hyman Minsky described as the deepening process of resources inflows and outflows from the United States to the world. While the Trade Balance and the Current Account were positives, the U.S. Capital Account was negative due to the Foreign Direct Investment. So, the pressure against the dollar-gold parity didn’t come from the supposed deficits in their external accounts. It stemmed from the financial markets, whose operations manifolded without restrictions to the dollar assets in the capitalist world, namely, Euromarkets. The problem was that it occurred without a counterpart of growth in the Fed’s gold reserves. Therefore, if the Bretton Woods implementation were geopolitical and not due to the traumas of the thirties’ economic crisis, its contradictions came from the Euromarkets and not from the North American external accounts’ imbalances. In turn, its existence depended on how useful it would be to U.S. foreign policy. In 1969, the international context changed expressively. If Bretton Woods System had already promoted the most important historical era of capitalism, the Soviet Union had also achieved substantial strategic improvements in the 60s. There had been its nuclear weapons’ progress, the strengthening of its navy, the development of edge-cutting aerospace technology, and the expansion of its oil production, among others. And this new Soviet success in the 60s had pressured not only the United States and its allies from the first world but also the Popular Republic of China. In that background, Beijing signalized to Washington a careful approach in 1969. The Nixon administration, in turn, took advantage and started the Triangular Diplomacy. Since then, the American government implemented concessions to Beijing and Moscow, such as reductions of economic sanctions. For example, in that year, the United States created new legislation, altering the Export Control Act of 1949. Later, in April 1971, only three months before the famous Nixon’s speech, the United States lifted some previous restrictions once more. It allowed the purchase of dollars by China and USSR to encourage their import of products from the capitalist world. So, a valuable triangular diplomacy result was the beginning of the entrance process of China and the Soviet Union into the dollar monetary territory on the eve of the end of the Bretton Woods System. When Nixon addressed the American people on television in August 1971, the strategy of 1947 had already achieved its economic aims. Besides, Japan and Germany had already become strong adversaries in the international economic competition. Not to mention, the Bretton Woods contradictions still required efforts and coordination with the Europeans and Japanese in financial governance, such as in the Gold Pool and the IMF due to Special Drawing Rights, which sometimes was causing tension and opposition among them. Finally, the Bretton Woods System still enforced restrictions on the U.S. managing their economic policy, as in the dollar-gold parity defense. Richard Nixon started his famous speech by mentioning: alleged advances in “achieving the end of the Vietnam War,” the “challenges of peace,” despite not specifying them, and the “prosperity without military conflicts.” Next, he connected the last of these issues directly to jobs creation in the United States, control of the internal cost of living, and dollar protection, going quickly from tricky subjects of international relations to national issues in daily life. Then, Nixon announced some economic measures with an orthodox bias to encourage the employment increase, for example, tax reductions and spending cuts. He also ordered radical heterodox economic policies to contain the rise in prices: the freeze on all prices and wages for 90 days. The population was likely astonished and pretty worried about such sort of economic measures, because it always creates graves problems of relative price imbalances. Probably, when Nixon approached the theme of “protection the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world,” as he said, the attention in the country was still in the freeze on prices and salaries. After describing the speculators’ efforts in “waging an all-out war on the dollar,” he argued that the strength of a nation’s currency rests on the strength of that nation’s economy. And, then, Nixon claimed the U.S. position in the international monetary hierarchy by saying that “the American economy is by far the strongest in the world.” Next, he clarified the U.S. disposition when he ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to take any necessary action to defend the dollar. And, finally, he announced what would be unthinkable until that moment: the suspension of the dollar-gold convertibility. According to him, a bugaboo that it should lay to rest. For the domestic audience, Nixon justified the decision by the devaluation advantages to the American-made products in America. For that matter, he also imposed an additional tax of 10% on goods imported into the United States. Nixon announced the abandonment of the old economic geostrategy inaugurated in 1947 by the Truman administration. He pointed that economies of the major industrial nations of Europe and Asia had become strong competitors against the United States. Then, there was no longer any need for “the United States to compete with one hand beyond her back.” According to Nixon, the time had come for first-world nations to compete as equals. In other words, President Nixon put an end to the development by invitation, except for China, which had been engaging in a strategic rapprochement with the United States. Summarizing the argument, before 1969, as long as the foreign policy hadn’t changed, the successive U.S. administrations had carried on upholding the Bretton Woods System and its aims, despite its contradictions. To circumvent its problems, they had implemented some efforts, as Gold Pool, Special Drawing Rights, etc. Therefore, during the Cold War’s first decades, the U.S. support for the Bretton Wood order had occurred since this economic system had reached its geopolitical objectives. However, since the international context had changed expressively in the 60s, the economic order had become more and more inappropriate. It had depleted as a Cold War’s strategic instrument, and it had been inadequate and outdated for the new geopolitical struggles and geoeconomic challenges. In other words, the emergence of new economic competitors and mainly the outcomes of Soviet projection in the system brought shifts in U.S. foreign policy in 1969, originating the triangular diplomacy. And, two years later, in 1971, the United States unilaterally abandoned the Bretton Woods Agreements. It sounds ironic that the most significant historical experience of western capitalism was related to Stalin’s strategy of enlarging the Soviet frontiers in the context of the Second World War and the capacity of the Soviet Union to respond to the Cold War against the United States, mainly during the 60s. Tyler Durden Mon, 11/08/2021 - 02:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 8th, 2021

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World?

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World? Authored by Asif Shiraz via BitcoinMagazine.com, Bitcoin is the sound money that the Muslim world needs to accelerate into the future... The Ottoman suppression of the printing press is a poster child case of intellectual stagnation in the Muslim world. Although there was no outright ban, there is no denying of a massively missed opportunity here: A civilization’s failure to adopt a groundbreaking technological change happening right next door. In its golden age, this same civilization that gave the world universities and hospitals, optics and algebra, even a precursor to the printing press itself, got so left behind in the later acceptance of technology, that its very own holy book, the Quran, waited for its first mass publication almost 300 years after Johannes Gutenberg chugged out the printed Bible. THE DECLINE But Islam’s Genesis Block was entirely different in character: A spirited but sundry assemblage of women and men whose most remarkable trait was their openness to new ideas. The idea of one God in a multitude of divine contenders. The idea of one bitcoin in a multitude of shitcoins … oops... sorry... mixing up my chronology! So anyway, this fraternity of early Islam, along with its keen aspiration of ushering in a just social and economic order, is also remarkable in a novel way for its time: It represents a death cross of reason’s moving average overtaking that of intuition in religious history. Bringing intellectual inquiry at par with mystical experience, it paved the way for its scions to delve into scientific skepticism, empiricism and experimental inquiry, with Robert Briffault going so far as to say that “Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and method.” But eventually, the music stopped, and the market corrected! There are many explanations for the downfall, most of them partially true, spanning decades and centuries, but if we want to point fingers, as human nature dictates, at some symbolic event, then it must be the Mongol destruction of the House of Wisdom, #SackOfBaghdad. In the age of manuscripts, so many books from Baghdad’s libraries were flung into the Tigris that a horse could walk across on them and the river ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs. As the Muslim Ummah lost so many intellectuals and intellectual capital in this tumultuous period, its reaction has been, (understandably), like that of an intern finding herself in control of mission critical servers, where all the senior sys admins suddenly stepped down, died or disappeared. Your best reaction is this: I’m not touching this system, and the only commands I’ll ever execute are those handed down by the four illustrious system admins — founders of the established schools of jurisprudence. And so Islamic scholarship for hundreds of years has been in a maintenance mode. In Pakistan alone, over 12,000 Madrasa routinely teach the rules and regulations of exchanging gold and silver, centuries after its daily use has been replaced by fiat. SURVIVAL OF CORE TENETS But herein lies a wonderful irony. This code-freeze on innovation, which we otherwise disapprove of, did work to an extent as it was intended: It protected the core principles from being callously compromised or deliberately diluted in the hands of opportunists. Just like the extra caution and consensus in changing the U.S. constitution protected the principles of freedom and equality enshrined in it: Islamic law, too, enshrined core financial principles, that have been a thorn on the side of would-be reformers attempting to legalize fiat and modern banking in the name of Islamic Finance. The 12,000 semi-literate Madrasa students, parroting the provisions of the fair exchange of gold and silver from a 17th century syllabus citing a 9th century scholar, unwittingly become more correct than a Harvard doctorate in finance indoctrinated in the misguided larceny of fiat money! All because Muhammad ﷺ mandated sound money, just like Mises and Hayek after him, a tenet immutably crystallized in Fiqh — Islamic Jurisprudence. A business man himself, the Prophet of Islam possessed a sharp acumen for economics and finance. In modern parlance, he quickly rose the corporate ladder to become one of the youngest CEOs of his time tasked with turning around the failing business empire of the urbane female entrepreneur, Khadija. Impressed with the Prophet’s personality, Khadija quickly proposed to him, creating a power couple that changed the course of history. Just like Jesus turned out the money-lenders from the Second Temple, the Prophet of Islam, too, had a disdain for usury and outlawed most of the accompanying capitalist machinations, that contribute to the gross wealth disparities like 10% owning 76% of the assets. So he created some fundamental rules that constitute the bedrock of Islamic financial principles: Forbade usury (Riba), including interest. Still respecting the time value of money, the prohibition’s intent is to create a financial regime where profit and risk is shared between the entrepreneur and the investor. From a sound money perspective, it prohibits the core operation of issuing interest bearing bonds and T-Bills against which the central bank can inflate the money supply. Forbade uncertainty (Gharar), embodied in his famous quote, “Do not sell a fish which is still in the water.” Eliminates the possibility of fractional reserve, since outstanding debt cannot be monetized and traded further with, unless it’s paid. It also closes the tap on a myriad of derivative instruments that further inflate the money supply. Forbade speculation (Maisir), which includes outright gambling. Some scholars consider speculative market activity, like the Dogecoin phenomena, under the ambit of this ruling. Mandated sound money. The rules of obligatory charity tax in Islam are denominated in sound money. Muslim governments take the market price of gold, convert them to fiat prices, and announce the converted value to the public to pay the religious obligation of Zakat. But from a legal standpoint, it permanently establishes gold and silver (as well as a whole class of other products) as perpetual, religiously recognized money in Islam. These prohibitions are strong enough in Islamic theology that anyone who violates them is technically, “at war with Allah and his Prophet.” Which is why the Madrasa’s syllabus clings to “nature’s money” (Thaman-e-Khalqi): gold and silver. But of course, big governments, Muslim or otherwise, are a chip off the same block: Self-interest reigns supreme over ethical principles. In Pakistan alone, the religious case against fiat banking has been delayed and obstructed for over 40 years in the courts. The politics of deficit financing are so attractive that no one wants to surrender this magical money making wand. Voldemorts, all of them! In spite of these prohibitions, and in countries where religion dominates social values, Muslims still grew comfortable with paper money because it initially disguised itself as “warehouse receipts for gold” which duped the scholars into permitting it, but the jurisprudence failed to catch up with the subsequent thinning of this asset backing into its current meaningless extent. REFORM ATTEMPTS As the domino roll of national independences took place, four different threads of activity around banking spread in Muslim countries. First, the mainstream implementation of modern banking took root in every Muslim State, implemented in toto like its Western counterparts. Second, Islamic banking attempted to reshape things a little. Scholars familiar with both economics and Shariah attempted to “Islamize” banking via the new academic discipline of “Islamic finance.” But instead of faithfully creating platforms for risk-sharing and equity-based financing, it just followed the Medieval Triple Contract–like approach to practically clone existing financial products, accompanied by a plethora of research papers to justify it. Like a comedic quote from the cold war era, “Communism is the longest and most painful road from capitalism to capitalism,” contemporary Islamic finance, too, turned out to become the most painful and circuitous route from traditional banking to traditional banking, decorated with Arabic names! How the professional bankers duped these scholars and hijacked this effort is excellently explained by Harris Irfan in a podcast with our own Saifedean Ammous. Third, a large but silent majority of toothless Islamic scholars continues to exist who view all forms of banking with suspicion, but the growing chasm of knowledge gap between their education and the complexities of modern finance makes them unable to take back the narrative. Lastly, a much smaller band of Islamic scholars exist, like followers of the Sufi order of a British convert and his Basque disciple, as well as a scholar from Trinidad, who successfully identified the fundamental problem with modern banking from a Shariah perspective: its monetary foundation. You cannot “Islamize” a bank if you do not fix the money it operates on! Hence, their attempt to resuscitate the traditional Islamic gold dinar as a sound money alternative to fiat. GOLD DINAR: THE REAL ISLAMIC ALTERNATIVE Fiat money and its permissibility can be viewed through an important concept in Islamic theology, the Maqasid-e-Shariah: the goals or purpose of Shariah law. To illustrate this with a controversial example, consider a Shariah law which says you cannot punish a man or woman for adultery, unless you bring four eye witnesses to the sexual act (which is normally impossible). While Islam abhors adultery, the Maqasid is an attempt by scholars to understand why, instead of having a law that easily and swiftly punishes it, there exists one that makes it practically impossible to prosecute. They rationalized that it must be to shield people’s privacy and one-off slipups from society's nosy interference and appetite for punishment. According to Muhammad Asad, “… to make proof of adultery dependent on a voluntary, faith-inspired confession of the guilty parties themselves.” So the Maqasid points to some socially valuable goal that the law intends to achieve. The rationale of the financial laws of Shariah are similarly explained in terms of their goals: a just distribution of wealth, a money free from devaluation, a business contract free from usurious exploitation, and a regulatory regime that increases people’s wealth and well-being. Through a very elementary intuition, it is obvious that fiat currencies violate this principle of honesty and justice in the society: Money issuers steal the purchasing power of the people and devalue their money. To put a formal Quranic stamp to this reasoning, we can take verse 3:75, “There are some among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who, if entrusted with a stack of gold, will readily return it.” The modern Islamic bank, if entrusted with money equivalent to a stack of gold, returns you only 90% of its worth in purchasing power, owing to inflationary erosion, thus it’s part of a system that clearly violates the Maqasid. Islamic banks have thus thoroughly failed to espouse the core principle of risk sharing and eliminating interest (since interest exists in the very issuance process of the money they are built on). The only real Islamic alternative ever proposed was the Gold Dinar Movement. Starting in parallel (and in many respects earlier) than Islamic banking, (with the first modern Dinar minted in 1992), it was incisively accurate in its assessment and proposed remedy to the money problem: “The Return to the Gold Dinar.” This was an earlier time, when the golden tool in the fight against fiat was literally gold, which was then popularized by Austrian economics, advocated by upright leaders like Ron Paul, and adopted by grassroots activists like Bernard von NotHaus. The Muslim world saw its own spate of activism for sound money, led by its most vocal proponent, Umar Vadillo, and associated initiatives like Wakala Nusantara, Dinar First and my own Dinar Wakala. The Kelantan State government’s launch of Gold Dinar was our own El Zonte moment, full of euphoria and promise that made waves globally. The passion and courage of this vibrant lot of Warrior Sufis represented the best of modern-day Muslims: Profoundly knowledgeable people, engaged in grassroots activism, to fix the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world. However, the primary strength of gold, its physical indestructibility, came in the way of its adoption: Logistic and regulatory hindrances prevented free flow of physical gold coins across national boundaries. In the words of its founder, Shaykh Abdalqadir, “The defense mechanisms of today’s late capitalism and its crisis management surrounding the buying, moving and minting of gold have surrounded it with prohibitive pricing and taxation.” It continues to serve as a galvanizing symbol of the fight against Riba, but making it a practical inflationary hedge, or a broader Ummah-level movement for sound money, proved an elusive goal. Without the Gold Dinar, the horizon seemed all but bleak, except that a glimmer of hope came from the most unexpected of places: Where scholars, economists and revolutionaries had failed, nerds succeeded! Enter Emir Satoshi! ADVENT OF BITCOIN For us in the Gold Dinar Movement, Bitcoiners are our brothers in arms: fighting the same enemy, securing the same goal. This is what I have always advocated to my fellow activists in the dinar movement, from as far back as 2012. Our Prophetﷺ, as well as the Rashidun Caliphs, never debased money, nor profited from seigniorage, but gave us the right to choose our own mediums of exchange. This is fundamentally antithetical to the monstrosity of legal tender laws, which Islamic scholars have been duped into legitimizing under various pretexts (highlighting the need for increased financial literacy in this lot). This freedom to choose a currency constitutes the common ground that both us and the Bitcoiners can rally around together. “The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust,” writes Satoshi. He recognized the problem with fiat and set out to fix it with Bitcoin, a miraculous epiphany that has let loose this growing, global band of fervid, somewhat bumptious Maximalists, as similar in essence and ethos to us, as they look different in appearance. I see Bitcoiners, not only in their pluck and guile, but also in the sly ingenuity of their weapon of choice, as nothing less than a modern-day David taking on the Goliath of traditional banking! From a Muslim perspective, the operating verse of the Quran in critique of the Bitcoin movement becomes 49:13, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware.” In the realm of monetary matters, the most righteous and noble are those who support sound money. It is appropriate that Allah stresses his own divine attributes in the verse, as a warning that our religiously colored conception of righteousness may not necessarily be the same as that of the knowing, the aware. (The literal term Taqwa, means something that protects you from the wrath of God.) And to the best of my belief, protecting and uplifting the poor, the downtrodden from the entrapments of a prejudiced financial system is surely a winner with the God of Abraham! A SECOND CHANCE We Muslims had set out to establish a just and fair society, and for some time, to quote David Graeber, succeeded: “Once freed from its ancient scourges of debt and slavery, the local bazaar had become, for most, not a place of moral danger, but the very opposite: the highest expression of the human freedom and communal solidarity, and thus to be protected assiduously from state intrusion.” But gradually, as our political and intellectual leadership in the world waned, we now find ourselves economically bankrupt, submerged in a rigged financial system, and enslaved to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A major reason for this impoverishment was the widening gap of modern knowledge. The following vicious cycle of three circularly dependent factors is another way of modeling our current reality: Low capital allocation for education. A generally weak economy leaves little allocation for investment in education of both scientific and humanities disciplines, which is required for a productive human capital. Low human capital. The first factor results in low quality of education in the populace then manifests politically in bad national decisions, engagement in conflicts, economic mismanagement, acquisition of debt and failure to curb corruption. Economically, this unskilled workforce has low productivity, scarce entrepreneurship and ineffective technology adoption. Religiously, it permits violence and extremism to breed along sectarian fault lines. Low economic output. The second factor results in continued economic tribulations, since the whole society is now in KTLO mode, instead of “adding new features.” Which leads us again to item one. It is the standard cycle of poverty played out at a macro scale, which many competing power bases believe they can break. The military, the Mullahs, and the Liberals, far away, even the CIA has prescriptions on how to solve our problems. But such temporary political and economic interventions bear no lasting results, since nations are built by worthy men and women, over a span of many years, who, given a free and peaceful environment, fall back on their innate drive for excellence to create a better world. It is the job of the revolutionary and his meteoric jolt, or at a smaller scale, your social entrepreneur giving a small push, that breaks a segment of society free from this vicious cycle: A closed ecosystem of wealth circulation, comprising of learned individuals, equipped with better technology and empowered with more capital, shielded from outside influence, and stabilized by a fair social contract, to launch the virtuous symbiosis of economic prosperity and human development which prop each other to newer heights. This break can start in many ways: a national independence, some strong leadership, or in case of Islam, the founding of a new religion. Islam’s own trajectory gives us a generalized three-stage pattern on which any revolution can be modeled, an excellent blueprint for our bitcoin adoption. Education: A new world view is conceived, and people are educated toward it for voluntarily placing their faith on it — Iman. Separation: The model is physically deployed, separated from existing systems, so it can grow and thrive without any negative external influences — Hijra. Protection: When the model grows strong enough to threaten the status quo, but still weak enough to be fully destructible, it needs protection, usually requiring armed conflict — Jihad. We in the Gold Dinar Movement believed that the break in this vicious cycle will come from financial empowerment: When Muslim people and governments adopt sound money, free from the shackles of the IMF, it will allow our bankrupt economies to manage enough disposable income that can be invested in other avenues in society, putting us on a path to progress and human development. Gold would bring back the Golden Age, producing men and women who are worth their weight in gold! But it could not. Let me explain why, and how bitcoin makes it possible. BITCOIN: A TOOL FOR REVOLUTION Following our three-stage model of a revolution, let’s review how bitcoin resolves the challenges of each step. 1. Education The common man, humble about his knowledge of finance, expects, like John Galbraith remarked, a “deeper mystery to the process of money creation.” But which really is so simple, he goes on, that “the mind is repelled.” But the chasm in traditional and modern education keeps our scholars from being able to religiously evaluate the fiat system, for which they need three vital credentials: a traditional Mufti qualification, specialized research in the Fiqh of Muamalat, and a study of modern economics. Only a handful achieve this, like the globally revered Usmani, who become thought leaders in Islamic finance: The rest take the easy way out and follow what they posit. I once asked a certified Shariah advisor on LinkedIn, if he knew what fractional reserve banking meant. I expected some abstruse, rule-bending justification for it but was taken aback by his honest admission that he simply didn’t know what it was! So the first challenge was to educate both the people and the scholars about the fiat system. Then to enlist serious academic and industry practitioners to devise a working alternative based on gold and silver. Then to have its demand trickle down into the masses to eventually morph into enough political pressure for the government to adopt it, much to its own detriment. Highly unlikely. Except that with bitcoin, educating the people now becomes much more focused and result oriented. The wider goal of educating people about finance and economics remains indispensable in both gold and Bitcoin-based sound money solutions. But with bitcoin, we don’t have to wait for a third-world academia and archaic-minded scholars to sell the solution to an unwilling government: We take the narrative, and the prerogative of action, back from them. We go tactical, orange pill the masses with an Urdu translation of the bitcoin standard, and focus on what is minimally essential to achieve within our means: Teaching Muggles... sorry…. No-coiners, the very basics of money mechanics, the role of bitcoin in our strategic response, and the know-how to stack satoshis in a cold wallet! The rest will follow! Coming to think of it, my initial printing press analogy is poignantly relevant. The press encapsulated years of knowledge in a simple package easily disseminated to thousands, which could have overcome our knowledge gap had we adopted it earlier. Bitcoin, too, encapsulates the quintessential wisdom of centuries of humanity’s experience in what constitutes good money and allows it to be spread easily across the world. It is both knowledge, and a tool crafted out of that knowledge. If we miss the boat on it, we will not only lose to “usury capitalism,” but the Bitcoin movement, too, will be deprived of huge potential support from a quarter of the world population. We must join the rest of humanity in a last ditch attempt at wealth equality. 2. Separation After educating people about money mechanics and bitcoin, the second step is the Hejira, our separation from the existing system. An Islamic scholar, Abdassamad Clarke defined “usury capital,” as “the use of capital that is both generated by usury and operated according to usurious principles, which permits a tiny clique of individuals, by the principle of fiat money amplified by leverage, to wield extraordinary power and accumulate unheard of wealth in such a manner as to subject the rest of humanity as menial servants in their project of self-enrichment, whether in the tyrannies of the East or the so-called free-market capitalism of the West.” The fundamental philosophical difference between Islamic and Western economics is how we view interest. Islam holds firm to the classical Judeo-Christian prohibition, believing that the time value of money is more fairly accounted for in equity finance style risk sharing of the invested capital, instead of a guaranteed return favoring the capitalist. Among other things, its side effect is prohibiting both the monetizing of our “future income” to issue fiat, and prohibiting the money-multiplier effect of fractional reserve, through the rulings of Riba, Bai-al-Dain and Bai-al-Madum. Bitcoiners and libertarians rely on an entirely different philosophical foundation to reach partially the same conclusion in regards to fiat, that it’s perverse, unjust and socially destructive. The end goal for both is the same: To separate ourselves from the fiat system and carve out an entirely new, independent financial system: The original idea of decentralized finance (DeFi)! Unfortunately, the bubble effect we so dislike in TradFi — traditional finance — is now itself widespread in the non-Bitcoin crypto world, what Ellen Farrington cites as the immense amount of “rehypothecation, leverage, and securitization,” which if misused can cause systemic risks that affect everyone. The practical reality of contemporary DeFi in the non-Bitcoin world is quite far from its theoretical goal. Looking at this aspect of “crypto,” some Islamic scholars took the liberty of invoking the gambling prohibition clause, something whose motivation we can sympathize with, even though we disagree with the conclusion. A lack of regulation at the administrative level cannot be countered by religious pronunciation of Haram status. It’s kind of like declaring cars as Islamically forbidden, merely because some people are driving them too fast and killing others. But presently, we are far less interested in how scholars view “crypto” than we are regarding bitcoin. The DeFi world’s shiny new investments offering unsustainable returns, its shady ICOs and the casino-like frenzy and get-rich-quick dreams of novice retail investors are far removed from what we advocate, from what we are daring to call a second chance for the Muslim world: A Bitcoin-based sound money adoption as a medium of exchange and store of value! But what is nevertheless commendable in the crypto world (led, of course, by Bitcoin) is the attempt to create this entirely new, independent miniverse of alternative, decentralized finance, isolated from the existing system. Building and expanding this decentralization, based on Bitcoin, is the essence of the second step of our revolutionary blueprint: the Hejira. Migrating from the old to the new. As Iqbal would have said, “Blow away this transitory world, and build a new one from its ashes” — khakastar se aap apna jahan paida karay. The only serious prior attempt for sound money among Muslims was the Dinar movement. But it only works in a physical jurisdiction: Where to mint, where to store, how to transport, how to coordinate electronic payments, how to deal with banking regulations, taxes and government interference? Theoretically, it was possible to instantiate an entirely independent ecosystem of issuance, storage, transport and trade using gold, but real progress on it was very slow. At the same time, the Bitcoin ecosystem has matured so much to be classifiable as an independent and isolated system, free from all interference from legacy finance. The Core Bitcoin Timechain, Lightning and Layer 2 smart contract solutions, and the globally distributed miner, node operator and supporter community, all combine to form a platform on which we can build and experiment with truly Islamic financial contracts of the form that are not possible with TradFi. In this ecosystem, we can resuscitate Islamic social and financial institutions like the Bait-ul-Maal, the Suq, the Waqf, the Guilds, the Hawala, the Wahdiya, the Qirad and the Musharaka, free from the restrictions of any government, securities commission or central bank. 3. Protection And once this isolated system is deployed, we need to protect it. A story is told in Islamic lore, that when Abu Dharr Ghifari came looking to meet the Prophet, Ali told him to walk a few paces behind him, and if he senses anyone suspicious he will stoop down to tie his shoelaces and Abu Dharr should continue walking ahead. Kind of like a coinjoin to obfuscate where he was actually going. When you are small, you must remain in stealth mode and operate under the radar. Later on, when the small state of early Islam was established in a nearby city, it needed a number of armed conflicts to defend itself from being nipped in the bud! Deploying a sound money system, too, may need a precarious window in which the sapling would need fierce protection before it grows into a tree. The hellacious powers issuing the yuans and dollars of the world are way too formidable for any third-world nation state to get away with a head-on collision. In fact, we cannot even withstand assaults from individual speculators, let alone a concerted effort by the global financial cabal to preserve its status quo. El Salvador and the like are definitely interesting trailblazers to watch out for here, but it is too early to tell. If a sufficient number of first-world citizens band together to defy their government in adoption of sound money, the response of fiat-powered regimes would (probably) be much more restrained in handling them versus some rogue state from a third-world country attempting to defy the dominant currency. I was told by a prominent Islamic banker that when Mahatir toyed with the idea, he was sent a very stern signal to “cease and desist” by the powers that be! So, can a Muslim government adopt and get away with either the dinar or bitcoin? I believe only in the latter. Only bitcoin has the necessary technological edge in terms of its unstoppability and indestructibility that can substitute for the need of a national military power strong enough to protect a traditional sound money built on gold. THE ISLAMIC STATE VERSUS BITCOIN But many Islamic revivalists believe otherwise and their goal is usually larger in scope than financial reform alone. It is a more holistic quest to resuscitate the political, social and legal structures of precolonial Islamic governments. Encouraged by the spectacular rise of early Islam that dared challenge superior powers like Byzantine and Sassanids, they believe it possible to recreate the traditional theocracy along similar lines, one of whose side effects would be to eradicate fiat currency also. Such ambitious projects downplay the urgency of fixing our financial system: No need to separately struggle for it if it comes as a natural corollary to the larger political renaissance. Now the specter of such pan-Islamic revival has been thoroughly demonized in Western imagination, owing from our own side to violent extremism, owing from their side to a deep-rooted Islamophobia, and owing generally to ideas (or realities?) like the clash of civilizations. But my Bitcoiner friends — whose libertarian ethos is so refined to even self-censure the slightist hint of authoritarian enforcement in El Salvador’s legal tender adoption of bitcoin — will surely agree that it is entirely within the rights of the Muslim world to voluntarily experiment, on their land, with whatever form of government they fancy: caliphates, sultanates or kingdoms! But the reality of this dream in the minds of the majority of modern Muslims is quite different from what the world perceives. The moderate Muslim just wants Islamic principles to be the guiding source of their political and social order. But the strength of this desire is often encashed by opportunists, resulting in two recent distorted models of political Islam: 1.The Iranian model: Somewhat broad-based and sustainable but toothless and symbolic. They are the political twins of Islamic banks, offering no real change to the common man, except moral policing. Financially, there even exists the oxymoronic Central Bank of the Islamic Republic. Why would you have an Islamic bank if you were truly an Islamic republic? 2. Second, is the Taliban and ISIS model: Narrow-based, extremist and unsustainable, divorced from the comity of nations. ISIS did reportedly issue the Gold Dinar but to no one’s avail, except perhaps as a recruitment propaganda. News out of Kabul promises a more restrained and balanced government this time around, but is it a genuine change of heart or just political expediency? So, while the Muslim world waits for a true Islamic reformation, and the world holds its breath on how the next such attempt turns out, my issue with this ubiquitous political quest in the Muslim imagination is just NGMI — it’s not gonna make it! We can’t stall the effort of immediate financial reform on some future promise of a bigger change happening to facilitate it. As an Urdu saying goes, na nau munn tayl hoe ga, na Radha naachay gi: Neither shall the king be able to provision nine gallons of lamp oil, and nor will the stage ever be lit enough for his dancing girl, Radha, to perform! Nevertheless, assuming for a moment that a mature, viable, modern Islamic government does get established by some geopolitical miracle, faithful to Islam’s core tenets, and broad-based in popular support, the next and more pertinent question becomes: Will it have sufficient political, and if necessary, military power, to deploy a gold-based sound monetary system in their country, and then get away with the sanctions and isolation that follow? And this is where bitcoin, once again, outshines other alternatives. The one trait that sets it apart from all “crypto”, and indeed, all monies in human history: true, sovereign-grade censorship resistance, from both your own government and foreign powers. Without needing any battalions or bombs, bitcoin enables us to fight the good fight ourselves and win. And if the broader Islamic reformation materializes, bitcoin can support it, too, for bypassing potential sanctions and increasing national wealth! God has a knack for defeating evil by the simplest of designs — the mighty Goliath with a slingshot, the persecutors of the Prophet with a humble spider — as if to compound the humiliation of defeat by the plainness of its bearer. Who could have thought that the Kremlins, Zhongnanhais and White Houses of the world would be made helpless by the confluence of two elementary ideas: proof of work and difficulty adjustment! But this simple, easily overlooked and less understood killer combination of traits makes bitcoin an undefeatable tool in the hands of us, the 99%. We do not need to wait for anyone. We can do it ourselves with bitcoin. THE WAY FORWARD While the wallet addresses, exchange accounts, market cap, and of course, the hype around crypto is constantly rising in Muslim countries, much of this activity is from the perspective of a shiny new investment vehicle, a get-rich-quick bandwagon to which everyone wants to hitch! This has engendered the animated debate of investor protection, scam avoidance and the whole academic deliberation of whether they are at all Halal owing to a perceived lack of intrinsic value and being free from government control. While all of these objections on bitcoin from the Shariah perspective have been thoroughly refuted by various scholars and are easily searchable on the internet, the continuance of this superfluous debate is dangerously distracting: In the process, we are losing sight of the higher frequencies of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Aye ahle-e-nazar zauq-e-nazar khoob hai laikinJoe shay ki haqeeqat koe na dekhay woe nazar kiya We need bitcoin, not because it’s a great investment (which incidentally it is), but because it’s a great store of value and a medium of exchange: A free medium of exchange, which can uplift us collectively if we just adopt it, en masse, as our money. To my fellow Muslims, here is a parting thought. We love and honor our Prophet to such an extent that even the minutest of his actions, Sunnahs, is recorded, revered and repeated, even if it be as simple as the table manners of cutting some fruit. But here is another Sunnah of bigger import: success. The change that he set out to achieve in the world, he did achieve it. As he breathed his last in the arms of Ayesha, he had already delivered on the promise he had made to his companions in the lowest ebb of their persecution: “... a traveler from Sana to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah.” Although bordering a little on logical fallacy, I would point out that he didn’t cite something more symbolic like the establishment of the Caliphate, or the conquests, or the subsequent power. He chose to cite, as evidence of success to what they were suffering for, the establishment of a certain social order: One in which an anonymous citizen would not fear physical or financial insecurity. I say anonymous, not a private citizen, because the choice of the word “traveler” is very telling. While you are known in your city, protected by your identity, and potential clout from a corporation or clan, it is suddenly removed when you are in a strange land. They do not even know your name, unless you tell them: You are just a wallet address. But this traveler is not afraid of loss of wealth, or being robbed, or not having the right passport, or the right vaccine passport! He can move himself, and he can move his money. We Dinarists and Bitcoiners always equate inflation with theft. Whether you snatch 50 rupees from a poor man, or the free fall of your currency leaves him with 50 rupees less of a purchasing power, it is the same. While every ill is not caused by our monetary system, there is the obvious administrative incompetence and a dismal economic performance to account for — but inflation is definitely a huge factor. And all our high talk, slogans, research papers, reform movements, activism and militarism have deviated from this one Sunnah: The success of delivering safety to this traveler again. Bitcoin can help us succeed. Like now! Not 20 years later. Not when some promised leader will part the seas for us again. But now, when the poor illiterate, helpless man on the street looks at us educated and privileged elites and asks: What did you do to level the playing field for me? The Islamic banker may say, “Oh, I developed this intricate Shariah compliant profit and loss sharing contract for you, approved by the council of scholars, and backed by the gold dinar, just wait for it to be deployed.” I will say, “Dude, here, let me help you buy a few satoshis and get you a Lightning wallet so you don’t have to revert back to the rupee when paying for your next meal!” I think you should do the same. Bitcoin deserves a fresh look from us Muslims. Let’s think about it. Let’s use it correctly. Let’s spread it. Let’s understand it. Let’s use Bitcoin. Tyler Durden Sat, 10/30/2021 - 19:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 30th, 2021

