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[Markets] The Average Home Size In Every US State In 2022 The Average Home Size In Every US State In 2022

Over the last century, the average home size in the U.S. has skyrocketed. In 1949, the typical single-family home was just 909 square feet—by 2021, it had shot up to 2,480 square feet.

However, as Visual Capitalist's Carmen Ang details below, while U.S. homes are getting larger on the whole, they still vary drastically depending on the location. What areas in the U.S. have the largest homes, and which ones have the smallest?

This graphic by American Home Shield uses data from the 2022 American Home Size Index to show the average home size in every U.S. state.

The 2022 American Home Size Index

The index uses data from 474,157 listings of both houses and condos for sale on Zillow as of May 2022. After the data was compiled, it was organized by state and city, and the median home size was then calculated for each area.

According to the findings, there was a strong correlation with the average size of a home and the age of the area’s housing stock. For instance, Utah is the U.S. state with the largest average home size, with an average of 2,800 square feet. And since the state’s average home was built in 1989, it has the third-youngest home stock of any state across the country.

This trend is apparent on a city-level as well. Here’s a look at average home size across America’s top 50 most populated cities (with available data):

As the graphic shows, up-and-coming tech hubs like Raleigh and Colorado Springs have some of the largest homes.

Colorado Springs in particular has seen a significant influx in employment over the last few years, which has attracted high-income tech workers to the area driven up demand for spacious single-family dwellings.

The Price of Real Estate Compared to Average Home Size

The data also showed a relationship between an area’s average price of real estate and the average home size. For instance, Hawaii has the smallest average home size of any state, as well as the most expensive at $743.86 per square foot.

This trend is apparent in the state of New York as well, which had the second smallest average home size. New York’s average home costs were $421.49 per square foot, the third-most expensive of any state.

Lot Size vs. Home Size

Interestingly, while average home sizes in the U.S. have gotten larger over time, the average lot size has shrunk over the years.

In 1978, the average lot size for a U.S. property was 18,760 square feet, but by 2020, this figure had dropped to a record low of 13,896 square feet.

With lot sizes shrinking, will there come a point where home size growth across the country starts to plateau, or even shrink?

Tyler Durden Fri, 11/25/2022 - 23:30
Published:11/26/2022 12:07:56 AM
[Culture] The Lost Art of Spotting Sociopaths

Maybe if people read more books they'd have seen Sam Bankman-Fried coming.

The post The Lost Art of Spotting Sociopaths appeared first on The American Conservative.

Published:11/15/2022 2:05:30 AM
[] Daily Tech News 14 November 2022 Top Story Recessions unmask fraud. (The Economist) When the economy is bubbling merrily along, you can get away with fudging the books just a little to make it look like things are going better than they are. At least... Published:11/14/2022 4:08:08 AM
[Markets] Ghislaine Maxwell Befriends Double-Murderer, Becomes Prison Darling Ghislaine Maxwell Befriends Double-Murderer, Becomes Prison Darling

Convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell has apparently settled into her new life as inmate #02879-509 at the Federal Correctional Institute in Tallahasse, where she has cultivated a clique of influential inmates who ensure her protection, the Daily Mail reports, citing an inside source.

Maxwell's day begins at 5am, when inmates are woken up daily. Before lights out at 9pm she often heads outside for a leisurely walk around the athletics track

While the notorious madam reportedly threw a tantrums when she arrived - refusing to eat and complaining about how her clothes fit, she appears to be settling in - making friends with notorious double-murderer Narcy Novak, a 65-year-old Florida woman serving life without parole for hiring a hitman to murder her hotelier husband Ben Novak Jr. and his elderly mother Bernice in an attempt to control the family estate.

Maxwell, 60, also hangs out with con woman Linda Morrow, who helped her plastic surgeon husband scam $44 million out of insurers by classifying cosmetic procedures as medical necessities. After fleeing to Israel, the now-70-year-old Coachella Valley native was deported to the US in 2019 and jailed for 8 years.

Maxwell is popular figure among her fellow inmates and has even befriended infamous double killer Narcy Novack (left) and con-woman Linda Morrow, sources say 

"Ghislaine cried a lot when she first arrived. You could hear her yelling that everything was inhumane. She walked around like a zombie, her eyes were always puffy," said one recently released prisoner. "She sat down next to me in the canteen, took one look at her food and declared "I can't eat this", and stormed off."

"Now she has some friends and is eating more. She's bubbly, you see her smiling. She makes a point of saying good morning. You can see she's visibly more comfortable."

Maxwell, who works just six hours a day in the prison library, spends her time strolling around the manicured grounds of the prison, where she's got daily access to an array of sporting facilities. One Daily Mail journalist spotted Maxwell going for an hour-long jog in the Florida sunshine.

Maxwell often completes eight to ten laps of the running track before heading to her job at the prison's library and education center where she works from 7am to 10am

A typical day for Maxwell begins at 5am, when inmates are woken and served breakfast on a Styrofoam tray - typically grits, oatmeal or toast. She then often does eight to ten laps around the track before heading to the prison's library and education center, where she works from 7am to 10am.Then, after lunch, she works from noon to 3pm, after which she can swap her standard prison uniform for gray 'personal athletic clothing' purchased from the commissary, the Mail reports.

She spends her free time taking pottery and crochet classes - the latter of which are taught by Novak.

"She and Linda are learning crochet and cross stitch with Novak. Ghislaine also likes pottery. She's outside on the track most days but the other ladies generally stay inside," said the insider, adding "So far there have been no complaints about her. She's polite, she's well behaved, she goes to work on time every day."

"If you ask her for a book in the library she will find whatever it is you need. The general opinion of her is that she's a nice lady."

Then, before the 9pm lights out, Maxwell will often take a "leisurely walk around the athletics track, where she was photographed this week by DailyMail.com enjoying a twilight stroll."

Insiders say Maxwell has used her privileged upbringing to boost her popularity among the 755-strong female population – drawing on her Oxford University education and literary savviness to recommend novels and history books.

In fact, cell-mates in Unit B South think the British heiress is so smart they recently nominated Maxwell to represent them in a checkers competition – part of an Olympics-style 'battle of the units' tournament, held annually.

'There is everything from kickball to hula-hoop but she was selected for the 40 and over checkers,' dished an insider.

'You want the best players and she has a reputation for being smart. The winning unit gets a really good meal, chicken wings, pizza, that sort of thing. It's much better than the usual food.

'It's a big deal. Nobody cares what you're in for so long as you win.' -Daily Mail

Maxwell was originally supposed to serve her 20-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Danbury, the Connecticut prison that inspired Orange is the New Black, but was instead shipped 1,000 miles south in late July to Florida.

FCI Tallahasse, where she will spend until July 17, 2037 unless released earlier, is an "elegant, red-brick building behind the rolls of jagged razor wire looks more akin to a high school or college campus," according to the report.

FCI Tallahassee, potentially Maxwell's home until at least July 17, 2037, is surrounded by a maze of 30 ft fences and cameras but the elegant, red-brick building behind the rolls of jagged razor wire looks more akin to a high school or college campus

According to the report, Maxwell's friendship with Novak has proven extremely useful, as the double-murderer is the head orderly for the dormitory where the disgraced socialite beds down with 100 other inmates in pods that consist of four 'cubes' equipped with bunk beds and no doors.

"The units are basically like a warehouse so it's hard to escape from that. But Ghislaine hasn't been attacked yet and it's gotten much better lately because she is always with Novak," said a source. "Novak commands respect, people don't mess with her. Her, Ghislaine and Linda seem to band together because they are the most high profile prisoners here."

Tyler Durden Sun, 11/13/2022 - 16:30
Published:11/13/2022 4:04:30 PM
[Markets] The Government Is Still Waging War On America's Military Veterans The Government Is Still Waging War On America's Military Veterans

Authored by John & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

For soldiers … coming home is more lethal than being in combat.” 

- Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston

The U.S. government is still waging war on America’s military veterans.

Especially veterans who exercise their First Amendment right to speak out against government wrongdoing.

Consider: we raise our young people on a steady diet of militarism and war, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and committed to defending their freedoms at home, we often treat them like criminals merely for exercising those rights they risked their lives to defend.

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the government even has a name for its war on America’s veterans: Operation Vigilant Eagle.

This Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program tracks military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and characterizes them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.”

Coupled with the DHS’ dual reports on Rightwing and Leftwing “Extremism,” which broadly define extremists as individuals, military veterans and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government.

Yet the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is taking aim at individuals trained in military warfare.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the DHS has gone extremely quiet about Operation Vigilant Eagle.

Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire.

And the government’s efforts to target military veterans whose views may be perceived as “anti-government” make clear that something is afoot.

In recent years, military servicemen and women have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance, censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights.

In light of the government’s efforts to lay the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data and predict who might pose a threat to public safety based on mental health sensor data (a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors), encounters with the police could get even more deadly, especially if those involved have a mental illness or disability coupled with a military background.

Incredibly, as part of a proposal introduced under the Trump Administration, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

These tactics are not really new.

Many times throughout history in totalitarian regimes, such governments have declared dissidents mentally ill and unfit for society as a means of rendering them disempowering them.

For example, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally through the use of electric shocks, drugs and various medical procedures.

This age-old practice by which despotic regimes eliminate their critics or potential adversaries by declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time is a common practice in present-day China.

What is particularly unnerving, however, is how this practice of eliminating or undermining potential critics, including military veterans, is happening with increasing frequency in the United States.

Remember, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opened the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists—technically, anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government qualifies.

It doesn’t take much anymore to be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the government’s dictates.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, communities are being mapped and residents assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about a person’s potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether they’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

The case of Brandon Raub is a prime example of Operation Vigilant Eagle in action.

Raub, a 26-year-old decorated Marine, actually found himself interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. Within days of Raub being seized and forcibly held in a VA psych ward, news reports started surfacing of other veterans having similar experiences.

“Oppositional defiance disorder” (ODD) is another diagnosis being used against veterans who challenge the status quo. As journalist Anthony Martin explains, an ODD diagnosis

“denotes that the person exhibits ‘symptoms’ such as the questioning of authority, the refusal to follow directions, stubbornness, the unwillingness to go along with the crowd, and the practice of disobeying or ignoring orders. Persons may also receive such a label if they are considered free thinkers, nonconformists, or individuals who are suspicious of large, centralized government… At one time the accepted protocol among mental health professionals was to reserve the diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder for children or adolescents who exhibited uncontrollable defiance toward their parents and teachers.”

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) these veterans is diabolical. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these veterans are being declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

If it were just being classified as “anti-government,” that would be one thing.

Unfortunately, anyone with a military background and training is also now being viewed as a heightened security threat by police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Feeding this perception of veterans as ticking time bombs in need of intervention, the Justice Department launched a pilot program in 2012 aimed at training SWAT teams to deal with confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

The result?

Police encounters with military veterans often escalate very quickly into an explosive and deadly situation, especially when SWAT teams are involved.

For example, Jose Guerena, a Marine who served in two tours in Iraq, was killed after an Arizona SWAT team kicked open the door of his home during a mistaken drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Apart from his military background, Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

John Edward Chesney, a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran, was killed by a SWAT team allegedly responding to a call that the Army veteran was standing in his San Diego apartment window waving what looked like a semi-automatic rifle. SWAT officers locked down Chesney’s street, took up positions around his home, and fired 12 rounds into Chesney’s apartment window. It turned out that the gun Chesney reportedly pointed at police from three stories up was a “realistic-looking mock assault rifle.”

Ramon Hooks’ encounter with a Houston SWAT team did not end as tragically, but it very easily could have. Hooks, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran, was using an air rifle gun for target practice outside when a Homeland Security Agent, allegedly house shopping in the area, reported him as an active shooter. It wasn’t long before the quiet neighborhood was transformed into a war zone, with dozens of cop cars, an armored vehicle and heavily armed police. Hooks was arrested, his air rifle pellets and toy gun confiscated, and charges filed against him for “criminal mischief.”

Given the government’s increasing view of veterans as potential domestic terrorists, it makes one think twice about government programs encouraging veterans to include a veterans designation on their drivers’ licenses and ID cards.

Hailed by politicians as a way to “make it easier for military veterans to access discounts from retailers, restaurants, hotels and vendors across the state,” it will also make it that much easier for the government to identify and target veterans who dare to challenge the status quo.

Remember: no one is spared in a police state.

Eventually, as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we all suffer the same fate.

It stands to reason that if the government can’t be bothered to abide by its constitutional mandate to respect the citizenry’s rights—whether it’s the right to be free from government surveillance and censorship, the right to due process and fair hearings, the right to be free from roadside strip searches and militarized police, or the right to peacefully assemble and protest and exercise our right to free speech—then why should anyone expect the government to treat our nation’s veterans with respect and dignity?

Certainly, veterans have enough physical and psychological war wounds to overcome without adding the government to the mix. Although the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, large numbers of veterans are impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.

At least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017.

On average, 6,000 veterans kill themselves every year. However, a recent study suggests that the rate of suicide among veterans may be more than double what federal officials report annually.

The plight of veterans today—and their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government—remains America’s badge of shame.

Tyler Durden Thu, 11/10/2022 - 23:40
Published:11/11/2022 12:05:51 AM
[] Father banned from school grounds after complaining about sexually explicit book Published:11/10/2022 4:34:30 PM
[Entertainment] 5 new thrillers and mysteries deliver the best kind of tension New books by Lev AC Rosen, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Wanda M. Morris, Kaoru Takamura and Catherine Steadman Published:11/8/2022 8:17:58 AM
[Entertainment] Doris Grumbach, versatile novelist and literary critic, dies at 104 She explored LGBTQ themes in her novels and offered a frank assessment of old age in her memoirs. She also co-owned a Washington bookstore, Wayward Books. Published:11/7/2022 8:44:51 PM
[Markets] Beating Back The Jungle Of Red Tape Beating Back The Jungle Of Red Tape

Authored by Ron Shultis via RealClear Wire,

Besides “tax increase,” few terms rile up Americans more than “red tape.” Like a vine or weed that spreads out of control, red tape conjures up visions of a fast- and ever-growing jungle of rigid, excessive, and bureaucratic regulations that bring action grinding to a halt. And these regulations have consequences: The average regulatory cost for a new business in its first year is more than $83,000. Here in Tennessee, it would take an individual spending 40 hours a week eleven weeks to read all of Tennessee’s 114,000-plus regulations, totaling more than eight million words. These regulations ensnare businesses and individuals and deprive us of our freedoms and future prosperity. State leaders must implement broad regulatory reform to ensure no Tennessean suffers from backbreaking regulations and better unleash the state’s economy. 

A regulatory reform agenda will include many layers of improvements. First, make it easier to “count” the number and cost of current regulations. Fortunately, a recently passed law will require all bureaucracies to report by the end of 2023 and every eight years afterwards a list of every regulation on the books. 

From there, state lawmakers should seek to “cap” either the total number or cost of regulations. In Wisconsin, the legislature can require an independent economist to calculate the cost of proposed regulations on businesses and another review after the fact to confirm estimates to cap the impact of regulations on the economy. Ideally, the cap is lower than the current total, forcing leaders to “cut” those that are too onerous or outdated. For the best example of how reducing regulatory burdens can unleash our economy, look to our neighbors in the north: After a poor economic decade in the 1990s, the Canadian province of British Columbia decided to try something drastic. Starting in 2001, for every new proposed regulation, bureaucracies had to repeal at least one regulation — with the goal of reducing regulatory requirements by one-third within three years. The province exceeded that goal, cutting regulations by roughly half. The result was that the province’s economy transformed from lagging Canada’s as a whole to its fastest growing province since 2002.

After adopting a “count, cap, and cut” approach, state policymakers should provide tools to create more regulatory flexibility. Currently few options exist for those just seeking clarity if their business is subject to certain regulations. If an innovative small business wants some guidance on whether regulations apply to them or not, they often must hire legal counsel and go before an administrative law judge, an intimidating process for most. To solve this problem, regulators should be empowered to issue no-action letters (NALs). NALs allow an agency to state that it will not punish a business owner or person if they engage in some action. Without a similar tool, regulators often can only punish a new company who can then appeal to begin the process of working with them. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. NALs provide additional tools to regulators to provide the clarity and flexibility people need, especially businesses in a highly innovative world.

Finally, to prevent regulations from ever growing out of hand again, the burden to prove the necessity of new regulations should be on the government. Currently, the burden typically falls on Tennesseans in court to prove a regulation is unduly onerous. If the government is going to impose costs on Tennesseans, it should be on them to prove that the regulation is necessary to protect the public. 

Reforming regulations does make news headlines like tax cuts or recruiting new businesses with taxpayer money. However, if Tennessee lawmakers wish to engage in broad regulatory reform, they will be rewarded. The example of British Columbia shows that while regulatory reform is unlikely to grab headlines, it can transform economies in just a few short years. A holistic regulatory reform agenda will include many layers but with a three-tiered approach, first “counting, capping, and cutting” then providing more flexibility, and then finally shifting the burden of proving new regulations to where it belongs our state’s leaders can beat back the jungle of red tape and unleash prosperity for Tennesseans like never before.

Tyler Durden Sat, 11/05/2022 - 18:30
Published:11/5/2022 5:45:44 PM
[Markets] Macleod: The Great Global Unwind Begins, Part 2 Macleod: The Great Global Unwind Begins, Part 2

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

With price inflation rising out of control and interest rates rising strongly, the trading environment for commercial banks has fundamentally changed. With bad debts looming and bond prices in entrenched downtrends, procrastination is now the enemy of bankers.

We are at the beginning of The Great Unwind, and this article elaborates on my first article for Goldmoney on the subject published here

The imperative for bankers to respond to these conditions overrides all other matters if their businesses are to survive these changed conditions. We are entering a cyclical downdraft of the bank credit cycle which promises to be cataclysmic. And the monetary policy planners at the central banks can do nothing to stop it.

After outlining the scale of the problems faced by each global systemically important bank, this article looks at the future for the $600 trillion derivatives mountain.

It was born out of the long-term decline in interest rates from the mid-eighties, which ended last year. It is almost entirely distributed through banks and shadow banks.

The question to address is, what is the future for the derivative mountain, now that the long-term trend for falling interest rates is over? And what are the economic consequences?

If it’s you in the hot seat…

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the CEO of a commercial bank involved in lending to businesses and with profit centres acting in a range of financial activities. As CEO, you are answerable to the board of directors for the bank’s performance, and ultimately the bank’s shareholders for maintaining and advancing the value of their shares. 

Furthermore, let us set this imaginary exercise in the present. These are the issues that should keep you awake at night:

  • In common with your competitors, the ratio of your balance sheet assets to total equity is almost the highest in the history of the bank, in many cases for other banks over twenty times leaveraged.

  • Official inflation, measured by the CPI is about ten per cent, and producer prices are rising somewhat faster. Your central bank expects a return to the 2% target in two- or three-years’ time. But your contacts at the central bank have privately admitted to you that they cannot imagine the circumstances where this would be true without a deep recession.

  • Bond yields are rising, and losses are beginning to impact on the bank’s investments. The bank has relatively little direct exposure to corporate bonds and equities, but they are commonly held as collateral against customer loans.

  • How are higher interest rates impacting the quality of the bank’s loan book? The bank supported its business customers through the covid pandemic, which increased the indebtedness of them all. This exposes the bank to excessive default risk if rates rise further.

  • The mortgage loan book has been a profitable business for decades. But the bank is beginning to see a material rise in delinquencies. If loan guarantees are not forthcoming from government agencies, the bank may have to shut this activity down.

  • What impact will higher interest rates have on the bank’s derivative exposure? What are the counterparty risks in derivative chains? Derivatives that involve inadequately capitalised counterparties should perhaps be sold on, or where the bank has the option to do so, closed down.

The underlying problem is that the conditions that led to the bank becoming increasingly involved in diversified activities, such as investment banking, trading, and investment management have now changed. Since financial deregulation in the 1980s, the bank has expanded into these profitable areas. The whole industry moved from dealing in credit into generating fee income. The growth in fee income can be directly related to the long-term trend of falling interest rates, which apart from interruptions such as the dot-com excesses and the Lehman crisis, stimulated growth in corporate finance, underwriting, investment management, and trading in financial securities. The expansion of these activities in turn led to a massive expansion of derivative markets, with new instruments being devised, such as credit default and interest rate swaps.

If, and this is really what should worry you, the long-term trend of falling global interest rates has ended and is now set to be reversed, not just temporarily but for the rest of the decade and perhaps beyond, then the reasons justifying the bank’s expansion away from its core lending business have come to an end. As CEO, how do you unwind the deep-rooted departmental interests, and keep the shareholders onside?

It is time for the whole executive to be urgently involved in a wide-ranging debate about how serious these threats might be and where you should take actions to protect the bank’s shareholders’ interests. Given the high level of balance sheet leverage, the bank’s survival is at stake if you act indecisively or too slowly. You are facing head-on the unpleasant prospect of The Great Unwind.

Balance sheet ratios

There are two ratios that concern bankers. The first is the relationship between liquid and illiquid assets with respect to sources of balance sheet funding. These are set by regulators through Basel regulations, now in their third iteration. Banks are required to submit details of their balance sheets periodically to bank regulators in accordance with the net stable funding requirement formula as set out in Basel III.

The second ratio is of less importance to regulators, which is the relationship between Tier 1 capital and the total balance sheet, which Basel regulations simply states that the maximum leverage ratio is for Tier 1 capital to not be less than 3% of the bank’s balance sheet assets. Put another way, subject to certain conditions, a bank can theoretically leverage its assets to equity as much as thirty-three times. But it should be noted that within that leverage ratio, a bank is permitted to net off certain classifications of credit, reducing its apparent balance sheet size. The following are examples of hidden forms of balance sheet assets and liabilities:

  • Security financing transactions, which include repos and other derivatives, can be netted off where they are between the same counterparty and maturity. For a true accounting picture, a bank balance sheet should reflect credit and debt obligations on both sides of its balance sheet until they are extinguished.

  • Long and short credit derivatives can be netted so long as there is no maturity mismatch. Again, the full obligations should be reflected on both sides of the balance sheet. And valuation methods give banks enormous wriggle room, an issue which regulators are unable to properly address.

  • Off-balance sheet items are only partially recognised through standardised credit conversion factors. Where a bank has off-balance sheet activities, they should be properly reflected in its accounts.

Therefore, true bank balance sheet leverage can be considerably greater than a bank complying with Basel regulations will declare in its audited accounts. But while conforming with Basel regulations, the board of a bank has a primary duty, often forgotten even by some directors, to their shareholders.

It is changes in the ratio between a bank’s assets and its shareholders’ equity which drive the cycle of bank credit expansion and contraction, which in turn drives the business cycle. 

While they have a specific expertise in assessing lending risk, bankers are human. When they perceive lending risk to decline, they increase the quantity of credit offered, recorded as assets on their bank balance sheets, without increasing shareholders’ equity. Their confidence is synchronised through individual banks’ market intelligence and commonly available information concerning lending conditions. What few bankers realise is that it is expansion of their cohort lending which creates the very confidence in the lending conditions being observed. 

The benefit to the bank is enhanced by expanding the ratio of total balance sheet assets to shareholders’ equity. A gross lending margin of two per cent becomes 20% for the shareholders on a balance sheet ten-times leveraged. However, this depends on margins being maintained, which, when banks compete with each other for lending business, is unlikely. Furthermore, the trend for declining rates over the decades due to the policies of the monetary authorities has led to a general increase in shareholder leverage as banking cohorts try to maintain profitability on slimming margins.

We all know that this recently reached an extreme position, with unnaturally negative interest rates imposed by central banks principally in Japan, the Eurozone, and Switzerland. In response to heavily compressed rate margins, the large commercial banks in the Eurozone were leveraging up through repos to gear up the slimmest of lending margins. The European repo market has been rolling over in excess of €9 trillion in all currencies with euros the largest component by far. 

For these reasons, the most highly leveraged G-SIBs (global systemically important banks) are in the Eurozone and Japan. Table 1 below shows their balance sheet leverage from highest to lowest (the third column), and the price to book rating upon which the market values this leverage risk. Share prices were as of last weekend.

With the Eurozone’s and Japan’s G-SIBs heading the list of most highly leveraged banks, the question before us is now that interest rates are rising, how will these banks adjust their balance sheet ratios to more normal levels, which are probably in the region of eight to ten times or even less? True balance sheet gearing in all cases is likely to be far, far higher principally because of the accounting treatment of derivative obligations. These are the banks leading involvement in repos, have significant derivative positions, have netted out foreign exchange, commodity, and credit derivatives, and have only partially reflected off-balance sheet obligations through standardised credit conversion factors. 

In general terms, in the new interest rate environment banks are almost certain to restrict counterparty risk by reducing their exposure to other banks for two reasons. Firstly, contracting balance sheets throughout the banking industry enhance systemic risk significantly, and a significant number of the banks in Table 1 are highly likely to fail. And secondly, as a cohort bankers are motivated to act the same way for the same reasons at the same time, even for banks without derivative exposure. The contraction and consequences of interbank obligations should not be ignored.

The problems of rising inflation, interest rates, and bond yields

After decades of minimal price inflation, central banks were caught unawares when consumer prices started to rise and continued to do so. Initially, they said it was transient. When they were laughed at, they then merely pushed back their forecasts of consumer price inflation returning to the 2% target back a year. The chart below, of the current UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility forecast is typical. It is due to be updated on 17 November, but it is a racing certainty that the OBS will still expect it to return to 2%, a little further delayed. To admit otherwise is to acknowledge a complete failure of monetary policy.

The US Congressional Budget Office is similarly unrealistically optimistic about the outlook for consumer price inflation. The illustration below is lifted from the CBO’s website.

But with consumer prices already rising in the US, UK, and Europe at a 10% clip and likely to go higher in the coming months, the interest rate disconnection is substantial and can only be bridged with interest rates doubling or even tripling from current levels. Even if they only double, business plans for all manufacturers and service providers will go out of the window. And with that catastrophe, bad debts for the banks will simply soar.

The effect on financial securities will be no less devastating. While banks generally limit their bond exposure to shorter maturities — typically bills and bonds maturing in less than a year — it is likely that banks in the Eurozone and Japan will have some exposure to longer maturities. They might have some exposure to corporate bonds and collateralised debt obligations as well, which will be at risk from rising interest rates. This is not to be ignored, and the evidence of a downturn in credit availability for corporates is already evident in loan officer surveys. Our next chart, of US banking sentiment towards corporate borrowers confirms that credit contraction for non-financial borrowers is already underway.

Clearly, bank credit is set to contract mightily, and together with higher interest rates it is likely to lead to escalating non-performing loans, insolvencies, and rising unemployment. These conditions are likely to develop before interest rates can properly reflect the debasement of the major currencies, reflected in the rise in consumer prices.

Economists commonly assume that the developing recession will restrict consumer demand, leading to an amelioration of the consumer price inflation problem. Furthermore, some supply chains are beginning to flow again, particularly with respect to computer chips. But before we can consider how a fall in demand affects prices, we should remember that the initial market effect of contracting bank credit is always to drive interest rates higher, due to accelerating credit demand arising from lost sales and accumulating inventories while banks are trying to reduce their credit obligations. 

Since almost all recorded transactions that make up GDP are settled with bank credit, its contraction will reduce GDP as well. The extent to which this is the case cannot be mechanically predicted. However, since bank balance sheets are very highly leveraged and rising interest rates will force a severe credit contraction, the effect will not be trivial. If a banker is to retain control over non-performing write-offs, he must not delay in reducing his exposure.

It is for this reason that the cycle of bank credit is like a saw-tooth series of gradual increases followed by sharp declines. And the more exaggerated the increase, the more catastrophic the decline.

Mortgage loan books

It turns out that the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-2009 was little more than a blip in the growth of bank lending for residential property ownership. But America with Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac is different from other jurisdictions, where banks have become highly active originators in the mortgage business.

With old memories of ruinous interest rates, borrowers have consistently gone for fixed rate mortgages in preference to floating rates. Some 80% of residential mortgages in the UK are fixed rate for between two and five years before they are reset. Until recently, to opt for fixed rates was the wrong decision. Banks have profited mightily, not by simply lending long and borrowing short, but by covering fixed rate offers with interest rate swaps allowing a healthy turn for the bank, with early termination expenses covered by penalties for the borrower.

For a bank, the beauty of this business lies in the transaction size and minimal administration. And with house prices continually rising, the collateral has been secure. But this has now changed dramatically, with mortgage rates soaring and house prices turning lower. The previous lucky minority who opted for floating rates find they face an enhanced risk of repossession of their homes. And interest rates have probably only started to increase.

From a banker’s point of view, this is turning into a very bad business. Payment defaults are certain to increase rapidly; not just for those on floating rates, but with the majority of borrowers on two- and three- fixed rate deals which are maturing at a rapid rate. A two-year fixed rate of less than two per cent faces renewal at over three times that. And no banker wants the bad publicity of foreclosing on homeowners and their families in droves, “who through no fault of their own” face eviction.

In any event, when homeowners in large numbers face eviction, the lenders have the problem more than the homeowners. It is both politically and practicably impossible for lenders to evict families in large numbers and put their homes up for sale. Apart from anything else, residential property values would collapse under the combined weight of higher borrowing costs (if mortgages are still available) and an increasing supply of liquidated housing stocks. Look no further than what happened to property prices in cities like Atlanta in 2007-2010, as the liar-loans were unwound. All that happens from the bank’s point of view is that even solvent borrowers would be pushed deeply into negative equity.

The difficulties in managing these politically toxic issues will not be the only problem facing bankers. Existing fixed-rate mortgages have been covered through credit default swaps, which are only as good as a bank’s counterparties. If, say, a British bank has a highly leveraged Eurozone bank as its counterparty, it will soon be thinking about counterparty risk in a more focused way. Where it can, it should seek to novate these obligations with more secure counterparties. But that comes with costs.

In a rising interest rate environment, this easy-come business will not be easy-go.

Wider derivative considerations

According to the Bank for International Settlements, OTC derivative market interests in the global banking system amounted to $600 trillion equivalent of notional amounts outstanding last December.[i] Being based on only seventy dealers in twelve countries reporting to their respective central banks, the statistics are not the whole picture, capturing an estimated 94% on average of their wider triannual survey covering an additional thirty nations.

To this can be added a further $40 trillion in regulated futures and options markets, in which banks play a major counterparty role. To give an idea of the sheer scale of these activities, global GDP is estimated at roughly $100 trillion.

The credit nature of OTC derivatives is poorly understood, and therefore widely ignored by commentators. Nevertheless, these are credit obligations which are only extinguished after the terms of the individual derivative contracts have been satisfied. But being purely financial, they differ from a contract which has on one side the delivery of goods or a service, and on the other a settlement invariably in bank credit. A financial transaction, be it a forward settlement, a swap, or an option exercise, involves both debt and credit obligations. And since debt is synonymous with credit because one always balances the other in both parties’ books, until a financial obligation is settled there is twice the notional credit involved. 

The simplest example to take is deferred settlements, such as foreign exchange forwards. In these cases, there are two parts to the contract: there is the initial agreement, under whose terms there may or may not be a partial margin payment due immediately, and the second part is satisfaction of the entire contract by its completion.

At a notional $104 trillion — the BIS’s figure for mid-2021— foreign exchange contracts are the second largest segment of the $600 trillion OTC total. Ten per cent of that $104 trillion are options. According to the BIS’s triannual survey, only 84% of foreign exchange contracts are captured in the semi-annual statistics, so a truer figure is $124 trillion.

By maturity, they split 80% up to a year, 15% one to five years, and the rest over five years. Therefore, these are not a simple case of next day settlement, but credit obligations of material duration.

The status of options is different from forward settlements, being initial settlements for a transaction that might not eventually take place. The buyer of the option has no further credit obligation other than the initial payment of a premium to the seller of the option. But the latter party does have a continuing credit obligation which is not in his power to extinguish before it finally matures. Because all foreign exchange contracts on the BIS’s statistics represent only one side of foreign exchange contracts, the whole amount of $124 trillion are definitely credit, the majority of which, only excluding options, is duplicated by matching credit obligations for the other counterparties. Therefore, total foreign exchange derivative credit in trillions is double notional amounts outstanding less one side of notional options. This amounts to $236 trillion.

According to the BIS, the gross market value of this credit is $2.548 trillion. The BIS defines gross market value as “the sum of the absolute values of all outstanding derivatives contracts with either positive or negative replacement values evaluated at market prices prevailing on the settlement date”. In other words, to the extent to which the banking system is counterparty to these OTC derivatives, in total their balance sheets will reflect this figure, and not actual credit obligations, which are almost a hundred times greater.

