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[Markets] "I Could Live With That": How The CIA Made Afghanistan Safe For The Opium Trade "I Could Live With That": How The CIA Made Afghanistan Safe For The Opium Trade Tyler Durden Fri, 07/10/2020 - 23:45

Authored by Jeffrey St.Clair via Counterpunch.org,

“I decided I could live with that.”

– Stansfield Turner, Jimmy Carter’s CIA director, on the extreme level of civilian casualties in the CIA’s covert war in Afghanistan.

The first indelible image of the war in Afghanistan for many Americans was probably that of CBS anchorman Dan Rather, wrapped in the voluminous drapery of a mujahedin fighter, looking like a healthy relative of Lawrence of Arabia (albeit with hair that seemed freshly blow-dried, as some viewers were quick to point out). From his secret mountainside “somewhere in the Hindu Kush,” Rather unloaded on his audience a barrowload of nonsense about the conflict. The Soviets, Rather confided portentously, had put a bounty on his head “of many thousands of dollars.” He went on, “It was the best compliment they could have given me. And having a price put on my head was a small price to pay for the truths we told about Afghanistan.”

Every one of these observations turned out to be entirely false. Rather described the government of Hafizullah Amin as a “Moscow-installed puppet regime in Kabul.” But Amin had closer ties to the CIA than he did to the KGB. Rather called the mujahedin the “Afghan freedom fighters … who were engaged in a deeply patriotic fight to the death for home and hearth.” The mujahedin were scarcely fighting for freedom, in any sense Rather would have been comfortable with, but instead to impose one of the most repressive brands of Islamic fundamentalism known to the world, barbarous, ignorant and notably cruel to women.

It was a “fact,” Rather announced, that the Soviets had used chemical weapons against Afghan villagers. This was a claim promoted by the Reagan administration, which charged that the extraordinarily precise number of 3,042 Afghans had been killed by this yellow chemical rain, a substance that had won glorious propaganda victories in its manifestation in Laos a few years earlier, when the yellow rain turned out to be bee feces heavily loaded with pollen. As Frank Brodhead put it in the London Guardian, “Its composition: one part bee feces, plus many parts State Department disinformation mixed with media gullibility.”

Rather claimed that the mujahedin were severely underequipped, doing their best with Kalashnikov rifles taken from dead Soviet soldiers. In fact the mujahedin were extremely well-equipped, being the recipients of CIA-furnished weapons in the most ” “expensive covert war the Agency had ever mounted. They did carry Soviet weapons, but they came courtesy of the CIA. Rather also showed news footage that he claimed was of Soviet bombers strafing defenseless Afghan villages. This footage was staged, with the “Soviet bomber” actually a Pakistani air force plane on a training mission over northwest Pakistan.

CBS claimed to have discovered in Soviet-bombed areas stuffed animals filled with Soviet explosives, designed to blow Afghan children to bits. These booby-trapped toys had in fact been manufactured by the mujahedin for the exclusive purpose of gulling CBS News, as an entertaining article in the New York Post later made clear.

Rather made his heroically filmed way to Yunas Khalis, described as the leader of the Afghan warriors. In tones of awe he normally reserves for hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, Rather recalls in his book, The Camera Never Blinks Twice, “Belief in ‘right’ makes ‘might’ may have been fading in other parts of the world. In Afghanistan it was alive and well, and beating the Soviets.” Khalis was a ruthless butcher, with his troops fondly boasting of their slaughter of 700 prisoners of war. He spent most[…] makes ‘might’ may have been fading in other parts of the world. In Afghanistan it was alive and well, and beating the Soviets.” Khalis was a ruthless butcher, with his troops fondly boasting of their slaughter of 700 prisoners of war. He spent most of his time fighting, but the wars were not primarily with the Soviets. Instead, Khalis battled other Afghan rebel groups, the object of the conflicts being control of poppy fields and the roads and trails from them to his seven heroin labs near his headquarters in the town of Ribat al Ali. Sixty percent of Afghanistan’s opium crop was cultivated in the Helmand Valley, with an irrigation infrastructure underwritten by USAID.

In his dispatches from the front Rather did mention the local opium trade, but in a remarkably disingenuous fashion. “Afghans,” he said, “had turned Darra into a boom town, selling their home-grown opium for the best available weapons, then going back into Afghanistan to fight.”

Now Darra is a town in northwest Pakistan where the CIA had set up a factory to manufacture Soviet-style weapons that it was giving away to all Afghan comers. The weapons factory was run under contract to Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Much of the opium trucked into Darra from Afghanistan by the mujahedin was sold to the Pakistani governor of the northwest territory, Lieutenant General Fazle Huq. From this opium the heroin was refined in labs in Darra, placed on Pakistani army trucks and transported to Karachi, then shipped to Europe and the United States.

Rather belittled the Carter administration’s reaction to the Soviet-backed coup in 1979, charging that Carter’s response had been tepid and slow in coming. In fact, President Carter had reacted with a range of moves that should have been the envy of the Reagan hawks who, a couple of years later, were belaboring him for being a Cold War wimp. Not only did Carter withdraw the United States from the 1980 Olympics, he slashed grain sales to the Soviet Union, to the great distress of Midwestern farmers; put the SALT II treaty hold; pledged to increase the US defense budget by 5 percent a year until the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan; and unveiled the Carter doctrine of containment in southern Asia, which CIA historian John Ranelagh says led Carter to approve “more secret CIA operations than Reagan later did.”

Carter later confessed in his memoirs that he was more shaken by the invasion of Afghanistan than any other event of his presidency, including the Iranian revolution. Carter was convinced by the CIA that it could be the start of a push by the Soviets toward the Persian Gulf, a scenario that led the president to seriously consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

Three weeks after Soviet tanks rolled into Kabul, Carter’s secretary of defense, Harold Brown, was in Beijing, arranging for a weapons transfer from the Chinese to the CIA-backed Afghani troops mustered in Pakistan. The Chinese, who were generously compensated for the deal, agreed and even consented to send military advisers. Brown worked out a similar arrangement with Egypt to buy $15 million worth of weapons. “The US contacted me,” Anwar Sadat recalled shortly before his assassination. “They told me, ‘Please open your stores for us so that we can give the Afghans the armaments they need to fight.’ And I gave them the armaments. The transport of arms to the Afghans started from Cairo on US planes.”

But few in the Carter administration believed the rebels had any chance of toppling the Soviets. Under most scenarios, the war seemed destined to be a slaughter, with civilians and the rebels paying a heavy price. The objective of the Carter doctrine was more cynical. It was to bleed the Soviets, hoping to entrap them in a Vietnam-style quagmire. The high level of civilian casualties didn’t faze the architects of covert American intervention. “I decided I could live with that,” recalled Carter’s CIA director Stansfield Turner.

Prior to the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan barely registered as a topic of interest for the national press, surfacing in only a handful of annual newspaper stories. In December 1973, when détente was near its zenith, the Wall Street Journal ran a rare front-page story on the country, titled “Do the Russians Covet Afghanistan? If so, It’s Hard to Figure Why.” Reporter Peter Kann, later to become the Journal’s chairman and publisher, wrote that “great power strategists tend to think of Afghanistan as a kind of fulcrum upon which the world balance of power tips. But from close up, Afghanistan tends to look less like a fulcrum or a domino or a steppingstone than like a vast expanse of desert waste with a few fly-ridden bazaars, a fair number of feuding tribes and a lot of miserably poor people.”

After the Soviet Union invaded, this wasteland swiftly acquired the status of a precious geopolitical prize. A Journal editorial following the Soviet takeover said Afghanistan was “more serious than a mere stepping-stone” and, in response, called for stationing of US troops in the Middle East, increased military outlays, expanded covert operations and reinstatement of draft registration. Drew Middleton, then a New York Times Defense Department correspondent, filed a tremulous post-invasion analysis in January 1980: “The conventional wisdom in the Pentagon,” he wrote, “is that in purely military terms, the Russians are in a far better position vis-à-vis the United States than Hitler was against Britain and France in 1939.”

The Pentagon and CIA agitprop machine went into high gear: on January 3, 1980, George Wilson of the Washington Post reported that military leaders hoped the invasion would “help cure the Vietnam “never again’ hangover of the American public.” Newsweek said the “Soviet thrust” represented “a severe threat” to US interests: “Control of Afghanistan would put the Russians within 350 miles of the Arabian Sea, the oil lifeline of the West and Japan. Soviet warplanes based in Afghanistan could cut the lifeline at will.” The New York Times endorsed Carter’s call for increased military spending and supported the Cruise and Trident missile programs, “faster research on the MX or some other mobile land missile,” and the creation of a rapid deployment force for Third World intervention, calling the latter an “investment in diplomacy.”

In sum, Afghanistan proved to be a glorious campaign for both the CIA and Defense Department, a dazzling offensive in which waves of credulous and compliant journalists were dispatched to promulgate the ludicrous proposition that the United States was under military threat. By the time Reagan assumed office, he and his CIA director William Casey saw support for their own stepped-up Afghan plan from an unlikely source, the Democrat-controlled Congress, which was pushing to double spending on the war. “It was a windfall [for the Reagan administration],” a congressional staffer told the Washington Post. “They’d faced so much opposition to covert action in Central America and here comes the Congress helping and throwing money at them, putting money their way and they say, ‘Who are we to say no?’ ”

As the CIA increased its backing of the mujahedin (the CIA budget for Afghanistan finally reached $3.2 billion, the most expensive secret operation in its history) a White House member of the president’s Strategic Council on Drug Abuse, David Musto, informed the administration that the decision to arm the mujahedin would misfire: “I told the Council that we were going into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets. Shouldn’t we try to avoid what we’d done in Laos? Shouldn’t we try to pay the growers if they will eradicate their opium production? There was silence.”

After issuing this warning, Musto and a colleague on the council, Joyce Lowinson, continued to question US policy, but found their queries blocked by the CIA and the State Department. Frustrated, they then turned to the New York Times op-ed page and wrote, on May 22, 1980:

“We worry about the growing of opium in Afghanistan or Pakistan by rebel tribesmen who apparently are the chief adversaries of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Are we erring in befriending these tribes as we did in Laos when Air America (chartered by the Central Intelligence Agency) helped transport crude opium from certain tribal areas?”

But Musto and Lowinson met with silence once again, not only from the administration but from the press. It was heresy to question covert intervention in Afghanistan.

Later in 1980, Hoag Levins, a writer for Philadelphia Magazine, interviewed a man he identified as a “high level” law enforcement official in the Carter administration’s Justice Department and quoted him thus:

You have the administration tiptoeing around this like it’s a land mine. The issue of opium and heroin in Afghanistan is explosive … In the State of the Union speech, the president mentioned drug abuse but he was very careful to avoid mentioning Afghanistan, even though Afghanistan is where things are really happening right now … Why aren’t we taking a more critical look at the arms we are now shipping into gangs of drug runners who are obviously going to use them to increase the efficiency of their drug-smuggling operation?”

The DEA was well aware that the mujahedin rebels were deeply involved in the opium trade. The drug agency’s reports in 1980 showed that Afghan rebel incursions from their Pakistan bases into Soviet-held positions were “determined in part by opium planting and harvest seasons.” The numbers were stark and forbidding. Afghan opium production tripled between 1979 and 1982. There was evidence that by 1981 the Afghan heroin producers had captured 60 percent of the heroin market in Western Europe and the United States (these are UN and DEA figures).

In 1971, during the height of the CIA’s involvement in Laos, there were about 500,000 heroin addicts in the United States. By the mid- to late 1970s this total had fallen to 200,000. But in 1981 with the new flood of Afghan heroin and consequent low prices, the heroin addict population rose to 450,000. In New York City in 1979 alone (the year that the flow of arms to the mujahedin began), heroin-related drug deaths increased by 77 percent. The only publicly acknowledged US casualties on the Afghan battlefields were some Black Muslims who journeyed to the Hindu Kush from the United States to fight on the Prophet’s behalf. But the drug casualties inside the US from the secret CIA war, particularly in the inner cities, numbered in the thousands, plus untold social blight and suffering.

Since the seventeenth century opium poppies have been grown in the so-called Golden Crescent, where the highlands of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran all converge. For nearly four centuries this was an internal market. By the 1950s very little opium was produced in either Afghanistan or Pakistan, with perhaps 2,500 acres in these two countries under cultivation. The fertile growing fields of Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley, by the 1980s under intensive opium poppy cultivation, were covered with vineyards, wheat fields and cotton plantations.