51 unique and genuinely useful gifts that teens will actually love

The best gifts for teens are ones they'll actually want to use, like tech gadgets, beauty products, and cool accessories. Here are 51 unique gifts. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. One of the best gifts for teens is a portable, waterproof speaker they can bring with them on trips with friends. Amazon It's never easy to shop for a teenager, especially if their tastes change frequently. We rounded up 51 gifts to make it easier to find the perfect gadget, game, or accessory. Browse all of Insider Reviews' gift guides for more great gift ideas. Being a teenager is tough, but trying to buy a gift for one is even harder: They can be picky and fickle when it comes to what products they want. Sometimes, the best way to show a teen that you care is just to listen, and sometimes it's a thoughtful gift to show them you see them.To make the gift search easier, we curated 53 gifts ranging from a card game to a smartwatch to a quick-drying hair towel at various price points to ensure as many options as possible.If you are still unsure of what to get (and you can't ask them directly) try consulting their friends. Either way, a smart general rule of thumb is to make sure your gift is returnable. The 51 best gifts for teens: Disposable cameras to help them stay in the moment Amazon Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, available at Amazon, $67.95Funsaver One Time Use Film Camera (2-pack), available at Amazon, $47.95Disposable cameras are popular right now, partly because of the nostalgic aesthetic of a polaroid and partly because of their simplicity. Spending so much time immersed in technology — and combatting the temptation to retake and edit photos in real-time — keep us from staying present.Disposable film cameras or polaroids help preserve memories without adding to their screen time. Plus, they give them cute photos to decorate their room with! Glossier's fan-favorite products Glossier Boy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew Pack, available at Glossier, $42No-makeup makeup is in right now and, if your teen is into beauty products, they may appreciate a gift from Glossier, which is the "natural and glowy" brand Olivia Rodrigo says she wears in her Vogue beauty diary.We'd recommend a gift card or a pack like the Boy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew pack, which covers three of its fan-favorite products. A great book Amazon "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.14Books are an incredible gift if your teen is a reader. It can translate into hours of enjoyment at a minimum and, at its best, a favorite story that follows them well into adulthood.Plus, if you've read the book, it can also mean great conversations about it or movie adaptations to watch together. It's also a gift where money doesn't really matter; you can find a great read for $20 and spending more won't make much difference.Some book suggestions:"All the Bright Places," a popular YA book on TikTok"Scythe," a bestselling dystopian YA book similar to "The Hunger Games"The best young adult books, according to a teenagerThe best young adult romance booksThe best young people's literature of 2021 according to the National Book AwardsThe best books we read in our 20s The extremely popular Nintendo Switch Nintendo Nintendo Switch, available at Best Buy, $299.99The Nintendo Switch is likely to be one of those big-ticket gifts that'll get you an extremely excited reaction upon opening. They can play it at home, on the go, and with friends from a huge library of games. An eco-conscious tie-dye beanie Free The Earth Feel the Earth Breathe Tie Dye Beanie, available at Parks Project, from $40These unisex tie-dye beanies come in cool colors and with a unique plant logo. (To date, the Parks Project has reportedly contributed over $2,000,000 to help fund vital projects in national parks around the US).Ribbed beanies are big right now, à la the popular Carhartt beanie. If they've got that staple covered, the Parks Project also has tube socks.  A splashproof, portable Bluetooth speaker perfect for outdoor trips Amazon Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2, available at Amazon, $94.99This rugged, compact speaker can go with them anywhere. It's waterproof, has an "outdoor boost" button specifically for listening outside, is "drop-proof," and boasts a 13-hour battery life.  A plush toy that they can heat up Urban Outfitters Smoko Mini Toasty Heatable Plushie, available at Urban Outfitters, $18Whenever they need some cozy comfort, they can heat up this cute animal-shaped heating pad for a snuggle. A bedside smartphone vase Uncommon Goods Bedside Smartphone Vase, available at Uncommon Goods, $32Since teenagers can't be without their phones, this bedside smartphone gives their hands a rest. It's easily accessible while the floral component helps brighten up their rooms.  A portable phone charger Amazon Elecjet Powerpie Portable Charger, available at Amazon, $49.99This handheld charger can charge up your teen's smartphone or various devices like an iPad or small laptop so they can stay in touch, turn their paper in on time, or just never have to stress about 5% battery life. Sheet masks to go with a Netflix marathon Amazon TONYMOLY I'm Real Sheet Masks, available at Amazon, $26There are few things my 15-year-old sister loves more than oversized hoodies, Boba, and an endless supply of sheet masks. Grab a pack, throw them on, and make a night out of it with your teen's favorite candy and TV show. A pair of trendy, easy-to-use AirPods Apple Apple AirPods Pro with Charging Case, available at Walmart, $197If you're after the title of their favorite relative of the year, here's a good place to start. AirPods are both easy to use and functional as well as trendy.  A Boba-shaped AirPods Pro case Urban Outfitters Smoko Boba Tea AirPods Pro Case, available at Urban Outfitters, $18As I mentioned, part of my 15-year-old sister's ideal trifecta is Boba. You can pick up a cute, fun case no matter what their interest is — Baby Yoda, gaming, Boba, or whatever else.  A Bluetooth water bottle speaker Grommet Bluetooth Water Bottle Speakers, available at Grommet, $39.95This Bluetooth water bottle speaker offers a boost of hydration and fun for everyone. The water-resistant speaker resides at the top, ensuring greater sound quality that lasts 6-10 hours. It's the perfect accessory for them to bring to every hang-out session.  A slim leather wallet Amazon Bellroy Slim Sleeve Leather Wallet, available at Amazon and Bellroy, from $65This thin wallet is a subtle nudge toward minimalism, something many teens appreciate. The Bellroy Slim Sleeve wallet offers room for up to eight cards and a pocket to stash cash. It comes in a variety of colors and features environmentally certified leather. An eco-friendly phone case Pela Pela Phone Case, available at Amazon and Pela, from $19.95Pela offers a wide variety of biodegradable cases for iPhone and Android, all made from plant-based polymers. Pela cases are rugged enough to offer drop protection, and if a phone has both a Pela case and screen protector but still cracks, Pela will cover the bill to get it fixed. A comfortable and sustainable Patagonia pullover they'll wear all the time Patagonia Lightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, Men, available at Patagonia, $119Patagonia Women's Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece, available at Patagonia, from $58.99A Patagonia sweater is a particularly good gift for teens who are interested in sustainability. The company has been turning plastic bottles into polyester for its clothing since 1993 and continues to do so today.Its Snap-T pullover is the unofficial uniform of the cozy adventurer. It and the Better Sweater are long-held favorites, and both are comfortable classics that they'll no doubt come to rely on heavily during colder weather.Not sold on the Patagonia option? They may also appreciate the Acadia Recycled Polar Trail Fleece from the environmentally-conscious Parks Project. A gift card for stylish new glasses Warby Parker Gift Card, available at Warby Parker, from $50Teens are a notoriously picky bunch, so you can never go wrong with a gift card. If they're in the market for new glasses or sunglasses, we recommend Warby Parker because of its versatility, size flexibility, and free at-home try-on program.  An Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free calls, alarms, music, updates on the weather, and more Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen), available at Best Buy, $34.99The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it's compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, news) without any of the bulk.  A smartphone-sized travel photo printer Target HP Sprocket 200 Photo Printer, available at Amazon and B&H Photo, from $76.78This tiny, compact device prints photos with sticker backing on ZINK film with Zero Ink technology. It connects to devices via Bluetooth, and multiple devices can connect at once (personalized LED lights indicate who's currently printing).  String lights with clips for photos Amazon/Business Insider Photo Clip LED String Lights, available at Target, $10Perfect for creating the archetypal teen room that's most often seen in Netflix movies and old Taylor Swift music videos, the photo clip string lights combine warm light and Polaroids (or other memorabilia).  A trendy Champion sweatshirt Urban Outfitters  Champion Reverse Weave Fleece Crew Neck Sweatshirt, available at Urban Outfitters, $54Like Fila, Champion is a brand that's had a resurgence as of late. If you want to get them something they'll end up wearing all the time, this is a good candidate.  Comfortable headphones with a long battery life and good sound Beats by Dre Beats by Dre Wireless Solo3 Headphones, available at B&H Photo, from $179They can use these at the gym, for studying, and for zoning out during family road trips. This pair has great sound, cushioned ear cups, and 40 hours of battery life so they have one less thing to think about. And if they do let the battery run out, a five-minute charge is the equivalent to three hours of listening time. A new video game "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD" / Nintendo "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD", available at Amazon, from $49.94If they're really into video games, all other gifts may pale in comparison to a really good new one. Check out "Hades," "NBA 2K22," and "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD." A vinyl record membership Vinyl Me, Please Gift Membership, 3 months, available at Vinyl Me, Please, $119There's no greater joy than adding to a record collection or playing a new album for the first time. Your recipient gets to choose from three different types of tracks each month and will also receive extra goodies in each package. They'll also get one bonus record as part of the three-month gift membership.  A gentle facial cleansing device that removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup FOREO Luna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Men, available at Foreo, $199Luna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Women, available at Foreo, $199FOREO's cult-favorite Luna 3 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touch-points, and it removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it's 100% waterproof and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge.This newest generation also offers an array of massages to tighten the skin for a youthful look. Find a full review on the previous generation Luna 2 from a female reporter and a male reporter here. Comfortable lounge pants that look put-together MeUndies The Lounge Pant, Men, available at MeUndies, $68The Lounge Pant, Women, available at MeUndies $68MeUndies is a popular LA startup that makes some of the most comfortable underwear we've ever tried. Their lounge pants, however, are the real hidden gem — perfect for lounging around on weekend mornings or heading to the dining hall when they get to college (yep, they'll last that long) while still looking sleek. A subscription to a famous book club that sends them great hardcovers each month Book of the Month/Instagram 3-Month Gift Subscription, available at Book of the Month, $49.99If your teen is a bookworm, Book of the Month is an especially cool gift. It's a book club that has been around since 1926, and it's credited with discovering some of the most beloved books of all time (like "Gone with the Wind" and "Catcher in the Rye" to name a couple).If you gift them a subscription, they'll receive a hardcover book delivered once a month. Books are selected by a team of experts and celebrity guest judges.If they're really more into audiobooks or e-reading now rather than hardcovers, check out a gift subscription to Scribd (full review here). An Apple Watch that combines their smartphone with a fitness tracker Amazon Apple Watch SE GPS, 40mm, available at Best Buy, from $279If you have a little extra to spend on your teen, consider getting them a smartwatch. The Apple Watch SE is like a smartphone, fitness tracker, and music player all in one. Just like on their phone, they can customize the watch to show their favorite apps to pick, including social media. A cute iPhone case Society6 Coffee Reading iPhone Case, available at Society6, $35.99This fun iPhone case is funny and unique, and most of their friends probably won't have the exact same one.  Reusable straws Amazon Hiware Reusable Silicone Straws (10-pack), available at Amazon, $6.99Help teens do their part to keep single-use plastics out of trash bins, landfills, and the ocean by giving them this pack of reusable silicone drinking straws. They come in various colors and include a few cleaning brushes as well.  A set of velvet retro-inspired scrunchies Amazon/Business Insider Hair Scrunchie Variety Pack, available at Target, $6.99Another trendy gift is as many scrunchies as you can carry. This pack comes with 12 options in enough colors to work with virtually any outfit or mood.  A multicolor mini cinema light box Urban Outfitters Multicolor Cinema Light Box, available at Uncommon Goods, from $20These trendy lightboxes are inspired by cinema marquees, and they come with 100 letters and symbols for personal messages. This one also has color-changing LED lights for further customization. Fun and useful PopSockets for the back of their phone Amazon/Business Insider PopGrips, available at PopSockets and Amazon, from $10PopSockets have become their own cultural phenomenon in recent years, and they're surprisingly useful. Get your teen one for their own phone or tablet, and depending on their age, you may find it's the gift they're most excited about. It doesn't hurt that there's free domestic shipping on orders over $20, or that you can actually design your own. A waterproof e-reader with a no-glare screen Amazon All-New Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $79.99Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is its thinnest, lightest version. It also has double the storage, a built-in light that adjusts to accommodate reading indoors or outdoors, and is waterproof for reading anywhere, including the beach or bath. Plus, a single battery charge lasts weeks rather than hours. Cool backpacks from a popular startup with a charitable mission STATE Bags/Facebook State bags and accessories, from $16.80State bags are increasingly popular thanks to their versatile, laid-back aesthetic and characteristically bright nylon colorways. They're also known as #GiveBackPack(s), because for every State bag purchased, State hand-delivers a backpack — packed with essential tools for success — to a local child in need. The Lorimer and Bedford are two of the company's best sellers. A three-month subscription of beauty products BirchBox 3-Month Subscription, available at BirchBox, $45Teens are usually among the most interested in the latest and greatest beauty or grooming products — but may lack the funds to try all the full-sized versions. Birchbox sends samples of new and beloved products once a month, so they can test out new finds and discover products they may want to buy a full size of in the future. (It's also just fun to get an ongoing gift.) Personalized Nikes Nike Customizable Nikes, available at Nike, from $120Nike makes great stuff, but it's nice to get the benefits of a great shoe without forsaking what makes something unique. You can customize a pair of Nikes for them, or give them a gift card so they can get creative making something one-of-a-kind on their own. A great Alexa-enabled speaker they can control by voice Sonos Sonos One Smart Speaker, available at Sonos, from $219The new Sonos One smart speaker fills any room with clear, rich sound, and they can use Alexa to play and control their music without ever lifting a finger. Find a full review here. A cult-favorite hair towel that reduces damage and cuts drying time by 50% Aquis/Business Insider Aquis Rapid Dry Hair Towel, available at Amazon and Sephora, from $17.99Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels can cut the amount of time it takes your hair to dry in half — a claim we're happy to report holds up. The proprietary fabric also means there's less damage to wet hair while it dries. If they've ever complained about frizzy hair, this and a silk pillowcase are thoughtful gifts they'll actually use.  A Disney+ subscription for access to classic movies and more Disney Plus Disney+ Gift Subscription Service, available at Disney, $79.99/yearDisney Plus is the new Disney-centric streaming service. The platform includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. You can gift a whole year of access for $80, which is something their entire family can benefit from.If you'd rather test Disney Plus out before buying, you can sign up for a free weeklong trial. A suitcase with an ejectable battery that can charge their devices on the go Away The Carry-On, available at Away, from $225Travel startup Away makes a great carry-on thanks to an ejectable battery that can charge devices seamlessly on the go, 360-degree wheels, and a lightweight build that travels easily. In other words, it takes a lot of the angst out of travel and may make family trips far more enjoyable and stress-free. A color-changing alarm clock that also charges their phone The Home Depot/Business Insider La Crosse Technology Color Mood Light Alarm Clock with Nature Sounds, available at Amazon and The Home Depot, $26.46This color-changing alarm clock radio will charge their devices and play soothing nature sounds at the same time. They can also use the aux-in port to play music from their phone. Durable sunglasses that look good, too Amazon Smith Optics Lowdown2, available at Backcountry, $129Who better to make a pair of durable, performance-based sunglasses than the company known for innovating the ski goggle? The Lowdown2 features bio-based materials for the frame, ChromaPop lens technology which creates high contrast and vibrant colors, and an anti-reflective smudge-resistant coating.Plus, the brand offers peace of mind with free shipping, 30-day returns, and a lifetime warranty. Comfortable, high-quality sheets that come in lots of colors and patterns Brooklinen Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle, available at Brooklinen and Amazon, from $240We think Brooklinen makes the best high-end sheets at the best price on the market, and most of the Insider Reviews team uses Brooklinen on their own beds. It's perfect for lazy Saturday mornings or the rare occasion sleeping in is encouraged.The Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle comes in 15 colors and patterns that range from classic to fun, and you can mix and match them to suit their preferences. Grab a gift card (delivered digitally) if you want to give them more freedom. Fidget balls Speks Speks 2.5mm magnet balls, available at Speks, $29.95Made from rare earth magnets, these tiny balls can be molded into an infinite number of shapes and designs. The size of Speks balls makes them ideal for teens to keep with them for those unpredictable moments of nervousness that fill those teenage years. A pack of smart plugs so they can control devices from a distance Amazon/Business Insider TP-Link KIT WiFi Smart Plug, 2-Pack, available at Best Buy, $9.99Whether they're wondering if they turned off their hot iron or just don't want to get up to turn off the TV, a smart plug lets them control devices from a distance. You can connect to them using any smart device. A Time-Turner clock that actually spins Harry Potter Harry Potter Time-Turner Clock, available at Pottery Barn, $69It may not be able to take them back in time or help them be in two places at once, but this Time-Turner clock will help them stay on top of their schedule. It even has a functional hourglass on the back so they can time their study breaks.  A toothbrush with a timer Amazon Oral-B Pro 1000 Electric Toothbrush, available at Amazon, $39.97Rigorous dental hygiene isn't usually on the top of the list of things teens care about, which is all the more reason a rechargeable toothbrush with a timer is a fantastic gift. This rechargeable brush breaks up 300% more plaque on the gum line than traditional brushing and lets them know when two minutes have passed. Compact hand sanitizer spray Touchland Touchland Power Mist Hand Sanitizer, available at Touchland, $9It's in the car, the house, and their pocket these days, but many hand sanitizers can smell a little like household cleaner. Touchland comes in scents like Vanilla Cinnamon and Forrest Berry, or keep it simple and choose unscented.The compact sanitizer features 67% alcohol for killing germs but balances it with soothing aloe vera and essential oils to hydrate the skin.  A lottery card that donates to charities LottoLove/Business Insider LottoLove Card, available at LottoLove, from $5When you gift this lottery card, you're actually giving the gift of charity. When you "win big," you're winning a charitable prize that gets donated to nonprofits in one of four categories: Clean water, solar light, nutritious meals, or literacy tools. To date, LottoLove and its partners have impacted lives in over 70 countries. Gift cards for concert tickets, food, and clothes Chipotle You can't go wrong with money for their favorite things, especially for teens who are often relying upon part-time jobs to fund their frequent Chipotle meals and concert trips with friends. Check out more gift card ideas here.Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift CardCoffee and food: Starbucks Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardEntertainment and live events: Netflix Gift Card / Xbox Gift Card / Hulu Gift Card / StubHub gift cardMusic: Spotify Gift CardSheets: Brooklinen Gift CardGroceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardClothes: Nordstrom Gift Card / Everlane Gift CardTech: Best Buy Gift Card Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 27th, 2021