It is in this context that counterparty risk must be considered. Counterparty risk is a wager that delivery of a credit obligation might not occur, and the relevant figure with respect to foreign exchange commitments alone for assessing it is $236 trillion. As an indication of the scale of these credit obligations, the BIS reports that the total of global bank credit to the non-financial sector amounted to $226.3 trillion at the date of its latest derivative statistics, similar to the scale of foreign exchange derivative credit on its own.[ii]

In round figure terms, all other OTC derivatives in the BIS statistics total about five times the recorded foreign exchange total. They include in the BIS’s notional amounts:

  • Interest rate contracts — $475.2 trillion

  • Equity-linked contracts —$7.28 trillion

  • Commodity contract — $2.22 trillion

  • Credit derivatives — $9.06 trillion

  • Credit default swaps — $8.80 trillion

  • Not otherwise classified — $337 billion.

Interest rate derivatives in rising rates

Interest rate derivatives make up the vast bulk of all OTC derivatives, with the notional contract amount of interest rate swaps totalling $397.11 trillion, and forward rate agreements adding a further $39.44 trillion. A swap is a financial derivative in which two parties agree to exchange payment streams based on a specified notional amount for a specified period. And a forward rate agreement is a contract in which the rate to be paid or received on a specific obligation is for a set period of time, beginning at some time in the future.

What concerns us here are the consequences of a rising trend of interest rates for the values of these contracts. FRAs might continue thrive if interest rate relationships along yield curves permit. But an environment of rising counterparty risk might be a hurdle too high for participating banks to overcome. A far more important consideration is the future for interest rate swaps.

Unlike the foreign exchange contracts described above, interest rate swap notional amounts are not bank credit obligations. The credit commitments of both parties are only for the income streams on a notional amount. An originator, usually a bank, funds a fixed interest stream from a floating rate, rather than the other way round.

A clue to the relationship between the gross market value of these contracts and interest rates is illustrated below, which is of interest rate swaps only originated in US dollars.

The chart confirms what we would expect: that major falls in the Fed funds rate stimulate the gross market value of interest rate swaps; and increases in the funds rate correspondingly leads to falls in their gross value. From this, we confirm that declining interest rates lead to profits for banks taking floating rates and offering fixed rates. This is the protection that customers from the gamut of pension funds to homeowners seek from higher rates. While over the long-term interest rates were declining, interest rate swaps were a profitable form of insurance product for the banks to offer. And we can now see that with sharply rising interest rates, not only will these profits vanish, but the banks are bound to exit this market entirely.

This is the heart of The Great Unwind. It will be a surprise to observers to see the BIS’s OTC derivative statistics collapse as interest rates rise further. Existing contracts with time to run can be closed down by buying out counterparties, entering offsetting swaps, selling the swap to another party, or entering an option on offsetting swaps. But these solutions to a bank withdrawing from interest rate swap obligations will be very costly, if available at all, as the entire banking cohort attempts to depart from this market. 

Undoubtedly, large losses will result, threatening the entire global banking network through enhanced systemic risk.

Derivatives and the Bretton Woods III meme

That we are entering an entirely new banking and financial environment was originally put forward by a Credit Suisse analyst, Zoltan Pozsar, earlier this year. Pozsar argued that since the ending of Bretton Woods, a new financial era had dominated financial markets, which he described as Bretton Woods II. He contended that the trend for lower interest rates has now ended, that global supply chains will be repatriated, and that the era of the petrodollar is over. Instead, Bretton Woods III will be the era of commodity-based currencies.

Driving his argument was the imposition of currency sanctions against Russia. In his 3 March article, he posed the question: is the OTC commodity derivatives market the gorilla in the room?[iii] His concern was over margin calls faced by producers and others in the physical commodity business hedging physical product by carrying short positions in the futures markets. As if on cue, Trafigura, the big commodities trader, had to be refinanced within weeks of Pozsar’s note having received massive margin calls on its OTC positions.[iv]

Since Pozsar’s note, Saudi Arabia has signalled the death of the petrodollar by aligning itself with the Russia-China axis, and is scheduled to join the BRICS organisation next year. Members of the Eurasian Economic Union are planning a new trade settlement currency, said to be linked at least partly to commodities. And Moscow is setting up a new gold exchange to handle Russian and other nations’ refined gold, which will almost certainly adopt China’s 99.99% gold kilo standard.

Undoubtedly, the movement towards commodity-linked currencies, the decline of the dollar’s hegemony, and of western financial markets will have a major impact on commercial banking. One wonders how many of the banks weaned on financial activities can make the transition back to traditional lending. And if global supply chains are a thing of the past, will they be prepared to provide the credit for investment in replacement component production in the advanced economies?

As a subset of commodity derivatives, the London Bullion Markets’ forward contracts were estimated to be $781bn on 31 December 2021, of which gold forwards and swaps represented $528bn. At that date, this was the equivalent of 8,975 tonnes compared with 1,595 tonnes in the main gold contract on Comex — a ratio of 5.6 to one

The other side of the LBMA banks’ derivative positions is unallocated customer accounts, originally devised and expanded as a means of diverting demand for gold that would have otherwise driven up the price of bullion. The trend towards increasing quantities of paper bullion relative to the physical is likely to be reversed, because suppression of the gold price is now leading to accelerating demand for physical bullion. 

While Keynesian hedge fund managers claim that higher interest rates are bad for the gold price, rising interest rates are bound to render derivative trading unprofitable for banks which find themselves both short of derivatives, and technically short to their unallocated bullion account holders. As quickly as the London bullion market developed in the 1980s, it is likely to diminish as interest rates increase.

Economic consequences of contracting bank credit

Today, the priority for commercial banks is to reduce their balance sheets to more normal conservative levels in their shareholders’ interests. Without considering secondary factors, the likely consequences of a severe credit contraction for the nominal GDP statistic could be to reduce it by a third or more in major jurisdictions. Realistically, central banks will have no option but to finance the losses of tax revenue and the increased welfare burdens falling on their government’s shoulders. The expansion of central bank currency and credit will replace the contraction of commercial bank credit.

Empirical evidence suggests that a population is more alert to the inflationary implications of central bank credit expanding than that of commercial bank credit. Essentially, if the public deems the currency to be stable, it will respond to higher prices when it is the result of bank credit expansion by moderating their spending. But if the public sees the currency as being unstable, they will vary their spending, and therefore their liquidity reserves accordingly.

Clearly, the political imperative will be to replace lost commercial bank credit with central bank credit. Nor can we rule out “helicopter drops” in an attempt to stimulate recovery. But having tried these measures during the covid pandemic, the public reaction to central bank debasement in a deep recession is almost certain to be less tolerant. 

Central banks, which are already ceding control of interest rates to market forces will find they continue to rise as currencies’ purchasing powers continue to quicken their collapse.

Conclusion

As dealers in credit, banks face the most difficult times in living memory. Austrian economists have long understood that the business cycle is driven by a cycle of bank credit. The root of the credit cycle has been ignored by statist economists and policymakers who respond by suppressing the evidence. This has been going on with increasing intensity since the 1980s, when the Fed under Paul Volcker broke with interest rate suppression to slay the 1970s inflation dragon.

Since then, the era of pre-Bretton Woods price stability has been replaced by the fiat dollar as the reserve currency, with demand for it engineered by Triffin’s dilemma: balancing the export of dollars through budget and trade deficits with global demand for it. The expansion of derivative markets served to conceal the inflationary effects by shifting the supply of dollar credit into financial markets, away from non-financial activities. This lessened the consequences of currency expansion on the prices of goods and services, allowing the monetary authorities to suppress interest rates without apparent ill effects.

That period has now ended, and The Great Unwind of all the distortions accumulated over the last four decades has begun. No one in government and central banking circles saw it coming, and they are still in denial.

Commercial bankers are becoming acutely aware of the dangers to their business models. At the moment, they have only a growing fear of the consequences of interest rates seemingly out of control. Having been protected from free markets by central banks and their regulators, this loss of statist control is immensely worrying for them.

It is now dawning on commercial bankers that they have been left high and dry, with over-leveraged balance sheets, loan business rapidly souring, loan collateral falling in value, and a derivative merry-go-round about to implode. They must stop pandering to regulators and public opinion, and now protect their shareholders from The Great Unwind by dumping credit obligations as rapidly as possible ahead of the wider banking crowd.

From banking deregulation in the mid-eighties, it took nearly four decades to get to this point. The Great Unwind might take only as many months. 

Tyler Durden Fri, 11/04/2022 - 22:20
Published:11/4/2022 9:31:23 PM
[Markets] Johnstone: The Official Narrative On Ukraine Johnstone: The Official Narrative On Ukraine

Authored by Cautlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

The official narrative promoted by the entire western political/media class is that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February of this year solely because he is evil and hates freedom. He wants to conquer as much of Europe as possible because he cannot stand free democracies, because he is another Adolf Hitler.

The official narrative is that while Russia is in Ukraine solely because its leader is an evil monster like Hitler, the US is in Ukraine solely because its leaders are righteous. The United States is providing arms, military intelligence, and assistance on the ground from special ops forces and CIA officers to Ukraine, as well as implementing an unprecedented regime of economic warfare against Russia, solely because the US loves its good friends the Ukrainians and wants to protect their freedom and democracy.

If you dispute any part of the official Ukraine narrative, you are an evil monster, and a disinformation agent. Because Vladimir Putin is the same as Adolf Hitler, you are also the same as Neville Chamberlain, and are guilty of the cardinal sin of supporting appeasement.

Because you are an evil disinformation agent Neville Chamberlain appeasement monster, it is legitimate to censor you. It is legitimate to accuse you of being secretly paid by the Russian government. It is legitimate to swarm you with coordinated astroturf trolls working to shout you down and overwhelm you. It is legitimate to publish propagandistic smear pieces about you. All normal expectations of public discourse go out the window, because you are a monster, not a person.

If you are tempted to ask questions which put a wobble on the official narrative, you must resist this urge at all cost. Don’t ask why western officials, scholars and strategists have spent years warning that the actions of western governments would lead to this war. Don’t ask what people are talking about when they say the US provoked this war, or when they say the US is using this war to advance strategic agendas it has had in place for years, or when they suggest that these things might have something to do with why the US is obstructing diplomatic solutions at every turn. If you ask questions like these, you are the worst person in the world.

Per the official narrative, if you confront powerful lawmakers on their support for US interventionism in Ukraine, you are “parroting pro-Putin talking points” and spreading “Russian disinformation”.

Questioning officials of the most powerful government in the world about the most consequential decisions being made in the world is violence, and is not allowed.

If you claim you are objecting to the US using proxy warfare in Ukraine on anti-war grounds, you are lying; you are not anti-war. You are only anti-war if you support the same positions on Ukraine as noted anti-war activists John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Tom Cotton, and Mike Pompeo. Anyone advocating diplomacy, de-escalation and detente is an evil warmonger, like Hitler. If you want to learn about the true anti-war position, consult reliable anti-war publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The official narrative on Ukraine is that the US empire and its media never lie or circulate propaganda about wars that the US is involved in. If you dispute this, you are lying and circulating propaganda. That’s why it’s necessary to have so much censorship and organized trolling and mass media reports reminding you how good and righteous this war is: it’s to protect you from lies and propaganda.

If any part of the official narrative on Ukraine sounds suspicious to you, this means you have been infected by Russian disinformation.

Do not breathe a word of the thoughts you’ve been thinking to anyone, or else you will be guilty of spreading Russian disinformation and will become the enemy of the free world.

Remember, good citizen: we must oppose Russian propaganda at all costs to protect our western values of free expression, free thought, free press, and free democracy.

So do not question any part of the official Ukraine narrative. Or else.

*  *  *

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, buying an issue of my monthly zine, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Tyler Durden Mon, 10/31/2022 - 02:00
Published:10/31/2022 1:06:32 AM
[] Thomas Sowell: Notorious white supremacist Published:10/30/2022 12:29:24 AM
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[Politics] California’s Gavin Newsom denies presidential ambitions, promises to finish four-year term if re-elected Newsom defended his national campaigning, saying he "barely" left the state to take on national Republican leaders, who he says are banning books and "demeaning" the LGBT community. Published:10/24/2022 3:10:29 AM
[Podcasts] Rhode Island Priest Rebukes Public School for Pornographic Books in Library

When the public high school in Westerly, Rhode Island, made available to students two books with pornographic content, the Rev. Giacomo Capoverdi sprang into action... Read More

The post Rhode Island Priest Rebukes Public School for Pornographic Books in Library appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:10/24/2022 3:10:29 AM
[] Daily Tech News 24 October 2022 Top Story What's a worse scam than NFTs? NFT books. (lcamtuf's thing) One of the top rated NFT books on Amazon was apparently written by an AI. If you thought that AI wasn't sophisticated enough to write a book, you're... Published:10/24/2022 3:10:29 AM
[Entertainment] 9 highly anticipated book adaptations coming to big and small screens Judy Blume's "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" and Don DeLillo's "White Noise" are among the popular books getting adaptations. Published:10/22/2022 2:56:30 PM
[Markets] How An Illiquid Dollar Ruins The World How An Illiquid Dollar Ruins The World

Authored by Matthew Piepenburg via GoldSwitzerland.com,

One can’t emphasize enough how dangerous the current macro setting is in the wake of a deliberately strong and illiquid Dollar.

Biden, of course, says not to worry. We say otherwise.

The Illiquid Dollar: We Showed You So

Over the years, we have written and reported a great deal about the US Dollar and the ironic mix (as well as danger) of its over-creation yet simultaneous lack of liquidity.  

This illiquid Dollar, as argued since the first repo crisis of late 2019, combined with a now weaponized US Dollar on the backs of intentionally rising rates by a cornered and Volcker-wannabe Fed, all converge to spell short-term power for the Greenback and longer-term misery for just about every other asset class and economy in a now openly fractured global financial system.

As to the stark reality/risk of this illiquid Dollar, rather than just say “we told you so,” it would be better to “re-show-you so” by making specific reference to a prior report published in December of 2021.

Dollar Illiquidity—The Ironic Yet Ignored Spark of the Next Crisis

Since penning that report just over 10 months ago, it’s worth revisiting the implications of an illiquid Dollar and the financial crisis of which we warned then and now find ourselves today.

Why Strong is Weak

It may intuitively feel good to see one’s currency beating all the others and hence puff American chests in a kind of proud admiration for the strongest currency on the block.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

In fact, bragging about a strong US dollar in today’s global neighborhood would be akin to bragging about the healthiest (yet terminally ill) patient in an overcrowded hospice center.

In the end, of course, all fiat currencies revert to the value of their paper, which as Voltaire reminds, is zero.

Or as J.P. Morgan warned years ago, gold is the only money, the rest is debt.

But I digress…

In simplest terms, the strong US Dollar is only relatively strong because every other currency is tanking faster by the second, and this collective spiral is a direct result of the rising US Dollar exporting its inflation to its neighbors and using the bullying power of its world reserve status to weaken, well…the world.

Let’s explain/dig in.

How We Got Here

So, how did we, and the rest of the world’s tanking currencies, get to this embarrassing as well as fatal turning point?

As indicated in the above and other reports, many of the answers lie in the otherwise long and sordid history of central bank fraudderivatives madness, repo-to-Euro-Dollar obfuscation and just plain ol’ global debt addiction.

Again, and despite trillions in printed/mouse-clicked US Dollars, much of those dollars are all tangled up in the morass (or “milkshake” aka Brent Johnson) of a highly illiquid derivatives market and increasingly illiquid Euro Dollar market.

As we indicated then:

As Egon von Greyerz and I have said many times, the first overt signs of this danger in the cash-poor (i.e., illiquid) market reared its ‘repo head’ in September of 2019.

This [repo illiquidity] was a neon-flashing signal of long-term trouble ahead. And it had nothing to do with COVID…

Informed investors in the autumn of 2019 had sifted through all the confusing minutia and noise behind the September panic in the otherwise open-fraud scheme that is the U.S. repo market (i.e., private banks levering GSE deposits for guaranteed payouts from Uncle Sam which the U.S. taxpayer funds).

Despite all this noise, and despite being completely ignored (and deliberately downplayed) by an otherwise teenage-savvy mainstream financial media, the entire repo story simply boiled down to this: There weren’t enough available dollars to keep it (and the banks) going.

As a result, the 2019 Fed printed more dollars and immediately dumped a $1.5 trillion rollover facility into the repo pits.

Much, much more followed.”

And boy did it follow.

As recently reported, the Fed has already begun daily rollover liquidity boosts of over $2T in overnight money-market loans to the increasingly illiquid reverse repo swamp.

This is basically “backdoor QE” and serves as just another sign of a USD-addicted system with a never-ending survival thirst for less and less available (and hence more expensive) Dollars.

The Euro Dollar: All Tangled Up in Blues…

The other skunk in the illiquid Dollar woodpile was what we called the “ticking timebomb” of the misleadingly-named ‘Euro Dollar’ market, discussed as follows:

“In fact, Eurodollars have been floating around the world in greater force since the mid-1950s.

But banks (and bankers) always come up with clever ways to make simple [and liquid] Eurodollar transactions complex [and illiquid], as they can easily hide all kinds of greed-satisfying and wealth-generating schemes behind such deliberate Eurodollar complexity.

Specifically, rather than foreign banks using U.S. Dollars overseas (i.e., Eurodollars) to make simple, direct loans to corporate borrowers that can be easily tracked and regulated on the asset and liability columns of offshore bank balance sheets, these same bankers have spent the last few decades getting more and more creative with the Eurodollar – which is to say, more and more toxic and out of control.

Rather than using Eurodollars for direct loans from Bank “X” to Borrower “Y,” offshore financial groups have been busy using these Eurodollars for complex inter-bank borrowing, swap schemes, futures contracts, and levered derivative transactions.

In short, and once again: More derivative-based poison (and extreme banking risk) at work.”

Tangled Dollars = Unusable, Unavailable and Illiquid Dollars

All of this scheming, leverage and swapping boils down to not enough available (i.e., liquid) USDs in a global financial system in which nearly everything—from debt, to oil to derivatives—still has to be paid in increasingly scarce and hence increasingly expensive Dollars.

In addition to this twisted, illiquid and over-levered swamp, the USD rises even higher on Powell rate hikes, all of which combine to force the world’s other currencies to fall.

Why?

Because other countries and central banks have no choice but to swallow/import USD inflation, monetary policy and American political self-interest. Indeed, with financial allies like the U.S., who needs enemies?

Whenever the Fed, for example, prints more of the world reserve currency or raises its interest rate, the rest of the world, which is tied to that currency, is forced to react—i.e., debase, hike and suffer.

We remind that nearly $14T in USD-denominated debt is owed by both emerging market and developed market economies.

As the USD rises in strength on the back of Powell’s impossible Volcker-revival and tangled derivatives, other Dollar-desperate nations from Argentina to Japan find themselves with not enough Greenbacks to pay their debts or settle trades, wires and oil purchases, which thus forces them to print (i.e., debase) more of their local currencies to make USD-denominated payments.

But Japan takes the cake for debasing its own currency all on its own, as no nation has ever loved a money printer and currency-debaser more.

This might explain why Japan is leading the charge in dumping its USTs into the FOREX markets, which only adds more pressure to rising yields and hence rising rates.

Thanks Kuroda—just one more central banker with a mouse-clicker gone mad… Perhaps he’ll be next in line for a Nobel Prize?

But Japan is not alone, as other nations dump the once sacred UST just to keep their currencies afloat…

In short: The strong USD is crippling the word, and that world, as we’ve written numerous times, will be de-dollarizing  at a steady and irreversible pace.

No shocker there. At some point, Dollar-indebted nations crack and this twisted global game ends in a credit crisis for the history books.

Other Domino Effects of the Illiquid Dollar

It’s also worth noting that a current and temporarily strong USD effectively knee-caps US exports, as anything that is actually produced in the USA is now far more expensive and hence less competitive abroad, further adding to US trade deficits (not to mention budget deficits) in a world marching toward a financial cliff.

As importantly, as the USD rises in a new environment of rising rates and less liquid dollars, commercial banks in the US (10X levered) and in Europe (20X levered) are exploiting this higher rate policy to de-lever their derivatives exposure, which squeezes an already fatally toxic $2 quadrillion derivatives market, thereby making that ticking timebomb one tick closer to full implosion.

So, no, a strong and illiquid Dollar (world reserve currency) is hardly good for America, the markets or the world. It’s a poison rather than inflation-killer.

How to Fix the Poison?

For those waiting for the Fed to fix the morass we now find ourselves, there is no miracle cure ahead but merely a choice among poisons.

Pick Your Poison

As we’ve warned numerous times, the Fed is caught between a rock and hard-place of its own profoundly inept design.

Should Powell continue his open ruse to allegedly “fight inflation” (which is 50% unreported anyway) using rising rates, then the USD and DXY will keep rising until the global (and debt-driven) economy completely buckles under the expensive weight of unpayable (and dollar-denominated) IOU’s.

Meanwhile, truth-allergic (as well as history-blind and math-inept) politicos will scramble from one government-complicit, PRAVDA-like propaganda platform to the next blaming the looming credit and currency implosion they engineered on a virus, a Vladimir, an oil well or a coal plant.

However, once the US policy makers admit we are in a recession, there will be no way to fight that recession (and the additional $300B in interest expenses owed for every 1% rate hike) without mouse-clicking more USDs and hence forcing the Dollar and rates down rather than up, as no recession in history has ever been defeated with high rates and a roaring currency.

Alas, what is high today will be low tomorrow, and the Fed (controlling a US economy driven by over 91T in combined public, household and corporate debt and a 125% public debt to GDP ratio) will have to choose between saving the bond and stock markets or killing its currency.

That is, the Fed will eventually (don’t ask me when) join the ranks of the UK, Japan and other nations forced to revert/pivot toward their smoking money printers.

Pivot Point?

For now, I still see Mr. Powell heading toward in inevitable (though not imminent) pivot from hawk to dove once credit markets and economies are in even more peril than their press secretaries can deny.

Again, lack of USDs in general (and GDP growth in particular) has already forced the Bank of England to confess its mouse-click/QE addiction, and just recently the Swiss National Bank took a $3.3 billion swap line from the Fed to give its central bank more of those otherwise scarce and expensive USDs.

In the interim, the deliberate efforts by the Fed to engineer a painful recession after they engineered the greatest/grossest asset bubble (and wealth transfer) in history can only be seen as either intentionally evil or unpardonably stupid.

Pick your own verdict. I’d vote for both…

At that pivot point, the Dollar will fall, inflation will rise and stagflation will become the new normal for many years to come, for it’s also worth noting that no modern nation has ever enjoyed a “softish-landing” (quoting Powell) in a recessionary backdrop in which inflation was greater than 5%–and we are already far ahead of that embarrassing and central-bank-created marker.

So, and again, pick your poison: Depression or Inflation? Dead market or dead currency?

A Prize for the Guilty?

As for this current and one-way trip toward global ruin, we can thank Mr. Powell (as well as Bernanke, Greenspan and Mrs. Yellen), none of whom deserve a Nobel Prize, and yet the fact that Bernanke (who gave Japan its QE and Yen-destroying playbook in the late 80’s) now has such a prize is just further proof that this rigged to fail system has completely lost any mooring to sanity, honesty, ethics or economic decency.

Bernanke’s “nobel/noble” policy is the equivalent of buying one’s son a home with an Amex card and then sending the invoice to the grandson.

In short, Bernanke holding a Nobel Prize makes as much sense as Bernie Madoff winning “trader of the year”—but then again, neither ethics nor truth ever stopped Madoff from becoming the NASDAQ’s chairman…

I can’t help but think of La Rochefoucauld’s maxim that “the highest offices are rarely, if ever, served by the highest minds…”

We’ve written too many articles and books to make the Fed’s guilt any more clear today than it already was yesterday.

As for debt-soaked, Frankenstein markets now reeling under rising rates and ever scarcer Dollars, we are nowhere near a bottom and no way out of the woods of ever more volatility to come.

And as for Gold…

As for gold, it rises as fiat currencies tank. For now, the relative and short-lived power of the Fed’s rising rates has been a tailwind to the Greenback and thus a headwind to USD-priced gold.

For other countries like Japan or the UK, however, their central banks simply can’t afford the same rate hikes which the Fed’s suicidal reserve eminence allows, so the gold price in the Yen is rising as the purchasing power of the Yen is falling…

…and the same is true for the tanking British pound and rising gold price there:

But like Japan and the Bank of England, every other major central bank from the ECB onward will need to print more local currencies to keep their bonds from tanking and yields from spiking…

Despite its world reserve status, the US Treasury markets face a similar fate and the hard math points toward more inevitable mouse-click QE from the Fed to purchase its own debt.

This makes a tanking USD plain to see coming, and hence gold’s historical USD rise equally plain to predict.

In the interim, the LBMA and COMEX markets are using forward contracts to force gold down in pricing so they can take physical delivery for themselves before the metals skyrocket in USD.

Smart money is catching on, as flows out of paper gold and into physical gold mark a new direction.

For informed investors, now is the value window to do the same with physical gold.

Unfortunately, and as in every asset class and historically-confirmed bubble, the common psychology is to buy high and sell low rather than buy low and sell high.

Informed gold investors, however, are not making this human-all-too-human error as the world tilts each day toward dying paper and rising metals.

Unless, of course, you still think the Fed has your back?

Jeeeessshhhhh.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/20/2022 - 05:00
Published:10/20/2022 4:53:17 AM
[Entertainment] Carmen Callil, pioneering feminist publisher, dies at 84 Her publishing house, Virago, released books by new and neglected female authors, including Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood. Published:10/19/2022 10:24:40 PM
[Markets] Liz Truss Says "Sorry" As Conservative Party Majority Now Wants Boris Johnson To Replace Her Liz Truss Says "Sorry" As Conservative Party Majority Now Wants Boris Johnson To Replace Her

It has been a crushing week for UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, who just days after firing her Chancellor and uprooting her entire economic program (and according to some, burying not only the Queen but also the British pound and the Tory party), apologized for threatening Britain's economic stability after she was forced to scrap her vast tax-cutting plans and embark on a program of "eye-watering" public spending cuts instead.

After weeks of blaming the markets and "global headwinds" for investors dumping the pound - which last week briefly crashed to record lows - and government bonds, Truss said she was sorry for going "too far and too fast" with her radical economic plan to snap Britain out of years of stagnant growth.

Meanwhile, markets, which plunged after her Sept. 23 "mini-budget" shock, are still under strain even after Truss's finance minister Jeremy Hunt tore up her plans on Monday, and she is now fighting to survive, just six weeks after she became prime minister. The reason for that is that, as the FT calculated, despite new finance minister Jeremy Hunt reversing most of the PM’s tax cuts that were meant to boost UK economic growth and signaling plans for tax increases and public spending cuts in his fiscal statement due on October 31, there is still a "sizable fiscal hole" just shy of GBP45 billion which needs to be filled for the UK to be on somewhat solid footing.

Hoping to reassure financial markets that the government was serious about balancing the books and cutting debt, Hunt curtailed Truss’s scheme to cap all British households’ annual energy bills at £2,500 on average for two years, saying it would end after just six months and he unveiled a new economic advisory council, packed with people steeped in Treasury orthodoxy. Or, as a recently-departed senior Treasury official said: “Liz Truss picked a fight with economic orthodoxy and the orthodoxy won.”

"I do want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made," Truss told the BBC late on Monday.

"I wanted to act to help people with their energy bills, to deal with the issue of high taxes, but we went too far and too fast." She added she was "sticking around" and that she would lead the Conservatives into the next election due in about two years time, although the statement was accompanied by a laugh.

It was not clear whether Truss's apology would quell a growing rebellion in her ruling Conservative Party, with a handful of lawmakers urging her to quit. Dozens fear they will lose their jobs at the next election, amid the recent staggering ascent of the Labour party.

“How can she not resign when her entire argument for the future of the country has been totally shredded?” asked one senior Tory, echoing the thoughts of many as Truss began her apology tour.

Even one of her ministers said she could not afford to make any more mistakes - something that could be difficult when her government looks for deep savings which could deepen an expected recession. Already Hunt has refused to guarantee the budgets of departments such as health and defense.

The humiliation was so epic that a new YouGov opinion poll suggested even those Conservative Party members who backed her for prime minister were having second thoughts. According to SkyNews, the majority of Conservative Party members want Liz Truss to resign now - just six weeks after voting her in - and former PM Boris Johnson topped the list of who would be best to replace her, a new poll has found.

As her position as prime minister hangs by a thread following a major U-turn on the majority of the mini-budget, Tory members are largely unimpressed with Ms Truss. The poll found 55% of members think she should resign now, while 38% believe she should remain.

And a majority (63%) think former PM Boris Johnson would be a good replacement, with 32% putting him as their top candidate, followed by Mr Sunak at 23%.

They also would support Mr Sunak as a replacement, with 60% thinking that would be a good idea, while 47% think new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would be a good replacement.

On Monday, Truss - whose career may soon fall short to that of a lettuce - watched silently in parliament on Monday as Hunt demolished the economic plan she proposed less than a month ago, and which triggered a bond market rout so deep that the Bank of England had to act to prevent pension funds from collapsing.

For some in the party, the sight of a prime minister humbled in parliament provided little confidence she could fight on.

The Daily Mail, which had hailed Truss's plan, ran a front page with her leaving parliament on Monday underneath the headline "In office but not in power", while the also supportive Sun newspaper called her "The Ghost PM".

George Osborne, the former Tory chancellor, has nicknamed Truss “PINO”, or “prime minister in name only”.

James Heappey, a minister for the armed forces, said Truss, his boss, could not afford to make any more mistakes. Truss held a meeting of her cabinet team on Tuesday and was due to speak later to her lawmakers, who have been urged by some close to government to hold off from any move to oust her before the government presents its full fiscal plan on Oct. 31.

Truss was elected by Conservative party members, not the broader electorate, on a promise to slash taxes and regulation to fire up the economy in a policy dubbed by critics as a return to 1980s Thatcherite-style "trickle-down" economics. And after a little rebellion by the bond vigilantes, who it turns out never left, she ended up doing precisely the opposite.

Separately, as noted earlier, the Bank of England said a report in the Financial Times about a new delay to the start of its sales of government bonds was inaccurate. The FT said it had learned that top officials were likely to decide a delay was needed after judging the gilts market to be "very distressed" in recent weeks.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described Britain's economic situation as a "car crash" which he blamed on the country's decision to vote to leave the European Union in 2016.

But wait, it gets better: with Britain's economic reputation shattered, Hunt - who, again, was elected to cut taxes - now has to go further in finding public spending cuts than the government would have done had Truss not unleashed her economic plan at a time of surging inflation!

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/18/2022 - 13:20
Published:10/18/2022 1:11:47 PM
[4673b998-1ad3-5eb9-8951-bb5f8486ec29] The problem with polls and conservative voters If we take a page from the history books, its likely that many public polls are undercounting conservative and centrist voters in the runup to the November midterms. Published:10/12/2022 12:18:53 PM
[Markets] Has The USA Reached Another Historical Inflection Point? Has The USA Reached Another Historical Inflection Point?

Authored by Kevin Duffy via The Mises Institute,

“At the rate things are going, we are all going to end up working for the Japanese.”

- Lester Thurow, MIT economist, 1989

“The United States is rapidly becoming a colony of Japan.”

- Congresswoman Helen Bentley, 1990

“The Japanese can buy our buildings, our Wall Street firms, and there’s virtually nothing to stop them. In fact, bidding on a building in New York is an act of futility, because the Japanese will pay more than it’s worth just to screw us. They want to own Manhattan.”

- Donald Trump, March 1990

During the late 1980s, Japan had the Midas touch. In the eyes of the mainstream media, Wall Street strategists, economists and politicians, the Japanese could do no wrong. America’s brand of capitalism—self-centered, greedy, chaotic, and unplanned—was no match for Japan’s unique brand of state capitalism, with the long-term-oriented government bureaucrat, aggressive businessman and diligent, loyal employees all working in perfect harmony for the common good. Newspaper headlines routinely lamented America’s decline as much as they feared Japan’s rise.

While a whole slew of Keynesians and mercantilists confused a liquidity bubble for an economic miracle, a handful of contrarians, including Jim Grant, John Templeton and Marc Faber, parted ways with the crowd. At the end of 1988, I wrote, in a letter to the editor that was published in the Wall Street Journal,

By the end of this century, the question may not be “Will the U.S. be No. 1?” but “Will Japan still be No. 2?”

That was a pretty bold prediction at the time. (I was young, naïve and didn’t know better.) There was some luck, no doubt. My study of financial bubbles, including Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, implanted the idea that a frenzied crowd is almost guaranteed to be wrong. And my discovery of Austrian economics, especially Murray Rothbard’s America’s Great Depression, provided the economic rationale for why government intervention would not only fail in Japan, but likely intensify with the downturn and usher in a decade or more of stagnation. My sense was that the world’s financial markets were at a major inflection point and that sticking my neck out and flaunting the consensus would lead to significant returns.

A 239-Year History of Inflection Points in America

Does the everything bubble suggest a similar inflection point today? To try to answer this question, I’ve constructed a table of major financial turning points in the US, with coinciding political and foreign policy events, to see if a pattern emerges (see below).