In Iran, the situation was markedly different in the early 1950s. The country, dominated by British and US oil companies and intelligence agencies, was producing 600 tons of opium a year and had 1.3 million opium addicts, second only to China where, at the same moment, the western opium imperialists still held sway. Then, in 1953, Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran’s nationalist equivalent of China’s Sun Yat-sen, won elections and immediately moved to suppress the opium trade. Within a few weeks, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was calling Mossadegh a madman, and Dulles’s brother Allen, head of the CIA, dispatched Kermit Roosevelt to organize a coup against him. In August 1953 Mossadegh was overthrown, the Shah was installed by the CIA, and the oil and opium fields of Iran were once again in friendly hands. Production continued unabated until the assumption of power in 1979 of the Ayatollah Khomeini, at which point Iran had a very serious opium problem in terms of the addiction of its own population. Unlike the mujahedin chieftains, the Ayatollah was a strict constructionist of Islamic law on the matter of intoxicants: addicts and dealers faced the death penalty. Opium production in Iran dropped drastically.

In Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s, the relatively sparse opium trade was controlled by the royal family, headed by King Mohammed Zahir, The large feudal estates all had their opium fields, primarily to feed domestic consumption of the drug. In April 1978 a populist coup overthrew the regime of Mohammed Daoud, who had formed an alliance with the Shah of Iran. The Shah had shoveled money in Daoud’s direction – $2 billion on one report – and the Iranian secret police, the Savak, were imported to train Daoud’s internal security force. The new Afghan government was led by Noor Mohammed Taraki. The Taraki administration moved toward land reform, hence an attack on the opium-growing feudal estates. Taraki went to the UN, where he requested and received loans for crop substitution for the poppy fields.

Taraki also pressed hard against opium production in the border areas held by fundamentalists, since the latter were using opium revenues to finance attacks on the Afghan central government, which they regarded as an unwholesome incarnation of modernity that allowed women to go to school and outlawed arranged marriages and the bride price.

By the spring of 1979 the character of Dan Rather’s heroes, the mujahedin, was also beginning to emerge. The Washington Post reported that the mujahedin liked to “torture their victims by first cutting off their noses, ears and genitals, then removing one slice of skin after another.” Over that year the mujahedin evinced particular animosity toward westerners, killing six West Germans and a Canadian tourist and severely beating a US military attaché. It’s also ironic that in that year the mujahedin were getting money not only from the CIA but from Libya’s Moammar Qaddaffi, who sent $250,000 in their direction.

In the summer of 1979, over six months before the Soviets moved in, the US State Department produced a memorandum making clear how it saw the stakes, no matter how modern-minded Taraki might be, or how feudal the mujahedin: “The United States’ larger interest … would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.” The report continued, “The overthrow of the DRA [Democratic Republic of Afghanistan] would show the rest of the world, particularly the Third World, that the Soviets’ view of the socialist course of history as being inevitable is not accurate.”

Hard pressed by conservative forces in Afghanistan, Taraki appealed to the Soviets for help, which they declined to furnish on the grounds that this was exactly what their mutual enemies were waiting for.

In September 1979 Taraki was killed in a coup organized by Afghan military officers. Hafizullah Amin was installed as president. He had impeccable western credentials, having been to Columbia University in New York and the University of Wisconsin. Amin had served as the president of the Afghan Students Association, which had been funded by the Asia Foundation, a CIA pass-through group, or front. After the coup Amin began meeting regularly with US Embassy officials at a time when the US was arming Islamic rebels in Pakistan. Fearing a fundamentalist, US-backed regime pressing against its own border, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in force on December 27, 1979.

Then began the Carter-initiated CIA buildup that so worried White House drug expert David Musto. In a replication of what happened following the CIA-backed coup in Iran, the feudal estates were soon back in opium production and the crop-substitution program ended.

Because Pakistan had a nuclear program, the US had a foreign aid ban on the country. This was soon lifted it as the waging of a proxy war in Afghanistan became prime policy. In fairly short order, without any discernible slowdown in its nuclear program, Pakistan became the third largest recipient of US aid worldwide, right behind Israel and Egypt. Arms poured into Karachi from the US and were shipped up to Peshawar by the National Logistics Cell, a military unit controlled by Pakistan’s secret police, the ISI. From Peshawar those guns that weren’t simply sold to any and all customers (the Iranians got 16 Stinger missiles, one of which was used against a US helicopter in the Gulf) were divvied out by the ISI to the Afghan factions.

Though the US press, Dan Rather to the fore, portrayed the mujahedin as a unified force of freedom fighters, the fact (unsurprising to anyone with an inkling of Afghan history) was that the mujahedin consisted of at least seven warring factions, all battling for territory and control of the opium trade. The ISI gave the bulk of the arms – at one count 60 percent – to a particularly fanatical fundamentalist and woman-hater Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who made his public debut at the University of Kabul by killing a leftist student. In 1972 Hekmatyar fled to Pakistan, where he became an agent of the ISI. He urged his followers to throw acid in the faces of women not wearing the veil, kidnapped rival leaders, and built up his CIA-furnished arsenal against the day the Soviets would leave and the war for the mastery of Afghanistan would truly break out.

Using his weapons to get control of the opium fields, Hekmatyar and his men would urge the peasants, at gun point, to increase production. They would collect the raw opium and bring it back to Hekmatyar’s six heroin factories in the town of Koh-i-Soltan

One of Hekmatyar’s chief rivals in the mujahedin, Mullah Nassim, controlled the opium poppy fields in the Helmand Valley, producing 260 tons of opium a year. His brother, Mohammed Rasul, defended this agricultural enterprise by stating, “We must grow and sell opium to fight our holy war against the Russian nonbelievers.” Despite this well-calculated pronouncement, they spent almost all their time fighting their fellow-believers, using the weapons sent them by the CIA to try to win the advantage in these internecine struggles. In 1989 Hekmatyar launched an assault against Nassim, attempting to take control of the Helmand Valley. Nassim fought him off, but a few months later Hekmatyar successfully engineered Nassim’s assassination when he was holding the post of deputy defense minister in the provisional post-Soviet Afghan government. Hekmatyar now controlled opium growing in the Helmand Valley.

American DEA agents were fully apprised of the drug running of the mujahedin in concert with Pakistani intelligence and military leaders. In 1983 the DEA’s congressional liaison, David Melocik, told a congressional committee, “You can say the rebels make their money off the sale of opium. There’s no doubt about it. These rebels keep their cause going through the sale of opium.” But talk about “the cause” depending on drug sales was nonsense at that particular moment. The CIA was paying for everything regardless. The opium revenues were ending up in offshore accounts in the Habib Bank, one of Pakistan’s largest, and in the accounts of BCCI, founded by Agha Hasan Abedi, who began his banking career at Habib. The CIA was simultaneously using BCCI for its own secret transactions.

The DEA had evidence of over forty heroin syndicates operating in Pakistan in the mid-1980s during the Afghan war, and there was evidence of more than 200 heroin labs operating in northwest Pakistan. Even though Islamabad houses one of the largest DEA offices in Asia, no action was ever taken by the DEA agents against any of these operations. An Interpol officer told the journalist Lawrence Lifschultz,

It is very strange that the Americans, with the size of their resources, and political power they possess in Pakistan, have failed to break a single case. The explanation cannot be found in a lack of adequate police work. They have had some excellent men working in Pakistan.”

But working in the same offices as those DEA agents were five CIA officers who, so one of the DEA agents later told the Washington Post, ordered them to pull back their operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the duration of the war.

Those DEA agents were well aware of the drug-tainted profile of a firm the CIA was using to funnel cash to the mujahedin, namely Shakarchi Trading Company. This Lebanese-owned company had been the subject of a long-running DEA investigation into money laundering. One of Shakarchi’s chief clients was Yasir Musullulu, who had once been nabbed attempting to deliver an 8.5-ton shipment of Afghan opium to members of the Gambino crime syndicate in New York City. A DEA memo noted that Shakarchi mingled “the currency of heroin, morphine base, and hashish traffickers with that of jewelers buying gold on the black market and Middle Eastern arms traffickers.”

In May 1984 Vice President George Bush journeyed to Pakistan to confer with General Zia al Huq and other ranking members of the Pakistani regime. At the time, Bush was the head of President Reagan’s National Narcotics Border Interdiction System. In this latter function, one of Bush’s first moves was to expand the role of the CIA in drug operations. He gave the Agency primary responsibility in the use of, and control over, drug informants. The operational head of this task force was retired Admiral Daniel J. Murphy.

Murphy pushed for access to intelligence on drug syndicates but complained that the CIA was forever dragging its feet. “I didn’t win,” he said later to the New York Times. “I didn’t get as much effective participation from the CIA as I wanted.” Another member of the task force put it more bluntly, “The CIA could be of value, but you need a change of values and attitude. I don’t know of a single thing they’ve ever given us that was useful.”

Bush certainly knew well that Pakistan had become the source for most of the high-grade heroin entering Western Europe and the United States and that the generals with whom he was consorting were deeply involved in the drug trade. But the vice president, who proclaimed later that “I will never bargain with drug dealers on US or foreign soil,” used his journey to Pakistan to praise the Zia regime for its unflinching support for the War on Drugs. (Amid such rhetorical excursions he did find time, it has to be said, to extract from Zia a contract to buy $40 million worth of gas turbines made by the General Electric Co.)

Predictably, through the 1980s the Reagan and Bush administrations went to great lengths to pin the blame for the upswing in Pakistani heroin production on the Soviet generals in Kabul. “The regime maintains an absolute indifference to any measures to control poppy,” Reagan’s attorney general Edwin Meese declared during a visit to Islamabad in March 1986. “We strongly believe that there is actually encouragement, at least tacitly, over growing opium poppy.”

Meese knew better. His own Justice Department had been tracking the import of drugs from Pakistan since at least 1982 and was well aware that the trade was controlled by Afghan rebels and the Pakistani military. A few months after Meese’s speech in Pakistan, the US Customs Office nabbed a Pakistani man named Abdul Wali as he tried to unload more than a ton of hash and a smaller amount of heroin into the United States at Port Newark, New Jersey. The Justice Department informed the press that Wali headed a 50,000-member organization in northwest Pakistan – but Deputy Attorney General Claudia Flynn refused to reveal the group’s identity. Another federal official told the Associated Press that Wali was a top leader of the mujahedin.

It was also known to US officials that people on intimate terms with President Zia were making fortunes in the opium trade. The word “fortune” here is no exaggeration, since one such Zia associate had $3 billion in his BCCI accounts. In 1983, a year before George Bush’s visit to Pakistan, one of President Zia’s doctors, a Japanese herbalist named Hisayoshi Maruyama was arrested in Amsterdam packing 17.5 kilos of high-grade heroin manufactured in Pakistan out of Afghan opium. At the time of his arrest he was disguised as a boy scout.

Interrogated by DEA agents after his arrest, Maruyama said that he was just a courier for Mirza Iqbal Baig, a man whom Pakistani customs agents described as “the most active dope dealer in the country.” Baig was on close terms with the Zia family and other ranking officials in the government. He had twice been a target of the DEA, whose agents were told not to pursue investigations of him because of his ties to the Zia government. A top Pakistani lawyer, Said Sani Ahmed, told the BBC that this was standard procedure in Pakistan: “We may have evidence against a particular individual, but still our law-enforcing agencies cannot lay hands on such people, because they are forbidden to act by their superiors. The real culprits have enough money and resources. Frankly, they are enjoying some sort of immunity.”

Baig was one of the tycoons of the Pakistani city of Lahore, owning cinemas, shopping centers, factories and a textile mill. He wasn’t indicted on drug charges until 1992, after the fall of the Zia regime, when a US federal court in Brooklyn indicted him for heroin trafficking. The US finally exerted enough pressure on Pakistan to have him arrested in 1993; as of the spring of 1998 he was in prison in Pakistan.

One of Baig’s partners (as described in Newsweek) in his drug business was Haji Ayub Afridi, a close ally of President Zia, who had served in the Pakistani General Assembly. Afridi lives thirty-five miles outside Peshawar in a large compound sealed off by 20-foot-high walls topped with concertina-wire and with defenses including an anti-aircraft battery and a private army of tribesmen. Afridi was said to be in charge of purchasing raw opium from the Afghan drug lords, while Baig looked after logistics and shipping to Europe and the United States. In 1993 Afridi was alleged to have put out a contract on the life of a DEA agent working in Pakistan.

