Many know the name Kaspersky well. Others may only dimly recognize the brand name. Its anti-virus and Internet security software has been around for years in computer stores and OEM’d with computer systems. More than a year ago, I became concerned about what I was learning about Kaspersky Lab and its headquarters in Moscow, I began asking myself hypothetical rhetorical questions. What if Kaspersky was quietly working with the Russian FSB? What if Kaspersky had installed a sleeping Trojan Horse in millions of copies of its consumer computer security software? I was a user of Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity software myself. I knew that it was rated very highly by the tech journals. I liked its elegance and simplicity compared with other competitor products from U.S. based companies like Symantec and McAffee. Nevertheless, as the Russian hacking of the 2016 election became an ever-larger issue, I decided to pull the plug on Kaspersky because of my fears, though there was no direct evidence of collusion between Kaspersky and the Kremlin at that time, wiped my system clean, and installed another competitor product.
Wall Street is currently basking in a vigorous “Trump rally,” with the Dow rising more than 1000 points since the election. The rally is driven by analysts who are salivating over the future prospect of sweeping deregulation of many markets. But there is also chorus of concern from dozens of financial experts, that the global financial markets are “whistling in the graveyard,” acting in a classicly irrational manner. Experts cite a host of issues both financial and geopolitical, among them Trump’s intention to exit TPP, NAFTA, and the COP21 Climate Agreement. Combined with rising geopolitical tensions with China, North Korea, and Iran, a perfect storm of global uncertainty and instability is forming.
Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has evolved into a genuine and unprecedented national crisis. The Electoral College meets December 19th. Over the years, the Electoral College has deteriorated into a quant rubber-stamp of each state’s elector outcome. Some states have even passed laws that prohibit electors from changing their votes. However, this is patently un-Constitutional and not the intent of The Founders. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers that the intent was for the Electoral College to be a check on exactly the situation we are facing. Meanwhile, a group of electors has demanded that the CIA share its evidence with the Electoral College.
Lost today in the extraordinary news frenzy surrounding the release of a video tape of Donald Trump making unprecedented lewd and obscene comments about women, was Barak Obama’s announcement that the United States officially and publicly accuses Russia of espionage in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, and stealing documents, now in the possession of Wikileaks. Some may recall Julian Assange’s video interview with Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher about a month ago on this topic. It seems clear from the Bill Maher interview that Assange is on a jihad against the DNC because Clinton wanted to prosecute him. Assange has no altruistic motives — it is personal. We have a foreigner trying to influence U.S elections using documents stolen by Russia.
I am sharing this because of its particular relevance to the ongoing revelations about connections between global tax evasion shell companies and real estate markets: London, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Vancouver.
Global Financial Contagion, is a well-understood phenomenon among economists, but less so among the general public. Financial contagion refers to “the spread of market disturbances — mostly on the downside — from one country to the other, a process observed through co-movements in exchange rates, stock prices, sovereign spreads, and capital flows.” Financial contagion can be a potential risk for countries who are trying to integrate their financial system with international financial markets and institutions. It helps explain an economic crisis extending across neighboring countries, regions, or in the worst case, the entire global economy.
Underscoring Goldman Sachs forecast last week of oil prices at or below $50 per bbl until at least 2020, Bloomberg News is today reporting that Iraq is preparing to unleash a flood of new oil within the next few months. This is very bad news for the price of Western Canadian Select bitumen, and Alberta oil sands producers. Saudi Arabia’s strategy, together with OPEC, to squeeze high-cost oil producers of oil sands and shale seems to be working. More pessimistic forecasts of WCS at $25 for an extended period now appear more plausible.
We are all now hearing and reading about Edward Snowden, who is now at the center of a global political firestorm, caused by Snowden’s decision to reveal the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, and its increasing encroachment of personal privacy. Snowden’s revelations have now also entangled the UK’s GCHQ, the secret intelligence gathering arm of MI6 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire which has also been sharing similar snooping with the NSA. A former U.S. National Security Administration contractor, Snowden was actually employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, a global management consultancy firm. Snowden’s situation should give us all pause to consider the Brave New World we have entered with zettabytes (1 Million Terabytes) of Big Data, and the uses of it.