Major US Inflection Points

 

At first glance, our table reveals some obvious patterns:

 

Timing—The best time to buy stocks is at the point of maximum pessimism about the economy. The onset of wars tends to build the wall of worry further and ensure key bottoms: Spanish-American War (1898), World War II (1941) and the first Iraq War (1990). The start of the second Iraq War (2003) pinpointed a four-year bull run. One notable exception was US involvement in the Vietnam War, which began covertly right after World War II and escalated from 1965 (first combat units introduced) to 1969 (five hundred thousand US military personnel stationed in Vietnam). Adjusted for inflation, the Dow Jones Industrials Average peaked in 1966 and didn’t bottom until 1982. Meanwhile, peace and prosperity generally coincide with stock market tops. E.g., the roaring ’20s (1929) and dot-com bubble (2000) witnessed an absence of external enemies.

Duration—Inflection points alter the course of stocks, bonds and gold for long periods of time, often decades. E.g., the 1946–81 bear market in bonds (thirty-five years) was replaced by a thirty-nine-year bull market.

Conflict vs. cooperation—The 1946 inflection point ended a long period of conflict between nations: centuries of imperial rivalry culminating in two world wars separated by a massive trade war. The end of World War II ushered in a seventy-year period of decolonization, globalization, expanding division of labor and relative peace. (While President Trump’s trade war with China arguably arrested this trend, at least in the short run, I believe the long-term trend will reassert itself.)

Megatrend: Big Government

The overarching trend in the US since 1789 has been an ever-expanding and centralized government. That year marked the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation for a more centralized federation of sovereign states with George Washington its first president. The new government was the outcome of a heated debate between competing visions for the United States, with the federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s first treasury secretary,) prevailing over the Anti-Federalists who were thrown a bone with the Bill of Rights to try to keep the central state in check.

(The federalists were clustered in commercial centers; their message was amplified by the press. The more agrarian anti-federalists included such luminaries as Patrick Henry, Melancton Smith, William Grayson, George Clinton, and Richard Henry Lee; most have since faded into oblivion.) Importantly, the new government’s Constitution opened the door to direct taxation and enforcement at the national level, roles confined to the states under the Articles. This was a boon to speculators in government bonds which had become practically worthless after the war with Britain.

Where the founders did agree (including Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson) was on national greatness and expansionism. According to Sheldon Richman in America’s Counter-revolution,

Even the government’s schools teach … that America’s founders had—let us say—an expansive vision for the country they were establishing…. Clearly, these men had empire on their minds. Indeed, in the eyes of the founders, the American Revolution was largely a war between a mature, exhausted empire and a nascent one. Many—but assuredly not all—Americans of the time would have cheerfully agreed.

In other words, the dramatic shift from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution was the ultimate inflection point. As historian Vernon L. Parrington (1871–1929) wrote:

[It] marked the turning point in American development; the checking of the long movement of decentralization and the beginning of a counter movement … The history of the rise of the coercive state in America, with the ultimate arrest of all centrifugal tendencies, was implicit in that momentous counter movement.1

A key step on the path to centralization occurred in 1861 as state sovereignty became a casualty of the misnamed “Civil War.” The bloodiest conflict in US history, which took the lives of roughly 2 percent of the population—seven times the death rate of World War II—was over the South’s right to secede (taken for granted seventy years earlier), not a struggle between factions over who would run the government. As Tom DiLorenzo, author of The Real Lincoln and Lincoln Unmaskedwrote shortly after the 9/11 attacks:

Lincoln’s war established myriad precedents that have shaped the course of American government and society ever since: the centralization of governmental power, central banking, income taxation, protectionism, military conscription, the suspension of constitutional liberties, the “rewriting” of the Constitution by federal judges, “total war,” the quest for a worldwide empire, and the notion that government is one big “problem solver.”

The next giant leap took place in 1898. According to Stephen Kinzer in Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq:

Historic shifts in world politics often happen slowly and are hardly even noticeable until years later. That was not the case with the emergence of the United States as a world power. It happened quite suddenly in the spring and summer of 1898.

The seeds, however, were planted five years earlier with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy:

In the months after the 1893 revolution in Hawaii, that country’s new leaders sought annexation to the United States, but [anti-imperialist] President Grover Cleveland … would not hear of it. He was quite right when he declared that most Americans rejected the seizure of faraway lands “as not only opposed to our national policy, but as a perversion of our national mission.” Five years later, this consensus evaporated. Almost overnight, it was replaced by a national clamor for overseas expansion. This was the quickest and most profound reversal of public opinion in the history of American foreign policy.

The April 21, 1898, invasion of Cuba began with a false flag incident (the Maine explosion) providing fodder for prowar yellow journalists (notably William Randolph Hearst), was sold to Congress and the American people as a mission to liberate the Cuban people from Spanish rule (Teller Amendment) and ended with broken promises and betrayal of the original cause:

In the United States, enthusiasm for Cuban independence faded quickly. Whitelaw Reid, the publisher of the New York Tribune and the journalist closest to President McKinley, proclaimed the “absolute necessity of controlling Cuba for our own defense,” and rejected the Teller Amendment as “a self-denying ordinance possible only in a moment of national hysteria.” Senator Beveridge said it was not binding because Congress had approved it “in a moment of impulsive but mistaken generosity.” The New York Times asserted that Americans had a “higher obligation” than strict fidelity to ill-advised promises, and must become “permanent possessors of Cuba if the Cubans prove to be altogether incapable of self-government.”

The long-term consequences of America’s interventions in Cuba would prove to be as profound as they were tragic.

The 1898 inflection point put the rest of the world on notice:

Outsiders watched the emergence of this new America with a combination of awe and fear … The Manchester Guardian reported that nearly every American had come to embrace the expansionist idea, while the few critics “are simply laughed at for their pains.” Some of these journalists were unsettled by what they saw … The Frankfurter Zeitung warned Americans against “the disastrous consequences of their exuberance” but realized that they would not listen.

Endgame

Is the megatrend towards big government in the US nearing an end? For starters, history has not been kind to empires. The British empire had its day, peaking with the first world war. By the time of the 1947 partition of India it was in full retreat, ushering in a bipolar world with the United States pitted against the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989–91 created a vacuum with the US assuming the mantle of global hegemon. The American empire appears to have peaked somewhere between 1988 with the absurdity of presidential candidate Michael Dukakis’s failed photo-op in a tank and 2003 with the hubris of President George W. Bush’s staged declaration of “mission accomplished” aboard an aircraft carrier just weeks into the second Iraq War. Public debt–to-GDP was 58 percent when Bush declared victory; today it stands at 123 percent.

To keep the game going, the political class has increasingly relied on borrowing, inflation and diversions like victimology, covid and climate change. “War is the health of the state” needs updating. The modern state has evolved, learning the lesson that any conflict feeds the Leviathan. Conflict is not limited to “us versus them” and “good versus evil,” but left vs. right, black vs. white, male vs. female, straight vs. LGBTQ, rich vs. poor, entrepreneurs vs. employees, young vs. old and even man vs. the planet. Wars have morphed into abstractions—e.g., war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terrorism, and now a war on a virus. The justifications for protecting party A against the predations of party B are endless.

This presents a problem for the state, however: the web of lies becomes infinitely more complex and impossible to keep stitched together. The truth is an ever-present nuisance, as Lew Rockwell, founder of the Mises Institute, so passionately argues:

The truth, no matter how seemingly battered and bruised, still shines through. It can never be wiped out, no matter how rotten the regime. In the end, the truth will triumph over deceit.

One sign that Americans are beginning to see through the lies: a record number are rejecting both major political parties.

Interventionists Jump the Shark

Perhaps the most convincing argument that a major change is at hand is the nature of bubbles and their ability to reverse long-running trends. If the everything bubble is unraveling, the game has changed. In classic form, a timeline of the past two and a half years reveals a burst of euphoria accompanied by peak absurdities, followed by increasingly visible warning cracks and general denial by the interventionists:

  • March 2020—As covid-19 arrives and panicked investors dump stocks for safe haven assets, US thirty-year T-bond yield hits all-time low of 0.84 percent (now 3.52 percent); President Trump signs $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill (CARES Act);

  • April 2020—Fed Chairman Jerome Powell urges Congress to unleash “great fiscal power” to defeat covid, claims “we won’t run out of money”;

  • May 2020—President Trump unleashes Operation Warp Speed to fast track a vaccine for covid; the death of George Floyd, a forty-six-year-old black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police, ignites months of “fiery but mostly peaceful protests”;

  • June 2020—Quaker Oats cancels “Aunt Jemima” image from syrup brand to fight “racial stereotypes”;

  • November 2020—Joe Biden narrowly defeats Donald Trump in disputed election;

  • December 2020—President Trump signs $2.3 trillion stimulus bill (Consolidated Appropriations Act);

  • January 2021—First wave of meme stock craze ends with GameStop topping out at split-adjusted 81.25 (now 28.64, down 65 percent);

  • February 2021—Growth-at-any-price manager Cathie Wood’s ARK ETFs rake in $8.3 billion in new money, third behind fund giants Vanguard and BlackRock; ARK Innovation ETF peaks at 158.82 (now 42.58, down 73 percent); assets hit $23.3 billion as inflows total $8.8 billion over previous three months;

  • March 2021—President Biden signs $1.9 trillion stimulus bill (American Rescue Plan Act); nonfungible token by a digital artist known as Beeple sells for $69 million;

  • April 2021—Sri Lanka government bans all chemical fertilizers to make farming 100 percent organic, reverses course seven months later after mass protests by farmers and a surge in food price inflation;

  • May 2021—Price inflation hits thirty-year high, with the year-over-year Consumer Price Index (CPI) +5.0 percent;

  • June 2021—Italian artist sells “invisible” sculpture for more than £12,000; tiny activist investor Engine No. 1 wages successful battle to install three directors on Exxon Mobil’s board with goal of reducing company’s carbon footprint;

  • August 2021—US ends twenty-year war in Afghanistan; Federal Reserve assets total $8.3 trillion, double prepandemic levels;

  • September 2021—El Salvador adopts bitcoin as legal tender;

  • November 2021—Bitcoin hits all-time high of $68,790 (now $20,040, down 71 percent);

  • December 2021—University of Pennsylvania swimmer Will Thomas (identifying as “Lia”) qualifies to compete as a woman after taking a year of hormone treatments, records fastest national times in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, and wins 1,650-yard freestyle by forty seconds;

  • January 2022—S&P 500 hits all-time high of 4,819 (now 3,873, down 20 percent); New York City mayor Eric Adams takes his first paycheck in cryptocurrency;

  • February 2022—Canadian truckers protest Trudeau government’s vaccine mandate; price inflation hits forty-year high, with year-over-year CPI +7.9 percent; Engine No. 1 launches climate change ETF; Russia invades Ukraine;

  • March 2022—Federal public debt tops $30 trillion, up $7.2 trillion from prepandemic levels, and Lia Thomas becomes first transgender athlete to win NCAA Division I championship in any sport;

  • April 2022—President Biden’s approval rating sinks to new low, Nasdaq Composite enters bear market territory; Federal Reserve assets peak at $8.9 trillion (now 1.5 percent lower);

  • May 2022—Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admits she didn’t see inflation coming, Sri Lanka defaults on its national debt; Solomon Islands signs new security agreement with China;

  • June 2022—Two-thirds of economists anticipate a recession while Jerome Powell sees “no sign of a broader slowdown;” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci tests positive for covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated and twice boosted; Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, returns power to the states; Sri Lanka government collapses; and

  • August 2022—Anthony Fauci announces his resignation, effective in December; California plans to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo helps launch ESG fund.

Investment Implications

“It has been 241 years since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Being short America has been a loser’s game. I predict to you it will continue to be a loser’s game.”

- Warren Buffett, CNBC interview, September 21, 2017

“In the beginning of the QE period, I became convinced that the system was going to destroy the nature of money itself. I became convinced that the rules of the game had changed completely. When the rules change, the basic framework with which you make decisions need to change.”

- Tony Deden, Q&A with Grant Williams, July 5, 2018

With all due respect to Warren Buffett, if we are at a major inflection point reversing a 239-year megatrend in government growth, the last thing you want to do as an investor, entrepreneur, or young person launching a career is to play by the old rules and blindly emulate past winners. Government bonds should be avoided; likewise, the stocks of companies sucking up to government, looking for favors, and peddling official narratives. Under the new rules, investors will likely pay a premium for independence—i.e., companies that can stand on their own.

While Warren Buffett and John Bogle have had great runs (fifty-seven and forty-eight years, respectively), their playbooks are widely copied. Imitation is the sincerest path to subpar returns. Admittedly, much of their wisdom is likely to stand the test of time—e.g., the circle of competence, patience over activity, and keeping fees and turnover low. However, I suspect paying attention to macroeconomic issues will pay dividends because this is largely dismissed by the Buffett faithful as an exercise in futility. Likewise, active investing will be rewarded because Bogle’s brainchild, the index fund, is far too popular.

At the end of 1988 I suggested looking forward, not backward:

The world is still in the early stages of a third economic wave—the transition from an industrial to an information-based economy. Innovators tend to lead, whereas imitators tend to lag such waves. As the world’s best imitators, the Japanese capitalized on the ending of the industrial age. As the world’s best innovators, Americans should be the main beneficiaries of the beginning of the information age.

That advice still holds today. The information age is thirty-four years older, but shows no signs of slowing down (although it has become far more global and not nearly as concentrated in Silicon Valley). Likewise, the “hockey stick of human prosperity” is still early, having begun just 250 or so years ago, up against five thousand years of recorded history. “You can’t afford not to be invested in the relentless ascent of man,” advises Dan Ferris in so many wise words.

All bubbles are destructive in nature and based on a false belief that must be exposed and repudiated. In this case, the bad seed is government as universal problem solver. Bear markets have their place, to impart lessons, change behavior, restore health, and introduce the deluded to reality.

Major tops are a process, not an event. The trend in centralized power was a long time in the making. Its reversal could play out over a century or more (with plenty of heart-wrenching rallies along the way). The transition will be messy and painful for those who are unprepared or live in the past, but wildly bullish long-term as the government parasite withers and dies.

If I am right, the everything bubble helped seal the fate of big government. The state will increasingly be seen as an impediment to human progress and vestige of the past.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/11/2022 - 20:20
Published:10/11/2022 7:38:32 PM
[Opinion] Get ‘Em Young Using Predictive Programming in Cartoons—and Why Your Awareness Is Power

by Dear Rest Of America at CDN -

Ask someone about their favorite cartoon, and depending on their generation, they might start reminiscing their cherished comic books or reference a popular animation series that, since the advent of the television, has captured the term cartoon. Indeed, cartoons are often very entertaining with storylines that pierce the crux of …

Click to read the rest HERE-> Get ‘Em Young Using Predictive Programming in Cartoons—and Why Your Awareness Is Power first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:10/10/2022 7:38:49 PM
[Alarmism] Hurricane Hype, Lies, Censorship – and Reality Politicized hurricane and climate science breeds distrust, green energy and economic disasters Paul Driessen Hurricane Ian is in the history books, having unleashed its Category 4 fury on southwestern Florida.… Published:10/10/2022 10:36:13 AM
[Communism] At the struggle session (Scott Johnson) Over at the University of Minnesota Medical School, one probably shouldn’t be seen with books such as Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon or Fan Shen’s memoir Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard. It might reflect an inclination to think for yourself and other such bourgeois indulgences. I’m thinking that they missed a few strokes at this year’s white-coat ceremony for new students this year. The video below Published:10/10/2022 10:36:13 AM
[Markets] Twitter Removes Florida Surgeon General's Vaccine Warning Tweet Twitter Removes Florida Surgeon General's Vaccine Warning Tweet

Update (Sunday): 

Twitter appears to have re-instated the post in question after outcry on the social media site about the censoring. As of about noon on the East Coast Sunday, the Tweet was once again showing up under Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo's feed.

Earlier in the day we reported that Twitter censored Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo's tweet about a new Covid vaccine study that "the public needs to be aware of." He said, "this analysis showed an increased risk of cardiac-related death among men 18-39. FL will not be silent on the truth." 

It hasn't even been a full 24 hours since Ladapo tweeted it out. And now, the tweet is removed and replaced with a message from Twitter that reads: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules." A backlink was also provided that reads: "Learn more." 

There was no explanation of why the tweet was removed, though the backlink said the content "may contain disputed or misleading information." 

People were furious on Twitter for the big tech's censorship of a government official. 

That is a very good point.  

Hmmm. 

*  *  *

Authored by Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times,

Florida’s Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, announced new guidance on messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines on Friday, specifically recommending against mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for males aged 18 to 39.

Messenger RNA is the technology utilized by both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the most administered vaccines in the United States and a number of other countries.

The new guidance came after the Florida Department of Health carried out an analysis to evaluate vaccine safety, the department said in a bulletin on Friday.

The statewide analysis of vaccinated Florida residents aged 18 years or older (pdf) found an 84 percent increase in the relative incidence of cardiac-related deaths among males aged 18–39, within 28 days of mRNA vaccination.

“Non-mRNA vaccines were not found to have these increased risks,” the Florida Department of Health noted.

Given the high level of global immunity to COVID-19, the benefit of vaccination with mRNA vaccines “is likely outweighed by this abnormally high risk of cardiac-related death among men in this age group,” the department said.

“As such, the State Surgeon General recommends against males aged 18 to 39 from receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines,” it said. “Those with preexisting cardiac conditions, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, should take particular caution when making this decision.”

“Far less attention has been paid to safety and the concerns of many individuals have been dismissed—these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians,” Ladapo said in a statement, referring to the analysis.

In the new guidance (pdf), Florida’s health department said it also “continues to stand by” its guidance for pediatric COVID-19 vaccines it issued in March. That guidance (pdf) recommends against COVID-19 vaccination for healthy children and adolescents aged 5–17. It now also recommends against COVID-19 vaccination among infants and children under five years old.

Statewide Analysis

The analysis from the Florida Health Department that informed Ladapo’s latest recommendation had sought to “evaluate the risks of all-cause and cardiac-related mortality following COVID-19 vaccination.”

Residents in Florida aged 18 years or older who died within 25 weeks of having received a COVID-19 vaccine, since the start of the vaccination roll-out in the state—Dec. 15, 2020—were included. The study end date was June 1, 2022.

People were excluded from the study if they had a documented COVID-19 infection, had a COVID-19 associated death, had received a COVID-19 vaccine booster, or had received their last COVID-19 vaccine after Dec. 8 2021. The last criterion was put in place to make sure that each person was followed up after 25 weeks.

The study found that COVID-19 vaccination “was not associated with an elevated risk for all-cause mortality,” but “was associated with a modestly increased risk for cardiac-related mortality 28 days following vaccination.”

“Results from the stratified analysis for cardiac-related death following vaccination suggests mRNA vaccination may be driving the increased risk in males, especially among males aged 18–39,” according to the analysis.

It also noted that the risk for both all-cause and cardiac-related deaths was “substantially higher 28 days following COVID-19 infection.”

As such, the study concluded that people should weigh the risk associated with mRNA vaccination with the risk associated with COVID-19 infection.

The analysis was a self-controlled case series (SCCS), which is a study design originally developed to evaluate vaccine safety, the department stated. The SCCS method uses individuals as their own control, such that comparisons are made within individuals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in 2020 marked the first time it did so for vaccines that use mRNA technology.

According to the FDA, the mRNA vaccine contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the distinctive spike protein of the virus. When a person receives the vaccine, their body produces copies of the spike protein which “does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to learn to react defensively, producing an immune response” against the virus, according to the agency.

The mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and from Moderna have both been linked with heart inflammation, including myocarditis and pericarditis, data from around the world have suggested. Younger populations, especially young men, have been observed to experience these conditions at much higher than expected rates, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously suggested. A small number of deaths from heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccine have also been reported.

The primary regimens of the vaccines, which are two doses administrated several weeks apart, were insufficient to protect against infection and showed waning efficacy in protecting against hospitalization amid newly-emerging variants. This prompted the governments of many countries to recommend boosters and subsequent boosters throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyler Durden Sun, 10/09/2022 - 11:16
Published:10/9/2022 10:51:18 AM
[Intelligence] Edward Jay Epstein: Snowden’s choice (Scott Johnson) Edward Jay Epstein is my favorite investigative journalist and the author of several of my favorite books including, most recently, How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft. Ed has forwarded his thoughts on Snowden’s becoming a Russian citizen. Ed writes: Edward Snowden, the former civilian contractor at the super-secret National Security Agency, has now joined the group of secret-stealers including infamous British Cold War spies Published:10/4/2022 10:11:19 AM
[Markets] Low Rates And Leverage Set Kwarteng Up For A Massive Jolt Low Rates And Leverage Set Kwarteng Up For A Massive Jolt

By Ven Ram, Bloomberg Markets Live reporter and strategist

Who’s to blame for all the turmoil in the UK’s financial markets?

While the popular refrain pins the blame on Downing Street, a careful scrutiny of the events of the past few days will show that Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng just stepped on a land mine that had been long planted.

Here’s why:

At the heart of current turmoil sweeping through the markets is the recent surge in gilt yields, particularly at the long end. For instance, the yield on 30-year gilts surged more than 100 basis points in the space of just a couple of days after Kwarteng unveiled his now-notorious “mini budget” -- almost three times the increase that we saw in the whole of 2021.

Many in the market were at a loss to explain the fierce selloff, especially considering that Prime Minister Liz Truss had flagged much of what was to come in Kwarteng’s blueprint in the run-up to the Tory leadership election. And therein lies the rub.

To understand what was really at work, an explanation of liability-driven investments (LDI) may be useful. Typically, pension funds and life insurers owe their beneficiaries promised sums in the future, which represent a “liability” on their books. For this given level of liability, they manage the assets, which range from bonds to stocks and everything in between. Since government bonds are considered the safest assets, it shouldn’t be surprising that LDI funds typically hold bonds by the dozen.

Before 2022, interest rates around the globe were extremely low or even negative, which posed a huge problem for LDI funds. That’s because as rates fell, a key metric that LDI investors use -- known as the funding ratio -- fell way below 1.

(If assets match liabilities, the ratio would be one, meaning the LDI is fully funded. A ratio below 1 would mean underfunding).

Low interest rates meant that the fair value of liabilities that were due in the future were extremely high. So the typical pension fund didn’t have enough assets in its portfolio to match its liabilities (a sum of £1,000,000 discounted at, say, 5% may be valued at just £20 million, which will surge to £50 million when rates fall to 2%).

A typical pension fund would find it hard to match the valuation of its liabilities with equivalent assets when yields plunge that low, and that was the state of play for much of the period between the global financial crisis and the pandemic.

In order to keep the funding ratio on an even keel, LDIs turned to derivatives.

Typically, these take the form of an interest-rate swap, and someone who opts to “receive” a fixed-rate swap will face losses as interest rates rise. When rates shot through the roof late last month by a whole lot and all of a sudden, LDIs holding those derivatives had to post collateral.

As Allison Schrager puts it, the logistical challenge of coming up with enough collateral so fast made it impossible.

Soon, chaos ensued, and the Bank of England had to step in to buy long-dated gilts -- even if only temporarily.

Clearly, years of low interest rates forced LDIs to seek refuge in leveraged derivatives. Together, those two factors proved to be a combustible combination, one which was poised to blow up some day. Kwarteng just provided the spark.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/04/2022 - 10:41
Published:10/4/2022 10:11:19 AM
[] Daily Tech News 3 October 2022 Top Story PayPal has banned using its services to buy, well, books. (Hacker News) The terms are so broad that they cover all works of fiction and probably all non-fiction except for trigonometry textbooks:You may not use PayPal's services for... Published:10/3/2022 3:05:57 AM
[Politics] Calmes: Tell-all Trumpists — you should have come clean long ago

Books by former Trump officials are filling in the details about the most dangerous presidency in U.S. history. Too bad they took this long.

Published:9/30/2022 6:47:12 AM
[Entertainment] Sue Mingus, who championed her husband’s jazz legacy, dies at 92 She formed jazz ensembles, produced a Grammy-winning album and published books to promote the legacy of her husband, the composer and bassist Charles Mingus. Published:9/27/2022 9:40:01 PM
[Markets] Synthetic Salvation - On Genomics, Mind Uploads, & The Quest For Immortality Synthetic Salvation - On Genomics, Mind Uploads, & The Quest For Immortality

Submitted by Joe Allen's substack, Singularity Weekly.

Our elites want to live forever. The rest of us will make for rich compost

Fear of death is intrinsic to human life. As our years accumulate, we watch friends and family drop off, one by one, disappearing from our presence and lingering only in memories.

Barring some miracle, divine or otherwise, we’re all soon to follow, down to the sweetest baby ever born.

Unfazed by this horror, the faithful are emboldened by belief in resurrection or reincarnation—a direct participation in the eternal. For religious people, the body is just a vehicle for a transcendent soul. The mystery of death is a rite of passage.

For the materialist, there is only this world, beyond which the dying meet total annihilation. The brain dissolves into black nothingness. Consciousness stops with the Big Zero at the end of our lives. And for all sentient beings, and all memory of our existence, there awaits the Big Zero at the end of the universe.

The cosmos is nothing but atoms and the void. To make matters worse, the atoms are slowly freezing to death.

Wallowing in this trance of sorrow, our elites, and most anybody else, would pay anything to live forever—or just a little longer. Held in thrall by old age, disease, and death, they put faith in biomedical protection racketeers who swear they can keep the Reaper at bay.

Today, it’s the vaxx-addicts and maskholes.

Tomorrow, it’ll be needle-pocked mutants with blinking devices stuck all over them, who pray to AI for a place in the cloud.

Transhumanism offers synthetic salvation through three basic methods—bio longevity, bionic continuity, and digital immortality.

Genomics will stop aging on the cellular level. Bionics will keep the body running with replacement parts. Once artificial intelligence is sufficiently advanced, mind uploads will allow eternal communion with the digital deities whom techies are busy creating.

“I think that there’s a good probability,” the human-reptile hybrid, Jared Kushner, recently said, “that my generation is—hopefully with the advances in science—either the first generation to live forever, or the last generation that’s gonna die.”

A more likely scenario? This is the first generation to merge with machines, and the last generation to regret it.

Kushner is not alone. Many of our credulous elites, from Wall Street to the World Economic Forum, have been ensnared by a techno-religion. Its unfrocked priests are the scientists and futurists who push radical gene therapies, brain-computer interfaces, and various life-logging gadgets. As the actual technology becomes more and more sophisticated, you can be sure every atheist and his lapsed uncle will fall prey to this cosmic scam.

And for those who can’t afford it? Well, you know, there’s only so much room on the lifeboat.

Bio Longevity

In order to cheat death, at least for awhile, the first method is to preserve the body at the cellular level. One proposed line of attack is to correct defective genes and defuse the cell’s innate self-destruct programs. With the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 complex in 2012, geneticists now have the power to more easily knock out faulty genes, and even insert new, superior genetic codes.

Joe Biden’s recent executive order, the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, has slated $2 billion for these “high-risk, high reward” projects to “write circuitry for cells and predictably program biology in the same way in which we write software and program computers.”

There are also less invasive procedures, to be used in conjunction with gene-editing, such as munching vitamins morning, noon, and night, or gaining self-knowledge through Internet of Bodies surveillance devices—wearable trackers which feed every biometric data point into an artificial intelligence system, putting flesh on the bones of your “digital twin.” In theory, the resulting simulation could be used as a reference for targeted gene-editing.

“By preventing 90 percent of medical problems,” Ray Kurzweil wrote in The Singularity is Near, “life expectancy grows to over five hundred years. At 99 percent, we’d be over one thousand years. We can expect that the full realization of the biotechnology and nanotechnology revolutions will enable us to eliminate virtually all medical causes of death.”

Inspired by this sort of statistical fantasy, Big Tech oligarchs are pouring billions into various life extension laboratories:

  • SENS Research Foundation – Co-founded by the transhumanist Aubrey de Grey in 2009, this organization seeks to halt and reverse aging. “No matter what caused a given unit of damage in the first place,” they assure us, “the same regenerative therapeutics can be used to repair it.”

  • Altos Labs – Founded by Jeff Bezos and the corporate transhumanist Yuri Milner in 2021, this is a “new biotechnology company focused on cellular rejuvenation programming to restore cell health and resilience, with the goal of reversing disease to transform medicine.”

  • Calico Labs  – Acquired by Google in 2015 at the behest of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, this company is focused on “the convergence of biology and technology, coupled with a long-term perspective and funding” with high hopes of “curing death.”

  • Methuselah Foundation – Bankrolled by Peter Thiel (along with many other immortality start-ups), this foundation is on a mission to “make 90 the new 50 by 2030.”

And the list goes on and on. By all appearances, billionaires fear death as if hell awaits, and they’ll pay any amount to avoid it. If you’re lucky, you too might add a few years to your life through trickle-down immortality.

Should these gene-therapies and 3D-printed organs fail to keep your carcass shambling along, there are always cryonic doctors who’ll freeze you right before you die, then thaw you out once these transhumanists finally get their shit together.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation, for example, charges $80,000 to freeze your head, and $200,000 for the full body treatment. It’s a small price to pay for a shot at immortality.

Bionic Continuity

The second method is to replace failing tissues and organs with mechanical parts. We do this already with pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, dental implants, deep brain stimulation devices, and flag-raising penile implants. In a real sense, the entire plastic surgery industry—from hair transplants to rubber duck lips to silicone boobs—is a means to stave off our inevitable dissolution, if only on a superficial level.

Transhumanists foresee a day, just over the horizon, when more advanced prosthetics will offer superior functionality—including brain function. We’ll have Swiss Army knives for fingers and versatile artificial genitals, sort of like today’s transgenders, but presumably way better. Any prospective immortal had better hope so.

This cyborg dream was fleshed out in the early 20th century by the Marxist thinker J.D. Bernal. “Already we know the essential electrical nature of nerve impulses,” he wrote in 1929, “it is a matter of delicate surgery to attach nerves permanently to apparatus which will either send messages to the nerves or receive them. And the brain thus connected up continues an existence, purely mental and with very different delights from those of the body, but now perhaps preferable to complete extinction.”

Bernal compared this bionic transformation to the metamorphosis of a butterfly, albeit one with hideous wings. “Apart from such mental development as his increased faculties will demand from him,” he speculated, “he will be physically plastic in a way quite transcending the capacities of untransformed humanity.”

Screenshot: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

As we hurtle toward this nightmare in the 21st century, futurists claim it’ll soon be possible to model the entire human brain—down to the last electrochemical thought pattern—using artificial intelligence. The transhumanist guru Ray Kurzweil predicts this will be accomplished by 2029. (It’s unclear if that will be early in the year, or just in time for Christmas.)

Following an AI-created digital template, doctors will replace our dying neurons with artificial neurons. Bit by bit, our meat brains will be transformed into a latticework of lightning fast transistors. It’s an upgraded mind-brain that could last forever—so be sure to get a warranty.

Would this mechanical monster still be you, though? The idea is that a pattern is a pattern, and the human “soul” is just a pattern of information. It doesn’t matter what the medium may be. Think of it this way—if you replaced every thread in a sweater, strand by strand, with artificial wool, it would still feel like the same old sweater. Maybe even better.

In a similar manner, many believe your personal consciousness will survive the transition from gray matter to circuitry. This mind-machine merger would be like looking out at the world through your smartphone—forever. You’d hardly notice the difference.

“If you think about replacing the neurons one at a time by prosthetic neurons made of silicon,” explains the philosopher of consciousness and NYU-employed transhumanist, David Chalmers:

Just say I replace ten percent of my brain with silicon chips…do it one at a time, and keep going and keep going…and they interconnect with the other ones in a perfect way. … I think as long as you do it gradually, and replace the neurons one by one, then it’s gonna be like getting prosthetic limbs or [an] artificial heart.

You’re gonna be replacing parts of me, but I’m gonna be present throughout, and I think I could even stay conscious.

Of course, these artificial neurons haven’t been developed yet—not even close—but they will be one day. You’ll see. Have a little faith. Scientists are working hard. It’s a solid investment.

Digital Immortality

The third method to attain quasi-eternal life is basically the digital side of bionic continuity. Rather than, or in addition to, replacing neurons with artificial neurons, the mind will be gradually uploaded to a computer, where the patterns of one’s personality can be entombed in perpetuity.

Transhumanists delight in pointing out we’re already doing this. Everyone from toddlers to creaky old codgers is feeding their inner self into Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, third-party data vultures, and any intelligence agencies with backdoor access to these companies. Perhaps one day they’ll sell our digital twins back to us so we can inhabit our virtual wraiths.

“Currently, when our human hardware crashes,” Ray Kurzweil wrote, “the software of our lives—our personal ‘mind file’—dies with it. However, this will not continue to be the case when we have the means to store and restore the thousands of trillions of bytes of information represented in the pattern that we call our brains.”