Bitcoin & The US Fiscal Reckoning

Bitcoin & The US Fiscal Reckoning Authored by Avik Roy via NationalAffairs.com, Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have few fans in Washington. At a July congressional hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren warned that cryptocurrency "puts the [financial] system at the whims of some shadowy, faceless group of super-coders." Treasury secretary Janet Yellen likewise asserted that the "reality" of cryptocurrencies is that they "have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they've been a tool to finance terrorism." Thus far, Bitcoin's supporters remain undeterred. (The term "Bitcoin" with a capital "B" is used here and throughout to refer to the system of cryptography and technology that produces the currency "bitcoin" with a lowercase "b" and verifies bitcoin transactions.) A survey of 3,000 adults in the fall of 2020 found that while only 4% of adults over age 55 own cryptocurrencies, slightly more than one-third of those aged 35-44 do, as do two-fifths of those aged 25-34. As of mid-2021, Coinbase — the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States — had 68 million verified users. To younger Americans, digital money is as intuitive as digital media and digital friendships. But Millennials with smartphones are not the only people interested in bitcoin; a growing number of investors are also flocking to the currency's banner. Surveys indicate that as many as 21% of U.S. hedge funds now own bitcoin in some form. In 2020, after considering various asset classes like stocks, bonds, gold, and foreign currencies, celebrated hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones asked, "[w]hat will be the winner in ten years' time?" His answer: "My bet is it will be bitcoin." What's driving this increased interest in a form of currency invented in 2008? The answer comes from former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who once noted, "the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press...that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation...the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to...inflation." In other words, governments with fiat currencies — including the United States — have the power to expand the quantity of those currencies. If they choose to do so, they risk inflating the prices of necessities like food, gas, and housing. In recent months, consumers have experienced higher price inflation than they have seen in decades. A major reason for the increases is that central bankers around the world — including those at the Federal Reserve — sought to compensate for Covid-19 lockdowns with dramatic monetary inflation. As a result, nearly $4 trillion in newly printed dollars, euros, and yen found their way from central banks into the coffers of global financial institutions. Jerome Powell, the current Federal Reserve chairman, insists that 2021's inflation trends are "transitory." He may be right in the near term. But for the foreseeable future, inflation will be a profound and inescapable challenge for America due to a single factor: the rapidly expanding federal debt, increasingly financed by the Fed's printing press. In time, policymakers will face a Solomonic choice: either protect Americans from inflation, or protect the government's ability to engage in deficit spending. It will become impossible to do both. Over time, this compounding problem will escalate the importance of Bitcoin. THE FIAT-CURRENCY EXPERIMENT It's becoming clear that Bitcoin is not merely a passing fad, but a significant innovation with potentially serious implications for the future of investment and global finance. To understand those implications, we must first examine the recent history of the primary instrument that bitcoin was invented to challenge: the American dollar. Toward the end of World War II, in an agreement hashed out by 44 Allied countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the value of the U.S. dollar was formally fixed to 1/35th of the price of an ounce of gold. Other countries' currencies, such as the British pound and the French franc, were in turn pegged to the dollar, making the dollar the world's official reserve currency. Under the Bretton Woods system, foreign governments could retrieve gold bullion they had sent to the United States during the war by exchanging dollars for gold at the relevant fixed exchange rate. But enabling every major country to exchange dollars for American-held gold only worked so long as the U.S. government was fiscally and monetarily responsible. By the late 1960s, it was neither. Someone needed to pay the steep bills for Lyndon Johnson's "guns and butter" policies — the Vietnam War and the Great Society, respectively — so the Federal Reserve began printing currency to meet those obligations. Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, also pressured the Fed to flood the economy with money as a form of economic stimulus. From 1961 to 1971, the Fed nearly doubled the circulating supply of dollars. "In the first six months of 1971," noted the late Nobel laureate Robert Mundell, "monetary expansion was more rapid than in any comparable period in a quarter century." That year, foreign central banks and governments held $64 billion worth of claims on the $10 billion of gold still held by the United States. It wasn't long before the world took notice of the shortage. In a classic bank-run scenario, anxious European governments began racing to redeem dollars for American-held gold before the Fed ran out. In July 1971, Switzerland withdrew $50 million in bullion from U.S. vaults. In August, France sent a destroyer to escort $191 million of its gold back from the New York Federal Reserve. Britain put in a request for $3 billion shortly thereafter. Finally, that same month, Nixon secretly gathered a small group of trusted advisors at Camp David to devise a plan to avoid the imminent wipeout of U.S. gold vaults and the subsequent collapse of the international economy. There, they settled on a radical course of action. On the evening of August 15th, in a televised address to the nation, Nixon announced his intention to order a 90-day freeze on all prices and wages throughout the country, a 10% tariff on all imported goods, and a suspension — eventually, a permanent one — of the right of foreign governments to exchange their dollars for U.S. gold. Knowing that his unilateral abrogation of agreements involving dozens of countries would come as a shock to world leaders and the American people, Nixon labored to re-assure viewers that the change would not unsettle global markets. He promised viewers that "the effect of this action...will be to stabilize the dollar," and that the "dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today." The next day, the stock market rose — to everyone's relief. The editors of the New York Times "unhesitatingly applaud[ed] the boldness" of Nixon's move. Economic growth remained strong for months after the shift, and the following year Nixon was re-elected in a landslide, winning 49 states in the Electoral College and 61% of the popular vote. Nixon's short-term success was a mirage, however. After the election, the president lifted the wage and price controls, and inflation returned with a vengeance. By December 1980, the dollar had lost more than half the purchasing power it had back in June 1971 on a consumer-price basis. In relation to gold, the price of the dollar collapsed — from 1/35th to 1/627th of a troy ounce. Though Jimmy Carter is often blamed for the Great Inflation of the late 1970s, "the truth," as former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow has argued, "is that the president who unleashed double-digit inflation was Richard Nixon." In 1981, Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker raised the federal-funds rate — a key interest-rate benchmark — to 19%. A deep recession ensued, but inflation ceased, and the U.S. embarked on a multi-decade period of robust growth, low unemployment, and low consumer-price inflation. As a result, few are nostalgic for the days of Bretton Woods or the gold-standard era. The view of today's economic establishment is that the present system works well, that gold standards are inherently unstable, and that advocates of gold's return are eccentric cranks. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that the post-Bretton Woods era — in which the supply of government currencies can be expanded or contracted by fiat — is only 50 years old. To those of us born after 1971, it might appear as if there is nothing abnormal about the way money works today. When viewed through the lens of human history, however, free-floating global exchange rates remain an unprecedented economic experiment — with one critical flaw. An intrinsic attribute of the post-Bretton Woods system is that it enables deficit spending. Under a gold standard or peg, countries are unable to run large budget deficits without draining their gold reserves. Nixon's 1971 crisis is far from the only example; deficit spending during and after World War I, for instance, caused economic dislocation in numerous European countries — especially Germany — because governments needed to use their shrinking gold reserves to finance their war debts. These days, by contrast, it is relatively easy for the United States to run chronic deficits. Today's federal debt of almost $29 trillion — up from $10 trillion in 2008 and $2.4 trillion in 1984 — is financed in part by U.S. Treasury bills, notes, and bonds, on which lenders to the United States collect a form of interest. Yields on Treasury bonds are denominated in dollars, but since dollars are no longer redeemable for gold, these bonds are backed solely by the "full faith and credit of the United States." Interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds have remained low, which many people take to mean that the creditworthiness of the United States remains healthy. Just as creditworthy consumers enjoy lower interest rates on their mortgages and credit cards, creditworthy countries typically enjoy lower rates on the bonds they issue. Consequently, the post-Great Recession era of low inflation and near-zero interest rates led many on the left to argue that the old rules no longer apply, and that concerns regarding deficits are obsolete. Supporters of this view point to the massive stimulus packages passed under presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden  that, in total, increased the federal deficit and debt by $4.6 trillion without affecting the government's ability to borrow. The extreme version of the new "deficits don't matter" narrative comes from the advocates of what has come to be called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), who claim that because the United States controls its own currency, the federal government has infinite power to increase deficits and the debt without consequence. Though most mainstream economists dismiss MMT as unworkable and even dangerous, policymakers appear to be legislating with MMT's assumptions in mind. A new generation of Democratic economic advisors has pushed President Biden to propose an additional $3.5 trillion in spending, on top of the $4.6 trillion spent on Covid-19 relief and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. These Democrats, along with a new breed of populist Republicans, dismiss the concerns of older economists who fear that exploding deficits risk a return to the economy of the 1970s, complete with high inflation, high interest rates, and high unemployment. But there are several reasons to believe that America's fiscal profligacy cannot go on forever. The most important reason is the unanimous judgment of history: In every country and in every era, runaway deficits and skyrocketing debt have ended in economic stagnation or ruin. Another reason has to do with the unusual confluence of events that has enabled the United States to finance its rising debts at such low interest rates over the past few decades — a confluence that Bitcoin may play a role in ending. DECLINING FAITH IN U.S. CREDIT To members of the financial community, U.S. Treasury bonds are considered "risk-free" assets. That is to say, while many investments entail risk — a company can go bankrupt, for example, thereby wiping out the value of its stock — Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Since people believe the United States will not default on its obligations, lending money to the U.S. government — buying Treasury bonds that effectively pay the holder an interest rate — is considered a risk-free investment. The definition of Treasury bonds as "risk-free" is not merely by reputation, but also by regulation. Since 1988, the Switzerland-based Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has sponsored a series of accords among central bankers from financially significant countries. These accords were designed to create global standards for the capital held by banks such that they carry a sufficient proportion of low-risk and risk-free assets. The well-intentioned goal of these standards was to ensure that banks don't fail when markets go down, as they did in 2008. The current version of the Basel Accords, known as "Basel III," assigns zero risk to U.S. Treasury bonds. Under Basel III's formula, then, every major bank in the world is effectively rewarded for holding these bonds instead of other assets. This artificially inflates demand for the bonds and enables the United States to borrow at lower rates than other countries. The United States also benefits from the heft of its economy as well as the size of its debt. Since America is the world's most indebted country in absolute terms, the market for U.S. Treasury bonds is the largest and most liquid such market in the world. Liquid markets matter a great deal to major investors: A large financial institution or government with hundreds of billions (or more) of a given currency on its balance sheet cares about being able to buy and sell assets while minimizing the impact of such actions on the trading price. There are no alternative low-risk assets one can trade at the scale of Treasury bonds. The status of such bonds as risk-free assets — and in turn, America's ability to borrow the money necessary to fund its ballooning expenditures — depends on investors' confidence in America's creditworthiness. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve's interference in the markets for Treasury bonds have obscured our ability to determine whether financial institutions view the U.S. fiscal situation with confidence. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton's advisors prioritized reducing the deficit, largely out of a conern that Treasury-bond "vigilantes" — investors who protest a government's expansionary fiscal or monetary policy by aggressively selling bonds, which drives up interest rates — would harm the economy. Their success in eliminating the primary deficit brought yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond down from 8% to 4%. In Clinton's heyday, the Federal Reserve was limited in its ability to influence the 10-year Treasury interest rate. Its monetary interventions primarily targeted the federal-funds rate — the interest rate that banks charge each other on overnight transactions. But in 2002, Ben Bernanke advocated that the Fed "begin announcing explicit ceilings for yields on longer-maturity Treasury debt." This amounted to a schedule of interest-rate price controls. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has succeeded in wiping out bond vigilantes using a policy called "quantitative easing," whereby the Fed manipulates the price of Treasury bonds by buying and selling them on the open market. As a result, Treasury-bond yields are determined not by the free market, but by the Fed. The combined effect of these forces — the regulatory impetus for banks to own Treasury bonds, the liquidity advantage Treasury bonds have in the eyes of large financial institutions, and the Federal Reserve's manipulation of Treasury-bond market prices — means that interest rates on Treasury bonds no longer indicate the United States' creditworthiness (or lack thereof). Meanwhile, indications that investors are growing increasingly concerned about the U.S. fiscal and monetary picture — and are in turn assigning more risk to "risk-free" Treasury bonds — are on the rise. One such indicator is the decline in the share of Treasury bonds owned by outside investors. Between 2010 and 2020, the share of U.S. Treasury securities owned by foreign entities fell from 47% to 32%, while the share owned by the Fed more than doubled, from 9% to 22%. Put simply, foreign investors have been reducing their purchases of U.S. government debt, thereby forcing the Fed to increase its own bond purchases to make up the difference and prop up prices. Until and unless Congress reduces the trajectory of the federal debt, U.S. monetary policy has entered a vicious cycle from which there is no obvious escape. The rising debt requires the Treasury Department to issue an ever-greater quantity of Treasury bonds, but market demand for these bonds cannot keep up with their increasing supply. In an effort to avoid a spike in interest rates, the Fed will need to print new U.S. dollars to soak up the excess supply of Treasury bonds. The resultant monetary inflation will cause increases in consumer prices. Those who praise the Fed's dramatic expansion of the money supply argue that it has not affected consumer-price inflation. And at first glance, they appear to have a point. In January of 2008, the M2 money stock was roughly $7.5 trillion; by January 2020, M2 had more than doubled, to $15.4 trillion. As of July 2021, the total M2 sits at $20.5 trillion — nearly triple what it was just 13 years ago. Over that same period, U.S. GDP increased by only 50%. And yet, since 2000, the average rate of growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers — a widely used inflation benchmark — has remained low, at about 2.25%. How can this be? The answer lies in the relationship between monetary inflation and price inflation, which has diverged over time. In 2008, the Federal Reserve began paying interest to banks that park their money with the Fed, reducing banks' incentive to lend that money out to the broader economy in ways that would drive price inflation. But the main reason for the divergence is that conventional measures like CPI do not accurately capture the way monetary inflation is affecting domestic prices. In a large, diverse country like the United States, different people and different industries experience price inflation in different ways. The fact that price inflation occurs earlier in certain sectors of the economy than in others was first described by the 18th-century Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon. In his 1730 "Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General," Cantillon noted that when governments increase the supply of money, those who receive the money first gain the most benefit from it — at the expense of those to whom it flows last. In the 20th century, Friedrich Hayek built on Cantillon's thinking, observing that "the real harm [of monetary inflation] is due to the differential effect on different prices, which change successively in a very irregular order and to a very different degree, so that as a result the whole structure of relative prices becomes distorted and misguides production into wrong directions." In today's context, the direct beneficiaries of newly printed money are those who need it the least. New dollars are sent to banks, which in turn lend them to the most creditworthy entities: investment funds, corporations, and wealthy individuals. As a result, the most profound price impact of U.S. monetary inflation has been on the kinds of assets that financial institutions and wealthy people purchase — stocks, bonds, real estate, venture capital, and the like. This is why the price-to-earnings ratio of S&P 500 companies is at record highs, why risky start-ups with long-shot ideas are attracting $100 million venture rounds, and why the median home sales price has jumped 24% in a single year — the biggest one-year increase of the 21st century. Meanwhile, low- and middle-income earners are facing rising prices without attendant increases in their wages. If asset inflation persists while the costs of housing and health care continue to grow beyond the reach of ordinary people, the legitimacy of our market economy will be put on trial. THE RETURN OF SOUND MONEY Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, was acutely concerned with the increasing abundance of U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies in the early 2000s. In 2009 he wrote, "the root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust." Bitcoin was created in anticipation of the looming fiscal and monetary crisis in the United States and around the world. To understand how bitcoin functions alongside fiat currency, it's helpful to examine the monetary philosophy of the Austrian School of economics, whose leading figures — especially Hayek and Ludwig von Mises — greatly influenced Nakamoto and the early developers of Bitcoin. The economists of the Austrian School were staunch advocates of what Mises called "the principle of sound money" — that is, of keeping the supply of money as constant and predictable as possible. In The Theory of Money and Credit, first published in 1912, Mises argued that sound money serves as "an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments" that belongs "in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights." Just as bills of rights were a "reaction against arbitrary rule and the nonobservance of old customs by kings," he wrote, "the postulate of sound money was first brought up as a response to the princely practice of debasing the coinage." Mises believed that inflation was just as much a violation of someone's property rights as arbitrarily taking away his land. After all, in both cases, the government acquires economic value at the expense of the citizen. Since monetary inflation creates a sugar high of short-term stimulus, politicians interested in re-election will always have an incentive to expand the money supply. But doing so comes at the expense of long-term declines in consumer purchasing power. For Mises, the best way to address such a threat is to avoid fiat currencies altogether. And in his estimation, the best sound-money alternative to fiat currency is gold. "The excellence of the gold standard," Mises wrote, is "that it renders the determination of the monetary unit's purchasing power independent of the policies of governments and political parties." In other words, gold's primary virtue is that its supply increases slowly and steadily, and cannot be manipulated by politicians. It may appear as if gold was an arbitrary choice as the basis for currency, but gold has a combination of qualities that make it ideal for storing and exchanging value. First, it is verifiably unforgeable. Gold is very dense, which means that counterfeit gold is easy to identify — one simply has to weigh it. Second, gold is divisible. Unlike, say, cattle, gold can be delivered in fractional units both small and large, enabling precise pricing. Third, gold is durable. Unlike commodities that rot or evaporate over time, gold can be stored for centuries without degradation. Fourth, gold is fungible: An ounce of gold in Asia is worth the same as an ounce of gold in Europe. These four qualities are shared by most modern currencies. Gold's fifth quality is more distinct, however, as well as more relevant to its role as an instrument of sound money: scarcity. While people have used beads, seashells, and other commodities as primitive forms of money, those items are fairly easy to acquire and introduce into circulation. While gold's supply does gradually increase as more is extracted from the ground, the rate of extraction relative to the total above-ground supply is low: At current rates, it would take approximately 66 years to double the amount of gold in circulation. In comparison, the supply of U.S. dollars has more than doubled over just the last decade. When the Austrian-influenced designers of bitcoin set out to create a more reliable currency, they tried to replicate all of these qualities. Like gold, bitcoin is divisible, unforgeable, divisible, durable, and fungible. But bitcoin also improves upon gold as a form of sound money in several important ways. First, bitcoin is rarer than gold. Though gold's supply increases slowly, it does increase. The global supply of bitcoin, by contrast, is fixed at 21 million and cannot be feasibly altered. Second, bitcoin is far more portable than gold. Transferring physical gold from one place to another is an onerous process, especially in large quantities. Bitcoin, on the other hand, can be transmitted in any quantity as quickly as an email. Third, bitcoin is more secure than gold. A single bitcoin address carried on a USB thumb drive could theoretically hold as much value as the U.S. Treasury holds in gold bars — without the need for costly militarized facilities like Fort Knox to keep it safe. In fact, if stored using best practices, the cost of securing bitcoin from hackers or assailants is far lower than the cost of securing gold. Fourth, bitcoin is a technology. This means that, as developers identify ways to augment its functionality without compromising its core attributes, they can gradually improve the currency over time. Fifth, and finally, bitcoin cannot be censored. This past year, the Chinese government shut down Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper not by censoring its content, but by ordering banks not to do business with the publication, thereby preventing Apple Daily from paying its suppliers or employees. Those who claim the same couldn't happen here need only look to the Obama administration's Operation Choke Point, a regulatory attempt to prevent banks from doing business with legitimate entities like gun manufacturers and payday lenders — firms the administration disfavored. In contrast, so long as the transmitting party has access to the internet, no entity can prevent a bitcoin transaction from taking place. This combination of fixed supply, portability, security, improvability, and censorship resistance epitomizes Nakamoto's breakthrough. Hayek, in The Denationalisation of Money, foresaw just such a separation of money and state. "I believe we can do much better than gold ever made possible," he wrote. "Governments cannot do better. Free enterprise...no doubt would." While Hayek and Nakamoto hoped private currencies would directly compete with the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies, bitcoin does not have to replace everyday cash transactions to transform global finance. Few people may pay for their morning coffee with bitcoin, but it is also rare for people to purchase coffee with Treasury bonds or gold bars. Bitcoin is competing not with cash, but with these latter two assets, to become the world's premier long-term store of wealth. The primary problem bitcoin was invented to address — the devaluation of fiat currency through reckless spending and borrowing — is already upon us. If Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan passes Congress, the national debt will rise further. Someone will have to buy the Treasury bonds to enable that spending. Yet as discussed above, investors are souring on Treasurys. On June 30, 2021, the interest rate for the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond was 1.45%. Even at the Federal Reserve's target inflation rate of 2%, under these conditions, Treasury-bond holders are guaranteed to lose money in inflation-adjusted terms. One critic of the Fed's policies, MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor, compares the value of today's Treasury bonds to a "melting ice cube." Last May, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and a former bitcoin skeptic, said "[p]ersonally, I'd rather have bitcoin than a [Treasury] bond." If hedge funds, banks, and foreign governments continue to decelerate their Treasury purchases, even by a relatively small percentage, the decrease in demand could send U.S. bond prices plummeting. If that happens, the Fed will be faced with the two unpalatable options described earlier: allowing interest rates to rise, or further inflating the money supply. The political pressure to choose the latter would likely be irresistible. But doing so would decrease inflation-adjusted returns on Treasury bonds, driving more investors away from Treasurys and into superior stores of value, such as bitcoin. In turn, decreased market interest in Treasurys would force the Fed to purchase more such bonds to suppress interest rates. AMERICA'S BITCOIN OPPORTUNITY From an American perspective, it would be ideal for U.S. Treasury bonds to remain the world's preferred reserve asset for the foreseeable future. But the tens of trillions of dollars in debt that the United States has accumulated since 1971 — and the tens of trillions to come — has made that outcome unlikely. It is understandably difficult for most of us to imagine a monetary world aside from the one in which we've lived for generations. After all, the U.S. dollar has served as the world's leading reserve currency since 1919, when Britain was forced off the gold standard. There are only a handful of people living who might recall what the world was like before then. Nevertheless, change is coming. Over the next 10 to 20 years, as bitcoin's liquidity increases and the United States becomes less creditworthy, financial institutions and foreign governments alike may replace an increasing portion of their Treasury-bond holdings with bitcoin and other forms of sound money. With asset values reaching bubble proportions and no end to federal spending in sight, it's critical for the United States to begin planning for this possibility now. Unfortunately, the instinct of some federal policymakers will be to do what countries like Argentina have done in similar circumstances: impose capital controls that restrict the ability of Americans to exchange dollars for bitcoin in an attempt to prevent the digital currency from competing with Treasurys. Yet just as Nixon's 1971 closure of the gold window led to a rapid flight from the dollar, imposing restrictions on the exchange of bitcoin for dollars would confirm to the world that the United States no longer believes in the competitiveness of its currency, accelerating the flight from Treasury bonds and undermining America's ability to borrow. A bitcoin crackdown would also be a massive strategic mistake, given that Americans are positioned to benefit enormously from bitcoin-related ventures and decentralized finance more generally. Around 50 million Americans own bitcoin today, and it's likely that Americans and U.S. institutions own a plurality, if not the majority, of the bitcoin in circulation — a sum worth hundreds of billions of dollars. This is one area where China simply cannot compete with the United States, since Bitcoin's open financial architecture is fundamentally incompatible with Beijing's centralized, authoritarian model. In the absence of major entitlement reform, well-intentioned efforts to make Treasury bonds great again are likely doomed. Instead of restricting bitcoin in a desperate attempt to forestall the inevitable, federal policymakers would do well to embrace the role of bitcoin as a geopolitically neutral reserve asset; work to ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in accumulating bitcoin-based wealth, jobs, and innovations; and ensure that Americans can continue to use bitcoin to protect themselves against government-driven inflation. To begin such an initiative, federal regulators should make it easier to operate cryptocurrency-related ventures on American shores. As things stand, too many of these firms are based abroad and closed off to American investors simply because outdated U.S. regulatory agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Treasury Department, and others — have been unwilling to provide clarity as to the legal standing of digital assets. For example, the SEC has barred Coinbase from paying its customers' interest on their holdings while refusing to specify which laws Coinbase has violated. Similarly, the agency has refused to approve Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without specifying standards for a valid ETF application. Congress should implement SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce's recommendations for a three-year regulatory grace period for decentralized digital tokens and assign to a new agency the role of regulating digital assets. Second, Congress should clarify poorly worded legislation tied to a recent bipartisan infrastructure bill that would drive many high-value crypto businesses, like bitcoin-mining operations, overseas. Third, the Treasury Department should consider replacing a fraction of its gold holdings — say, 10% — with bitcoin. This move would pose little risk to the department's overall balance sheet, send a positive signal to the innovative blockchain sector, and enable the United States to benefit from bitcoin's growth. If the value of bitcoin continues to appreciate strongly against gold and the U.S. dollar, such a move would help shore up the Treasury and decrease the need for monetary inflation. Finally, when it comes to digital versions of the U.S. dollar, policymakers should follow the advice of Friedrich Hayek, not Xi Jinping. In an effort to increase government control over its monetary system, China is preparing to unveil a blockchain-based digital yuan at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Jerome Powell and other Western central bankers have expressed envy for China's initiative and fret about being left behind. But Americans should strongly oppose the development of a central-bank digital currency (CBDC). Such a currency could wipe out local banks by making traditional savings and checking accounts obsolete. What's more, a CBDC-empowered Fed would accumulate a mountain of precise information about every consumer's financial transactions. Not only would this represent a grave threat to Americans' privacy and economic freedom, it would create a massive target for hackers and equip the government with the kind of censorship powers that would make Operation Choke Point look like child's play. Congress should ensure that the Federal Reserve never has the authority to issue a virtual currency. Instead, it should instruct regulators to integrate private-sector, dollar-pegged "stablecoins" — like Tether and USD Coin — into the framework we use for money-market funds and other cash-like instruments that are ubiquitous in the financial sector. PLANNING FOR THE WORST In the best-case scenario, the rise of bitcoin will motivate the United States to mend its fiscal ways. Much as Congress lowered corporate-tax rates in 2017 to reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to relocate abroad, bitcoin-driven monetary competition could push American policymakers to tackle the unsustainable growth of federal spending. While we can hope for such a scenario, we must plan for a world in which Congress continues to neglect its essential duty as a steward of Americans' wealth. The good news is that the American people are no longer destined to go down with the Fed's sinking ship. In 1971, when Washington debased the value of the dollar, Americans had no real recourse. Today, through bitcoin, they do. Bitcoin enables ordinary Americans to protect their savings from the federal government's mismanagement. It can improve the financial security of those most vulnerable to rising prices, such as hourly wage earners and retirees on fixed incomes. And it can increase the prosperity of younger Americans who will most acutely face the consequences of the country's runaway debt. Bitcoin represents an enormous strategic opportunity for Americans and the United States as a whole. With the right legal infrastructure, the currency and its underlying technology can become the next great driver of American growth. While the 21st-century monetary order will look very different from that of the 20th, bitcoin can help America maintain its economic leadership for decades to come. Tyler Durden Tue, 10/19/2021 - 23:25.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 20th, 2021

Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money

“We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world” At the Black Blockchain Summit, there is almost no conversation about making money that does not carry with it the possibility of liberation. This is not simply a gathering for those who would like to ride whatever bumps and shocks, gains and losses come with cryptocurrency. It is a space for discussing the relationship between money and man, the powers that be and what they have done with power. Online and in person, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., an estimated 1,500 mostly Black people have gathered to talk about crypto—decentralized digital money backed not by governments but by blockchain technology, a secure means of recording transactions—as a way to make money while disrupting centuries-long patterns of oppression. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “What we really need to be doing is to now utilize the technology behind blockchain to enhance the quality of life for our people,” says Christopher Mapondera, a Zimbabwean American and the first official speaker. As a white-haired engineer with the air of a lecturing statesman, Mapondera’s conviction feels very on-brand at a conference themed “Reparations and Revolutions.” Along with summit organizer Sinclair Skinner, Mapondera co-founded BillMari, a service that aims to make it easier to transmit cryptocurrency to wherever the sons and daughters of Africa have been scattered. So, not exactly your stereotypical “Bitcoin bro.” Contrary to the image associated with cryptocurrency since it entered mainstream awareness, almost no one at the summit is a fleece-vest-wearing finance guy or an Elon Musk type with a grudge against regulators. What they are is a cross section of the world of Black crypto traders, educators, marketers and market makers—a world that seemingly mushroomed during the pandemic, rallying around the idea that this is the boon that Black America needs. In fact, surveys indicate that people of color are investing in cryptocurrency in ways that outpace or equal other groups—something that can’t be said about most financial products. About 44% of those who own crypto are people of color, according to a June survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. In April, a Harris Poll reported that while just 16% of U.S. adults overall own cryptocurrency, 18% of Black Americans have gotten in on it. (For Latino Americans, the figure is 20%.) The actor Hill Harper of The Good Doctor, a Harvard Law School friend of former President Barack Obama, is a pitchman for Black Wall Street, a digital wallet and crypto trading service developed with Najah Roberts, a Black crypto expert. And this summer, when the popular money-transfer service Cash App added the option to purchase Bitcoin, its choice to explain the move was the MC Megan Thee Stallion. “With my knowledge and your hustle, you’ll have your own empire in no time,” she says in an ad titled “Bitcoin for Hotties.” Read more: Americans Have Learned to Talk About Racial Inequality. But They’ve Done Little to Solve It But, as even Megan Thee Stallion acknowledges in that ad, pinning one’s economic hopes on crypto is inherently risky. Many economic experts have described crypto as little better than a bubble, mere fool’s gold. The rapid pace of innovation—it’s been little more than a decade since Bitcoin was created by the enigmatic, pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto—has left consumers with few protections. Whether the potential is worth those risks is the stuff of constant, and some would say, infernal debate. Jared Soares for TIMECleve Mesidor, who founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain What looms in the backdrop is clear. In the U.S., the median white family’s wealth—reflecting not just assets minus debt, but also the ability to weather a financial setback—sat around $188,200, per the Federal Reserve’s most recent measure in 2019. That’s about eight times the median wealth of Black families. (For Latino families, it’s five times greater; the wealth of Asian, Pacific Island and other families sits between that of white and Latino families, according to the report.) Other estimates paint an even grimmer picture. If trends continue, the median Black household will have zero wealth by 2053. The summit attendees seem certain that crypto represents keys to a car bound for somewhere better. “Our digital selves are more important in some ways than our real-world selves,” Tony Perkins, a Black MIT-trained computer scientist, says during a summit session on “Enabling Black Land and Asset Ownership Using Blockchain.” The possibilities he rattles off—including fractional ownership of space stations—will, to many, sound fantastical. To others, they sound like hope. “We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world,” he says. The next night, when in-person attendees gather at Barcode, a Black-owned downtown D.C. establishment, for drinks and conversation, there’s a small rush on black T-shirts with white lettering: SATOSHI, they proclaim, IS BLACK. That’s an intriguing idea when your ancestors’ bodies form much of the foundation of U.S. prosperity. At the nation’s beginnings, land theft from Native Americans seeded the agricultural operations where enslaved Africans would labor and die, making others rich. By 1860, the cotton-friendly ground of Mississippi was so productive that it was home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. Government-supported pathways to wealth, from homesteading to homeownership, have been reliably accessible to white Americans only. So Black Bitcoiners’ embrace of decentralized currencies—and a degree of doubt about government regulators, as well as those who have done well in the traditional system—makes sense. Skinner, the conference organizer, believes there’s racial subtext in the caution from the financial mainstream regarding Bitcoin—a pervasive idea that Black people just don’t understand finance. “I’m skeptical of all of those [warnings], based on the history,” Skinner, who is Black American, says. Even a drop in the value of Bitcoin this year, which later went back up, has not made him reticent. “They have petrol shortages in England right now. They’ll blame the weather or Brexit, but they’ll never have to say they’re dumb. Something don’t work in Detroit or some city with a Black mayor, we get a collective shame on us.” Read more: America’s Interstate Slave Trade Once Trafficked Nearly 30,000 People a Year—And Reshaped the Country’s Economy The first time I speak to Skinner, the summit is still two weeks away. I’d asked him to talk through some of the logistics, but our conversation ranges from what gives money value to the impact of ride-share services on cabbies refusing Black passengers. Tech often promises to solve social problems, he says. The Internet was supposed to democratize all sorts of things. In many cases, it defaulted to old patterns. (As Black crypto policy expert Cleve Mesidor put it to me, “The Internet was supposed to be decentralized, and today it’s owned by four white men.”) But with the right people involved from the start of the next wave of change—crypto—the possibilities are endless, Skinner says. Skinner, a Howard grad and engineer by training, first turned to crypto when he and Mapondera were trying to find ways to do ethanol business in Zimbabwe. Traditional international transactions were slow or came with exorbitant fees. In Africa, consumers pay some of the world’s highest remittance, cell phone and Internet data fees in the world, a damaging continuation of centuries-long wealth transfers off the continent to others, Skinner says. Hearing about cryptocurrency, he was intrigued—particularly having seen, during the recession, the same banking industry that had profited from slavery getting bailed out as hundreds of thousands of people of color lost their homes. So in 2013, he invested “probably less than $3,000,” mostly in Bitcoin. Encouraged by his friend Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for trading crypto, he grew his stake. In 2014, when Skinner went to a crypto conference in Amsterdam, only about eight Black people were there, five of them caterers, but he felt he had come home ideologically. He saw he didn’t need a Rockefeller inheritance to change the world. “I don’t have to build a bank where they literally used my ancestors to build the capital,” says Skinner, who today runs a site called I Love Black People, which operates like a global anti-racist Yelp. “I can unseat that thing by not trying to be like them.” Eventually, he and Mapondera founded BillMari and became the first crypto company to partner with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to lower fees on remittances, the flow of money from immigrants overseas back home to less-developed nations—an economy valued by the World Bank and its offshoot KNOMAD at $702 billion in 2020. (Some of the duo’s business plans later evaporated, after Zimbabwe’s central bank revoked approval for some cryptocurrency activities.) Skinner’s feelings about the economic overlords make it a bit surprising that he can attract people like Charlene Fadirepo, a banker by trade and former government regulator, to speak at the summit. On the first day, she offers attendees a report on why 2021 was a “breakout year for Bitcoin,” pointing out that major banks have begun helping high-net-worth clients invest in it, and that some corporations have bought crypto with their cash on hand, holding it as an asset. Fadirepo, who worked in the Fed’s inspector general’s office monitoring Federal Reserve banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is not a person who hates central banks or regulation. A Black American, she believes strongly in both, and in their importance for protecting investors and improving the economic position of Black people. Today she operates Guidefi, a financial education and advising company geared toward helping Black women connect with traditional financial advisers. It just launched, for a fee, direct education in cryptocurrency. Crypto is a relatively new part of Fadirepo’s life. She and her Nigerian-American doctor husband earn good salaries and follow all the responsible middle-class financial advice. But the pandemic showed her they still didn’t have what some of his white colleagues did: the freedom to walk away from high-risk work. As the stock market shuddered and storefronts shuttered, she decided a sea change was coming. A family member had mentioned Bitcoin at a funeral in 2017, but it sounded risky. Now, her research kept bringing her back to it. Last year, she and her husband bought $6,000 worth. No investment has ever generated the kinds of returns for them that Bitcoin has. “It has transformed people’s relationship with money,” she says. “Folks are just more intentional … and honestly feeling like they had access to a world that was previously walled off.” Read more: El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip She knows frauds exists. In May, a federal watchdog revealed that since October 2020, nearly 7,000 people have reported losses of more than $80 million on crypto scams—12 times more scam reports than the same period the previous year. The median individual loss: $1,900. For Fadirepo, it’s worrying. That’s part of why she helps moderate recurring free learning and discussion options like the Black Bitcoin Billionaires chat room on Clubhouse, which has grown from about 2,000 to 130,000 club members this year. Jared Soares for TIMECharlene Fadirepo, a banker and former government regulator, near the National Museum of African American History and Culture There’s a reason Black investors might prefer their own spaces for that kind of education. Fadirepo says it’s not unheard-of in general crypto spaces—theoretically open to all, but not so much in practice—to hear that relying on the U.S. dollar is slavery. “To me, a descendant of enslaved people in America, that was painful,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk about sovereignty, freedom from the U.S. dollar, freedom from inflation, inflation is slavery, blah blah blah. The historical context has been sucked out of these conversations about traditional financial systems. I don’t know how I can talk about banking without also talking about history.” Back in January, I found myself in a convenience store in a low-income and predominantly Black neighborhood in Dallas, an area still living the impact of segregation decades after its official end. I was there to report on efforts to register Black residents for COVID-19 shots after an Internet-only sign-up system—and wealthier people gaming the system—created an early racial disparity in vaccinations. I stepped away to buy a bottle of water. Inside the store, a Black man wondered aloud where the lottery machine had gone. He’d come to spend his usual $2 on tickets and had found a Bitcoin machine sitting in its place. A second Black man standing nearby, surveying chip options, explained that Bitcoin was a form of money, an investment right there for the same $2. After just a few questions, the first man put his money in the machine and walked away with a receipt describing the fraction of one bitcoin he now owned. Read more: When a Texas County Tried to Ensure Racial Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations, It Didn’t Go as Planned I was both worried and intrigued. What kind of arrangement had prompted the store’s owner to replace the lottery machine? That month, a single bitcoin reached the $40,000 mark. “That’s very revealing, if someone chooses to put a cryptocurrency machine in the same place where a lottery [machine] was,” says Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, when I tell him that story. Frankel has described cryptocurrencies as similar to gambling, more often than not attracting those who can least afford to lose, whether they are in El Salvador or Texas. Frankel ranks among the economists who have been critical of El Salvador’s decision to begin recognizing Bitcoin last month as an official currency, in part because of the reality that few in the county have access to the internet, as well as the cryptocurrency’s price instability and its lack of backing by hard assets, he says. At the same time that critics have pointed to the shambolic Bitcoin rollout in El Salvador, Bitcoin has become a major economic force in Nigeria, one of the world’s larger players in cryptocurrency trading. In fact, some have argued that it has helped people in that country weather food inflation. But, to Frankel, crypto does not contain promise for lasting economic transformation. To him, disdain for experts drives interest in cryptocurrency in much the same way it can fuel vaccine hesitancy. Frankel can see the potential to reduce remittance costs, and he does not doubt that some people have made money. Still, he’s concerned that the low cost and click-here ease of buying crypto may draw people to far riskier crypto assets, he says. Then he tells me he’d put the word assets here in a hard set of air quotes. And Frankel, who is white, is not alone. Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who is Black, says Bitcoin should be seen in the same framework as other low-cost, high-risk, big-payoff options. “In the end, it’s a casino,” he says. To people with less wealth, it can feel like one of the few moneymaking methods open to them, but it’s not a source of group uplift. “Like any speculation, those that can arbitrage the market will be fine,” he says. “There’s a whole lot of people that benefited right before the Great Recession, but if they didn’t get out soon enough, they lost their shirts too.” To buyers like Jiri Sampson, a Black cryptocurrency investor who works in real estate and lives outside Washington, D.C., that perspective doesn’t register as quite right. The U.S.-born son of Guyanese immigrants wasn’t thinking about exploitation when he invested his first $20 in cryptocurrency in 2017. But the groundwork was there. Sampson homeschools his kids, due in part to his lack of faith that public schools equip Black children with the skills to determine their own fates. He is drawn to the capacity of this technology to create greater agency for Black people worldwide. The blockchain, for example, could be a way to establish ownership for people who don’t hold standard documents—an important issue in Guyana and many other parts of the world, where individuals who have lived on the land for generations are vulnerable to having their property co-opted if they lack formal deeds. Sampson even pitched a project using the blockchain and GPS technology to establish digital ownership records to the Guyanese government, which did not bite. “I don’t want to downplay the volatility of Bitcoin,” Sampson says. But that’s only a significant concern, he believes, if one intends to sell quickly. To him, Bitcoin represents a “harder” asset than the dollar, which he compares to a ship with a hole in it. Bitcoin has a limited supply, while the Fed can decide to print more dollars anytime. That, to Sampson, makes some cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, good to buy and hold, to pass along wealth from one generation to another. Economists and crypto buyers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve have indicated that they will move toward official assessments or regulation soon. At least 10 federal agencies are interested in or already regulating crypto in some way, and there’s now a Congressional Blockchain Caucus. Representatives from the Federal Reserve and the SEC declined to comment, but SEC Chairman Gary Gensler assured a Senate subcommittee in September that his agency is working to develop regulation that will apply to cryptocurrency markets and trading activity. Enter Cleve Mesidor, of the quip about the Internet being owned by four white men. When we meet during the summit, she introduces herself: “Cleve Mesidor, I’m in crypto.” She’s the first person I’ve ever heard describe herself that way, but not that long ago, “influencer” wasn’t a career either. A former Obama appointee who worked inside the Commerce Department on issues related to entrepreneurship and economic development, Mesidor learned about cryptocurrency during that time. But she didn’t get involved in it personally until 2013, when she purchased $200 in Bitcoin. After leaving government, she founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and is now the public policy adviser for the industry group the Blockchain Association. There are more men than women in Black crypto spaces, she tells me, but the gender imbalance tends to be less pronounced than in white-dominated crypto communities. Mesidor, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and uses her crypto investments to fund her professional “wanderlust,” has also lived crypto’s downsides. She’s been hacked and the victim of an attempted ransomware attack. But she still believes cryptocurrency and related technology can solve real-world problems, and she’s trying, she says, to make sure that necessary consumer protections are not structured in a way that chokes the life out of small businesses or investors. “D.C. is like Vegas; the house always wins,” says Mesidor, whose independently published book is called The Clevolution: My Quest for Justice in Politics & Crypto. “The crypto community doesn’t get that.” Passion, she says, is not enough. The community needs to be involved in the regulatory discussions that first intensified after the price of a bitcoin went to $20,000 in 2017. A few days after the summit, when Mesidor and I spoke by phone, Bitcoin had climbed to nearly $60,000. At Barcode, the Washington lounge, Isaiah Jackson is holding court. A man with a toothpaste-commercial smile, he’s the author of the independently published Bitcoin & Black America, has appeared on CNBC and is half of the streaming show The Gentleman of Crypto, which bills itself as the one of the longest-running cryptocurrency shows on the Internet. When he was building websites as a sideline, he convinced a large black church in Charlotte, N.C., to, for a time, accept Bitcoin donations. He helped establish Black Bitcoin Billionaires on Clubhouse and, like Fadirepo, helps moderate some of its rooms and events. He’s also a former teacher, descended from a line of teachers, and is using those skills to develop (for a fee) online education for those who want to become crypto investors. Now, there’s a small group standing near him, talking, but mostly listening. Jackson was living in North Carolina when one of his roommates, a white man who worked for a money-management firm, told him he had just heard a presentation about crypto and thought he might want to suggest it to his wealthy parents. The concept blew Jackson’s mind. He soon started his own research. “Being in the Black community and seeing the actions of banks, with redlining and other things, it just appealed to me,” Jackson tells me. “You free the money, you free everything else.” Read more: Beyond Tulsa: The Historic Legacies and Overlooked Stories of America’s ‘Black Wall Streets’ He took his $400 savings and bought two bitcoins in October 2013. That December, the price of a single bitcoin topped $1,100. He started thinking about what kind of new car he’d buy. And he stuck with it, even seeing prices fluctuate and scams proliferate. When the Gentlemen of Bitcoin started putting together seminars, one of the early venues was at a college fair connected to an annual HBCU basketball tournament attended by thousands of mostly Black people. Bitcoin eventually became more than an investment. He believed there was great value in spreading the word. But that was then. “I’m done convincing people. There’s no point battling going back and forth,” he says. “Even if they don’t realize it, what [investors] are doing if they are keeping their bitcoin long term, they are moving money out of the current system into another one. And that is basically the best form of peaceful protest.”   —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

32 cool tech gifts for teens, from Bluetooth speakers to gaming controllers

Teens love tech, so we rounded up the best gadget gifts out there. From smart speakers to cameras and earbuds, there's something for everyone. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Amazon; Best Buy; Gilbert Espinoza/Business Insider We rounded up the best tech gifts for teens with something for every budget. From headphones to cameras, we have gift ideas for all interests. Shopping for someone else? Check out our best tech gifts for women and our best picks under $25. Teens are tough to shop for, but useful tech products can make great gifts for even the most difficult recipient. Whether the teen on your shopping list is into video games, photography, music, or fitness, there's a recommendation on this list for everyone. Our tech gifts also cover a variety of budgets, with some items costing less than $15.Here are the 32 best tech gifts for teens:A controller for mobile gamingAmazonRazer Kishi Mobile Game Controller for Android, available at Amazon, $55Smartphones can do it all these days, even serve as a full-on gaming device. The Razer Kishi connects to your phone through its charging port to add buttons and analog sticks for even better mobile gaming. It's a great gift for Fortnite, Genshin Impact, and other multi-platform titles — just make sure to check if they use Android or iPhone.Long, durable charging cablesAmazon10-foot iPhone Charger 5-pack, available at Amazon, $10Every iPhone owner of any age could use more charging cables. This set includes five 10-foot long cables, so your recipient can keep one in every room. Long cables like these are also super handy for when an outlet is inconveniently far away. A drawing tablet for digital art beginnersB&H PhotoWacom Intuos Creative Pen Tablet, available at B&H, $39.95Travel-sized, affordable, and versatile, this Wacom Intuos pen tablet makes a great gift for the aspiring digital artist in your life. It's suitable for both left- and right-handed users, and even comes with customizable ExpressKeys at the top. A subscription service with access to thousands of digital comic booksMarvelMarvel Unlimited, $10 a month or $70 a yearComixology Unlimited, $6 a monthIf your teen is a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or superheroes in general, you can give them access to thousands of comic books with a subscription to Marvel Unlimited. The digital service offers more than 29,000 comics, spanning from the classic origin stories of characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, to recent comic book events like "Venom: King in Black." You can access Marvel Unlimited on iPhone, Android, iPad, and your web browser, and download books for offline viewing. If your teen is a more adventurous reader, you can get them a subscription to Comixology Unlimited, an Amazon owned comic reading service that features a wider range of content, including DC Comics like "Batman" and Image Comics like "The Walking Dead." Comixology Unlimited costs $6 a month making it cheaper than Marvel Unlimited, but it offers fewer complete series. Comixology Unlimited subscribers also receive up to 15% off Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse comic book purchases, making it easier to build a personal collection.A customized gaming controllerThis is just a small selection of the colors available in the Xbox Design Lab.MicrosoftXbox design Lab Custom Controller, available at Microsoft, $69.99Microsoft's Xbox controller has a classic design and is compatible with a wide range of devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android products, Mac, and PC. But people might not be aware of Microsoft's Xbox Design Lab, which lets you customize the colors on every part of the controller and add a laser engraving. The custom controller will arrive within 28 days, usually taking about two weeks.If you're worried about choosing a design for your teen, you can give them an $80 Xbox gift card and let them choose between a custom design, or just buying a new game with the store credit.A webcam perfect for streaming your own videosLogitechLogitech c920x, available at Amazon, $59.99This webcam is one of the most recommended for people getting started with YouTube videos or Twitch livestreams, and it's become even more popular with professionals working from home.While lots of laptops come with built-in cameras, the Logitech c920 offers better video quality with resolutions up to 1080p, a wide viewing angle, streaming at 60 frames per second at 720p, and an adjustable base that can be easily attached to tripods and other stands.A streaming subscription for music loversAn Android smartphone with the Spotify Music logo visible on screen, alongside a pair of earphones.Olly Curtis/Future via Getty ImagesSpotify Premium Subscription, available at Spotify, $9.99 a monthTeens love listening to music, and streaming services offer unlimited access to their favorite tunes. Spotify offers a huge music library and is compatible with Apple, Android, and Windows devices.  The premium subscription gets rid of ads, allows  your teen  to download songs for offline listening, and lets them skip songs as they please. Plans start at $10 per month and are a great way to satisfy the music lover in your family.Wireless earbuds that easily pair with an iPhoneCrystal Cox/Business InsiderApple AirPods Pro,  available at Amazon, $189.99Apple's AirPods Pro offer a great way for your teen to listen to music, take calls, and tune out the world. These true wireless earbuds feature seamless pairing with Apple devices, active noise cancellation, and a transparency mode so they can still hear you when you remind them to do their homework. They come with three sizes of removable eartips for a perfect fit, and boast up to 24 hours of listening time with multiple charges in the included wireless charging case.A subscription that's like Netflix for video gamesMicrosoftXbox Game Pass Ultimate, $44.99 for 3 months Playstation Plus Subscription, $24.99 for 3 monthsWhy buy just one game when you can get dozens? That's the premise behind Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft's Netflix-style subscription gaming service.  Microsoft offers over 100 games, including blockbusters like "Grand Theft Auto V," "Destiny 2," and "FIFA 21" among many others.  Game Pass Ultimate isn't cheap – it costs around $40 for three months – but offers a tremendous value considering that one new game costs $60. For Playstation fans there's Playstation Plus, which is cheaper than Microsoft's service at $25 for three months, but offers far fewer games. Subscribers get access to a handful of titles each month that they can download and keep as long as they remain a member of the service.The service also comes with other perks like online gameplay and discounts. Which subscription you should get depends on the console your teen owns, but they'll appreciate either one.A gaming headset with audiophile-level soundAmazonSteelSeries Arctis Pro, available at Amazon, $133.06If you're going to get your PC gamer a gaming headset, you might as well invest in one that produces audiophile-level sound. That way, they can listen to music and watch movies without having to switch to a different pair of headphones.The SteelSeries Arctis Pro is a good choice for gamers who care about top-notch audio, as it comes with several input options, virtual surround sound, and a bass that can be pushed. Plus, teens will love the fact that they can customize its look with SteelSeries' range of headbands and ear cups.If you're willing to splurge, the $349.99 wireless version makes it easier for your teen to seamlessly transition between playing games on their PC and taking a call on their phone.An Instax printer to print all those selfies onAmazonFujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer, available at Amazon, $99.99Instant cameras are so yesterday! With most teens relying on their camera phones to take photos, a mobile photo printer that lets them print all those friend selfies saved on their phone on 1.81 x 2.44 Instax film is just what the fun doctor ordered. Pair that with the photo clip fairy string lights, and you might just inspire your teen to decorate and declutter their room to make it visitor-friendly.A unique electronic musical instrument that's big in JapanAmazonOtamatone Deluxe Electronic Musical Instrument, available at Amazon, $79.99Music is one of the biggest outlets teens turn to channel their creativity and angst, and this musical synthesizer lets your budding musician create music in a fun and quirky way. Pressing the middle part of the Otamatone and sliding your fingers up and down it will produce higher and lower tones while opening and closing its mouth creates a "wah" sound. It can even connect to speakers, amps, and (preferably to the rest of your household) headphones. A 3D pen with plastic refills in 15 different colorsFacebook3Doodler Create + 3D Printing Pen, available at Amazon, $79.99Today's 3D printers may be pricey, but that doesn't mean that your artistic teen can't enjoy and master the art. With this 3D pen, they can even do so in a more analog way, stirring their creativity and allowing them to appreciate the value of working with one's hands. Plug this pen into a wall outlet, load up the plastic color, and once the pen heats the plastic, your teen is ready to create. It comes with an app with interactive step-by-step instructions on custom art projects.A smartwatch that tracks activity and fitness goalsLisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderApple Watch SE, available at Amazon, $249Your athletic or health-conscious teen will definitely appreciate the Apple Watch SE. This smartwatch can do most of the things Apple's flagship smartwatch can, while keeping things more affordable. It's still on the pricey side, but it's worth it to keep teens on the healthy, active path. As for the fun factor, your teen can customize it with different faces, bands and memojis, as well as use it to play music and stay in touch with friends via iMessage, social media apps, and phone capabilities.Bluetooth trackers that keep your teen from losing their, well, everythingTileTile Limited Edition Bluetooth trackers, available at Tile, starting at $16.99You want to be able to entrust them with important things, from necessities like house and car keys to devices that cost money like laptops. But, let's face it: teenagers are basically bigger versions of kids, and they still tend to lose their stuff. This is why Tile's Bluetooth trackers are super handy. Attach one to their keys or wallet, connect it with their phone, and that's one last question you'll have to field. With their range of Limited Edition trackers that come in several fun designs, they'll be proud to show these off to friends.If your teen owns an iPhone, you can also consider purchasing AirTags, Apple's official tracking device that works with the Find My app. They're a bit more expensive than Tile trackers at $29 each, but offer more features for iPhone users. They also come with a free engraving for personalization.A handheld gaming system with multiplayer capabilitiesNintendoNintendo Switch Lite, available at Amazon, $199If you're on a limited budget (times have been tough, after all) but want to reward your teen with a handheld gaming console, you cannot go wrong with a Nintendo Switch Lite. This pocket-friendly device may not be able to connect to the TV, but it's got a few advantages over the standard Switch beyond the price. It plays all but a few of the same games while being more portable. And, for color-loving teens, it comes in three fun shades plus gray.A PC gaming controller with wireless connectivityAmazonLogitech Gamepad F310, available at Target, $17.59This is a must-have for any teen who enjoys PC and console gaming. With the Logitech Gamepad F310, they can play their favorite Steam and other PC games from the comfort of a couch without the need for a mouse or keyboard — partly thanks to the 6-foot long cable. This will give them better control and a more seamless gaming experience during long sessions as well. If your teen hasn't experienced PC gaming from the couch, this will be a game-changer.Affordable wireless earbudsBest BuyJLab Audio JBuds Air, available at Amazon, $23.43These true wireless earbuds don't boast the same feature set as Apple's AirPods but they do have Bluetooth 5.0, quality sound, a microphone for calls, and basic water resistance. The battery lasts for six hours, and the case holds an additional 18 hours of charge, giving them comparable battery life to AirPods.A drone with high-quality video capabilitiesAmazonDJI Mini SE, available at Amazon, $299Whether you've got a future influencer or a budding content creator in the family, you've got an ace gift in this mini drone from DJI. This is an impressive drone for the price point, with a battery life of 30 minutes and a camera touting great stabilization and 2.7K Quad HD video capability. This drone even has automatic motion presets and a smooth motion mode, allowing beginner videographers such as your teen to utilize pro-level shooting techniques effortlessly. Just remember to teach them proper drone etiquette before they let their new toy fly.Winter gloves with touchscreen-capable fingertipsAmazonAchiou Winter Knit Gloves, available at Amazon, from $9.99Teens aren't going to stop using their phones just because it's freezing outside. They need to stay in touch, and a lot of the time, they'll take off their gloves so they can rub and tap on a touchscreen. With these gloves, they can protect their digits while catching up on social media. And, at this price, you might want to buy a few pairs – and in different colors, if you want – for when they inevitably lose them.A portable Bluetooth speaker with a hardshell carrying caseAmazonJBL Flip 5 Portable Speaker, available at Amazon, $129.99Teens love blasting music away, and this speaker from JBL will let them do so wherever they are — including at the beach or even while floating in the pool. To keep things portable, it boasts up to 12 hours of playtime and comes with a gSport Deluxe Hardshell Case. Best of all, it features IPX7 waterproof protection so it can go in up to three feet of water. With this, they'll have something to look forward to next summer.A power bank with enough juice to charge a phone 2 timesAmazonAnker Portable Charger, available at Amazon, $22 It's not surprising for a teen to spend all day and night draining their phone's battery, but if their phone is frequently dying while they're out, consider buying them a portable charger to provide some extra juice on the go. Anker's PowerCore Slim portable charger holds more than two full charges for the latest iPhone, and should work with any USB device. If you're willing to spend a bit more, you can buy a portable battery with wireless charging, to eliminate the need for cords.A handheld gimbal for shooting cinematic videos with friendsAmazonZhiyun Smooth 4 Handheld Smartphone Gimbal, available at Amazon, $99Whether it's for shooting TikTok content to making full-fledged YouTube videos, a handheld gimbal will let your teen produce better, smoother-looking content. But, while many options out there will set you back more than $100, this gimbal from Zhiyun costs less, which makes it the perfect gift for teens. And, while most teens seem to be naturally tech savvy, this one is especially effortless to figure out, complete with different shooting modes and pro-level shooting techniques turned automated.A beanie with headphones that pair with their phoneAmazonSoundBot SB210 Bluetooth Smart Beanie Headset, available on Amazon, $19.99We all agree – beanies are some of the comfiest accessories out there. But, this nifty one from SoundBot takes it to a new level, with built-in speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, and up to five hours of music listening. Now, your teen can stay warm and listen to music at the same time, without having to wear or carry two things at once. Best yet, it comes in several different colors, some even with poms, so you can get it in their favorite color or design.A smart light strip that changes colorsPhilipsPhilips Hue White & Color Ambiance LightStrip Plus, available at Philips-Hue, $79.99Fairy or string lights are among the top accessories teens love to decorate their rooms with, and Hue's light strip takes that to a new level with its smart light capabilities, ability to display 16 million colors, and Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility. It's terrific for sprucing up every teen's room, whether they're gamers, Bohemians, nature-lovers, or those with an eclectic taste. They can even change the colors depending on their mood, what they're into, or what they're currently doing.A subscription to the best audiobook serviceAmazonAudible Subscription, available at Amazon, $15 a monthGive teens the gift of knowledge with this audiobook subscription. This gives them an audiobook and two Audible originals each month. They will also get 30% off any other audiobooks they choose to buy, which they will own even after their subscription expires. This is an excellent solution for students who learn better by listening than reading.An alarm clock that doubles as a Bluetooth speakerAmazonAnker Soundcore Wakey Bluetooth Speakers with Alarm Clock, available at Amazon, $89.99This alarm clock is packed full of features. It pairs with your teen's phone via Bluetooth and plays audio from any of the apps, as well as FM radio or any combination of the 10 sleep-inducing ambient sounds. There are 10 different alarm sounds, and it wirelessly charges Qi-compatible devices as well.A Bluetooth speaker that teens can use in the showerAmazoniFox iF012 Bluetooth Shower Speaker, available at Amazon, $29.66Teens need to have their music everywhere at all times – that's right, even in the shower. Sure, the JBL Flip 5 mentioned above will work in the shower. For a quarter of the price, however, you can get your teen a dedicated shower speaker, one with a 33-foot range and up to 10 hours of battery life. iFox backs this with a 12-month, no-risk, money-back guarantee. What have you got to lose?A microphone that plugs into a USB portAmazonBlue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, available at Amazon, $40We bet you haven't considered giving your teen a microphone before. It is a bit of an unconventional gift, but one that teens will love whether they have their own Twitch or YouTube channel, or produce their own podcast. It's an outstanding plug-and-play microphone solution that delivers crystal clear audio to your recordings, all while looking cool and retro.An action camera that will record their adventuresLes Shu/InsiderGoPro Hero 10 Black, available at B&H, $429.99Teens, especially active and adventurous ones, are always up to something new and exciting, whether it's taking an electric skateboard out for a spin or taking on the latest TikTok trends. And, a GoPro action camera will let them record those exploits with friends hands-free. This latest one is obviously the best with 5.3K Ultra HD recording, 23MP still images, and improved HyperSmooth stabilization.A smart speaker that helps keep them organizedAmazonEcho Dot (4th Gen), available at Amazon, $34.99 With the help of Alexa, this mini smart speaker is capable of doing a host of things, from playing your teen's favorite tunes on Spotify or Amazon Music to controlling other smart devices and setting reminders and schedules hands-free. It'll even tell jokes and play trivia games. Teens have a lot going on in their lives, and this gadget is among the best tools they can use to stay organized.A laptop with great durability and battery lifeAppleApple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip, available at Amazon, $949If you're looking to splurge on your kid, then the latest MacBook Air will go a long way. This thin and light 13-inch comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD storage, as well as Apple's M1 chip, should get them through daily homework, projects and papers, while letting them play games and enjoy some streaming post-school work. And, since Apple's laptops are practically built like a tank, you'll have the peace of mind that it'll survive some beatings.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

