Inflation Up, Balloons Down, More War

Well, at least we are starting to get some clarity. America is not being attacked by aliens and probably not by the Red Chinese, either. However, it is definitely being bombarded by inflation, war fever and, apparently, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB).

Let us unpack.

Last week’s media frenzy about intruders in the skies has gone stone cold silent on the likes of CNN and in The New York Times. Maybe that’s because Sleepy Joe himself has now assured us that the last three intruders shot down with half-million dollar Sidewinder missiles were not sent by the Chicoms, after all.

"The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research,"

Then for good measure, the White House’s always risible press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, assured that they weren’t the spawn of extraterrestrial aliens, either.

"I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no – again, NO – indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns."

Whew! Good to know.

Still, we now learn that there is even more good news. According to a report from Aviation Week, at least one of the objects may have been a hobby balloon reported missing by a club in Illinois that launches small balloons with tracking devices that are capable of traveling the globe at high altitudes.

The club, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade (NIBBB), said its $12 balloon with attached ham radio was last picked up via radio signal on Feb. 10 at 38,910 feet off the west coast of Alaska, and that it was projected to float over central Yukon territory the following day on February 11.

By your way, that was the same day a US F-22 shot down an object in the same area, which surely makes it the most expensive takeout in military history.

Alas, this felled balloon has disappeared into the white stuff below – so we don’t yet have the official proof from the intrepid defenders of America’s airspace that it wasn’t a menacing Red Balloon. But the NIBBB assures that it did launch what is known as a "pico balloon" that traversed the above described territories on the indicated days and times.

In any event, a "pico balloon" is a small silver-coated party-style balloon that carries a transmitter. Coincidentally, a Pentagon memo described the object that was shot down over Canada as a "small, metallic balloon with a tethered payload below it."

So, as Edward Snowden tweeted,

…… please tell me the white house did not spend the month of February scrambling jets to fire $400,000 missiles at the local hobby club’s TWELVE DOLLAR BALLOON…….. lord have mercy.

Yes, the tiny little green thing in the gentleman’s hand above is the dangerous "payload" Joe Biden ordered to be obliterated. For want of doubt, here is a close-up of said payload.

Source: qrp-labs

There remains, of course, the original balloon spotted over Montana by naked eyes that triggered the whole frenzy. But for our money, we seriously doubt that it was a hostile Chinese surveillance balloon.

After all, the Chicoms have launched upwards of 100 surveillance satellites loaded with state of the art snooping technology, which told them long ago all they need to know about America’s Minuteman missile sites. And, of course, that’s nothing compared to Washington’s 350 odd snooping satellites (including private sector draftees), which track anything and everything–civilian and military – which is launched into the skies over the Middle Kingdom.

Indeed, the Red Balloon gambit is so ludicrous as to remind the newbies to the Deep State’s relentless propaganda that it was nearly 63 years ago that Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union and captured alive. That dominated the headlines of the day, too, in part because it was revealed that his U-2 spy plane was carrying photographic equipment which could capture images as small as three-feet wide at ground level.

For crying out loud, that was six decades ago!

In the interim, the surveillance business has graduated from high altitude aircraft to far, far higher altitude satellites, equipped with high tech surveillance equipment that even Gary Powers would have thought to be pure science fiction. Based on such capabilities, China already knew all there was to know about the Montana/South Dakota Minuteman sites.

That is, the extra-secret stuff they couldn’t have gotten from public sources!

As to how the Chinese balloon crossed over the Aleutians into Alaska and then headed south into Montana, it was probably not owing to a Chinese Air Force pilot sitting behind a real time computer screen, joystick in hand.

And don’t take our word for it. The smoking gun explanation below likely comes straight from the CIA via its wholly owned patsy otherwise known as the Washington Post:

By the time a Chinese spy balloon crossed into American airspace late last month, U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been tracking it for nearly a week, watching as it lifted off from its home base on Hainan Island near China’s south coast.

US monitors watched as the balloon settled into a flight path that would appear to have taken it over the US territory of Guam. But somewhere along that easterly route, the craft took an unexpected northern turn, according to several US officials, who said that analysts are now examining the possibility that China didn’t intend to penetrate the American heartland with its airborne surveillance device.

Around Jan. 24, when the balloon would have been roughly about 1,000 miles south of Japan, model simulations show it began to gain speed and rapidly veer north. This would have been in response to a strong cold front that had unleashed exceptionally frigid air over northern China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Ordinarily, atmospheric steering motions would have kept the balloon on much more of a west to east course, historical weather data shows. However, the intense cold front forced the jet stream and high altitude steering currents to dip south and may have scooped the balloon northward.

The balloon floated over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands thousands of miles away from Guam, then drifted over Canada, where it encountered strong winds that appear to have pushed the balloon south into the continental United States, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive intelligence. A US fighter jet shot the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, a week after it crossed over Alaska.

This new account suggests that the ensuing international crisis that has ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing may have been at least partly the result of a mistake.

You don’t say!

But just consider the implications. Washington is so rife with war fever that apparently all it took was two cold fronts, one over north China and one over west Canada, to turn this wandering Big Red Balloon into a menacing attack on the the very sovereignty of the homeland.

As the always astute Moon of Alabama observed, the balloon hysteria was never credible in the first place:

This also dismisses the laughable Pentagon claims that the balloon had propellers and a rudder and was thereby steerable. There is nothing that solar driven propellers can do when a huge object like a 200 feet high balloon is drifting in 200 mph jetstream winds. The whole idea was obviously bonkers. The only way to somewhat steer a balloon is by raising or lowering its altitude until one finds an air current that blows it in the wished for direction. While this will work at an altitude of a few hundred feet there is no real chance to do that in the upper atmosphere.

