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[Books] CRB: With the Old Breed (Scott Johnson) The Claremont Review of Books is of course the flagship publication of the Claremont Institute. I find in every issue an education in the true understanding of politics, public policy, and statesmanship. It is my favorite magazine. Purchase an annual subscription here for $19.95 and get immediate online access to the whole thing. The Summer 2019 issue of the CRB has just been placed in the mail. The editors have Published:8/19/2019 7:43:12 AM
[Markets] 'Yield-Curve-Deniers': Mainstream Economists Shrug Off Bond Market 'Science'

Authored by Jeffrey Snider via Alhambra Investment Partners,

One of the primary reasons Economists go unchallenged is because they’ve made the subject matter dense and complex. Needlessly so, in many cases. Anyone in the financial media or the public who wishes to challenge Jay Powell (well, maybe not Powell) on any economic concept is as likely to get a lecture on regressions and the three or four tests the Fed uses to seek out heteroscedasticity in its models, all of which purposefully avoids answering the question originally asked.

The more uncomfortable the question, the more dissembling the pseudo-scientific rant as reply. That’s the real fedspeak.

In August 2010, for example, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was confronted by another challenge he and his fellow policymakers never expected. They never anticipated the Great “Recession”, either, despite numerous market warnings as far back as 2006 that they simply shrugged off. Having just lived through the “somehow” Global Financial Crisis, they couldn’t afford to be so flippant in its aftermath.

In his speech delivered at Jackson Hole, the one that pre-announced a second round of QE, Bernanke began with an honest assessment of the situation. It wasn’t good – even though there had already been a QE1 and ZIRP. Quite naturally, people might have begun to wonder how effective the first one really had been if so soon after (QE1 terminated at the end of March 2010) there’s already a need for a second.

A first option for providing additional monetary accommodation, if necessary, is to expand the Federal Reserve’s holdings of longer-term securities. As I noted earlier, the evidence suggests that the Fed’s earlier program of purchases was effective in bringing down term premiums and lowering the costs of borrowing in a number of private credit markets.

Say what? Term premiums?

Nobody cares about term premiums and Fisherian deconstruction. What anyone wants to know is incredibly simple; whether or not QE actually works. Judging the effectiveness of monetary policy in reality is an end game scenario. Either there is a recovery, or there isn’t. And if there isn’t, it didn’t work.

So, Chairman Bernanke traveled to Wyoming as the nascent and already questionable recovery from the deepest and most sustained (and “somehow” global) economic contraction since the Great Depression was unexpectedly foundering. Officials had already skated by having avoided the uncomfortable questions as to how there was a Great “Recession” on their watch in the first place.

Thus was born policymakers’ longstanding and ongoing infatuation with term premiums. They don’t show up much at all in the mainstream literature before then (not with Alan Greenspan and his series of one-year forwards already confusing things). In the absence of robust recovery, or any sense of real recovery, how does any official justify the eventual four programs of QE?

Should anyone ask if QE was effective, Bernanke (and Yellen) would always answer with “term premiums.” Not recovery, accelerating growth, or robust inflation. Term premiums!

Why?

Because these are just complicated enough so that no one really understands what anyone referring to them might be talking about. And since they aren’t observable, term premiums are simulated using complex mathematical models, the questioner is immediately at a huge disadvantage. The perfect getaway setup. 

But it really shouldn’t be this way. Like any good high school math teacher, demand that these people show their work. Don’t ever allow them to just produce an answer without first producing the calculations backing it up. And I don’t mean the regressions.

The thing about term premiums is really two things; first, forgetting the fact that they are a ridiculous made up idea so that Economists can try (and fail) to plug interest rates into econometric models (in the few cases they do), simulations already suggest term premiums have fallen more without QE than with it. Even on its own terms, term premiums fail to live up.

Bernanke in 2015 conceded that point:

What about the decline in longer-term yields since early 2014? In the US at least, that decline is somewhat surprising, as economic fundamentals have recently seemed more consistent with rising, not falling, longer-term yields… By the process of elimination, with fundamentals stable or improving, much of the decline in yields over the past year must reflect a sharp drop in term premiums. [emphasis added]

What did he eliminate in his thought process in order to blame solely term premiums? The other two parts of nominal yields – both of which, unfortunately for Dr. Bernanke, we do have observable inputs for. There are markets which do give us a very good, and robust, sense of the other factors being considered in falling yields.

Those other two pieces are inflation expectations and the anticipated future path of short-term interest rates. (I’ve written about term premiums and rate decomposition here if you want more details and descriptions.) They are Bernanke’s second downfall.

The reason it has to be term premiums is because Bernanke, Janet Yellen, or Jay Powell all say inflation is going to rise and so will short-term interest rates. Guaranteed. Take it to the bank. The Fed will therefore be hiking short-term rates and since they don’t believe the bond market would ever, ever disagree with them, process of elimination, it therefore must be term premiums that are causing yields to fall (when these same people say they should be rising).

Whether in 2015 or more recently, the market evidence for the other two pieces of the yield picture are pretty unequivocal. The market is obviously expecting a very different set of circumstances than policymakers, an increasingly dangerous scenario of lower inflation, not higher, at the same time it is thinking lower short-term rates, not rate hikes.

Not for nothing, the eurodollar futures curve inverted all the way back in June 2018 at a time when everyone thought the very idea of rate cuts was absurd. With one rate cut now in the books, the market-based inputs are showing their work.

It actually isn’t all that difficult to challenge the assertion, especially with market prices in hand. And it’s becoming even more of a necessity now that people are (finally) paying attention to the yield curve.

This week Janet Yellen started the clown show by saying you shouldn’t trust the inversion. Why not? Term premiums. She wasn’t the only one; it spread immediately around the world. Yesterday:

I’m not sure I would be relying on the yield curve as the best signal of that risk given the yield curve has obviously not got the same sort of structure that it’s had historically.

That was the typically unchallenged judgment of one deputy governor from the Reserve Bank of Australia. With nominal rates collapsing in the US and elsewhere, not only must term premiums be low they must now be really, really negative. That’s the only way left to (try to) dismiss what is, and has been for awhile, otherwise a very obvious negative signal.

They get away with what is pretty clear nonsense (deeply negative term premiums fail every measure of logic) because they know they’ll never, ever be asked to show their work.

Not only has the market already done it, unlike Yellen’s and Bernanke’s its proofs are being tested and validated as we speak. As I wrote elsewhere:

The inverted curve is simply the market saying to Janet Yellen, I told you so but like 2007 you refused to listen…

That’s the problem with being forced into looking at everything backward. No matter how much you try to convince yourself that R-stars and term premiums are meaningful and righteous assessments, you can’t ever shake that nagging feeling that the thing really is what it is.

Term premiums are not science nor really math. They are made up and more than that they are rationalizations, truly Orwellian, intended to deny the obvious and straightforward signals coming from the very fundamental building blocks of all finance and economy. The entire notion is purposefully shrouded in unnecessarily complex concepts whose only true use is to attempt to answer for the otherwise inexcusable. 

As I often write, Economists don’t understand bonds. But they know just enough of them to understand that they had better change the subject.

Published:8/18/2019 2:07:31 PM
[California] Rewriting Tony Bennett (Scott Johnson) The Wall Street Journal has adapted Charles Kesler’s editorial in the forthcoming issue of the Claremont Review of Books — we’ll be getting to a few highlights ourselves next week — into the column “California’s biggest cities confront a ‘defecation crisis'” (subhead: “Lawmakers ban plastic straws as a far worse kind of waste covers the streets of San Francisco and L.A.”). Having turned one of the most beautiful cities in Published:8/17/2019 9:00:24 AM
[41065a8f-4f04-5146-aa2a-6c27619904b6] Todd Starnes: Franklin Graham has a warning for Christian 'influencers' renouncing their faith We must put our faith in Jesus Christ, not a celebrity influencer. And when we find ourselves facing difficulties in life, we must turn to the Bible instead of self-help books. Published:8/17/2019 4:30:34 AM
[Clinton emails] More Clinton Email Funny Business (John Hinderaker) On Wednesday, senators released the transcript of an interview with an investigator for the Intelligence Community Inspector General that included new revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illegal, off-the-books email system. The Daily Caller headlines: “Clinton IT Aide Who Defied Subpoena Says He Created A Cryptic Gmail Account And Sent It Nearly All Of Hillary’s Emails.” I won’t attempt an exhaustive summary; for the details, which remain obscure, follow the link. These Published:8/16/2019 7:30:32 PM
[Entertainment] Charles Santore, illustrator of children’s books, dies at 84 Charles Santore, an illustrator known for his richly detailed and whimsical interpretations of classic children’s books, has died Published:8/16/2019 2:54:46 PM
[Markets] GaveKal: Markets Are In A Panic, And This Time There Will Be No Happy Ending

Authored by Charles Gave of GaveKal

Panic Stations

I always try to be a rules-driven investor. And when the US stock market is down -3% in a day, taking it to -6% from its peak in three weeks, when 10-year US treasury yields have halved in nine months to just 1.55%, and when gold is up 20% in three months, it is a good time to review those rules to see what they can tell me. The answer is: quite a lot.

One of the core tenets of my approach to portfolio construction is that to hedge the equity portion of my portfolio, I know I can use gold if the economy is in an inflationary period, and long-dated US treasury bonds if it is in a disinflationary interlude.

The trick is to determine whether the economy is in an inflationary period or not. I tend to look at the markets. If gold has outperformed the 10-year US treasury over the previous five years, I can stop asking questions and hedge with gold. Conversely, if the bond market has outperformed, I can go ahead and hedge with long bonds, providing its valuation is not too demanding.

Now please take a look at the chart below. The upper pane shows the price of gold plotted against the total return index of the 10-year treasury. The lower pane shows the ratio of the two series. Looking at the ratio, it is clear that from 1971 to 1984, investors should have used gold as their hedge. From 1985 to 2002 they should have chosen US long bonds; then from 2003 to 2012 gold, and from 2014 to May 2019 US long bonds once again.

Since May 2019, when the treasury total return/gold ratio fell below its five-year moving average, I have been recommending that investors switch from overvalued bonds to gold as the preferred hedge for their equity exposure (see The Inflation Shift And Portfolio Construction).

Usually, these two assets—long-dated US treasuries and gold—tend to be negatively correlated. When treasuries are going up, gold tends to go down, and  vice versa.

But in the last few months, both have powered ahead at the same time. This left me scratching my head, and as usual when puzzled, I reached for the history books to see when in the past both treasuries and gold have looked overbought at the same time. Specifically, I looked for other occasions when the three-month rate of change for each asset was above its respective standard deviation at the same time. The conclusion is striking: we are in a panic.

There were plenty of market panics in the 1970s, when real rates were negative. Then from 1980 to 2007, when short rates were “normal”, they were almost non-existent. However since 2007, there have been several occasions when—unusually—both treasuries and gold went up at the same time.

Here they are:

  • The beginning of the global financial crisis.
  • The end of the global financial crisis.
  • The bond market meltdown in peripheral Europe which prompted Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” put.
  • The slowdown in China which led to the G20 “Shanghai agreement”.
  • The latest panic.

Each previous panic was dealt with by governments and—more importantly —central banks, including the Chinese central bank, ganging up to stop the rout. However, given the current chill in relations between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology, it is hard to believe that the latest episode will be halted thanks to a cozy cooperation deal between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

So what should investors do? My immediate advice would be to do very little right now. Acting in the middle of a panic is seldom a good idea. I would just continue selling bonds, and so raising cash.

Structurally, I maintain my call to hedge the equity risk in a portfolio with gold, since bondholders are most likely to be the victims of the next crisis.  Indeed, I believe that in the next crisis, trading in some bond markets may be discontinuous, as in Argentina in recent days (see Lessons From The Argentine Shock). In the coming crisis, I fear there may be very little to choose between some European bond markets and Argentina.

Investors who believe the Hong Kong situation will not deteriorate further (see Hong Kong Q&A (Part II)) should hold on to their Chinese bonds (over the last 12 months, the 10-year Chinese government bond is up 7% in US dollar terms, handsomely outperforming the total returns on both one-year US T-bills and the S&P 500). And they should concentrate their equity holdings in high quality stocks relatively immune from the vagaries of governments, and hedge them with gold.

Praying might also help.

Published:8/15/2019 1:54:00 PM
[Markets] Markopolos: GE Is “Bankruptcy Waiting To Happen”

As Henry Markopolos readily admits, GE has reportedly been playing fast and loose with its revenues for decades, which is why thousands of analysts were shocked to see the dogged Madoff whistleblower publish a report Thursday morning warning about 'Accounting Irregularities' at the once-mighty industrial conglomerate, which amounted to almost $40 billion.

Markopolos continued that the fraud growing inside GE was "bigger than Enron and Worldcom combined" (which is difficult to imagine given GE's relatively puny market cap), and that most of the dirt could be found within its insurance unit, which will need to bolster its reserves by $18.5 billion in cash, and faulted the way the company is accounting for its oil-and-gas business. All told, he said, the accounting problems amount to $38 billion, or 40% of the conglomerate’s market value.

But in a tough interview with CNBC Thursday morning, Markopolos defended his findings, all while repeatedly refusing to disclose with whom he is working (It's reportedly a US-based mid-sized hedge fund)

"Years ago, I would sit down at analyst luncheons and everybody would joke about GE and how they were cooking their earnings under Jack Welch then of course again under Immelt...GE took off like a rocket under take numbers (that is, until the crisis)."

Everybody said, "it's 3% of the S&P 500, we should benchmark it because if we only have 1%, then we'd be short 2% after it took off like a rocket under fake numbers.

But what is Markopolos seeing right now that the rest of Wall Street has missed?

"The numbers are missing. They report top line revenues, bottom line profits, and nothing in between, expenses, research and development, selling, general administration costs - including cash flows, they don't provide working capital, in fact GE is the only company in its industry that doesn't provide working capital, in fact, GE's working capital is minus $23 billion, if you search for current ratio in their annual ratio it doesn't appear - name another company that does that...it's accounting 101," he said.

How severe is the problem? Serious enough to push it into bankruptcy? Yes, Markopolos says.

"They took a $15 billion reserve hit in Jan 2018 for long term care they have another $18.5 billion in immediate cash needs for reserves, they also have a $10.5 billion non-cash reserve hit they need to take on their GAAP books that's going to be a loss and destroy their equity ratios and it needs to be done before Q1 2021 when new accounting rules take place.

He also explained how he went through the statutory filings for 8 GE reinsurance counterparties for long term care and pulled the regulatory filings for the years 2013-2018 and saw "all the losses falling onto GE's books." "GE is losing $5.27 for each dollar of premium they're taking in."

"Those losses are unsustainable and they're growing at an exponential rate. That's not going away...and it's probably going to make this company file for bankruptcy."

But if GE's insurance liabilities take place over several decades, why take a charge for that now?

"Usually you reserve in advance so you can invest the money in the bond market and earn returns on it so you have the money to pay claims when they come due...and if you want to compare it to Unum...Unum's loss ratio for 2018 was 90%, which means they took in $1 of premiums and paid out 90 cents so they were profitable...for Prudential, 81%...for GE, 527% - many times greater. It's unsustainable and it's growing."

A lot has changed since the Enron and Worldcom scandals...what about the auditors, and boards...were all of these people missing the mark here?

"Yes, the gatekeepers have consistently failed...look at the Ratings Agencies during the financial crisis." Markopolos also didn't speak with the company before publishing his report so they wouldn't start destroying evidence.

Markopolos said he's pursuing GE because the shareholders deserve to know...but also because he needs to get paid. "I have a family to support."

Finally, as the interview wound down to a close, Markopolos offered a bizarre explanation for his decision to go after GE: It's recent move of its headquarters near Boston from Fairfield, Conn. "When you move to my home town, and you’re running a scam, I’m going to come after you." And while Markopolos's 'nobody commits accounting fraud in my backyard' sounds convincing, we'd certainly feel better knowing for whom Markopolos is working, and what their angle is, considering that betting against GE is nothing knew.

Published:8/15/2019 1:19:46 PM
[2016 Election] All the president’s men, Obama style (Scott Johnson) Today is the official publication date of my friend Andrew McCarthy’s Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. Courtesy of Encounter Books I read an advance copy last week and want to recommend it enthusiastically to Power Line readers. Even though I have closely followed the “collusion” story as it has come into public view since January 2017, I was reminded of pieces I Published:8/13/2019 9:06:18 AM
[Markets] Doug Casey On Why Gold Is The Best Money

Via CaseyResearch.com,

It’s an unfortunate historical anomaly that people think about the paper in their wallets as money. The dollar is, technically, a currency. A currency is a government substitute for money. But gold is money.

Now, why do I say that?

Historically, many things have been used as money. Cattle have been used as money in many societies, including Roman society. That’s where we get the word “pecuniary” from: the Latin word for a single head of cattle is pecus. Salt has been used as money, also in ancient Rome, and that’s where the word “salary” comes from; the Latin for salt is sal (or salis). The North American Indians used seashells. Cigarettes were used during WWII. So, money is simply a medium of exchange and a store of value.

By that definition, almost anything could be used as money, but obviously, some things work better than others; it’s hard to exchange things people don’t want, and some things don’t store value well. Over thousands of years, the precious metals have emerged as the best form of money. Gold and silver both, though primarily gold.

There’s nothing magical about gold. It’s just uniquely well-suited among the 92 naturally occurring elements for use as money… in the same way aluminum is good for airplanes or uranium is good for nuclear power.

There are very good reasons for this, and they are not new reasons. Aristotle defined five reasons why gold is money in the 4th century BCE (which may only have been the first time it was put down on paper). Those five reasons are as valid today as they were then.

When I give a speech, I often offer a prize to the audience member who can tell me the five classical reasons gold is the best money. Quickly now – what are they? Can’t recall them? Read on, and this time, burn them into your memory.

Money

If you can’t define a word precisely, clearly and quickly, that’s proof you don’t understand what you’re talking about as well as you might. The proper definition of money is as something that functions as a store of value and a medium of exchange.

Government fiat currencies can, and currently do, function as money. But they are far from ideal. What, then, are the characteristics of a good money? Aristotle listed them in the 4th century BCE. A good money must be all of the following:

  • Durable: A good money shouldn’t fall apart in your pocket nor evaporate when you aren’t looking. It should be indestructible. This is why we don’t use fruit for money. It can rot, be eaten by insects, and so on. It doesn’t last.