Another case close to the Zia government involved the arrest on drug charges of Hamid Hasnain, the vice president of Pakistan’s largest financial house, the Habib Bank. Hasnain’s arrest became the centerpiece of a scandal known as the “Pakistani League affair.” The drug ring was investigated by a dogged Norwegian investigator named Olyvind Olsen. On December 13, 1983 Norwegian police seized 3.5 kilos of heroin at Oslo airport in the luggage of a Pakistani named Raza Qureishi. In exchange for a reduced sentence Qureishi agreed to name his suppliers to Olsen, the narcotics investigator. Shortly after his interview with Qureishi, Olsen flew to Islamabad to ferret out the other members of the heroin syndicate. For more than a year Olsen pressured Pakistan’s Federal Investigate Agency (FIA) to arrest the three men Qureishi had fingered: Tahir Butt, Munawaar Hussain, and Hasnain. All were associates of Baig and Zia. It wasn’t until Olsen threatened to publicly condemn the FIA’s conduct that the Agency took any action: finally, on October 25, 1985 the FIA arrested the three men. When the Pakistani agents picked up Hasnain they were assailed with a barrage of threats. Hasnain spoke of “dire consequences” and claimed to be “like a son” to President Zia. Inside Hasnain’s suitcase FIA agents discovered records of the ample bank accounts of President Zia plus those of Zia’s wife and daughter.

Immediately after learning of Hasnain’s arrest, Zia’s wife, who was in Egypt at the time, telephoned the head of the FIA. The president’s wife imperiously demanded the release of her family’s “personal banker.” It turned out that Hasnain not only attended to the secret financial affairs of the presidential family, but also of the senior Pakistani generals, who were skimming money off the arms imports from the CIA and making millions from the opium traffic. A few days after his wife’s call, President Zia himself was on the phone to the FIA, demanding that the investigators explain the circumstances surrounding Hasnain’s arrest. Zia soon arranged for Hasnain to be released on bail pending trial. When Qureishi, the courier, took the stand to testify against Hasnain, the banker and his co-defendant hurled death threats against the witness in open court, prompting a protest from the Norwegian investigator, who threatened to withdraw from the proceedings.

Eventually the judge in the case clamped down, revoking Hasnain’s bail and handing him a stiff prison term after his conviction. But Hasnain was just a relatively small fish who went to prison while guilty generals went free.

“He’s been made a scapegoat,” Munir Bhatti told journalist Lawrence Lifschultz.

“The CIA spoiled the case. The evidence was distorted. There was no justification in letting off the actual culprits who include senior personalities in this country. There was evidence in this case identifying such people.”

Such were the men to whom the CIA was paying $3.2 billion a year to run the Afghan war, and no person better epitomizes this relationship than Lieutenant General Fazle Huq, who oversaw military operations in northwest Pakistan for General Zia, including the arming of the mujahedin who were using the region as a staging area for their raids. It was Huq who ensured that his ally Hekmatyar received the bulk of the CIA arms shipments, and it was also Huq who oversaw and protected the operations of the 200 heroin labs within his jurisdiction. Huq had been identified in 1982 by Interpol as a key player in the Afghan-Pakistani opium trade. The Pakistani opposition leaders referred to Huq as Pakistani’s Noriega. He had been protected from drug investigations by Zia and the CIA and later boasted that with these connections he could get away “with blue murder.”

Like other narco-generals in the Zia regime, Huq was also on close terms with Agha Hassan Abedi, the head of the BCCI. Abedi, Huq and Zia would dine together nearly every month, and conferred several times with Reagan’s CIA director William Casey. Huq had a BCCI account worth $3 million. After Zia was assassinated in 1988 by a bomb planted (probably by senior military officers) in his presidential plane, Huq lost some of his official protection, and he was soon arrested for ordering the murder of a Shi’ite cleric.

After Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was deposed, her replacement Ishaq Khan swiftly released Huq from prison. In 1991 Huq was shot to death, probably in revenge for the cleric’s death. The opium general was given a state funeral, where he was eulogized by Ishaq Khan as “a great soldier and competent administrator who played a commendable role in Pakistan’s national progress.”

Benazir Bhutto had swept to power in 1988 amid fierce vows to clean up Pakistan’s drug-sodden corruption, but it wasn’t long “before her own regime became the focus of serious charges. In 1989 the US Drug Enforcement Agency came across information that Benazir’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari, may have been financing large shipments of heroin from Pakistan to Great Britain and the United States. The DEA assigned one of its agents, a man named John Banks, to work undercover in Pakistan. Banks was a former British mercenary who had worked undercover for Scotland Yard in big international drug cases.

While in Pakistan, Banks claims he posed as a member of the Mafia and that he had met with Bhutto and her husband at their home in Sind. Banks further claims that he traveled with Zadari to Islamabad, where he secretly recorded five hours of conversation between Zadari, a Pakistani air force general and a Pakistani banker. The men discussed the logistics of transporting heroin to the US and to Britain: “We talked about how they were going to ship the drugs to America in a metal cutter,” Banks said in 1996. “They told me that the United Kingdom was another area where they had shipped heroin and hashish on a regular basis.” The British Customs Office had also been monitoring Zadari for dope running: “We received intelligence from about three or four sources, about his alleged involvement as a financier,” a retired British customs officer told the Financial Times. “This was all reported to British intelligence.” The customs official says his government failed to act on this report. Similarly, Banks asserts that the CIA halted the DEA’s investigation of Zardari. All this emerged when Bhutto’s government fell for the second time, in 1996, on charges of corruption lodged primarily against Zardari, who is now in prison for his role in the murder of his brother-in-law Murtaza. Zardari also stands accused of embezzling more than $1 billion in government funds.”

In 1991 Nawz Sharif says that while he served as prime minister he was approached by two Pakistani generals – Aslam Beg, chief of staff for the army, and Asad Durrani, head of the ISI – with a plan to fund dozens of covert operations through the sale of heroin. “General Durrani told me, ‘We have a blueprint ready for your approval,’ Sharif explained to Washington Post reporter John Ward Anderson in 1994. “I was totally flabbergasted. Both Beg and Durrani insisted that Pakistan’s name would not be cited at any place because the whole operation would be carried out by trustworthy third parties. Durrani then went on to list a series of covert military operations in desperate need of money.” Sharif said that he rejected the plan, but believes it was put in place when Bhutto resumed power.

The impact of the Afghan war on Pakistan’s addiction rates was even more drastic than the surge in heroin addiction in the US and Europe. Before the CIA program began, there were fewer than 5,000 heroin addicts in Pakistan. By 1996, according to the United Nations, there were more than 1.6 million. The Pakistani representative to the UN Commission on Narcotics, Raoolf Ali Khan, said in 1993 that “there is no branch of government where drug corruption doesn’t pervade.” As an example he pointed to the fact that Pakistan spends only $1.8 million a year on anti-drug efforts, with an allotment of $1,000 to purchase gasoline for its seven trucks.

By 1994 the value of the heroin trade in Pakistan was twice the amount of the government’s budget. A Western diplomat told the Washington Post in that year that “when you get to the stage where narco-traffickers have more money than the government it’s going to take remarkable efforts and remarkable people to turn it around.” The magnitude of commitment required is illustrated by two episodes. In 1991 the largest drug bust in world history occurred on the road from Peshawar to Karachi. Pakistani customs officers seized 3.5 tons of heroin and 44 tons of hashish. Several days later half the hashish and heroin had vanished along with the witnesses. The suspects, four men with ties to Pakistani intelligence, had “mysteriously escaped,” to use the words of a Pakistani customs officer. In 1993 Pakistani border guards seized 8 tons of hashish and 1.7 tons of heroin. When the case was turned over to the Pakistani narcotics control board, the entire staff went on vacation to avoid being involved in the investigation. No one was disciplined or otherwise inconvenienced and the narco-traffickers got off scot free. Even the CIA was eventually forced to admit in a 1994 report to Congress that heroin had become the “life blood of the Pakistani economy and political system.”

In February 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev pulled the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, and asked the US to agree to an embargo on the provision of weapons to any of the Afghan mujahedin factions, who were preparing for another phase of internecine war for control of the country. President Bush refused, thus ensuring a period of continued misery and horror for most Afghans. The war had already turned half the population into refugees, and seen 3 million wounded and more than a million killed. The proclivities of the mujahedin at this point are illustrated by a couple of anecdotes. The Kabul correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review reported in 1989 the mujahedin’s treatment of Soviet prisoners: “One group was killed, skinned and hung up in a butcher’s shop. One captive found himself the center of attraction in a game of buzkashi, that rough-and-tumble form of Afghan polo in which a headless goat is usually the ball. The captive was used instead. Alive. He was literally torn to pieces.” The CIA also had evidence that its freedom fighters had doped up more than 200 Soviet soldiers with heroin and locked them in animal cages where, the Washington Post reported in 1990, they led “lives of indescribable horror.”

In September 1996 the Taliban, fundamentalists nurtured originally in Pakistan as creatures of both the ISI and the CIA, seized power in Kabul, whereupon Mullah Omar, their leader, announced that all laws inconsistent with the Muslim Sharia would be changed. Women would be forced to assume the chador and remain at home, with total segregation of the sexes and women kept out of hospitals, schools and public bathrooms. The CIA continued to support these medieval fanatics who, according to Emma Bonino, the European Union’s commissioner for humanitarian affairs, were committing “gender genocide.”

One law at odds with the Sharia that the Taliban had no apparent interest in changing was the prophet’s injunction against intoxicants. In fact, the Taliban urged its Afghan farmers to increase their production of opium.

One of the Taliban leaders, the “drug czar” Abdul Rashid, noted, “If we try to stop this [opium farming] the people will be against us.”

By the end 1996, according to the UN, Afghan opium production had reached 2,000 metric tons. There were an estimated 200,000 families in Afghanistan working in the opium trade. The Taliban were in control of the 96 percent of all Afghan land in opium cultivation and imposed a tax on opium production and a road toll on trucks carrying the crop.

In 1997 an Afghan opium farmer gave an ironic reply to Jimmy Carter’s brooding on whether to use nuclear weapons as part of a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Amhud Gul told a reporter from the Washington Post, “We are cultivating this [that is, opium] and exporting this as an atom bomb.”

CIA intervention had worked its magic once again. By 1994, Afghanistan, according to the UN drug control program had surpassed Burma as the world’s number one supplier of raw opium.

*  *  *

Note: This story was more than two years in the making. I started reporting it in 1995 for the premier issue of a Portland-based magazine called Serpent’s Tooth: Reporting the Drug War, which was meant to be a cross between Ramparts and Paul Krassner’s The Realist, with plenty of sex ads to pay the bills. In fact, Krassner also wrote a scathingly funny piece for that issue, some ribald tale involving three of his favorite subjects: Bill Clinton, LSD and the virtues of masturbation. Alas, a few weeks before the magazine was ready to go to press, the trust-fund publisher pulled the plug on the entire venture after getting into a brawl with the editorial collective. In my experience, any time there’s an “editorial collective” in charge, the publication is destined for a ventilator, especially when cocaine is involved. So, after spending more than a year working on my big piece on the Afghan war and the opium trade, it was orphaned. Portions of the story later appeared in CounterPunch, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and the Twin Cities weekly, City Pages. And a version of it ended up as a chapter in our book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.

Published:7/10/2020 11:02:50 PM
[Markets] Doug Casey On COVID Brainwashing: "Look, Hysteria Is The Problem; Not The Flu Itself" Doug Casey On COVID Brainwashing: "Look, Hysteria Is The Problem; Not The Flu Itself" Tyler Durden Thu, 07/09/2020 - 20:20

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

Recently, gold bug and investor Doug Casey sat down with Kenneth Ameduri of Crush the Street. Casey jumped right in saying the breakdown of the United States under the boot of tyranny is “actually predictable.”

Casey says Western civilization peaked around World War 1, just after the Federal Reserve took over the monetary supply. Yet at the same time, technology improved. So in some ways, things have gotten better, but in the ways that matter, things have gotten worse. Now, people are easily programmed to believe what the TV tells them to, thanks to technological advancement. Yet, both global warming and COVID are “phony” as far as Casey is concerned.