Kurzweil believes injectable nanobots are the key to this uploading process. These microscopic robots will travel through the brain, mapping every neuron and synapse, creating a perfect facsimile of the “soul” in a computer. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

As with most transhumanists, Kurzweil was deeply influenced by the Carnegie Mellon roboticist Hans Moravec, who in 1988 described a gruesome uploading procedure now known as the “Moravec Transfer.” Basically, the patient commits suicide by having his or her brain scraped off, like whittling an onion, with each skin copied in silico:

You are fully conscious. The robot surgeon opens your brain case and places a hand on the brain’s surface. This unusual hand bristles with microscopic machinery, and a cable connects it to the mobile computer at your side. …

The surgeon’s hand sinks a fraction of a millimeter deeper into your brain, instantly compensating its measurements and signals for the changed position. The process is repeated for the next layer, and soon a second simulation resides in the computer, communicating with the first and with the remaining original brain tissue.

Layer after layer the brain is simulated, then excavated. Eventually your skull is empty…your mind has been removed from the brain and transferred to a machine.

Some would call this biohorror, but transhumanists revere the “Moravec Transfer” as a pioneering vision of synthetic salvation.

Screenshot: “The Lawnmower Man” (1992)

One of Kurzweil’s distinguished disciples, the transgender tech innovator Martine Rothblatt, proposes a kinder, gentler man-machine merger by way of mind-cloning.

“This blessing of emotional and intellectual continuity or immortality,” she (he? whatever) wrote in Virtually Human, “is being made possible through the development of digital clones, or mindclones: software versions of our minds, software-based alter egos, doppelgängers, mental twins.”

In other words, with sufficiently detailed surveillance, our personal data can be processed through artificial intelligence to create a new, more durable “soul” in silico.

“When the body of a person with a mindclone dies,” Rothblatt goes on, “the mindclone will not feel that they have personally died, although the body will be missed in the same ways amputees miss their limbs but acclimate when given an artificial replacement. … The mindclone is to the consciousness and spirit as the prosthetic is to an arm that has lost its hand.”

Having been baptized in electromagnetic waves, you will become your digital ghost, floating forever among the AI angels.

The metaphysics of this process make no sense, but then, why should the transhuman techno-cult be any more realistic than traditional cults? Their delusions would be funny if they weren’t constantly intruding upon our lives through ubiquitous screens and surveillance devices, and blasted into our brains with wall-to-wall propaganda.

“If anything,” Rothblatt conceded in a TED interview, “I’m perhaps a bit of a communicator of activities that are being undertaken by the greatest companies in China, Japan, India, the U.S., Europe.”

You have to wonder if we’ll have social credit scores in heaven.

So You Want To Live Forever—Good Luck With That

Humanity is composed of three primary elements—the spiritual, the biological, and the technological. At best, we are eternal souls enshrined in bodies, with exceedingly powerful tools in our hands. At worst, we’re bumbling monkeys in the Machine.

As the materialist worldview erodes our spiritual consciousness, we’re left with nothing but mortal bodies. When God is dead, technology is exalted as the highest power, holding out the promise of free WiFi and synthetic salvation.

The delusion of physical immortality, whether bodily or digital—or both—is capturing our elites’ imaginations. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that if they actually managed to live forever, and the planet has finite space and resources, some number of us will have to become compost for their biomechanical gardens.

Personally, I don’t mind the idea of being turned into mulch. That’s the fate of every man and woman ever born. What is eternal will endure.

My fear, writhing deep in my paranoid brain stem, is that our technocratic rulers, sweating over flawed calculations, are willing to huck us into the mulchers long before our time.

God will not be mocked. Nor will Mother Nature. I’m certain that, in the course of time, every billionaire cyborg and half-retarded upload will shuffle off this mortal coil. Unfortunately, I also suspect they’d happily push the rest of us offstage while they do their apocalyptic jig.

*  *  *

Joe Allen is the tech editor for War Room: Pandemic and host of Singularity Weekly on Substack. Follow him at @JOEBOTxyz on Gettr or Twitter.

Tyler Durden Mon, 09/26/2022 - 17:40
Published:9/26/2022 5:01:00 PM
[] Woke Librarians: A National Scourge Woke librarians with hot pink hair and nose-rings are absolutely determined to give your children comic books showing underaged boys putting their mouths on the pee-pees of adult men. A self-avowed Marxist activist just won the election to become head... Published:9/26/2022 3:56:43 PM
[Campus] Oh, the Humanities!

Numerous books and articles published in recent years have deplored the condition of American higher education. On the one hand, costs keep outpacing inflation by a wide margin. On the other, questions are increasingly raised about the quality of what students and parents are getting for their money. Outside the STEM fields, in which our colleges and universities continue to excel, newspapers regularly highlight students who, having majored in subjects broadly called the "humanities" at prestigious and costly schools, find themselves unable to obtain gainful employment in their field of interest—and hence to repay the hefty loans they may have taken out to finance their education (at least without the benefit of Joe Biden's federal bailout). Finally, a large proportion of our institutions of higher learning have succumbed to politicization: Many faculty use their courses as occasions for partisan indoctrination, syllabi are subject to censorship or "trigger warnings" for potentially offending various designated "minorities," visiting speakers are harassed or disinvited if they express dissenting points of view, and students report being "canceled" by their classmates for violating politically correct taboos.

The post Oh, the Humanities! appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:9/25/2022 5:33:37 AM
[Markets] How Could We Have Been So Naive About Big Tech? How Could We Have Been So Naive About Big Tech?

Authored by Jeffrey A. Tucker via Brownstone Institute,

The 1998 movie Enemy of the State starring Gene Hackman and Will Smith seemed like fiction at the time. Why I didn’t regard that movie – which still holds up in nearly every detail – as a warning I do not know. It pulls back the curtain on the close working relationship between national security agencies and the communications industry – spying, censorship, blackmailing, and worse. Today, it seems not just a warning but a description of reality. 

There is no longer any doubt at all about the symbiotic relationship between Big Tech – the digital communications industry in particular – and government. The only issue we need to debate is which of the two sectors are more decisive in driving the loss of privacy, free speech, and liberty in general. 

Not only that: I’ve been involved in many debates over the years, always taking the side of technology over those who warned of the coming dangers. I was a believer, a techno-utopian and could not see where this was headed. 

The lockdowns were the great shock for me, not only for the unconscionably draconian policies imposed on the country so quickly. The shock was intensified by how all the top tech companies immediately enlisted in the war on freedom of association. Why? Some combination of industry ideology, which shifted over 30 years from a founding libertarian ethos to become a major force for techno-tyranny, plus industry self-interest (how better to promote digital media consumption than to force half the workforce to stay home?) were at work. 

For me personally, it feels like betrayal of the most profound sort. Only 12 years ago, I was still celebrating the dawning of the Jetsons World and dripping with disdain for the Luddites among us who refused to get with it and buy and depend on all the latest gizmos. It seemed inconceivable to me at the time that such wonderful tools could ever be taken over by power and used as a means of social and economic control. The whole idea of the Internet was to overthrow the old order of imposition and control! The Internet was anarchy, to my mind, and therefore had some built-in resistance to all attempts to monopolize it. 

And yet here we are. Just this weekend, The New York Times carries a terrifying story about a California tech professional who, on request, texted a doctor’s office a picture of his son’s infection that required a state of undress, and then found himself without email, documents, and even a phone number. An algorithm made the decision. Google has yet to admit wrongdoing. It’s one story but emblematic of a massive threat that affects all our lives. 

Amazon servers are reserved only for the politically compliant, while Twitter’s censorship at explicit behest of the CDC/NIH is legion. Facebook and Instagram can and does bodybag anyone who steps out of line, and the same is true of YouTube. Those companies make up the bulk of all Internet traffic. As for escaping, any truly private email cannot be domiciled in the US, and our one-time friend the smartphone operates now as the most reliable citizen surveillance tool in history. 

In retrospect, it’s rather obvious that this would happen because it has happened with every other technology in history, from weaponry to industrial manufacturing. What begins as a tool of mass liberation and citizen empowerment eventually comes to be nationalized by the state working with the largest and most politically connected firms. World War I was the best illustration of just such an outrage in the 20th century: the munitions manufacturers were the only real winners of that one, while the state acquired new powers of which it never really let go. 

It’s hard to appreciate just what a shock that “Great War” was to a whole generation of liberal intellectuals. My mentor Murray Rothbard wrote an extremely thoughtful reflection on the naive liberalism of Victorian-age techno enthusiasts, circa 1880-1910. This was a generation that saw progress emancipation on every front: the end of slavery, a burgeoning middle class, the crumbling of the old aristocracies of power, and new technologies. All these enabled the mass production of steel, cities rising to the heavens, electricity and lighting everywhere, flight, and countless consumer improvements from indoor plumbing and heating to mass availability of food that enabled enormous demographic shifts. 

Reading the greats from that period, their optimism about the future was palpable. One of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, held such a view. His moral outrage toward the Spanish-American War, the remnants of family feuds in the South, and reactionary class-based biases were everywhere in his writings, always with a sense of profound disapproval that these signs of revanchist thinking and behaving were surely one generation away from full expiration. He shared in the naivete of the times. He simply could not have imagined the carnage of the coming total war that made the Spanish-American war look like a practice drill. The same outlook on the future was held by of Oscar Wilde, William Graham Sumner, William Gladstone, Auberon Herbert, Lord Acton, Hillaire Belloc, Herbert Spencer, and all the rest. 

Rothbard’s view was that their excessive optimism, their intuitive sense of the inevitability of the victory of liberty and democracy, and their overarching naivete toward the uses of technology actually contributed to the decline and fall of what they considered civilization. Their confidence in the beautiful future – and their underestimate of the malice of states and the docility of the public – created a mindset that was less driven to work for truth than it otherwise would have been. They positioned themselves as observers of ever-increasing progress of peace and well-being. They were the Whigs who implicitly accepted a Hegelian-style view of their invincibility of their causes. 

Of Herbert Spencer, for example, Rothbard wrote this scathing criticism:

Spencer began as a magnificently radical liberal, indeed virtually a pure libertarian. But, as the virus of sociology and Social Darwinism took over in his soul, Spencer abandoned libertarianism as a dynamic historical movement, although at first without abandoning it in pure theory. In short, while looking forward to an eventual ideal of pure liberty, Spencer began to see its victory as inevitable, but only after millenia of gradual evolution, and thus, in actual fact, Spencer abandoned Liberalism as a fighting, radical creed; and confined his Liberalism in practice to a weary, rear-guard action against the growing collectivism of the late nineteenth-century. Interestingly enough, Spencer’s tired shift “rightward” in strategy soon became a shift rightward in theory as well; so that Spencer abandoned pure liberty even in theory. 

Rothbard was so sensitive to this problem due to the strange times in which his ideological outlook took shape. He experienced his own struggle in coming to terms with the way in which the brutality of real-time politics poisons the purity of ideological idealism. 

The bulk of the Rothbardian paradigm had been complete by the time he finished his PhD in economics from Columbia University. By 1963-1964, he published his massive economic treatise, a reconstruction of the economics of the origins of the Great Depression, and put together the core of the binary that became his legacy: history is best understood as a competitive struggle between market and state. One of his best books on political economy – Power and Market – that appeared years later was actually written in this period but not published because the publisher found it too controversial. 

Implicit in this outlook was a general presumption of the universal merit of free enterprise compared with the unrelenting depredations of the state. It has the ring of truth in most areas of life: the small business compared with the plotting and scamming of politics, the productivity and creativity of entrepreneurs vs the lies and manipulations of bureaucratic armies, the grimness of inflation, taxation, and war vs the peaceful trading relationships of commercial life. Based on this outlook, he became the 20th century’s foremost advocate of what became anarcho-capitalism. 

Rothbard also distinguished himself in those years for never joining the Right in becoming a champion of the Cold War. Instead he saw war as the worst feature of statism, something to be avoided by any free society. Whereas he once published in the pages of National Review, he later found himself as the victim of a fatwa by Russia-hating and bomb-loving conservatives and thereby began to forge his own school of thought that took over the name libertarian, which had only recently been revived by people who preferred the name liberal but realized that this term had long been appropriated by its enemies. 

What happened next challenged the Rothbardian binary. It was not lost on him that the major driving force beyond the building of the Cold War security state was private enterprise itself. And the conservative champions of free enterprise had utterly failed to distinguish between private-sector forces that thrive independently of the state and those who not only live off the state but exercise a decisive influence in further fastening the yoke of tyranny on the population through war, conscription, and general industrial monopolization. Seeing his own binary challenged in real life drove him to found an intellectual project embodied in his journal Left and Right, which opened in 1965 and ran until 1968. Here we find some of the most challenging writing and analysis of the second half of the twentieth century. 

The first issue featured what might be his most mighty essay on political history: “Left, Right, and the Prospects for Liberty.” This essay came from a period in which Rothbard warmed up to the left simply because it was only on this side of the political spectrum where he found skepticism of the Cold War narrative, outrage at industrial monopolization, disgust at reactionary militarism and conscription, dogged opposition to violations of civil liberties. and generalized opposition to the despotism of the age. His new friends on the left in those days were very different from the woke/lockdown left of today, obviously. But in time, Rothbard too soured on them and their persistence in economic ignorance and un-nuanced hatred of capitalism in general and not just the crony variety. 

So on it went through the decades as Rothbard was drawn ever more toward understanding class as a valuable desiderata of political dynamics, large corporate interests in a hand-in-glove relationship to the state, and the contrast between elites and common people as an essential heuristic to pile on top of his old state vs market binary. As he worked this out more fully, he came to adopt many of the political tropes we now associate with populism, but Rothbard was never fully comfortable in that position either. He rejected crude nationalism and populism, knew better than anyone of the dangers of the Right, and was well aware of the excesses of democracy. 

While his theory remained intact, his strategic outlook for getting from here to there underwent many iterations, the last of which before his untimely death in 1995 landed him with an association with the burgeoning movement that eventually brought Trump to power, though there is every reason to believe that Rothbard would have regarded Trump as he did both Nixon and Reagan. He saw them both as opportunists who talked a good game – though never consistently – and ultimately betrayed their bases with anti-establishment talk without the principle reality. 

One way to understand his seeming shifts over time is the simple point with which I began this reflection. Rothbard dreamed of a free society, but he was never content with theory alone. Like the major intellectual activists who influenced him (Frank Chodorov, Ludwig von Mises, and Ayn Rand) he believed in making a difference in his own time within the intellectual and political firmament he was given. This drove him toward ever more skepticism of corporate power and the privileges of the power elite in general. By the time of his death, he had traveled a distance very far from the simple binaries of his youth, which he had to do in order to make sense of them them in the face of grim realities of the 1960s through the 1990s. 

Would he have been shocked as I have been about the apostasies of Big Tech? Somehow I doubt it. He saw the same thing with the industrial giants of his own time, and fought them with all his strength, a passion that led him to shifting alliances all in the interest of pushing his main cause, which was the emancipation of the human population from the forces of oppression and violence all around us. Rothbard was the Enemy of the State. Many people have even noted the similarities of Gene Hackman’s character in the movie. 

The astonishing policy trends of our time are truly calling on all of us to rethink our political and ideological opinions, as simple and settled as they might have been. For this reason, Brownstone publishes thinkers on all sides. We are all disaffected in our own ways. And we know now that nothing will be the same. 

Do we give up? Never. During lockdowns and medical mandates, the power of the state and its corporate allies truly reached its apotheosis, and failed us miserably. Our times cry out for justice, for clarity, and for making a difference to save ourselves and our civilization. We should approach this great project with our eyes wide open and with ears to hear different points of view on how we get from here to there. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 09/24/2022 - 22:00
Published:9/24/2022 9:56:14 PM
[Entertainment] Standing up to the new censorship An author whose own books have been banned argues that censors may be using an outdated playbook, but their aims are only growing more insidious. Published:9/23/2022 10:12:46 AM
[] The 2024 case for - and against - Donald Trump Published:9/22/2022 4:46:56 PM
[Culture] After Andor, Read These 5 Comics These books were looking at the origins of the war between the Rebels and the Empire long before the new Disney+ show. Published:9/22/2022 6:22:41 AM
[Entertainment] At stake in the U.S.-China rivalry: The shape of the global political order Three books explore the endurance of China's Communist Party, its standoff with the United States and its designs for the future. Published:9/22/2022 5:54:38 AM
[Markets] Moldova Launches Firewood Distribution Website Amid Historic Energy Crisis Moldova Launches Firewood Distribution Website Amid Historic Energy Crisis

Power rationing across Europe this winter is starting to look all but inevitable at this point as one Eastern European country launched a website for citizens to search for firewood sellers as energy costs become unaffordable.

"The site provides information about the nearest forestry, thus facilitating the process of providing the population with firewood for heating," the Moldovan Cabinet of Ministers wrote in a statement. 

Firewood in Moldova has become the next big scarce commodity (besides NatGas) as households with fireplaces and stoves panic buy hard and soft split wood ahead of cooler weather to offset energy electricity and NatGas costs. 

Local media reported purchase limitations had been placed on firewood because of soaring demand. 

Moldovans can search for firewood sellers by location using the government's website. Here's an example of one seller: 

Moldova remains Europe's poorest nation in economic terms as it battles record-high annual inflation of over 30% due to energy hyperinflation as Western sanctions against Russia backfire. 

The government has asked Moldovan households to reduce power consumption. 

Then there's the risk that Russian supplier Gazprom will cut NatGas supplies to the country entirely if a deadline on Oct. 1 to negotiate debt repayment isn't satisfied. Romania has told Moldovan officials they would supply them with NatGas if the Russians cut them off, but only if they pay for the fuel. 

Moldova isn't the only country resorting to firewood to heat homes and buildings amid the historic energy crisis. Google searches for "firewood" in Germany erupted in August as Russia's Nord Stream 1 NatGas pipeline flows dropped to zero. 

Deutsche Bank senior economist Eric Heymann recently penned a note to clients that said the perfect "substitution for gas" is, you guessed it... wood. He predicted that "wood will be used for heating purposes where possible," while industries will switch to oil derivatives, all of which contributes to lower NatGas demand.

And this is coming from the largest European bank that now predicts a growing number of German households will be using firewood for heating. 

And it gets better because Polish households are panic buying coal to heat their homes.  

Europe's race to rapidly secure new energy sources appears to be doomed. Households across the energy-stricken continent are panic buying firewood (and in some cases, coal) to heat their homes as this winter could be one for the record books. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:15
Published:9/21/2022 4:39:29 AM
[Markets] Fauci, Klain, Yellen, Kendi Headline Pfizer-Funded, Far-Left Conference In D.C. This Week Fauci, Klain, Yellen, Kendi Headline Pfizer-Funded, Far-Left Conference In D.C. This Week

Authored by Raheem J. Kassam and Natalie Winters via The National Pulse,

Anthony Fauci is set to headline a major far-left conference whose lead sponsors include COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer, The National Pulse can reveal. Fauci will appear alongside race-baiter Ibram X. Kendi, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and more.

The September 21st to 23rd Atlantic magazine festival will take place at the Wharf in Washington, D.C., with tickets going for a cool $400.00 per person. Topics are set to include critical race theory, diversity, Ukraine, censorship, climate change, and centralizing healthcare and pandemic response control.

Fauci – who has overseen most of America’s COVID-19 response in his role as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – has long been the subject of “fact checks” by corporate media sources such as Reuters, which deny his links with Big Pharma group Pfizer. The chairman and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Thomson Reuters Foundation– James C. Smith – is a top investor and board member for Pfizer, as The National Pulse revealed in December 2021.

Pfizer vaccine studies have also shown adverse effects on the health of its recipients, including altered menstrual cycles in women, lowered sperm count in men, and cardiovascular problems in children and young adults. Despite the flaws – or perhaps because of them – the company hired a record-breaking number of politically connected lobbyists to help advance vaccine mandates.

Anti-America Line Up.

Other participants in the event include White House Chief of Staff Ronald A. Klain, “anti-racist” activist Ibram X. Kendi, top “Critical Race Theory” scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, as well as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The first day of the conference includes “underwritten” panels by Pfizer, Genentech, the Walton Family Foundation, and Edward Jones. The website explains that “underwritten” sessions are “not produced by the Atlantic’s Editorial Team”. In other words, they are long, paid “advertorial” by major corporate interests. Underwritten sessions account for half of the first day’s events; 62.5 percent of the second day’s events; and none of the last day’s events.

The second day’s programming includes a panel on “misinformation”, underwritten by the Boston Consulting Group, and starring TikTok’s “Misinformation Researcher” Abbie Richards, as well as Louis Jacobson from the partisan “fact checker” Politifact. Richards is unlikely to be quizzed on recent revelations that dark money Democrat groups are paying for misinformation to be spread on her Chinese Communist-owned platform by leading Obama acolytes.

Southern Company is then underwriting a panel on George Floyd, followed by the MacArthur Foundation hyping ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ and Penguin Books promoting critical race theory.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Mon, 09/19/2022 - 17:40
Published:9/19/2022 5:22:14 PM
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[Entertainment] Martin Edwards’s ‘The Life of Crime’ will thrill mystery fans Martin Edwards’s history of mysteries will send new readers to old books. Published:9/14/2022 11:02:07 AM
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[Education] Does Your Kid’s School Librarian Need Parental Supervision? ‘Banned Books Week’ May Tell You.

Banned Books Week is coming to K-12 schools and city libraries across the nation September 18-24. This is a time for librarians to promote books... Read More

The post Does Your Kid’s School Librarian Need Parental Supervision? ‘Banned Books Week’ May Tell You. appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:9/13/2022 8:46:47 PM
[Entertainment] Javier Marías, celebrated Spanish author, dies at 70 His books sold nearly 9 million copies around the world with intricate and multilayered plots of crime, espionage and moral quandaries. Published:9/13/2022 6:51:50 PM
[] The case for and against Ron DeSantis Published:9/12/2022 2:39:40 PM
[Markets] Things Are Never As Bad As You Fear... Are They? Things Are Never As Bad As You Fear... Are They?

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“If you are feeling depressed, then stop reading the Daily Mail. It will most certainly help.”

The news looks bleak. A cataclysm of gloom is set to sink Europe and the UK – but, maybe things aren’t as bad as we think. Good news and a realisation things can get better could stabilize sentiment, and build a recovery base. Maybe?

Perhaps the most important of Blain’s many Market Mantras is: “Things are never as bad as we fear, but seldom as good as we hope.” 

Try to remember it as you read about the multiple challenges facing Occidental Economies:

  • The Ukraine War: Uncertainty on what may happen next and how it could further escalate, and otherwise remain a long-term barrier to growth.

  • The Energy Spike and Energy Insecurity: A massive lightbulb moment for governments, with the threat of economies being destroyed by the rise in energy costs. Power outages and energy rationing are set to cripple Europe – apparently.

  • Embedded inflation and rising social discontent on the back of wage inflationary pressures: increasing discord is expected across Europe

  • Ongoing Supply Chain disorder: China no longer exporting deflation through cheap goods, while key strategic products (including chips) remain scarce.

  • Geopolitical Instability changing established relationships: the support the West traditionally assumed from the Gulf and Asia is no longer apparent as China eyes Taiwan and digests Hong Kong.

  • Political Instability: Populist politics in the US, UK and Europe raise increasing doubts on currencies, bond markets and economic growth. Italy’s next government will call for Europe to reach an accommodation with Russia

Plus, all the usual stuff:

  • Unravelling the massive stock and bond market distortions following 14 years of monetary experimentation and mispriced money

  • Inflation, inflation and inflation…

  • Consumer Cost of Living Crisis hitting debt sustainability.

  • Central Banks hiking interest rates to combat inflation – even as governments are splurging on fiscal rescues.

  • The rising risk of recession and stagflation.

It’s not a pretty picture out there…

But maybe we are being unduly gloomy?

Get over it. Things are never as bad as we fear! Markets, expectations and outcomes evolve – and when things look bleakest, they often tend to move in a more generally positive direction than feared. (True – sometimes they get worse…)

The thing is… we like to scare ourselves.

Any newspaper editor will confirm horror headlines garner most hits, and sell more subscriptions than good news. Negative headlines drive and magnify negative reactions, and curiously are easier to accept than good news. We are biased to always assume the worst – which is why if you put 5 market talking-heads in a room to talk about growth, they will always agree the world is about to end in a cataclysm – which never happens. (In my experience..)

If you are feeling particularly nervous – then whatever you do, not read the new Nouriel Roubini end-of-everything book: “MegaThreats: Ten Dangerous Trends that Imperil our Future”. It’s classic Econo-dysto-Porn. It is apparently so miserable it will sell millions of copies. You would never have heard of Roubini if his books were about how successful the US economy is – he would be correct, but who wants to read about it?

Dr Doom appeals to the current doom and gloom zeitgeist. He called the 2008 crisis. Now he says were heading for the ultimate economic disaster; “a great stagflation that will make the 1970s look moderate.”. Oh dear. I guess I better get the bunker ready. The “preppers” who blame the Davos Cabal and other rich conspiracy theories for all our woes, will say he underestimates the coming “great reset”. Whacky populist Politicians will use it to argue for economic isolationism. A chum was joking the right portfolio composition now is 40% Gold, 40% Tinned Goods, and 20% Small Arms.

If you are of a nervous disposition, don’t buy the Roubini (actually, it’s not published till October..) He will upset you with his recipe for debt crises, geopolitical tension, serial pandemics, migration, climate change and host of other nasty things… They will only upset you further. That other voice of professional global economic misery, Nassim Taleb says: “I have never read a more lucid and nuanced account of our financial condition.”

Again, I say… Relax. Get over it.

Things are not going to be easy… but the end of the World is a long, long way away…

So even though Liz Truss has packed her cabinet with yes-men, and binned anyone who even shook Rishi Sunak’s hand, while Europe is scrabbling to find ways to bailout consumer and small business energy bills through windfall taxes and unravelling renewable pricing agreements…. things could yet surprise us to the upside.

I’m serious. When everyone else is fearful, when everyone else is out… that’s the time to be brave. (Or to put it another way – if we’re doomed.. go out with a boom!)

Humanity is generally more inventive and innovative than we give ourselves credit for. Give us a chance and we tend to find solutions. (Even Americans will eventually stumble on the right solution – after first exhausting every other possibility!) The work-around, muddle-through process works best in market economies, rather than in stultified command economies – meaning Russia and China are set to suffer most, a lesson their new friends in the Gulf, Asia and Latin America will come to rue.

Long term I have zero doubt the West will emerge from the current crisis in stronger shape! We will definitely emerge stronger than either Russia or China. Tech, health and welfare are going to be so much better here. Demographics and taxes – the two most powerful forces in the galaxy – will ensure it. The Occident is ageing, but wealthy (and marginally more healthy!) Russia is poor and old. China got old without getting rich.

The cycle of despair can turn very quickly – one piece of good news can trigger a chain reaction of positivity.

Let’s start with the Ukraine war. It’s a desperate bloody affair for Ukraine, and even more so for Russia. The losses, and the unsustainability of the logistical inventories on both sides, mean a peace is likely. An increasing number of analysts believe Putin will shortly announce he has won, and offer a peace based on the current front lines. He will put the onus on Europe to pressure Ukraine to accept by playing his energy card.

Matteo Salvin of the Italian League, who will be in the next Italian government, has called for an end to Russian sanctions across Europe, to support Italian consumers. Italy is demanding Europe reopens the gas taps by kowtowing to Moscow.

But, much as it will pain the Ukrainian people, we’d be wrong to accept. Winning is important. Whatever the Russian troll-bots would have you believe, there is no moral equivalency between Ukraine and Putin. Letting Putin win would be appeasement, and just be a problem delayed. Russia is the aggressor and must be seen to lose and lose badly. We don’t give folk the credit for understanding that.

It can happen. Europe’s energy situation is not nearly as bad as we think. We don’t need to be beholden to Russia. Putin’s big bluff is founded on persuading us he holds all the keys and has an absolute lock on our energy. He does not. Once we realise Russia can lose, the mood changes.

The latest numbers show Europe’s gas reserve tanks are ahead of the expected curve – the winter storage facilities will soon by 90% full, even with NordStream 1 pipeline remaining shut and not a molecule more from Russia. Even Germany has been able to replenish stocks faster than expected. It’s been costly. Europe has paid top dollar – filling the tanks by buying at the top of a highly distorted market. Europe has paid the cost – now we have to figure out how we afford it without bankrupting SMEs, beggaring consumers and destroying our economies. The blueprints on how to do so are still there from the Pandemic.

Even though I gleefully read that JP Morgan is going to repatriate bank staff from Frankfurt to London because of power cut risks, if we get a normal European winter (as opposed to a very cold one) Europe, including Germany, will avoid power cuts. Things are not as bleak as we fear.

Meanwhile, European businesses are successfully diversifying their energy and raw material supply chains – I was hearing how BASF is keeping fertiliser markets open by importing ammonia from the USA, which ends up being cheaper overall, is less energy dependent, and has the advantage of taking fertiliser security out of Russia or Chinese control. That’s just one single example of how the entire Occidental economy is cutting its reliance on the outside world, and making the group economy of the Democratic West stronger.

Liz Truss is going to announce an imperfect £100-150 bln bailout package. It shows UK government can deliver; biting the bullet to absorb the massive increases in consumer and SME energy bills. It will keep inflation closer to 10% than Goldman’s 22% horror snapshot.

Solving for Europe is not without challenge. Bailing out consumers and SMEs is not so simple – although the EU is talking windfall taxes. How the EU and EBC hold together the Euro in the wake of growing social unrest, recession, job cuts, denied wage demands, the apparent income inequality in society, and the cost of living crisis, is going to spawn a host of naysayers saying the Euro will collapse.

But here’s the thing. It’s easy to explain how Euro will disappear in a puff of logic – but historically that’s not what happens. It’s more likely to surprise its detractors by surviving – external pressures pulling it together rather than apart. Europe is not stupid – they have seen what Brexit has done – and is doing – to the UK.

How quickly market sentiment shifts depends on how quickly we can bring down inflation. That’s a problem for smart governments and aware Central Banks to coordinate. In Europe, the big fear is the new right-wing (and probably kompromated) Italian government will cave, and demand Europe surrenders also. Europe might do best to simply sling them out – why not?

Rather than the end of the World, what we have is a crisis. It doesn’t necessarily end the way we fear most. Yes, there will be problems, unrest and instability, but the reality is better than we think: Europe will survive the winter. That’s a good starting point.

The UK will stagger through yet another likely Tory embarrassment till the next election, and idiots will continue to tell me anything is better than a Labour government. No its not – a change will do us all good. We will survive the winter, and while inflation still has to work its way through the economy – it will not be the end of everything.

Head to the grindstone, keep the portfolios under review. Crisis is coming, but it’s never the end of the World – well, not yet anyway.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/07/2022 - 08:30
Published:9/7/2022 8:00:31 AM
[Markets] Tchir: Wake Me Up When September Ends Tchir: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Authored by Peter Tchir via Academy Securities,

Summer has come and passed. It was a long and difficult summer and I don’t see that changing as we head into September.

Admittedly I started this chart back in April, but we had a 22% drop in the Nasdaq 100, followed by a short (but sharp) 10% rally, which led to a quick and ugly drop of 14%. Then we managed to rally 23% from the “lows” only to end the summer with a 12% drop. Not exactly a restful or stress-free summer. I could have pulled up similar charts in rates, credit, curve shapes, commodities, or pretty much anything we trade and they would have been just as gut wrenching. That ignores the other problem managers and traders faced this summer – rapid shifts in correlation.

Before diving into this week’s September outlook, please see last week’s reports:

Four Main Themes for September

There are a lot of moving parts for the global economy and markets, but a few stand out. I suspect that getting these factors right will determine success in navigating markets and the economy this autumn.

Russia and the European Energy Crisis.

Academy’s Geopolitical Intelligence Group has been saying since March that the conflict in Ukraine is likely to grind to a standstill with no resolution in sight. Advanced weaponry helps Ukraine defend against Russia, but attrition of their personnel is a major issue. Russia has a seemingly endless supply of conscripts to continue the relatively ineffective advances they continue to make. Sadly, but quite realistically, the attention has shifted from the fighting in Ukraine to energy in Europe. The narrative there is getting worse by the day. The “leak” that Gazprom said it found in Nord Stream 1 (ensuring that the pipeline would remain closed) caused gas prices to spike in Europe. Even the most naïve person in Europe is now being forced to accept that Russia has weaponized energy availability (and prices) against them. This is having a widespread impact on morale in the region and it will affect spending (energy bills are already out of control, and winter isn’t even here yet). I am hearing that companies are struggling with what to do as costs become prohibitive. Nothing that Europe can do in the next few months will alleviate this pressure. Europe, quite literally, is dependent upon a mild winter (less demand) and more wind (so Germany’s commitment to wind can pay off). Sanctions have backfired. Virtually every part of the West’s sanction policy can be deemed to have been marginally useful (to actually backfiring on us). More on that in a separate piece, but this winter is shaping up to be costly and dangerous for Europe.