  • Divisible: A good money needs to be convertible into larger and smaller pieces without losing its value, to fit a transaction of any size. This is why we don’t use things like porcelain for money – half a Ming vase isn’t worth much.

  • Consistent: A good money is something that always looks the same, so that it’s easy to recognize, each piece identical to the next. This is why we don’t use things like oil paintings for money; each painting, even by the same artist, of the same size and composed of the same materials is unique. It’s also why we don’t use real estate as money. One piece is always different from another piece.

  • Convenient: A good money packs a lot of value into a small package and is highly portable. This is why we don’t use water for money, as essential as it is – just imagine how much you’d have to deliver to pay for a new house, not to mention all the problems you’d have with the escrow. It’s also why we don’t use other metals like lead, or even copper. The coins would have to be too huge to handle easily to be of sufficient value.

  • Intrinsically valuable: A good money is something many people want or can use. This is critical to money functioning as a means of exchange; even if I’m not a jeweler, I know that someone, somewhere wants gold and will take it in exchange for something else of value to me. This is why we don’t – or shouldn’t – use things like scraps of paper for money, no matter how impressive the inscriptions upon them might be.

Actually, there’s a sixth reason Aristotle should have mentioned, but it wasn’t relevant in his age, because nobody would have thought of it… It can’t be created out of thin air.

Not even the kings and emperors who clipped and diluted coins would have dared imagine that they could get away with trying to use something essentially worthless as money.

These are the reasons why gold is the best money. It’s not a gold bug religion, nor a barbaric superstition. It’s simply common sense. Gold is particularly good for use as money, just as aluminum is particularly good for making aircraft, steel is good for the structures of buildings, uranium is good for fueling nuclear power plants, and paper is good for making books. Not money. If you try to make airplanes out of lead, or money out of paper, you’re in for a crash.

That gold is money is simply the result of the market process, seeking optimum means of storing value and making exchanges.

Published:8/12/2019 7:08:21 PM
[Entertainment] ‘The Chelsea Girls’ revisits the fear and desperation of the McCarthy-era theater world Historical novelist Fiona Davis sets her books in famous New York buildings.This time: the Chelsea Hotel. Published:8/12/2019 12:32:14 PM
[Markets] Paul Craig Roberts Slams Dems & Western Media: "It's Open Season On All White People"

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

Survival of The Fittest

CJ Hopkins doesn’t say it, but he shows that within all of the Western countries in which the white core populations are experiencing fierce attack from anti-white ideologues in the media and governments that rule them, there is unity of voice from the media that “Trump is a White Supremacist who inspires Terrorism.” 

This unity of voice is suspicious as there are many different possible explanations of the El Paso shooting. The unity of voice is so uniform—in some cases identical phrasing—and so repetitive that it certainly looks like an orchestration against Trump and raises suspicions that the shooting itself was an orchestration.

The question naturally arises, to achieve such an uniformity of response from the Western world, who organized it?  How was the explanation that blames Trump ready at hand all over the US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia, the minute the shooting occurred? Does it remind you of the BCC announcing the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 a half hour before it occurred?

Anytime an explanation is ready at hand the minute an event occurs, the natural question is who had advance information? If there is advance information, where did it come from? Why did not authorities with their advanced information prevent the attack? Why after “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” “Iranian nukes,” “Russian invasions,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” etc., do media organizations continue to provide unexamined explanations? Why did the media suppress the shooter’s manifesto?  Because it did not support the story line and attack on Trump?

As the presstitutes speak with one voice, little wonder that some of the few and diminishing number of Americans still capable of thought conclude that the El Paso shooting was an orchestrated event designed to discredit Trump and to abolish the 2nd Amendment.  We have long known about CIA mind control programs.  Many experts believe that Sirhan Sirhan, the alleged assassin of Robert Kennedy, was a product of the CIA’s mind control program.

As the US government has lied to us about so much for so long about so many big events, we have no alternative but to question everything. But the presstitutes never do.  Russiagate was a politically motivated hoax, but the presstitutes had one voice proclaiming the truth of a hoax.The American people have been misled by the media and gone along with Washington’s destruction of entire countries, such as Iraq and Libya, with millions of people killed, maimed, widowed, orphaned, and displaced, based on Washington’s lies and fabricated “evidence.”  If we cannot believe the reasons that the government takes us to war, how can we believe anything we hear from media and politicians?

The media and Democratic Party’s response to the El Paso tragedy make the facts irrelevant. The controlled explanation wraps people up in emotions over guns and Trump’s wall.  The dead in El Paso are portrayed as Trump’s fault for being a White Supremacist and enforcing US law, which specifies border controls.  Only White Supremacists kill people and build walls, unless they are Israelis, but we are not permitted to say anything about that.

By law the US has borders that the law demands be enforced. If immigrants can simply walk across the border, why can’t they fly into the country or come by ships?  What is the point of passport control?  Indeed, what’s the point of passports?  The concept of citizenship simply disappears. 

US borders have always been enforced.  Badly no doubt, but enforced.  Trump is simply trying to do a better job of enforcing the law than has been done in the past. 

If the US would simply stop overthrowing reformist governments in Latin America, the resources of those countries would be taken out of foreign hands and be put to work for the local people, which is what Venezuela is doing much to the chagrin of American oil companies.  The last time Honduras elected a reformer, America’s first black president—Obama—overthrew him.  Brazil’s Workers Party was destroyed with the US-orchestrated imprisonment of its leader, Lula da Silva, and removal from office of his successor. In their place Washington has installed a corrupt agent of the Americans.  Oppression is applied to the supporters among the people of reformist politicians to ensure that voting ceases to put reformers in power.  As General Smedley Butler said, “I was the enforcer in Latin America for the New York Banks and the United Fruit Company.” Perhaps it is poetic justice that the peoples whose resources are carted off to America decide to go with the resources.  

If the Democrats want open borders, why don’t they draft legislation and fight for its passage?  Why blame Trump for enforcing the laws on the books?

The El Paso shooting has been turned not only into an attack on President Trump but also into an attack on white people.  Suddenly the “Muslim terrorist threat” has disappeared.  Its replacement is the domestic terrorist threat of “white supremacy.” The attack on whites is indiscriminate. The attack on Trump extends to all of the Americans who elected him—“Trump deplorables”—in Hillary’s words.  All whites become “racists” and are covered in guilt. 

The anti-white propaganda is effective. Actress Rosanna Arquette said that her white skin makes her ashamed.  The success in teaching emotionally and mentally weak white people to feel guilt is to make it easier for those who wish to displace them to run over them.  And most definitely, the core white populations of the Western world are being overrun.  

As white populations have become too brainwashed and loaded with guilt to defend themselves, perhaps the Social Darwinists were correct after all.  The fit survive, and white people are no longer among the fit.

CNN former host Reza Aslan, now a professor at the University of California, tweeted:

“The President is a white nationalist terror leader. His supporters—ALL OF THEM—are by definition white nationalist terror supporters.  The MAGA hat is a KKK hood.  And this evil, racist scourge must be eradicated from society.”

How can it be that Trump wanting to enforce US law inspires a person to shoot Hispanics, but Aslan’s call to eradicate all Trump supporters doesn’t inspire a person to attack Trump supporters? Why wasn’t Aslan disciplined by the University of California for his hate speech?  Why wasn’t he blocked by Twitter?  

How can NBC Universal’s film, “The Hunt,” produced by Jason Blum, a Jew, depict liberal elites hunting and killing “Trump deplorables” for sport and escape the charge of hate speech and encouraging deadly violence against half of the US population?   

If wanting to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants encourages Americans to shoot Hispanics, how much violence is encouraged by a movie in which Trump supporters are hunted and shot? There is scant complaint about Israel’s wall that keeps Palestinians out of their own country. Try to imagine someone making a film about hunting Jews for sport and calling it a satire.

Clearly in the Western media and US Democratic Party it is open season on all white people.  The most intense hatred is expressed against them—even calls for their extermination—and it doesn’t qualify as hate speech or encouraging violence.

The hatred and demonization of white people in America is no different from the propaganda against Jews in the Third Reich.  Yet not a single member of the Democratic Party or American print, TV, and NPR radio protests.

That fact tells us all we need to know.  If white people don’t get organized and defend themselves there is likely to be a white holocaust.

Published:8/11/2019 11:02:15 PM
[Society] Youngest Person in US Prosecuted for Terrorism Now Fights Islamist Extremism

On today’s show, our colleagues Kate Trinko and Daniel Davis interview Mohammed Khalid, who made the record books as the youngest person in the U.S.... Read More

The post Youngest Person in US Prosecuted for Terrorism Now Fights Islamist Extremism appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:8/9/2019 2:12:57 AM
[Markets] Paul Craig Roberts Slams The FBI's "Open Invitation To Tyranny"

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

The FBI has published a document that concludes that “conspiracy theories” can motivate believers to commit crimes.

Considering the growing acceptance of pre-emptive arrest, that is, arresting someone before they can commit a crime that they are suspected of planning to commit, challenging official explanations, such as those offered for the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King or the official explanation for 9/11, can now result in monitoring by authorities with a view to finding a reason for pre-emptive arrest.  Presidents George W. Bush and Obama created the police state precedents of suspension of habeas corpus and assassination of citizens on suspicion alone without due process.  If Americans can be preemptively detained indefinitely and preemptively assassinated,  Americans can expect to be preemptively imprisoned for crimes that they did not commit. 

As Lawrence Stratton and I explained in our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, the historic achievement of forging law into a shield of the people is being reversed in our time as law is being reforged into a weapon in the hands of the government. 

The FBI document says that conspiracy theories “are usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.”  Note the use of “official” and “prevailing.”  Official explanations are explanations provided by governments.  Prevailing explanations are the explanations that the media repeats.  Examples of official and prevailing explanations are: Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Iranian nukes, Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the official explanation by the US government for the destruction of Libya.  If a person doubts official explanations such as these, that person is a “conspiracy theorist.”  

Official and prevailing explanations do not have to be consistent with facts.  It is enough that they are official and prevailing.  Whether or not they are true is irrelevant.  Therefore, a person who stands up for the truth can be labeled a conspiracy theorist, monitored, and perhaps pre-emptively arrested. 

Consider 9/11.  No forensic investigation of 9/11 was ever officially conducted.  Instead the destruction of the buildings was blamed on Osama bin Laden, and scenarios and simulations were created to support the allegation, not to find the truth.  Architects, engineers, scientists, pilots, and first responders on site cannot reconcile the official prevailing explanation with the facts.  The scientific and testimonial evidence that they have produced is dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”  It is those experts who stand on the evidence who are defined as conspiracy theorists, not those who created the story of Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 conspiracy.

Consider Russiagate.  Here we have an alleged conspiracy between Trump and Russia that was the official prevailing explanation.  Yet, to believe in the Russiagate conspiracy did not make one a conspiracy theorist as this conspiracy was the official prevailing explanation.  But to doubt the Russiagate conspiracy did make one a conspiracy theorist.

What the FBI report does, intentionally or unintentionally, is to define a conspiracist as a person who doubts official explanations.  In other words, it is a way of preventing any accountability of government.  Whatever the government says, no matter how obvious a lie, will have to be accepted as fact or we will be put on a list to be monitored for preemptive arrest.

In effect, the FBI’s document reduces the First Amendment, that is, free speech, to the right to repeat official and prevailing explanations.  Any other speech is a conspiratorial belief that can lead to the commission of a crime.

Every American should be greatly concerned that the government in Washington does not see this FBI document as an open invitation to tyranny, repudiate it, and demand its recall.

Published:8/7/2019 11:09:10 PM
[Markets] How Trump Could Enforce A Weaker Dollar Policy

Authored by Michael Lebowitz via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

“Let me be clear, what I said was, it’s not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts.”- Fed Chairman Jerome Powell -7/31/2019

“What the Market wanted to hear from Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve was that this was the beginning of a lengthy and aggressive rate-cutting cycle which would keep pace with China, The European Union and other countries around the world….” – President Donald Trump – Twitter 7/31/2019

With the July 31, 2019, Fed meeting in the books, President Trump is up in arms that the Fed is not on a “lengthy and aggressive rate-cutting” path. Given his disappointment, we need to ask what else the President can do to stimulate economic growth and keep stock investors happy. History conveys that is the winning combination to win a reelection bid.

Traditionally, a President’s most effective tool to spur economic activity and boost stock prices is fiscal policy. With a hotly contested election in a little more than a year and the House firmly in Democratic control, the odds of meaningful fiscal stimulus before the election is low.

Without fiscal support, a weak dollar policy might be where Donald Trump goes next. A weaker dollar could stimulate export growth as goods and services produced in the U.S. become cheaper abroad. Further, a weaker dollar makes imports more expensive, which would increase prices and in turn push nominal GDP higher, giving the appearance, albeit false, of stronger economic growth.

In this article, we explore a few different ways that President Trump may try to weaken the dollar. 

Weaker Dollar Policy

The impetus to write this article came from the following Wall Street Journal article: Trump Rejected Proposal to Weaken Dollar through Market Intervention. In particular, the following two paragraphs contradict one another and lead us to believe that a weaker dollar policy is a possibility. 

On Friday, Mr. Kudlow said Mr. Trump “ruled out any currency intervention” after meeting with his economic team earlier this week. The comments led the dollar to rise slightly against other currencies, the WSJ Dollar index showed.

But on Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump held out the possibility that he could take action in the future by saying he hadn’t ruled anything out. “I could do that in two seconds if I wanted to,” he said when asked about a proposal to intervene. “I didn’t say I’m not going to do something.”

Based on the article, Trump’s advisers are against manipulating the dollar lower as they don’t believe they can succeed. That said, on numerous occasions, Trump has shared his anger over other countries that are “using exchange rates to seek short-term advantages.”

As shown below, two measures of the U.S. dollar highlight the substance of frustrations being expressed by Trump. The DXY dollar index has appreciated considerably from the early 2018 lows but is still well below levels at the beginning of the century. This index is inordinately influenced by the euro and therefore not 100% representative of the true effect that the dollar has on trade. The Trade-weighted dollar which is weighted by the amount of trade that actually takes place between the U.S. and other countries. That index has also bounced from early 2018 lows and, unlike DXY, has reached the highs of 2002.

Data Courtesy Bloomberg

Trump’s Dollar War Chest

The following section provides details on how the President can weaken the dollar and how effective such actions might be.

Currency Market Intervention

Intervening in the currency markets by actively selling US dollars would likely push the dollar lower. The problem, as Trump’s advisers note, is that any weakness achieved via direct intervention is likely to be short-lived.

The US economy is stronger than most other developed countries and has higher interest rates. Both are reasons that foreign investors are flocking to the dollar and adding to its recent appreciation. Assuming economic activity does not decline rapidly and interest rates do not plummet, a weaker dollar would further incentivize foreign flows into the dollar and partially or fully offset any intervention.

More importantly, there is a global dollar shortage to consider. It has been estimated by the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) that there is $12.8 trillion in dollar-denominated liabilities owed by foreign entities. A stronger dollar causes interest and principal payments on this debt to become more onerous for the borrowers. Dollar weakness would be an opportunity for some of these borrowers to buy dollars, pay down their debts and reduce dollar risk. Again, such buying would offset the Treasury’s actions to depress the dollar.  

Instead of direct intervention in the currency markets, Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin can use speeches and tweets to jawbone the dollar lower. Like direct intervention, we also think that indirect intervention via words would have a limited effect at best.

The economic and interest rate fundamentals driving the stronger dollar may be too much for direct or indirect intervention to overcome.

From a legal perspective intervening in the currency markets is allowed and does not require approval from Congress. Per the Wall Street Journal article, “The 1934 Gold Reserve Act gives the White House broad powers to intervene, and the Treasury maintains a fund, currently of around $95 billion, to carry out such operations.” The author states that the Treasury has not conducted any interventions since 2000. That is not entirely true as they conducted a massive amount of currency swaps with other nations during and after the financial crisis. By keeping these large market-moving trades off the currency markets, they very effectively manipulated the dollar and other currencies.

Hounding the Fed

The President aggressively chastised Fed Chairman Powell for not cutting interest rates or ending QT as quickly as he prefers. Lowering interest rates to levels that are closer to those of other large nations would potentially weaken the dollar. The only problem is that the Fed does not appear willing to move at the President’s pace as they deem such action is not warranted. We believe the Fed is very aware that taking unjustifiable actions at the behest of the President would damage the perception of their independence and, therefore, their integrity.

To solve this problem, Trump could take the controversial and unprecedented step of firing or demoting Fed Chairman Powell.  In Powell’s place he could put someone willing to lower rates aggressively and possibly reintroduce QE. These steps might push financial asset prices higher, weaken the dollar, and provide the economic pickup Trump seeks but it is also fraught with risks. We have written two articles on the topic of the President firing the Fed Chairman as follows: Chairman Powell You’re Fired and Market Implications for Removing Fed Chair Powell.

It is not clear whether the President can get away with firing or even demoting Chairman Powell. We guess that he understands this which may explain why he has not done it already. If he cannot change Fed leadership, he can continue to pressure the Fed with Tweets, speeches, and direct meetings. We do not think this strategy can be effective unless the Fed has ample reason to cut rates. Thus far, the Fed’s mandates of “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates” do not provide the Fed such justification.

Getting Help Abroad

One of the core topics in the U.S. – China trade talks has been the Chinese Yuan. In particular, Trump is negotiating to stop the Chinese from using their currency to promote their economic self-interests at our expense. As of writing this, the U.S. Treasury deemed China a currency manipulator. Per the Treasury: “As a result of this determination (currency manipulator), Secretary Mnuchin will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.” Said differently, the U.S. and other nations can now manipulate their currency versus the Chinese Yuan.

It is plausible that Trump might pressure other countries, including our allies in Europe and Japan as well as Mexico and Canada, to strengthen their respective currencies against the dollar. Trump can threaten nations with trade restrictions and tariffs if they do not comply. If tariffs are enacted, however, all bets are off due to the economic inefficiencies of tariffs or trade restrictions. To the President’s dismay, such action weaken the economy and scare investors as we are seeing with China. 

Threats of trade actions, trade-related actions, or trade agreements might work to weaken the dollar, but such tactics would require time and pinpoint diplomacy. Of all the options, this one requires longer-term patience in awaiting their effect and may not satisfy the President’s desire for short-term results.

Summary

Before summarizing we leave you with one important thought and certainly a topic for future writings.Globally coordinated monetary policy is morphing into globally competitive monetary policy. This may be the most significant Macro development since the Plaza Accord in 1985 when the Reagan administration, along with other developed nations (West Germany, France, Japan, the UK), coordinated to weaken the U.S. dollar.