Casey then discusses more in detail the COVID hoax.  When Ameduri asks about the cases going up, but fatalities going down, Casey says the case numbers are meaningless. He says we should focus on the deaths, which are being “greatly overreported.

In fact, we showed documents from the government back in April that prove they need the death toll to be as high as possible to exact tyranny on people through fear.

“Look, hysteria is the problem; not the flu itself.”

He adds, “this is hysteria comparable to the witch trials of the late 17th century.”

Casey says this whole situation was done as a form of “people control.” The government, who will issue your immunity passport, will decide what you can and cannot do based on whether or not you’ve gotten the mandatory vaccine. He says it’s possible to experience even more tyranny as the vaccine is rolled out. 

“The worst people, not the best people, get into government.” 

It’s all predictable he says.

We’ve all heard the saying: “power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.” That saying has always been true.

The best way to protect yourself is by buying physical gold or silver. Casey is betting on economic and financial chaos more than inflation or deflation.  The whole system is set to absolutely self-destruct.

Casey says that there’s a good chance the Democrats will win the White House in 2020. He says there are two reasons.

One, Democrats are promising a lot more free stuff.

And two, they are much better at stuffing the ballot boxes.

I personally, disagree with Casey on this one. I think the winner will be whoever the New World Order, aka, the International Banking Cartel, chooses to win. Presidents are selected, not elected, especially now when we have no semblance of a government “by the people.”

“Look, it’s gonna end very badly,” Casey says of the government’s management of the economy.

Published:7/9/2020 7:26:40 PM
[Volokh Conspiracy] [Josh Blackman] Today in Supreme Court History: June 29, 1992 6/29/1992: Planned Parenthood v. Casey is decided.   Published:6/29/2020 6:46:28 AM
[Markets] David Stockman On What Could Happen If The Fed Loses Control David Stockman On What Could Happen If The Fed Loses Control Tyler Durden Sat, 06/27/2020 - 10:30

Via InternationalMan.com,

International Man: Recently, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank’s money printing is designed to help average Americans, and not Wall Street.

What’s your take on this?

David Stockman: Yes, and if dogs could whistle, the world would be a chorus!

The truth is, in an economy encumbered with nearly $78 trillion of debt already—including $16.2 trillion on households, $16.8 trillion on business, $23 trillion on governments—the last thing we need is even lower interest rates and even bigger incentives to take on debt and leverage.

In fact, in a debt-saturated system, the Fed’s massive bond purchases never transmit anything outside the canyons of Wall Street. This money-printing madness only drives bond prices higher and cap rates lower—meaning relentless and systematic inflation of financial assets’ prices.

As a practical matter, of course, the bottom 90% don’t own enough stock or even inflated government and corporate bonds to shake a stick at. Instead, what meager savings they have accumulated languish in bank deposits, CDs or money market funds earning exactly what the Fed has decreed—nothing!

So, when Powell says he’s only trying to help the average American, you have to wonder whether he is just stupid or the greatest lying fraud yet to occupy the big chair at the Fed.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter why.

The Fed is now a completely rogue institution that is a clear and present danger to the future of prosperity and liberty in America. The tragedy is that the clueless speculators on Wall Street and politicians in Washington don’t even get the joke.

International Man: So far, the Fed has been able to successfully manipulate interest rates to historic lows.

What are some catalysts that could cause the Fed to lose control and interest rates to spike?

David Stockman: They are chasing their tail, faster and faster. The more they expand their balance sheet, thereby injecting into the bond pits a massive artificial bid for governments, corporates, munis, commercial paper and junk, the lower the yields go, and the demand for more debt becomes greater.

Needless to say, when incomes drastically shrink due to the folly of Lockdown Nation, debt should be liquidated, not massively increased. So, the Fed and its fellow-traveling global central banks are setting up our Humpty-Dumpty economy for a very great fall.

That is to say, what will cause the central banks to lose control is the greatest wave of debt defaults in recorded history. On that score, the Fed just issued its Flow of Funds data for Q1, and it leaves nothing to the imagination. Total public and private debt on the US economy now stands at $77.6 trillion, or 3.5X GDP, and we’ll be lucky to post at $21 trillion for the full year of 2020 GDP.

Recall that we supposedly got a wakeup call back in 2008, when the economy plunged into financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s; way too much debt was widely identified as the fall guy. But back then, total debt outstanding was just $52.6 trillion, meaning that during the last decade of purported recovery, the US economy actually took on $25 trillion of new debt—a 48% increase.

Moreover, big-spending politicians were not the only culprit. That’s because when the central banks drastically falsify interest rates to sub-economic levels, everyone is incentivized to borrow hand-over-fist. And, most often, it’s for unproductive purposes, such as more transfer payments in the government sector and more financial engineering among the C-suites.

On the eve of the Great Recession, for example, total business debt (corporate and non-corporate) stood at $10.1 trillion and has subsequently soared to $16.8 trillion. That $6.7 trillion gain represents fully 98% of the $6.85 trillion increase in nominal GDP during the same period.

This orgy of borrowing also means that business debt over the past 13 years has grown by 66.5%—far more than the 46.7% expansion of nominal GDP. Accordingly, the business debt burden on GDP has now gone off the charts, and at 78% of GDP, is more than double the pre-1970 level:

Business Debt as Percent of GDP:

  • 1955: 31%

  • 1970: 47%

  • 1980: 49%

  • 1995: 55%

  • 2007: 69%

  • 2020: 78%

Stated differently, chronic financial repression and clubbing of interest rates by the central bank have amounted to a slow-motion burial of the business sector in debt; debt that in recent decades has been overwhelmingly allocated to shrinking the equity base of business enterprises, thereby cycling wealth from the productive economy to the rent-capturing precincts of Wall Street.

Indeed, the Fed’s cheap credit never really leaves the canyons of Wall Street, where it fulsomely rewards carry-traders and risk asset speculators because zero cost money is always and everywhere the mother’s milk of leveraged speculation.

It also causes corporate C-suites to become maniacally obsessed with goosing their stock options via financial engineering gambits like stock buybacks, leveraged recaps and wildly over-priced M&A deals as a substitute for organic growth. Yet these maneuvers merely supplant equity and financial resilience with debt and financial fragility.

So when business bankruptcies soar to unprecedented levels in the month ahead as the economy reels from the folly of Lockdown Nation, the financial fragility part will become crystal clear.

But it also needs to be recalled that even as the interest rate clubbers at the Fed fostered a massive explosion of business debt after the 2008 financial crisis, it did not translate into any growth in productive investment at all.

In fact, real business CapEx minus current capital consumption (depreciation and amortization charged to current period production) is today barely a tad higher than it was 20 years ago on the eve of the dotcom bust.

In short, the Fed has fostered a zombie economy, and it is the collapse of the zombies that will eventually take it down.

International Man: The Fed has printed more money in recent months than it has for its entire history. The government is spending as if trillion is the new billion.

What is going on here?

David Stockman: Here’s an eye-opener to put this madness in perspective. Annual federal outlays posted at $3.896 trillion in 2014 and were the product of 225 years of relentless expansion by the Leviathan on the Potomac.

But it now appears quite certain that the annual deficit in FY 2020 will actually be larger than the total spending level that took more than two centuries to achieve.

That’s right. Owing to the mushrooming coast-to-coast soup lines hastily erected by Washington in response to the collapse of jobs, incomes and business cash flows brought on by Lockdown Nation and the evaporation of tax revenues, Uncle Sam will borrow more this year than the total spending just six years ago.

Stated differently, back in the day, we struggled to keep total federal spending during 1981 under $700 billion. By contrast, the Donald has borrowed nearly 4X that in the last 90 days!

So, yes, perhaps Trump’s one truthful boast is that he is indeed the king of debt.

Needless to say, there is nothing remotely rational, plausible or sustainable about an FY 2020 budget that’s going to end up with revenue south of $3 trillion and spending north of $7 trillion.

That’s not even banana republic league profligacy; it’s just sheer stupidity and madness, bespeaking a bipartisan duopoly in Washington that has had its collective brains turned into sawdust by the relentless, egregious money pumping of the central banks.

For want of doubt, just consider what has happened since March 11 on the eve of the Lockdown Nation’s commencement.

  • The public float of federal debt has soared from $17.85 trillion to $20.24 trillion, gaining $2.39 trillion;

  • The Fed’s balance sheet has exploded from $4.31 trillion to $7.17 trillion, gaining $2.86 trillion.

  • The Fed has, therefore, effectively monetized 119% of the gain in the publicly traded Treasury debt.

Of course, you can’t blame the Donald alone for this insanity; he’s been enabled by two of the greatest crackpots to hold high economic policy positions in American history—Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jay Powell.

As it has happened, we have closely observed every combination of Fed chairman and US treasury secretary since 1970, when we headed off for our first job in the Imperial City, eager to better the world and our own prospects, too.

So, we can say without reservation that the current duo is the worst combo of spineless, principle-free empty suits to plague the nation during the last half-century. And it’s not a close call—even against a ship of fools, which include John B. Connally, G. William Miller, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson Jr., Timothy Geithner and Janet Yellen, among considerable others.

After all, if the Treasury Secretary and Fed Chairman are utterly clueless about the grave dangers of the fiscal and monetary bacchanalia now rampant in the imperial city, how in the world will it stop except in some fiery collapse?

*  *  *

Unfortunately there’s little any individual can practically do to change the trajectory of this trend in motion. The best you can and should do is to stay informed so that you can protect yourself in the best way possible. That’s precisely why New York Times bestselling author Doug Casey just released an urgent new report on how to survive and thrive an economic collapse. Click here download the free PDF now.

Published:6/27/2020 9:35:35 AM
[Markets] Canadian Jet Doing COVID 'Flyover Tribute' In Fiery Crash Onto Residence, Killing One Canadian Jet Doing COVID 'Flyover Tribute' In Fiery Crash Onto Residence, Killing One Tyler Durden Mon, 05/18/2020 - 19:05

“We live six or seven miles away from the crash and we heard a really loud boom,” a local eyewitness said of a horrific military plane crash in British Columbia. “You could see the smoke so we decided to walk toward it. The smell was really strong. You could start to smell the burning fuel.”

Over the weekend a Canadian Air Force jet crashed into a residential neighborhood in an area 220 miles northeast of Vancouver just before noon. The jet was part of Canadian Forces Snowbirds, an aerial demonstration team akin to America's 'Blue Angels', and was in the midst of performing a flyover of cities as a tribute frontline coronavirus health workers and other virus responders.

The event typically features nine jets flying in tight formation with white smoke trailing, but quickly turned tragic after one aircraft veered off and spiraled down, ending in a massive boom. Capt. Jenn Casey, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, died in the crash while her copilot survived with serious injuries after parachuting out.

The Snowbirds flying over Montreal on May 7th, via AFP.

The New York Times describes of the crash that happened just after a pair of jets took off from Kamloops Airport:

The white and red jet took off alongside another and did a wide turn once in flight, according to a video posted on Twitter. Shortly after, the plane could be seen heading downward.

It appeared that two people ejected from the plane in a plume of dark smoke before the aircraft nose-dived into a house in the Brocklehurst neighborhood of Kamloops, which is about 220 miles northeast of Vancouver.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds last month announced Operation Inspiration. The mission consisted of the squadron flying over cities across Canada in a nine-jet formation with trailing white smoke. The Snowbirds were scheduled to start in Nova Scotia and work their way west throughout the week.

Shocking video recorded by onlookers showed the plane attempted to gain altitude before entering a dramatic nosedive — all which took a mere seconds.

The two pilots were then seen ejecting already perilously close to the ground — so close that it was unclear whether the parachutes even opened

The flame-engulfed jet reportedly landed directly on a residential house, but there were no reports of injuries or deaths on the ground, with an elderly couple surviving — one had been in the basement at the moment of impact, with another in the backyard.

Debris was seen scattered across lawns and the neighborhood as firefighters responded. 

Local eyewitnesses in the residential area said they were shocked and didn't initially know what had happened:

Kerri Turatus, 30, who lives in the neighborhood where the plane went down, said the aircraft hit a house, engulfing it in flames.

It "sounded like a gunshot outside my window," Turatus said.

She saw a "big black circle ring of smoke" in the sky, she said, adding that part of the plane's wreckage was in the street and that she could see a wing sticking out of a neighbor's garage.