Inventories and New Orders.

My single biggest fear for the U.S. economy is clear evidence that inventories are too high and that orders and shipments are slowing dramatically in response.

On a simple straight line extrapolation, inventories are easily 7% or more above where they should be.

Inventories slightly built up for years (on average). The pattern of build, drawdown, build, drawdown was nice and reasonably symmetrical. Now we’ve seen inventories build 14 months in a row! Many of those months saw relatively high increases and we have built inventories for 23 out of the last 24 months (yes, a post Covid recovery was needed, but this seems absurd).

In the past few months, we have seen new orders roll over. ISM has been 49.2, 48, and 51.3 for the past three months (not conducive for the pace of inventory build that we are seeing). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new orders dropped 1% in July, the largest monthly decline since Covid hit.

Baltic Dry shipping costs have dropped dramatically. That is clearly linked to fewer exports from China. The economic bulls will argue that the decline in Chinese exports is a function of lockdowns, but the bears (of which I am one of them) will argue that this is more likely a response to already having been over-ordered. China is stimulating their economy (they did more over this long weekend) because they are seeing weakness not just domestically, but globally. I’ve seen a number of pieces recently highlighting rapidly declining costs for freight, which indicates that the problem with inventory overbuild is widespread and is starting to be addressed.

Higher Yields, Housing, Real Estate, and Autos.

The 10-year yield gets a lot of attention. Deservedly so, but I’m more concerned about shorterterm rates and mortgage rates. Lots of companies fund themselves on a relatively short-term basis (many did a great job locking in low yields for long maturities, but there is still sensitivity to short-term rates, especially as inventories build). The housing market is dependent on mortgage rates to a large extent. The housing data has been ranging from bad to abysmal for months. I’m told that “home prices won’t go down because there won’t be forced selling”. Against that, I would argue that forced selling does come in over time, but more importantly, people aren’t stupid and they understand that their house is worth less than it was a few months ago and that the outlook for at least the next few months isn’t positive. With over 60% of U.S. households owning their homes, that is a big deal. On the auto front, my inbox went from being clogged with messages about people wanting to buy my used car to receiving some interesting offers. Just like mortgages, auto loan costs are going up, which has to have some impact. Finally, consumers responded to shortages by buying more cars (a surge in demand was also related to work from home/work local). That surge may be over. Commercial real estate remains very “local” and many companies (especially those with a big exposure to commercial real estate) are pushing for a return to office, but if that push fails and rates remain stubbornly high, there could be more pressure on that space.

Wealth Effect.

Add in crypto and disruptive stocks to the losses in more traditional stock indices (and the housing market) and we have a recipe for less spending. While the jobs data remains decent, Friday’s NFP had a revision of -105,000 jobs to the June report. June jobs went from 398k to 293k (not a bad number, but off by 26% from the original estimate). Call me skeptical, but I suspect that when they get done revising July and even August, the numbers won’t look so great.

We could discuss the possibility of China being more aggressive against Taiwan (see link above to our Around the World report), how quantitative tightening is a risk to asset values, Europe’s quagmire of no growth but high inflation, or any number of topics, but I’ll stick to the big 4 for now. 

Rates

Given my outlook on the economy I’m looking for lower yields and steeper (or at least less inverted) curves.

Yes, the Fed is going to raise rates at least 50bps at the next meeting, but if I’m correct on the direction of the economic data, they will have to tone down after that. We are already seeing many commodity prices roll over (energy is bouncing with Russia’s latest pipeline gambit), but I’m convinced that by the end of this year there will be as much concern about deflation as inflation! Many of the same people who brought us “transitory” (when we felt it wasn’t transitory) have “magically” appeared in the “inflation will be higher for longer” camp. There are factors that support this (rise of India and the rapid buildout of the energy industry), but for now, I think that we will lament the day that we wished for much lower inflation (historically, lower commodity prices go hand in hand with weaker equity prices).

In order of preference:

  • Buying 2 years and in.

  • 2s vs 10s steepeners (or the steepener of your choice).

  • 20-year Treasury. I think I’d have an easier time convincing someone to run blindfolded through traffic than buy the 20-year Treasury. In a world where nothing is free or easy, the 20-year stands out like a sore thumb and while I still can’t find any takers, it does seem that the relentless pressure on this part of the curve has been exhausted.

Credit

Credit is a little more nuanced.

Given my outlook on the economy:

I prefer investment grade to non-investment grade.

  • While credit spreads will be linked to equity market performance (IG tends to be better correlated to the S&P 500 while HY is more tied to the Russell 2000), this remains more of a “valuation” and “profit margin” story than a real credit concern.

  • To the extent that lending standards are tightening (and they are), there will be no shortage of capital available to IG, but some lower rated companies may find it difficult to raise money (at least from banks).

I prefer high yield bonds to leveraged loans and really like new private credit while wanting to avoid “old” private credit.

  • The high yield bond market has fewer issuers than it used to. They are typically bigger companies and more often than not are publicly traded. This is NOT the high yield bond market of the Milken era or even of 2008! The “small”, the “tricky”, the “non-public”, the “pro-forma”, and the “favor” deals typically went into the leveraged loan market. The need to ramp up CLOs (more than anything else) also drove the leveraged loan market. If 10 CLOs were pricing in a month, you could be aggressive in what you brought to market. I haven’t seen the exact percentage lately, but new issues have always made up a decent part of any CLO’s holdings because it is easier and more efficient to use that to ramp up when the market is hot. I’m not overly concerned about the credit markets, but I’d steer towards high yield bonds over leveraged loans.

  • On the private credit side, if you can tap into a fund that doesn’t have much exposure, this could be a home run. As banks are pulling back on lending, private credit should have the ability to demand favorable terms and get them (companies will pay up for credit before they will lock in equity financing at what they deem to be low levels). What concerns me about investing in existing funds is my view that few have marked assets appropriately. Private credit, like private equity, can argue why public market valuations are incorrect. I’ve seen too many cases in my lifetime where mark to market forces further selling and creates irrational prices. But I’m not seeing that now as public markets seem to be rationally priced. This reminds me of bank accrual accounting books where everything was “money good” until it wasn’t. That statement is a bit over the top, but just because something doesn’t necessarily have to get “fully” marked to market doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. So, I’d find ways to allocate capital to dry powder private credit funds, while wanting to do a lot more due diligence before buying into one that is already substantially ramped up.

Comfortable with IG

We can be patient as widening will occur if equities go lower. I’d be tempted to get long risk by selling credit protection versus buying bonds.

The cost of funds is less important. Leverage will be more stable, even as banks tighten their lending (and margining) standards. The shorts are likely to be in the “beta” products (so LQD and some of the ETFs could be in play as well). Finally, if I’m right on QT, it will hit bonds more than CDS. Issuance remains a wildcard. Finally, as a contrarian I’m desperate to favor Europe over the U.S., but this winter seems too fraught with danger relative to what is being priced in.

Senior tranches of CLOs.

While I’m nervous about leveraged loans themselves (the building blocks of CLOs), I’m not worried about senior tranches. I continue to believe that it is easier to pick a perfect bracket in the NCAA tournament than blow up a AAA tranche (even if you are trying to blow it up). There could be a bit more downside here as early in the moves the senior tranches tend to follow the leveraged loan market more than they should, but I like this. While I think that the Fed will have to scale back on hikes, they won’t cut too soon. I’d steer towards the weakest managers largely because the structure is supportive against bad management, and you pick up incremental yield while reducing the risk of the manager being able to refinance. You will be exposed to more mark to market volatility, so follow this approach cautiously. It you are buying into lower rated tranches or equity, do NOT follow this advice – it is a highly rated tranche strategy only.

The Rest

Equities unfortunately follow the same pattern we’ve seen YTD. Weakness, led by the companies with the least obvious path to positive/strong free cash flow.

Crypto. New lows, if not a crash.

Commodities. Lower and it will not be a good thing for stocks as I’m convinced that the inflation fears are overblown and recession fears are coming next and that will be evidenced by commodities.

FX. Every fiber in me wants to bet against the dollar. I like the Yen as I expect Japan to become more important in Asia as investors and companies get more nervous about Taiwan and the entire region. In Europe, FX seems to be ahead of other markets in terms of pricing in a dysfunctional winter, so it is tempting to be the contrarian here, but so far, all I can do is book some travel to Europe because the only thing better than eating, drinking, and sightseeing in Europe is doing those things with the Euro below parity!

Despite the title, I have no intention of sleeping through September and if the summer is any indication, September could be as volatile as anything we’ve already seen.

Tyler Durden Tue, 09/06/2022 - 14:09
Published:9/6/2022 1:54:32 PM
[Uncategorized] Potato Salad Politics

It’s been a minute or two since I posted anything like this. In fact, it’s been decades. A long time ago, I wrote a lot of political posts, articles and even books in support of the War on Terror. During the research for my first non-fiction book, I had some online issues with someone who […]

The post Potato Salad Politics appeared first on Flopping Aces.

Published:9/6/2022 12:12:27 PM
[Markets] Who Benefits From US Government Claims That The UFO Threat Is Increasing "Exponentially"? Who Benefits From US Government Claims That The UFO Threat Is Increasing "Exponentially"?

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

A US senate report which is an addendum to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 has people talking due to the surprising statements it includes about the US government’s current position on UFOs.

I mean Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.

I mean Unidentified Aerospace-Undersea Phenomena.

This latest moniker for the thing we all still think of as UFOs is the US government’s way of addressing how these alleged appearances, which began entering mainstream attention in 2017, are said to be able to transition seamlessly from traveling through the air to moving underwater in what’s been labeled “cross-domain transmedium” movement. Because branches of the US war machine are roughly broken up into forces specializing in air, sea, land and space operations, the notion that these things move between those domains gets special attention.

UFO enthusiasts are largely focusing on a part of the addendum which oddly stipulates that the government’s newly named Unidentified Aerospace-Undersea Phenomena Joint Program Office shall not be looking into objects “that are positively identified as man-made,” because of the obvious implications of that phrase. This is understandable; if you’ve got a government office that’s responsible for investigating unidentified phenomena, you can just say it won’t be looking into phenomena that are “positively identified”. You wouldn’t have to add “identified as man-made” unless you had a specific reason for doing so.

But for me the claim that really jumps off the page, authored by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, is the claim that these unidentified aerospace-undersea phenomena are a “threat” that is increasing “exponentially”.

“At a time when cross-domain transmedium threats to United States national security are expanding exponentially, the Committee is disappointed with the slow pace of DoD-led efforts to establish the office to address those threats,” Warner writes in the report.

“Exponentially” is a mighty strong word. Taken in its least literal sense, it means that threats to US national security from UFOs are increasing at an alarmingly rapid rate. That they have swiftly become much greater than they used to be.

What is the basis for this incendiary claim? What information are US lawmakers being given to make them draw such conclusions and make such assertions? There’s a long chain of information handling between an alleged UFO encounter and a US senator’s pen, and corruption can occur at any point in that chain (including the first and last link).

I remain comfortably agnostic about most aspects of the UFO question, up to and including the possibility that there are actual extraterrestrial or extradimensional beings zipping around our planet in technology our science cannot comprehend. But one thing I absolutely will take a hard and fast position on is that the moment the US government starts labeling something a “threat”, all trust and credulity must be immediately be thrown out the window.

This is after all occurring as the US enters a steadily escalating new cold war against both Russia and China, and we know that during the last cold war the CIA sought to exploit public panic about UFOs as a psychological weapon against the Soviets, and that the CIA has claimed that its newly developed spy planes were responsible for many UFO sightings in the 1950s, and that the US military was working on developing “flying saucer” aircraft during that same time. It also occurs after the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics stated at a 2020 conference that the Air Force has a brand new aircraft prototype, designed using new digital engineering technology, that has “broken a lot of records.”

This new mainstream UFO narrative also has highly suspicious origins, with key players ranging from shady US intelligence cartel operatives like Lue Elizondo and Christopher Mellon, to corrupt senator Harry Reid and his plutocratic campaign donor Robert Bigelow, to Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge, who believes humanity is being tormented by malevolent extraterrestrials who feed off negative human emotions and that the US military is heroically protecting us from their evil agendas. Filmmaker Steven Greenstreet put out a short, well-sourced documentary with The New York Post this past May laying out copious amounts of evidence that the groundwork for the new UFO narrative was built on journalistic malpractice and negligence, obfuscation, omission, and outright lies. The footage we’re being shown of these supposed vehicles to justify this new narrative consist of blurs, flashes and smudges which can all be explained by mundane phenomena.

So in my opinion this isn’t a subject we can just ignore, as weird and uncomfortable as the subject of UFOs might be for serious analysts. Whatever the subject, when you’ve got the US government claiming on highly suspect grounds that there’s an exponentially growing threat that urgently needs to be addressed militarily, it’s time to sit up and start paying attention.

Not that I myself have any clear idea of what’s going on here beyond the distinct impression that we are being deceived about something potentially very important. And I don’t get the impression that other people have a very clear picture of what’s going on either.

Some say this is just a scam to get more funding for the Space Force or the military in general. That could very well be, but as far as publicly available information goes we’re not seeing anyone saying anything like “Hey we need $40 billion to address this UFO problem.”

Some say this is part of an agenda to justify getting weapons into space, but I suspect anyone likely to support that agenda would support it with or without the claim that we need to fight ET. And again, there’s the problem that nobody’s saying “Hey we need to get weapons into space because of UFOs.”

Some say this is just a deliberate “distraction” designed to keep people from focusing on more important issues, but the problem there is that (A) the empire doesn’t normally roll out distractions in that way, and (B) the UFO issue isn’t getting much mainstream attention. It’s a peripheral story, dwarfed in comparison to real propaganda initiatives like Ukraine.

Some say there’s a conspiracy to use high-tech weaponry to create a false flag alien invasion and unite humanity under a one world government, but that’s a fairly mainstream idea that’s being pushed on viral Netflix films by known fraud Steven Greer. I think the world is paranoid enough at this point that few would buy such a psyop even if it were somehow convincingly orchestrated.

Some say this narrative is all a cover for new technology the empire is keeping under wraps, presenting an official position that the US government has nothing to do with the strange vehicles people are seeing in the air as stated in the ODNI’s report on UFOs last year. That would certainly explain the empire’s cockiness in confronting Russia and China simultaneously when public knowledge of its economic and military capabilities would indicate that that’s a bad idea.

It could be as simple as the fact that once it becomes the established orthodoxy in Washington that UFOs are a threat and something needs to be done about them, it’s a safe bet that we’re going to see massive amounts of money moving around to deal with that threat and the emergence of war machinery that can be used in future confrontations with Russia and China. There are any number of creatures lurking in DC who would stand to benefit from that happening, and would stand to benefit from pushing that agenda. It’s possible that contracts have already been signed. It’s possible that finances have already been allocated for it from the war machine’s dark money slush fund, and that all this public talk is just narrative management to preemptively justify that spending when information about it comes out.

Or maybe it’s some mixture of these things, or none of them. I don’t know. I do know that someone’s benefitting from all this. And I know it’s unreasonable to expect the most murderous and tyrannical regime on earth to tell us the truth about UFOs when it would stand nothing to gain by doing so, and we ordinary people should therefore do our best to understand what’s happening for ourselves.

I think it would be good if people on the anti-empire fringes of the spectrum started looking at this thing more and describing what they’re seeing, even though it’s impossible to see everything behind the walls of government opacity. Otherwise the only people looking at it will be UFO enthusiasts who just want “disclosure” at any cost, and the operatives of the empire itself.

*  *  *

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, buying an issue of my monthly zine, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Tyler Durden Mon, 09/05/2022 - 18:30
Published:9/5/2022 7:09:06 PM
[Books] In Depth with Steven Hayward (Scott Johnson) Steve Hayward had his mojo working for his appearance on C-SPAN 2’s In Depth series yesterday. C-SPAN’s John McArdle interviewed Steve in a well-produced two-hour show reviewing Steve’s career and the books he has written including, most recently, M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom and Patriotism Is Not Enough: Harry Jaffa, Walter Berns, and the Arguments That Redefined American Conservatism. McArdle was well prepared with good questions. The Published:9/5/2022 8:46:40 AM
[Culture] Old Spice

Note: If you’re neither a cook nor cookbook reader, keep reading anyway.

When cookbooks offer more than technique or personal stories, they’re often said to achieve “beside table” status—substantial enough to engage. British food and travel writer Eleanor Ford produces such books. Her third, The Nutmeg Trail, completes a literary hat trick.

The post Old Spice appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:9/5/2022 8:31:51 AM
[Markets] Why Are Leftists Obsessed With Destroying Hero Culture? Why Are Leftists Obsessed With Destroying Hero Culture?

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.us

In the movie 'Batman: The Dark Knight' the well regarded district attorney Harvey Dent makes a statement that has since woven itself into our popular culture to the point that we often hear it quoted as if it was said by some ancient philosopher.  He noted:

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  

The most predictable interpretation of this is that there is a fine line between doing good and doing evil with the best of intentions.  People can start out as heroes and quickly fall to darkness in the name of serving the “greater good.”  I think there is more meaning behind the quote, however.  

There is also the issue of historical revision and the fact that the heroes of yesterday might be considered the terrorists of tomorrow given who is in charge of writing the history books or reporting the news.  Sometimes heroes become villains through their own mistakes, other times they are just rewritten that way.    

For example, today we hear constant gnashing and wailing from the political left about the “crimes” of the Founding Fathers and why they should be erased or canceled from our cultural zeitgeist.  They have even attempted to revise the very foundations of American history through their “1619 Project” as they assert that no American accomplishment is valid because "everything" was built around the institution of slavery.  They make no mention that slavery was an institution in every single culture on the planet since civilization began, but that doesn't matter to them.  

The goal of the 1619 Project was to diminish or dismiss everything distinctly American, right down to the revolution that founded our nation.  What they care about is the deconstruction of heroes, in part because if you can destroy the character of a hero then you might be able to also destroy what they stood for in the process.  And, if you can destroy the ideals of a society, it becomes a lot easier to then control that society.  

When the political left seeks to undermine the legacy of the founders they aren't just engaging in character attacks against men who can no longer defend themselves, they are also attempting to sabotage the vision those men created – The vision of a free republic outside of the dictates of collectivism and monarchy (rule by the elites).     

Obviously the Founding Fathers are no longer alive, but there are millions of people that have carried on their legacy for generations that are in fact still living to see their heroes be made into monsters through revisionism.  

But the destruction of heroes goes even deeper than historical rewrites.

Leftists are also targeting the very foundations of heroic archetypes and mythologies by attacking hero representations in our society.  They are seeking to change the nature of heroism by hijacking cultural pillars and erasing beloved stories and characters in order to “reboot” them in the image of the leftist cult.  This is usually done under the cover of “diversity and equity” as a means to obscure the true agenda.  Let's break down the tactics and motives behind this trend...

Rewriting Heroes To “Reflect Our Modern Era”

Woke ideology does not reflect our modern era in any way; it is actually a masked version of the old social models of collectivism and communism, specifically the social Marxism displayed by Mao's Cultural Revolution.  The only difference is today we have online struggle sessions and corporations are fully onboard with the movement.  When leftists claim they are fighting the system, they have no idea what this really means.  The system loves woke politics. 

Leftists use the reflection argument all the time to justify the gutting of hero mythologies and replacing them with vapid clones.  A recent example would be the latest Amazon release of their Lord Of The Rings prequel series.  I wrote about this extensively in my article 'Amazon’s Woke Lord Of The Rings Is The Death Rattle Of Social Justice Content.'   To summarize, the new Lord of The Rings is designed to spread a political message and undermine the values of the past rather than tell a meaningful organic story.  Amazon even released their woke Lord of The Rings on the anniversary of Tolkien’s death.

Sometimes this propaganda is subtle, and sometimes it's a train wreck in your face.

Specifically I examined the political left's obsession with injecting their own Cultural Marxism into every new entertainment product as a means to saturate the media space with their ideology.  When they say they want to rehash old stories and old heroes but write them to “reflect the world of today,” what they are really doing is erasing past ideals and principles and eliminating choice.  They don't want you to see the world from different points of view; you are only allowed to see it from THEIR point of view.  This is the exact opposite of good story telling.  

Diversity As A Crutch And A Cudgel

Diversity is meaningless.  It serves no purpose in terms of heroic representations.  People identify with actions and deeds and principles, not skin color.  Leftists in Hollywood do not actually care about diversity of skin color, they only care about two things – Using minorities as a crutch to justify poor storytelling and lazy productions, and using minorities as a cudgel or weapon when they face criticism.

That is to say, when they make garbage media with no imagination or effort, they announce “we got diversity, though,” and this is supposed to make you want to watch their products anyway, otherwise you might be “racist.”  By extension, when you dare to criticize the political pontificating and terrible writing in their media, they can then say “our stories are fantastic, you just don't like us because we hire brown people.”  See how that works?  They use minorities as a shield, either for their ineptitude or their malicious intent, but they DO NOT care about such people if they can't exploit them.  

“Diversity and inclusion” is the new slave plantation that leftist elites in Hollywood use to farm virtue points and ESG loans.  That's all there is to it.  If they actually respected the idea of presenting diverse heroes, they would create original minority heroes and write them well.  Or, they would pick minority heroes from real history and avoid implanting current day woke politics into that era.      

Narcissists Can't Write Heroes

It has long been my contention that the leftist ideology is rooted in appeals to narcissism.  Everything about it is based in entitlement rather than sacrifice.  It is based in demands for special treatment rather than respect for accomplishment and merit.  It is based in equity of outcome while eliminating equality of opportunity.  A person that has embraced the victim mentality can never be a hero or imagine how a hero would act.  They have no relationship to the concept, because narcissists are usually villains in the real world and villains tend to see themselves as victims while they spend their time victimizing others.  How else can they justify the evils they do?

No Conservative Heroes Allowed

As our media world was overrun with woke ideologues over the years the depictions of heroes and villains have become utterly twisted.  Heroes act selfishly with ego and hubris, and villains are usually depicted as either misunderstood people that are only reacting to the trespasses of society, or they are ridiculous exaggerations of conservatives and liberty activists.  This trend has become an epidemic in films, television, video games, comic books, etc.  Only in the past couple of years has there been mass push-back against the agenda, but there is a long way to go before things can change for the better.

Many of these woke productions fail miserably, but they aren't necessarily interested in box office success or making money.  Again, what they care about is saturation, as well as murdering the hero archetype openly where everyone can see.  They want to destroy your heroes in front of you and replace them with woke pod people.  This is what they care about.   

The biggest problem is that most conservatives ignored the culture war while only focusing on fleeting political battles.  They acted as if the culture war didn't matter, and in the process we have almost lost our country completely.  Future generations need heroic ideals and examples to live by, among real live people as well as in popular media.  By ignoring the culture war, conservatives ignored the future.  

There are some people out there that are working to change our country's course by producing original media with a heroic message based in American foundations of freedom, individualism, self reliance and meritocracy.  I'm working to join them by producing my own graphic novel project based on a survivalist hero.  The best we have is Burt Gummer from Tremors – He's great, but we need more.  Readers who are interested in original non-woke entertainment can learn more about that project HERE.  

It's important not to underestimate the power of media in culture.  There is a reason why leftists are so obsessive with it; by changing all our heroes to villains they hope to change our values and our behaviors.  They aren't just rewriting movies, or characters, or comic books, they are trying to rewrite us.  

The only way to stop this is to identify the threat, neutralize the propaganda, and then bring back legitimate hero culture by writing it once again with our own hands and our own deeds.             

Tyler Durden Sat, 09/03/2022 - 23:30
Published:9/4/2022 12:36:58 AM
[Entertainment] Five new thrillers to kick off your fall reading New books by Megan Goldin, Jonathan Ames, Laurie Loewenstein, William Kent Krueger and Tracey Lien offer a murder-and-mayhem tour across the globe Published:9/3/2022 6:13:44 AM
[Markets] CJ Hopkins' New Book Banned In Germany, Austria, & Holland CJ Hopkins' New Book Banned In Germany, Austria, & Holland

Authored by CJ Hopkins via The Consent Factory,

So, the censorship of my latest book, The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021), continues. Amazon.com has now banned the book in three countries … Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands.

The pretext the Amazon Content Review Team has cited as grounds for banning the book is the semi-visible swastika on the cover. This pretext is clearly a pretext, i.e., a lie, as Amazon sells a number of other products displaying semi-visible swastikas in these markets.

For example, William Shirer’s books, or Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, as depicted in the images above. Some of the swastika-displaying products Amazon offers in these markets display not merely semi-visible swastikas, but totally-visible swastikas on their packaging.

For example …

So, the Amazon Content Review Team’s pretext for banning the book is clearly a lie, and not even a convincing lie. But then Amazon doesn’t have to lie convincingly.

When you are an unaccountable supranational corporation founded and executive-chaired by Jeff Bezos, the second-richest person in the world, and a component of the US Intelligence Community, the “rule of law” does not apply to you. You do not have to justify your actions to any court of law or regulatory body, much less to some mid-list author whose income and reputation you are maliciously damaging.

Sure, there are constitutional protections against censorship and discrimination, and other laws that ostensibly forbid you from maliciously damaging the reputations and incomes of mid-list authors like me. For example:

Article 5 of the Grundgesetz (i.e., Germany’s constitution):

“Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.”

Article 3 of the Grundgesetz:

“No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.”

But these laws do not apply to you, not when you’re Amazon.com, because you know that: (a) the governments in question, i.e., the governments of Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands, condone your violations of their constitutions (which they have abrogated in any event under the pretext of a “public health emergency”) and might have even have had something to do with them; and (b) lawyers will be too afraid of your wealth and power to challenge you in court.

Moreover, mainstream journalists will completely ignore your censorship of political literature that does not conform to the new official global-capitalist ideology, or they will “like” or retweet one of my tweets, and then rush back to covering whatever one of their colleagues tweeted about some other colleague’s tweet, and their colleagues’ responses to that tweet, i.e., the tweet about the original tweet, because they, i.e., the mainstream journalists, are also scared shitless of incurring your ire, and potentially getting their books banned by Amazon, and their incomes and reputations damaged, and getting fired by their literary agents, and so on.

Which means you can pretty much do whatever you want to anyone you want, which is a pretty sweet deal if you’re an immensely powerful supranational corporation that dominates book sales and distribution globally and is also an essential component of the global-capitalist Intelligence Community.

Which that is kind of the point of this piece. Yes, Amazon’s banning of my book will damage my book sales and reputation as an author, but I’ll survive. The point is, as I put it in a post I published yesterday, before Amazon advised me that they had banned the book in Austria and The Netherlands, in addition to Germany:

“What is important is that corporations like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (which control our communication networks) do not have the slightest qualms about censoring information, banning books, suppressing facts, spreading disinformation, and generally behaving like Orwellian Thoughtpolice … and we are gradually becoming accustomed to it. It is becoming “normal,” boring even. I don’t know about you, but I am not OK with living in a world where Amazon and other unaccountable global corporations decide which books we are allowed to read, which films we are allowed to watch, which facts we are allowed to know about. And that is where we are headed, currently. We’re not going to arrive there suddenly, one day. We’re going to arrive there just like this … little step by little step, one little act of corporate censorship at a time.”

I don’t know how to fight this, exactly … not my book ban, the larger phenomenon. It probably has to start with mainstream journalists and lawyers taking on these global corporations. Relatively obscure little literary outlaws (like me) do not have the juice to do it.

So, if you happen to know any people like that …

Oh, and, for those of you who enjoy seeing how the ideological-sausage gets made, here, for the purpose of criticism and review, is my recent correspondence with the Amazon Content Review Team.

*  *  *

August 29, 2022 (4:35 PM)

Hello,

During our review process, we found that your book’s cover image contains content (i.e. Swastika, Reichsadler, Sowilo) that is in violation of our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law. As a result, we will not be offering the following book for sale in Germany:

The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)
ASIN: B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429

You may reply to this message if you believe this decision has been made in error.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

*  *  *

August 29, 2022 (5:18 PM)

Dear Amazon KDP Content Review Team,

German law is clear on the banned/permitted use of images of swastikas. See, e.g., this Deutsche Welle article …

  • Swastikas and other banned symbols can displayed in Germany if they are used for “civic education, countering anti-constitutional activities, art and science, research and education, the coverage of historic and current events, or similar purposes,” according to the Criminal Code.

There are numerous examples of books, films, artworks, etc. containing swastikas for the above-cited purposes in Germany.

The cover artwork of my book (which has been on sale throughout the world since May 2022, and was an Amazon bestseller in several countries upon its release) clearly falls under such exceptional use under German law, therefore, there is no legal ground for Amazon to ban its sale or otherwise censor it.

Additionally, Amazon.de offers for sale other products bearing images of swastikas, e.g., William Shirer’s books, a Quentin Tarantino film, etc. Thus, your decision to ban my book can only be seen as arbitrary, rather than as the result of a consistent in-house policy.

Moreover, Amazon’s banning of my book violates Germany’s constitutional protection of freedom of expression as set forth in Article 5 of the Grundgesetz:

  • Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

I trust you have taken this decision based on your misunderstanding of German law and lack of awareness of the other books and products Amazon offers in Germany that also contain images of swastikas for the above-cited purposes, and not based on any political or ideological bias and/or intention to damage my income and reputation as an author. Thus, I assume you will immediately reverse this ban.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,
CJ Hopkins

*  *  *

August 30, 2022 (3:07 PM)

Hello,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

We need a little time to look into the problem.

We’ll reply and send you more information within 2-3 business days.

Thanks for your patience.

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

*  *  *

August 30, 2022 (6:24 PM)

Hello,

Thanks for your email.

We’ve reviewed your book “The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN:B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429 ), and found that it is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale on Amazon.

We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience and remove that content from sale.

You can find our KDP content guidelines, here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672390

Thanks for your understanding.

Best regards,
Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

*  *  *

August 30, 2022 (6:39 PM)

Hi Amazon Content Review Team,

Could you please clarify:

(1) in which countries Amazon KDP has banned and/or is planning to ban the book;

(2) the nature of the “poor customer experience” you have cited, or which specific “content guidelines” the book violates?

I would note that the book has overwhelmingly positive reader reviews from readers all around the world, so I am unclear as to which customers are having a “poor experience.”

With kind regards,
CJ Hopkins

*  *  *

August 31, 2022 (9:38 AM)

Hello,

During our review process, we found that your book’s cover image contains content (i.e. Swastika) that is in violation of our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law.

As a result, we will not be offering the following book for sale in Germany, Netherlands and Austria:

“The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent > Factory
Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN:B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429 )

Regarding the Paperback version “The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent > Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN: 3982146429) KDP Print availability may not always align with digital availability.

For European countries sales, in order for a KDP paperback title to be available in one European country, you must make the book(s) available in all European countries.

If your book(s) is not in the public domain, or you don’t have publishing rights in any one of those countries, then none of the European countries should be selected as territories.

For a list of European countries, visit Help: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G201834280

If you have additional questions, please reply to this email.

You may reply to this message if you believe this decision has been made in error.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U.

Best regards,

Thanks for using Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

*  *  *

August 31, 2022 (1:31 PM)

Dear Amazon Content Review Team,

Thank you very much for clarifying in which countries you have arbitrarily decided to ban my book, clearly for political/ideological reasons, as you offer several other products containing “content (i.e. Swastika)” that you falsely claim is “in violation of [y]our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law” (referenced in my previous email).

I especially appreciated your failure to address my explication of German law regarding the permitted use of swastikas for certain purposes, and your robotic repetition of the phrase “may infringe German law,” as if I had not explained it (i.e., German law) to you. That was a lovely touch. It radiates Faceless Unaccountable Power, which I assume was what you were going for, so kudos!

Your refusal to explain the nature of the “poor customer experience” that you claimed customers have experienced or might experience, after I demonstrated that your “German law” pretext was nonsense, and a lie, and which specific Amazon “content guidelines” the book violates, is also much appreciated. Again, it evokes that “You-Are-Dealing-With-A-Faceless-Orwellian-Machine” feeling, so … good job!

Thank you also for the gibberish about “publishing rights” in European countries, which has absolutely nothing to do with this matter.