With the Presidential election in about 15 months, we have no doubt that President Trump will do everything in his power to keep financial markets and the economy humming along. The problem facing the President is a Democrat-controlled House, a Fed that is dragging their feet in terms of rate cuts, weakening global growth, and a stronger U.S. dollar.

We believe the odds that the President tries to weaken the dollar will rise quickly if signs of further economic weakness emerge. Given the situation, investors need to understand what the President can and cannot do to spike economic growth and further how it might affect the prices of financial assets.

On the equity front, a weaker dollar bodes well for companies that are more global in nature. Most of the companies that have driven the equity indices higher are indeed multi-national. Conversely, it harms domestic companies that rely on imported goods and commodities to manufacture their products. The price of commodities and precious metals are likely to rise with a weaker dollar. A weaker dollar and any price pressures that result would likely push bond yields higher.

The statistical relationships between the dollar and other asset classes are important to quantify if in fact the dollar may become an economic tool for the President. A full spectrum of those relationships over various timeframes may be found in an addendum to this article for RIA Pro subscribers. Give us a try. All new subscribers receive a 30 day free trial to explore what we have to offer and view the addendum.   

Published:8/7/2019 2:04:26 PM
[Robert Mueller] Paul Sperry: Mueller’s double deception (Scott Johnson) Help in on the way in our struggle to understand the “collusion” hoax that has roiled the Trump presidency from its first days. Next week Encounter Books publishes Andrew McCarthy’s Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig and Election and Destroy a Presidency. Eric Felten and others at RealClear Investigations continue their efforts to penetrate the mysteries of the investigation conducted under the nominal authority of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Published:8/7/2019 8:02:20 AM
[Markets] We're All Enemies Of The State: Draconian Laws, Precrime & The Surveillance State

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” - H.L. Mencken

We’ve been down this road many times before.

If the government is consistent about any one thing, it is this: it has an unnerving tendency to exploit crises and use them as opportunities for power grabs under the guise of national security.

As David C. Unger, a foreign affairs editorial writer for the New York Times, explains, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have given way to permanent crisis management: to policing the planet and fighting preventative wars of ideological containment, usually on terrain chosen by, and favorable to, our enemies. Limited government and constitutional accountability have been shouldered aside by the kind of imperial presidency our constitutional system was explicitly designed to prevent.”

Cue the Emergency State, the government’s Machiavellian version of crisis management that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

Terrorist attacks, mass shootings, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters”: the government has been anticipating and preparing for such crises for years now.

It’s all part of the grand plan for total control.

The government’s proposed response to the latest round of mass shootings—red flag gun laws, precrime surveillance, fusion centers, threat assessments, mental health assessments, involuntary confinement—is just more of the same.

These tactics have been employed before, here in the U.S. and elsewhere, by other totalitarian regimes, with devastating results.

It’s a simple enough formula: first, you create fear, then you capitalize on it by seizing power.

For instance, in his remarks on the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, President Trump promised to give the FBI “whatever they need” to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism.

Let that sink in a moment.

In a post-9/11 America, Trump’s promise bodes ill for whatever remnants of freedom we have left. With that promise, flippantly delivered without any apparent thought for the Constitution’s prohibitions on such overreach, the president has given the FBI the green light to violate Americans’ civil liberties in every which way.

This is how the Emergency State works, after all.

Although the damage wrought by these power grabs has been most evident in recent presidential administrations—under Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton—the seeds of this present madness were sown, according to Unger, in 1940, when President Roosevelt, the “founding father of modern extraconstitutional presidential war-making, the military-industrial complex, and covert federal surveillance of lawful domestic political activity,” declared a national emergency.

So what does the government’s carefully calibrated response to this current crisis mean for freedom as we know it? Compliance and control.

For starters, consider Trump’s embrace of red flag gun laws, which allow the police to remove guns from people “suspected” of being threats, will only add to the government’s power.

As The Washington Post reports, these laws “allow a family member, roommate, beau, law enforcement officer or any type of medical professional to file a petition [with a court] asking that a person’s home be temporarily cleared of firearms. It doesn’t require a mental-health diagnosis or an arrest.

Be warned: these laws, growing in popularity as a legislative means by which to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others, are yet another Trojan Horse, a stealth maneuver by the police state to gain greater power over an unsuspecting and largely gullible populace.

Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, now have red flag laws on their books. That number is growing.

In the midst of what feels like an epidemic of mass shootings, these gun confiscation laws—extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws—may appease the fears of those who believe that fewer guns in the hands of the general populace will make our society safer.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way.

Anything—knives, vehicles, planes, pressure cookers—can become a weapon when wielded with deadly intentions.

With these red flag gun laws, the intention is to disarm individuals who are potential threats.

We need to stop dangerous people before they act”: that’s the rationale behind the NRA’s support of these red flag laws, and at first glance, it appears to be perfectly reasonable to want to disarm individuals who are clearly suicidal and/or pose an “immediate danger” to themselves or others.

However, consider what happened in Maryland after a police officer attempted to “enforce” the state’s new red flag law, which went into effect in Oct. 2018.

At 5 am on a Monday, two police officers showed up at 61-year-old Gary Willis’ house to serve him with a court order requiring that he surrender his guns. Willis answered the door holding a gun. (In some states, merely answering the door holding a gun is enough to get you killed by police who have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.) Willis initially set his gun aside while he spoke with the police. However, when the police attempted to serve him with the gun confiscation order, Willis reportedly became “irate” and picked up his gun again. At that point, a struggle ensued, causing the gun to go off. Although no one was harmed by the struggle, one of the cops shot and killed Willis.

According to the Anne Arundel County police chief, the shooting was a sign that the red flag law is needed. What the police can’t say with any certainty is what they prevented by shooting and killing Willis.

Therein lies the danger of these red flag laws, specifically, and pre-crime laws such as these generally, especially when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

After all, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government that, in 2009, issued a series of Department of Homeland Security 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.”

This is the same government that, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, 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.”

This is the same government that keeps re-upping the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to detain and imprison American citizens with no access to friends, family or the courts if the government believes them to be a threat.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

According to the FBI’s latest report, you might also be classified as a domestic terrorism threat if you espouse conspiracy theories, especially if you “attempt to explain events or circumstances as the result of a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others” and are “usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.”

Additionally, according to Michael C. McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, the bureau now “classifies domestic terrorism threats into four main categories: racially motivated violent extremism, anti-government/anti-authority extremism, animal rights/environmental extremism, and abortion extremism.”

In other words, if you dare to subscribe to any views that are contrary to the government’s, you may well be suspected of being a domestic terrorist and treated accordingly.

Where many Americans go wrong is in assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or challenging the government’s authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state and locked up like a dangerous criminal.

That is not the case.

All you really need to do is question government authority.

With the help of artificial intelligence, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior sensing software, government agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potentialenemies of the state.

It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.

What’s more, the technocrats who run the surveillance state don’t even have to break a sweat while monitoring what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, how much you spend, whom you support, and with whom you communicate. Computers guided by artificial intelligence now do the tedious work of trolling social media, the internet, text messages and phone calls for potentially anti-government remarks—all of which is carefully recorded, documented, and stored to be used against you someday at a time and place of the government’s choosing.

This is the world that science fiction author Philip K. Dick envisioned for Minority Report in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams will crack a few skulls in order to bring the populace under control.

In Dick’s dystopian police state, the police combine widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining and precognitive technology to capture would-be criminals before they can do any damage: precrime.

In the film Minority Report, the technology that John Anderton, Chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in Washington, DC, relies on for his predictive policing proves to be fallible, identifying him as the next would-be criminal and targeting him for preemptive measures. Consequently, Anderton finds himself not only attempting to prove his innocence but forced to take drastic measures in order to avoid capture in a surveillance state that uses biometric data and sophisticated computer networks to track its citizens.

With every passing day, the American police state moves that much closer to mirroring the fictional pre-crime prevention world of Minority Report.

For instance, police in major American cities have been using predictive policing technology that allows them to identify individuals—or groups of individuals—most likely to commit a crime in a given community. Those individuals are then put on notice that their movements and activities will be closely monitored and any criminal activity (by them or their associates) will result in harsh penalties. 

In other words, the burden of proof is reversed: you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.

Dig beneath the surface of this kind of surveillance/police state, however, and you will find that the real purpose of pre-crime is not safety but control.

Red flag gun laws merely push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.

Again, where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention.

In fact, U.S. police agencies have been working to identify and manage potential extremist “threats,” violent or otherwise, before they can become actual threats for some time now.

In much the same way that the USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, allowing the government to establish a far-reaching domestic spying program that turned every American citizen into a criminal suspect, the government’s anti-extremism program renders otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutterdrive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social mediaappear mentally ill, serve in the militarydisagree with a law enforcement officialcall in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, or appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom.

Be warned: once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.

You will be tracked wherever you go.

You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly.

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

The government has been building its pre-crime, surveillance network in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the corporate sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

If you’re not scared yet, you should be.

Connect the dots.

Start with the powers amassed by the government under the USA Patriot Act, note the government’s ever-broadening definition of what it considers to be an “extremist,” then add in the government’s detention powers under NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.

To that, add tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones and balloons that are beginning to blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the picture, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify so-called criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re starting to understand how easy we’ve made it for the government to identify, label, target, defuse and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata.

There’s always a price to pay for standing up to the powers-that-be.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, you don’t even have to be a dissident to get flagged by the government for surveillance, censorship and detention.

All you really need to be is a citizen of the American police state.

Published:8/6/2019 11:29:41 PM
[Markets] You Can 'Major' In Social Justice At This Nearly $70,000/Year California College

Authored by Adam Sabes via Campus Reform,

Dominican University in California has added a new major, wholly focused on social justice that will begin accepting students in the fall.

The school created the major after a “growing number” of students became interested in social justice careers, according to a university news release. Dominican will be combining courses from its minors entitled “Performing Arts and Social Change” and “Community Action and Social Change” for the major.

Students who major in social justice will have the chance to “examine the links between well-being, social justice, and diverse worldviews.”

Additionally, students will “analyze social injustices and work toward positive social change.”

The major starts off with a class titled “Theory and Practice for Community Action and Social Change,” which “provides foundational frameworks for analyzing oppression, power, and privilege.”

Other courses that students can take range from “Prophets, Psalms, & Social Justice” to “Liberation Theologies.”

Dominican University suggests that possible careers for those studying social justice include “Journalist/Photographer/Filmmaker,“ ”Community Organizer,” “Educator,” “Political Campaign Staffer,” and even a “Socially Engaged Artist.”

The new major is being funded in part by a $30,000 grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion.

A spokesperson from the California Federation of College Republicans commented on the major to Campus Reform.

“While we feel this program is for psuedo-educational purposes and pushes a certain political agenda, students will be spending $67,385 each academic year ($269,540 after four years) on a bachelor’s degree in social justice,” the spokesperson said.

“The United States is on the precipice of our $1.5 trillion student loan debt bubble bursting; therefore, it is clearly not wise for students to take out nearly $300,000 in student loans just to study social justice.

The $67,385 per year cost cited by the CFCR spokesperson includes tuition, room and board, books, and other fees. 

Dominican University is not the first school to push social justice initiatives, as Campus Reform has reported. 

Hamline University in Minnesota has a social justice major boasting classes like “gender politics” and “sexuality, gender identity, and the law.” Tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year at that school is $41,734.

The University of Michigan took the issue further and opened up an entire “social justice-themed” high school where UMich grad students will have the opportunity to teach.

Published:8/6/2019 10:29:28 PM
[jurisprudence] Sarah Palin’s Defamation Case Against New York Times Reinstated (John Hinderaker) In 2017, the New York Times ran an editorial that, by any normal standard, libeled Sarah Palin. It harkened back six years to 2011, when Jared Loughlin, an insane person who listed the Communist Manifesto among his favorite books and may never have heard of Sarah Palin, murdered six people in Tucson, Arizona. Democrats made the absurd claim that Loughlin’s spree was caused by the publication of a map by Published:8/6/2019 10:01:03 PM
[Markets] America's Collapse: Paul Craig Roberts Exposes An Economy Based On Plunder

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

Capitalists have claimed responsibility for America’s past economic success.  Let’s begin by setting the record straight. American success had little to do with capitalism. This is not to say that the US would have had more success with something like Soviet central planning.

Prior to 1900 when the frontier was closed, America’s success was a multi-century long success based on the plunder of a pristine environment and abundant natural resources. Individuals and companies were capitalized simply by occupying the land and using the resources present.

As the population grew and resources were depleted, the per capita resource endowment declined.

America got a second wind from World War I, which devastated European powers and permitted the emergence of the US as a budding world power.  World War II finished off Europe and put economic and financial supremacy in Washington’s hands.  The US dollar seized the world reserve currency role from the British pound, enabling the US to pay its bills by printing money.  The world currency role of the dollar, more than nuclear weapons, has been the source of American power. Russia has equal or greater nuclear weapons power, but it is the dollar not the ruble that is the currency in which international payments are settled. 

The world currency role made the US the financial hegemon.  This power together with the IMF and  World Bank enabled the US to plunder foreign resources the way vanishing American resources had been plundered.  

We can conclude that plunder of natural resources and the ability to externalize much of the cost have been  major contributors right through the present day to the success of American capitalism.  Michael Hudson has described the plunder process in his many books and articles, as has John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

Essentially, capitalism is a plunder mechanism that generates short-run profits by externalizing long-run costs.  It exhausts natural resources, including air, land, and water, for temporary profits while imposing most of its costs, such as pollution, on the environment.  An example is the destruction of the Amazon rain forest by loggers.  The world loses a massive carbon sink that stabilizes the global climate, and loggers gain short-run profits that are a tiny percentage of the long-run costs.

This destructive process is amplified by the inherently short-run time perspective of capitalist activity which seldom extends beyond the next quarter.  

US economic success was also a result of a strong consumer demand fed by rising real wages as technological advances in manufacturing raised the productivity of labor and consumer purchasing power. The middle class became dominant. When I was an economics student, Paul Samuelson taught us that American prosperity was based entirely on the large American consumer market and had nothing to do with foreign trade.  Indeed, foreign trade was a minor factor in American GDP.  America had such a large domestic consumer market that the US did not need foreign trade to enjoy economics of scale.

All of this changed with the rise of free market ideology and the collapse of the Soviet Union. When I was a student we were taught that boards of directors and corporate executives had responsibilities to their employees, their customers, their communities, and to their shareholders.  These responsibilities were all equally valid and needed to be kept in balance.

In response to liberals, who tried to impose more and more “social responsibilities” on corporations, free market economists responded with the argument that, in fact, corporations only have responsibilities to their owners. Rightly or wrongly, this reactive argument is blamed on Milton Friedman.  Conservative foundations set about teaching jurists and legislators that companies were only responsible to owners.  

Judges were taught that ownership is specific and cannot be abridged by government imposing obligations on the investments of owners for responsibilities that do not benefit the owners. This argument was used to terminate all responsibilities except to shareholders and left profit maximization as the corporate goal.

Thus, when the Soviet Union collapsed and China and India opened their economies to foreign capital, US corporations were free to desert their work forces and home towns and use cheaper labor abroad to produce the goods and services sold to Americans. This increased their profits and, thereby, executive bonuses and shareholder capital gains at the expense of the livelihoods of their former domestic work force and tax base of their local communities and states.  The external costs of the larger profits were born by their former employees and the impaired financial condition of states and localities. These costs greatly exceed the higher profits.

Generally speaking, economists assume away external costs.  Their mantra is that progress fixes everything.  But their measures of progress are deceptive.  Ecological economists, such as Herman Daly, have raised the issue whether, considering the neglect of external costs and the inaccurate way in which GDP is measured, announced increases in GDP exceed in value the cost of producing them.  It is entirely possible that GDP growth is simply an artifact of not counting all of the costs of production.  

As we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the long history of American capitalism fed by plunder seems to be coming to an end simultaneously with the ability of the US central bank to protect existing financial wealth by creating ever more money with which to support stock, bond, and real estate prices.  The US has a long history of overthrowing reformist governments in Latin America that threatened American control over their resources.  Washington’s coups against democracy and self-determination succeeded until Venezuela.  Washington’s coup against Chavez was overturned by the Venezuelan people and military, and so far Washington’s attempt to overthrow Chavez’s successor, Maduro, has failed.

Washington’s attempt to overthrow the Syrian government was prevented by Russia, and most likely Russia and China will prevent Washington from overthrowing the government of Iran.  In Africa the Chinese are proving to be better business partners than the exploitative American corporations.  To continue feeding the empire with its heavy costs is becoming more difficult.

Washington’s policy of sanctions is making it even more difficult. To avoid the arbitrary and illegal sanctions, other countries are starting to abandon the US dollar as the currency of international transactions and arranging to settle their international accounts in their domestic currencies. China’s Silk Road encompasses Russia with much of Asia in a trade bloc independent of the Western financial system.  Other countries hoping to escape US control are turning to Russia and China to achieve sovereignty from Washington.  These developments will reduce the demand for dollars and impair US financial hegemony.  Alternatives to the World Bank will remove areas of the world from the reach of US plunder.

As plunderable resources diminish, American capitalism, which is heavily dependent on plunder, will have one foundation of its success removed.  As aggregate consumer demand collapses from the absence of growth in real income, absence of middle class jobs, and the extreme polarization of income and wealth in the US, another pillar of American capitalism disintegrates.  As business investment has also collapsed, as indicated by the use of corporate profits and borrowing to repurchase the corporations’ equity, thus decapitalizing the companies, total aggregate demand itself collapses. 

The absence of growth in aggregate demand will make the gap between high stock prices and dismal prospects for corporate profits too great to be bridged by the Federal Reserve flooding money into financial assets.  Without the ability to prop up financial asset prices with money creation, flight from dollar-denominated assets could bring down the US dollar.

What is left will be a ruin.

Published:8/3/2019 9:42:12 PM
[Markets] How The Modern Consumer Is Different

There is a prevailing wisdom that says the stereotypical American consumer can be defined by certain characteristics.

Based on what popular culture tells us, as well as years of experiences and data, we all have an idea of what the average consumer might look for in a house, car, restaurant, or shopping center.

But, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, as circumstances change, so do consumer tastes – and according to a recent report by Deloitte, the modern consumer is becoming increasingly distinct from those of years past. For us to truly understand how these changes will affect the marketplace and our investments, we need to rethink and update our image of the modern consumer.

A Changing Consumer Base

In their analysis, Deloitte leans heavily on big picture demographic and economic factors to help in summarizing the three major ways in which consumers are changing.

Here are three ways the new consumer is different than in years past:

1. Increasingly Diverse
In terms of ethnicity, the Baby Boomers are 75% white, while the Millennial generation is 56% white. This diversity also transfers to other areas as well, such as sexual and gender identities.

Not surprisingly, future generations are expected to be even more heterogeneous – Gen Z, for example, identifies as being 49% non-white.

2. Under Greater Financial Pressure
Today’s consumers are more educated than ever before, but it’s come at a stiff price. In fact, the cost of education has increased by 65% between 2007 and 2017, and this has translated to a record-setting $1.5 trillion in student loans on the books.

Other costs have mounted as well, leaving the bottom 80% of consumers with effectively no increase in discretionary income over the last decade. To make matters worse, if you single out just the bottom 40% of earners, they actually have less discretionary income to spend than they did back in 2007.

3. Delaying Key Life Milestones
Getting married, having children, and buying a house all have one major thing in common: they can be expensive.

The average person under 35 years old has a 34% lower net worth than they would have had in the 1990s, making it harder to tackle typical adult milestones. In fact, the average couple today is marrying eight years later than they did in 1965, while the U.S. birthrate is at its lowest point in three decades. Meanwhile, homeownership for those aged 24-32 has dropped by 9% since 2005.

A New Landscape for Business?

The modern consumer base is more diverse, but also must deal with increased financial pressures and a delayed start in achieving traditional milestones of adulthood. These demographic and economic factors ultimately have a ripple effect down to businesses and investors.

How do these big picture changes impact your business or investments?

Published:8/3/2019 4:10:29 PM
[Markets] Taibbi: The Over-Hyped Rise & Sudden Fall Of 'Superhero' Robert Mueller

Authored by Matt Taibbi,

The testimony of Robert Mueller should have marked the end of a national nightmare. Instead, a new legend was born...

The change came in the space of a single news cycle. Beginning before and ending after the congressional testimony of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the depth of America’s faith-based mania was laid bare. The Russiagate press managed to turn reality all the way around.

In the moment, while the event was being broadcast live, the assessment of the ex-FBI director’s performance as a congressional witness was nearly unanimous. Mueller was a confused, vulnerable human being, not an indefatigable force. 

“Very, very painful,” said longtime Democratic strategist David Axelrod.

“I don’t know what the #Dems were expecting from #RobertMueller, but this probably isn’t it,” tweeted Howard Fineman.

“Mueller is struggling,” former prosecutor and Mueller subordinate Glenn Kirchner commented during the event. “It strikes me as a health issue.”

This was a monstrous indictment of media. The Special Counsel’s inability to follow questions or remember key details (he was “not familiar” with oppo firm Fusion-GPS!) exploded two years of hype.

Mueller was sold in hundreds of articles and TV features as earth’s most competent human, a real-life superhero. His close-lipped manner and razor intellect supposedly presented a living antidote to our blabbermouth numbskull president, Donald Trump. He was as a character straight out of Team America, an ex-Marine FBI chief by way of St. Paul’s, Princeton, and a grad program at the University of Awesome. Batman is back to save America,” his former FBI second Timothy Murphy said in a typical story from two years ago, describing Mueller as “the hero America needs.”

This myth died on television.

It happened by mistake, the kind that’s always a risk when you’re dealing with live broadcasts, as even censorious societies like the Soviet Union have found. Congressional Democrats like House Judiciary chief Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiff of the Intelligence committee thought a TV show would bring the Mueller report “to life.”

How these two goofs didn’t know, or bother to find out, that Mueller was not up for the task of following difficult questions is hard to understand. Nadler and Schiff are both lawyers. A first-year law student wouldn’t put a witness on stand blind like that for a minute, let alone seven nationally-televised hours.

But they pressed on, convinced the Special Counsel could breathe new life into a case they believed had waned only because Mueller’s long report was a “dry, prosecutorial work product” that the public couldn’t or wouldn’t digest.

This in itself was crazy. Hopeful blue-staters across the country for months have indulged in readings of Mueller’s report like it was the word of God – with celebrity jackasses like Annette Bening, John Lithgow and Kevin Kline donning Rick Perry-style smart glasses to conduct televised deliverance of the gospel.

The report has been hyped plenty. It’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has now been on the New York Times bestseller list for thirteen weeks. In #Resistance America it’s as ubiquitous as Gideon’s Bible. What Nadler and Schiff seem to have wanted was something beyond familiarity with the work, like video of Mueller calling Trump a crook that could be used in commercials.  

Instead, they revealed something no one expected. Now we understood why the Special Counsel avoided live exchanges across two years of being one of the most famous people on earth.

When Mueller’s morning session in Nadler’s committee ended, NBC’s studio seemed like a funeral parlor.

“If, uh, Democrats were looking for a pristine ten to fifteen second sound bite that made the point they wanted to make, uh, it probably didn’t happen,” said Lester Holt.

Chuck Todd, who along with colleague Rachel Maddow has been one of the most energetic Russigate torchbearers, offered that on the bringing-Mueller-to-life front, the testimony was “a complete failure.” He added it “didn’t do anything to help” impeachment arguments.

Within 48 hours, national consensus was completely reversed. It was breathtaking.

“Mueller didn’t fail. The country did,” wrote Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. Her key passage, which would become a point stressed by many, complained about the over-focus on “optics”:

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

In a heartbeat this idea spread everywhere. “Robert Mueller and the tyranny of ‘optics’” blared The Atlantic.  “Forget the theater criticism – Mueller’s conclusions are the real news,” wrote colleague David Graham. “Jeffries dismisses optics: We wanted testimony from Mueller, not Robert de Niro,” chimed in The Hill.

It became a de rigeur media and social media observation to say the hearing wasn’t a disaster, that Mueller in fact moved the ball forward, his mighty reputation intact. He’d been in a difficult position, you see, and fighting evil, not movie acting, is his thing. The Daily Beast said so with this headline and lede:

Robert Mueller, Trump Hunter

Really, there were Democrats angry with Special Counsel Robert Mueller for being Robert Mueller Wednesday morning before the House Judiciary Committee? Are we so unaccustomed to a modest public servant speaking honestly in a measured voice that it enrages us…?

Writer Margaret Carlson insisted Mueller had been asked to deliver the impossible, tasked with “saving the big game with Hail Mary passes in the fourth quarter.” However, she said, he “was never going to throw the long ball” (metaphor production has soared in the Mueller period). The problem wasn’t with Mueller, but with us, for failing to “manage expectations.”

As such, Mueller was not merely Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but also “Moses on the Mount, delivering the Ten Commandments but not dramatizing them.” Moreover, in a predictable development, pundits insisted the rumors of Mueller’s disappointing testimony were vicious lies perpetrated by Republicans in league with (or “on their knees” for) Trump.

Mueller was back to being both a sacred figure and superhero (in America, the prophet is always also an ass-kicking leading man). This took two days. Three days after his testimony, Kathleen Parker was arguing in the Washington Post that Mueller’s “forbearance” on the stand made him deserving of the Medal of Honor. The following passage was actually published by someone self-identifying as a journalist:

The close-up of Mueller’s face was a portrait of rare depth, the sort one is more likely to find on a Leonardo da Vinci canvas with all its shadows, hollows and his soulful, nearly weeping eyes. I found myself thinking of paintings of the Agony in the Garden, showing Jesus’ upturned face as he prayed.

Mueller on the stand was a potted plant. Reporters saw Moses and Jesus.  If you need evidence we’re in a religious mania, look no further. This was a pure exercise in restoring an idol for worship.

It was also a metaphor for the Russiagate narrative. Mueller’s legend was built without any of his hagiographers demanding to speak to the man. Virtually the whole of it was constructed on the word of confederates or anonymous sources. In the manner of priests everywhere since the beginning of time, these sources interpreted for us the secret beliefs, conclusions, and desires of the unavailable man above.   

“It is instructive to hear friends and former colleagues talk about Robert Swan Mueller III,” wrote Time when giving the Mueller third place in its Person of the Year issue. Mueller was a figure of such great gravity, we were told, he does not deign to speech:

Mueller, they say, is the kind of man who flicks the lights off and on at his home to inform guests that it’s time to leave a social gathering…

Citizens were urged to find truth, justice, and integrity not in Mueller’s words, but in his hair.Mueller’s hair is one little shining piece of sanity in a sea of madness,” a portrait artist told the AP. “So precise and sober and straightforward and without deceit…”

The same article interviewed a woman named Alicia Barrett whose son bought a Labrador puppy for Christmas:

“The strong, silent type,” Barnett observed. And then she named him Mueller, an homage to the stoic special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election…

Mueller’s silence turned out to be more genuinely Labrador-like than Barnett and everyone else was led to believe. A media legend of immense dimensions was built without anyone first making sure there was a there there. Sound familiar?

Fellow journalists who think they’re aiding an anti-Trump resistance by keeping the empty piñata of Russiagate raised to the rafters couldn’t be more wrong. This story is Trump’s best friend. As opposed to the Mueller probe, which was an immediate legal threat to the president and his family, Trump on some level must be dying for impeachment.

Heading into an election year, nothing would suit him more than the protracted media spectacle of Democrats trying to break down the walls of the White House with a noodle.

Instead of spending next year campaigning against a policy wonk like Elizabeth Warren or a populist like Bernie Sanders (it’s safe to say Trump would look forward to a run against verbal mistake-factory Joe Biden), he’ll be running against a parade of fourth-raters in and around the party who spent Trump’s presidency rejecting real-world concerns of voters and throwing political capital into a dead-end conspiracy theory.

Less than 1% of voters now consider “the Russia situation” the most serious issue facing the country. This isn’t a new development. Polls consistently showed this to be the case across the last few years, including earlier this winter, before Mueller’s probe ended without further indictments.

In other words, even when voters in both parties knew charges could be filed at any moment, this issue rated below the economy, immigration, civil rights, health care, and other concerns. In mid-March, just before Mueller’s probe wrapped up, CNN found a whopping zero percent of Americans identified “Russian investigation” as their primary concern heading into 2020. The network wrote (emphasis mine):

The CNN poll…  asked respondents to describe one issue that would be the most important to them when deciding whom to support in next year’s presidential election. The Russia investigation didn’t register in the results.

The above was the fifteenth paragraph in CNN’s story. Talk about burying the lede! Instead of Poll: Americans Don’t Give a Shit About Russiagate, the headline read, “Americans want Mueller’s report release and approve of his work. But their minds are made up about Trump.”

The only people who really care about this story are DC politicians, Twitter, people who don’t have bills to worry about (like Hollywood actors), and the news media, which continues to put this story front and center. Ratings are one reason, but people like Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo have probably also seen Red Sparrow too many times.*

The conspiracy tale has validated every Trump criticism about both crooked media and the deep state. The whole narrative is the brainchild of Clinton hacks, a handful of overzealous intelligence nuts, and a subset of the Democratic Party’s weakest elected minds, in particular murine ex-prosecutor Schiff, a man who should be selling Buicks back in his hometown Burbank.

Take a good look at Schiff, at our paranoid outpatient of an ex-CIA chief John Brennan, and at excuse-making Clinton campaign chief Robby Mook (a.k.a. the captain of the Democratic Titanic), and ask if you really want to be re-writing history for those people.

They’re making the press accomplices in the most imbecilic effort at political opposition in recent American history. Hence the desperate public comments and the string of wacked-out stunts, like putting Mueller under oath. Impeachment will be the next adventure in doubling down blind.

A significant portion of the original conspiracy theory vanished via a series of under-circulated news reports just in the months since the end of the Mueller probe. Remember the Southern District of New York campaign finance probe that arose in connection with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the one described as a “major danger” to Trump? Remember all that talk about how “Trump can’t run the Mueller playbook on the New York feds?” Experts told us that the Cohen probe posed a “significant threat” of new indictments for Trump and his family.

When that investigation closed with no new charges the same week Mueller testified, the commentariat barely noticed. Same with the Democrats v. Earth lawsuit/publicity stunt, in which the Democratic National Committee sued Trump, the Russian government, and Wikileaks under a RICO claim.

Plaintiffs charged the Trump campaign conspired to steal and release DNC emails. But a federal judge tossed the suit on the grounds that the Trump campaign “did not participate in the theft.” Moreover, the Clinton-appointed judge said published documents were “of public concern” and therefore protected like any other journalistic work product. The judge also ruled that allegations about all the non-Russian defendants (including Wikileaks) were “insufficient to hold them liable” for any illegality involved in obtaining DNC emails.

The end of this years-long gambit only drew a few brief stories in response. The same happened when Mueller in testimony dismissed a zany story about “human activity” detected between a secret server between Trump and Alfa-Bank. Over a dozen news stories covered this tale in length on the way up the news cycle, but dispositive information on the way down drew a shrug.

Russiagate should be dead. Instead, it’s gaining new life, with impeachment looking like the New Testament phase of the religion.

Until Russiagate, Robert Mueller was mainly known to the DC press corps as one of many imperious stiffs who made up George W. Bush’s War on Terror bureaucracy. At the outset of our glorious WMD hunt and in defense of the sweeping surveillance programs we likely still wouldn’t know about if not for Edward Snowden, Mueller effortlessly pushed official lies, conveying the impression of a man who wouldn’t wipe his ass with a congressional oversight committee.

Pious would have been a good word for him even pre-2017. Not many people could take two years of being portrayed as a Godhead on magazine covers and in comedy shows, but the role fit Mueller’s starchy Northeast celibate image like a glove.

The undisguised nature of the religiosity is amazing to look at now. GQ, describing Mueller as someone who embodied the “boy scout ideal” of “the absolute fairness of the lawful good,” wrote the following:

We may decide, in the end, that we do not want to know Robert Mueller; we may even take comfort in the fact that there may not be much of Robert Mueller to know.

This was the old “We’re not worthy!” routine from Wayne’s World. People did not want to find out Mueller was human in any way.

Newspapers and cable framed coverage of the investigation as a fable of coming deliverance. “Mueller knows” was one cliché. Reading “bread crumbs” or “puzzle pieces” dropped from above also became a regular fixation, as reporters sought to “read between the lines” of court filings.

By early this year, “waiting for Mueller” assumed enormous significance. The coming report was hyped as a judgment day. It was an article of faith with pundits and reporters that the verdict would contain all the expected evidence, as a fulfillment of prophecy. 

The New York Times ran a multi-part audio series titled, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (The Mueller Report).” The Atlantic meanwhile worried what the Trump opposition would do once Mueller finished his investigation. Would they be able to “grapple with a new world”?

Like the original Great Disappointment (Christ failing to come down to earth to dispense justice according to the Millerite prediction on October 22nd, 1844), the Mueller watch came to an abrupt cat-fart of an end.

Late on a March evening (coincidentally on the 22nd) the collusion narrative died, with news of the Mueller probe concluding without new indictments. This colossal bummer for Russiagate hopefuls forced poor Rachel Maddow to cut short her trout fishing vacation, and do a somber broadcast reassuring viewers that a concluded Mueller probe was “the start of something, not the end of something.”

There is a false narrative even about this sequence of events, as I have the misfortune to know personally. A common trope is that the death of the collusion narrative was a Trumpian falsehood, issued via hated Attorney General William Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report on March 24th.

As one of a handful of reporters who spoke about loony Russiagate coverage from the start, I began receiving emails or tweets on a daily or hourly basis from people accusing me of “believing Barr’s lies.” But like others who spoke out that day, I published my jeremiad about Russiagate being the next WMD on March 23rd, a day before Barr released his letter.

The end of the collusion/conspiracy narrative had nothing to do with Barr. It was officially over in the days before, as saddened media write-ups hereherehere, and here (“Russian collusion is a dead end,” conceded USA Today) attest.

The lack of charges was immediately spun by some as meaning nothing (Mueller found conspiracy but didn’t charge it because Manafort already had a prison sentence! Mueller found conspiracy but didn’t charge it because the evidence was classified! And so on). It all became a new story, about Barr lying about what those non-indictments meant.

On a more meta level, editorialists began plotting a rhetorical course that abandoned the search for conspiracy between Trump and Russia, and focused instead on obstruction of justice as the big reveal.

Legal analysts like Jeffrey Toobin were put back to work building the public case. We were reminded frequently that a charge of obstruction does not legally require an underlying offense. These arguments by themselves essentially admitted the previous two years of speculation about criminal Trump-Russia conspiracies involving blackmail, bribery, election fixing, espionage, even treason - all the theories about pee tapes and secret servers and five year cultivation plans and meetings with hackers in Prague and bribes from Rosneft — had been dead ends.

The precedent now would be impeachment of a sitting president for his response to a politically-charged investigation into crimes he didn’t commit, the same logic that rightly enraged Democrats in the Ken Starr days (articles of impeachment were filed against Bill Clinton, too, for obstruction, for coaching Monica Lewinsky and assistant Betty Currie). It wasn’t as good as a collusion case, but why not? Proponents pressed on, as if this had been their goal all along.

By the time Schiff and Nadler came up with their harebrained religious revival scheme, Russiagate had come full circle. Adherents were now back to making the same arguments editorialists were making in July and August of 2016: Donald Trump was simply too willing to be a partner to Putin. The crime was no longer any overt act of conspiracy, but in the mental state of being amenable to cooperation with the evil one.

This is how Vox reimagined “collusion” after the release of Mueller’s report:

What the report finds is not clear-cut evidence of a quid-pro-quo. Instead, what we see is a series of bungled and abortive attempts to create ties between the two sides…

Does that rise to the level of “collusion?” It’s a slippery term. But if “collusion” refers to a willingness to cooperate with Russian interference in the 2016 US election and actively taking steps to abet it, it seems to me that the Mueller report does in fact establish that it took place…

Schiff in his opening statement before Mueller’s testimony took this all a step further. He said Trump “knew a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it,” a crime he described as “Disloyalty to our country.”

Noting that this offense “may not be criminal” (a fact Schiff hastened to blame on destruction of evidence and “the use of encrypted communications”), he went on to insist that, “disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship,” and is therefore unconstitutional, and a “violation of law.” That this concept was originally dreamed up in the Red Scare era (McCarthy also accused members of Truman’s administration of disloyalty) seemed not to bother anyone.