Parts of the aircraft could be seen scattered and in flames across a neighborhood block, with a parachute being found on the roof of a house. It seems a miracle that the copilot survived. 

Via local British Columbia media reports.

Another eyewitness, Rose Miller, told the AP: “It looked to me like it was mostly on the road, but it just exploded. It went everywhere.” She added, “In fact, I got a big, huge piece in my backyard. The cops said it was the ejection seat.”

The tragedy brings up serious questions of safety as well as how necessary such high-risk, high-cost endeavors are as well as their frequency.

Ongoing campaigns in the United States involving major flyovers of cities by The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds as "tribute" and "inspiration" amid COVID-19 lockdowns have grown increasingly controversial given the huge expense to taxpayers, at $500,000 per flyover, according to some estimates

Some doctors and health workers have even joined the chorus of those saying "it's a shameful waste of money"

The weekend tragedy in British Columbia presents another criticism: the unnecessary dangers both the pilots and on the ground spectators are subject to in what remains fundamentally high-risk aerial demonstrations and maneuvers. 

Published:5/18/2020 6:12:49 PM
[Politics] Amid Plague, Press Takes a Powder On Religious Liberty A Worcester, Massachusetts, pastor, Kristopher Casey, will be punished with a 300 civil fine for convening more than 10 people at his Sunday church service. If he does it again, the fine will increase to 500, and he could face criminal charges, Masslive.com reports. Where has the press been in the face of what seems, on its face, to be an egregious violation of the First Amendment's protections of peaceable assembly and the free exercise of religion? The newspapers have been basicall... Published:5/6/2020 7:49:36 AM
[Markets] David Stockman On The Fed's Destruction Of Financial Markets & What It Means For You David Stockman On The Fed's Destruction Of Financial Markets & What It Means For You

Via InternationalMan.com,

International Man:

Decades of money printing have created enormous distortions in the market. It seems that the coronavirus popped the Everything Bubble. Where do you see the stock market going?

David Stockman:

I’d say it’s going in a new direction, and it’s not up year after year, month after month, day after day.

It’s not going to be a world where buying the dip is a no-brainer thing to do.

I think the stock market was insanely valued when the S&P 500 peaked at 3,380 on February 19th.

It has got a long way yet to correct.

Who knows what earnings are going to be?

No one knows how long these lockdowns will last.

You look at the news flow every day, and it’s like a massive political arm-wrestling match between the White House and the Democratic governors and mayors.

I’m sure in their minds, these local and state politicians, think they’re serving the public good and protecting the safety and lives of their citizens. But, the fact is, back in the unstated regions of their brains, they’re focused on taking down the US economy, which was Trump’s only claim to reelection.

I think when push comes to shove in the great human struggle of things in our political system, this lockdown lunacy is going to be prolonged far longer than you can imagine, and the economic loss is going to be staggering.

Even the Wall Street brokers now—Goldman Sachs and the rest of them—are projecting a 25 to 30% GDP collapse on an annualized basis in Q2.

Just a few days ago, they were all expecting this to be one and done, and that in the next quarter it’ll level out—but that view is fading very fast.

We have a hand-to-mouth economy. By that, I mean no business could afford cashflow interruption because they had levered their balance sheet to the hilt or had spent most of their cashflow available to buy back their stock.

So, once you start these chain reactions, you have incredibly vulnerable business balance sheets in America that collectively have $16 trillion of debt.

I’m not talking about banks or financial institutions now—just operating businesses.

That’s not to mention American households—half of them don’t even have $300 to last a week or two.

Overwhelmingly, 90% of the households in America have been told that they’re the Energizer spending bunny of American economics, and if you don’t have enough wages this week, borrow some money on your credit card and just keep on spending.

This has created a hand-to-mouth economy that has no immunities—if you want to use that metaphor in an economic sense. It cannot cope, and it has no antibodies to fight back against the interruption of paychecks and cash flow.

There is going to be broken furniture everywhere as it filters through an economy that is sitting with $74 trillion of public and private debt on its back. That’s how much we have today.

People need to focus on this fact, that we thought we had a warning back when the great financial crisis occurred in 2008 when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, the Great Recession, all that.

At the time, there was $52 trillion of debt in the economy, and people said that we’re living beyond our means—we need to learn some lessons here and repair the excesses.

Well, that never happened. We’ve added $22–23 trillion of debt since then. Therefore, the economy is now even more fragile, even more vulnerable to any kind of dislocation.

Now, what we’re getting is the mother of all dislocations. It’s happening so fast and severely that it’s off the charts.

You can look at any of the so-called incoming indicators that everybody constantly jaws about on bubble vision on CNBC, and you will see that the last two data points are literally off the charts. The Empire State Index was out recently, and it’s down to -70, against a base of zero, and it usually says +20, 30, or 40.

Never has anything like this been recorded. We have an economy that’s going to implode in the next four or five months. Earnings are going to drop tremendously.

It’s going to be a question of whether the markets can convince themselves to “do the Rip Van Winkle thing, go to sleep on earnings for the next year, and start discounting 2022 earnings,” or something.

I don’t think that’s going to work this time. I believe there is going to be a real loss of confidence because the Fed has no dry powder.

The market will likely work its way down in irregular, violent, volatile moves. It will go up for a few days and then experience a big correction, and up for a few more days, another big correction.

The S&P 500 ought to be valued at 1,500 or 1,600, which is way the hell below where it is today—and far below where it was at the peak of almost 3,400.

What I’m saying is, the market that never stops rising has finally met its match.

The patented “buy the dip” mantra is going to keep the thing alive for a few more months until the last robo-machine and day trader has his brains blown out after they bought the dip one more time and then got monkey-hammered by another reversal.

That’s where I think we’re heading.

International Man:

The Federal Reserve’s unprecedented bailout of everyone and everything seems to have no end. What do you think the consequences of this will be?

David Stockman:

I think what people must get their minds around is that this is happening with such warp speed: job losses, cash flow, GDP, the federal budget.

What the Fed has done is more off the charts than anything we’ve seen yet.

In early March, the balance sheet of the Fed was at $4.2 trillion—after they gave up on quantitative tightening (QT) and normalizing the balance sheet—which they promised to do when Ben Bernanke took it to these high levels after the great recession.

Recently, that number was $6.2 trillion.

In merely 30 days, they printed $2 trillion of additional balance sheet or doubled the first trillion. That’s the level first achieved in September 2008—and had taken the Fed 94 years to create from the days that it opened its doors.

I calculated it: that’s about 35,000 days it took the Fed to get the first $1 trillion of balance sheet.

These madmen and women in the Eccles Building, it took them 30 days to create twice the amount of balance sheet that it took during those first 95 years of the Fed.

What does this mean?

It means that they’re destroying the financial markets as we know them.

There’s no interest rate left. They’re pushing everything close to zero through this massive intervention and buying everything in sight directly or indirectly. That includes commercial paper, municipal bonds, investment-grade corporates, fallen angels, so to speak—that’s just a backdoor way into junk. They’re buying ETFs—the bond ETFs.

It’s only a matter of time before they’re going to be in there, hand over fist, buying stocks.

Janet Yellen and all the rest of them are saying, “Well, maybe they need that additional power.”

How can you have capitalism when you have no capital markets?

It’s that simple. The Fed destroyed it.

The consequence will be massive speculation, malinvestment, and keeping all the zombies alive.

For instance, the high yield market had a significant dislocation recently—where yields soared from 5% to 10% or more—which was an effort by Mr. Market to say that there are a lot of borrowers out there that aren’t solvent. They’re going to have to meet their maker in Chapter 11.

So, what is the Fed trying to do?

It’s trying to prevent any of that from happening. The Fed wants to keep everybody that has borrowed up to their eyeballs alive.

Therefore, it means that the economy will become weaker, more stagnant, and more inefficiency-ridden with time.

If you don’t have the cleansing process of creative disruption, if you don’t allow the price of capital to reflect risk and reward, if you don’t permit failures to be eliminated and liquidated, you’re going to have either a sclerotic economy like Italy or England or even worse, a Soviet economy, if you carry this far enough.

Frankly, I think the right phrase for the Eccles Building and the twelve people on the FOMC is the “Monetary Politburo.” They’re trying to control every movement in the entire economic system through the domination of financial asset prices and pegging of interest rates across the whole yield curve.

It is madness.

Where it will lead is very hard to say. Obviously, not to anything good.

It is so off the charts, and ludicrous relative to anything anybody thought even ten years ago, certainly twenty or thirty years ago. It’s difficult to imagine how bad it is going to get, but it’s going to get pretty bad.

International Man:

Those are some great points. Where do you see the future of the US dollar?

David Stockman:

To paraphrase Winston Churchill about democracy, the US dollar is the worst currency imaginable—except for all the other currencies in the world.

In other words, all the central banks are doing the same thing the Fed is doing, only worse. It’s a race to the bottom.

The European Central Bank cut its policy rate to even deeper subzero, which is just crazy.

The Bank of Japan might as well just buy a paper mill and print paper until there are no trees left in Japan.

In the case of the US dollar, the traditional idea is that we’re going to destroy the currency. That’s true if the rest of the world is prudent.

We don’t have a Weimar Republic 1923 situation where they were trying, in the UK and certainly in New York, and the Bank of France, to restore sound money—prewar money. They failed, but they were attempting to restore sound money and a gold standard currency.

Germany was a basket case economically; they were paying reparations and started up their printing press. There was massive capital outflow, they imported inflation, which then fed upon itself, and the whole wheelbarrow full of money thing happened.

That was inflation in one country when the rest of the world was trying to pursue relatively sound money.

By contrast, today, we have monetary inflation in all countries. So you look at the dollar, and you look at what the other central banks are doing, the dollar is the cleanest dirty shirt in the laundry. It’s probably going to get stronger, not weaker in the FX markets.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods.

It only means that the central banks of the world collectively—which have already taken their balance sheets from $2 trillion in the late 1990s to over $25 trillion—are printing money at such a rate that they’re likely to bring down the entire world monetary system. Not simply the US dollar.

International Man:

How will the Fed’s actions affect savers and retirees?

David Stockman:

The essence of it is that the Fed policy is criminal—just flat out criminal—in terms of its impact on savers and retirees on a fixed income.

There is no interest rate left unless you want to speculate in junk bonds. Why should a 78-year-old be speculating in junk bonds to pay for rent or put food on the table?

It is criminal.

That’s what this whole financial repression, zero interest rate, or subzero interest rate policy is doing. It’s hurting tens of millions of people who’ve tried to save and be prudent and not live hand to mouth.

If something like COVID-19 comes along, or an earthquake depending on where you live, or just a bad spell of health affecting your family, you need something to fall back on.

How can people save today when you get nothing?

Take somebody who worked in the steel mill 40 years, who was able to scratch and save and defer gratification. Let’s just say he came up with $300,000 of lifetime savings. He’s now retired. He needs to keep it liquid, but he’s earning less interest income per week than one cappuccino at Starbucks on a lifetime worth of savings.

That’s so evil.

You may ask these central bankers, “Well, what about the savers?” These idiots say that there is too much in savings.

Well, let’s look around right now.

Why do we have a $2.3 trillion bailout? Why are we giving helicopter money to upwards of 180 million people—who are going to get that $1,200 check?

Why are we bailing out small businesses left and right to have them preserve jobs?

Why are we doing all of that if there’s an excess of savings in the world?

In reality, there is no excess. It’s complete nonsense.

The idea that the central bank is there to subsidize, coddle, and bail out the borrower and savage the saver is just fundamentally wrong and goes right to the heart of why we’re in such big trouble.

*  *  *

The amount of money the that is being pumped into every corner of the economy by the Federal Reserve is unprecedented. The consequences of which could be crippling to the the average person. That’s precisely why NY Times best-selling author Doug Casey and his team just released a free PDF report on how to survive and thrive an economic collapse. It reveals how it will all play out and what you can do about it. Click here to download it now.

Tyler Durden Sat, 05/02/2020 - 15:30
Published:5/2/2020 2:53:04 PM
[Coronavirus] Costs of the Shutdown, Quantified (John Hinderaker) Casey Mulligan is an economist at the University of Chicago. Per his web site, he has served as Chief Economist of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and as a visiting professor teaching public economics at Harvard and Clemson. He is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, and the Population Research Center. Mulligan Published:4/25/2020 5:13:00 PM
[Markets] "The Ripple-Effects Of The Government Lockdown Are Only Starting To Take Shape..." "The Ripple-Effects Of The Government Lockdown Are Only Starting To Take Shape..."