The Imbecile King Who Put His Foot On The Gas Pedal

The Imbecile King Who Put His Foot On The Gas Pedal Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com, Charles II was only three years old when he became the supreme ruler of the Spanish Empire in 1665. But anyone who took just one look at the child knew they were all doomed. Charles had come from a long line of prominent European nobles known as the Habsburgs– a family so exclusive that they frequently married one another in order to keep their blood line ‘pure’. Genetic defects abounded as a result. Charles II inherited some of the worst of these genetic defects; his father and mother were uncle/niece. And his grandparents were first cousins. So it comes as no surprise that Charles II was deformed, spindly, weak, constantly sick, and partially paralyzed. He was also referred to by his contemporaries as the ‘imbecile king’ for his slow-witted stupidity. Spain had been the dominant European superpower only a century prior to Charles II. It had vast colonies all over the world, a terrifying army and navy, and unimaginable wealth. But history proves that an Empire’s wealth and power never last forever. And even well before Charles II took the throne, Spanish rulers were already running everything into the ground. One clear lesson from history is that empires tend to be extremely expensive… especially when you’re the dominant superpower, and all of your rivals are constantly waging war against you. Spain was no exception. Their empire was extremely expensive to administer, and they were routinely engaged in costly wars. The emperors were forced to borrow a lot of money to pay for these wars. And Spain’s debt became so vast that the government defaulted at least SEVEN TIMES between the mid 1500s and mid 1600s. Desperate to make ends meet, the government also hiked taxes to exorbitant levels, including imposing a 14% sales tax. (Somewhere the governor of California is taking notes…) The government also predictably began rapidly expanding the money supply and debasing its own currency… resulting in one of the worst long-term episodes of inflation in all of human history up to that point. Spain’s Emperors also began interfering heavily in trade and commerce; they passed rules granting special monopolies to favored businesses, essentially killing off competition, and they inserted extreme government bureaucracy into some of the most important industries like shipping and mining. It wasn’t long before economic and trade activity began to shrink as a result of these policies. Between 1600 and 1700, in fact, Spanish shipping volume from the New World had declined by an astonishing 75%. Part of this decline was because of emerging social trends. In the early 1400s and early 1500s, the seas were teeming with Spanish explorers– Cortes, Pizarro, de Soto, Ponce de Leon, etc. These men were regarded as national heroes in Spain, and international trade was considered a highly respected industry. By the mid 1600s, however, trade, commerce, and production had all fallen out of favor. Traders and industrialists were viewed with suspicion instead of esteem. The economies in cities like Valencia, which had once been famous for its factories and high quality products, quickly decayed. And suddenly Spain found itself importing most of its goods and services from its chief rivals– France, England, and the Netherlands. Meanwhile the Spanish Inquisition was busy killing off thousands of intellectuals… and condemning tens of thousands more to life imprisonment. Their crime? Expressing independent thought that differed from the official narrative. Spain’s message to the world was clear: freedom of thought had no place in the Empire. So anyone capable of innovation stayed as far away as possible. And as a final point, Spain had suffered a series of embarrassing military defeats from the late 1500s through the mid 1600s, including the Spanish Armada’s humiliating loss to the English in 1588. Suddenly the rest of Europe realized that Spain was not invincible. The Empire was bankrupt, economically weak, socially decayed. And its military had been embarrassed. Remember– this was already the situation BEFORE 1665. And that’s when Charles II took the throne. In other words, a weak, mentally incompetent fool was put in charge of an Empire that was already in serious decline… and whose chief rivals were rising rapidly. You don’t need a PhD in European History to figure out how that movie ended: the situation became much worse under Charles II. And within a few decades, Spain would go on to lose a major war against its rivals that struck the final blow to its dominance. That’s when the torch was passed, and France became the dominant superpower. Eventually the UK surpassed France, then the United States surpassed the UK. This cycle has been taking place for more than 5,000 years. Empires rise and fall. Economies rise and fall. And no nation holds the top spot forever. It’s not hard to understand why. When an economy is on the rise, people are hungry. They work hard. They save money. They’re focused on the future. Governments run lean budgets and spend responsibly. They maintain a sound currency. Once an economy has reached its peak, however, priorities change. Hard work and saving are no longer prized social values. People become more focused on consuming in the present, rather than investing in the future. Debt levels skyrocket. Government spending balloons. Regulations soar. Prices rise. Little by little, a nation chips away at the very values and institutions that made them powerful to begin with. If fiscal responsibility has made the nation wealthy, they begin printing record sums of money, engineering inflation, and taking on mountains of debt. If capitalism has made the economy prosperous, they cheer socialism. If personal freedom and self-reliance have created a strong society, they embrace totalitarianism, intolerance, and censorship. Not to mention, there always seems to be some rival, rising power lurking, ready to take advantage of the situation… and some weak leadership like Charles II who hits the gas pedal on the way towards the precipice. This story is as old as human civilization. And while the exact circumstances today are different, the themes are very similar. *  *  * We think gold could DOUBLE and silver could increase by up to 5 TIMES in the next few years. That's why we published a new, 50-page long Ultimate Guide on Gold & Silver that you can download here. Tyler Durden Wed, 01/05/2022 - 17:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 5th, 2022

Peter Schiff: 2022 Will Be Even Worse Than 2021

Peter Schiff: 2022 Will Be Even Worse Than 2021 Via SchiffGold.com, How are the dollars and cents of your life changing as we move into 2022? Peter Schiff joined University of Miami Business School Dean John Quelch and host Holland Cooke on RT’s “Big Picture” to talk about the year ahead. Peter left us with an ominous warning. 2022 will be worse than 2021 as inflation continues to mount. The first question posed to Peter was have Americans’ prospects for prosperity become less likely? Peter said he thinks they’ve diminished dramatically and will get even worse as the decade progresses. He pointed out that in the 50s, Americans had much more economic freedom. The government was much smaller. The US was a large industrial nation with big trade surpluses. We had a sounder economy and more savings. We’re the mirror image of that now. We’re the world’s biggest debtor nation — record trade deficits. We’ve got no savings. We have a complete bubble economy based on artificially low interest rates, excess consumption financed by debt and money printing. And we’re about to pay the piper for that.” Peter said we’re just now seeing the tip of an inflationary iceberg. And despite pulling back a little bit, the Federal Reserve is still pursuing a highly accommodative monetary policy. He is throwing more gasoline on the inflationary fire that the Fed lit. So Americans, I think, are going to be dealing with a dramatically diminished standard of living as this decade unfolds. I think the dollar goes down a lot. The cost of living goes up dramatically.” Quelch sounded a more optimistic tone. He said Americans’ propensity to innovate and competition with China will help drive the US economy forward. He said the US has always done a tremendous job of innovating itself out of difficulty. Yet we have this inflation problem. Cooke reminded us that the Fed has called inflation “transitory.” Peter said it’s intractable. And despite what a lot of people think, the economy wasn’t strong before the pandemic. It was a great big fat ugly bubble. We really couldn’t survive the economic downturn. So, the Fed bailed us out with more money printing. You know, we haven’t been innovating our way out of crisis. We’ve been printing our way out. But we’ve printed out way into an even bigger crisis because now we’re paying the piper. Because this inflation acts as a lag. In fact, I think we’re still dealing with the inflation that was created before the pandemic. Wait until we catch up to the even greater inflation that we created after.” Peter pointed out the true definition of inflation – the expansion of the money supply. Prices going up are merely a result of inflation.” Prior to the pandemic, much of the inflation was manifesting itself in asset prices – real estate, stocks and bonds. Consumer prices didn’t go up as much. (Although they went up more than the government admitted with its rigged CPI.) I think right now prices are rising at a faster rate than in any year during the 1970s. But instead of being on the verge of doing something to contain inflation, we’re just getting ready to make it worse.” The Fed can’t do anything about inflation because of the level of debt in the economy. Peter also pointed out that you can’t consume if you don’t produce. Our productivity is collapsing and America is reliant now more than ever before on the productivity of foreign countries because our trade deficits are exploding. Wait until the dollar implodes. Because the only thing that’s been keeping a lid on inflation has been a relatively strong dollar. Well, I think the dollar is going to roll over and fall dramatically over the next several years, and that is going to cause this inflation problem to be much much worse because it’s really going to push up the price of all of our imports.” Quelch said he thinks about 30 to 40% of the current inflation is due to supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, not underlying forces. Peter took issue with the “supply chain” disruption excuse for rising prices. Sure, when you shut down an economy, it’s obvious that you’re going to have less supply. You’re producing less. You’re working less. But what should have happened is demand should have gone down too. But unfortunately, the Fed did not allow a healthy decline in demand to meet up with the decline in supply. The Fed made the mistake of showering the economy with money — the worst monetary policy probably in history. When people were not at work and home, the Fed was printing money so the government could mail them checks so they could go out and buy stuff even though they weren’t working to help produce stuff. And so that is the problem. It is all a demand problem created by the Fed — created by money printing. And the money that the Fed is printing is going to continue to lose value, and that’s going to be reflected in rising prices.” Tyler Durden Wed, 01/05/2022 - 12:09.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 5th, 2022

Ray Dalio On The Changing World Order: "Entirely Possible Neither Side Will Accept Losing The 2024 Election"

Ray Dalio On The Changing World Order: "Entirely Possible Neither Side Will Accept Losing The 2024 Election" Authored by Ray Dalio via LinkedIn.com, At the risk of boring you by repeating myself, now at this beginning of the new year and with the publication of my book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order, I want to concisely convey the most important thoughts I have about the paradigm we are now in, which is a result of how the world order appears to be changing. To be clear, while I express concerns and risks, I believe that we collectively have the power to manage our challenges well if we are smart and considerate with each other. Also, please know that I am not sure that any expectations I have are right. I’m just passing along my thinking for you to take or leave as you like.   MY CONCLUSIONS UP-FRONT The world order is changing in important ways that have happened many times before in history, though not in our lifetimes. How the world order is changing has created the paradigm that we are in. By “paradigm,” I mean the environment that we are in. Paradigms typically last about 10 years, with occasional big corrections within them. They are driven by a persistent set of conditions that takes those conditions in a swing from one extreme to an opposite extreme. Because of this, each paradigm is more likely to be opposite than similar to the one before it. For example, the Roaring ’20s were followed by the depressionary 1930s, and the inflationary 1970s were followed by the disinflationary 1980s. The assets and liabilities that you would most like to have, and those that you would most like to avoid, change with the paradigm that exists at the time. For example, in the Roaring ’20s you’d want to own stocks and avoid bonds, while in the depressionary 1930s it would be the opposite; in the inflationary 1970s you’d want to own hard assets like gold and avoid bonds, while in the disinflationary 1980s you’d want to own financial assets and avoid hard assets. For reasons explained in this report, I believe the current paradigm is a classic one that is characterized by the leading empire (the US) 1) spending a lot more money than it is earning and printing and taxing a lot, 2) having large wealth, values, and political gaps that are leading to significant internal conflict, and 3) being in decline relative to an emerging great power (China). The last time we saw this confluence of events was in the 1930-45 period, though the 1970-80 period was also analogous financially. In this piece, I will explain my reasoning and show charts that display these things happening. (For a much more comprehensive description, read Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order.) What should one do in this new paradigm? This paradigm is leading to a big shift in wealth and power. Naturally, as a global macroeconomic investor, the economic and market behaviors in this paradigm are top of mind. I think one should consider minimizing one’s ownership of cash and bonds in dollars, euros, and yen (and/or borrow in these) and putting funds into a highly diversified portfolio of assets, including stocks and inflation-hedge assets, especially in countries with healthy finances and well-educated and civil populations that have internal order. These things are especially important in this paradigm. In brief, I think one’s assets and liabilities should be well-balanced with minimum exposures to dollar, euro, and yen currency and debt assets. During this time, I also think it will pay to be short cash (i.e., borrow cash). Of course there will be corrections during the several years in the paradigm—for example, in central bank tightenings. But I don’t see any sustained period in which the government will likely allow cash returns to be better than the returns of a well-diversified, non-cash portfolio (e.g., All Weather) geared to the level of risk you’re comfortable with because that would cause terrible problems. These circumstances also have big geopolitical implications, which I will touch on here.  Now I will show you the reasoning behind my conclusions. Please do not just believe my conclusions because I don’t want you to blindly follow me. I urge you to challenge my reasoning and see how it goes. I hope the picture comes through clearly in the charts and text that follow.  THE FOLLOWING ARE THE THREE BIGGEST ISSUES THAT I WANT TO FOCUS ON 1) Big Debt and Debt Monetizations, Particularly in the World’s Leading Reserve Currency 2) Internal Conflicts over Wealth and Values Gaps 3) External Conflicts, Most Importantly the Rise of a Great Power (China) to Challenge the Existing Great Power (the US) The confluence of these three issues is shaping the type of paradigm we are in. While I can’t cover them in depth in this brief report, I can hit the most important aspects of them, particularly of the debt/money/investment issue because that’s an area I have devoted my life to. All three issues transpire in cycles driven by cause/effect relationships that are logical and can be understood. It is important to understand how these cycles work and where we are in them. 1) BIG DEBT AND DEBT MONETIZATIONS The three major reserve currency empires—the United States, Europe, and to a lesser extent Japan—are in poor financial shape. The top chart shows for the US how debt levels (black line) are high today and were high in the 1929-33 and 2008 periods. In both cases, interest rates hit 0% (blue line), and the printing of money and buying of financial assets began in a big way (red line). More recently, the COVID-triggered downturn and the political move to the left has led to a massive increase in debt creation and debt monetization in the US (and other countries). There is no doubt that this will continue even after COVID disappears, as large deficits that have to be monetized will exist. This makes everyone financially rich (i.e., they have a lot of money) and devalues money, which takes away much of this newfound wealth. THIS PRINTING OF MONEY AND BUYING OF DEBT ASSETS HAS DRIVEN INTEREST RATES SO LOW THAT CASH AND BONDS ARE STUPID TO OWN You aren’t getting an interest rate—why would you keep your money there? You are guaranteed to get lousy rates, particularly on cash. The charts below show that you are basically going to get the worst interest rates ever in both inflation-adjusted and nominal terms. Think about the deal. The charts below show the number of years it takes for the money one invests in bonds and cash to be returned before one starts making a profit. The one on the top left is in dollars and the one on the top right is in inflation-adjusted dollars. As shown, the amounts of time are between 50 years and never. This creates more incentive to sell and borrow this debt than to buy more. At the same time, a lot more debt will be produced and will have to be sold. There won’t be enough demand to buy it, especially since global investors are already overweight in it. The way this is dealt with is that the Fed prints a lot more money and buys a lot of debt. REMEMBER THAT ONE PERSON’S DEBTS ARE ANOTHER PERSON’S ASSETS, AND IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE ASSET HOLDERS SOLD BECAUSE THE DEBT ASSETS WERE UNATTRACTIVE (WHICH THEY ARE) That would lead to either a big increase in interest rates or a huge increase in the printing of money to buy the debt to artificially hold interest rates down. The chart below shows the amount of debt assets relative to GDP, which means that a lot can be sold if the holders lose their taste for it.  THE AMOUNT OF FINANCIAL ASSETS RELATIVE TO REAL ASSETS IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH, WHICH COULD LEAD TO A “BANK RUN”-TYPE MOVE FROM FINANCIAL ASSETS TO REAL ASSETS I am not saying this will happen, but I am saying that there is a much higher probability of this happening than is reflected in market pricing. Think about it. There is only one purpose of investment assets, and that is to sell them to get cash to buy the real goods and services that one wants. Throughout history, whenever there were far more claims on real assets than there were real assets, a crisis eventually occurred when many holders of these financial assets went to sell them and discovered that there were far too many of them. That led to a “run on the bank”-type dynamic. Right now, there are vastly more financial assets than there are real assets, so if there was a move to convert them into real assets, that would lead to a “run on the bank”-type dynamic, which central banks would certainly respond to by printing a lot of money to allow people to get the money, but it would be of much less value. Making financial asset prices go up by creating a lot of money and debt makes people financially richer, but it doesn’t make them actually richer. It also leads to periods of bad real returns. This is shown in the following charts [3]. The top chart shows financial asset values as a percentage of all assets, the second chart shows financial net worth relative to GDP, and the third chart shows rolling returns of the 60/40 stock/bond portfolio since 1910.  PERIODS LIKE THESE PRODUCE TERRIBLE RETURNS FOR HOLDING CASH In my opinion, the four periods circled in the chart below are the analogous periods to today, each of which produced analogous paradigms to what we’re experiencing. PERIODS LIKE THESE EVENTUALLY PRODUCE BAD REAL RETURNS FOR STOCKS AND BONDS 2) INTERNAL CONFLICTS OVER WEALTH AND VALUES GAPS In the US (and a number of other countries), wealth and income gaps are the largest since the 1930s. AND THE POLITICAL GAPS ARE THE GREATEST EVER This chart shows that the US Republican Party (red lines) is more right-leaning and the US Democratic Party (blue lines) is more left-leaning than at any time since 1900, so the gap between them is enormous. There is great internal conflict going on in the United States now, which makes it a risky place. For example, it is entirely possible that neither side will accept losing the 2024 election. Such political clashes hurt productivity and create an inhospitable environment, which hurts capital flows. GOVERNMENT SPENDING WILL INCREASE A LOT. TAX RATES WILL RISE A LOT, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO COVER THE SPENDING. SO WEALTH WILL BE REDISTRIBUTED THROUGH BOTH TAXES AND DEBT MONETIZATIONS. 3) EXTERNAL CONFLICTS DUE TO THE RISES AND DECLINES OF GREAT POWERS The chart below shows indices of the strengths and weaknesses of the leading world powers since 1500. Note the Dutch, British, American, and Chinese cycles. The Dutch guilder was the world’s reserve currency when the Dutch Empire was on top, the British pound was the world’s reserve currency when the British Empire was on top, and the US dollar is the dominant reserve currency now that the US is on top. Note how things are changing. These cycles are transpiring for archetypical reasons. This chart is a simplified version of what you just saw for these four empires. The gray shaded areas are the periods of great internal and external conflicts and restructurings via depression, revolution, and war (typically lasting 10-25 years). They are followed by more extended periods of peace and prosperity in which order is brought about by the existence of a dominant power that no country wants to fight because it’s too strong, leading people to work harmoniously together. THE ARCHETYPICAL BIG CYCLE I will begin taking you through the typical cycle at the point that the new order is created. After revolutions and wars a new order—i.e., a new system run by new leaders—is created. For example, the last world order to be created came after WWII, in 1945. At that point in the cycle there is a dominant power, and nobody wants to fight the dominant power, so this part of the cycle is typically peaceful and, if managed well, prosperous. It is economically rewarding, which leads people to borrow and bet on it continuing, leading to over-indebtedness. Because economic opportunities are naturally distributed unevenly, large wealth gaps develop. Also, with time, competitors emerge and grow in power. Over-indebtedness and declining competitiveness eventually lead to financial problems at the same time as there are large wealth and political gaps. This produces more internal conflict and people demanding more money, which leads governments to create more debt and print a lot more money, which weakens the currency and raises inflation. As the dominant power weakens and other powers get strong enough to challenge it, there are greater internal and external conflicts that lead to revolutionary changes in who has what wealth and power. That ends the old order and leads to the next new order. That is now happening. As explained in my conclusions up-front, I believe that important wealth and power shifts are underway, creating a new paradigm in which 1) it is undesirable to hold dollar-, euro-, and yen-denominated credit assets, especially short-term debt assets, because they will have significantly negative real returns, and 2) it is desirable to hold a well-diversified portfolio of currencies, countries, and asset classes. What I’ve given you above is an inadequately brief overview of that which is covered comprehensively in my book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order. If you are interested in this subject, I urge you to read it. In the coming days, I’ll be sharing another update on what I’ll be watching for in 2022. Tyler Durden Tue, 01/04/2022 - 17:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 4th, 2022

