The U.S. is threatening Iran with a fresh volley of economic sanctions (even though the country is already sanctioned up the wazoo).
The Trump administration warned of more sanctions this morning if Iran refuses to come to the negotiation table. But economic experts aren’t sure what they could even sanction at this point.
More than 80% of Iran’s economy is already under sanctions, including oil, banks, and steel. (Hmmm, could we sanction dancing and turn Iran into a Footloose state?)
“The Trump administration has already hit most of Iran’s cash-earning exports and pushed the country into a deep recession this year,” Peter Harrell, a fellow at a Washington think tank told Bloomberg. “A lot of exports to Iran have dried up because of risk aversion and all the banking sanctions.”
Sanctions, What Are They Good For?
Late Thursday night, President Trump launched an airstrike on three locations in Iran, only to recall the planes at the last moment.
The proposed sanctions are being pitched by the administration as a non-violent alternative to an all-out war.
But at a press conference in Jerusalem yesterday, White House Security Adviser and angry mustache John Bolton told reporters not to mistake “U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness.” (U.S. Prudence was the least fun American Girl Doll.)
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said they are already totally miserable and new sanctions aren’t going to change their mind about coming to the table. (I believe this is known in geopolitical circles as “grounded teenager logic.”)
“Are there any other sanctions left for the U.S. to impose on Iran?” said a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry. “[The Trump administration] knows full well that if pressure and sanctions were the answer, they would have yielded results much earlier.”
In an interview with NBC News, the president said he was willing to enter into negotiations with Iran but would continue to place sanctions on the Islamic Republic until it decided it wanted to negotiate.
“Look, you can’t have nuclear weapons,” said Donald, referring to Iran, not the journalist who was interviewing him. “And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.”
Bitcoin Surges Past $11K
Bitcoin surged over the weekend, trading above $11K for the first time in 15 months. (Warning: We are now officially entering the Crypto Investor I-Told-You-So-Zone.)
Everyone’s favourite investment to pretend they understand was trading as high as $11,251 over the weekend. Bitcoin since pared off some of those gains to settle back down to $10,919.
This represents a gain of 191% since the start of the year, outperforming stocks, commodities, all major assets (and my uncle who said he only need a place to stay for a few days and hasn’t moved from my couch since.)
“The bounce back of bitcoin has been fairly extraordinary, having been at $3,200 not even six months ago,” George McDonaugh, CEO of cryptocurrency investment firm KR1, told The Independent.
“Those that thought bitcoin was a passing fad will raise an eyebrow as it passes $10,000…
“Money didn’t leave the asset behind, it just sat on the sidelines waiting to get back in.”
Of course, we’ve seen bitcoin move like this before: back in 2017 when it shot up to $20k in a matter of weeks before burning out and crashing spectacularly in a blaze of glory. (And millions of investors “holding out for a Lambo” cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.)
Analysts argue that this time, however, the crypto market of 2019 is more mature (it’s got a job and it’s washing its own socks and everything.) And companies like Facebook, Paypal, Mastercard, and Visa are laying the groundwork to take crypto mainstream.
This will be a major win for bitcoin, whose biggest struggle has been to reach regular folks (like Derek in H.R., who bought a box of “bit coins” on Amazon).
Futurist George Gilder says that when it comes to bitcoin, most folks can’t see the forest for the trees.
Bitcoin may well continue to rally. And may well make lots of folks rich in the process. But what’s really important, and I mean truly world-changing, is the technology Bitcoin is based on, the blockchain.
Take, for example, one of the biggest problems the U.S. faces right now: Cyber security.
There were a billion breaches of private data on the internet last year. Government sanctioned hacks from China and Russia are out of control. And they may have already infiltrated everything from the national grid to your home laptop.
George Gilder, the man who predicted the iPhone 13 years before it happened, says blockchain is the answer:
”Part of the problem is that internet security is centralised. By centralizing your security, you actually help hackers and spies. Because it tells them 1) what’s important and 2) where it can be found,” says George.
“Blockchain offers a new security architecture for the internet.
“It provides an immutable record of all transactions and information transmissions that have occurred — and distributes a compressed version of all the data to everyone in the network.
“By using a distributed model instead of centralised, we won’t have all information in one place — where it’s an easy target for hackers. Instead, you’d have to attack all the records across the whole internet before you can change anything or steal anything.
George says that blockchain will form the backbone of a new more secure internet (and there will be lots of opportunities to profit along the way).
Kushner Unveils “Plan” for Peace in the Middle East
Mission Accomplished, folks!
Jared Kushner, dashing real estate developer and son-in-law to the president, has made peace in the Middle East.
Nah, I’m kidding.
The ding dong just repackaged some old ideas in a glossy brochure and called it “the most ambitious international effort for the Palestinian people to date.”
Kushner’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan proposes a $50 billion investment into Palestine and its neighbours Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.
More than half of the investment is earmarked for Palestinians in the occupied territories to build hotels and revitalise the local economy.
Which seems rather generous at first. Except there isn’t a single mention in the plan of the actual political problem Kushner was tasked with solving.
The shiny brochure is packed with lots of fun buzzwords and pictures of smiling Palestinians having just the best time. But nowhere is the State of Palestine and its conflict with Israel mentioned in the snazzy-looking leaflet.
Kushner’s graphic-design department does most of the heavy lifting in this plan for peace in the Middle East.
The leaders of the Arab world have criticised the plan, which they say asks Palestinians to sell out their freedom for economic incentives. (Which, if they were going to do, they would have done years ago.)
“Homelands cannot be sold, even for all the money in the world,” Egyptian analyst Gamal Fahmy said in a Reuters report. “This plan is the brainchild of real estate brokers, not politicians. Even Arab states that are described as moderate are not able to openly express support for it.”
Michael Cera’s stunt double was hoping to discuss the plan with Palestinian leaders at a conference on the Palestinian economy in Bahrain.
The Palestinian Authority, however, said they weren’t consulted on Kushner’s plan, which recycles proposals from past administrations, and would not be attending the conference. (Neither will Israel. So Jared will be negotiating peace in the Middle East all by himself).
White House Planning Ban on Chinese 5G in U.S.
The White House is reportedly considering an executive order that would require all 5G equipment used in the U.S. to be made outside of China.
It’s early days yet. But we’ve seen several reports stating that U.S. officials are going door-to-door asking telecom equipment manufactures if they can make the required hardware without China. (“Excuse me, sir. Have you a moment to discuss communist spying?”)
This is part of an ongoing campaign by the Trump administration to tackle Chinese cyber spies.
The worry is that any hardware or software developed in China could have a backdoor inserted into it that would give the Chinese government access to our private data. (And Fruit Ninja scores.)
Currently, there is no major manufacturer of cell equipment inside the U.S. But the proposal would force European phone makers Nokia and Ericsson to move their operations out of China if they wanted to continue to sell their products in the U.S.
Unlike the trade war which could be resolved a-a-a-a-a-any day now (entire country looks at watch and taps foot), these proposals could permanently alter the technology landscape forever.
America’s #1 technology prophet, George Gilder, says we are heading towards a new era of the internet.