Via Doug Casey's InternationalMan.com,

David Stockman on the Real Reason Why the Government Shutdown Caused an Economic Collapse

International Man: Is the government’s reaction to COVID-19 worse than the virus itself? What are your thoughts?

David Stockman: I think for once, Donald Trump was right when he worried out loud the other day that the cure may be far worse than the disease.

Governors - mostly Democratic governors and mayors of major areas of the country - have imposed Lockdown Nation. It's a complete economic disaster.

It's a wrong policy from a public health point of view and an economic point of view.

It is hitting, like a ton of bricks, a highly fragile and vulnerable economy that was living hand to mouth anyway because of the kind of highly counterproductive monetary and fiscal policies and debt build-up we've had over the last 30 years.

If you look at the data for New York—which is the epicenter of the whole COVID-19 pandemic—it is abundantly clear that COVID is not some kind of latter-day Black Death plague that takes down the young, the old, the healthy, the sick, and everyone in between.

It is a kind of super winter flu that strikes fatally, almost entirely, the elderly population that is already afflicted with many life-threatening medical conditions—or what the technicians call comorbidities.

The shutdown, which I call the "plenary lockdown policy," is wrong. Closing all the businesses except a tiny, arbitrary set of essential operations is courting disaster for no good reason.

Here's what the New York data showed us recently.

New York is ground zero and the epicenter. But if you look at the breakdown of that number by age and by medical condition, it's startling.

For those under 50 years of age in the state of New York, the death rate is slightly under 5 per 100,000.

That isn't a disaster. That isn't a plague or a calamity.

Five per 100,000 is half the rate of suicides per 100,000 annually among the 50 and under population. It is a small fraction of the 90 deaths per 100,000 annually that occur for all kinds of reasons: accidents and illnesses—including suicide.

You would not, in the slightest, in any kind of sane world, shut down an entire economy and lock down everything when you have a 5 per 100,000 death rate for the overwhelming share of the population.

On the other hand, if you look at the population 80 years and older in New York state—the death rate is 1,086 deaths per 100,000. In other words, it's night and day.

The virus is not a fatal problem for the overwhelming share of the population.

Lots of people get infected. Most are asymptomatic. Some get sick and stay in bed for a couple of days, and they recover. A tiny fraction of the under-50-years population gets seriously ill and is hospitalized for treatment, and an infinitesimal number end up as fatalities. That's the case for the healthy population under 50.

It's in the over-70 age group, and especially in the over-80 age group, that the overwhelming share of these severe cases has developed.

The strategy shouldn't be a plenary lockdown. The right approach is to trace, identify, isolate, support, and treat the vulnerable population that already has many illnesses.

If we look at New York again, of those deaths among the elderly population, 60% had hypertension or high blood pressure, 31% had diabetes, etc. All of them, almost overwhelmingly, had one, two, or three comorbidities.

We don’t need Governor Cuomo to shut down the state. We need Governor Cuomo to tell the health department to mobilize the doctors and the healthcare apparatus of New York to identify the vulnerable elderly population. This population is already being treated in many cases for serious respiratory problems, heart ailments, and other diseases—and we are making sure that they’re as isolated and protected from this bad winter flu as they possibly can be. 

It’s not merely a matter of degree. It’s that they’ve got it ass-backward. 

You don’t lock down the population. You target the sub-population, the small minority of very vulnerable people, and do everything you can to shield them from this virus until it passes into the summer temperatures and the normal herd immunity that eventually will make it go away.

International Man: Those are excellent points. That’s not to mention that in the US, two out of three Americans are overweight or obese and have a pre-chronic or chronic condition. And of those people, the risk goes up substantially for those who have two or more conditions. It puts them at higher risk for something like COVID-19 to take them down.

David Stockman: I think that’s true, but even if you look at the New York data, again, it’s startling.

For the under-50-year-old population, I can’t emphasize it enough—it’s 5 per 100,000. That’s a rounding error in the scheme of things. 

You can’t run a society based on the risk of 5 out of 100,000 people. 

So, I think you’re hitting it right on the head.

What we need to think about is how much longer—and we’re not talking about months and quarters, we’re talking about days and weeks—we can possibly stand a shutdown that has already put 22 million people on unemployment claims in four weeks.

Let’s compare this to the worst four weeks of the Great Recession, which is the worst economic calamity that we’ve had since the Great Depression.

During the worst three-week period in the winter of 2008/2009, the cumulative new unemployment claims were 2.7 million, not 22 million. So, this is eight times worse.

We might add that it’s going to be 30 million, or close to that, very soon. 

We have an economy that’s in free fall, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and we have a government that’s in total hysteria, trying to compensate for the economic collapse that is being ordered by the government itself. 

What I’m talking about is the Everything Bailout that was signed without a record vote in the house, with no hearings—$2.2 trillion, on top of two or three other bills that had passed earlier. There’s another trillion that they’re talking about in the pipeline as a sort of a replenishment bill.

Even beyond that, then they’re talking about a stimulus and infrastructure bill, where the bidding starts at $2 billion. It is insanity. 

Let’s just look at what’s happening in the here and now.

What the government is trying to do is hold everyone in America harmless, and every business in America harmless, for the massive dislocation, disruption of business cash flow, and interruption of paychecks that have resulted from these lockdown orders. 

Where is it taking us? 

This year alone—and these are not my numbers; they come from the most credible Washington DC agency, which I’m a part of, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That’s kind of an oxymoron, but it exists.

They had projected that during the fiscal year underway—which was half over before the whole COVID lockdown even got started—that the deficit is going to total $3.8 trillion. 

I’m not talking about total spending. I’m talking about just the deficit. It’s roughly 19% of GDP.

It’s a deficit in the same order of magnitude as we had during the darkest days of World War II. During that time, the whole economy was producing military material and weapons, and nobody could spend any money on anything except necessities because everything else was rationed or wasn’t being produced. So they bought a lot of government war bonds.

So where we are right now, suddenly, overnight, is in a disastrous fiscal situation. 

This self-inflicted shock has transformed the Trump-Republican trillion dollar per year deficits at the top of the business cycle.

It has transformed a terrible situation into a catastrophic situation, where they’re going to borrow $3.8 trillion this year alone. The number for fiscal 2021—which starts in October—is going to be another $2.5 trillion at minimum, or probably more. 

Now the reason I bring this up is because we’re looking at a two-year period in which the combined deficits are likely to exceed $6 trillion in two years. These numbers are so humongous that they’re almost impossible for ordinary people—or even people who study this subject regularly—to grasp.

I think the best way to look at it is to see that $6 trillion of new debt in two years is equivalent to what it took 213 years and 43 presidents to produce—that’s how long it took to get to the first $6 trillion of public debt. 

That’s how bad this has gotten, and it will destroy any remaining semblance of market capitalism we have in this country. 

When you have a coast-to-coast soup line, with the government underwriting 100% of what everybody was getting in January 2020 by merely piling it onto the public debt, and then having the Fed printing money to fund it, you’re asking for a calamity—a financial and economic disaster of biblical proportions.

*  *  *

The ripple effects of the government lock down are only stating to take shape. That's not to mention the unprecedented amount of money the that is being pumped into every corner of the economy by the Federal Reserve. The consequences of which could be crippling to the the average person. That's exactly why Legendary speculator Doug Casey and David Stockman have just released this urgent new video which outlines exactly what's happening and how it will impact retirees, savers, and investors. It reveals what you could do to prevent becoming financial roadkill. Click here to watch it now.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/24/2020 - 21:55
Published:4/24/2020 9:06:08 PM
[Entertainment] Performers are among the most vulnerable victims of our newly shuttered world “This came out of nowhere and it came quickly,” says local actor Evan Casey. Published:4/2/2020 2:13:09 PM
[Markets] Nine Meals From Anarchy... Nine Meals From Anarchy...

Authored by Jeff Thomas via Doug Casey's InternationalMan.com,

In 1906, Alfred Henry Lewis stated, "There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy." Since then, his observation has been echoed by people as disparate as Robert Heinlein and Leon Trotsky.

The key here is that, unlike all other commodities, food is the one essential that cannot be postponed. If there were a shortage of, say, shoes, we could make do for months or even years. A shortage of gasoline would be worse, but we could survive it, through mass transport or even walking, if necessary.

But food is different. If there were an interruption in the supply of food, fear would set in immediately. And, if the resumption of the food supply were uncertain, the fear would become pronounced. After only nine missed meals, it’s not unlikely that we’d panic and be prepared to commit a crime to acquire food. If we were to see our neighbour with a loaf of bread, and we owned a gun, we might well say, "I’m sorry, you’re a good neighbour and we’ve been friends for years, but my children haven’t eaten today – I have to have that bread – even if I have to shoot you."

But surely, there’s no need to speculate on this concern. There’s nothing on the evening news to suggest that such a problem even might be on the horizon. So, let’s have a closer look at the actual food distribution industry, compare it to the present direction of the economy, and see whether there might be reason for concern.

The food industry typically operates on very small margins – often below 2%. Traditionally, wholesalers and retailers have relied on a two-week turnaround of supply and anywhere up to a 30-day payment plan. But an increasing tightening of the economic system for the last eight years has resulted in a turnaround time of just three days for both supply and payment for many in the industry. This a system that’s still fully operative, but with no further wiggle room, should it take a significant further hit.

If there were a month where significant inflation took place (say, 3%), all profits would be lost for the month for both suppliers and retailers, but goods could still be replaced and sold for a higher price next month. But, if there were three or more consecutive months of inflation, the industry would be unable to bridge the gap, even if better conditions were expected to develop in future months. A failure to pay in full for several months would mean smaller orders by those who could not pay. That would mean fewer goods on the shelves. The longer the inflationary trend continued, the more quickly prices would rise to hopefully offset the inflation. And ever-fewer items on the shelves.

From Germany in 1922, to Argentina in 2000, and to Venezuela in 2016, this has been the pattern whenever inflation has become systemic, rather than sporadic. Each month, some stores close, beginning with those that are the most poorly capitalised.

In good economic times, this would mean more business for those stores that were still solvent, but in an inflationary situation, they would be in no position to take on more unprofitable business. The result is that the volume of food on offer at retailers would decrease at a pace with the severity of the inflation.

However, the demand for food would not decrease by a single loaf of bread. Store closings would be felt most immediately in inner cities, when one closing would send customers to the next neighbourhood seeking food. The real danger would come when that store also closes and both neighbourhoods descended on a third store in yet another neighbourhood. That’s when one loaf of bread for every three potential purchasers would become worth killing over. Virtually no one would long tolerate seeing his children go without food because others had "invaded" his local supermarket.

In addition to retailers, the entire industry would be impacted and, as retailers disappeared, so would suppliers, and so on, up the food chain. This would not occur in an orderly fashion, or in one specific area. The problem would be a national one. Closures would be all over the map, seemingly at random, affecting all areas. Food riots would take place, first in the inner cities then spread to other communities. Buyers, fearful of shortages, would clean out the shelves.

Importantly, it’s the very unpredictability of food delivery that increases fear, creating panic and violence. And, again, none of the above is speculation; it’s a historical pattern – a reaction based upon human nature whenever systemic inflation occurs.

Then … unfortunately … the cavalry arrives

At that point, it would be very likely that the central government would step in and issue controls to the food industry that served political needs rather than business needs, greatly exacerbating the problem. Suppliers would be ordered to deliver to those neighbourhoods where the riots are the worst, even if those retailers are unable to pay. This would increase the number of closings of suppliers.

Along the way, truckers would begin to refuse to enter troubled neighbourhoods, and the military might well be brought in to force deliveries to take place.

But why worry about the above? After all, inflation is contained at present and, although governments fudge the numbers, the present level of inflation is not sufficient to create the above scenario, as it has in so many other countries.

So, what would it take for the above to occur? Well, historically, it has always begun with excessive debt. We know that the debt level is now the highest it has ever been in world history. In addition, the stock and bond markets are in bubbles of historic proportions. They will most certainly pop.