If the Chinese balloon attack was more or less "fake," this same news cycle encompassed another attack on sovereign territory that was most definitely real. We are referring to Seymour Hersh’s bombshell revelations last week that Washington was indeed the culprit which blew up the Nord Stream pipelines.

As Jim Kunstler summarized,

If you think the reasons behind the First World War were incomprehensible, imagine what historians of the future – pan-frying peccary loins over their camp fires – will think about World War Three. Some people started something in Ukraine… and then the USA blew up the main energy supply line of its NATO ally, Germany… say, what…?!?

Weird, a little bit.  A sane person in a sane world would call sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines an act-of-war against a friendly nation, since the result was to virtually destroy the basis of Germany’s industry, not to mention the domestic comfort of German citizens. Now, thanks to 85-year-old Seymour Hersh, the independent investigator who uncovered the My Lai Massacre in 1969 and reported on the depraved antics of American jailers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004, we have a pretty good idea how the Nord Stream caper went down.

For a year before the op, "Joe Biden" and Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland – architect of the 2014 Maidan Coup in Ukraine, which kicked-off the present fiasco there –  blabbed about "ending" the Nord Streams. Curiously, the Germans said nothing. Meanwhile, the US made a deal to beef up military bases in Norway, an original NATO signatory (1949), for staging the Nord Stream sabotage op. Of course, Norway, being Western Europe’s sole remaining oil-and-gas exporter, had an interest in eliminating its competition.

In June of 2022, under cover of an annual NATO naval exercise in the Baltic Sea, US Navy divers attached mines to the Nord Stream pipelines. The mines had triggers that could be activated remotely at any chosen time, and that moment came on September 26… kaboom! 

Ms. Nuland and Secretary of State Antony Blinken gloated publicly. Naturally, the US blamed Russia. America’s news media – catamite of the Intel Community – amplified the charge, despite the absurdity of Russia blowing up its most lucrative source of export revenue. The New York Times has so far made no mention of Mr. Hersh’s recent update of the Nord Stream sabotage.

Germany, too, has hardly made a peep, nor did the rest of Western Europe, which now faces a future that looks, energy-wise, like a fairly swift return to the Fourteenth Century. Maybe they’re all jaded with modern life, all that tiresome bathing and malingering in the brightly-lit cafes. Under the sagacious guidance of the WEF they were all going "green," anyway – but was that green like the heart-shaped leaves of the linden tree or green like the moldy veins in Roquefort cheese? I guess they’ll find out.

Finally, let’s not neglect the final attack of the week. We are referring, of course, to another burst of inflationary pressure that has KO’d the Wall Street delusion that the inflation battle has been won and done, and that the Fed will soon be turning on the printing presses for another round of bubilicious fun.

The 6.3% Y/Y gain in the January CPI reported earlier this week was well hotter than expected, but what really cast the die was new upstream indications that inflation is not rolling-over rapidly as had been predicted by the permabulls and Biden minions alike.

For instance, wholesale prices are plateauing at a high level, with the January PPI coming in at +8.7% on as Y/Y basis. However, the fact is that if producer prices are not coming down rapidly, there is virtually no chance that downstream retail prices will plunge in the months immediately ahead, either.

Moreover, owning to "base effect," which are evident in the chart below, the actual plateauing is even more pronounced when the impact of the temporary 2020 plunges are removed via the two-year stacked analysis. Since early 2022, the has been virtually no weakening of the double digit rate of PPI gain:

Annualized Change In Producer Prices for Finished Goods, Two-Year Stacked Basis:

  • February 2022: +8.2%;
  • March 2022: +10.3%;
  • April 2022: +12.4%;
  • May 2022: +12.2%;
  • June 2022: +13.4%;
  • July 2022: +12.2%;
  • August 2022: +11.6%;
  • September 2022: +11.7%;
  • October 2022: +11.9%;
  • November 2022: +12.1%;
  • December 2022:+10.9%;
  • January 2023: +11.0%

Y/Y Change In PPI Index For Finished Goods, 2020-2023

The plateauing of upstream inflationary pressure is even more pronounced in the case of the PPI for services. After the Y/Y rate peaked during mid-2022 (purple line), the monthly rate of annualized gain (brown line) has stabilized at about 5%, causing the Y/Y index rise to flatten out as well.

In short, the inflationary attack on the US economy is far from over, and the Fed’s reluctant return to interest rates that exceed the running inflation rate still has a goodly ways to go.

Producer Price Index For Services: Y/Y Change Versus Monthly Annualized Rate Of Change, February 2020 to January 2023

In this context, today’s report on used car prices, which have pulled down the headline CPI since mid-2022, shows that they too have re-accelerated for the second month in a row.

Cox Automotive reported that its Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which tracks the auction prices of wholesale used cars, increased again, this time by 4.1% from January in the first 15 days of February.

According to Cox, "this was the largest February increase since 2009’s full-month 4.4% gain.

As it happens, the Manheim prices have a two-month lead on the CPI Used Cars and Trucks index. While the January CPI report showed a slight decline in used vehicles, the above real time data means that the next 2-3 months will see a sizable bounce in this CPI category due to the lag.

Indeed, the historical correlation leaves little room for doubt: The high-frequency, real-time Manheim index reveals that future CPI prints for the Used Cars and Trucks component will likely turn sharply higher in the months just ahead.

The net of all of this is not hard to fathom. Do our esteemed leaders on either end of the Acela Corridor have any clue about what is actually happening in the world?

Perhaps they actually do, but they are self-evidently not telling the American public.

David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back, and the recently released Great Money Bubble: Protect Yourself From The Coming Inflation Storm. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.