Russiagate isn’t just about bad reporting. It was and is a dangerous political story about rallying the public behind authoritarian maneuvers in an effort to achieve a political outcome. Republicans who battered Mueller with questions weren’t wrong. Investigators in the Russia probe made extravagant use of informants abroad (in the less-regulated counterintelligence context), lied to the FISA court, leaked classified information for political purposes, opened the cookie jar of captured electronic communications on dubious pretexts, and generally blurred the lines between counterintelligence, criminal law enforcement, and private political research in ways that should and will frighten defense lawyers everywhere.

Proponents cheered the seizure of records from Trump’s lawyer Cohen, sending a message that attorney-client privilege is a voluntary worry if the defendant is obnoxious enough. The public likewise shrugged when prosecutors trashed Maria Butina as a prostitute, because Butina a) is Russian, and b) palled around with the NRA. This case has seen would-be liberals embracing guilt by association, guilt by nationality, guilt by accusation, entrapment, secret evidence, and other concepts that were considered an anathema to progressives as recently as the War on Terror period. In the name of preventing the “sowing of discord,” they’ve even embraced censorship.

Finally, in an effort to milk the Mueller report for maximum effect, Democrats – ostensibly the party of card-carrying ACLU members – are trying to uphold a vicious new legal concept, “not exonerated.” In a moment that provided a window into the authoritarian tendencies Mueller once expressed with more fluency, the Special Counsel declined under questioning by Ohio Republican Michael Turner to reject the idea that in our legal system, “there is not power or authority to exonerate.”

This was equivalent to no-commenting a question about whether people are innocent until proven guilty. In America, prosecutors don’t declare you exonerated, you are exonerated, until someone proves otherwise. Efforts to reverse this understanding are dangerous, Trump or no Trump. It’s appalling that Democrats are backing this idea.

All these excesses have been excused on the grounds that Trump must be stopped at all costs. But you don’t challenge someone for being racist and an enemy of immigrants, the poor, and the environment by turning the federal security apparatus into a Franz Kafka theme park. It’s fighting bad with worse.

Published:8/3/2019 1:08:21 PM
[Markets] BoJo's Britain: Casting Off The EU Millstone

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

In this article, we look at the implications of the new Johnson government: its strategy, the likely outcome of EU negotiations, and the golden opportunities to reform trade, tax and monetary policies to secure a better future based on free trade.

Introduction

It should have been no surprise that Boris Johnson is now Prime Minister. It should also be no surprise he will implement Brexit on 31 October, the last date agreed between Mrs May’s government and the EU. Johnson was elected by Conservative constituency members to do just that. His cabinet appointees are fully supportive, including ex-Remainers (that’s politics!) and he has appointed an aggressive rottweiler, Dominic Cummings, as his Brexit enforcer. Already, his influence over Brexit strategy can be detected. There are no compromises to be had, a point which slower minds in the commentariat find difficult to comprehend and accept.

It is likely there will be an agreement on the way forward after Brexit, which could involve a transition period, but nothing like that agreed with Mrs May. If, as seems unlikely, the EU digs its heels in, the UK will walk away. That is the message being given by the new administration.

The establishment media are still wrong-footed on Brexit. The BBC, and others, have been too idle to analyse properly, taking their information from biased pro-remain sources and politicians who are out of the loop. They are still doing it. Disinformation is substituted for truth.

The EU, disinformed by Remainers including a chorus of past ministers and prime ministers, has relied on the divisions within Parliament to put Britain into a political and economic stasis. Their repeated utterances (there will be no new negotiation, the withdrawal agreement stands etc.) reflect the continuation of the EU’s established position. That is likely to change, because the EU will find it is forced to accept the dangers to its own position.

There is a crucial difference between the new cabinet and its predecessor. In Johnson, as well as ministers such as Rees-Mogg, Raab, Javid and Gove there appears to be an understanding of and commitment to free markets, unlike anything we have seen since Margaret Thatcher. Obviously, the strength of that commitment is yet to be tested.

The new reality and the dismissal of the old socialising compromisers should swing Parliament behind the instructions given to it by the electorate in the Brexit referendum. An advertising campaign to prepare everyone for Brexit without a deal starts now. The strategy is not to go to Brussels (UK-US is being negotiated first) but only when Brussels comes to its senses will a dialog commence. Facing a lost cause, Remainers are likely to melt like midsummer hailstones, and the euro-nuts, like Dominic Grieve, will sink into obscurity.

The electoral consequences are appalling for the Labour Party. By changing from its conditional support for implementing the Brexit referendum to demanding a second one with the intention of overturning the first, they have almost guaranteed that in a general election they will face a wipe-out. This is important, because it means that they have no incentive to table a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government. They have already gambled and lost.

Because of Labour’s bad call it looks like Boris’s government will get its way and is here to stay, not only through Brexit, but beyond. The EU will have to get used to it. The Europeans have lost control over the negotiations and seem unlikely to get more than a pittance of the £39bn settlement agreed with Mrs May. When Boris refers to our friends in Europe, he actually means our adversaries. When he refers to his preference for a deal against no deal, he means a deal only on his government’s terms. Already, trade negotiations are commencing with America, existing EU trade agreements with other significant nations will be simply novated, and the whole of the Commonwealth, including populous India are ready to sign up.

This is the new reality and Dominic Cummings’s task is to ensure all government departments are firmly on message. There is bound to be a little drift from this black and white, but the process of political destruction now moves from London to Brussels. Having made such a fuss of it, the Irish border is a non-issue. The UK has no need to put in a border. With lower UK tariffs, ownership of the problem is fully transferred to the EU and the Irish government.

Assuming the Treasury has already made provisions for it, Boris needs the £39bn promised by Mrs May to the EU to be reallocated to a mixture of the health service, education, law enforcement and tax cuts. Then there’s that infamous £350m per week, which was on the side of the Brexit bus. That was gross of the Thatcher rebate, so the actual figure is closer to £275m per week, and there was an amount within that spent in the UK under the EU’s sole direction. That left £181m in 2016, sent to Brussels for the privilege of EU membership, or £9.4bn per annum. How much of that can be diverted for funding government spending depends on the new government’s tariff policies. There is no doubt that from a purely economic point of view they should be removed in their entirety.

By not paying the planned £39bn divorce settlement and gaining the £9.4bn net annual payments to the EU, Johnson has some wriggle room when it comes to funding his spending plans and tax cuts. Without it, he will have to rely on inflationary financing, and hopefully there are enough wise heads in the cabinet to dissuade him from going down that road. Therefore, if only because of the money, the odds strongly favour a hardball approach on Brexit negotiations instead of compromise.

The EU’s problems are mounting

There is likely to be an important consequence, and that is a Johnson Brexit could trigger a mounting financial and ultimately political crisis in the European Union.

A study last year by Germany’s Halle Institute estimated a no-deal Brexit would cost 12,000 jobs in the UK, and 422,000 jobs in the other 27 EU members, of which 100,000 are in Germany and 50,000 in France. Yesterday, Ireland’s central bank forecast a loss of up to 100,000 jobs in the medium term in Ireland alone, on a no-deal. Clearly, the EU’s negotiators risk losing the wholehearted support of its two largest post-Brexit paymasters and others. But for Brussels, giving in on Brexit encourages rebellion from disaffected populations in other member states. Rather like the Soviets ruling Eastern Europe in the late eighties, the Brussels establishment finds itself struggling to keep its non-democratic political model intact.

It is increasingly likely Brussels will find events are spinning out of its control. For the UK, this introduces collateral damage, necessitating even more urgent separation from the EU. In a paper published at end-June, Bob Lyddon points out that a Eurozone financial crisis (which is becoming increasingly likely, as argued below) could cause the UK’s contingent liability as an EU member to be as much as €441bn. “This derives from the near-criminal irresponsibility by the UK’s negotiators”.

Whatever the numbers, there can be no doubt that this is an extremely serious issue. Furthermore, in the event of a financial and systemic crisis in the Eurozone, the UK will face its own crisis, if only because of cross-liabilities through the two banking systems. And the cyclical economic downturn that always follows the failure of a period of credit expansion is coming up on the inside rail very rapidly.

The EU economy is left badly unbalanced, with Germany dominating production and exports. Other populous member states, notably in the Club Med and France, are in a financial mess. They have relied on Germany’s production to provide for their unproductive profligacy. Her production output is now contracting.

Germany has been hit by three adverse developments at the same time. There is President Trump’s tariff war against China, which has undermined Germany’s largest growing markets at the eastern end of the Silk Road, and the threat he will deploy similar tactics against Germany. There is EU environmental legislation, which is making Germany’s motor production obsolete and forcing manufacturers to put a time-limit on existing production while investing enormous sums in electric technology. The damage this has done extends down the whole production chain, undermining the Mittelstand. 

Then there is the crisis in Germany’s major banks, most publicly seen in Deutsche Bank because of longtail liabilities from its investment banking division. But all German banks, as well as those throughout the EU, face a lethal combination of margin compression from negative interest rates and a legacy of an expensive branch network when customers are migrating to online banking. The slump in German production now provides an additional threat to their loan books.

In the background, there is the turn in the global credit cycle from its expansionary phase into a periodic contraction, usually resulting in a credit crisis. To understand the transition from credit expansion to a tendency for it to contract is to recognise that the expansion of credit as a means of stimulating an economy depends on tricking economic actors into believing prospects are improving. When the evidence mounts that they are not, monetary stimulation fails, and credit begins to contract. Despite the ECB maintaining negative interest rates, despite the ability of highly-rated companies to raise finance at zero or even negative rates, and despite the ECB’s offer to pay companies to borrow (which is what deeper negative rates amount to) economic actors are now aware that it is all deception.

This is why Germany now has all the appearances of being in the early stages of a deepening economic slump, and there is nothing monetary policy can do about it. Brexit will simply add to these problems, not just for manufacturers, but for their bankers as well, as the Halle Institute report implies.

It is increasingly difficult to see how with escalating budget deficits in member governments Brussels can afford to continue with its head-in-the-sand approach to trade negotiations with Britain. The eurocrats naturally retreat into more protectionism when they see the system threatened. But asking Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark for more money when their tax revenues are slumping is unlikely to cut much ice.

The new Johnson team will know some of this. There may be a temptation to make a portion of the £39bn, promised by Mrs May, available to Brussels to alleviate their pain in return for a quick deal. This goes against the new hard attitude of the Johnson government, exemplified by the presence of Dominic Cummings. But we shall see how this one pans out.

The UK economy Post-Brexit

Meanwhile, as economist Patrick Minford recently pointed out, a US-UK trade deal could lower prices of goods in the UK by as much as 20%, being the effect of EU tariff protection against global competition, raising prices above the world price level by that amount. Minford estimates a UK-US trade deal would lead to an overall gain to UK GDP of between four and eight per cent, a markedly different outcome from the project fear propaganda of the old establishment. And in the event of No Deal with the EU, the UK Treasury will receive up to £13bn in tariffs from EU importers, assuming no reduction in EU imports. Obviously, there will be substitution of EU goods for goods from the US and elsewhere, once trade agreements are in place, so this will be a maximum revenue figure.

The point is No Deal is not the disaster promised by the May establishment and its business lobbyists. It is a disaster for the remaining EU. Exiting the EU offers the Johnson government a good start, a clean sheet. Any compromise with the EU on trade and money detracts from this benefit.

It is an opportunity for Britain to reset the approach to political economy, which is our next topic. For attention-deficit politicians, there are two important factors to understand that are central to formulating post-Brexit policy: the reason why trade imbalances arise, and therefore how trade and economic policies should be constructed, and the destructive effects of inflationary financing.

How trade imbalances arise

It is vital to understand the source of trade imbalances, so that the mistake made by President Trump, which is driving the world into a Smoot-Hawley-style 1930s slump, is not repeated by Britain. The common error is to believe that the exchange rate sets trade surpluses and deficits. It therefore follows, the argument goes, that artificially raising the price of imported goods by imposing tariffs achieves the same effect.

The simplest explanation to understand why this is wrong is to start with a theoretical sound money example before progressing to the current fiat money environment. When gold was money and if unbacked currency and credit were not available, imports could only be paid for in gold or fully-backed gold substitutes. The same is true of exports. An individual borrowing to buy an imported good has to source gold or a fully-backed gold substitute, so the provider of money has to defer consumption, which includes that of imported goods. And unless the people in a nation collectively adjust the amount of gold in circulation, imports will always balance exports.

Compare this with nations trading with each other using unbacked state-issued currencies. These are issued at will by central banks as new money and by commercial banks in the form of bank credit. Therefore, anyone can buy an imported good without having to have the money, so long as a bank advances the credit.

Money and Credit expanded out of thin air replaces the need for imports to be paid for by exports. Now that all countries work their currencies the same way, the trade balance becomes a relative matter. Other things being equal, the country which expands its money and credit the greatest ends up with the largest trade deficit, and the one that expands the least the largest trade surplus.

But national statistics are designed to reflect money spent on consumption (GDP) separating out money spent on capital items. A nation whose population has a savings habit will spend less on imported consumer goods than a nation with a lower tendency to save. This is why Japan’s monetary expansion has not fuelled a trade deficit in consumer goods. In other nations, such as the US and UK, where personal savings are now minimal, credit expansion leads to chronic trade deficits.

The expansion of fiat money to bridge the gap between tax revenue and government spending similarly leads to a rise in imports, because the expansion of money and credit, when they are not saved by the consumers who ultimately benefit, always ends up fuelling consumer imports, often as a second or third order event. This gives rise to the twin deficit phenomenon commonly observed in both the UK and US, where consumer savings are virtually non-existent.

The destruction arising from inflationary financing

The Keynesian policy of stimulating an economy through a temporary budget deficit relied on deceiving economic actors into thinking there was more demand in the economy than existed. Like all confidence tricks, it eventually fails. Governments end up with perpetual budget deficits, which trend larger with every unresolved credit cycle.

Expanding money and credit as a means of funding government spending through the creation of debt has now become central to state finances everywhere, including the UK. The advantage for governments is very few people understand that this form of finance transfers wealth from the producers in an economy to the state. But the government is eating its own seed-corn by impoverishing its tax base, which if continued leads inexorably towards the destruction of its currency.

Any politician who claims to be a free-marketeer is not one unless sound money, devoid of inflationary financing, is embraced. Taking into account the importance of sound money and the reasons trade imbalances arise, a Johnson government that understands these issues will be equipped to fashion economic and monetary policy for the future. It is not enough to merely pay lip service to the necessary objectives, but to grasp the economic theory behind them, so that socialist and neo-Keynesian claptrap can be fully exposed in reasoned debate.

These are two objectives to strive towards, and will necessarily take time, because changes in government policy must steer the electorate along with it. They should be pinned up as mission statements on the notice boards in Downing Street. That being accepted, the following supporting policies must be implemented to re-orientate the ship of state towards economic success:

  • Tax policy. Tax cuts should be broadly financed by reductions in government spending, not through increasing the budget deficit in the hope that the economic stimulus will generate higher taxes. Welfare must only support people in genuine need, not those with just a sense of entitlement.

  • Government spending. Means must be found to reduce the proportion of government spending in the economy as a whole, to reduce the burden on the productive private sector. A financial and economic crisis requires departmental spending to be slashed, not just future planned increases cut, as was the case under Gordon Brown in 2009.

  • Encouragement to save. Taxes should be removed from savings and capital gains. Inheritance tax must be abolished. This is to allow people to accumulate personal wealth and to reduce the need for the state to provide.

  • Trade. Trade agreements with other nations should be viewed as a first step towards wholly free trade. By exploiting the comparative advantage of allowing people to buy what they want from providers of goods and services irrespective of location, capital resources will naturally be redeployed towards their more efficient use. This is why understanding that trade imbalances do not arise from currency differentials is so important.

  • Monetary policy. Steps must be taken to restrict the Bank of England from manipulating the economy through monetary policy. Targeting inflation and employment must be abandoned, and markets allowed to set interest rates. Credit expansion should be curtailed by ensuring that UK banks and branches of foreign banks operate to stricter capital rules. Goal-seeking stress-testing must end. In the longer-term, banks should lose the protection of limited liability, which has allowed bankers to make rash lending decisions without bearing the ultimate cost.

  • Gold. The Treasury must replenish the nation’s gold reserves. The risk of a global currency crisis is increasing by the day, and foreign currency reserves will need to be reallocated at least in line with those of other major nations.

Conclusion

Brexit is an opportunity to reset economic, monetary and trade policies. The implications of getting rid of the EU millstone go far beyond the leaving date of 31 October. Assuming a Johnson government has a good grasp of why free trade benefits the economy and why trade imbalances exist, combined with the courage to steer Britain towards the long-term prosperity offered by free markets, it will derive its future power from a strong economy instead of merely claiming it based on the past.

Published:8/3/2019 6:07:45 AM
[Markets] The Rise Of The American Gestapo

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

Adolf Hitler is alive and well in the United States, and he is fast rising to power.”

- Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, on the danger posed by the FBI to our civil liberties

Despite the finger-pointing and outcries of dismay from those who are watching the government discard the rule of law at every turn, the question is not whether Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler but whether the American Police State is the new Third Reich.

For those who can view the present and past political landscape without partisan blinders, the warning signs are unmistakable: the Deep State’s love affair with totalitarianism began long ago.

Indeed, the U.S. government so admired the Nazi regime that following the second World War, it secretly recruited Hitler’s employees, adopted his protocols, embraced his mindset about law and order, implemented his tactics in incremental steps, and began to lay the foundations for the rise of the Fourth Reich.

Sounds far-fetched? Read on. It’s all documented.

As historian Robert Gellately recounts, “After five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.” The Nazi police state was initially so admired for its efficiency and order by the world powers of the day that J. Edgar Hoover, then-head of the FBI, actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police—the Gestapo.

The FBI was so impressed with the Nazi regime that, according to the New York Times, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen.

All told, thousands of Nazi collaborators—including the head of a Nazi concentration camp, among others—were given secret visas and brought to America by way of Project Paperclip. Subsequently, they were hired on as spies and informants, and then camouflaged to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. All the while, thousands of Jewish refugees were refused entry visas to the U.S. on the grounds that it could threaten national security.

Adding further insult to injury, American taxpayers have been paying to keep these ex-Nazis on the U.S. government’s payroll ever since. And in true Gestapo fashion, anyone who has dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties has found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.