With a crash in the markets, deflation always follows as people try to unload assets to cover for their losses. The Federal Reserve (and other central banks) has stated that it will unquestionably print as much money as it takes to counter deflation. Unfortunately, inflation has a far greater effect on the price of commodities than assets. Therefore, the prices of commodities will rise dramatically, further squeezing the purchasing power of the consumer, thereby decreasing the likelihood that he will buy assets, even if they’re bargain priced. Therefore, asset holders will drop their prices repeatedly as they become more desperate. The Fed then prints more to counter the deeper deflation and we enter a period when deflation and inflation are increasing concurrently.

Historically, when this point has been reached, no government has ever done the right thing. They have, instead, done the very opposite – keep printing. A by-product of this conundrum is reflected in the photo above. Food still exists, but retailers shut down because they cannot pay for goods. Suppliers shut down because they’re not receiving payments from retailers. Producers cut production because sales are plummeting.

In every country that has passed through such a period, the government has eventually gotten out of the way and the free market has prevailed, re-energizing the industry and creating a return to normal. The question is not whether civilization will come to an end. (It will not.) The question is the liveability of a society that is experiencing a food crisis, as even the best of people are likely to panic and become a potential threat to anyone who is known to store a case of soup in his cellar.

Fear of starvation is fundamentally different from other fears of shortages. Even good people panic. In such times, it’s advantageous to be living in a rural setting, as far from the centre of panic as possible. It’s also advantageous to store food in advance that will last for several months, if necessary. However, even these measures are no guarantee, as, today, modern highways and efficient cars make it easy for anyone to travel quickly to where the goods are. The ideal is to be prepared to sit out the crisis in a country that will be less likely to be impacted by dramatic inflation – where the likelihood of a food crisis is low and basic safety is more assured.

*  *  *

In the days ahead, there will likely be much less stability of any kind. With so many momentous events unfolding—including the crashing stock market, domestic political turmoil, rising tensions with China, a potential geopolitical shock in the Middle East, the coronavirus, and many others—it's absolutely crucial to act right NOW. That's precisely why, Doug Casey just released an urgent new report on how to can play your cards—both for prudence and profit. Click here for all the details.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/17/2020 - 22:30
Published:3/17/2020 9:35:55 PM
[Markets] Doug Casey: The "Greater Depression" Is Coming Doug Casey: The "Greater Depression" Is Coming

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines on CNN and Bloomberg.

“Coronavirus Pandemic Could Spark a Global Depression.”

“Will China Virus Trigger New Great Depression?”

There’s plenty of concern that the coronavirus outbreak is pushing us toward a crash. And after the market’s recent dive, the panic is only growing. 

Regular readers know Casey Research founder Doug Casey sees the next depression around the corner. But as he explains below, “government coercion” planted the seeds for a downturn long before the coronavirus appeared.

And Doug’s predicting this “Greater Depression” will break records...

Authored by Doug Casey via CaseyResearch.com,

Just because society experiences turmoil doesn’t mean your personal life has to. And a depression doesn’t have to be depressing. Most of the real wealth in the world will still exist – it will just change ownership.

What is a depression?

We’re now at the tail end of a very long, but in many ways a very weak and artificial, economic expansion. At the same time, we’ve had one of the strongest securities bull markets in history. Both are the result of trillions of new dollars created over the last decade. Right now, very few people are willing to consider the possibility of tough times – let alone The Greater Depression.

But, perverse though it may seem, this is the very best time to think about it. The U.S. economy is a house of cards, built on quicksand, with a tsunami on the wayI urge everyone to read up on the topic. For now, I’ll only briefly touch on the nature of depressions. There are at least three good definitions of the term:

  1. A period of time when most people’s standard of living drops significantly.

  2. A period of time when distortions and misallocations of capital are liquidated.

  3. A period of time when the business cycle climaxes.

Using the first definition, any natural disaster can cause a depression. So can living above your means for long enough. But the worst kind of depression has not just economic effects, but economic causes. That’s where definitions two and three come in.

What can cause distortions in the way the market operates, causing people to do things they’d otherwise consider unreasonable or uneconomic? Only government action, i.e., coercion. This takes the form of regulation, taxes, and currency inflation.

Always under noble pretexts, government is constantly directly and indirectly inducing people to buy and sell things they otherwise wouldn’t, to do things they’d prefer not to, and to invest in things that make no sense.

These misallocations of capital subtly reduce a society’s general standard of living, but the serious trouble happens when such misallocations build up to an unsustainable degree and reality forces them into liquidation. The result is bankrupted companies, defaulted debt, and unemployed workers.

The business cycle is caused mainly by currency inflation, which is accomplished today by the monetization of government debt through the banking system; essentially, when the government runs a deficit, the Federal Reserve buys its debt, and credits the government’s account at a commercial bank with dollars. Using the printing press to create new money is largely passé in today’s electronic world.

Either way, inflation sends false signals to businessmen (especially those who get the money early on, as it filters through the economy), making them overestimate demand for their products. That causes them to hire more workers and make capital investments – often with borrowed money. This is called “stimulating the economy.”

Inflating the currency can actually drive down interest rates for a while, because the price of money (interest) is lowered by the increased supply of money. This causes people to save less and borrow more, just as Americans have been doing for years. A lot of that newly created money goes into the stock market, driving it higher.

It all looks pretty good, until retail prices start rising as a delayed consequence of the increased money supply, and interest rates skyrocket to reflect the depreciation of the currency.

That’s when businesses start failing. Stocks fall. Bond prices collapse. Large numbers of workers lose employment.

Rather than let the market adjust itself, government typically starts the process all over again with a new and larger “stimulus package.” The more often this happens, the more ingrained become the distortions in the way people consume and invest, and the nastier the eventual depression.

This is why I predict the Greater Depression will be… well… greater. This is going to be one for the record books. Much different, much longer lasting, and much worse than the unpleasantness of 1929-1946.

*  *  *

As Doug said, the Greater Depression is on the horizon. Smart investors should start preparing now… and gold offers one of the best ways to protect your portfolio. That’s why you need to watch this short video, where Doug lays out exactly what’s happening in the gold market right now. And a shocking new rule – the first of its kind in 45 years – that’s putting gold back in international headlines. It’s already setting off a buying frenzy… a “gold panic” unlike anything we’ve seen since the early 1970s. Go here for the full story… including details on the five explosive gold stocks that are the best way to play this boom.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/14/2020 - 20:10
Published:3/14/2020 7:14:17 PM
[] Today's deep question: Did Schumer "threaten" conservative Supreme Court justices with rally rant? Published:3/4/2020 3:17:02 PM
[Uncategorized] AFPAC speech: The Charge of the America First Brigade This weekend, the inaugural America First Political Action Conference was held in the D.C. area. I was honored to speak alongside Patrick Casey, Scott Greer, and Nick Fuentes. It was hands-down one of the most heartening–and FUN– events at which I’ve ever spoken. These are serious young men who never take themselves too seriously in […] Published:3/2/2020 12:58:23 AM
[Markets] Red Gold: China's Stealth Plan To Use Precious Metals For World Domination Red Gold: China's Stealth Plan To Use Precious Metals For World Domination

Authored by Marin Katusa via InternationalMan.com,

Gold used to be important.

During and after World War II, every major developed country amassed as much physical gold as they could. It stabilized currencies and signaled independence.

But with the end of the gold standard in 1971, most countries began to sell off their reserves.

So much so that in 1999, an agreement was formed to limit the amount of gold that central banks could sell. Fast forward to today, and Canada’s central bank owns ZERO gold.

Despite the agreement, most countries continued to shed their gold reserves as fast as possible.

That is until a few years ago, when a handful of countries reversed course. Central Banks started buying gold with fury, and they haven’t let up since.

In the final quarter of 2018, central banks purchased more gold than in any other quarter on record.

By the end of the year, central banks collectively held around 1.064 billion ounces of gold (equivalent to 33,200 tons).

That’s about one-fifth of all the gold ever mined.

In the first half of 2019, central banks purchased 11.97 million ounces of gold (374 tons). Once again, that was far more than ever before. And it’s equivalent to one-sixth of total gold demand in that period.

And total central bank gold purchases for 2019 were the second highest they’ve been in the last 50 years (2018 being the first).

The Unusual Suspects in Central Bank Gold Purchases

And the Keyser Söze of gold is Vladimir Putin.

I’ve been very quiet about Russia and Putin the last few years as I’ve been swamped with media requests following the success of my NY Times Bestseller The Colder War.

Don’t underestimate what the Russians are doing, as others are starting to follow…

While the world focuses on China, Russia has positioned itself at the center of the global political chessboard.

Here’s what’s interesting about the recent central bank gold purchases: the vast majority of that unprecedented purchasing came from just four countries.

These are places you’d never expect.

  • One of those countries is Kazakhstan, whose GDP is smaller than Kansas’s. Kazakhstan grew their reserves from 2.4 million ounces (75 tons) in 2011 to 12 million ounces (375 tons) in 2020 — A 400% increase.

  • Turkey moved far faster. In 2017, they had 3.71 million ounces (116 tons). Now, they have 12.32 million ounces (385 tons) of gold. That’s a 232% increase in just the last two years.

  • In 2018 alone, Russia bought 8.78 million ounces (274.3 tons). That’s the most it’s ever purchased in one year, and its fourth year above 6.4 million (200 tons) ounces of gold. For reference, that’s $15.7 billion worth of gold.

Putin is undertaking what’s called a “de-dollarization.” Aware of sanctions from the United States, Russia is positioning itself to not be dependent on U.S. Dollar holdings.

So, the central bank in Russia has sold nearly all of their U.S. Treasury notes. And it’s used the proceeds to buy gold.

Like I said, the Keyser Söze of gold is Vladimir Putin.

Pay attention to the world’s master strategist. This is very bullish for gold.

You might be wondering why Russia doesn’t buy a yielding investment with the cash.

The problem is that other reserve currencies, like the euro or the yen, are extraordinarily weak against the dollar and Putin knows this will continue.

Russia bought $100 billion worth of euros, yuan, and yen in 2018… the Keyser Söze of gold won’t make that mistake again.

And over eleven trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of global investment opportunities have a negative yield. So Russia would end up paying money to hold them.

Gold, on the other hand, has paid off handsomely for Putin.

In 2019, the value of Russian-held gold has increased from $86 billion to more than $112 billion. The rising gold price has generated a windfall for the Russians of nearly $20 billion that the Russians can leverage.

That’s providing plenty of incentive to keep Russia buying in the long run, stoking further demand.

The problem is that Russia’s buying is fairly well-known. Unless it continues to step up gold purchases, its effect on gold prices has mostly already been taken into account.

China’s New Golden Rule

With WuFlu (the Coronavirus) now having infected more people than SARS did in 2003, will China continue their gold purchases?

China stockpiled huge amounts of gold every single month last year.

You’re probably wondering why…

Well, you’ve probably heard the saying, He who has the gold, makes the rules.” Xi Jinping, President of China, agrees with Putin’s strategy.

WuFlu no doubt has sidetracked China here in the near term, but it’s been proven that the gold insurance strategy is a very wise one.

The Chinese elite are aware of their aging demographics and high debt loads.

The gold will be valuable to potentially backstop any shortfalls without being overly dependent on their foreign exchange reserves.

China is diversifying its foreign exchange reserves away from the USD and towards gold. This will take many years, but it’s a sound strategy.

The major Western countries hold upwards of 60 percent of their foreign exchange reserves in gold.

China is currently at just 2.9%. Russia is currently at 20%.

China knows it has to pick up its gold to reserves ratio and WuFlu will accelerate this belief.

The chart below shows where Russia and China will want to be at—with the western superpowers. They will get there. And the price of gold will be positively impacted as a result.

Of course, China has much larger foreign exchange reserves than most other countries. So its gold holdings represent a lower percentage of its total reserves.

But even when looking at actual gold holdings, you can see that China and Russia have long lagged behind the west. Only now are they catching up.

If – and it’s a big if – China were to shoot for the same gold-to-forex reserve ratio as the United States, that would take 1.98 billion ounces of gold (62,000 tons) of gold off the market—or fourteen years’ worth of 100% of the world’s gold demand.

The subsequent rise in the price of gold would be unlike anything the world has ever seen. But it seems impossible… right?

Here’s the thing: Russia’s own gold-to-forex reserve ratio fell below 2.5 percent in 2007. Now it’s at 20 percent—and climbing.

Not only that, but China has a much longer-term vision in mind with their gold purchases.