I will be sure to update you regarding the results of your efforts to damage my income and reputation as an author in due course. Until then …

All best wishes and kindest personal regards,
CJ Hopkins

Tyler Durden Fri, 09/02/2022 - 03:30
Published:9/2/2022 3:22:20 AM
[] Reasons Never to Vote Democrat Again, Vol. I: COVID Tyranny Must Be Punished Published:8/29/2022 9:53:21 PM
[In Education] ‘Find Another Job’: Oklahoma Officials Respond To Teacher Quitting Over CRT Ban

by Reagan Reese at CDN -

Critical Race Theory

An Oklahoma teacher quit after she made books banned from the classroom electronically available to students and violated the states’ Critical Race Theory ban. Oklahoma officials believe teachers who want to use the classroom to promote indoctrination should leave the classroom. “The best and brightest and good teachers do not want to …

Click to read the rest HERE-> ‘Find Another Job’: Oklahoma Officials Respond To Teacher Quitting Over CRT Ban first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:8/29/2022 2:53:18 AM
[Politics] [Eugene Volokh] Monday Morning Media: SF and Fantasy Books Any recommendations for SF and fantasy books? Please post them here. There'll be later posts asking for suggestions about other genres and other media (and see the post several weeks ago on recommendations for TV series). Please also focus on things that you expect even people who love the genres might have missed. Published:8/29/2022 2:53:17 AM
[Politics] EPIC: Expert fmr counsel to Senate Judiciary OBLITERATES Mar-a-Lago raid, Garland, and warrant judge. “The librarians are asking for copies of the overdue books that are not overdue,” said former Gorsuch law clerk and chief counsel on nominations for the Senate Judiciary Committee Mike Davis on . . . Published:8/28/2022 4:21:21 PM
[Entertainment] Washington Post paperback bestsellers A snapshot of popular books. Published:8/24/2022 7:39:08 AM
[] Snopes rates that Florida 'banned book list' as 'Originated as Satire,' as opposed to fake Published:8/23/2022 6:22:21 PM
[In Education] ‘My Bad’: Teachers Union President Eats Crow After Tweeting Fake List Of ‘Banned’ Books

by Reagan Reese at CDN -

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation Of Teachers (AFT), said she tweeted out a fake list of “banned books” in Florida on Sunday, according to a now deleted tweet. Weingarten tweeted out a fake list of “Florida’s Anti-Woke banned book list” on Sunday with the caption, “books we …

Click to read the rest HERE-> ‘My Bad’: Teachers Union President Eats Crow After Tweeting Fake List Of ‘Banned’ Books first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:8/22/2022 5:59:48 PM
[American Society] The Book ‘De-emphasizers’ Are Horrified That Books Are Being ‘De-emphasized’
Reflections in a funhouse mirror.
View Post
Published:8/22/2022 1:16:35 PM
[] Sit DOWN! Randi Weingarten spreading BLATANT misinformation about a list of 'banned books' in Florida goes SO very wrong Published:8/22/2022 8:56:34 AM
[Entertainment] How House of the Dragon Approaches Sex Scenes Through a More Critical Lens HOUSE OF THE DRAGONHouse of the Dragon is redefining what it means to be a woman in Westeros. While Game of Thrones leaned into the sexually graphic nature of George R.R. Martin's books, the HBO prequel...
Published:8/21/2022 9:56:20 PM
[Markets] What Would A Crypto Crash Mean For Markets And The Economy What Would A Crypto Crash Mean For Markets And The Economy

By Peter Tchir of Academy Securities

On “bitcoin infinity” day (apparently 8/21 is symbolic of 8 infinity, the projected value of bitcoin) divided by 21,000,000 (the total number of bitcoin that can ever be mined), it seemed like a good time to explore what a crypto crash would look like and what it would mean for markets and the economy.

We all know what a mortgage bank collapse looks like (Washington Mutual). We’ve seen broker dealers collapse (Lehman), we’ve seen the stress on the system when money center banks and insurance companies come under intense pressure. Heck, we’ve even endured a sovereign default (Greece). We’ve also experienced flash crashes in equities and bond yields.

In all those cases, I would argue that having a gameplan ahead of time allowed companies and investors to profit from the events (both positive and negative). I haven’t seen much on what a crypto crash would mean, so I figured we could examine that today.

Jackson Hole

I could have written the 900th Jackson Hole primer, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I’ve already covered a lot that is applicable to Jackson Hole in Taxi Strategies, Orwellian Moments, Things You Won’t See, and Inversion and Inventories.

My focus right now is pretty simple:

  • What is the real story on jobs?
    • The weak data is a more accurate sign of the current situation.
  • How bad is the inventory build?
    • I think it might be the worst we’ve seen in my lifetime.
  • Is the wealth effect a problem?
    • I think that the concentrated nature of the wealth effect in disruptive stocks and crypto is different than anything else we’ve experienced historically, and the housing sector weakness is ominous to me.
  • Inflation Fighting.
    • Be careful what you wish for is all that comes to mind. Time and again, lower commodity prices have accompanied stock prices as they became much lower as well and I’m not sure why that will be different this time.

Anyways, let’s get back to being off topic and discussing a crypto crash.

6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

I cannot come up with 6 impossible things before breakfast, but as the Queen suggested to Alice, you do need to practice.

Let’s start with the premise of a crypto crash or crypto collapse. If it is impossible, then there is no point even thinking about it. However, not only is it possible, but I put the possibility of it occurring in the next year at 10% or higher. Still unlikely, but a high enough probability that I should think about what it would mean.

Why a crypto crash or collapse seems possible:

  • It has already happened. Luna/Terra is gone. Poof. XRP is down 80% from its highs, Cardano is down 85%, Bitcoin Cash (you got to love the name) is down 91%, and Dogecoin is down 90% as well. Dogecoin was allegedly started as a joke, which makes it all the more ironic (or moronic) that an SNL skit helped pump it to the moon. So, collapses and crashes have occurred in some segments of the market, which alone tells me that it is worth exploring more.
  • This chart is precarious.

  • Bitcoin continues to hover near levels that would ensure that no “hodler,” or someone who buys crypto and will never sell (diamond hands as opposed to lettuce hands), has made money on any purchase in almost two years. That is a long time to wait to make money (or to sit on large losses). FOMO is a big part of crypto trading, and we are on the precipice of declining to levels where many could decide to take their money and run. There is an ongoing theme in crypto that the “whales” keep buying dips, which might be possible, though it seems more likely to me that many have decided to lock in massive amounts of wealth into the much maligned (but useful) “fiat” currency. Crypto bounced here recently, but that was just the first test and I suspect that there were some heavily incentivized holders who went out of their way to support the price (there really are no rules in this space). This chart, by itself, doesn’t convince me that a crash is possible, but when I highlight the other issues, it certainly adds to that overall theme that a crash or collapse is a non-zero probability event.
  • The chart isn’t much better.

 

  • The $13.5 billion trust, GBTC, is currently at a 32% discount to NAV. This isn’t an ETF, so it has the ability to trade at a discount or premium to NAV for extended periods. A 33% discount lets you buy bitcoin at the equivalent of under $14,000 ($21,000 * 67%). There is, to some extent, over $4 billion in “free” money in this stock if the discount closes to 0. It is bizarre and scary to me that the discount continues to widen. In ETF’s, I believe that discount/premium to NAV leads the way (cheapness begets lower prices and vice versa). While that view doesn’t quite translate given the nature of GBTC, it is cautionary to me.
  • A lack of interest. Recently one of the largest asset managers on the planet announced plans to collaborate with one of the largest public companies focused on crypto to work on some crypto projects. Two years ago, I can only imagine the impact that headline would have had on bitcoin. My guess is $10k in a heartbeat, but we are already back below the price when that deal was announced. Every headline like that (a year or more ago) was met with thousands (if not millions) of social media posts touting ADOPTION! While adoption is growing and more big banks have announced crypto strategies, the response seems to be more like “well, of course they are going to see if they can make money in it” rather than “OMG, XYZ just endorsed crypto, BUY!” Subtle shift in response, but an important one (albeit subjective).
  • The best “use” cases are diminishing. China, to me, has always been the best use case. A large population with enough money to matter. For all the talk about banking the unbanked, etc., which sounds nice, this isn’t what will drive crypto prices higher. There are stats saying that as many as 4 billion people are unbanked across the globe. According to the World Bank, about 700 million people make less than $2.15 per day. That is depressing, scary, and almost mind-boggling, but from the crypto perspective, it is not the poor that will drive prices (there just isn’t enough money). But China, where millions of “middle class” citizens exist under a regime where they may want to keep money outside of the system, it has always been a good use case. With the property market in tatters, a slowing economy, and the government continuing to crackdown on crypto (outside of the digital Yuan), that use case may be dropping rapidly. Sanction avoidance as a use case may also be diminishing. If you were illicitly trading embargoed products (like oil), crypto may have been the “currency” of choice. But with the U.S. looking to ease restrictions on places like Iran and Venezuela (hypothetically), maybe some of the alleged trade will come back onto the books. With China and India openly buying Russian oil and Chinese currency gaining in stature (at least amongst some nations), there is less reason to use crypto when the Yuan is about 10 times less volatile than bitcoin (30-day vol of 5.4 versus 53). Criminal activity still flourishes, though the ability to track and reclaim ransomware payments seems to be increasing.
  • It’s about blockchain and blockchain technology. The number of pundits, experts, and companies that seem to be doing contortions to pitch themselves as blockchain rather than crypto is high. Again, this is subtle, but it seems that re-positioning oneself as blockchain rather than crypto is occurring, which doesn’t bode well for crypto.
  • It’s a Ponzi scheme, but it’s our Ponzi scheme. There were always the slogans that accompanied crypto, like “have fun staying poor” but they often included passionate explanations about the greatness of crypto. The use cases would take up pages including such themes like it is banking the unbanked (already discussed), that it is an inflation hedge (hasn’t worked on that front for some time), that it is outside the reach of the government (it is being regulated more by the day, and many in crypto, after some recent highly visible failures, now seem to embrace this), that it is lower cost (costs remain high and there is little protection against mistakes or fraud, unlike with bank accounts or credit cards), or speed (but how many people really need to instantaneously shift large amounts of money, but aren’t already served by Venmo or Zell or some similar product?) I still see those arguments being made, but with far less enthusiasm. However, there is another “use case” that seems to be getting traction (at least in my social media streams). It basically amounts to the argument that convincing more people to participate will help. Kind of like “adoption” but with a more cynical tone. Basically, it is admitting that it only really works if more people get in (so get in, and get more people in). It has the advantage of being true and seems honest, but it seems like the last vestige of a pump and dump scam.

I’m not sure about you, but that is enough for me to at least take a look at what a crypto collapse or crash would mean.

Crypto Market Cap

Let’s start with the market capitalization of crypto currencies as that is the most obvious and direct hit to investors. We will use coinmarketcap for this section (beware of using the link as it will ask to send notifications, know your location, etc., but I figured there should be a link to something to verify).

  • Bitcoin at $21,262 has a market cap of $406 billion.
  • Ethereum at $1,628 has a market cap of $199 billion.
  • Binance Coin at $286 has a market cap of $46 billion.
  • Then XRP, Cardano, and Solana come in between $13 billion and $17 billion.
  • Dogecoin, Polkadot (love the name), and Shiba Inu are all about $7 billion, with Avalanche, Polygon, TRON, and Uniswap, all a bit over $5 billion.

Let’s call it about $750 billion in total market capitalization for crypto.

To make things “simple” let’s assume that after the top 3, most of the coins could disappear and people would hardly notice (I’m assuming that many of those coins are not widely held, and a few “whales” would lose a lot, but the average person wouldn’t lose much more than what they are already prepared to lose.) If you believe that this is an area where many have spent their “winnings” or took money made in bitcoin or Ethereum to really roll the dice (which I believe), that gives us further reason to argue that the hit here would be minimal on the economy (it also makes the analysis much easier as we only have to focus on a few key currencies).

Stablecoin Market Cap

We need to also consider the stablecoins. Terra/Luna was supposed to be a stablecoin. Stablecoins, in theory, are backed by assets of some sort, except those that were algorithmically backed (whatever that means).

Tether (USDT) is still the biggest at $67 billion. I love how much everything is made to sound like dollars (USD) despite the rhetoric against fiat. This stablecoin, in particular, attracts a lot of negative posts about how it is backed. The company asserts that Tether is backed by T-bills, commercial paper, etc., but to my knowledge, it has never produced a detailed list of its holdings, let alone an audited list of its holdings. This behemoth of an account ($67 billion is large even in money markets) is unknown by any money market participant I speak to (albeit that is only a handful of people outside of Academy’s strong short-term liquidity desk). Someone recently pointed out that they apparently manage that much money without a Bloomberg terminal account (there is no Bloomberg account linked to a company called “Tether,” but they could use a different name on Bloomberg to obfuscate their existence, which isn’t unheard of). Tether has seen their market cap drop from $82 billion to $67 billion, and part of that could be that some investors, given what has gone on this year, have shied away from it.

USD Coin or USDC (again, notice how much it tries to sound like the dollar) has a market cap of $52 billion. Its market cap only peaked at $55 billion, so it has gained at the expense of USDT. Circle, which is the company behind USDC, makes a big deal out of being transparent and regulated in the U.S. I’ve had brief conversations with people involved in the company and the pitch makes sense to me (though I have not yet gone through the effort of figuring out how granular that transparency is – that’s a project for another day). But they are clearly marketing themselves on the transparency issue and have surged relative to Tether over the past year or so.

Binance USD (BUSD) weighs in at $18 billion and is a distant third and seems relatively tied to the Binance ecosystem.

Vegan hotdogs. When I see all these names trying so hard to associate themselves with the dollar despite being part of an ecosystem designed to avoid the dollar, I can’t help thinking about vegan hotdogs and why vegans try to replicate an already weird food, when vegan food in its own right can be awesome! But I digress.

My view is that stablecoins and their market caps are a function of the overall utility of cryptocurrencies. If crypto crashes, we should see a decline in the market cap of stablecoins.

Two things could occur:

  • Those backed by assets will have to sell the assets to meet redemptions. If it is a few billion and they are back by T-bills, then no sweat. Markets would digest that easily and no one would be impacted. But if the size is bigger (10s of billions) and the assets are less liquid (non-standard commercial paper programs for example) then we could see some friction in markets. Again, if we knew exactly what they held we could be more or less prepared. What they hold and the size of the selling would impact the knock-on effects of any unwind (Terra/Luna held nothing, so that didn’t spread to the greater financial system, but this could).
  • If the stablecoins don’t truly hold sufficient assets or the assets are of low quality (there are all sorts of conspiracy theories out there on what it might be invested in that isn’t worth me repeating here, even if they intrigue me) then we could see what looks like a “bank run” occur not just in stablecoins, but ultimately in the assets they hold and asset classes that compete with what they hold. Let’s just pretend, for the moment, that they have money market lending that is off the radar screen, and presumably paid a lot, as it wasn’t standard. If they have to sell, that could cause prices to plummet, possibly to a level that more traditional players sell what they have to buy this stuff, creating that first domino effect.

There is a circularity between crypto and stablecoins. They can bring each other down.

While crypto losses themselves will be largely isolated to the holders (we still have to dig into that), the unravelling of stablecoins is likely to influence other markets, possibly quite negatively.

Direct Losses

The direct losses are relatively easy to figure out.

  • Crypto losses. Let’s say $500 billion could be wiped out of crypto. While some evidence points to there being a small subset of “whales” that would bear the brunt of that loss, I think there is a broad enough swath of the population that would take a serious hit and it would affect spending in the near-term.
  • Stablecoin losses. Stablecoins in theory should have an orderly unwind. If, and that remains a question, there is a disorderly unwind of one or more stablecoins, the losses would be in the 10’s of billions (which isn’t so bad). The problem is that unlike crypto losses, where investors presumably treated this as a risky portion of their portfolio, stablecoins are viewed as cash equivalents. Losing cash is always more problematic than losing risky investments. Something to watch.
  • Public Company Losses. There are at least a couple of public companies that are linked to crypto. Then there are the miners, mostly listed on foreign exchanges. HIVE for example went from almost $2 billion to just over $400 million (higher than the recent lows of $237 million). Not a huge market cap loss, but only one of many miners out there. This would add up to more losses, some of which would hit mainstream funds. The bigger losses would likely be felt in the private domain as many of the companies in the space have not yet made the leap from private equity to public equity. The losses shouldn’t be material to the broader market, but would likely be concentrated enough to leave a mark disproportionate to the size of the losses. On the private equity side (even more than the public side) the losses will hit employees the hardest and that will hit spending.
  • Jobs.
    • If you consider day trading crypto and waiting for NFT drops to be a job, then there will be job losses.
    • The companies I’ve mentioned, both the public and private ones, will be forced to let go of employees (that already will have lost significant paper wealth). These are skilled employees, so in theory, could find other jobs, but that could be more difficult to do in an environment where crypto losses cause investors (including private equity) to be more conservative across the fintech space.
  • Domino or knock-on effects. Assuming the stablecoins hold liquid assets, that unwind should be handled easily (there is a risk that isn’t the case, at least for some stablecoins) but I won’t harp on it. There is not a lot of direct debt tied to crypto (though there are some bonds out there, but they are too small to have any material impact). I don’t see crypto being used as a major source of collateral. If bitcoin holdings, for example, were being used to leverage up stock investments, then I’d be very scared. I think some individuals may manage their personal wealth along those lines, but I don’t see it as a widespread issue (unlike housing in 2008, for example).
    • Spending. How much spending is coming from this sector and what does that mean for us?

Spurious Correlation or Real Threat

You can take any two data series and potentially see a correlation. They may have nothing to do with each other, so we can stare at the “correlation” chart as long as we want, but it isn’t going to help us because there is no causation. Complicating matters further, we should be looking at correlations between the rate of change rather than correlations between asset classes themselves (I vaguely remember the reasons for this, but I will ignore that technicality for today).

Here is the SOX (Philadelphia Semiconductor Index) versus bitcoin. I chose to use this index because it is more likely to be spurious and highlights how much more correlated some individual semi-conductor stocks are.

Spurious correlation. The argument for “spurious correlation” is strong.

  • It seems impossible that a small segment of the market, like crypto, could have a large effect on such a big diversified market.
  • Many of the things that drove crypto were also driving other industries that placed huge demands on the chip industry (video conferencing, autonomous driving, big data, etc.). So crypto was just one of many things driving those industries and those industries should not be impacted by a crash in crypto.
  • I could go on, but I can see heads nodding here, so I won’t spend any more time arguing what is a consensus (and probably correct) view.

What if it is correlated?

  • The wealth being generated by those in crypto was large. From the miners to the “exchanges,” there was a race to capture revenue and there was plenty of revenue to capture. The spending on chips (rigs to mine, servers to provide customer service, etc.) was large. Chip companies presumably saw this demand and knew that they could charge a premium to an industry where speed and timeliness meant everything. Were chips designed specifically for the crypto industry? Was production of generics shifted to higher profit margin lines? Not only were the companies (that succeeded) spending money, but many failed business ideas (or those just not yet successful) had money to spend as well.
  • What if crypto spending went to web services (seems like it would). What if it went to advertising? (It did). What if that spending caused those companies to spend more? Maybe they needed to add systems, components, and people to keep up with the demand from the crypto industry. Did that spending then create more spending and make it very difficult (if not impossible) to figure out where crypto spending ended and where “regular” spending went?
  • How much money was crypto spending on energy? At one time I saw stories that in terms of energy usage, crypto, if treated as a nation, would have been the 10th largest country in terms of energy use. Commodity prices are always affected by the marginal 5% or 10% of demand. Is it possible that part of energy inflation was due to crypto? Does that mean policy makers are responding to a problem (high inflation) while ignoring one of the causes (because it isn’t on their radar screen, except in China, which has been clamping down on mining in that country?)

The case for crypto being a bigger driver than previously thought may seem weak, but I cannot help but believe that it is a risk we should be discussing more than I think we are.

What if the correlation was a driver for exciting new technologies where enormous wealth seemed possible (to such an extent) that current spending or success was irrelevant? What if crypto’s decline and potential collapse may not be causal, but is correlated to some broader move in markets and the economy? Then in that case, it might be spurious, but is still dangerous.

Impossible Things, Black Swans, and Thinking Out of the Box

I do not think a crypto collapse is impossible. It isn’t my base case, but there is a real possibility that it occurs.

Black swans are things that people didn’t think were possible (and turned out to be possible). We can get a pass on missing black swans, but not if we are looking at a grey swan and choose to ignore it.

I’m not lying awake at night thinking about a crypto collapse because:

  1. It “probably” won’t happen.
  2. If it does happen, the damage to the economy “could” or maybe even “should” be minimal.

But I am thinking more and more about it because if there is a correlation between crypto and the broader economy (and markets) or because crypto, the broader markets, and the economy are moving to the same theme, there is serious risk to the downside. Some of this risk may not be getting priced in based on some simple charts of crypto versus other asset classes. On this broader correlation theme, check out ARKK shares outstanding because something seems to have shifted in terms of the investor mentality there.

For those who celebrate, enjoy bitcoin infinity day! It really seems weird that not only is that a thing, but on 8/21/21 the CEO of a public company enjoyed tweeting it out. I’m possibly too old and jaded, but stuff like that seems silly rather than compelling.

Tyler Durden Sun, 08/21/2022 - 21:30
Published:8/21/2022 9:56:20 PM
[Entertainment] Beach bag refill: 12 books to get you to the end of summer A list of beach reads and other books to get you through summer. Published:8/13/2022 7:54:12 AM
[In Education] Florida School Slaps Advisory Labels On More Than 100 LGBTQ, Race-Based Books

by Reagan Reese at CDN -

A Florida school district has placed warning labels for parents on more than 100 books containing LGBTQ and raced-based content, according to Fox News. Collier County public schools in Collier County, Florida, began adding warning labels to books in the district library after a February “Porn In Schools Report,” according to Fox News. …

Click to read the rest HERE-> Florida School Slaps Advisory Labels On More Than 100 LGBTQ, Race-Based Books first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:8/13/2022 7:54:12 AM
[Markets] The Madness Of Groupthink The Madness Of Groupthink

Authored by Robert Malone via Brownstone Institute,

“Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.”

~ Fredrich Nietzsche

We all seek to understand the root causes of the COVIDcrisis. We crave an answer, and hope is that we can find some sort of rationale for the harm that has been done, something that will help make sense out of one of the most profound policy fiascos in the history of the United States.

In tracing the various threads which seem to lead towards comprehension of the larger issues and processes, there has been a tendency to focus on external actors and forces. Examples include the Medical-Pharmaceutical Industrial complex, the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, the Chinese Central Communist Party, the central banking system/Federal Reserve, the large “hedge funds” (Blackrock, State Street, Vanguard), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporate/social media and Big Technology, the Trusted News Initiative, and the United Nations.

In terms of the inexplicable behavior of the general population in response to the information which bombards all of us, the denialism and seeming hypnosis of colleagues, friends and family, Mattias Desmet’s 21st century update of the work of Hannah ArendtJoost Meerloo, and so many others is often cited as the most important text for comprehending the large scale psychological processes which have driven much of the COVIDcrisis madness. Dr. Desmet, a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University (Belgium) and a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist, has provided the world with guide to the Mass Formation process (Mass formation Psychosis, Mass Hypnosis) which seems to have influenced so much of the madness that has gripped both the United States as well as much of the rest of the world.

But what about the internal psychological processes at play within the United States HHS policy making group? The group which has been directly responsible for the amazingly unscientific and counterproductive decisions concerning bypassing normal bioethical, regulatory and clinical development norms to expedite genetic vaccine products (“Operation Warp Speed”), suppressing early treatment with repurposed drugs, mask and vaccine mandates, lockdowns, school closures, social devision, defamation and intentional character assassination of critics, and a wide range of massively disruptive and devastating economic policies.

All have lived through these events, and have become aware of the many lies and misrepresentations (subsequently contradicted by data) which have been walked back or historically revised by Drs. Fauci, Collins, Birx, Walensky, Redfield, and even Mr. Biden. Is there a body of scholarship and academic literature which can help make sense of the group dynamics and clearly dysfunctional decision making which first characterized the “coronavirus taskforce” under Vice President Pence, and then continued in a slightly altered form through the Biden administration?

During the early 1970s, as the (tragically escalated) Viet Nam War foreign policy fiasco was starting to wind down, an academic psychologist focusing on group dynamics and decision making was struck by parallels between his own research findings and the group behaviors involved in the Bay of Pigs foreign policy fiasco documented in A thousand days: John F. Kennedy in the White House by Arthur Schlesinger.

Intrigued, he began to further investigate the decision making involved in this case study, as well as the policy debacles of the Korean War, Pearl Harbor, and the escalation of the Viet Nam War. He also examined and developed case studies involving what he saw as major United States Government policy triumphs. These included the management of the Cuban missile crisis, and development of the Marshall Plan. On the basis of these case studies, examined in light of current group dynamic psychology research, he developed what a seminal book which became a cautionary core text for most students of Political Science.

The result was Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes by Author Irving Janis (Houghton Mifflin Company July 1, 1972).

Biographical Context:

Irving Janis (1918-1990) was a 20th century social psychologist who identified the phenomenon of groupthink. Between 1943 and 1945, Janis served in the Research Branch of the Army, studying the morale of military personnel. In 1947 he joined the faculty of Yale University and remained in the Psychology Department there until his retirement four decades later. He was also an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Janis focused much of his career on studying decision making, particularly in the area of challenging habitual acts such as smoking and dieting. He researched group dynamics, specializing in an area he termed “groupthink,” which describes how groups of people are able to reach a compromise or consensus through conformity, without thoroughly analyzing ideas or concepts. He revealed the relationship peer pressure has to conformity and how this dynamic limits the confines of the collective cognitive ability of the group, resulting in stagnant, unoriginal, and at times, damaging ideas.

Throughout his career, Janis authored a number of articles and governmental reports and several books including Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes and Crucial Decisions: Leadership in Policy Making and Crisis Management

Irving Janis developed the concept of groupthink to explain the disordered decision-making process that occurs in groups whose members work together over an extended period of time. His research into groupthink led to the wide acceptance of the power of peer pressure. According to Janis, there are several key elements to groupthink, including:

He observed that:

  • The group develops an illusion of invulnerability that causes them to be excessively optimistic about the potential outcomes of their actions.
  • Group members believe in the inherent accuracy of the group’s beliefs or the inherent goodness of the group itself. Such an example can be seen when people make decisions based on patriotism. The group tends to develop negative or stereotyped views of people not in the group. 
  • The group exerts pressure on people who disagree with the group’s decisions.
  • The group creates the illusion that everyone agrees with the group by censoring dissenting beliefs. Some members of the group take it upon themselves to become “mindguards” and correct dissenting beliefs. 

This process can cause a group to make risky or immoral decisions. 

This book was one of my assigned textbooks during undergraduate studies in the early 1980s, and it has deeply influenced my entire career as a scientist, physician, academic, entrepreneur, and consultant. It has been widely read, often as required reading during undergraduate political science coursework, and Review of General Psychology survey (published in 2002) ranked Janis as the 79th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

As I have considered the revelations provided by the recent books from Dr. Scott Atlas (A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America) and Dr. Deborah Birx (Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late), I realized that the prescient insights of Dr. Janis were directly applicable to the group dynamics, behaviors and faulty decision making observed within the core HHS leadership “insider group” responsible for much of the grossly dysfunctional decision making which has characterized the COVIDcrisis.

Janis’ insights into the process of groupthink in the context of dysfunctional public policy decision making profoundly foreshadowed the behaviors observed within the HHS COVID leadership team.

A high degree of group cohesiveness is conductive to a high frequency of symptoms of groupthink, which in turn are conductive to a high frequency of defects in decision-making.  Two conditions that may play an important role in determining whether or not group cohesiveness will lead to groupthink have been mentioned – insulation of the policy-making group and promotional leadership practices.

Rather than paraphrasing his ideas, below I provide key quotes from his seminal work which help shed light on the parallels between the foreign policy decision making fiascos which he examined and current COVIDcrisis mismanagement.

I use the term “groupthink” as a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that peole engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the member’s strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.  “Groupthink” is a term of the same order as the words in the newspeak vocabulary George Orwell presents in his dismaying 1984– a vocabulary with terms such as “doublethink” and “crimethink”.  By putting groupthink with those Orwellian words, I realize that groupthink takes on an invidious connotation.  The invidiousness is intentional.  Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.

Hardhearted actions by softheaded groups

At first I was surprised by the extent to which the groups in the fiascoes I have examined adhered to group norms and pressures toward uniformity.  Just as in groups of ordinary citizens, a dominant characteristic appears to be remaining loyal to the group by sticking with the decisions to which the group has committed itself, even when the policy is working badly and has unintended consequences that disturb the conscience of the members.  In a sense, members consider loyalty to the group the highest form of morality. That loyalty requires each member to avoid raising controversial issues, questioning weak arguments, or calling a halt to softheaded thinking. 

Paradoxically, softheaded groups are likely to be extremely hardhearted toward out-groups and enemies.  In dealing with a rival nation, policymakers comprising an amiable group find it relatively easy to authorize dehumanizing solutions such as large-scale bombings.  An affable group of government officials is unlikely to pursue the difficult and controversial issues that arise when alternatives to a harsh military solution come up for discussion.  Nor are members inclined to raise ethical issues that imply that this “fine group of ours, with its humanitarianism and its high-minded principles, might be capable of adopting a course of action that is inhumane and immoral.”

The more amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out groups.

Janis defined eight symptoms of groupthink:

1)    An illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all of the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks.

2)    Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions.

3)    An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.

4)    Stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes.

5)    Direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members.

6)    Self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to himself the importance of his doubts and counterarguments.

7)    A shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgements conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent).

8)    The emergence of self-appointed mindguards- members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

It is relatively easy to identify errors of thought, process, and decision making in retrospect. Much harder is to devise recommendations that will help to avoid repeating history. Fortunately, Dr. Janis’ provides a set of prescriptions which I have found useful throughout my career, and which can be readily and effectively applied in almost any group decision making environment.  He provides the following context for his treatment plan:

My two main conclusions are that along with other sources of error in decision-making, groupthink is likely to occur within cohesive small groups of decision-makers and that the most corrosive effects of groupthink can be counteracted by eliminating group insulation, overly directive leadership practices, and other conditions that foster premature consensus.  Those who take these conclusions seriously will probably find that the little knowledge they have about groupthink increases their understanding of the causes of erroneous group decisions and sometimes even has some practical value in preventing fiascoes.

Perhaps one step that might be taken to avoid further repeats of the public health policy “fiascoes” which characterize the domestic and global response to the COVIDcrisis is to mandate leadership training of the Senior Executive Service (much as mandated within DoD), and particularly within the leadership of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Whether or not this ever becomes the governmental policy, below are the nine key points which any of us can apply when seeking to avoid groupthink in groups that we participate in.

Nine action items for avoiding groupthink

1)    The leader of a policy-forming group should assign the role of critical evaluator to each member, encouraging the group to give high priority to airing objections an doubts.  This practice needs to be reinforced by the leader’s acceptance of criticism of his own judgements in order to discourage the members from soft-pedaling their disagreements.2)    The leaders in an organizations hierarchy, when assigning a policy planning mission to a group, should be impartial instead of stating preferences and expectations out the outset.  This practice requires each leader to limit his briefings to unbiased statements about the scope of the problem and the limitations of available resources, without advocating specific proposals he would like to see adopted.  This allows the conferees the opportunity to develop and atmosphere of open inquiry and to explore impartially a wide range of policy alternatives.

3)    The organization should routinely follow the administrative practice of setting up several independent policy-planning and evaluation groups to work on the same policy question, each carrying out its deliberations under a different leader.

4)    Throughout the period when the feasibility and effectiveness of policy alternatives are being surveyed, the policy-making group should from time to time divide into two or more subgroups to meet separately, under different chairmen, and then come together to hammer out their differences.

5)    Each member of the policy-making group should discuss periodically the group’s deliberations with trusted associates in his own unit of the organization and report back their reactions.

6)    One or more outside experts or qualified colleagues within the organization who are not core members of the policy-making group should be invited to each meeting on a staggered basis and should be encouraged to challenge the views of the core members.

7)    At every meeting devoted to evaluating policy alternatives, at least one member should be assigned the role of devil’s advocate.

8)    Whenever the policy issue involves relations with a rival nation or organization, a sizable bloc of time (perhaps an entire session) should be spent surveying all warning signals from the rivals and constructing alternative scenarios of the rivals’ intentions.

9)    After reaching a preliminary consensus about what seems to be the best policy alternative, the policy-making group should hold a “second chance” meeting at which every member is expected to express as vividly as he can all his residual doubts and to rethink the entire issue before making a definitive choice.

 

Robert W. Malone is a physician and biochemist. His work focuses on mRNA technology, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. You can find him at Substack and Gettr

 

Tyler Durden Thu, 08/11/2022 - 23:40
Published:8/11/2022 11:29:42 PM
[Markets] Michigan Town Votes To Defund Library Over Books With Graphic Sexual Content Michigan Town Votes To Defund Library Over Books With Graphic Sexual Content

Authored by Bill Pan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Residents of a town in western Michigan have overwhelmingly voted to not renew a property tax millage that has helped fund their public library following a battle over LGBT-themed books with explicit illustrations.

A file image of a school library. (John Moore/Getty Images)

More than 60 percent of Jamestown Township voters voted “no” on Aug. 2 to a 10-year millage renewal and a tax increase for the local library. Roughly 3,000 people, representing a third of the township’s population, participated in the election.