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead

2021 Greatest Hits: The Most Popular Articles Of The Past Year And A Look Ahead One year ago, when looking at the 20 most popular stories of 2020, we said that the year would be a very tough act to follow as there "could not have been more regime shifts, volatility moments, and memes than 2020." And yet despite the exceedingly high bar for 2021, the year did not disappoint and proved to be a successful contender, and if judging by the sheer breadth of narratives, stories, surprises, plot twists and unexpected developments, 2021 was even more memorable and event-filled than 2020. Where does one start? While covid was the story of 2020, the pandemic that emerged out of a (Fauci-funded) genetic lab team in Wuhan, China dominated newsflow, politics and capital markets for the second year in a row. And while the biggest plot twist of 2020 was Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election (it took the pandemic lockdowns and mail-in ballots to hand the outcome to Biden), largely thanks to Covid, Biden failed to hold to his biggest presidential promise of defeating covid, and not only did he admit in late 2021 that there is "no Federal solution" to covid waving a white flag of surrender less than a year into his presidency, but following the recent emergence of the Xi, pardon Omicron variant, the number of covid cases in the US has just shattered all records. The silver lining is not only that deaths and hospitalizations have failed to follow the number of cases, but that the scaremongering narrative itself is starting to melt in response to growing grassroots discontent with vaccine after vaccine and booster after booster, which by now it is clear, do nothing to contain the pandemic. And now that it is clear that omicron is about as mild as a moderate case of the flu, the hope has finally emerged that this latest strain will finally kill off the pandemic as it becomes the dominant, rapidly-spreading variant, leading to worldwide herd immunity thanks to the immune system's natural response. Yes, it may mean billions less in revenue for Pfizer and Moderna, but it will be a colossal victory for the entire world. The second biggest story of 2021 was undoubtedly the scourge of soaring inflation, which contrary to macrotourist predictions that it would prove "transitory", refused to do so and kept rising, and rising, and rising, until it hit levels not seen since the Volcker galloping inflation days of the 1980s. The only difference of course is that back then, the Fed Funds rate hit 20%. Now it is at 0%, and any attempts to hike aggressively will lead to a horrific market crash, something the Fed knows very well. Whether this was due to supply-chain blockages and a lack of goods and services pushing prices higher, or due to massive stimulus pushing demand for goods - and also prices - higher, or simply the result of a record injection of central bank liquidity into the system, is irrelevant but what does matter is that it got so bad that even Biden, facing a mauling for his Democratic party in next year's midterm elections, freaked out about soaring prices and pushed hard to lower the price of gasoline, ordering releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and vowing to punish energy companies that dare to make a profit, while ordering Powell to contain the surge in prices even if means the market is hit. Unfortunately for Biden, the market will be hit even as inflation still remain red hot for much of the coming year. And speaking of markets, while 2022 may be a year when the piper finally gets paid, 2021 was yet another blockbuster year for risk assets, largely on the back of the continued global response to the 2020 covid pandemic, when as we wrote last year, we saw "the official arrival of global Helicopter Money, tens of trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, an overhaul of the global economy punctuated by an unprecedented explosion in world debt, an Orwellian crackdown on civil liberties by governments everywhere, and ultimately set the scene for what even the World Economic Forum called simply "The Great Reset." Yes, the staggering liquidity injections that started in 2020, continued throughout 2021 and the final tally is that after $3 trillion in emergency liquidity injections in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic to stabilize the world, the Fed injected almost $2 trillion in the subsequent period, of which $1.5 trillion in 2021, a year where economists were "puzzled" why inflation was soaring. This, of course, excludes the tens of trillions of monetary stimulus injected by other central banks as well as the boundless fiscal stimulus that was greenlighted with the launch of helicopter money (i.e., MMT) in 2020. It's also why with inflation running red hot and real rates the lowest they have ever been, everyone was forced to rush into the "safety" of stocks (or stonks as they came to be known among GenZ), and why after last year's torrid stock market returns, the S&P rose another 27% in 2021 and up a staggering 114% from the March 2020 lows, in the process trouncing all previous mega-rallies (including those in 1929, 1938, 1974 and 2009)... ... making this the third consecutive year of double-digit returns. This reminds us of something we said last year: "it's almost as if the world's richest asset owners requested the covid pandemic." A year later, we got confirmation for this rhetorical statement, when we calculated that in the 18 months since the covid pandemic, the richest 1% of US society have seen their net worth increase by over $30 trillion. As a result, the US is now officially a banana republic where the middle 60% of US households by income - a measure economists use as a definition of the middle class - saw their combined assets drop from 26.7% to 26.6% of national wealth as of June, the lowest in Federal Reserve data, while for the first time the super rich had a bigger share, at 27%. Yes, the 1% now own more wealth than the entire US middle class, a definition traditionally reserve for kleptocracies and despotic African banana republics. It wasn't just the rich, however: politicians the world over would benefit from the transition from QE to outright helicopter money and MMT which made the over monetization of deficits widely accepted in the blink of an eye. The common theme here is simple: no matter what happens, capital markets can never again be allowed to drop, regardless of the cost or how much more debt has to be incurred. Indeed, as we look back at the news barrage over the past year, and past decade for that matter, the one thing that becomes especially clear amid the constant din of markets, of politics, of social upheaval and geopolitical strife - and now pandemics -  in fact a world that is so flooded with constant conflicting newsflow and changing storylines that many now say it has become virtually impossible to even try to predict the future, is that despite the people's desire for change, for something original and untried, the world's established forces will not allow it and will fight to preserve the broken status quo at any price - even global coordinated shutdowns - which is perhaps why it always boils down to one thing - capital markets, that bedrock of Western capitalism and the "modern way of life", where control, even if it means central planning the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the USSR, and an upward trajectory must be preserved at all costs, as the alternative is a global, socio-economic collapse. And since it is the daily gyrations of stocks that sway popular moods the interplay between capital markets and politics has never been more profound or more consequential. The more powerful message here is the implicit realization and admission by politicians, not just Trump who had a penchant of tweeting about the S&P every time it rose, but also his peers on both sides of the aisle, that the stock market is now seen as the consummate barometer of one's political achievements and approval. Which is also why capital markets are now, more than ever, a political tool whose purpose is no longer to distribute capital efficiently and discount the future, but to manipulate voter sentiments far more efficiently than any fake Russian election interference attempt ever could. Which brings us back to 2021 and the past decade, which was best summarized by a recent Bill Blain article who said that "the last 10-years has been a story of massive central banking distortion to address the 2008 crisis. Now central banks face the consequences and are trapped. The distortion can’t go uncorrected indefinitely." He is right: the distortion will eventually collapse especially if the Fed follows through with its attempt rate hikes some time in mid-2020, but so far the establishment and the "top 1%" have been successful - perhaps the correct word is lucky - in preserving the value of risk assets: on the back of the Fed's firehose of liquidity the S&P500 returned an impressive 27% in 2021, following a 15.5% return in 2020 and 28.50% in 2019. It did so by staging the greatest rally off all time from the March lows, surpassing all of the 4 greatest rallies off the lows of the past century (1929,1938, 1974, and 2009). Yet this continued can-kicking by the establishment - all of which was made possible by the covid pandemic and lockdowns which served as an all too convenient scapegoat for the unprecedented response that served to propel risk assets (and fiat alternatives such as gold and bitcoin) to all time highs - has come with a price... and an increasingly higher price in fact. As even Bank of America CIO Michael Hartnett admits, Fed's response to the the pandemic "worsened inequality" as the value of financial assets - Wall Street -  relative to economy - Main Street - hit all-time high of 6.3x. And while the Fed was the dynamo that has propelled markets higher ever since the Lehman collapse, last year certainly had its share of breakout moments. Here is a sampling. Gamestop and the emergence of meme stonks and the daytrading apes: In January markets were hypnotized by the massive trading volumes, rolling short squeezes and surging share prices of unremarkable established companies such as consoles retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC and various other micro and midcap names. What began as a discussion on untapped value at GameStop on Reddit months earlier by Keith Gill, better known as Roaring Kitty, morphed into a hedge fund-orchestrated, crowdsourced effort to squeeze out the short position held by a hedge fund, Melvin Capital. The momentum flooded through the retail market, where daytraders shunned stocks and bought massive out of the money calls, sparking rampant "gamma squeezes" in the process forcing some brokers to curb trading. Robinhood, a popular broker for day traders and Citadel's most lucrative "subsidiary", required a cash injection to withstand the demands placed on it by its clearing house. The company IPOed later in the year only to see its shares collapse as it emerged its business model was disappointing hollow absent constant retail euphoria. Ultimately, the market received a crash course in the power of retail investors on a mission. Ultimately, "retail favorite" stocks ended the year on a subdued note as the trading frenzy from earlier in the year petered out, but despite underperforming the S&P500, retail traders still outperformed hedge funds by more than 100%. Failed seven-year Treasury auction:  Whereas auctions of seven-year US government debt generally spark interest only among specialists, on on February 25 2021, one such typically boring event sparked shockwaves across financial markets, as the weakest demand on record hit prices across the whole spectrum of Treasury bonds. The five-, seven- and 10-year notes all fell sharply in price. Researchers at the Federal Reserve called it a “flash event”; we called it a "catastrophic, tailing" auction, the closest thing the US has had to a failed Trasury auction. The flare-up, as the FT put it, reflects one of the most pressing investor concerns of the year: inflation. At the time, fund managers were just starting to realize that consumer price rises were back with a vengeance — a huge threat to the bond market which still remembers the dire days of the Volcker Fed when inflation was about as high as it is today but the 30Y was trading around 15%. The February auaction also illustrated that the world’s most important market was far less liquid and not as structurally robust as investors had hoped. It was an extreme example of a long-running issue: since the financial crisis the traditional providers of liquidity, a group of 24 Wall Street banks, have pulled back because of higher costs associated with post-2008 capital requirements, while leaving liquidity provision to the Fed. Those banks, in their reduced role, as well as the hedge funds and high-frequency traders that have stepped into their place, have tended to withdraw in moments of market volatility. Needless to say, with the Fed now tapering its record QE, we expect many more such "flash" episodes in the bond market in the year ahead. The arch ego of Archegos: In March 2021 several banks received a brutal reminder that some of family offices, which manage some $6 trillion in wealth of successful billionaires and entrepreneurs and which have minimal reporting requirements, take risks that would make the most serrated hedge fund manager wince, when Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management imploded in spectacular style. As we learned in late March when several high-flying stocks suddenly collapsed, Hwang - a former protege of fabled hedge fund group Tiger Management - had built up a vast pile of leverage using opaque Total Return Swaps with a handful of banks to boost bets on a small number of stocks (the same banks were quite happy to help despite Hwang’s having been barred from US markets in 2013 over allegations of an insider-trading scheme, as he paid generously for the privilege of borrowing the banks' balance sheet). When one of Archegos more recent bets, ViacomCBS, suddenly tumbled it set off a liquidation cascade that left banks including Credit Suisse and Nomura with billions of dollars in losses. Conveniently, as the FT noted, the damage was contained to the banks rather than leaking across financial markets, but the episode sparked a rethink among banks over how to treat these clients and how much leverage to extend. The second coming of cryptos: After hitting an all time high in late 2017 and subsequently slumping into a "crypto winter", cryptocurrencies enjoyed a huge rebound in early 2021 which sent their prices soaring amid fears of galloping inflation (as shown below, and contrary to some financial speculation, the crypto space has traditionally been a hedge either to too much liquidity or a hedge to too much inflation). As a result, Bitcoin rose to a series of new record highs that culminated at just below $62,000, nearly three times higher than their previous all time high. But the smooth ride came to a halt in May when China’s crackdown on the cryptocurrency and its production, or “mining”, sparked the first serious crash of 2021. The price of bitcoin then collapsed as much as 30% on May 19, hitting a low of $30,000 amid a liquidation of levered positions in chaotic trading conditions following a warning from Chinese authorities of tighter curbs ahead. A public acceptance by Tesla chief and crypto cheerleader Elon Musk of the industry’s environmental impact added to the declines. However, as with all previous crypto crashes, this one too proved transitory, and prices resumed their upward trajectory in late September when investors started to price in the launch of futures-based bitcoin exchange traded funds in the US. The launch of these contracts subsequently pushed bitcoin to a new all-time high in early November before prices stumbled again in early December, this time due to a rise in institutional ownership when an overall drop in the market dragged down cryptos as well. That demonstrated the growing linkage between Wall Street and cryptocurrencies, due to the growing sway of large investors in digital markets. China's common prosperity crash: China’s education and tech sectors were one of the perennial Wall Street darlings. Companies such as New Oriental, TAL Education as well as Alibaba and Didi had come to be worth billions of dollars after highly publicized US stock market flotations. So when Beijing effectively outlawed swaths of the country’s for-profit education industry in July 2021, followed by draconian anti-trust regulations on the country's fintech names (where Xi Jinping also meant to teach the country's billionaire class a lesson who is truly in charge), the short-term market impact was brutal. Beijing’s initial measures emerged as part of a wider effort to make education more affordable as part of president Xi Jinping’s drive for "common prosperity" but that quickly raised questions over whether growth prospects across corporate China are countered by the capacity of the government to overhaul entire business models overnight. Sure enough, volatility stemming from the education sector was soon overshadowed by another set of government reforms related to common prosperity, a crackdown on leverage across the real estate sector where the biggest casualty was Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer. The company, whose boss was not long ago China's 2nd richest man, was engulfed by a liquidity crisis in the summer that eventually resulted in a default in early December. Still, as the FT notes, China continues to draw in huge amounts of foreign capital, pushing the Chinese yuan to end 2021 at the strongest level since May 2018, a major hurdle to China's attempts to kickstart its slowing economy, and surely a precursor to even more monetary easing. Natgas hyperinflation: Natural gas supplanted crude oil as the world’s most important commodity in October and December as prices exploded to unprecedented levels and the world scrambled for scarce supplies amid the developed world's catastrophic transition to "green" energy. The crunch was particularly acute in Europe, which has become increasingly reliant on imports. Futures linked to TTF, the region’s wholesale gas price, hit a record €137 per megawatt hour in early October, rising more than 75%. In Asia, spot liquefied natural gas prices briefly passed the equivalent of more than $320 a barrel of oil in October. (At the time, Brent crude was trading at $80). A number of factors contributed, including rising demand as pandemic restrictions eased, supply disruptions in the LNG market and weather-induced shortfalls in renewable energy. In Europe, this was aggravated by plunging export volumes from Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly pipeline supplier, amid a bitter political fight over the launch of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. And with delays to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, analysts say the European gas market - where storage is only 66% full - a cold snap or supply disruption away from another price spike Turkey's (latest) currency crisis:  As the FT's Jonathan Wheatley writes, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was once a source of strength for the Turkish lira, and in his first five years in power from 2003, the currency rallied from TL1.6 per US dollar to near parity at TL1.2. But those days are long gone, as Erdogan's bizarre fascination with unorthodox economics, namely the theory that lower rates lead to lower inflation also known as "Erdoganomics", has sparked a historic collapse in the: having traded at about TL7 to the dollar in February, it has since fallen beyond TL17, making it the worst performing currency of 2021. The lira’s defining moment in 2021 came on November 18 when the central bank, in spite of soaring inflation, cut its policy rate for the third time since September, at Erdogan’s behest (any central banker in Turkey who disagrees with "Erdoganomics" is promptly fired and replaced with an ideological puppet). The lira recovered some of its losses in late December when Erdogan came up with the "brilliant" idea of erecting the infamous "doom loop" which ties Turkey's balance sheet to its currency. It has worked for now (the lira surged from TL18 against the dollar to TL12, but this particular band aid solution will only last so long). The lira’s problems are not only Erdogan’s doing. A strengthening dollar, rising oil prices, the relentless covid pandemic and weak growth in developing economies have been bad for other emerging market currencies, too, but as long as Erdogan is in charge, shorting the lira remains the best trade entering 2022. While these, and many more, stories provided a diversion from the boring existence of centrally-planned markets, we are confident that the trends observed in recent years will continue: coming years will be marked by even bigger government (because only more government can "fix" problems created by government), higher stock prices and dollar debasement (because only more Fed intervention can "fix" the problems created by the Fed), and a policy flip from monetary and QE to fiscal & MMT, all of which will keep inflation at scorching levels, much to the persistent confusion of economists everywhere. Of course, we said much of this last year as well, but while we got most trends right, we were wrong about one thing: we were confident that China's aggressive roll out of the digital yuan would be a bang - or as we put it "it is very likely that while 2020 was an insane year, it may prove to be just an appetizer to the shockwaves that will be unleashed in 2021 when we see the first stage of the most historic overhaul of the fiat payment system in history" - however it turned out to be a whimper. A big reason for that was that the initial reception of the "revolutionary" currency was nothing short of disastrous, with Chinese admitting they were "not at all excited" about the prospect of yet one more surveillance mechanism for Beijing, because that's really what digital currencies are: a way for central banks everywhere to micromanage and scrutinize every single transaction, allowing the powers that be to demonetize any one person - or whole groups - with the flick of a switch. Then again, while digital money may not have made its triumphant arrival in 2021, we are confident that the launch date has merely been pushed back to 2022 when the rollout of the next monetary revolution is expected to begin in earnest. Here we should again note one thing: in a world undergoing historic transformations, any free press must be throttled and controlled, and over the past year we have seen unprecedented efforts by legacy media and its corporate owners, as well as the new "social media" overlords do everything in their power to stifle independent thought. For us it had been especially "personal" on more than one occasions. Last January, Twitter suspended our account because we dared to challenge the conventional narrative about the source of the Wuhan virus. It was only six months later that Twitter apologized, and set us free, admitting it had made a mistake. Yet barely had twitter readmitted us, when something even more unprecedented happened: for the first time ever (to our knowledge) Google - the world's largest online ad provider and monopoly - demonetized our website not because of any complaints about our writing but because of the contents of our comment section. It then held us hostage until we agreed to implement some prerequisite screening and moderation of the comments section. Google's action was followed by the likes of PayPal, Amazon, and many other financial and ad platforms, who rushed to demonetize and suspend us simply because they disagreed with what we had to say. This was a stark lesson in how quickly an ad-funded business can disintegrate in this world which resembles the dystopia of 1984 more and more each day, and we have since taken measures. One year ago, for the first time in our 13 year history, we launched a paid version of our website, which is entirely ad and moderation free, and offers readers a variety of premium content. It wasn't our intention to make this transformation but unfortunately we know which way the wind is blowing and it is only a matter of time before the gatekeepers of online ad spending block us again. As such, if we are to have any hope in continuing it will come directly from you, our readers. We will keep the free website running for as long as possible, but we are certain that it is only a matter of time before the hammer falls as the censorship bandwagon rolls out much more aggressively in the coming year. That said, whether the story of 2022, and the next decade for that matter, is one of helicopter or digital money, of (hyper)inflation or deflation: what is key, and what we learned in the past decade, is that the status quo will throw anything at the problem to kick the can, it will certainly not let any crisis go to waste... even the deadliest pandemic in over a century. And while many already knew that, the events of 2021 made it clear to a fault that not even a modest market correction can be tolerated going forward. After all, if central banks aim to punish all selling, then the logical outcome is to buy everything, and investors, traders and speculators did just that armed with the clearest backstop guarantee from the Fed, which in the deapths of the covid crash crossed the Rubicon when it formally nationalized the bond market as it started buying both investment grade bonds and junk bond ETFs in the open market. As such it is no longer even a debatable issue if the Fed will buy stocks after the next crash - the only question is when. Meanwhile, for all those lamenting the relentless coverage of politics in a financial blog, why finance appears to have taken a secondary role, and why the political "narrative" has taken a dominant role for financial analysts, the past year showed vividly why that is the case: in a world where markets gyrated, and "rotated" from value stocks to growth and vice versa, purely on speculation of how big the next stimulus out of Washington will be, the narrative over Biden's trillions proved to be one of the biggest market moving events for much of the year. And with the Biden stimulus plan off the table for now, the Fed will find it very difficult to tighten financial conditions, especially if it does so just as the economy is slowing. Here we like to remind readers of one of our favorite charts: every financial crisis is the result of Fed tightening. As for predictions about the future, as the past two years so vividly showed, when it comes to actual surprises and all true "black swans", it won't be what anyone had expected. And so while many themes, both in the political and financial realm, did get some accelerated closure courtesy of China's covid pandemic, dramatic changes in 2021 persisted, and will continue to manifest themselves in often violent and unexpected ways - from the ongoing record polarization in the US political arena, to "populist" upheavals around the developed world, to the gradual transition to a global Universal Basic (i.e., socialized) Income regime, to China's ongoing fight with preserving stability in its gargantuan financial system which is now two and a half times the size of the US. As always, we thank all of our readers for making this website - which has never seen one dollar of outside funding (and despite amusing recurring allegations, has certainly never seen a ruble from the KGB either, although now that the entire Russian hysteria episode is over, those allegations have finally quieted down), and has never spent one dollar on marketing - a small (or not so small) part of your daily routine. Which also brings us to another critical topic: that of fake news, and something we - and others who do not comply with the established narrative - have been accused of. While we find the narrative of fake news laughable, after all every single article in this website is backed by facts and links to outside sources, it is clearly a dangerous development, and a very slippery slope that the entire developed world is pushing for what is, when stripped of fancy jargon, internet censorship under the guise of protecting the average person from "dangerous, fake information." It's also why we are preparing for the next onslaught against independent thought and why we had no choice but to roll out a premium version of this website. In addition to the other themes noted above, we expect the crackdown on free speech to accelerate in the coming year when key midterm elections will be held, especially as the following list of Top 20 articles for 2021 reveals, many of the most popular articles in the past year were precisely those which the conventional media would not touch out of fear of repercussions, which in turn allowed the alternative media to continue to flourish in an orchestrated information vacuum and take significant market share from the established outlets by covering topics which the public relations arm of established media outlets refused to do, in the process earning itself the derogatory "fake news" condemnation. We are grateful that our readers - who hit a new record high in 2021 - have realized it is incumbent upon them to decide what is, and isn't "fake news." * * * And so, before we get into the details of what has now become an annual tradition for the last day of the year, those who wish to jog down memory lane, can refresh our most popular articles for every year during our no longer that brief, almost 11-year existence, starting with 2009 and continuing with 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. So without further ado, here are the articles that you, our readers, found to be the most engaging, interesting and popular based on the number of hits, during the past year. In 20th spot with 600,000 reads, was an article that touched on one of the most defining features of the market: the reflation theme the sparked a massive rally at the start of the year courtesy of the surprise outcome in the Georgia Senate race, where Democrats ended up wining both seats up for grabs, effectively giving the Dems a majority in both the House and the Senate, where despite the even, 50-seat split, Kamala Harris would cast the winning tie-breaker vote to pursue a historic fiscal stimulus. And sure enough, as we described in "Bitcoin Surges To Record High, Stocks & Bonds Battered As Dems Look Set To Take Both Georgia Senate Seats", with trillions in "stimmies" flooding both the economy and the market, not only did retail traders enjoy unprecedented returns when trading meme "stonks" and forcing short squeezes that crippled numerous hedge funds, but expectations of sharply higher inflation also helped push bitcoin and the entire crypto sector to new all time highs, which in turn legitimized the product across institutional investors and helped it reach a market cap north of $3 trillion.  In 19th spot, over 613,000 readers were thrilled to read at the start of September that "Biden Unveils Most Severe COVID Actions Yet: Mandates Vax For All Federal Workers, Contractors, & Large Private Companies." Of course, just a few weeks later much of Biden's mandate would be struck down in courts, where it is now headed to a decision by SCOTUS, while the constantly shifting "scientific" goal posts mean that just a few months later the latest set of CDC regulations have seen regulators and officials reverse the constant drone of fearmongering and are now even seeking to cut back on the duration of quarantine and other lockdown measures amid a public mood that is growing increasingly hostile to the government response. One of the defining political events of 2021 was the so-called "Jan 6 Insurrection", which the for America's conservatives was blown wildly out of proportion yet which the leftist media and Democrats in Congress have been periodically trying to push to the front pages in hopes of distracting from the growing list of failures of the Obama admin. Yet as we asked back in January, "Why Was Founder Of Far-Left BLM Group Filming Inside Capitol As Police Shot Protester?" No less than 614,000 readers found this question worthy of a response. Since then many more questions have emerged surrounding this event, many of which focus on what role the FBI had in organizing and encouraging this event, including the use of various informants and instigators. For now, a response will have to wait at least until the mid-term elections of 2022 when Republicans are expected to sweep one if not both chambers. Linked to the above, the 17th most read article of 2021 with 617,000 views, was an article we published on the very same day, which detailed that "Armed Protesters Begin To Arrive At State Capitols Around The Nation." At the end of the day, it was much ado about nothing and all protests concluded peacefully and without incident: perhaps the FBI was simply spread too thin? 2021 was a year defined by various waves of the covid pandemic which hammered poor Americans forced to hunker down at home and missing on pay, and crippled countless small mom and pop businesses. And yet, it was also a bonanza for a handful of pharma companies such as Pfizer and Moderna which made billions from the sale of "vaccines" which we now know do little if anything to halt the spread of the virus, and are instead now being pitched as palliatives, preventing a far worse clinical outcome. The same pharma companies also benefited from an unconditional indemnity, which surely would come in useful when the full side-effects of their mRNA-based therapies became apparent. One such condition to emerge was myocarditis among a subset of the vaxxed. And while the vaccines continue to be broadly rolled out across most developed nations, one place that said enough was Sweden. As over 620,000 readers found out in "Sweden Suspends Moderna Shot Indefinitely After Vaxxed Patients Develop Crippling Heart Condition", not every country was willing to use its citizens as experimental guniea pigs. This was enough to make the article the 16th most read on these pages, but perhaps in light of the (lack of) debate over the pros and cons of the covid vaccines, this should have been the most read article this year? Moving on to the 15th most popular article, 628,000 readers were shocked to learn that "Chase Bank Cancels General Mike Flynn's Credit Cards." The action, which was taken by the largest US bank due to "reputational risk" echoed a broad push by tech giants to deplatform and silence dissenting voices by literally freezing them out of the financial system. In the end, following widespread blowback from millions of Americans, JPMorgan reversed, and reactivated Flynn's cards saying the action was made in error, but unfortunately this is just one example of how those in power can lock out any dissenters with the flick of a switch. And while democrats cheer such deplatforming today, the political winds are fickle, and we doubt they will be as excited once they find themselves on the receiving end of such actions. And speaking of censorship and media blackouts, few terms sparked greater response from those in power than the term Ivermectin. Viewed by millions as a cheap, effective alternative to offerings from the pharmaceutical complex, social networks did everything in their power to silence any mention of a drug which the Journal of Antibiotics said in 2017 was an "enigmatic multifaceted ‘wonder’ drug which continues to surprise and exceed expectations." Nowhere was this more obvious than in the discussion of how widespread use of Ivermectin beat Covid in India, the topic of the 14th most popular article of 2021 "India's Ivermectin Blackout" which was read by over 653,000 readers. Unfortunately, while vaccines continue to fail upward and now some countries are now pushing with a 4th, 5th and even 6th vaccine, Ivermectin remains a dirty word. There was more covid coverage in the 13th most popular article of 2021, "Surprise Surprise - Fauci Lied Again": Rand Paul Reacts To Wuhan Bombshell" which was viewed no less than 725,000 times. Paul's reaction came following a report which revealed that Anthony Fauci's NIAID and its parent, the NIH, funded Gain-of-Function research in Wuhan, China, strongly hinting that the emergence of covid was the result of illicit US funding. Not that long ago, Fauci had called Paul a 'liar' for accusing him of funding the risky research, in which viruses are genetically modified or otherwise altered to make them more transmissible to humans. And while we could say that Paul got the last laugh, Fauci still remains Biden's top covid advisor, which may explain why one year after Biden vowed he would shut down the pandemic, the number of new cases just hit a new all time high. One hope we have for 2022 is that people will finally open their eyes... 2021 was not just about covid - soaring prices and relentless inflation were one of the most poignant topics. It got so bad that Biden's approval rating - and that of Democrats in general - tumbled toward the end of the year, putting their mid-term ambitions in jeopardy, as the public mood soured dramatically in response to the explosion in prices. And while one can debate whether it was due to supply-issues, such as the collapse in trans-pacific supply chains and the chronic lack of labor to grow the US infrastructure, or due to roaring demand sparked by trillions in fiscal stimulus, but when the "Big Short" Michael Burry warned that hyperinflation is coming, the people listened, and with over 731,000 reads, the 12th most popular article of 2021 was "Michael Burry Warns Weimar Hyperinflation Is Coming."  Of course, Burry did not say anything we haven't warned about for the past 12 years, but at least he got the people's attention, and even mainstream names such as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey agreed with him, predicting that bitcoin will be what is left after the dollar has collapsed. While hyperinflation may will be the endgame, the question remains: when. For the 11th most read article of 2021, we go back to a topic touched upon moments ago when we addressed the full-blown media campaign seeking to discredit Ivermectin, in this case via the D-grade liberal tabloid Rolling Stone (whose modern incarnation is sadly a pale shadow of the legend that house Hunter S. Thompson's unforgettable dispatches) which published the very definition of fake news when it called Ivermectin a "horse dewormer" and claimed that, according to a hospital employee, people were overdosing on it. Just a few hours later, the article was retracted as we explained in "Rolling Stone Issues 'Update' After Horse Dewormer Hit-Piece Debunked" and over 812,000 readers found out that pretty much everything had been a fabrication. But of course, by then it was too late, and the reputation of Ivermectin as a potential covid cure had been further tarnished, much to the relief of the pharma giants who had a carte blanche to sell their experimental wares. The 10th most popular article of 2021 brings us to another issue that had split America down the middle, namely the story surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse and the full-blown media campaign that declared the teenager guilty, even when eventually proven innocent. Just days before the dramatic acquittal, we learned that "FBI Sat On Bombshell Footage From Kyle Rittenhouse Shooting", which was read by over 822,000 readers. It was unfortunate to learn that once again the scandal-plagued FBI stood at the center of yet another attempt at mass misinformation, and we can only hope that one day this "deep state" agency will be overhauled from its core, or better yet, shut down completely. As for Kyle, he will have the last laugh: according to unconfirmed rumors, his numerous legal settlements with various media outlets will be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.  And from the great US social schism, we again go back to Covid for the 9th most popular article of 2021, which described the terrifying details of one of the most draconian responses to covid in the entire world: that of Australia. Over 900,000 readers were stunned to read that the "Australian Army Begins Transferring COVID-Positive Cases, Contacts To Quarantine Camps." Alas, the latest surge in Australian cases to nosebleed, record highs merely confirms that this unprecedented government lockdown - including masks and vaccines - is nothing more than an exercise in how far government can treat its population as a herd of sheep without provoking a violent response.  The 8th most popular article of 2021 looks at the market insanity of early 2021 when, at the end of January, we saw some of the most-shorted, "meme" stocks explode higher as the Reddit daytrading horde fixed their sights on a handful of hedge funds and spent billions in stimmies in an attempt to force unprecedented ramps. That was the case with "GME Soars 75% After-Hours, Erases Losses After Liquidity-Constrained Robinhood Lifts Trading Ban", which profiled the daytrading craze that gave an entire generation the feeling that it too could win in these manipulated capital markets. Then again, judging by the waning retail interest, it is possible that the excitement of the daytrading army is fading as rapidly as it first emerged, and that absent more "stimmies" markets will remain the playground of the rich and central banks. Kyle Rittenhouse may soon be a very rich man after the ordeal he went through, but the media's mission of further polarizing US society succeeded, and millions of Americans will never accept that the teenager was innocent. It's also why with just over 1 million reads, the 7th most read article on Zero Hedge this year was that "Portland Rittenhouse Protest Escalates Into Riot." Luckily, this is not a mid-term election year and there were no moneyed interests seeking to prolong this particular riot, unlike what happened in the summer of 2020... and what we are very much afraid will again happen next year when very critical elections are on deck.  With just over 1.03 million views, the 6th most popular post focused on a viral Twitter thread on Friday from Dr Robert Laone, which laid out a disturbing trend; the most-vaccinated countries in the world are experiencing  a surge in COVID-19 cases, while the least-vaccinated countries were not. As we originally discussed in ""This Is Worrying Me Quite A Bit": mRNA Vaccine Inventor Shares Viral Thread Showing COVID Surge In Most-Vaxxed Countries", this trend has only accelerated in recent weeks with the emergence of the Omicron strain. Unfortunately, instead of engaging in a constructive discussion to see why the science keeps failing again and again, Twitter's response was chilling: with just days left in 2021, it suspended the account of Dr. Malone, one of the inventors of mRNA technology. Which brings to mind something Aaron Rogers said: "If science can't be questioned it's not science anymore it's propaganda & that's the truth." In a year that was marked a flurry of domestic fiascoes by the Biden administration, it is easy to forget that the aged president was also responsible for the biggest US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam, when the botched evacuation of Afghanistan made the US laughing stock of the world after 12 US servicemembers were killed. So it's probably not surprising that over 1.1 million readers were stunned to watch what happened next, which we profiled in the 5th most popular post of 2021, where in response to the Afghan trajedy, "Biden Delivers Surreal Press Conference, Vows To Hunt Down Isis, Blames Trump." One person watching the Biden presser was Xi Jinping, who may have once harbored doubts about reclaiming Taiwan but certainly does not any more. The 4th most popular article of 2021 again has to do with with covid, and specifically the increasingly bizarre clinical response to the disease. As we detailed in "Something Really Strange Is Happening At Hospitals All Over America" while emergency rooms were overflowing, it certainly wasn't from covid cases. Even more curiously, one of the primary ailments leading to an onslaught on ERs across the nation was heart-related issues, whether arrhytmia, cardiac incidents or general heart conditions. We hope that one day there will be a candid discussion on this topic, but until then it remains one of the topics seen as taboo by the mainstream media and the deplatforming overlords, so we'll just leave it at that. We previously discussed the anti-Ivermectin narrative that dominated the mainstream press throughout 2021 and the 3rd most popular article of the year may hold clues as to why: in late September, pharma giant Pfizer and one of the two companies to peddle an mRNA based vaccine, announced that it's launching an accelerated Phase 2/3 trial for a COVID prophylactic pill designed to ward off COVID in those may have come in contact with the disease. And, as we described in "Pfizer Launches Final Study For COVID Drug That's Suspiciously Similar To 'Horse Paste'," 1.75 million readers learned that Pfizer's drug shared at least one mechanism of action as Ivermectin - an anti-parasitic used in humans for decades, which functions as a protease inhibitor against Covid-19, which researchers speculate "could be the biophysical basis behind its antiviral efficiency." Surely, this too was just another huge coincidence. In the second most popular article of 2021, almost 2 million readers discovered (to their "shock") that Fauci and the rest of Biden's COVID advisors were proven wrong about "the science" of COVID vaccines yet again. After telling Americans that vaccines offer better protection than natural infection, a new study out of Israel suggested the opposite is true: natural infection offers a much better shield against the delta variant than vaccines, something we profiled in "This Ends The Debate' - Israeli Study Shows Natural Immunity 13x More Effective Than Vaccines At Stopping Delta." We were right about one thing: anyone who dared to suggest that natural immunity was indeed more effective than vaccines was promptly canceled and censored, and all debate almost instantly ended. Since then we have had tens of millions of "breakout" cases where vaccinated people catch covid again, while any discussion why those with natural immunity do much better remains under lock and key. It may come as a surprise to many that the most read article of 2021 was not about covid, or Biden, or inflation, or China, or even the extremely polarized US congress (and/or society), but was about one of the most long-suffering topics on these pages: precious metals and their prices. Yes, back in February the retail mania briefly targeted silver and as millions of reddit daytraders piled in in hopes of squeezing the precious metal higher, the price of silver surged higher only to tumble just as quickly as it has risen as the seller(s) once again proved more powerful than the buyers. We described this in "Silver Futures Soar 8%, Rise Above $29 As Reddit Hordes Pile In", an article which some 2.4 million gold and silver bugs read with hope, only to see their favorite precious metals slump for much of the rest of the year. And yes, the fact that both gold and silver ended the year sharply lower than where they started even though inflation hit the highest level in 40 years, remains one of the great mysteries of 2021. With all that behind us, and as we wave goodbye to another bizarre, exciting, surreal year, what lies in store for 2022, and the next decade? We don't know: as frequent and not so frequent readers are aware, we do not pretend to be able to predict the future and we don't try despite endless allegations that we constantly predict the collapse of civilization: we leave the predicting to the "smartest people in the room" who year after year have been consistently wrong about everything, and never more so than in 2021 (even the Fed admitted it is clueless when Powell said it was time to retire the term "transitory"), which destroyed the reputation of central banks, of economists, of conventional media and the professional "polling" and "strategist" class forever, not to mention all those "scientists" who made a mockery of the "expertise class" with their bungled response to the covid pandemic. We merely observe, find what is unexpected, entertaining, amusing, surprising or grotesque in an increasingly bizarre, sad, and increasingly crazy world, and then just write about it. We do know, however, that after a record $30 trillion in stimulus was conjured out of thin air by the world's central banks and politicians in the past two years, the attempt to reverse this monetary and fiscal firehose in a world addicted to trillions in newly created liquidity now that central banks are freaking out after finally getting ot the inflation they were hoping to create for so long, will end in tears. We are confident, however, that in the end it will be the very final backstoppers of the status quo regime, the central banking emperors of the New Normal, who will eventually be revealed as fully naked. When that happens and what happens after is anyone's guess. But, as we have promised - and delivered - every year for the past 13, we will be there to document every aspect of it. Finally, and as always, we wish all our readers the best of luck in 2022, with much success in trading and every other avenue of life. We bid farewell to 2021 with our traditional and unwavering year-end promise: Zero Hedge will be there each and every day - usually with a cynical smile - helping readers expose, unravel and comprehend the fallacy, fiction, fraud and farce that defines every aspect of our increasingly broken system. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/02/2022 - 03:44.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 2nd, 2022