According to one of my favorite people to debate on stage at conferences, Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff, Russia and China are “preparing for the world where the dollar is no longer the reserve currency.”

China can’t do this, and they know it. Peter knows it too, until China’s reserves grow 10-fold.

In short, China and Russia want a world where the U.S. dollar is no longer the reserve currency.

To do that, both Russia and China (specifically China) have a lot of gold buying to do before they can realistically back up their currency.

It won’t be a return to the gold standard, certainly. It will be more of a “gold support.”

The Angry Dragon

So here are the trillion-dollar questions: exactly how much gold is China planning to buy?

And what will it do to the price of gold?

The problem with China is that it doesn’t update its gold reserve numbers very often. When the numbers are updated, their accuracy is impossible to verify.

Few believe the official WuFlu numbers, never mind gold numbers.

China lacks global trust.

Real gold reserves are one step towards building that trust.

China buys its gold extremely quietly via back channels to avoid running up the price via its purchases. (Remember Kazakhstan’s huge gold buys? Guess who they share a border with…)

From 2009 to 2015, the Chinese government didn’t provide any updates about its gold holdings. Then it suddenly announced a massive 57 percent jump in its reserves.

What we do know is that China purchased nearly 3.2 million ounces (100 tons) of gold in the past year. But, they need to buy 1.9 billion ounces to be on par with America. 3.2 million ounces is a lot of gold, but relative to where they need to be—it’s not.

Moving forward, that’s set to rise—dramatically.

Zhang Bingnan, vice president of the China Gold Association, forecasted the optimal gold reserve capacity for China for the next two decades…

He found that in 2020, China’s optimal gold reserves should be between 185.6 million ounces and 217.6 million ounces (5,800 and 6,800 tons) of gold.

Remember, China’s gold reserves currently sit around 58.94 million ounces (1,842 tons).

That means it would need to buy 128 million ounces (4,000 tons) at a minimum, this year, to meet Zhang Bingnan’s optimal rate.

But even that would be short by 1.77 billion ounces to meet the ratio that U.S. reserves are at.

Another way to look at it is, even if China doubles their gold reserves, they’re still short of meeting the same ratio as the United States by 93%.

A Dragon’s Appetite for Gold

According to a precious metals analyst at Standard Chartered Bank…

Just to achieve the diversification it’s looking for, China would need to buy two years of global gold production.

In short, when China really starts buying, it’s not going to be able to disguise it any longer. And that could cause a run on gold like the world has never seen before.

Central reserve banks are already snatching gold up at record levels… when prices are at record levels. These central banks themselves anticipate prices going much, much higher.

When central reserve banks begin to see gold both as diversification, insurance and leverage there will never be enough of it to go around.

I wouldn’t want to bet against them. I’d never bet against the Keyser Söze of gold, Vladimir Putin.

Because gold still matters—a lot.

And with any shakiness in the global economy, it’s going to matter a lot more.

*  *  *

In this shaky economic environment, big buyers like China and Russia, are accumulating as much gold as possible. It’s no question that negative interest rates and the devaluation of currencies will only put fuel on the fire. In a newly released video, legendary speculator Doug Casey and resource expert Marin Katusa breakdown exactly what is coming, and exactly how you can profit from the rally in gold. Click here to watch it now.

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/25/2020 - 05:00
Published:2/25/2020 4:28:13 AM
[Markets] Doug Casey: How To Survive The "Deep State" Doug Casey: How To Survive The "Deep State"

Authored by Doug Casey via InternationalMan.com,

Almost everyone looks for a political solution to problems. However, once a Deep State situation has taken over, only a revolution or a dictatorship can turn it around, and probably only in a small country.

Maybe you’re thinking you should get behind somebody like Ron Paul (I didn’t say Rand Paul), should such a person materialize. That would be futile.

Here’s what would happen in the totally impossible scenario that this person was elected and tried to act like a Lee Kuan Yew or an Augusto Pinochet against the Deep State:

First, there would be a “sit-down” with the top dogs of the Praetorian agencies and a bunch of Pentagon officers to explain the way things work.

Then, should he survive, he would be impeached by the running dogs of Congress.

Then, should he survive, whipped dog Americans would revolt at the prospect of having their doggy dishes broken.

Remember, your fellow Americans not only elected Obama, but re-elected him. Do you expect they’ll be more rational as the Greater Depression deepens? Maybe you think the police and the military will somehow help. Forget it…they’re part of the problem. They’re here to protect and serve their colleagues first, then their employer (the State), and only then the public. But the whipped dog likes to parrot: “Thank you for your service.” Which is further proof that there’s no hope.

So what should you do, based on all this? For one thing, don’t waste your time and money trying to change the course of history. Trying to stop the little snowball rolling down the mountainside might have worked many decades ago, but now it’s turned into a gigantic avalanche that’s going to smash the village at the bottom of the valley. I suggest you get out of the way.

What, you may ask, would I do if I were dictator of the U.S. and had absolutely no regard for my personal safety? Here’s a seven-part program, for entertainment purposes only:

  • Allow the collapse of all zombie corporations – banks, brokers, insurers, and government contractors. The real wealth they supposedly own will still exist.

  • Abolish all regulatory agencies. Although Boobus americanus believes they exist to protect him, and that may have been an intention when they were created, they, at best, serve the industries they regulate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for instance, kills more Americans every year than does the Department of Defense in a typical decade. The SEC, the Swindlers Encouragement Consortium, lulls the average investor into thinking he’s protected. They, and other agencies, extract scores of billions out of the economy to feed useless mouths in return for throwing sand in the gears of the economy.

  • Abolish the Fed…you need a strong currency to encourage saving. Actually, you don’t need a currency at all. Gold is vastly better as money.

  • Cut the size of the military by 90% and abolish the Praetorian agencies. In addition to bankrupting the U.S., the military is now a huge domestic danger, even while it’s mainly an instrument for creating enemies abroad.

  • Sell essentially all U.S. government assets. Although some actually have value, they are all a drain on the economy. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service loses $5 billion a year; Amtrak loses another billion or so per year. The Interstate Highway System, airports and the air-traffic-control system, the 650 million acres of U.S. government land, and many thousands of other assets should all be distributed in shares or sold. This would liberate an immense amount of dead capital. The proceeds could be used to partially satisfy some government obligations.

  • Eliminate the income tax, as a start, which will be possible if the other six things are done. The economy would boom.

  • Default on the national debt and contingent liabilities. That’s somewhere between $23 trillion and $200 trillion. There are at least three reasons for that. First is to avoid turning future generations into serfs. Second is to punish those who have enabled the State by lending it money. Third is to make it impossible for the State to borrow in the future, at least for a while.

I like this program from a practical point of view, because when a structure is about to collapse, it’s much wiser to conduct a controlled demolition than to just let it fall when no one expects it.

But I also like it from a philosophical point of view because, as Nietzsche observed, that which is falling deserves to be pushed.

There are, however, two very important reasons for optimism: science and savings.

  • Science: Science and technology are the mainsprings of progress, and there are more scientists and engineers alive today than have lived in all previous history put together. Unfortunately for Western civilization however, most of them are Asians. Most American PhDs aren’t in Rocket Science but Political Science, or maybe Gender Studies. Nonetheless, the advancement of science offers some reason to believe that not only is all this gloom and doom poppycock, but that the future will not only be better than you imagine, but, hopefully, better than you can imagine.

  • Savings: Things can recover quickly because technology and skills don’t vanish overnight. Everybody but university economists knows that if you want to avoid starving to death, you have to produce more than you consume and save the difference. The problem is twofold, however. Most Americans have no savings. To the contrary, they have lots of debt. And debt means you’re either consuming someone else’s savings or mortgaging your own future.

Worse, science today is capital intensive. With no capital, you’ve got no science. Worse yet, if the U.S. actually destroys the dollar, it will wipe out the capital of prudent savers and reward society’s grasshoppers. Until they starve.

Of course, as Adam Smith said, there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. It took Rome several centuries to collapse. And look at how quickly China recovered from decades of truly criminal mismanagement.

On the other hand, Americans love their military, and this heavily armed version of the post office seems like the only part of the government that works, kind of. So maybe the U.S. will start something like World War III. Then, the whole world can see a real-life zombie apocalypse. Talk about free entertainment…

Action

But let’s return to the real world. What should you do? And how will this all end?

From a personal standpoint, you should preserve capital by owning significant assets outside your native country, because as severe as market risks are, your political risks are much greater.

  • I suggest foreign real estate in a country where you’re viewed as an investor to be courted, rather than a milk cow. Or maybe a beef cow.

  • Look for depressed speculations. At the moment, my favorites are resource companies, which are down more than 90% as a group. And look to go long on commodities in general. Soybeans, wheat, corn, sugar, coffee, copper, and silver are historically undervalued.

  • Short bubbles that are about to burst, like bonds in general, and Japanese bonds denominated in yen, in particular. If you have a collectible car from the ‘60s that you hold as a financial asset, hit the bid tomorrow morning. Same if you have expensive property in London, New York, Sydney, Auckland, Hong Kong, or Shanghai, among other places.

The Second Law to the Rescue

From a macro standpoint, don’t worry too much. The planet has been here for 4.5 billion years and it has a life of its own. You don’t have to do anything to save the world. Instead, rely on the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

There are very few laws I believe in, but this is one of them. There are many ways of stating the law, and its corollaries, but this isn’t an essay on physics. In essence, it states that all systems wind down over time. Entropy conquers all. That all systems collapse without constant new inputs of energy. And that the larger and more complex a system becomes, the more energy it requires. The Second Law is why nothing lasts forever.

In human affairs, you can say stupidity is a corollary to the Second Law, in that it throws sand in the gears of society and accelerates the tendency of things to collapse. But stupidity doesn’t always mean low intelligence…most of the destructive sociopaths acting as top dogs have very high IQs. I want to draw your attention to more useful definitions of stupidity.

One definition of stupidity is an inability to predict not just the immediate and direct consequences of an action (which a typical six-year-old can do) but also to fail to predict the indirect and delayed consequences.

An even more helpful definition is: Stupidity is an unwitting tendency towards self-destruction. It’s why operations run by bad people always go bad. And why, since the Deep State is run by bad people – the sociopaths who are actively drawn to it – it will necessarily collapse.

The Second Law not only assures that the Deep State will collapse but, given enough time, that all “End of the World” predictions will eventually be right, up to the heat death of the universe itself. It applies to all things at all levels…including, unfortunately, Western civilization and the idea of America. As for Western civilization, it’s had a fantastic run. Claims of the politically correct and multiculturalists aside, it’s really the only civilization that amounts to a hill of beans.

Now, it’s even riskier calling a top in a civilization than the top of a stock or bond market. But I’d say Western civilization peaked just before World War I. In the future, it will be a prestige item for Chinese families to have European maids and houseboys.

As for America, it was an idea – and a very good one – but it’s already vanished, replaced by the United States, which is just one of 200 other nation-states covering the face of the Earth like a skin disease. That said, the U.S. peaked in the mid ’50s and has gone down decisively since 1971. It’s living on stored momentum, memories, and borrowed Chinese money.

Let me bring this gloomy Spenglerian view of the world to a close with some happy thoughts. You want to leave them laughing. Not everybody went down with the Titanic.

Looking further at the bright side: Just being born in America in the 20th century amounted to winning the cosmic lottery…an accident of birth could have placed us in Guinea or Zimbabwe. On the other hand, if I wanted to make a fortune in today’s world, I’d definitely head to Africa.

But just as the Second Law dictates that all good things, like America, must come to an end, so must all bad things, like the Deep State in particular. That’s a cosmic certainty. We all love the idea of justice, even if most people neither understand what it is, nor like its reality.

Finally, it occurs to me that, while I hope I’ve explained why the Second Law will vanquish the Deep State, I’ve neglected to explain how whipped dogs can profit from the collapse of Western civilization.

The answer is that they can’t.

Fortunately, parasites can only exist as long as their host. Which is actually a final piece of good news I want to leave you with.

*  *  *

Unfortunately there’s little any individual can practically do to change the trajectory of this trend in motion. That’s precisely why bestselling author Doug Casey just released an urgent new report with his top seven predictions for what comes next. Click here to download the PDF now.

Tyler Durden Thu, 02/13/2020 - 22:05
Published:2/13/2020 9:16:27 PM
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