The bulk of the library’s $245,000 annual budget comes from the now-defeated millage, which means that the Patmos Library will run out of money in early 2023, according to library board President Larry Walton. It also means that residents won’t have their property taxes raised by $24.

Walton told Bridge Michigan that he “wasn’t expecting” the battle over graphic LGBT-themed books to end the way it did, saying it was “very disappointing” for people to be “short-sighted” in closing the library over those materials.

We’re all for the library. I use it,” Jamestown resident Sarah Johnson told the media outlet after voting to defund the library. “We want to make a statement that we want some say in the books.”

According to Bridge Michigan, a parent complained earlier this year about the library’s inclusion of Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir.” The book depicts a variety of sexual acts, including the self-described nonbinary author’s sexual experiences. When asked to take “Gender Queer” out of circulation, the library board instead put it behind the counter so that children wouldn’t be able to access it.

Jamestown residents also reportedly took issue with some other titles, including “Spinning,” a graphic novel about a teenage lesbian skater, and “Kiss Number 8,” a graphic novel with similar homosexual themes. Despite popular demand for their removal, the board insisted on keeping those books in the young adult section.

Patmos Library officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Nathan Triplett, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), praised Patmos for refusing to “give in to the demand” of the people whose tax dollars support the library’s operation.

“It’s a credit to the staff and board leadership of the Patmos Library that they have steadfastly refused to give in to demand that they purge their collection of LGBTQ materials. We need more of that courage and resolve today,” Triplett wrote on Twitter, in response to a post by the national ACLU regarding what it called “censorship” in school and public libraries.

Progressive activists have decried “censorship” when concerned parents seek transparency in what their children are being exposed to and challenge sexually explicit books in classrooms or libraries.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Thu, 08/11/2022 - 19:00
Published:8/11/2022 6:41:55 PM
[01b1e1f0-41eb-5664-9da4-6a39bc302810] Parents fighting schools to protect their kids are heroes, not book-banners Some of the books on school library shelves is so pornographic that parents are cut off at school board meetings if they try to show the material or read it aloud. Published:8/9/2022 2:25:05 AM
[Entertainment] 15 Books to Read in August E-Comm: August book picksOut of ways to beat the heat? Look no further than a new book! It's still beach read season and August is set to deliver several of the year's most anticipated reads, including...
Published:8/7/2022 3:30:56 PM
[Markets] The Tyranny Of Coronaphobia The Tyranny Of Coronaphobia

Authored by Ramesh Thakur via The Browstone Institute,

I’ve had two big worries during the pandemic, starting from the very beginning and still ongoing.

Both relate to my sense that ‘coronaphobia’ has taken over as the basis of government policy in so many countries, with a complete loss of perspective that life is a balance of risks pretty much on a daily basis.

First, the extent to which dominant majorities of peoples in countries with universal literacy can be successfully terrified into surrendering their civil liberties and individual freedoms has come as a frightening shock. There is this truly confronting video of the police in Melbourne assaulting a small young woman – for not wearing a mask!

On the one hand, the evidence base for the scale and gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic is surprisingly thin in comparison to the myriad other threats to our health that we face every year. We don’t ban cars on the reasoning that every life counts and even one traffic death is one too many lives lost. Instead, we trade a level of convenience for a level of risk to life and limb.

On the other hand, the restrictions imposed on everyday life as we know it have been far more draconian than anything previously done, even during World War II or the great 1918-19 flu. In present circumstances, the argument for the crucial importance of liberties has been made most eloquently by former UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption in a BBC interview on March 31st, and repeated several times since. 

But it’s also an argument that Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America (and therefore suspect in the post-Black Lives Matter and statues-toppling environment), made back in the 18th century: ‘Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety’. 

Yet, the evidence for the effectiveness of draconian lockdowns is less than convincing. As one Lancet study concluded, ‘Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people’.

Second, the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the health and economies of many developing countries where a billion people subsist in a Hobbesian state of nature and life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’. In poor countries, the biggest numbers of deaths are caused by water-borne infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies and neonatal and maternal complications. 

The lockdown has produced its own version of Thucydides’ dictum that the strong do what they can, the weak suffer as they must. In developing countries, saving livelihoods is no less important than saving lives. The privileged jet-setters who imported the virus can utilise the private hospitals but the poor they infect have little access to decent healthcare and will be disproportionately devastated. The rich carry the virus, the poor bear the burden since staying at home means foregoing daily income. Millions ‘fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus’.

I remain very puzzled at how so many people I considered to be liberals have been so utterly indifferent to the plight of the poor and the casual labourers who do not have the luxury of working from home, nor savings to fall back on to tide their family over until they can earn an income again. 

Celebrities posting videos and selfies of working from home in opulent mansions is positively obscene and revolting. Not surprisingly, given my Indian background, I was powerfully influenced by the visual images of the millions of migrant workers literally on the march by foot over thousands of kilometres trying desperately to make their way back to home villages as all work dried up. 

Many died en route and the heartbreaking case of Jamlo Madkam in particular, a 12-year old girl who trekked 100km but died of exhaustion just 11km from home, has never stopped haunting me.

This is not to say that high-income Western countries are immune from the deadly effects of lockdown. But the acuteness of the harsh impacts on the poor is just unconscionable and hard to comprehend intellectually as well as emotionally.

What about AFTER this pandemic? What worries you the most?

Most of my answer to this question is anticipated in the answer to the first question: the long-term impact on the health, nutritional requirements, food security, mental wellbeing of people, etcetera. I’ve been worried from the start by the long-term impact of lockdowns over the coming decade on the lives and livelihoods of poor people in poor countries.

I wonder, too, if we have set ourselves up to repeat the folly every year with annual outbreaks of flu, especially if it is a bad flu season. If not, why not? Perhaps someone will come up with the slogan ‘Flu Lives Matter’. Or governments could just pass laws making it illegal for anyone to fall sick and die.

How and when are we going to return to the ‘new normal’ and what will it look like? Globalisation has underpinned unprecedented prosperity and the rise of educational and health outcomes for billions of people around the world, along with a dark underbelly of uncivil society. Will its discontents now throw away substantial benefits as the world retreats behind national moats once again?

The pandemic proves conclusively the need to demilitarise foreign policy and promote greater multilateral cooperation against grave threats that are global in nature and require global solutions. What my former boss, the late Kofi Annan, called ‘problems without passports’ require solutions without passports. The risk is instead we will move in the opposite direction and recreate regionalised balance of power systems in various hotspots around the world.

Pandemics have long been identified as one of many global challenges for which the world should have prepared in advance. Recently The Wall Street Journal had a major investigative article on the failure to do so, despite ample warnings from scientists. ‘A Deadly Coronavirus Was Inevitable. Why Was No One Ready?’ asked the authors, and quite rightly too. 

Another catastrophe into which we seem to be sleepwalking is a nuclear war. And remember, the whole point of the sleepwalking analogy is that people walking in their sleep are not aware of it at the time. Other pressing global challenges include growing ecosystem imbalances and fragility, depletion of fish stocks, food and water insecurity, desertification, and of course a host of other diseases that remain the biggest killers on an annual basis.

Conclusion

By way of a concluding reflection, I think a common error has been to privilege the medical over all other considerations. In reality, and certainly with the benefit of hindsight but also from the very beginning in my case, this should have involved a considered assessment of what I call ‘A Balance of Interests’ (my chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy). Governments must take into account and reconcile medical, social, economic, liberal democratic, human rights and international policies in fashioning an integrated public policy response to a pandemic.

*  *  *

Epilogue

The above is extracted from a long, 3,000 word full page interview featured in a Sunday edition of the Argentine daily La Nación on August 22, 2020 (in Spanish): Hugo Alconada Mon, ‘The Tyranny of Coronaphobia’, INTERVIEW WITH RAMESH THAKUR

Since then Covid has mutated into multiple variants, mass vaccinations have been carried out in very many countries, and our understanding, data and knowledge have evolved and grown. Despite that, re-reading these two worries each about the policy responses to Covid two years ago and about the possible ramifications for what the post-Covid new normal will look like, I don’t think I would change a single word today. 

I confess I still don’t understand the global outbreak of collective panic and hysteria, the shelving of all existing pandemic management plans, the failure of medical professions to speak out, and the astonishing public compliance with authoritarian policies.

Tyler Durden Fri, 08/05/2022 - 19:00
Published:8/5/2022 6:12:54 PM
[Education] Utah School District Pulls Dozens of Books With Titles Such as ‘Gender Queer’

Utah’s largest school district has removed 52 books from its library for alleged inappropriate content and plans to investigate another 32, according to The Salt... Read More

The post Utah School District Pulls Dozens of Books With Titles Such as ‘Gender Queer’ appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:8/3/2022 3:27:35 PM
[Markets] Cold War Lessons For US-China Today Cold War Lessons For US-China Today

By Jordan Schneider and Irene Zhang of ChinaTalk

How did the Cold War affect US diplomacy and its actions abroad? And what lessons about gently coaxing Gorbachev back into the bosom of the international community need to be relearned?

Hal Brands (@HalBrands), professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of Twilight Struggle: What the Cold War Teaches Us about Great-Power Rivalry Today. Along with co-host Emily Jin (@ew_jin) of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), we discussed:

  • How the US capitalized on Soviet heavy-handedness in the developing world

  • The US’s never-ending cycles of self-confidence and self-doubt

  • Today’s Sinologists versus Cold War Sovietologists

  • Why the only person who can stop the war in Ukraine is the one who started it

Applied history, and why the Cold War?

Jordan Schneider: Applied history, what is it and why isn't it more of a thing?

Hal Brands: Applied history is basically just a fancy way of saying that you study history not for its own sake, even though that's important, but for what it can teach you about how to handle the problems of today and tomorrow.

This is actually the oldest possible use of history; there's literally nothing new about it. If you go back and read Thucydides, he doesn't use the term applied history, but he says that his History of the Peloponnesian War was meant to serve as a guide to statecraft and subsequent eras. In fact, I would say that this is why most people read history. It's mostly professional historians who think that history should be studied for its own sake.

The challenge, I think, is that within the historical profession, there has long been a concern that doing history with an eye to shaping policy risks is diluting or compromising the scholarly objectivity on which good history is supposed to depend.

I think that that's a fair point, and there are good examples of people who have allowed the quest for influence or whatnot to distort their historical work. But I think there are ways of balancing that challenge.

In fact, I would say that it's hard for me to justify the doing of history if you're not trying to make a point that's relevant today.

Jordan Schneider: Why spend part of our marginal 10 hours of reading time a week on the Cold War?

Hal Brands: Part of it is that we all know something about the Cold War and we all probably have an image of the Cold War in our heads. It occurred within the living memory of a lot of US policymakers right now. I guarantee Joe Biden has some understanding of the Cold War, and that understanding probably plays some role in his policy decisions on issues from Afghanistan to Ukraine.

One of the arguments I'm making in the book is that the Cold War actually isn't that exceptional. There are aspects of the Cold War that are exceptional: it’s the only great power rivalry that played out in the shadow of nuclear weapons, to give you one example. But then, it's part of this much longer phenomenon of protracted great-power competition that goes back to the beginning of recorded history. So it ought to be able to teach us something interesting about that larger phenomenon at a time when it's coming back to life in the form of the US’ relationships with China and Russia today.

American Exceptionalism and the Pitfalls of Ideology

Jordan Schneider: The day after Biden's State of the Union, I was thinking: Biden is saying this stuff about how we're the best country and we can do anything, and I'm like, oh, I really hope so. To what extent did folks back then buy this? Throughout the entirety of the Cold War, how did that sine wave flow in and out over time?

Hal Brands: I don't think they bought it any more than they buy it today.

There was never an uncritical belief that the United States could do everything and that its influence was entirely benevolent and benign.

It’s quite often the opposite. The United States went through periods of intense self-doubt during the Cold War, and even times when the country was tearing itself apart over things that it had done overseas — just look at the domestic bombings, some of which were related to the blowback over the Vietnam War throughout much of the 1970s.

There are big debates in the United States over whether we should have NATO anymore, and whether we should still have alliance commitments around the globe. We go through these cycles of self-confidence, and then a lack of self-confidence.

This is normal; when threats are running high and we're feeling good about ourselves, we embrace a very expansive conception of what we think we can achieve in the world. Then, when something goes wrong, like the Vietnam War, we decide that we are really unable to accomplish anything. It typically takes some sort of advance by the bad guys to shake us out of that. That’s a normal part of American history. We see that cycle repeatedly during the Cold War.

Vietnam War protest in Washington, D.C., October 21, 1967.

Emily Jin: Fusing geopolitics with values or ideology, while powerful for holding a nation together, is also possibly going to lead to bad policies. How would you design an approach that actually leaves room for both unity and clear-headedness, that could detect bad policies?

Hal Brands: You probably can't. If you want a political consensus strong enough to sustain American participation in a long-term competition, you have to tap into that ideological fervor that is very deeply rooted in the American psyche.

This is what Harry Truman understood. It's what Ronald Reagan understood. It's what all of the policymakers who really spoke to Americans best about the Cold War and what it represented understood, and they weren't entirely wrong about that. I think that they were right in thinking that what was ultimately at stake in the Cold War was a contest between two fundamentally different visions about how people in societies should be organized.

But it's like any pep talk: it's easy to take it a little bit too far and hard to downshift into a lower gear at a particular time. The way that I try to frame this is that any political consensus that was strong enough to inspire the sort of investments that the United States was going to need to win the Cold War was also going to be strong enough that people like Joe McCarthy could abuse it, or strong enough to lend itself to red-baiting.

Jordan Schneider: This seems to be the dilemma: on the one hand, you get the Vietnam War, driven by this ideological fear that, that if we screw this up, the whole world's going to know that we're a paper tiger and America doesn't stand for anything.

And on the other hand, you get these conversations that you bring to light very well through archival work, where leaders basically say that these are trade-offs that that we have to make because there's a bigger bad behind all of this, and we’ve got to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can so that Marxist-Leninism doesn't take over the planet.

Hal Brands: Jeane Kirkpatrick had a saying in the early eighties: there are degrees of evil in the world. So the alternative to working with Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala might be something even worse than that. There's a certain amount of truth in that, obviously.

The challenge, of course, is that there is always a point at which means can corrupt ends, right?

There's always a point at which the way you pursue a certain goal can undermine the worthiness of the goal itself.

I think it's a fair question to ask whether the United States occasionally got itself in positions where its own conduct was so bad, or had backed people whose conduct was so bad, that it undermined the larger moral cause it was trying to support.

President John F. Kennedy hosts Suharto in Washington, D.C., 1961. (AP)

Jordan Schneider: On your degrees-of-evil scale, I'm not sure how much further Suharto can fall down. And it's not just him: there were plenty of others, and one wonders if less death and awfulness would have befallen these countries if their left-leaning alternatives had stayed in power. I grant you that these were difficult decisions, but I do think in retrospect that there were plenty of these battles which the US could have just decided not to fight.

Hal Brands: It's important that we not overstate how much control the United States had in some of these situations. My friend Ray Takeyh has shown pretty conclusively that the United States had a nontrivial, but perhaps non-decisive, role in the 1953 coup in Iran. The United States was deeply involved in de-stabilizing Salvador Allende’s government and Chile in the early 1970s, but as far as we can tell was not deeply directly involved in the coup that actually overthrew him in September 1973 (although we certainly supported it after the fact).

So in many cases, the choice wasn't: should you go make people do these terrible things in the Third World or not? It was: given the trend of events, should you support actors who are doing morally questionable things, or should you refrain entirely?

Parallels Between Sovietology and Pekingnology

Jordan Schneider: The current job market for China analysts, as Emily and I can attest to, is shockingly thin, and it breaks my heart when listeners reach out to me for career advice. The supply exceeds demand and salaries are low. The market is growing at 5 or 10% a year, not at the pace that it seemed like in the 40s and 50s when the US really spun up a remarkable effort to bone up on all things Soviet. What are some of the interesting takeaways and lessons you had looking into how America tried to grok the Soviet Union?

Hal Brands: In some ways, I think we're a little bit better off today than we were at the beginning of the Cold War.

I think it was Richard Helms who later wrote, “in the beginning, we knew nothing.”

We had a few dozen Soviet analysts in the United States. George Kennan was a brilliant guy, but one reason why he seemed so brilliant was that nobody else knew anything about the Soviet Union.

You couldn't travel there. It was difficult to get basic information about the government and the economy. So he stood out because he was a big fish in a very small pond. I think we're in better shape today: we have a lot more China expertise in the United States now than we had Soviet expertise in 1947.

An April 1962 propaganda poster celebrating Sino-Soviet collaboration; caption reads “The friendship between Chinese and Soviet peoples is everlasting.”

Do we have more China expertise in the United States than we had Soviet expertise in 1971 or 1983? Probably not, because we haven't made the same generational investments in that expertise that we did during the Cold War. I also worry that some of the expertise we have either isn't in the areas where we would want it to be, because the Chinese have created really good disincentives to aspiring academics studying particular aspects of Chinese politics and society, or maybe some of it is a waste in assets because it's getting harder and harder for people to go to China to do fieldwork.

But I think what the Cold War does teach us is that you can overcome this: it just takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of energy.

And that's what we did during the Cold War: we basically created an entirely new academic field of Sovietologists. You had academic institutions, philanthropic foundations, and government all come together to create the money and the brainpower you needed to really study a very hard target from an intelligence perspective.

This is really when it becomes common for academics to go between academia and government, or for people to spend time at Rand or Brookings, and then serve as consultants for the executive branch. Over time, I think the strength of that arrangement helped us create a very deep pool of Soviet expertise. We didn't always have all the expertise we needed and I'm not claiming that the record was perfect in any way, but we also created a nice ecosystem where real debate could occur.

This was one of the great differences between the US and Soviet approaches to intelligence. The Soviet Union was clearly better than us at human intelligence, for instance, but they were terrible at analysis because there was no incentive to engage in honest debate or criticism within the Soviet government.

It was different in the United States. We had a de-centralized approach to intelligence in a way that would pit different intelligence institutions against each other. You had outside experts who could argue with the government when they thought the government was getting things wrong. Overall, if not in every circumstance, I think that improved our hit rate over the course of the Cold War.

Jordan Schneider: There hasn't been much room in academia for folks doing Pekingnology and writing about the party qua the party, which is a real misstep. That’s something that, hopefully, both the US government and philanthropic money start to address them.

Hal Brands: One of the things we eventually figured out during the Cold War was that it costs more not to have this expertise than to have it. By the time you get to the later parts of the Cold War, in administration after administration, you're seeing specific cases of this payoff. You look at Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor under Carter and a product of American Sovietology; Richard Pipes, a product of American Sovietology; Jack Matlock, same deal. They were running incredibly important parts of US policy while drawing on this intellectual capital that the country had invested into.

Emily Jin: One of my hypotheses of why there might be a lack of super concentrated expertise or analytical energy going into this, besides everything that you mentioned (which I agree with), is this idea that maybe the United States has forgotten how to deal with tragedy.

I'm, specifically thinking about your 2019 book with Charles et al., where you talk about the Athenians looking at tragedy as a vehicle for collective action. How receptive is the American public and the American government to prolonged competition today? How does that influence the investment that goes into this expertise?

Hal Brands: I think our problem is we're pursuing Cold War objectives with post-Cold War levels of urgency and investment.

We have convinced ourselves that we face a problem in China and Russia, but I don't know that we have been honest with ourselves about what level of investment, energy, and sacrifice it's going to be.

It's going to be necessary to deal with those problems effectively, because as you say, we’ve forgotten how bad the penalty is for getting these things wrong in a way that the WWII generation would have found much more difficult to forget. Now, maybe the Ukraine crisis is helping to remind us of this a little bit, and the Chinese seem determined to remind us of it with some of the more outrageous things that they do.

But I do think this is a real problem. It’s one thing to say that you're doing great-power competition. It's another thing to do it effectively. I think we're between those two things at the moment.

Economic Determinism: How Much Does Wealth Matter?

Jordan Schneider: At the end of the day, the balance of the offering America had to the rest of the world and to the Soviet people, just by having a GDP per capita multiples ahead of what the Soviet system could offer, seemed to be the trump card that a lot of these debates came down to. How much does the marginal stuff matter, relative to just making sure that you're the richer country than your adversary?

Hal Brands: Being rich, powerful, and attractive is rarely a disadvantage, in geopolitics as in life. In 1945, the United States had half of global production because the rest of the world had been destroyed after WWII. So the story of the first 25 years of the Cold War was everybody else catching up with the United States. For the most part, that's a good thing because a lot of the countries catching up with us were Japan, West Germany, and other allies. So that actually strengthens us in the Cold War.

World powers’ respective shares of global GDP, from 1AD to the present. Notice the US’ peak near 1950. (Source: World Economic Forum)

I think you can make the argument that so long as the Western world held together, it was going to win in the end because the power imbalance was so severe, but it wasn't a given that the Western world would hold together. The Western world could have fallen apart in the late 1940s, if you had economic collapse in Western Europe and a bunch of communist parties had come to power; in the early 1950s, had you not strengthened NATO and fortified the hard power backbone of the free world. There are a variety of times in the 1970s, for instance, when it looked like the Soviet Union was getting the advantage.

No matter how rich and powerful and attractive you are, there still come these critical junctures where it takes good, bold, or prudent decision-making to get what you need.

Kill Adversaries With Kindness

Jordan Schneider: One of the chapters that I really liked was the one on the conclusion of the Cold War, and how Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the closing years of the conflict killed with kindness. What went on in 1984-92?

Hal Brands: Because Soviet power was collapsing in the 80s and early 90s, Americans were playing pretty ruthlessly, but they were also going out of their way to make sure that they did not humiliate a weakened superpower and to give Gorbachev the sense that he could strengthen his own prestige and position through a partnership with the West.

Reagan uses a lot of pageantry at summits and things like that, to send Gorbachev the message that if you change Soviet foreign policy in ways that we deem constructive, you will be welcomed back into the world as a legitimate member of the international community. Bush goes out of his way to portray Gorbachev as a partner in the diplomacy surrounding German unification in 1990 for exactly the same reason.

Over time, Gorbachev comes to see that his best alternative lies in giving the West a lot of what it wants.

Because it's giving him some of what he needs as well: prestige, economic resources, and other things. It's ultimately a pretty ruthless policy, where we get everything we can out of Gorbachev while he is still in power. But one of the reasons that it's acceptable to Gorbachev is that we treated him with a lot of kindness.

Photo of Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting Gorbachev at the Governors Island Summit on December 7, 1988. (Source: National Archives)

Jordan Schneider: Thinking about that and the lessons with regards to the war in Ukraine, as hard as it: unless Putin gets toppled (which, maybe there’s a 10% chance), he's going to be the one that's going to end this war. The lessons from that moment of figuring out how to give folks off-ramps is a tricky thing to think about, especially when you see the images you see on TV, but that's important when understanding how conflicts end.

Hal Brands: It’s particularly difficult because you've got to create enough pain that Putin wants the off-ramp first, then offer the off-ramp once he believes that it’s desirable to take it. That balancing act is particularly tough.

Book Recommendations

Hal Brands: One book I'm reading right now is called Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Steven Platt. It's a masterful account of the Taiping Rebellion in China in the 1850s and 1860s, which was a much bigger global deal than anybody remembers. The reason it's relevant today is it actually has some long-lasting implications for what you might think of as the Chinese worldview. It’s useful in understanding the historical background to Chinese decision-making.

Another book that I was just leafing through this morning is an oldie, but a goodie: it's John Gaddis’ Strategies of Containment, which was first written in the early 1980s. It was the first book to systematically study American strategy during the Cold War. I'm biased — he was my dissertation advisor — but every time I read it, I'm still impressed by the number and the quality of the insights in there.

Tyler Durden Mon, 08/01/2022 - 23:40
Published:8/1/2022 11:38:04 PM
[Markets] The Pentagon Owns Its Recruiting Crisis The Pentagon Owns Its Recruiting Crisis

Authored by P. Michael Phillips via The Brownstone Institute,

Replenishing the military ranks with qualified personnel is a perennial challenge. It’s no secret, though, that this year our armed forces are fighting uphill to recruit and retain talent. 

Most of the services are well behind their quotas.

But the Army, our largest service, is having the hardest time enticing young Americans. That service will fall short, nearly 20,000 troops from its original target end strength of 485,000 for FY ’22, and next year could be worse.

To manage, Army officials have slashed end strength and enlistment goals, while recruiters are offering fat stacks of cash and generous service terms as inducements. 

So far, nothing is working.

The Army’s Chief of Staff, General James McConville, blames the shortfall on competition with the private sector. Others blame upwardly mobile families who would rather their children attend college than wear a uniform. 

Both are old saws. And this year, they ring hollow. 

Some civilian jobs do pay more. But for an 18-year-old with only a high school diploma, military compensation is nothing to sneeze at. Indeed, recruits most often cite generous pay and benefits as the reason for signing papers. 

Meanwhile, undergraduate enrollments are down over 600,000 from last year. So, it appears our missing recruits aren’t trading rifles for books, either.

Instead of blaming their competition, the Pentagon brass might dwell on their tarnished image as the reason fewer young Americans want to join up. 

Public trust in the military institution has plunged steeply since 2018, according to one poll. Respondents cite politicized leaders, scandals, and the bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan for their loss in confidence. 

We might add to that list suicidessexual assaultssocial justice indoctrination, and Covid vaccination policies as dulling the shine of military service.

Of the lot, the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate may prove its deepest self-inflicted wound. 

While the service chiefs are begging Congress to fund more generous recruiting incentives, they have forcibly discharged thousands of vaccine dissenters – including most of those objecting on religious grounds. A similar fate awaits tens of thousands more of the unjabbed in the National Guard and Reserve. Never mind that our military increasingly relies on these part-time troops for routine mission support. 

And the Pentagon has doubled down. Submission to the vaccine is now a condition of enlistment, despite evidence the therapy is at best ineffective, and at worst dangerous for younger, healthier people. 

It’s a policy gravely alienating to the families of Middle America whose children disproportionately serve in our all-volunteer force.

Before going further, consider that fewer than one quarter of Americans in the prime recruitment age of 17-24 years can meet our military’s physical, moral, or educational entry requirements, and that figure continues to decline. 

Of those, only about 9% of young Americans have any desire to serve. Perhaps only 1% ever do.

High standards have produced something of an embarrassment of riches. Our service members are amongst the healthiest, most disciplined, and best educated of their cohort nationally. But to maintain this quality, recruiters have come to count on solidly middle-class families inhabiting our Mid-American towns, suburbs, and rural counties to fill their quotas. 

Recruiters bank on small-town America because for a variety of reasons our populous cities produce few qualified volunteers. Even the New Yorkers and Californians in the ranks are more likely to hail from upstate or inland counties. In fact, a once-reliable third of all new recruits enter from just five southern states: Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. 

The prepossessed term for these rich recruiting grounds is ‘flyover country.’ 

Instead, we might think of them as communities celebrating life on a smaller and more intimate scale, and where patriotism, faith, family, and public service remain in fashion.

And yet their young people are not signing up like they used to.

The belief by some that vaccine mandates are meant to purge conservative Christians from the armed forces may be one reason recruiting offices are empty. After all, young people living in these prime recruitment areas are somewhat more religious and tend to be more conservative in outlook than many Americans. 

They also are less likely to be vaccinated against Covid.

A more charitable account, though, is that the brass authored their own Catch-22 in the rush to prove their obedience to President Biden. As such, they have taken a position purported to improve readiness that has done quite the opposite. And now that they’ve become so thoroughly entrenched, they cannot easily retreat. 

No matter. It should trouble the Pentagon more that their reluctant recruits are most likely military legacies.

Like many professions, the military is a family business. Roughly 80% of recruits either grew up in a military family or have a close relative who served. General McConville’s own clan is actually something of a poster family in career following, with three children and a son-in-law in uniform. Even the general’s wife once served.

Career following in military families is nothing new. It’s been going on since our country’s founding. The children of veterans, like those of bankers or physicians, often emulate their parents’ professional ethos early on. For soldiers, this includes a respect for duty and honorable, selfless service. The generational transmission of such virtues has played a critical role not only in reproducing our service cultures, but by extension our national values.

But it’s also a fragile chain. 

While research indicates that military children are 5 times more likely to follow a parent into the service, only 1 in 4 do. And their desire to serve drops sharply every year over the age of 18. 

In short, the Pentagon’s stubborn adherence to its Covid protocol is breaking faith with its once loyal base. And the longer they dig in, the smaller that base will become.

It’s a high price our nation may pay for unimaginative leadership.

Tyler Durden Sun, 07/31/2022 - 20:00
Published:7/31/2022 7:22:41 PM
[Gear] There Is Some Good in 'No-Recipe' Cookbooks Such books offer little guidance and rely on a home cook’s good judgement. Some of these are more successful than others. Published:7/30/2022 6:34:10 AM
[Markets] Johnstone: The Phoniest, Most PR-Intensive War Of All Time Johnstone: The Phoniest, Most PR-Intensive War Of All Time

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

The president and first lady of Ukraine have posed for a romantic photoshoot with Vogue magazine, wherein President Volodymyr Zelensky waxes poetical about his love for his darling wife.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: how is Zelensky making time for a Vogue photoshoot amidst his busy schedule of PR appearances for other major western institutions?

I mean this is after all the same Volodymyr Zelensky who has been so busy making video appearances for the Grammy Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, the World Economic Forum and probably the Bilderberg group as well, and having meetings with celebrities like Ben StillerSean Penn, and Bono and the Edge from U2. It’s as busy a PR tour as he could possibly have without having a discussion about the strategic importance of long-range artillery with Elmo on Sesame Street.

Oh yeah, and also isn’t there like a war or something happening in Ukraine? You’d think he’d probably be somewhat busy with that too.

Call me crazy, but I’m beginning to suspect that there might be a concerted effort to manipulate the way we think about the war in Ukraine. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it’s the most aggressively perception-managed war we’ve ever experienced.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February we have not only been smashed with mass media propaganda unlike anything we’ve ever seen while Russian media are purged from the airwaves, we’re also seeing the new media element of unprecedented amounts of online censorship, algorithm-boosted propaganda, and social media trolling.

So we’ve literally never seen this much overall effort put into manipulating the way the public thinks about a war. Which makes sense, given that it’s a profoundly dangerous proxy war which stands to benefit ordinary people in no way, shape or form.

I mean, can you imagine if people were allowed to just think their own thoughts about their government’s economic warfare against Russia which is hurting them financially and pushing millions toward starvation with the full awareness and approval of the US government? Or if Americans were allowed to wonder if the billions they are pouring into this proxy conflict could be better spent at home? Or if people started objecting to a needless conflict for geostrategic domination threatening their lives and the lives of everyone they know with the risk of nuclear annihilation?

Can’t have that.

There is a night-and-day difference between wanting to tell people the truth about something and wanting to manipulate their perception of something. There are times when true facts can be used to influence people’s perception one way or the other, but if your agenda is to manipulate perception rather than tell the truth you will necessarily be forced to rely on lies, half-truths, distortion, and lies by omission wherever the truth doesn’t serve that agenda.

If they were telling us the truth about this war, they wouldn’t be censoring Russian media. They wouldn’t be censoring online voices who disagree with the official narratives about Ukraine. They wouldn’t be continually blasting us in the face with mass media perception management, and they sure as hell wouldn’t be putting Ukraine’s celebrity-in-chief on the cover of Vogue magazine.

We are being manipulated, and we are being deceived. And we are being manipulated and deceived because our perceiving clearly on our own would go against the interests of the empire. They are lying to us because the interests of the people and the interests of the empire are, as usual, squarely at odds.

*  *  *

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Tyler Durden Fri, 07/29/2022 - 02:00
Published:7/29/2022 2:08:21 AM
[Entertainment] Washington Post paperback bestsellers A snapshot of popular books. Published:7/27/2022 9:19:07 AM
[Society] Fighting to Reclaim Comic Books from Woke Left, New Comic Lands First Punch 

As consumers of pop culture are increasingly aware, the world of comic books and superheroes has gone woke. Superman no longer fights for “the American... Read More

The post Fighting to Reclaim Comic Books from Woke Left, New Comic Lands First Punch  appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:7/25/2022 3:04:12 PM
[Communism] If I had a hammer & sickle (Scott Johnson) Ron Radosh was a student and follower of Pete Seeger. Ron recalls his personal relationship with Seeger as well as Seeger’s loyalty to the vagaries of the Communist Party line in his memoir Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, published by Encounter Books in 2001. Encounter has kept it in print along with the rest of the back catalog. In 1941 Seeger Published:7/24/2022 4:19:16 PM
[Campus] Court Overrules School District That Banned Father Who Exposed Obscene Library Books

A federal judge on Wednesday overruled a Maine school district that banned a parent from school property after he exposed library books promoting transgenderism and pornography.