As if the government’s covert, taxpayer-funded employment of Nazis after World War II wasn’t bad enough, U.S. government agencies—the FBI, CIA and the military—have fully embraced many of the Nazi’s well-honed policing tactics, and have used them repeatedly against American citizens.

Indeed, with every passing day, the United States government borrows yet another leaf from Nazi Germany’s playbook: Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Censorship. Intimidation. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment. Indoctrination. Indefinite detention.

These are not tactics used by constitutional republics, where the rule of law and the rights of the citizenry reign supreme. Rather, they are the hallmarks of authoritarian regimes, where the only law that counts comes in the form of heavy-handed, unilateral dictates from a supreme ruler who uses a secret police to control the populace.

That danger is now posed by the FBI, whose laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, and that’s just based on what we know.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government; recruiting high school students to spy on and report fellow students who show signs of being future terrorists; or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whatever minimal restrictions initially kept the FBI’s surveillance activities within the bounds of the law have all but disappeared post-9/11. Since then, the FBI has been transformed into a mammoth federal policing and surveillance agency that largely operates as a power unto itself, beyond the reach of established laws, court rulings and legislative mandates.

Consider the FBI’s far-reaching powers to surveil, detain, interrogate, investigate, prosecute, punish, police and generally act as a law unto themselves—much like their Nazi cousins, the Gestapo—and then try to convince yourself that the United States is still a constitutional republic.

Just like the Gestapo, the FBI has vast resources, vast investigatory powers, and vast discretion to determine who is an enemy of the state.

Today, the FBI employs more than 35,000 individuals and operates more than 56 field offices in major cities across the U.S., as well as 400 resident agencies in smaller towns, and more than 50 international offices. In addition to their “data campus,” which houses more than 96 million sets of fingerprints from across the United States and elsewhere, the FBI has also built a vast repository of “profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.” The FBI’s burgeoning databases on Americans are not only being added to and used by local police agencies, but are also being made available to employers for real-time background checks.

All of this is made possible by the agency’s nearly unlimited resources (its minimum budget alone in fiscal year 2015 was $8.3 billion), the government’s vast arsenal of technology, the interconnectedness of government intelligence agencies, and information sharing through fusion centers—data collecting intelligence agencies spread throughout the country that constantly monitor communications (including those of American citizens), everything from internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails.

Much like the Gestapo spied on mail and phone calls, FBI agents have carte blanche access to the citizenry’s most personal information.

Working through the U.S. Post Office, the FBI has access to every piece of mail that passes through the postal system: more than 160 billion pieces are scanned and recorded annually. Moreover, the agency’s National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose those demands to the customer. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread constitutional violations.

Much like the Gestapo’s sophisticated surveillance programs, the FBI’s spying capabilities can delve into Americans’ most intimate details (and allow local police to do so, as well).

In addition to technology (which is shared with police agencies) that allows them to listen in on phone calls, read emails and text messages, and monitor web activities, the FBI’s surveillance boasts an invasive collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.” Law enforcement agencies are also using social media tracking software to monitor Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Moreover, secret FBI rules also allow agents to spy on journalists without significant judicial oversight.

Much like the Gestapo’s ability to profile based on race and religion, and its assumption of guilt by association, the FBI’s approach to pre-crime allows it to profile Americans based on a broad range of characteristics including race and religion.

The agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans to DNA, and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime. This is what’s known as pre-crime. Yet it’s not just your actions that will get you in trouble. In many cases, it’s also who you know—even minimally—and where your sympathies lie that could land you on a government watch list. Moreover, as the Intercept reports, despite anti-profiling prohibitions, the bureau “claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.”

Much like the Gestapo’s power to render anyone an enemy of the state, the FBI has the power to label anyone a domestic terrorist.

As part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on terror, the nation’s de facto secret police force has begun using the terms “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably. Moreover, the government continues to add to its growing list of characteristics that can be used to identify an individual (especially anyone who disagrees with the government) as a potential domestic terrorist. For instance, you might be a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI (and its network of snitches) if you:

  • express libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)

  • exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership)

  • read survivalist literature, including apocalyptic fictional books

  • show signs of self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)

  • fear an economic collapse

  • buy gold and barter items

  • subscribe to religious views concerning the book of Revelation

  • voice fears about Big Brother or big government

  • expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties

  • believe in a New World Order conspiracy

Much like the Gestapo infiltrated communities in order to spy on the German citizenry, the FBI routinely infiltrates political and religious groups, as well as businesses.

As Cora Currier writes for the Intercept: “Using loopholes it has kept secret for years, the FBI can in certain circumstances bypass its own rules in order to send undercover agents or informants into political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs, and businesses...” The FBI has even been paying Geek Squad technicians at Best Buy to spy on customers’ computers without a warrant.

Just as the Gestapo united and militarized Germany’s police forces into a national police force, America’s police forces have largely been federalized and turned into a national police force.

In addition to government programs that provide the nation’s police forces with military equipment and training, the FBI also operates a National Academy that trains thousands of police chiefs every year and indoctrinates them into an agency mindset that advocates the use of surveillance technology and information sharing between local, state, federal, and international agencies.

Just as the Gestapo’s secret files on political leaders were used to intimidate and coerce, the FBI’s files on anyone suspected of “anti-government” sentiment have been similarly abused.

As countless documents make clear, the FBI has no qualms about using its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate and attempt to discredit dissidents of all stripes. For example, not only did the FBI follow Martin Luther King Jr. and bug his phones and hotel rooms, but agents also sent him anonymous letters urging him to commit suicide and pressured a Massachusetts college into dropping King as its commencement speaker.

Just as the Gestapo carried out entrapment operations, the FBI has become a master in the art of entrapment.

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI has not only targeted vulnerable individuals but has also lured or blackmailed them into fake terror plots while actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing or deporting them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.” In addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts. USA Todayestimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.

When and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America, in much the same way that the empowerment of Germany’s secret police tracked with the rise of the Nazi regime.

How did the Gestapo become the terror of the Third Reich?

It did so by creating a sophisticated surveillance and law enforcement system that relied for its success on the cooperation of the military, the police, the intelligence community, neighborhood watchdogs, government workers for the post office and railroads, ordinary civil servants, and a nation of snitches inclined to report “rumors, deviant behavior, or even just loose talk.”

In other words, ordinary citizens working with government agents helped create the monster that became Nazi Germany. Writing for the New York Times, Barry Ewen paints a particularly chilling portrait of how an entire nation becomes complicit in its own downfall by looking the other way:

In what may be his most provocative statement, [author Eric A.] Johnson says that ‘‘most Germans may not even have realized until very late in the war, if ever, that they were living in a vile dictatorship.’’ This is not to say that they were unaware of the Holocaust; Johnson demonstrates that millions of Germans must have known at least some of the truth. But, he concludes, ‘‘a tacit Faustian bargain was struck between the regime and the citizenry.’’ The government looked the other way when petty crimes were being committed. Ordinary Germans looked the other way when Jews were being rounded up and murdered; they abetted one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century not through active collaboration but through passivity, denial and indifference.

Much like the German people, “we the people” have become passive, polarized, gullible, easily manipulated, and lacking in critical thinking skills.  Distracted by entertainment spectacles, politics and screen devices, we too are complicit, silent partners in creating a police state similar to the terror practiced by former regimes.

Had the government tried to ram such a state of affairs down our throats suddenly, it might have had a rebellion on its hands.

Instead, the American people have been given the boiling frog treatment, immersed in water that slowly is heated up—degree by degree—so that they’ve fail to notice that they’re being trapped and cooked and killed.

“We the people” are in hot water now.

The Constitution doesn’t stand a chance against a federalized, globalized standing army of government henchmen protected by legislative, judicial and executive branches that are all on the same side, no matter what political views they subscribe to: suffice it to say, they are not on our side or the side of freedom.

From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same thing over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

Can the Fourth Reich happen here?

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s already happening right under our noses.

Published:8/2/2019 11:10:07 PM
[Markets] First Bitcoin, Then Libra: Why Nation States Are Petrified

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via Guerilla-Capitalism.com,

A few months ago I was on the Lite Show (Litecoin) podcast, we got to talking about Facebook’s forthcoming crypto currency, which hadn’t been named yet. I mused then that it would totally suck for the entire crypto-currency space to have come this far with Bitcoin, et al only to have Facebook swoop in and take all the marbles. (In marketing parlance this maneuver is called  “grabbing the microphone”)

Then Facebook announced their digital currency, it’s Libra, and it was met with immediate resistance. But the pushback, didn’t come from wherer one might expect it, the crypto community, there was plenty of commentary about it to be sure, but nobody from within the crypto space was saying that Libra had to be stopped.

No, the immediate pushback came from various tendrils of myriad states and government entities, including:

This instant pushback against Libra seems even more intense than any initial government condemnations against Bitcoin itself when it started to gain traction over the initial ramp up. Perhaps there are good reasons for this, such as:

  • In the rear-view mirror, it’s possible that governments now view giving Bitcoin some room to run was a mistake, and it opened a Pandora’s box (from their perspective) which would be unable to be contained, and

  • Facebook provides an identifiable target – governments can actually pinpoint them and (for now) regulate or threaten to regulate them. They can’t target Satoshi Nakamoto or an open source repository of computer source code.

I mused in my dayjob’s #AxisOfEasy newsletter #102  that we seem to be arriving in a scenario depicted in the Mr Robot TV series, where the  crypto-currency Bitcoin and a private, corporate sponsored e-coin dual for supremacy in the aftermath of a hacker induced economic collapse (In the series, Libra’s role is depicted as the fictionalized “Evilcoin” with Bitcoin starring as itself. The economic collapse also turns out to be a Trojan horse operation launched by China).

The only thing missing from today’s reality, as I write this, is the economic collapse part, but with stock markets sliding from all-time highs, and the Fed cutting rates again in this ostensibly great economy, clueful observers the world over sense that something is about to give. Tangentially the stealth bull in precious metals and resurgence of Bitcoin, even in the face of Libra, all point toward the idea that not all of these economic indicators can be right at the same time. That means at some point a disorderly readjustment may occur.

Welcome to a New World Order. We call it “Snow Crash”

Snow Crash was the Neal Stephenson near-future thriller set against a backdrop in which national governments found themselves set back on their heels, competing against privatized sovereignties across a wide spectrum ranging from a multi-national pizza conglomerate to the global Mafia.

Why didn’t Bitcoin tank when Libra was announced? If one is to accept the superficial premise that Facebook will indeed swoop in and capture the digital currency space after Bitcoin softened the ground for them, the announcement should have had a similar effect to when Amazon announced it was buying Whole Foods, and grocers everywhere tanked hard. That didn’t happen, why not?

By contrast, Bitcoin has more or less held steady since the announcement, after giving back some ground after an initial spike higher post-Libra. In any case, there was no instantaneous death crash compared to when Amazon entered the grocery space.\

The reason, I think, is because Facebook’s Libra isn’t challenging Bitcoin. Facebook, perhaps without even being aware of it themselves, is doing the same thing Bitcoin and crypto-currencies did when they emerged out of a financial crisis spawned by central bank manipulation and a currency regime so rigged as to destroy all market signalling capabilities: it challenged the prevailing economic order, and that order is the scaffolding of the nation state as we know it.

In other words, these crypto and digital currencies are ushering in a new era of competitive economic sovereignty, and with it, the decline of the hegemony of nation states.

One of the best books I’ve ever read that anticipated this disruptive shift in the nature of sovereignty was “The Sovereign Individual” by James Dale Davidson and the late Lord William Rees-Mogg (father of Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was once reportedly on the short list to replace Mark Carney to head the BoE).

According to that book: Nation states arose by capturing escalating returns on violence and force. The transition into the gunpowder era ushered in the rise of nationhood, and increasing returns on violence, right up until the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The fall of Eastern block, they argue, was not an ultimate victory of the West over Communism, as Francis Fukuyama asserted in The End of History. Instead they posited it more as the death of a fraternal twin, that of nation statehood.

As the returns on violence decreased as can be witnessed by every military disaster the US has undertaken since WWII, the other twin is now sclerotic and withering. So what does have increasing returns now? It isn’t violence anymore. It’s information. The shift from one to the other means that the nature of the monetary system will also shift.

The old order monetary system was built on Bretton Woods – a global reserve currency backed by US military imperialism. That system is going away and everybody knows it.

Money does not issue forth from power, recall my prior citations of Stephen Zarlenga: who controls the money system, controls society. Power emanates from money. Nation states and central banks assumed they would retain control of the money system indefinitely. That they could continue to manipulate the money supply to further their own interests (Cantillon Effect driven benefits) and there was nothing anybody would ever be able to do about it.

But Revolution has a way of lobbing disruptive, explosive technologies from the periphery where nobody is expecting an asteroid to originate. Did the major music labels expect to be reinvented by Apple? Did the Hollywood studios expect to be elbowed aside by Netflix and Amazon? And did the nation states and central bankers think disruption would encroach and fundamentally transform all aspects of society but stop at the demarcation point of sovereignty and money? Why yes, yes they did.

I have said repeatedly – the incumbent system has overreached itself, and out of that necessitycame Bitcoin and crypto-currencies. This was essentially the market re-asserting itself in the face of endless manipulation.

Money has evolved, and is now reinventing itself for the next ascendant wave of increasing returns: information. Next, sovereignty will reconfigure itself to adjust to the new format of money. This is the opening that Bitcoin opened up, and Facebook is the among the first to make a move into it. And that’s why ensconced governments are so up in arms about it. They recognize direct, real competition to their own authority and relevance. The nation state isn’t going away any time soon, but the rise of the platforms isn’t going to be stopped, either.

In the future, your digital single-sign-on credentials that you use to access various online platforms (or the one platform from which you derive your entire sustenance and livelihood) will be as important to you, perhaps eventually more so, than your government issued passport.

Governments want to regulate how the Age of the Platforms will rise, which is similar to how the Papacy once deigned to guide and arbitrate royal succession. But over time this will reverse and it will be the Platforms that increasingly set the terms for nation states. Given the accelerated pace things move at today, this process will not play out over centuries, the way the transition from feudalism to nation states did, but over decades, even years in some places.

Today nobody raises an eyebrow that the SNB is Apple’s largest shareholder by printing francs and buying shares. What happens tomorrow, when Facebook issues some Libra, sells them for USD to pay their taxes? Or to settle one of the myriad fines levied, like Papal encyclicals of yesteryear, against these upstarts? My guess is governments will scream foul, “only we can print value ex nihilo!” . But the reality is, anybody can create their own monetary instruments provided they can find a market to ascribe value to it. Money has always changed with the times and arisen privately, the states then adapt, co-opting whatever emerges as money at the earliest possible opportunity. Looking back on today that may be what Libra is to Bitcoin. The equivalent of a Federal Reserve of Digital Currencies (the Libra Founders Association looks hauntingly like a modern, cyber analog to the member banks of the Fed).

The Real Battle of the Future

One might think that this means the battle of our times will be between the falling (failing) nation states and the rising Platform challengers, but that’s not the way I see it. In many cases nationhood and platform will effectively merge, witness China, where tech giants like Google and IBM’s Open Power Foundation is helping the Chinese government build out their Sesame Credit total surveillance platform.

In other situations, platforms may prevail, if Facebook or some other technology upstart is successful in their machinations they may become more relevant than the State in many jurisdictions. They may effectively become the de facto state in some areas.

In both these cases the defining characteristic will be centralization and consolidation of power and authority.

Against this, will be the ascendency of decentralized, autonomous sovereignties based on crypto-currency models and the original ethos of Bitcoin.

Where Western Capitalism vs Communism was the defining question of the now ending age of industrial nation states, the fraternal twins of the future may be that of platforms vs protocols.

The former centralized, consolidated, authoritarian as anticipated by Fukuyama and fleshed out today in The New Digital Age, Google’s manifesto penned by Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt:

We collaborated first as writers of a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about lessons learned in Iraq, and thereafter as friends. We share a worldview about the potential of technology platforms, and their inherent power, and this informs all of the work we do, both within Google and outside it. We believe that modern technology platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize, and our future world will be profoundly altered by their adoption and successfulness in societies everywhere.

...and the latter decentralized and anarcho-capitalist, anticipated by The Sovereign Individual and realized more now in George Gilder’s Life after Google

However it plays out, it will all be very cyberpunk.

Published:8/2/2019 8:04:59 PM
[World] 'Yes to nationalism, no to imperialism'

Yoram Hazony’s breathtakingly counterintuitive book, “The Virtue of Nationalism” (Basic Books), corrects a simple but colossal mistake: The Nazi monstrosity, he argues, did not result from nationalism but from imperialism. Hitler aspired not to make Germany great in education, justice and industry, but to create a thousand-year Reich (empire) and ... Published:8/2/2019 2:03:37 PM

[World] Upgrade: 6 ways you can score free stuff from Amazon The retail giant gives away everything from snacks to books to movies — if you know where to look.
Published:8/2/2019 8:31:23 AM
[Markets] The "Special Relationship" Is Collapsing... And That's A Good Thing

Authored by Matthew Ehret via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

British Ambassador Kim Darroch’s return to London from his failed mission in America is being hailed by many naïve commentators as yet another proof that President Trump is a crazed ego-maniac who cannot take criticism from a seasoned professional diplomat.

During the weeks since the “Darroch memo” scandal erupted, mainstream media has totally mis-diagnosed the nature of the breakdown in US-British relations, and has brushed over the most relevant evidence that has been brought to light by Darroch’s cables. This spinning of the narrative has made it falsely appear that the Ambassador merely criticized the President as “clumsy, diplomatically inept, unpredictable and dysfunctional” and was thus unjustly attacked by the President causing the poor diplomat to resign saying “the current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” Former British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt went so far as to say that Darroch was “the best of Britain” and encouraged all diplomats to continue to “speak truth to power.” International press on both sides of the ocean followed suit portraying Darroch as a hero among men.

Hog wash.

The reality is that Darroch’s messages to the British Foreign Office go much deeper and reveal something very ugly that challenges the deepest assumptions about recent history and modern geopolitics.

Sir Darroch and Britain’s Invisible Hand Exposed

Sir Darroch, (Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George) is not your typical British diplomat. The Knight made a name for himself as a leading agent of Tony Blair while acting as Ambassador to the European Union from 2007-2011 in an effort to win international support for a regime change operation against Iran, Syria and Libya.

Blair and the highest levels of the British oligarchy had managed America as its “dumb giant” throughout the entire post-9/11 regime change program on the Middle East. While many have labelled this policy as “American”, we shall come to see that it was merely the carrying out of the “Blair Doctrine” announced in the 1999 speech in Chicagocalling for a post-nation state (post-Westphalian) world order.