Is The Crack-Up Boom Here?

Is The Crack-Up Boom Here? Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity, Bloomberg News recently solicited advice from Argentinians who lived through that country’s high inflation on how Americans should cope with rising inflation. The Argentinians suggested Americans spend their paychecks as fast as possible to avoid future price increases. They also suggested taking out loans that can be paid back later in devalued currency. These strategies may make sense for individuals. However, encouraging debt and discouraging savings is disastrous for the country. Relying on debt and spending one’s paycheck immediately encourages people to seek instant gratification instead of planning for the future. This depletes both economic and moral capital. November’s 9.6 percent increase in the producer price index, combined with the consumer price index’s increase to levels not seen since the early 1980s, shows why fears of inflation have become the public’s number one concern. Even the Federal Reserve has acknowledged that inflation is not just “transitory.” The Fed recently announced it is accelerating the timetable to reduce its monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed also announced it is planning three interest rate increases next year. However, the Fed plans to increase rates by no more than one percent. So even if the Fed does follow through on its promise to hike rates, it will do little if anything to combat rising prices. If the Fed allowed interest rates to rise to anything approaching market levels, it would make the federal government’s debt servicing costs unsustainable. This puts tremendous pressure on the Fed to maintain low rates. The biggest victims of the Federal Reserve’s erosion of the dollar are lower- and middle-class Americans whose paychecks do not keep pace with the Fed-caused price increases. Yet many progressives still cling to the fallacy that average workers somehow benefit from continued dollar devaluation. Progressives are even pushing the Fed to increase its money printing and regulatory activities to fight climate change and racism. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has embraced this “woke” monetary policy. President Biden’s reappointment of Powell and nomination of current Fed board member Lael Brainard (who is seen as more committed to a woke Fed than Powell) for vice chairman suggests the Fed will double down on this toxic mixture of cultural Marxism and so-called modern monetary theory. Recent polls show Americans expect continued large price increases. This indicates we may be on the verge of what Ludwig von Mises called a “crack-up boom.” A crack-up boom occurs when the general population realizes that constant currency depreciation is a feature, not a bug, of central banking. This leads people to seek alternatives to government-issued currency and to factor rising prices into their plans. The crack-up boom will likely extend overseas as more countries reject the dollar’s world reserve currency status. This rejection will be driven by a combination of concern over America’s growing debt and resentment of America’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy. Crack-up booms have historically facilitated the growth of authoritarian political movements. However, this is not inevitable. If those of us who know the truth spread the ideas of liberty to enough people, we may be able to move through the crack-up boom to a rebirth of liberty, peace, and prosperity. Steps in this direction include convincing Congress to cut spending, legalize competing currencies, and end the Fed. Tyler Durden Tue, 12/28/2021 - 06:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 28th, 2021

Don"t Let Cancel Culture Grinches Strip Your Joy From Christmas

Don't Let Cancel Culture Grinches Strip Your Joy From Christmas Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “It’s Christmas Eve! It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be! It’s a sort of a miracle because it happens every Christmas Eve… There are people that are having trouble making their miracle happen… It’s not just the poor and the hungry, it’s everybody that’s gotta have this miracle!”— Scrooged (1988) What a year. It feels as if government Grinches, corporate Scrooges, and cancel culture humbugs have been working overtime to drain every last drop of joy, kindness and liberty from the world. After endless months of gloom and doom, it can be hard to feel the joy of Christmas in the midst of rampant commercialism, political correctness and the casual cruelty of an apathetic, self-absorbed, dog-eat-dog world. Then again, isn’t that struggle to overcome the darkness and find the light within exactly what Christmas—the celebration of a baby born in a manger—is all about? The reminder that we have not been forgotten or forsaken. Glad tidings in the midst of hard times. Goodwill to counter meanness. Innocence in the face of cynicism. Hope in the midst of despair. Comfort to soothe our fears. Peace as an answer to war. Love that conquers hate. As “fellow-passengers to the grave,” we all have a moral duty to make this world (or at least our small corners of it) just a little bit kinder, a little less hostile and a lot more helpful to those in need. No matter what one’s budget, religion, or political persuasion, there is no shortage of things we can each do right now to pay our blessings forward and recapture the true spirit of Christmas. For starters, move beyond the “us” vs. “them” mentality. Tune into what’s happening in your family, in your community and your world, and get active. Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Talk less, and listen more. Take less, and give more. Stop being a hater. Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. Value your family. Count your blessings. Share your blessings. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Build bridges, and tear down walls. Stand for freedom. Strive for peace. One thing more: make time for joy and laughter. Shake off the blues with some Christmas tunes, whatever fits the bill for you, be it traditional carols, rollicking oldies, or some rocking new tunes. Watch a Christmas movie that reinforces your faith in the things that truly matter. Here are ten of my favorite Christmas movies and music albums to get you started. First the movies. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). An American classic about a despondent man, George Bailey who is saved from suicide by an angel working to get his wings. This film is a testament to director Frank Capra’s faith in people. Sublime performances by James Stewart and Donna Reed. The Bishop’s Wife (1947). An angel comes to earth in answer to a bishop’s prayer for help. Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young help energize this tale of lost visions and longings of the heart. Miracle on 34th Street (1947). By happenchance, Kris Kringle is hired as Santa Claus by Macy’s Department Store in New York City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before long, Kringle, who believes himself to be the one and only Santa Claus, has impacted virtually everyone around him. Funny, witty and heartwarming, this film is stocked with some fine performances from Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and young Natalie Wood. Edmund Gwenn won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Saint Nick. A Christmas Carol (1951). This is the best film version of the penny-pinching Scrooge’s journey to spiritual enlightenment by way of visits from supernatural visitors. Alastair Sim as Scrooge gives one of the finest film performances never to win an Oscar. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) provides a wonderful glimpse into how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Story (1983). Ralphie is a young boy obsessed with one thing and only one thing: how to get a Red Ryder BB-gun for Christmas. Ralphie’s parents are wary, and his mother continually warns him that “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Based on Jean Shepherd’s autobiographical book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, at the heart of this timeless comedy is the universal yearning of a child for the magic of Christmas morning. A great cast, which includes Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and a voice-over narrative by Shepherd himself. One Magic Christmas (1985). If you grew up in a family where times were tough, this film is for you. A guardian angel comes to earth to help a disillusioned woman who hates Christmas. This tale of redemption and second chances is a delight to watch. And Harry Dean Stanton makes a first-class offbeat angel. Prancer (1989). This story of an eight-year-old girl who believes that an injured reindeer in her barn is actually one of Santa’s reindeer is one of the most down-to-earth Christmas films ever made. It’s a testament to the transforming power of love and childhood innocence. Sam Elliott and Cloris Leachman are fine in supporting roles, but Rebecca Harrell shines. Filmed on location in freezing, snowy weather, this film is a treat for those who love Christmas. Home Alone (1990). Eight-year-old Kevin, accidentally left behind at home when his family flies to Paris for Christmas, thinks he’s got it made. Hijinks ensue when two burglars match their wits against his. A funny, tender tribute to childhood and the bonds of family. Elf (2003). Another modern classic with a lot of heart. Buddy, played to the hilt by Will Ferrell, is a human who was raised by elves at the North Pole. Determined to find his birth father, Buddy travels to the Big Apple and spreads his Christmas cheer to everyone he meets. This film has it all: Santa, elves, family problems, humor, emotion and above all else, a large dose of the Christmas spirit. One of the best Christmas movies ever made. The Christmas Chronicles (2018). The story of a sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about. Kurt Russell’s star turn as Santa makes for movie magic. Now for the music. Out of the hundreds of Christmas albums I’ve listened to over the years, the following, covering a broad range of musical styles, moods and tastes, each in its own way perfectly captures the essence of Christmas for me. It’s Christmas (EMI, 1989): 18 great songs, ranging from John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” The real treats on this album are Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas,” Kate Bush’s “December Will Be Magic Again” and Aled Jones’ “Walking in the Air.” Christmas Guitar (Rounder, 1986): 28 beautifully done traditional Christmas songs by master guitarist John Fahey. Hearing Fahey’s guitar strings plucking out “Joy to the World,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” among others, is a sublime experience. Christmas Is A Special Day (The Right Stuff, 1993): 12 fine songs by Fats Domino, the great Fifties rocker, ranging from “Amazing Grace” to “Jingle Bells.” The title song, written by Domino himself, is a real treat. No one has ever played the piano keys like Fats. Christmas Island (August/Private Music, 1989): “Frosty the Snowman” will never sound the same after you hear Leon Redbone and Dr. John do their duet. Neither will “Christmas Island” or “Toyland” on this collection of 11 traditional and rather offbeat songs. A Holiday Celebration (Gold Castle, 1988): The classic folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, backed by the New York Choral Society, sing traditional and nontraditional holiday fare on 12 beautifully orchestrated songs. Included are “I Wonder as I Wander,” “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” and “The Cherry Tree Carol.” Also thrown in is Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The Christmas Album (Columbia, 1992): Neil Diamond sings 14 songs, ranging from “Silent Night” to “Jingle Bell Rock” to “The Christmas Song” to “Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Diamond also gives us a great rendition of Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” A delightful album. A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1988): 12 traditional Christmas songs by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The pianist extraordinaire and his trio perform “O Tannenbaum,” “The Christmas Song” and “Greensleeves.” Also included is the Charlie Brown Christmas theme. The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (Fuel Records, 2003): If you like deep-rooted traditional holiday songs, you’ll love this album. The 16 songs range from “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to Ian Anderson originals such as “Another Christmas Song” and “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.” With Anderson on flute and vocals, this album has an old world flavor that will have you wanting mince pie and plum pudding. A Twisted Christmas (Razor Tie, 2006): Twisted Sister, the heavy metal group, knocks the socks off a bevy of traditional and pop Christmas songs. Dee Snider’s amazing vocals brings to life “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Deck the Halls,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” among others—including “Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days of Christmas).” Great fun and a great band. Songs for Christmas (Asthmatic Kitty, 2006): In 2001, independent singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens set out to create a Christmas gift through songs for his friends and family. It eventually grew to a 5-CD box set, which includes Stevens’ original take on such standards as “Amazing Grace” and “We Three Kings” and some inventive yuletide creations of his own. A lot of fun. Before you know it, Christmas will be a distant memory and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming of “us vs. them” politics, war, violence, materialism and mayhem. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, there may not be much we can do to avoid the dismal reality of the American police state in the long term—not so long as the powers-that-be allow profit margins to take precedence over people—but in the short term, I hope you’ll do your part to “spread a smile of joy” and “throw your arms around the world at Christmastime.” As you celebrate the season, take to heart the closing sermon in The Bishop’s Wife: “Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts… We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”—The Bishop’s Wife (1947) Tyler Durden Fri, 12/24/2021 - 18:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 24th, 2021

Mapped: Economic Freedom Around The World

Mapped: Economic Freedom Around The World How would you define a country’s economic freedom? The cornerstones of economic freedom by most measures are personal choice, voluntary exchange, independence to compete in markets, and security of the person and privately-owned property. Simply put, as Visual Capitalist's Anshool Deshmukh points out, it is about the quality of political and economic institutions in countries. Based on the Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Organization, we mapped the economic freedom of 178 countries worldwide. Measures of Economic Freedom The index uses five broad areas to score economic freedom for each country: Size of Government: Greater government spending, taxation, and bigger government agencies tend to reduce individual choice and economic freedom. Legal System and Property Rights: The ability to accumulate private property and wealth is a central motivating force for workers and investors in a market economy, and well-functioning legal frameworks protect the rights of all citizens. Sound Money: Does earned money maintain its value, or is it lost to inflation? When inflation is high and volatile, individuals can’t plan for the future and use economic freedom effectively. Freedom to Trade Internationally: Freedom to exchange—in its broadest sense, buying, selling, making contracts, and so on—is considered essential to economic prosperity. Limited international trading options significantly reduce the potential for growth. Regulation: When governments utilize tools and impose oppressive regulations that limit the right to exchange, economic freedom typically suffers. World Economic Freedom by Region In 2021, the global average economic freedom score is 61.6, the highest its been in 27 years. But from Mauritius and smaller African nations being beacons of hope to East Asian and Oceanic countries epitomizing economic democracy, every region has a different story to tell. Let’s take a look at the economic freedom of each region in the world. Americas Even though the U.S. and Canada continue to be some of the most economically free countries globally, some markers are suffering. The regional average unemployment rate has risen to 6.9%, and inflation (outside of Venezuela) has increased to 5.2%. The region’s average level of public debt—already the highest globally—rose to 85.2% of its GDP during the past year. Across many Latin American countries, widespread corruption and weak protection of property rights have aggravated regulatory inefficiency and monetary instability. For example, Argentina’s Peronist government has recently fixed the price of 1,432 products as a response to a 3.5% price rise in September, the equivalent to a 53% increase if annualized. Europe More than half of the world’s 38 freest countries (with overall scores above 70) are in Europe. This is due to the region’s relatively extensive and long-established free-market institutions, the robust rule of law, and exceptionally strong investment freedom. However, Europe still struggles with a variety of policy barriers to vigorous economic expansion. This includes overly protective and costly labor regulations, which was one of the major reasons why the UK voted to leave the EU. Brexit has since had a major impact on the region. Even a year later, official UK figures showed a record fall in trade with the EU in January 2021, as the economy struggled with post-Brexit rules and the pandemic. Africa Dictatorships, corruption, and conflict have historically kept African nations as some of the most economically repressed in the world. While larger and more prosperous African nations struggle to advance economic freedom, some smaller countries are becoming the beacon of hope for the continent. Mauritius (rank 11), Seychelles (43) and Botswana (45) were the top African countries, offering the most robust policies and institutions supporting economic self-sufficiency. From property rights to financial freedom, small African countries are racing ahead of the continent’s largest in advancing economic autonomy as they look to build business opportunities for their citizens. Middle East and Central Asia When Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords last year, there was a sense of a new paradigm emerging in a region with a long history of strife. A year into the signing of this resolution, the effects have been promising. There have been bilateral initiatives within the private sector and civil society leading to increasing economic and political stability in the region. Central Asian countries once part of the Soviet Union have recently starting integrating more directly with the world economy, primarily through natural resource exports. In total, natural resources account for about 65% of exports in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and more than 90% in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Despite this progress, these countries have a long way to go in terms of economic freedom. Uzbekistan (108), Turkmenistan (167) and Tajikistan (134) are still some of the lowest-ranked countries in the world. East Asia and Oceania Despite massive populations and strong economies, countries like China and India remain mostly unfree economies. The modest improvements in scores over the last few years have been through gains in property rights, judicial effectiveness, and business freedom indicators. Nearby, Singapore’s economy has been ranked the freest in the world for the second year in a row. Singapore remains the only country in the world that is considered economically free in every index category. Finally, it’s worth noting that Australia and New Zealand are regional leaders, and are two of only five nations that are currently in the “free” category of the index. Tyler Durden Thu, 12/23/2021 - 21:25.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 23rd, 2021