The post Court Overrules School District That Banned Father Who Exposed Obscene Library Books appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:7/22/2022 12:51:43 PM
[Entertainment] Why the Vampire Academy Cast Thinks Fans of the Books Will Be "Happy" With the Show Sisi Stringer, Kieron Moore, Andre? Dae Kim, Daniela Nieves, Vampire Academy, 2022 Comic-Con, Star SightingsFans of the Vampire Academy books are in for a bloody good time. The cast of the new Peacock series--which premieres September 15--exclusively told E! News at 2022 Comic-Con that the show...
Published:7/22/2022 11:21:11 AM
[Markets] Akzo Nobel sees hefty 2Q net profit miss as it books higher costs Akzo Nobel sees hefty 2Q net profit miss as it books higher costs Published:7/20/2022 2:36:05 AM
[Left Column] Climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels RIP: Michaels battled climate hysteria & tortured data – He will be sorely missed

Marc Morano: "I have known Dr. Pat Michaels since the 1990s and he will be sorely missed in the climate debate. Michaels was a great scientist and communicator. He appeared in Climate Hustle and was featured in my books. RIP Pat."

Published:7/17/2022 8:16:55 AM
[] Adam Schiff still babbling about climate change, history will end and stuff Published:7/16/2022 9:16:22 PM
[Entertainment] 12 noteworthy books for July and August Here are a few new books to read under a beach umbrella or atop a hammock. Published:7/16/2022 7:53:31 AM
[Markets] Front Office Sports: How Formula 1 became an unstoppable brand in 6 years Last week’s British Grand Prix was one for the books: a healthy mix of intrigue, race strategy, and an Alfa Romeo crash that instantly became the talk of social media.
Published:7/15/2022 9:48:23 AM
[Markets] Texas Factories Dial Back Power Usage To Balance Strained Grid Texas Factories Dial Back Power Usage To Balance Strained Grid

For the second time this week, Texas' power grid operator took emergency action and asked customers to conserve power Wednesday afternoon to avoid rolling blackouts as a heatwave strained power supplies. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sent customers notices three hours before 1400 local time to reduce power instead of the 18-hour notice for Monday

ERCOT blamed Wednesday's conservation appeal on record high electric demand and the lack of wind and solar power as a relentless heatwave scorched the state. 

Reuters reports that energy-intensive companies, such as Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp., scaled back production at its San Antonio plant to conserve power. 

A Toyota spokesperson said the San Antonio plant might stop production before 1400 local time during the business week and reduce night shifts, effective immediately through August.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. is another company in the state that is reducing power to support rebalancing efforts of the heavily strained grid:

"We are carefully monitoring the weather conditions and communicating with local authorities, and will adjust our plans accordingly," Samsung said in a statement on Thursday.

Air conditioners were scaled back to conserve power at General Motors Co.'s Arlington plant, where full-size SUVs are produced for the Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac brands. 

Sources told Reuters that LyondellBasell's Houston refinery, one of the largest US refineries, with a processing capacity of 268,000-barrel-per-day of heavy-sulfur crude, transforming it into refined products, such as premium grades such as gasoline, jet fuel, and ultra-low sulfur diesel, reduced power usage by switching from electric pumps to steam turbines.

A LyondellBasell spokesperson said the refinery has been working "to reduce electricity demand without shutting down assets or compromising the safety and reliability of our operations." 

Last Thursday, a dealer for one of the larger institutional crude and products books correctly told us how industries in the state would reduce electricity this week because of an unstable power grid. 

Meanwhile, Tesla asked owners of its electric cars not to charge "between 3 pm and 8 pm ... to help statewide efforts to manage demand."

Tyler Durden Fri, 07/15/2022 - 06:55
Published:7/15/2022 6:46:36 AM
[Entertainment] Phoebe Robinson thinks ‘Everything’s Trash’ and wants you to feel good about it Phoebe Robinson, the multi-hyphenate talent that got her start on the podcast "2 Dope Queens," has been trying to get a half hour comedy on air for years. After more podcasts, three books, appearing on stage with Michelle Obama and creating a publishing imprint, finally Robinson's new series "Everything is Trash" premiered this week. Published:7/15/2022 5:23:40 AM
[Markets] California Truckers Plan LA/Long Beach Work Stoppage Wednesday To Protest AB5 California Truckers Plan LA/Long Beach Work Stoppage Wednesday To Protest AB5

By Clarissa Hawes of FreightWaves

Some California truckers who move containers in and out of the marine terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach say they plan to participate in a work stoppage Wednesday to protest a controversial state law, AB5, that seeks to limit the use of independent contractors and largely classify them as employee drivers.

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the California Trucking Association’s challenge to AB5, returning the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

One owner-operator who plans to participate in the port protest says he doesn’t want to become an employee driver, preferring to remain an independent contractor.

“During the pandemic, we were too busy being essential to realize we were about to be screwed by AB5,” the California trucker, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves.

Gordon Reimer, manager of Southern California-based FHE Express, says many of the 75 owner-operators his company uses to move freight to and from the ports in Southern California plan to participate in Wednesday’s protest.

He has notified the trucking company’s customers to expect potential freight delays because of the protest, although it’s unclear how many independent owner-operators plan to participate. 

“This will be an inconvenience to us and our customers, but I understand the frustration among independent owner-operators who feel this is the only way to bring attention to their plight as being a former owner-operator myself,” Reimer told FreightWaves. “How can I blame these drivers who now find out that their dream is being snatched away from them all because they’re based here in the state of California?”

Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the Port of Los Angeles, told FreightWaves late Tuesday that port representatives have heard some social media reports about the planned protest, but “have no other info.” He said the port is monitoring the situation.

As of publication time, representatives of the Port of Long Beach had not responded to FreightWaves’ request for comment.

Ongoing legal challenges prevented AB5 from going into effect in January 2020. The law stems from the California Supreme Court’s decision against Dynamex Operations West Inc., a package and document delivery company. The court found that Dynamex had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees and that all California-based companies that use independent contractors must follow the “ABC test,” a three-pronged test to determine whether a worker is an employee.

The B prong defines an independent contractor as a worker who is engaged in “work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” That is problematic for motor carriers utilizing independent owner-operators to move freight.

It’s unclear how many independent contractors or owner-operators plan to participate in the work stoppage on Wednesday.

“Owner-operators are the most difficult segment of the trucking industry to try and organize — it’s like herding cats — because everyone has their own personal gripes in the industry,” Reimer said. “However, everyone seems to be pretty unified about how AB5 could effectively put 70,000-plus independent owner-operators out of business.”

Oakland truckers plan Monday protest 

To the north, multiple trucking companies hauling containers in and out of the Port of Oakland have been notified by owner-operators that they are planning a work stoppage on Monday. 

Bill Aboudi, president of AB Trucking, says he switched to an employee business model a few years ago, but with the fallout from AB5 looming, many trucking companies that serve the port are choosing to close, sell or move their operations out of California. 

“Some of the older owner-operators, who just love to drive and want to remain independent, don’t want to jump through all of these extra government hoops to set up their own corporations and pay themselves a set salary and everything else to comply with AB5, so they are leaving the industry,” Aboudi told FreightWaves.

Some of the younger independents are choosing to do something else, either find a job in another industry or leave California entirely to truck elsewhere, Aboudi said. 

“I had one guy tell me he was going back to his old job as a cook and is leaving port trucking,” Aboudi said. “We think inflation is high right now; just wait until the cost of operating a trucking business skyrockets if we don’t get AB5 off the books.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 07/12/2022 - 21:05
Published:7/12/2022 8:09:11 PM
[Politics] [Eugene Volokh] Monday Morning Media: TV Series Any recommendations for TV series? Please post them here. There'll be later posts asking for suggestions about stand-alone movies, books, and the like, so please focus here just on TV series. My wife and I just finished the first season of Slow Horses, which we thought was fun but not great. But we very much liked… Published:7/11/2022 2:53:37 AM
[Entertainment] Summer reading picks: 3 new mystery novels with vacation settings The holiday getaway takes a suspenseful turn in a trio of books, by Megan Miranda, Allie Reynolds and Alice Feeney Published:7/9/2022 6:36:53 AM
[Realism & Restraint] The Dean of Non-Interventionism

Justus Doenecke has written more books on the history of antiwar foreign policy than anyone, and he’s still going.

The post The Dean of Non-Interventionism appeared first on The American Conservative.

Published:7/8/2022 11:17:39 AM
[Markets] The Woke Inquisitors Have Come For The Freethinking Heretics The Woke Inquisitors Have Come For The Freethinking Heretics

Authored by J.B.Shurk via The Gatestone Institute,

Attacks on free speech are on the rise.

A British college recently expelled a student for expressing support for the government's official policy of deporting illegal immigrants. A Wisconsin school district charged three middle-schoolers with sexual harassment last month for refusing to use the plural pronoun "they" when referring to a single classmate. US President Joe Biden's National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy recently encouraged social media companies to censor from their online platforms any opinions that contradict Biden's climate change narrative.

In its continued commitment to preserve the government's monopoly over COVID-19 information, Twitter actually suspended a medical doctor for merely sharing a scientific study that suggests the Pfizer vaccine affects male fertility. And the NFL's Washington Commanders fined defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio $100,000 and forced him to apologize only weeks ago for having expressed his opinion that 2020's summer of riots across the United States after George Floyd's death was more destructive than the few hours of mayhem at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In contrast, it has become newsworthy that entertainment powerhouse Paramount has chosen not to censor old movies and television shows containing content that today's "woke" scolds might find "offensive." In a "cancel culture" world where censorship and trigger warnings have become the norm, preserving the artistic integrity of a film is now considered outright daring. In fact, even publishers of old literary classics have begun rewriting content to conform with "politically correct" sensibilities.

Examples such as these, where personal speech is either censored or punished, are becoming much more frequent, and anybody who minimizes the threat this increased intolerance for free expression poses to a democratic society is either gullibly or willfully blind. As any defender of liberty knows, nothing more quickly transforms a free society into a totalitarian prison than crackdowns on speech. Of all the tools of coercion available to a government, preventing individuals from freely expressing their thoughts is most dangerous. Denying citizens that most basic societal release valve for pent-up anger and disagreement only heightens the risk for outright violence down the line. Either silenced citizens become so enraged that conflict becomes inevitable, or the iron fist of government force descends on the public more broadly to preemptively curtail that possibility. Either way, the result is a disaster for any free society.

For Americans who cherish free speech, this undeniable war on language and expression is jolting but not shocking. Whenever censorship slithers back into polite society, it is always draped in the mantle of "good intentions."

Fifteenth-century Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola's "bonfire of the vanities" destroyed anything that could be seen to invite or reflect sin.

The notorious 1933 Nazi book burning at the Bebelplatz in Berlin torched some 20,000 books deemed subversive or "un-German".

During Communist China's decade-long Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and '70s, the vast majority of China's traditional scrolls, literature and religious antiquities went up in smoke.

All three atrocities were celebrated as achievements for the "greater good" of society, and people inebriated with "good intentions" set their cultural achievements aflame with fervor and triumph. Much like today's new censors who claim to "fight hate" because "that's not who we are," the arsonists of the past saw themselves as moral paragons, too. They purged anything "obscene" or "traditional" or "old," so that theocracy, Nazism, or communism could take root and grow. And if Western institutions today are purging ideas once again, then it is past time for people to start asking just what those institutions plan to harvest next.

We in the West are running — not walking — toward another "bonfire of the vanities" in which normal people, egged on by their leaders, will eagerly destroy their own culture while claiming to save it. This time around the "vanities" will be condemned for their racist, sexist, transphobic, anti-science or climate-denying ways, but when they are thrown into the fire, it is dissent and free expression that will burn.

There will one day be much disagreement as to how the same Western Civilization that produced the Enlightenment and its hallowed regard for free expression could once again surrender itself to the petty tyranny of censorship.

Many will wonder how the West's much-vaunted "liberal" traditions could meekly fold to the specter of state-controlled speech.

The answer is that the West has fallen into the same trap that always catches unsuspecting citizens by surprise: the steady encroachment on free speech has been sold as a "virtue" that all good people should applaud.

First, certain thoughts became "aggravating factors" that turned traditional crimes into new "hate crimes" deserving of additional punishment.

Then the definition of what is "hateful" grew until politicians could comfortably decree anything at odds with their agendas to be examples of "hate."

Who would be for "hate," after all? Surely no-one of good sense or good manners.

Now "hate" has transformed into an elusive description for any speech that can be alleged to cause the slightest of harms.

From there, it was easy for the state to decree that "disinformation," or rather anything that can be seen to contradict the state's own official narratives, causes "harm," too.

Those who despise free speech told society, "If you do not punish hate, then you're a bigot." And today, if you oppose the government's COVID-19, climate change, immigration, or other contentious policies, your harmful "disinformation" must be punished, too.

It is a slippery slope, is it not? Once governments normalize censorship and the punishment of points of view, free expression is firmly stamped with an expiration date.

After the Nazis went down this poisonous path, repentant Germans built a public memorial to remember the book burning at the Bebelplatz and ensure its tragic lesson was never forgotten. On a plaque in the square is a commemorative engraving, paraphrasing the 19th century German writer Heinrich Heine:

"That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."

That warning comes with no expiration date.

Tyler Durden Tue, 07/05/2022 - 02:00
Published:7/5/2022 1:08:44 AM
[Markets] 'Reset' This! 'Reset' This!

Authored by Michael Walsh via AmericanMind.org,

The following is an excerpt from Michael Walsh’s forthcoming book, Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order, which will be published by Bombardier Books and be available October 18, 2022. Walsh has gathered a series of essays from among eighteen of the most eminent thinkers, writers, and journalists—including the American Mind’s own James Poulos, as well as Claremont Senior Fellows Michael Anton and the late Angelo Codevilla—to provide the first major salvo in the intellectual resistance to the sweeping restructuring of the western world by globalist elites.”

Part I: The Problem

What is the Great Reset and why should we care? In the midst of a tumultuous medical-societal breakdown, likely engineered by the Chinese Communist Party and abetted by America’s National Institutes of Health “gain of function” financial assistance to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, why is the Swiss-based World Economic Forum (WEF) advocating a complete “re-imagining” of the Western world’s social, economic, and moral structures? And why now? What are its aspirations, prescriptions, and proscriptions, and how will it prospectively affect us? It’s a question that the men and women of the WEF are hoping you won’t ask.

This book seeks to supply the answers. It has ample historical precedents, from Demosthenes’s fulminations against Philip II of Macedon (Alexander’s father), Cicero’s Philippics denouncing Mark Antony, the heretic-hunting Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem¸ and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Nietzsche contra Wagner. Weighty historical issues are often best debated promptly, when something can yet be done about them; in the meantime, historians of the future can at least understand the issues as the participants themselves saw and experienced them. Whether the formerly free world of the Western democracies will succumb to the paternalistic totalitarianism of the oligarchical Resetters remains to be seen. But this is our attempt to stop it.

So great is mankind’s perpetual dissatisfaction with its present circumstances, whatever they may be, that the urge to make the world anew is as old as recorded history. Eve fell under the Serpent’s spell, and with the plucking of an apple, sought to improve her life in the Garden of Eden by becoming, in Milton’s words, “as Gods, Knowing both Good and Evil as they know.” The forbidden fruit was a gift she shared with Adam; how well that turned out has been the history of the human race ever since. High aspirations, disastrous results.

The expulsion from the Garden, however, has not discouraged others from trying. Indeed, the entire chronicle of Western civilization is best regarded as a never-ending and ineluctable struggle for cultural and political superiority, most often expressed militarily (since that is how humans generally decide matters) but extending to all things both spiritual and physical. Dissatisfaction with the status quo may not be universal—timeless and static Asian cultures, such as China’s, have had it imposed upon them by external Western forces, including the British and the Marxist-Leninists—but it has been a hallmark of the occident and its steady civilizational churn that dates back at least to Homer, Plato, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Pericles, and Alexander the Great, with whom Western history properly begins.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, assaying the inelegant Koine, or demotic, Greek of the New Testament in Beyond Good and Evil, observed: “Es ist eine Feinheit, daß Gott griechisch lernte, als er Schriftsteller werden wollte—und daß er es nicht besser lernte”: “It’s a particular refinement that God learned Greek when he wanted to become a writer—and that he didn’t learn it better.” Nietzsche, the preacher’s son who became through sheer willpower a dedicated atheist, was poking fun at the fundamentalist belief that the Christian scriptures were the literal words of God himself (Muslims, of course, believe the same thing about the Koran, except more so). If something as elemental, as essential to Western thought as the authenticity of the Bible, not to mention God’s linguistic ability, could be questioned and even mocked, then everything was on the table—including, in Nietzsche’s case, God Himself.

With the death of God—or of a god—Nietzsche sought liberation from the moral jiu-jitsu of Jesus: that weakness was strength; that victimhood was noble; that renunciation—of love, sex, power, ambition—was the highest form of attainment. That Nietzsche’s rejection of God was accompanied by his rejection of Richard Wagner, whose music dramas are based on the moral elevation of rejection, is not coincidental; the great figures of the nineteenth century, including Darwin and Marx, all born within a few years of each other, were not only revolutionaries, but embodied within themselves antithetical forces that somehow evolved into great Hegelian syntheses of human striving with which we still grapple today.

Wagner, the Schopenhauerian atheist who staggered back to Christianity and the anti-Semite who engaged the Jew Hermann Levi as the only man who could conduct his final ode to Christian transfiguration, Parsifal. Charles Darwin, ticketed for an Anglican parsonage but mutating into the author of On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and all the way to The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms. Karl Marx, the scion of rabbis whose father converted to Lutheranism and, like Wagner for a time, a stateless rebel who preached that the withering away of the state itself was “inevitable”—and yet the state endures, however battered it may be at the moment.

It’s fitting that the “Great Reset of capitalism” is the brainchild of the WEF, which hosts an annual conference in the Alpine village of Davos—the site of the tuberculosis sanatorium to which the naïf Hans Castorp reports at the beginning of Thomas Mann’s masterpiece, The Magic Mountain. Planning to visit a sick cousin for three weeks, he ends up staying for seven years, “progressing” from healthy individual to patient himself as his perception of time slows and nearly stops. Castorp’s personal purgatory ends only when he rouses himself to leave—his Bildungsreise complete—upon the outbreak of World War I, in which we assume he will meet the death, random and senseless, that he has been so studiously avoiding yet simultaneously courting at the Berghof.

Central Europe, it seems, is where the internal contradictions of Western civilization are both born and, like Martin Luther at Eisleben, go home to die. And this is where the latest synthetic attempt to replace God with his conqueror, Man, has emerged: in the village of Davos, in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland: the site of the annual meeting of the WEF led by the German-born engineer and economist Klaus Schwab, born in Ravensburg in 1938, the year before Hitler and Stalin began carving up Poland and the Baltics.

Once more into the breach, then: behold the present volume. In commissioning sixteen of the best, most persuasive, and most potent thinkers and writers from around the world to contribute to our joint venture, my principal concern has been to offer multiple analyses of the WEF’s nostrums and in so doing to go poet Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” a few better. Then again, given the surname of the WEF’s chief, perhaps a better, more potent literary citation might be Margret’s little ditty from the Büchner/Alban Berg expressionist opera, Wozzeck (1925): In’s Schwabenland, da mag ich nit—”I don’t want to go to Schwab-land.” Nor, as Hans Castorp’s journey illustrates, should anyone wish to visit Davos-land if he prizes his freedom, his possessions, and his sanity. To the Great Resetters, we are all ill, all future patients-in-waiting, all in dire need of a drastic corrective regimen to cure what ails us.

In these pages, we shall examine the Great Reset from the top down. The eminent American historian Victor Davis Hanson begins our survey with “The Great Regression,” locating Schwab’s vision within its proper historical context. He is followed by Canada’s Conrad Black and America’s Michael Anton and their views of capitalism and socialism, with not a few attacks on conventional, osmotic wisdom that will both surprise and enthrall. Britain’s Martin Hutchinson outlines the contours of the Reset’s “Anti-Industrial Revolution,” even as the American economist David Goldman confronts both Schwab’s notion of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and China’s immanentizing its eschaton in real time, along with the Red Dragon’s commitment to the upending of Western civilization and its own Sino-forming of a post-Western world.

American writer, editor, and publisher Roger Kimball tackles the implications of a neofascist Reset in his essay, “Sovereignty and the Nation-State,” both of which concepts are under attack in the name of “equality,” its totalitarian successor “equity,” and the political consequences of our re-embrace of Rousseauvian concepts as applied to governments. British historian Jeremy Black discusses the misuses toward which the study of history has been and will be put to by the Resetters. The late Angelo Codevilla contributes what alas became his final essay, “Resetting the Educational Reset,” to sound the tocsin about the dangerous left turn of the once-vaunted American educational system, now reduced to a shrill, sinistral shell of its former dispassionate glory.

From Down Under, the Philippines-born Richard Fernandez twins two eternally competing faiths, religion and science; the American-born, Australian-based political sociologist Salvatore Babones contributes a remarkably clear explication of the kinds of transportation feasible under the “green energy” regimen the Reset seeks to impose upon us, and its practical and social implications. Writing from Milan, Alberto Mingardi, the director-general of the Istituto Bruno Leoni, gets to the heart of the Great Reset’s deceptive economic program with an essay concerning faux-capitalist “stakeholder capitalism” and its surreptitious replacement of shareholder capitalism in the name of “social justice.”

The Great Reset, however, is not strictly limited to matters financial, pecuniary, or macroeconomic. Social and cultural spheres are of equal importance. James Poulos looks at the Reset’s unholy relationship with the predatory Big Tech companies that currently abrogate the First Amendment by acting as governmental censors without actually being commanded by an act of Congress or, increasingly, an arbitrary presidential mandate. From British Columbia, noted Canadian author and academic Janice Fiamengo weighs in on the destructive effects of feminism upon our shared Western culture while, on the lighter side, Harry Stein examines the history of American humor—which in effect means worldwide humor—and how the leftist takeover of our shared laugh tracks has resulted in a stern, Stalinist view of what is and what is not allowed to be funny.

The British writer Douglas Murray has a go at the permissible future of Realpolitik under the panopticonic supervision of the Reset, the Chinese Communist Party, and the Covid hysterics, while the American journalist John Tierney lays out the road to civilizational serfdom that the unwarranted panic over the Covid-19 “pandemic” has triggered during its media-fueled run between 2019 and 2022. My contribution, in addition to this Introduction, is an examination of the Reset’s—and, historically, elitist tyranny’s—deleterious effects on Western culture: the very thing that gave birth to our notions of morality and freedom.

At its heart, the Great Reset is a conceited and self-loathing central-European blitzkrieg against the cultural, intellectual, religious, artistic, physical, and, most of all, moral inheritance we have received from our Greco-Roman forebears. This has been latterly shorthanded, with the rise of “wokeness,” to “white” culture. Typically racialist, if not outright racist, the cultural Marxists behind wokeness insist on reducing humanity to its shades of skin color and then claiming that although all skin colors should achieve in exact same proportions to their share in a given population, some skin colors are better than others and any skin color is preferable to white. It’s a deeply repellent principle that masquerades as a perversion of Judeo-Christianity but is in fact a simultaneous attack on individuality and merit that seeks to roll back the scientific and cultural advances of the past two millennia, wielding both science and culture as weapons against our shared technological and moral heritage.

The goal, as always, is power—the eternal fixation of the socialist Left…

Tyler Durden Sun, 07/03/2022 - 23:45
Published:7/4/2022 2:00:37 AM
[2f1670b4-07e6-52da-b534-7fe92d64fa1d] Newsom July 4 ad targets DeSantis: 'Freedom is under attack' California Gov. Gavin Newsom says GOP governors such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are putting freedom "under attack," citing a move to remove books from classrooms. Published:7/3/2022 2:12:36 PM
[Markets] The Great Reset In Action: Ending Freedom Of The Press, Speech, & Expression The Great Reset In Action: Ending Freedom Of The Press, Speech, & Expression

Authored by Birsen Filip via The Mises Institute,

Governments, corporations, and elites have always been fearful of the power of a free press, because it is capable of exposing their lies, destroying their carefully crafted images, and undermining their authority. In recent years, alternative journalism has been growing and more people are relying on social media platforms as sources of news and information. In response, the corporate state, digital conglomerates, and the mainstream media have been increasingly supportive of the silencing and censoring of alternative media outlets and voices that challenge the official narrative on most issues.

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, "Australian eSafety commissioner" Julie Inman Grant stated that "freedom of speech is not the same thing as a free for all," and that "we are going to need a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online—from freedom of speech … to be free from online violence." Meanwhile, the Canadian government is seeking to restrict independent media and the freedom of expression via the implementation of Bill C-11, which would allow it to regulate all online audiovisual platforms on the internet, including content on Spotify, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcast clients.

Similarly, the UK is seeking to introduce an Online Safety Bill, the US "paused" the establishment of a Disinformation Governance Board following backlash, and the European Union approved its own Digital Services Act, all of which aim to limit the freedom of speech. Attempts by elites and politicians to silence dissenters and critical thinkers is not something new. In fact, history is full of examples of "the persecution of men of science, the burning of scientific books, and the systematic eradication of the intelligentsia of the subjected people."

However, these current efforts to curtail freedom of speech and press by supposedly liberal governments are still somewhat ironic, given that even "the most intolerant of churches, the Roman Catholic Church, even at the canonization of a saint, admits, and listens patiently to, a 'devil's advocate.' The holiest of men, it appears, cannot be admitted to posthumous honors, until all that the devil could say against him is known and weighed."

The corporate state, digital conglomerates, and the mainstream media want to ensure that they have the exclusive authority to dictate people's opinions, wants, and choices through their sophisticated propaganda techniques. To do so, they have even resorted to transforming falsehoods into truth. In fact, the word truth has already had its original meaning altered, as those who speak the truth on certain subjects are now regularly accused of spreading hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation.

Presently, truth is no "longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter of whether in any particular instance the evidence (or the standing of those proclaiming it) warrants a belief; it becomes something to be laid down by authority, something which has to be believed in the interest of the unity of the organized effort, and which may have to be altered as the exigencies of this organised effort require it."

However, modifying the definition of truth comes with the potential for great peril, as truth-seeking often contributes to human progress in that it leads to discoveries that ultimately benefit society at large. It should be noted that truth is by no means the only word whose meaning has been changed recently in order for it to serve as an instrument of propaganda; others include freedomjusticelawrightequalitydiversitywomanpandemicvaccine, etc. This is highly concerning, because such attempts at the "perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals" of the ruling class are expressed is a consistent feature of totalitarian regimes.

As a number of liberal-democratic governments increasingly move toward totalitarianism, they want people to forget that there is "the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation." According to them, "public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken public support."

In fact, they believe that all views and opinions that might cast doubt or create hesitation need to be restricted in all disciplines and on all platforms. This is because "the disinterested search for truth cannot be allowed" when "the vindication of the official views becomes the sole object" of the ruling class. In other words, the control of information is practiced and the uniformity of views is enforced in all fields under totalitarian rule.

The suppression of freedom of the press, speech, expression, and thought means that current and future generations will be "deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." They are also at risk of becoming ignorant of the fact that the only way in which a person can know "the whole of a subject" is by "hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind." That is to say, current and future generations will be unaware that "the steady habit of correcting and completing" one's own "opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it."

At present, it is likely that the masses do not regard freedom of the press, speech, expression, and thought as being particularly important, because "the great majority are rarely capable of thinking independently, that on most questions they accept views which they find ready-made, and that they will be equally content if born or coaxed into one set of beliefs or another." Nevertheless, no one should have the power and authority to "select those to whom" freedom of thought, enlightenment and expression is to be "reserved."

In fact, John Stuart Mill went so far as to claim that "if all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." He further added that silencing the expression of an opinion is essentially an act of "robbing the human race," which applies to both current and future generations. Even though the suppressors can deny the truth to people at a particular point in time, "history shows that every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd; and it is as certain that many opinions, now general, will be rejected by future ages, as it is that many, once general, are rejected by the present."

If current efforts to suppress freedom of the press, speech, expression, and thought succeed, then the search for truth will eventually be abandoned and totalitarian authorities will decide what "doctrines ought to be taught and published." There will be no limits to who can be silenced, as the control of opinions will be extended to all people in all fields. Accordingly, contemporary authoritarian policy makers need to be reminded about the crucial importance of freedom of speech, expression, and thought, which the US Supreme Court recognized in the 1957 case Sweezy v. New Hampshire when it ruled that

to impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation. No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made…. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die…. Our form of government is built on the premise that every citizen shall have the right to engage in political expression and association. This right was enshrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Exercise of these basic freedoms in America has traditionally been through the media of political associations…. History has amply proved the virtue of political activity by minority, dissident groups, who innumerable times have been in the vanguard of democratic thought and whose programs were ultimately accepted. Mere unorthodoxy or dissent from the prevailing mores is not to be condemned. The absence of such voices would be a symptom of grave illness in our society.

Tyler Durden Thu, 06/30/2022 - 23:50
Published:7/1/2022 12:24:57 AM
[Markets] Empire To Expand NATO In Response To War Caused By NATO Expansion Empire To Expand NATO In Response To War Caused By NATO Expansion

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

Turkey’s President Erdogan has officially withdrawn Ankara’s objection to the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO membership, with the three countries signing a trilateral memorandum at a NATO summit in Madrid.

The removal of Erdogan’s objection was reportedly obtained via significant natsec concessions from the other two nations largely geared toward facilitating Turkey’s ongoing conflict with regional Kurdish factions, and it removes the final obstacle to Finland and Sweden beginning the process of becoming NATO members. Finland’s addition will more than double the size of NATO’s direct border with Russia, a major national security concern for Moscow.

“Sweden and Finland moved rapidly to apply to NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reversing decades of security policy and opening the door to the alliance’s ninth expansion since 1949,” Axios reports.

So the western empire will be expanding NATO again in response to a war that was predominantly caused by NATO expansion. Brilliant.

At the same NATO summit, President Biden announced plans to ramp up US military presence in Europe in response to the Ukraine war.

“Speaking with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Biden said the US will increase the number of US Navy Destroyers stationed at a naval base in Rota, Spain, from four to six,” Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp reports.

“The president said that this was the first of multiple announcements the US and NATO will make at the summit on increasing their forces in Europe, steps being taken in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

This news comes out as a new CNN report tells us that the Biden administration does not believe Ukraine has any chance of winning this war, yet still won’t encourage any kind of negotiated settlement to end the bloodshed.

From CNN:

White House officials are losing confidence that Ukraine will ever be able to take back all of the land it has lost to Russia over the past four months of war, US officials told CNN, even with the heavier and more sophisticated weaponry the US and its allies plan to send.

Advisers to President Joe Biden have begun debating internally how and whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should shift his definition of a Ukrainian “victory” — adjusting for the possibility that his country has shrunk irreversibly. US officials emphasized to CNN that this more pessimistic assessment does not mean the US plans to pressure Ukraine into making any formal territorial concessions to Russia in order to end the war.

This would confirm what I and many others have been saying since Russia invaded: that this proxy war is being waged not with the intention of saving Ukrainian lives by delivering a swift defeat to Moscow but with the intention of creating a costly, gruelling military quagmire to weaken Russia on the world stage.

This is further confirmed by a new Politico report that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has discouraged France’s President Macron from facilitating a negotiated peace settlement between Moscow and Kyiv, which would support an earlier Ukrainian media report that Johnson had discouraged President Zelensky from such a settlement during his visit to Kyiv in April.

These revelations emerge in the wake of western officials admitting that Ukraine is crawling with CIA personnel and special forces operatives from the US and other NATO countries.

“As usual it appears that the administration wants to have it both ways: assure the American people that it is being ‘restrained’ and that we are not ‘at war’ with the Russians, but doing everything but planting a U.S. soldier and a flag inside Ukraine,” writes Responsible Statecraft’s Kelley Beaucar Vlahos of this admission.

“The Russians may not see the distinction and consider this news as further evidence that their war is more with Washington and NATO than with Ukraine.”

The empire is guided by so little wisdom in its escalations against Russia that the US congress is now pushing expensive ship-launched nuclear cruise missiles on its naval forces even as the US Navy tells them it doesn’t want those weapons and has no use for them.

Like hey, just take the nukes anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?

We need to really start taking seriously the possibility that a nuclear weapon could detonate as a result of misunderstanding or malfunction amid the chaos and confusion of all these frenzied, foolish escalations and lead to an exchange which ends our entire world. This nearly happened on multiple occasions in the last cold war, and there’s no rational reason to believe we’ll get lucky again.

The only sane course of action here is de-escalation and detente, and all the major players in these escalations are pointed in the exact opposite direction.

This is so much more dangerous than most people are letting themselves consider. It’s being sustained by psychological compartmentalization, emotional avoidance, and a profound lack of wisdom.

As David S. D’Amato recently remarked, “If our species does find a way to survive into the distant future, our descendants will look at right now as the near miss; they’ll think, ‘Wow, that was close.’ How do we convince people in power to preserve that future?”

*  *  *

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Tyler Durden Thu, 06/30/2022 - 02:00
Published:6/30/2022 1:45:57 AM
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