It is important to remind ourselves that the dodgy WMD dossier  had been crafted by the British Foreign Office before being used by neo con hawks such as John Bolton and Cheney as justification to blow up Iraq in 2003. It was also the earlier Anglo-Saudi sponsored BAE black operation run by Prince Bandar bin Sultan which funded and directed 9/11 earlier. As US Ambassador beginning in January 2016, Sir Darroch was instrumental in vetting Christopher Steele as “absolutely legit”. Steele’s “dodgy dossier” on Trump was used to justify the greatest witch hunt of a sitting President in history.

When viewed in the same light as the British-directed Russia-gating of the President, these memos shed valuable light upon the Byzantine methods which British intelligence has used to conduct its subtle manipulation of America for a very long time.

Trump Whisperers and Britain’s Other Tools

In his memos, Sir Darroch called for “flooding the zone” with Trump whisperers who can influence the President’s perceptions of the world and push him towards the British agenda on issues such as de-carbonization, Free Trade, and war with Iran.

Sir Darroch said to his superiors that “we have spent years building the relationships; they are the gatekeepers… the individuals we rely upon to ensure the U.K. voice is heard in the West Wing.” Who are these voices who been built up over years? National Security Advisor John Bolton is a long-standing visitor to the British embassy and former Chief of Staff John Kelly has had regular early morning breakfast dates. A Washington Post assessment of July 8th described Darroch’s “coterie- including Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller, Mick Mulvaney, Sarah Sanders and Trump ally Chris Ruddy” who have met at the embassy and “share about the President and his decision-making.”

Darroch also revealed that Trump’s resistance to the British position on war with Iran was not acceptable when the President chose to cancel an attack on Iran on June 21st after an America drone was shot down. Moments after Trump’s cancellation of the attack, a Darroch memo complained that Trump was “incoherent and chaotic” and that Trump could fall into line once he was “surrounded by a more hawkish group of advisers… Just one more Iranian attack somewhere in the region could trigger yet another Trump U-turn.”

Only two weeks after sending this cable, Britain orchestrated a crisis by seizing an Iranian ship on July 5th which snowballed into an Iranian seizure of a British tanker and greater danger of confrontation amongst the NATO axis and Iran.

The biggest confusion spread by the controllers of “officially accepted narratives” when assessing such things as 9-11, regime change wars, or the current debacle in Iran is located in a sleight of hand that asserts that America leads the British in the Special relationship. This belief in an “American empire” betrays a profound misunderstanding of history.

The Fallacious History of US-British “Friendship”

For much of the 19th century, Americans generally had a better understanding of their anti-colonial origins than many do today. Even though the last official war fought between Britain and America was in 1812-15, the British failure to destroy America militarily caused British foreign policy to re-focus its efforts on undermining America from within… generally through the dual infestation of British-sponsored ideologies contaminating the American school system on the one hand and British banking practices of Wall Street’s ruling class on the other. This attack from within required more patience, but was more successful and led to the near collapse of America in 1860 when Lord Palmerston quickly recognized the Southern slave power’s call for independence from the Union. Britain’s covert military support for the Confederate cause was exposed by the end of that war and led to Britain’s payment of $15 million settlement to America as part of the Alabama Claims in 1872.

As the informative 2010 Lpac documentary “The Special Relationship is for Traitors” showcased, during the early 20th century leading American military figures like Brig. General Billy Mitchell understood Britain’s role in supporting the Confederacy and Britain’s manipulation of global wars. General Mitchell fought against the “special relationship” tooth and nail and led the military to create “War Plan Red and War Plan Orange” to defeat Britain under the context of an eventual war between the English-speaking powers. These plans were made US military doctrine in 1930 and were only taken off the books when America decided it was more important to put down London’s Fascist Frankenstein threat than fight Britain head on in WWII.

The Rhodes Scholars Take Over

Before the “Churchill gang” (that Stalin accused of poisoning FDR) could take control of America, Franklin Roosevelt described his understanding of the British influence over the US State Department when he told his son: 

“You know, any number of times the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats over there aren’t in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, they are [working for Churchill]. Stop to think of ’em: any number of ’em are convinced that the way for America to conduct its foreign policy is to find out what the British are doing and then copy that!” I was told… six years ago, to clean out that State Department. It’s like the British Foreign Office….”

With FDR’s death, these British operatives took over American foreign policy and wiped out the remaining pro-American forces in the State Department, disbanding the OSS and reconstituting America’s intelligence services as the MI6-modelled CIA in 1948.

In 1951, the Chicago Tribune published a incredible series of exposes by journalist William Fulton documenting the cancerous penetration of hundreds of Oxford Trained Rhodes Scholars who had taken over American foreign policy and were directing America into a third world war. On July 14, 1951 Fulton wrote:

 “Key positions in the United States department of state are held by a network of American Rhodes scholars. Rhodes scholars are men who obtained supplemental education and indoctrination at Oxford University in England with the bills paid by the estate of Cecil John Rhodes, British empire builder. Rhodes wrote about his ambition to cause “the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British empire.” The late diamond and gold mining tycoon aimed at a world federation dominated by Anglo-Saxons.”

Sir Kissinger Opens the Floodgates

A star pupil of William Yandall Elliot (a leading Rhodes Scholar based out of Harvard) was a young misanthropic German named Henry Kissinger.

A decade before becoming a Knight of the British Empire, Kissinger gave a remarkable speech at a May 1981 event on British-American relations at London’s Royal Institute for International Affairs. At this event Kissinger described the opposing world views of Churchill vs. Roosevelt, gushing that he much preferred the post-war view of Churchill. He then described his time working for the British Foreign Office as Secretary of State saying:

 “The British were so matter-of-factly helpful that they became a participant in internal American deliberations, to a degree probably never practiced between sovereign nations… In my White House incarnation then, I kept the British Foreign Office better informed and more closely engaged than I did the American State Department… It was symptomatic”.

As Kissinger spoke these words, another anglophile traitor was being installed as Vice-President of America. George Bush Sr. was not only the son of a Nazi-funding Wall Street tool and former director of the CIA, but was also made a Knight of the Grand Cross and Order of Bath by Queen Elizabeth in 1993. The most disastrous foreign policies enacted under Reagan’s leadership during the 1980s can be traced directly back to these two figures.

The Potential Revival of the ‘Real’ America

Think what you may of Donald Trump. The fact is, that he has not started any wars which a Jeb or Hillary were happy to launch. He has reversed a regime change program active since 9/11. He has fought to put America into a cooperative position with Russia. He has undone decades of WTO/City of London free trade. He has called for rebuilding productive industries following through by reviving the protective tariff. To top it off, he has been at war with the British-directed deep state for over three years and survived. Now that Bolton has been outed as an ally of Sir Darroch, there is an open acknowledgement that Trump is gearing up to replace the neocon traitor as we speak. Trump has many problems but being a British asset is not one of them.

If you’ve made it this far, you shouldn’t be surprised that the collapse of the special relationship is a very good thing, since America now has a real opportunity to rediscover its true anti-imperial nature by working with Russia, China, India and other nations under the new cooperative framework of space exploration and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Published:8/2/2019 1:32:25 AM
[Markets] Schlichter: Trump Says The Things You Can't Say

Authored by Kurt Schlichter, op-ed via Townhall.com,

As I sit in an airport lounge, the CNN feed on the big screen (mercifully silent and utterly ignored except by me) has a chyron reading “POLITICS OF HATE: TRUMP USING RACISM AS A POLITICAL STRATEGY IN NEW RHETORIC.” His “hate crime” was pointing out that Democrats have failed our inner city citizens and that lib pols need to stop doing such a terrible job. You would think that if Trump actually was a racist he’d be demanding Dems do even worse - assuming that’s possible - but it’s all just a bogus distraction and making sense is not a consideration. It’s a lie to shut people up.

Specifically, people who don’t vote Democrat.

Was anyone really shocked to learn that you can’t say that a manifest hellhole is a hellhole anymore, at least according to our moral betters in the media and politics? You have some Democrat politician who represented his district for nearly four decades and if you point out that it’s a mess, the problem is the guy who says so out loud. Not the crime. Not the poverty. Not the rodent infestation. It’s Donald Trump, POTUS for 2.5 years, who is to blame for the real crime, which is pointing out what everyone knows.

Except Trump doesn’t play that. He calls out the elite and its inept members without fear and without apology. He speaks, if you’ll pardon the hackneyed expression, truth to power.

It’s called “accountability,” and it’s exactly what America needs from its ruling caste. Which is why it is exactly what the establishment wishes to put out of bounds. How dare Trump, and by extension you, be so uppity as to demand that our exalted betters not fail at everything they do!

Trump, and you, are not allowed to demand results. You are not allowed to demand competence. You are not allowed to demand integrity. What you are allowed to do is sit there and take whatever garbage they hand you, without complaint, with gratitude even. You are not a citizen. You are a serf. At least, that’s what they want to convert you into - but neither you nor the avatar of your anger Donald Trump are going to accept that.

This is our country, and all their lies about “racism” and whatever other bogus bigotry they try to label you with are not going to shut us up.

What’s amusing is how the criticism of Elijah Cummings’s little slice of Hades is only intolerable because Trump said it. They are free to. After the tweets slamming the Democrats’ utter failure to serve the people of Baltimore, and the resulting backlash against people criticizing its useless government officials, conservative Twitter took great delight in finding and tweeting countless prior narrative-busting stories of Democrat corruption, rampaging rats and street crime in the lib media and even comments by the likes of Bernie Sanders. Everyone knows the sordid truth about Baltimore and the other Democrat-run big cities. In my own LA the homeless crowd the streets littering the sidewalks with syringes and dropping last night’s free meal whenever and wherever their hearts desire. We all see the truth, including the elite. They just want to prevent us from speaking it by branding it, falsely, as racism or some other -ism. They know it’s a lie. They hope that you’ll be intimidated anyway.

But Trump won’t be. Will you?

This demand that we forgo speaking inconvenient truths is a trend. We found out just a couple weeks ago that we aren’t supposed to demand immigrants not hate America and Americans. Again, there’s no debate about the truth of the statements themselves. Ilhan Omar hates America as much as she allegedly loves her brother. The elite knows it, and the elite knows you know it, yet the elite’s tactic is to try to neutralize it by keeping you from saying it. They seek to create a social sanction for criticizing them.

It’s Stalinist, which they would take as a compliment if they knew who Stalin was.

Should we even bother noting that none of this applies when the liberals attack us? Some anti-Christian creep who hates every principle in the Constitution shoots up a gun-free zone and that atrocity is somehow attributable to everyone who believes in the entire Bill of Rights, not just the rights that aren’t there. It’s the NRA’s fault, as is Baltimore’s crime wave, because...because shut up and submit. It’s the same sinister strategy at work, the attempt to place what you and what at least half of America believes outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.

No.

They don’t get to decide what truths may or may not be spoken.

Not going to happen.

See, this is our country, and we will hold corrupt and incompetent government employees accountable. We will call out the ungrateful and the anti-American. We will stand up for our right to keep and bear arms.

You progs will hate us for it, and you’ll lie about us, but why should we care? You’ll do it anyway. Even if we were so inclined to submit, we could never submit enough. Even if you managed to eliminate all us kulak opponents - every leftist’s not so secret fantasy, as history and pinko Twitter blue checks’ tweets demonstrate - you would still need our memory to provide a scapegoat for your inevitable failures. Without us, you might have to explain why you’ve held sway in the big cities for decades and yet it’s only gotten worse. Can’t have that!

The real reason Trump won, and the reason his supporters stay loyal, is that he sees the lies and just doesn’t care. He doesn’t concede your moral or intellectual superiority, like those GOP establishment Fredocon weasels do. He thinks you’re garbage and so he speaks the truth because he doesn’t care what you say.

And neither should we.

*  *  *

For a look at what happens if Trump and the GOP lose this fight, check out my action-packed yet highly amusing novels about the United States’ split into red and blue countries, People's RepublicIndian Country and Wildfire. These liberal-infuriating thrillers have been called “Appalling” by the loser leftists and the hapless geebos who sank the Weekly Standard, which is awesome.

Published:8/1/2019 6:58:55 PM
[Markets] By Not Renewing The CBGA, Central Banks In Europe Are Ready To Buy Gold

Submitted by Ronan Manly, BullionStar.com

Last month, a BullionStar article titled “The Fifth Wave: A new Central Bank Gold Agreement?” brought your attention to the fact that the fourth and current round of the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) run by a cartel of heavyweight central banks in Europe was about to expire, and that these gold agreements, which have been running in rolling five year periods since September 1999, were not designed for the purposes they claimed to be.

That CBGA1 and CBGA2 from 1999 – 2008, were not intended to help the wider gold market by limiting central bank gold sales, but were really a cover by the central bank syndicate members to account for nearly 4000 tonnes of gold that had already been sold or leased in the 1990s. That CBGA3 was then used to distract the gold market about the secretive ‘gold sales’ that the IMF claimed to have undertaken in 2010, which were really another book squaring exercise for disposed IMF gold.

The heavyweight signatories to the central bank gold agreements (CBGAs) include Eurozone member banks such as the Bundesbank, the Banque de FranceBanca Italia, De Nederlandsche Bank, National Bank of Belgium, the European Central Bank (ECB) itself, as well as the non-Eurozone Swedish Riksbank and the Swiss National Bank. In its composition, the consortium replicates the nexus of the 1960s London Gold Pool (Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium) and the nexus of the central banks which met at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in 1979 and the early 1980s to plan a secretive new 1980s gold pool.

Swedish Riksbank press release 26 July 2019

 

Last month’s article also pointed to the fact that this syndicate of European central banks had also been absent as buyers of monetary gold over the 1999 – 2019 period, when all around them central banks of nations such as Russia, China, India, Turkey, and Kazakhstan were busily doing the opposite and boosting their strategic monetary gold reserves.

The question then was, do these European central bank signatories to the CBGAs have an agreement among themselves not to buy any gold, that is contained in, for example, a non-public annex to the Agreement? If so:

It would not be the first time that G10 and Switzerland central banks agreed among themselves not to purchase gold. They did so in the mid 1970s when in conjunction with the IMF, when “the countries in the Group of Ten and Switzerland also agreed that there be no action to peg the price of gold, and that the total stock of gold in the hands of the Fund and the monetary authorities of the Group of Ten and Switzerland would not be increased.”

European System of Central Banks

 

Open Season on Gold Buying

While waiting for word from the European Central Bank (ECB) about a fifth CBGA, the conclusion here last month was that:

Given that the whole CBGA scheme was a cover whose main purpose has already been achieved, there is no compelling logic for a fifth CBGA, except of course unless there have been further physical gold flows out of western central banks which need to be squared off in the books.”

Well, we don’t have to wait any longer, since the ECB, Swiss National Bank, and Swedish Riksbank have all issued coordinated press releases dated 26th July, confirming that there will not be a fifth central bank gold agreement when the current agreement expires in September 2019.

This is because, according to the ECB press release, the signatory banks “conclude that a formal gold agreement is no longer necessary” because they say “the market has developed and matured”, more specifically that “since 1999 the global gold market has developed considerably in terms of maturity, liquidity and investor base.

Given that the real reason for the CBGAs from 1999 onwards was to close out previously sold and leased gold while hiding the transactions, this excuse for non-renewal is irrelevant, but even in its wording about the changing shape of the global gold market it is misleading.

The ECB – SNB – Riksbank press releases also mislead with the ironic claim that “the Agreement contributed to balanced conditions in the gold market by providing transparency regarding the intentions of the signatories”, when in fact the Agreement was the complete opposite, i.e. a cover for gold that had already been disposed of.

However, this latest news about the non-renewal of the CBGA is important because it is the best evidence yet that there most likely is an unpublished agreement among the participating European central banks not to buy any gold, but that this private agreement not to buy gold is now being torn up. Which would mean that open season for central bank gold buying is about to begin.

Now that it seems to be open season for central banks in Europe to begin buying gold, the ECB still has an input on the subject, saying its governing council update, also 26th July, that the decision not to renew the CBGA “is without prejudice to each national central bank’s competences regarding the management of its own gold reserves.

The CBGA member press releases acknowledge the eagerness to buy gold, saying that “central banks and other official institutions in general have become net buyers of gold” and that “the signatories confirm that gold remains an important element of global monetary reserves, as it continues to provide asset diversification benefits.”  The Swiss National Bank press release adds some flavor claiming that the “gold agreement [is] no longer necessary due to changes in market conditions and in central bank activities.

As none of the CBGA cartel central banks “currently has plans to sell significant amounts of gold“, has it been a case of gold buying envy as Russia, China and the even Poland and Hungary have piled into the yellow metal? It would certainly seem so.

The press release from the ECB can be read in pdf format here, from the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in pdf format here,  and from the Swedish Riksbank in pdf format here.

This article was originally published on the BullionStar.com website under the same title "By Not Renewing the CBGA, Central Banks in Europe Look Ready to Buy Gold".

Published:7/28/2019 8:06:33 PM
[Markets] Bretton Woods Is Dead: What Next?

Authored Matthew Ehret via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has publicly admitted something normally reserved for backroom discussion in the circles of Europe’s governing elite at an event honoring the 75th anniversary of Bretton Woods (the conference which created the foundations for the post WWII world order).

At this event, Le Maire stated ever-so candidly that “the Bretton Woods order has reached its limits. Unless we are able to re-invent Bretton Woods, the New Silk Road might become the New World Order”.

He went onto state that “the pillars of that order have been the International Monetary Fund and its sister institution, the World Bank since their inception at the Bretton Woods conference in  New Hampshire in 1944.”

Were a radical transformation not undertaken immediately, then Le Maire laments “Chinese standards on state and on access to public procurements, on intellectual property could become global standards”.

The finance minister’s statements reflect the growing awareness that two opposing systems operating on two conflicting sets of principles and standards are currently in conflict, where only one can succeed. Yet as much as he appears to be aware of the forces at play between two systems, Le Maire fails miserably to identify what the Bretton Woods System was meant to accomplish in the first place, or what type of “radical transformation” is needed to save Europe from the collapse of its own speculation-ridden system.

Le Maire dives so deeply out of reality that he actually believes that the radical transformation desperately needed in the west does not involve collaborating with the New Silk Road, but rather to strengthen the power of Brussels, while becoming more technocratic and more green (aka: de-industrialized, de-populated).