The suspicious disappearance and return of Peng Shuai is straight out of China"s playbook for forcing rogue celebrities into submission

On Nov. 2, Peng accused a former Chinese official of sexual assault. She's not been heard from since — like many celebrities who fall foul of Beijing. From left to right: Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the tennis player Peng Shuai, and the actor Fan Bingbing.Clive Brunskill/Costfoto/Barcroft Media/CG/VCG via Getty Images Peng Shuai vanished then changed her story after accusing a former Chinese official of sexual assault. It's common for China's elites to disappear after displeasing or criticizing the government. This ruthlessness shows that in China, no one is above the law or — more importantly — the Communist Party. The tennis star Peng Shuai, "X-Men" actress Fan Bingbing, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma were darlings of the Chinese state, symbols that Beijing's reach extended to Hollywood and Wall Street.What the trio also have in common is that they vanished without notice after defying Beijing or embarrassing the nation.This tactic — which comes alongside a mass, unopposed crackdown on lawyers, activists, and state critics — appears to be Beijing's go-to strategy to tackle disloyalty and prevent rebellion.Fan vanished for three months in 2018 following revelations that she dodged millions of dollars in tax, only to return with a grovelling apology. Ma vanished for the same period in late 2020 after he criticized China's reluctance to innovate, coming back to say he had been "studying and thinking."Peng, meanwhile, disappeared from public view for weeks after she accused the former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her on November 2.After a long silence, Chinese state media outlets published footage of Peng making public appearances to indicate she was safe,On Sunday, Peng gave her first interview to foreign media since she vanished — one in which she denied ever accusing anyone of sexual assault."I have never said that anyone has sexually assaulted me. This point must be emphasized clearly," Peng told Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Singapore. It appeared to complete her cycle of punishment.Peng Shuai at the Wuhan Open tennis tournament in 2019.Getty/Wang HeThese cases, and many others like it, follow the same arc: A high-profile individual brings China into disrepute, then vanishes. They then either reemerge to repent or never return."They keep these people and they try to find some sort of arrangement," Konstantinos Tsimonis, a lecturer in Chinese society at the Lau China Institute at King's College London, told Insider after Peng first disappeared."I think that's what we had with Jack Ma and I think that's what we're going to get with Peng Shuai," he said, adding that the Chinese government is likely thinking: "We want to make sure you don't talk anymore, so we don't have a reemergence of the #MeToo movement in the public sphere."Tsimonis also cited the 2011 disappearance of the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained for 81 days without charge."They made up some charges. The message was clear, and they only let him go when he agreed to stop talking," Tsimonis said. "This [trend] is worrying." (Ai left China in 2015 and has since openly criticized the Chinese government.)Ai Weiwei waves from the entrance of his studio after being released on bail in Beijing.David Gray/Reuters'This is the norm, not the exception'China can get away with doing this to celebrities, and countless others, thanks to the vagaries of its legal system, and its power to suppress information on the internet."Proximity to the top levels of power — fame, money, power, a Nobel peace prize — do not buy you any added protection," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told Insider last month."This case has laid bare for yet another large global audience the truly arbitrary nature of power the Chinese government and party wield," she said, referring to Peng. "This happens all the time, this is the norm, not the exception."Then-Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, whom Peng accused of sexual assault, photographed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in August 2017.Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via ReutersIn a way, Peng and Ma's disappearances weren't surprising, as criticism of the country and its officials are effectively attacks on the Communist Party."The state protects its own at the end of the day," Roderic Wye, a former British Embassy official in Beijing, told Insider. "Accusing a senior state official is verging on, or is actually seen as, a serious crime against state security."Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London's School of African and Oriental Studies, agreed in his remarks."For a young female celebrity accusing a former PBSC of a sexual crime is just unacceptable, as it could set a precedent for others to be so challenged," he said, referring to the Communist Party's powerful Politburo Standing Committee.How it endsPeng is well known internationally, so, like with Ma and Fan, it is not surprising that she reemerged in public.Her fame "makes it more difficult for her to be completely disappeared or dealt with. There will be people asking questions" Wye said in November."She would have to make some sort of fulsome retraction" to return to public life, he said.Peng's remarks in late December, in which she denied accusing anyone of sexual assault, is just the sort of retraction that disappeared celebrities have made in the past. Another of those who apologized to win back their freedom is Fan.After China made Fan repay 479 million yuan ($70 million) in 2019, she issued a groveling apology on the microblogging site Weibo in which she said she was "deeply ashamed." Then, in an interview with The New York Times, she practically thanked Beijing for vanishing her.Since then, her social media posts have carried a nationalist tinge.Fan Bingbing at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2018, two months before her disappearance.Eric Gaillard/ReutersThat said, some disappearances in China remain a mystery.In August, the actress Zhao Wei vanished abruptly, and Chinese streaming sites pulled down her TV shows and films. Though no reason was given for her disappearance, Chinese state media — which can be considered an extension of the state — said she was "surrounded with lawsuits" and noted she was banned in 2017 from trading in China's securities markets for unspecified "market violations."Another member of China's elite who vanished is Ren Zhiqiang, the former chairman of the property behemoth Huayuan.In a March 2020 essay, Ren launched a thinly-veiled attack on Chinese President Xi Jinping, comparing him to "a clown who stripped naked and insisted on continuing being emperor." The Chinese Communist Party expelled Ren as a member in June and he was subsequently sentenced to 18 years in prison over corruption charges.After Peng first made her allegation, the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN published an English-language email claiming to be from Peng, which retracted the allegation against Zhang and said she was safe.The email has not been verified and, instead of alleviating people's fears, it only increased concerns for Peng's safety.Steve Simon, the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association, said in a statement shortly after: "Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.""The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 20th, 2021

Going To Cash Can Be As Costly As A Market Crash

Going To Cash Can Be As Costly As A Market Crash Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentaAdvice,.com, Going to all cash in your portfolio to avoid a crash can be just as costly as the crash itself. A recent CNBC article quoted a $200 billion money manager suggesting “every stock market investor should be ready to go to cash.” The comment was from Ashbel Williams, who retired from the Florida State Board of Administration. “You never want to be a forced seller of risk assets at reduced prices because of market turmoil that locks in permanent capital impairment. There always has to be liquidity when equity markets go down. The No. 1 way to protect capital is to follow investment policy and rebalance back into equities while at depressed prices.” Regular readers of our columns are already well aware we agree with Ashbel on raising cash to avoid drawdown risk. However, there is an essential distinction between “going to all cash” and “raising cash” to manage risk. The Psychology Trap The biggest battle for all investors is their own “psychology.” From “herding” to “anchoring” to “confirmation bias,” individuals exhibit the same set pattern of responses through the entire investing cycle. Such was a point we discussed recently in “Is Past Performance A Guarantee?” “During a bull market, people tend to forget about bear markets. As far as human recent memory is concerned, the market should keep going up since it has been going up recently. Investors therefore keep buying stocks, feeling good about their prospects. Investors thereby increase risk taking and may not think about diversification or portfolio management prudence. Then a bear market hits, and rather than be prepared for it with shock absorbers in their portfolios, investors instead suffer a massive drop in their net worths and may sell out of stocks when the market is low. Selling low is, of course, not a good long-term investing strategy.” – Morning Star When it comes to “going completely to cash” in portfolios, such action triggers numerous emotional behaviors that negatively impact portfolio outcomes. Over the past decade, I have met with numerous individuals who “went to cash” in 2008 before the crash. They felt confident in their actions at the time. However, that “confidence” gave way to “confirmation bias” after the market bottomed in 2009. Nevertheless, they remained convinced the “bear market” was not yet over and continued to seek out confirming information. As a consequence, they remained in cash. The Fear Of Being Wrong The cost of “sitting out” on a market advance is evident. As the market turned from “bearish” to “bullish,” many individuals remained in cash, worrying they had missed the opportunity to get in. Even when there were decent pullbacks, the “fear of being wrong” outweighed the necessity of getting capital invested. The problem with being completely in cash is that it becomes increasingly difficult to break those “psychological” barriers to getting capital invested as the market advances. The market has already run up too much. What if I buy in now and the market crashes? I’ve already missed so much, I will just wait for the next crash. The Cost Of Waiting While being entirely in cash certainly has psychological freedom, it also has negative financial consequences. The chart below shows the impact more clearly. We assume an individual invests $100,000 at the turn of the century. They ride the market down and back up to their original value in 2007. Then, having “learned their lesson,” they see the signs of an impending market crash and go to cash. While they avoided the 50% decline in 2008, remaining in “cash” has put them significantly behind their 6% annualized return needed to meet financial goals. This is certainly a more extreme example. However, there are many individuals who remain out of the markets today due to fear of suffering a “mean reverting” event. However, is there a better way? Reduce Cash Rather Than Liquidate You cannot, over the long term, effectively time the market. Being all in or out of the market will eventually put you on the wrong side of the “trade.”  However, you can manage risk and protect investment capital. When it comes to managing risk there are many sophisticated methods for doing so, and entire books have been written on the subject. But risk management doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Even a very basic moving average crossover can be a valuable tool over the long-term holding periods.  Will such a method ALWAYS be correct? Of course, not. However, will such a method keep you from losing significant amounts of capital? Absolutely. Let’s use our basic example from above. We will assume our investor understands market risk but is very slow at making transitions. In this example, we assume our investor: Puts 50% of his capital in 2000 and immediately gets swept into the “Dot.com” crash. Being concerned about the decline, they remain 50% invested until mid-2004. Finally investing the rest of their capital, they participate with the market before selling down by 50% in 2008. They don’t increase back to 100% equity exposure until late 2010. From 2010, they remain fully invested until reducing to 50% cash in 2017. They remain 50% cash until the end of 2020 before going back to full equity exposure. As shown, even though our hypothetical investor was late exiting and re-entering the market, they still substantially outperformed a “buy and hold” investor over the same time frame. Never Go 100% Into Cash Our inherent human biases make us extremely fallible creatures when investing. Inherently, we will all do precisely the opposite of what we should do. First, we will “buy high” as “greed” overtakes our base logic. Then, we will “sell low” as “panic” over mounting losses. But we can do better but understanding our essential behavioral traits and learning that we can manage the amount of risk that we take in our portfolio management strategies. Avoid the “herd mentality” of paying increasingly higher prices without sound reasoning. Do your own research and avoid “confirmation bias.”  Develop a sound long-term investment strategy that includes “risk management” protocals. Diversify your portfolio allocation model to include “safer assets.” Control your “greed” and resist the temptation to “get rich quick” in speculative investments. Resist getting caught up in “what could have been” or “anchoring” to a past value. Such leads to emotional mistakes.  Realize that price inflation does not last forever. The larger the deviation from the mean, the greater the eventual reversion will be. Invest accordingly.  Despite the inherent belief that we are long-term investors, we all consistently get swept up in the market’s short-term movements. Of course, with the media and Wall Street pushing the “you are missing it” mantra as the market rises; who can blame the average investor for “panic” buying market tops and selling out at market bottoms. It’s Never Easy The problem with going to all cash in a portfolio is that it becomes psychologically challenging to redeploy that cash in the future. To better navigate markets over time, choose a base level of exposure that you will never go below no matter how bad it gets in the market. (We utilize a base of 25% of total equity allocation targets.) The benefit of having a base level of exposure is that as the market begins to recover, it becomes psychologically easier to “buy into” an existing allocation that is beginning to recover. However, since invested capital got protected from the decline, that capital gets quickly reallocated to equity risk at depressed levels. While it may seem logical to go to cash to avoid “crashes,” the risk of mistiming the event can have the same negative impact on financial goals as the crash itself. Notably, managing risk is not the same as avoiding risk. We can’t invest capital without the acceptance of risk. However, we can take actions to minimize the impact of risk when things don’t work out as anticipated. Tyler Durden Fri, 12/17/2021 - 10:37.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 17th, 2021

39 useful gifts for new parents, including a cozy robe for them and a sound machine to soothe the baby

New parents love useful gifts that make life with a new baby easier. Here are 40 of the best gifts for new parents, from diapers to meal kits. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Amazon A thoughtful gift can really make a difference in the busy life of a new parent. From a portable high chair to a swaddling blanket, here are 38 of the best gifts for new parents. Still looking for a gift? Check out our list of the All-Time Best products we've ever tested. Being a new parent means that people will naturally want to shop for you and the baby — mainly because gifts for new parents are fun to buy. The gifts here are a great way to celebrate new life with gifts that are both practical and fun.We rounded up 38 gift ideas that will help new parents adjust to life with a baby, help everyone sleep a little better, eat a little easier, and make those new baby photos pop.We've done our best to select a range of gifts with a variety of shipping options. Keep in mind that gifts purchased now may not arrive in time for the holidays. Be sure to check estimated arrival dates when checking out and keep in mind that the ship date is different than the package arrival date.Here are 39 of the best gifts for new parents:A digital baby bookQeepsakeQeepsake Membership, available at Qeepsake, from $35.88It's easy to forget to record special milestones when you're a sleep-deprived new parent. That's where Qeepsake comes in handy. The service texts parents questions about their baby and then saves their responses and photos. Parents can order the printed book that includes all their memories.A soft robe they'll want to wear all dayParachuteClassic Bathrobe, available at Parachute, $99Busy parents will love to wrap themelves in this cozy robe after a quick shower. The midweight robe is made from 100% Turkish cotton for both comfort and quick drying, and it's one of our all-time favorites.A food catchall that is easy to cleanThe Rooted Baby Co.Silicone Bib, available at The Rooted Baby Co., $12.99Eating meals is a messy affair for the littlest eaters among us. This bib made of high-quality silicone makes cleanup a breeze with the ability to catch any snack spills. It's good to go for the next meal with just a few wipes and it's dishwasher safe.A way to nurse comfortably and stylishly at the same timeTargetBamboobies Nursing Cover, available at Buy Buy Baby, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond, from $20.99New moms may take a little time adjusting to breastfeeding in public and there's no need to hide behind a hot blanket. A good nursing cover allows baby to feed in peace and mom to cover up for any occasion or outing.A comfy, personalized blanket made just for babyPottery Barn KidsCable Knit Recycled Chamois Baby Blanket, available at Pottery Barn Kids, $40Putting your baby's name on anything instantly makes it a family classic. This cable knit chamois version is the coziest blanket for afternoon naps to keep your little one warm.A bag that puts everything you need within reachLululemonLululemon Everywhere Belt Bag, available at Lululemon, $38Fanny packs have gotten a bad rap, but for a busy parent who needs three extra hands, it's the perfect solution. This belt bag allows you to put your most used items in quick reach so that you're not digging through a diaper bag to find your keys while also keeping an eye on the baby.A safe, easy-to-use nail trimmerBblüvBblüv Trimö Baby Electric Nail Trimmer, available at Buy Buy Baby, $29.99Baby nails can get really sharp. And because they're so small and delicate, they can be intimidating to take care of. This electric trimmer makes it easy to gently cut fingernails and toenails without having to worry about getting them too short. The electric file gently rounds off the rough edges.A fun way to clean up snot-nosed kidsFridaBaby/InsiderFrida Baby Nose Frida the Snotsucker, available at Buy Buy Baby and Amazon, from $16.99Stuffy noses can make a baby uncomfortable. Since they can't just go blow it out with a tissue, they need a little help. The Nose Frida Snotsucker looks, well, weird, but it's safe, clean, easy to wash, and if we're being honest, it's kind of fun too. A pillow spray to help parents get a good night's sleepAmazon.comThis Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, available at Dermstore, $29Sleep is a tenuous proposition, at best, for new parents, so when they finally get the chance to turn in for the night, this spray will help them fall into a deeper and more relaxed sleep. Featuring a pleasing blend of lavender, chamomile, and vetivert, the relaxing scent helps a person doze off. One of our reporters swears by it for a better night's sleep.A cleverly designed towel that quickly dries and comforts babiesParachuteParachute Hooded Baby Towel, available at Parachute, $29Getting out of the bath is cold for babies, too, but this this absorbent towel keeps lets you wrap them up to keep them cozy while drying off. The adorable hood adds extra warmth.A keepsake calendar filled with sweet photosArtifact UprisingArtifact Uprising Wood Calendar, available at Artifact Uprising, $30Parents can't get enough photos of their newborn. Take some of those photos to create a unique, practical calendar featuring their little one that they can use every day.An essential supply they can never get enough ofHonest/Business InsiderHonest Diapers, available at Honest.com, $10.95/packCloth diapers aren't for everyone, but these absorbent disposable diapers made from Earth-friendly materials are a good alternative for the eco-conscious. They also feature fun prints, even holiday designs. And to up the convenience factor for busy new parents, the company also has a diapers and wipes subscription box to save money and precious time. A comfortable seat for babyBumboBumboo Infant Floor Seat, available at Buy Buy Baby and Target, from $44.99Made from soft, durable foam, the Bumboo seat helps babies learn to sit upright, starting at three months. Parents will appreciate its portability as well as how easy it is to clean.A comfortable and flexible baby slingAmazonBaby K'tan Original Carrier, available at Amazon, and Target, from $59.95Hands-free carrying is a convenient way to keep baby close that parents will appreciate, whether they're grocery shopping or talking on the phone. This sling is comfortable for the baby as well as parents. It's a gift one of Business Insider's own gives to new parents after having used it with her kids from the time they were born until they were toddlers. You can check out our top picks for the best baby carriers here.Crib sheets in cute printsBrooklinenBrooklittles Crib Sheet Sets, available at Brooklinen, from $28.80From spit up to diaper blowouts, crib sheets have to endure a lot, so it's essential that there's always a clean one handy. Parents will really appreciate such a practical gift when they need one. Brooklinen's line of sheets for little ones feature fun patterns and prints that look great in any nursery.A baby book parents will actually want to fill outMaisonetteLucy Darling Flower Child Memory Book, available at Maisonette, $34.99Parents always appreciate looking back on the special memories they otherwise might have lost to sleep deprivation during baby's first year. Jotting down moments to savor won't feel like more paperwork with this spiral-bound baby book adorned with fun floral patterns. There's even a place for the baby's hand and foot prints.A warm cup of coffee on a cold dayContigo/Business InsiderContigo Autoseal West Loop Insulated Travel Mug, available at Amazon, $20.99Life with a baby doesn't pause so parents can rest, so having a little caffeine on hand can be a lifesaver when a parent's running morning errands on five hours of sleep. This leak-free travel mug keeps drinks hot or cold for up to seven hours, and it comes in 30 colors and a variety of sizes.An Amazon Prime membership so new parents can order suppliesWhat to buy on Amazon Prime Day 2018Sundry Photography/ShutterstockAmazon Prime gift subscription, three months, $39Nobody wants to make an extra trip to the store, especially busy new parents. A Prime membership lets them avoid the hassle, allowing them to order whatever they need and have it delivered instead, in two days.A full-year subscription is $119. And if they already have a Prime membership, they'll be able to convert your gift to credit so they can spend the money on anything they need.A portable gadget for fussy sleepersAmazonBaby Shusher Sleep Miracle, available at Buy Buy Baby, Amazon, and Target, $14.99White-noise machines are useful gadgets to have around because they're helpful for getting a fussy baby to fall asleep. The Baby Susher plays a real human voice, and it's easy to use at home, in the car, etc. A pacifier that won't keep falling to the groundAmazon/Business InsiderPhilips Avent Soothie Snuggle Pacifier Holder with Detachable Pacifier, available at Buy Buy Baby and Amazon, from $14.95This pacifier features a plush animal that can be detached to make cleaning both pieces fast and easy. You can choose from a variety of animals, including elephant, giraffe, monkey, and seal, that make it easy to find and comforting for babies to snuggle. A swaddling blanket that transforms their baby into a burritoUncommon GoodsTortilla Baby, available at Uncommon Goods, $48What's better than a delicious burrito? A swaddling blanket that looks like a burrito and helps baby sleep tight after a long day.Socks for tired feetBombasGift a Bombas Gift Box, from $35Bombas' comfortable gym socks feature a blister tab and cushioned footbeds that wrap feet in luxury. Busy, tired parents will appreciate comfortable socks. Also, Bombas also donates a pair to a homeless shelter for every pair purchased. A jolt of caffeine after a sleepless nightSwift CupAgaro Free-Dried Coffee (6 cup box), available at Swift Cup Coffee, $14Instant coffee isn't what it used to be; it's actually good now, and that's excellent news. Tested by our experts, these six individual packets of freeze-dried Ethiopian coffee will give sleepy parents the quick jolt they're looking for, and all they have to do it add 10 ounces of hot or cold water and stir.A sleek bassinet that rocks crying babies to sleepSnooSnoo Rental Gift Card, available at Happiest Baby, from $25There's nothing new parents will appreciate more than a little help with a baby who doesn't sleep well. Sensing when a baby is tense, the Snoo automatically rocks them to sleep with a gentle motion. There's also a built-in white noise machine and a swaddle to help calm fussy little ones. Parents can control the bassinet and monitor it via the app. And while the Snoo is expensive, the company has a rental program for a more affordable option.Bilingual board books for early learningAmazon/Business InsiderCanticos Board Books, available at Amazon, from $2.41It's never too soon to start learning a second language. These books help by introducing important early words like numbers, shapes, and more in both English and Spanish.A mustache pacifierBuyBuyBaby/IniderMustachifier, available on BuyBuyBaby, $9.99This pacifier will have everyone doing a double take to see if that baby really does have a hipster mustache. And don't overlook the value of peace and quiet that comes with it too.A meal kit delivery service so they can cook for themselvesBlue ApronBlue Apron Subscription Gift Card, from $65Cooking can be an extra hassle for frazzled new parents, but a delivery service like this can make it a little easier to get a healthy, home-cooked meal. Blue Apron boxes come with preportioned ingredients and three easy-to-cook recipes. They'll get one week of meal kits for $60.Check out our guide to the best meal kit delivery services, which includes options for special diets.A gadget to make diaper changes easierDiapertainment/Business InsiderDiapertainment, available at Amazon, $15.99Diaper changing is much easier when a squirming baby is occupied. This smartphone mount does helps hold a little one's attention with their favorite short videos so parents can get down to business.An interactive play matLoveveryThe Lovevery Play Gym, available at Lovevery, $140This activity gym has different learning zones and a range of accessories designed to engage a baby as they grow. Designed by childhood development experts, there are features here for infants as well as toddlers.*This product is currently backorderedA pregnancy journal to track progress and memoriesAmazon/Business Insider"Expecting You: A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal," available at Amazon, $13.46Pregnancy is a journey, and this journal gives new parents the chance to track their memories and experiences. Whether they end up using it as a reference for subsequent children or just as a way to look back on a special time, this keepsake journal makes a timeless treasure for parents.A portable way to secure babies to their seatsBuyBuyBabyInglesina Fast Table Chair in Black, available at Buy Buy Baby, $79.99A popular choice for an easy-to-use high chair because of its convenience, the Inglesia Fast Table Chair can be used with any table up to 3.3 inches thick. And it can be used for children ranging in age from 6 months to 3 years.A 5-in-1 machine to help baby sleepBaby Dream MachineBaby Dream Machine, available at Baby Dream Machine, $119On top of smoothing "pink noise" sound that help infants relax, the Baby Dream Machine is also a cool-mist humidifier as well as an aromatherapy machine. It even provides red light and night light therapy with an adorable bear design that will great in the nursery. The gift of getting some shut-eyeHalo/Business InsiderHalo Sleepsack Swaddle Wrap, available at Buy Buy Baby, $24.99Swaddling helps a baby feel more relaxed, and a more relaxed baby is a better sleeper. This transitioning swaddle features a unique design that allows a baby to be wrapped with their arms in or out, which is important for safety once they start rolling.An adjustable, washable pillow to ensure a good night's restLauren Savoie/Business InsiderCoop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow, available at Amazon, $63.99Few things help exhausted parents fall asleep faster than a comfortable pillow. This customizable pillow is hypoallergenic and works well for all sleeping positions.Fun PJs' for any occasionHanna AnderssonEarth Day Baby Zip Sleeper, available at Hanna Andersson, $16.99Whether they're cozying up to watch a parents' favorite show or settling in for a special holiday, matching family pajama sets are a fun way for families to share an experience. Hanna Andersson makes a comfy set of pajamas featuring everything from holiday prints to dinosaurs to popular characters.A time-saving food hack parents can feel good aboutCerebelly/Business InsiderCerebelly Pouches, available at Cerebelly, $4.24 eachWith organic vegetable-based recipes that babies will love, these handy little pouches are perfect in a meal-time pinch. They're self-stable, so they'll last long enough to be around when you need them. Created by a neurosurgeon, this go-anywhere babyfood is also loaded with nutrients that help with brain development.  A smart home device to act as an assistantLisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderEcho Dot 4th generation, available at Target, $29.99A smart speaker is the perfect nursery assistant. It can play gentle music to help lull babies to sleep or set timers for feeding times. They're also compatible with a long list of smart home devices, which makes it easy to turn off light or set the thermostat while parents are busy changing diapers.An Instant Pot for easy mealsInstant PotInstant Pot Duo 60, available at Amazon, $89Our favorite Instant Pot includes a number features and functions, from pressure cooking to sautéing. Parents can make delicious one-pot meals for themselves and the baby with just a few easy steps and a lot less cleanup.Something to soothe and protect baby's delicate skinDove/Business InsiderBaby Dove Derma Care Body Wash, available at Walmart, $8.86Baby Dove Eczema Care Cream, available at Rite Aid, $8.69Newborns have delicate skin that requires gentle, soothing products to keep them clean and their outer layer soft and hydrated. Developed alongside pediatric dermatologists, Dove's wash and cream are free of dyes, parabens, phthalates, steroids, and fragrances.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 15th, 2021