The Bretton Woods of 1944 and New Silk Road of Today

Seventy five years of revisionist historians largely funded by the British Roundtable/Chatham House and its American branch (The Council on Foreign Relations) have obstructed the true anti-imperial nature of the founding intention of Bretton Woods and the post war order centered on the United Nations.

Then, much as today, two opposing factions were vying to shape the essence of the world order as the Nazi machine (funded by Wall Street and London’s Bank of International Settlements) was drawing to a close. I am not talking about Capitalism vs. Communism.

This faction fight was between New Deal nationalists led by Franklin Roosevelt vs those racist imperialists represented by Sir Winston Churchill who wished to use the crisis of the war to establish a revived British Empire strengthened by American muscle. FDR’s New Dealers were characterized by their total adherence to the belief that the plague of colonialism had to be undone and a new age of long term development of great infrastructure projects had to characterize the community of sovereign nations for the coming century. These patriots believed in the internationalization of the New Deal, were committed to working with Russia and China as natural allies of America and profoundly distrusted the British.

In the case of Bretton Woods, where representatives from 44 nations convened for two weeks to create a new post war system in July 1944, this fight amounted to a battle between FDR’s trusted economic advisor Harry Dexter White (first director of the IMF and ally of FDR’s vice-president Henry Wallace) and Lord John Maynard Keynes (eugenicist, pedophile and defender of the British Empire).

Churchill and Keynes: Hard Racist/Soft Racist of the Empire

Where Churchill represented the unapologetic conservative proponent of the “White Man’s Burden” to exercise dominion over the “inferior” colored peoples of the earth, Keynes represented the soft cop of the Empire as a “Fabian Society Socialist” (aka: Social Engineer) from the London School of Economics. Where Churchill’s ilk preferred mowing down their enemies with Canons, body counts and torture as seen in the Boer War or opium wars or WWI, Keynes’ Fabian methods preferred attrition and slow subversion. Either way, the result of either pathway was the same.

While many know of the racist and pro-fascist views of Sir Churchill who spoke admiringly of Mussolini and even Hitler in the early days when it was still believed that these fascists and corporatists would act as marcher lords for the financial oligarchy, but most people are unaware that Keynes also supported Hitler and despised FDR.

Contradicting the mythos that FDR was a Keynesian, FDR’s assistant Francis Perkins recorded the 1934 interaction between the two men when Roosevelt told her:

 “I saw your friend Keynes. He left a whole rigmarole of figures. He must be a mathematician rather than a political economist.”

In response Keynes, who was then trying to coopt the intellectual narrative of the New Deal stated he had “supposed the President was more literate, economically speaking.”

In his 1936 German edition of his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Keynes wrote:

 “For I confess that much of the following book is illustrated and expounded mainly with reference to the conditions existing in the Anglo Saxon countries. Nevertheless, the theory of output as a whole, which is what the following book purports to provide, is much more easily adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state.”

Keynes Contaminates Bretton Woods

Lord Keynes was deployed to lead the British delegation to Bretton Woods and advance a Delphic plan that called for creating an International Clearing Union controlled by the City of London denominating all payments in a common accounting unit: the Bancor.

The Bancor would be used to measure all nations’ trade or surplus deficits- expropriating surpluses by the end of the year and taxing countries with deficits. The imposition of a “mathematical architecture” upon the physical (non-mathematical) systems of nations was the surest way to keep an invisible cage upon the earth under an ideal of “mathematical equilibrium.” The sadistic fiscal austerity demanded by mathematical economists and other technocrats in Brussels reflect the still active force of Keynes’ spirit haunting the world today.

The Bretton Woods as a Global New Deal

In opposition to Keynes, FDR’s America was represented by his close ally Harry Dexter White in Bretton Woods. White (today slandered as a Soviet agent by CFR historians) fought tooth and nail to ensure that Britain would not be in the driver’s seat of the new emerging economic system or the important mechanisms of the IMF that he would go onto lead, World Bank or monetary policy more generally. White ensured the colonial economic “preference” system Britain used to maintain free trade looting across its empire was destroyed, and the pound sterling did not play a primary role in global trade. Instead a fixed exchange rate system was set up to guarantee that speculation could not run rampant over national growth strategies and the dollar (then backed by a powerful PHYSICAL economic platform) was a backbone for world trade (1).

White, like Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, and Harry Hopkins believed that the US currency (rather than the pound sterling) had to become the foundation for the world economy as America exited WWII as the most powerful productive, growing nation of the world untouched by the ravages of Eurasian war.

Just as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) was used like a national bank to fund thousands of great infrastructure, transport, energy, and water projects during the New Deal and just as Glass-Steagall broke the monopoly of private speculative finance over the productive economy, these New Dealers wished to use the World Bank and IMF to issue long term, low interest productive credit for long term mega infrastructure projects around the world. Not just in Europe’s reconstruction.

FDR’s battle with Churchill on this matter was well documented in his son/assistant Elliot Roosevelt’s book As He Saw It (1946):

 “I’ve tried to make it clear … that while we’re [Britain’s] allies and in it to victory by their side, they must never get the idea that we’re in it just to help them hang on to their archaic, medieval empire ideas … I hope they realize they’re not senior partner; that we are not going to sit by and watch their system stultify the growth of every country in Asia and half the countries in Europe to boot.”

FDR continued: 

The colonial system means war. Exploit the resources of an India, a Burma, a Java; take all the wealth out of these countries, but never put anything back into them, things like education, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements–all you’re doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war. All you’re doing is negating the value of any kind of organizational structure for peace before it begins.”

Writing from Washington in a hysteria to Churchill, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden said that Roosevelt contemplates the dismantling of the British and Dutch empires.”

In 1942, FDR sent his close ally Wendell Wilkie on a world tour to meet with international leaders of colonial nations in order to spread the President’s vision for a global new deal. On his return Willkie gave a speech saying:

“In Africa, in the Middle East, throughout the Arab world, as well as in China, and the whole Far East, freedom means the orderly but scheduled abolition of the colonial system. I can assure you that this is true. I can assure you that the rule of people by other people is not freedom and not what we must fight to preserve… Men and women all over the world are on the march, physically, intellectually and spiritually. After centuries of ignorant and dull compliance, hundreds of millions of people in Eastern Europe and Asia have opened the books. Old fears no longer frighten them. They are no longer willing to be eastern slaves for western profits. They are beginning to know that men’s welfare throughout the world is interdependent. They are resolved, as we must be, that there is no more place for imperialism within their own society than in the society of nations.”

This vision was expressed continually by FDR in his hundreds of speeches, as well as by his Vice-President Henry Wallace, in the creation of the Atlantic Charter, and Four Freedoms. It was embedded in the defense of national sovereignty in the UN Constitution (conspicuously non-existent in the British-directed League of Nations earlier). It was meant to be the governing spirit animating the world as mankind entered a matured age of creative reason.

So What happened?

Describing the deep British penetration of the American state department, infested with Rhodes Scholars and Fabians, FDR described his understanding of the problem to his son:

“You know, any number of times the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats over there aren’t in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, they are [working for Churchill]. Stop to think of ’em: any number of ’em are convinced that the way for America to conduct its foreign policy is to find out what the British are doing and then copy that!” I was told… six years ago, to clean out that State Department. It’s like the British Foreign Office….”

As long as FDR was in office, this British-run hive was kept at bay, but as soon as he died, the infestation took over America and immediately began undermining everything good FDR and his allies had created.

Harry Dexter White was ousted from his position as director of the IMF and labelled a communist agent. Henry Wallace was ousted for similar reasons and worked with White on a 1948 presidential bid as third party presidential candidate. William Wilkie (who had discussed creating a new party with FDR) died in October 1944, and FDR’s right hand man Harry Hopkins who did the most to initiate a close bond of friendship with Stalin, died in 1946.  Elliot Roosevelt interviewed Stalin a few years later, and recorded that Stalin always believed that Elliot’s father was poisoned “by Churchill’s gang.” By 1946, Churchill ushered in the Cold War setting former allies at each other’s’ throats for the remaining 70 years while dropping nuclear bombs on a defeated Japan. Stalin bemoaned Roosevelt’s death saying “the great dream has died”.

It took the oligarchy another 25 years to dismantle the fixed exchange rate system of the Bretton Woods leading to Nixon’s 1971 floating of the US dollar onto the speculative markets, converting the world ever more into a militarized casino system. Rather than used as instruments for long term growth as they were intended, the IMF and World Bank were used as tools of debt slavery and re-colonialization as outlined in John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman.

Today the world has captured a second chance to revive the “great dream”. In the 21st century, this great dream has taken the form of the New Silk Road, led by Russia and China (and joined by a growing chorus of nations yearning to exit the invisible cage of colonialism).

If western nations wish to survive the oncoming collapse, then they would do well to join this new framework rather than drink more of the poison promoted by the likes of Le Maire, Ursula von Leyen and their masters who want to transform the dying remains of Bretton Woods into a “Green New Deal”.

*  *  *

Appendix: Churchill, Keynes and FDR in their own words…

 “Galton’s eccentric, sceptical, observing, flashing, cavalry-leader type of mind led him eventually to become the founder of the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists, namely eugenics.”

-John Maynard Keynes on Galton’s Eugenics, Eugenics Review 1946

“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

– Winston Churchill to the Peel Commission, 1937

“There never has been, there isn’t now, and there never will be, any race of people fit to serve as masters over their fellow men… We believe that any nationality, no matter how small, has the inherent right to its own nationhood.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 1941

“They who seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”

– Franklin Roosevelt

Published:7/27/2019 9:00:42 PM
[Entertainment] Woodstock can’t be duplicated. Perhaps we should leave it at that. An anniversary concert, books and other memorabilia try, once again, to capture a moment that’s passed Published:7/26/2019 10:21:06 AM
[Markets] The Rise Of Woke Capitalism

Authored by William Anderson via The Mises Institute,

In preparation for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, who recently had won re-election, Washington, DC, was festooned in flags, including the so-called Betsy Ross Flag, with 13 stripes and 13 white stars in a circle against a blue background. But that was sooo 2013, which was still an “unwoke” era by today’s “higher” standards.

The Nike Company recently planned to unveil a new sneaker in time for the July 4 holiday, a red, white, and blue air-shoe that had the image of the Betsy Ross Flag on the back. The company manufactured and shipped the shoes, but before their release date, suddenly Nike recalled all of them. Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who became a counterculture star because he kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem before professional football games, is now on the Nike payroll, and he objected because the flag was created in 1776 - and slavery in the 13 Colonies at the time was legal. Thus, he argued, Nike would have been endorsing an era of slavery.

Almost immediately, each of the candidates running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party endorsed Nike’s move, claiming that the venerable flag suddenly had become the very symbol of White Supremacy. Why? Because Americans flew it in 1776 when slavery was in the land, so by that measure alone, it stands for systematic racism, and no Democrat presidential candidate wants to be called a racist.

Nike has become a leader in what now is called Woke Capitalism, which involves firms taking on the mantle of promoting the progressive version of social justice. One recalls when Google fired engineer James Darmore last year because he publicly aired his views on some aspects of affirmative action that Google practiced. Darmore’s views hardly were controversial to most Americans and he did not use disparaging language toward women and minorities, but even that was too much for Google, which openly considers itself to be a Woke company — and Darmore to be a beyond-comprehension bigot.

As I noted a year ago in writing about Political Correctness in the American workplace, many US firms have adopted a practice that is not unlike something we have seen in communist countries, such as the former USSR, the Eastern Europe countries before their own “liberation,” China, and North Korea. I was reminded of how workplaces become politicized when I was teaching at a university in China last month. The president of the school of international business hosted a luncheon for those of us teaching in his program, and when he arrived, a woman accompanied him that I assumed was his wife.

She was not his spouse; instead, she was the political officer of the Communist Party of China and she was embedded in the school. In fact, the university is full of political officers who operate behind the scenes but are there to keep party discipline. Today, companies like Nike, Google, Microsoft and others don’t need a communist party to impose their own totalitarian-like discipline upon workers. These companies are Woke and want to make sure everyone else knows it, and if someone wishes to be hired and remain employed at one of these firms, then uttering or declaring politically-incorrect thoughts either at work, on social media, or somewhere else is going to lead to being on the unemployment line. Thus, one can be sure that the ranks of these tech firms are honeycombed with informers and outright spies who are examining their colleagues and employees to see who among them might not be sufficiently pro-LGBTQ+ or pro-choice, and who should be cast out into the outer darkness for wrong thinking.

However, as Rod Dreher of The American Conservative writes, the Woke firms are not just satisfied with policing their own employees for un-Woke attitudes and thoughts. These companies also are imperialistic in pushing their social and political views elsewhere and not being afraid to use threats when challenged. For example, Dreher points out that when some states recently passed strict limits on abortion on demand, more than 200 CEOs of companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Yelp, and Bloomberg signed an advertisement in the New York Timescondemning the new laws and claiming they were “bad for business.”

The focus of my article last year was the problem of businesses becoming bureaucratic in their drive for social justice, but the issues are much more far-reaching now than just the policies that govern the human resources offices of these firms. While the drive to create a workplace atmosphere not unlike what would have existed under the Stasi in the former East Germany is turning many corporations into pockets of “soft totalitarianism,” they don’t stop at their own property lines in their zeal to “reform” US society.

Nike’s snub of the Betsy Ross Flag because of alleged “slavery” connotations and the decision by Nabisco to display Oreos wrapped in coverings that celebrates transgenderism and the use of special pronouns have especially bothered Dreher, who writes:

So now the Colonial-era US flag is the equivalent of the Confederate flag for failed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose eccentric preferences allow him to decide what kind of shoes Nike can sell.

This is the stupidest thing. Now we have to despise Colonial America to be in good graces with the Woke Police. I hope Nike loses a ton of money on this. They deserve to. Despicable people, capitulating to this crap. I respected Kaepernick’s right to protest on the field, and honestly, I’m not even mad at him for this, however childish it may be. It’s the fault of the woke executives at Nike, who are so afraid of being unwoke that they are embarrassed by their own country’s historic flag. I would walk barefoot over broken glass before I would buy another pair of Nike shoes.

Elsewhere, he says:

The cultural left has captured the bureaucracies at American corporations. One thing we hear a lot from our friends on the left is that Big Business is conservative, and would never do anything that would hurt its bottom line. Wrong! I have seen personally how companies will do politically correct things that actually hurt their business model, but that win its management pats on the back among their social cohort. These documents I looked at today assert — assert, do not argue — that the total politicization of the company’s culture is critical to its business success … and then go on to describe a program that is almost certainly going to cause major problems with teamwork, cohesiveness, and conflict. These documents are a recipe for creating intense anxiety and suspicion within the company. It’s as clear as day. You cannot imagine why any sensible company would embrace these principles and techniques, which can only hurt its ability to compete. But there it is, in black and white.

However, at least in the days recently after Nike’s pullback on the Betsy Ross shoes, its bottom line improved, according to Forbes:

Shares of Nike are rising after former NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick convinced the company to pull its “Air Max 1 USA” sneakers from store shelves. Kaepernick’s concern over the shoe’s “Betsy Ross Flag” designs connection to an era of slavery resonated with investors, as Nike has seen a 2% stock increase and added nearly $3 billion in market value since cancelling the kicks.

Forbes continues:

Playing the long game with Kaepernick seems to be fruitful for the company amidst earlier short term stock market pain CultureBanx reported. Let’s look at the big picture, Kaepernick has been on Nike’s endorsement roster since 2011, but hadn’t been featured in one of their ads in two years before appearing in September 2018. The company received more than $43 million worth of media exposure from the ad, according to Apex Marketing Group.

Social issues and a brand’s bottom line go hand in hand for millennials. A total of 15,191 investors on Robinhood added Nike to their portfolios when Kaepernick’s ad was released, according to Business Insider. Additionally, Nielsen reported 38% of African Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 and 41% of those aged 35 or older said they expect the brands they buy to support social causes.

In other words, there seems to be a sizable group of investors that want to see this sort of thing from an American firm in which the company attacks what have been venerable symbols of the country’s existence. What was not long ago considered to be a benign American icon suddenly is labeled as a Nazi Swastika, according to commentators on MSNBC. One wonders what next will be in Woke Capitalism’s crosshairs — but it will be something that at least right now is not even considered to be controversial.

Likewise, we see no letup in the push for Woke Capitalism. Ross Douthat of the New York Times speculates that part of the leftward move for American capitalism mirrors what once was called the Treaty of Detroit, in which US automakers agreed to labor contracts with the United Auto Workers that in the long run proved harmful to those companies. He writes:

The system defined by the so-called Treaty of Detroit, the labor-management agreements struck between Walter Reuther and the Big Three automakers, was well-intentioned but also self-interested, a necessary-seeming concession to political trends that might have threatened corporate independence and profits even more.

Douthat labels the current corporate “wokeness” as being what he calls the Treaty of Palo Alto, writing:

But there are other ways to compromise besides on wages, and at an accelerating pace our corporate class is trying to negotiate a different kind of peace, a different deal from the one they struck with New Deal liberalism and Big Labor. Instead of the Treaty of Detroit we have, if you will, the Peace of Palo Alto, in which a certain kind of virtue-signaling on progressive social causes, a certain degree of performative wokeness, is offered to liberalism and the activist left pre-emptively, in the hopes that having corporate America take their side in the culture wars will blunt efforts to tax or regulate our new monopolies too heavily.

In other words, he says that perhaps some of the zealous “wokeness” of some companies is trying to keep in the good graces of lawmakers that call for the breakup of firms like Facebook and Google, appeasing them so that they will be less likely to inflict harm upon them. Perhaps that has something to do with it, but Douthat agrees that at least some of the new attitudes are the result of ideology. He writes:

Much of this signaling is sincerely motivated. I’m sure that lots of people in the corporate ranks at Delta or Alamo sincerely abhor the N.R.A., just as most of the people who demanded James Damore’s firing from Google or Brendan Eich’s ejection from Mozilla regarded both men as beyond-the-pale bigots.

But a certain amount of cynicism is also in order. It’s worth noting, for instance, how Tim Cook’s willingness to play the social justice warrior when the target is a few random Indiana restaurants that might not want to host hypothetical same-sex weddings does not extend to reconsidering Apple’s relationship with the many countries around the world where human rights are rather more in jeopardy than they are in the American Midwest.

While Douthat does have a point, we see that at least some multi-national corporations, long the target of leftist criticism, now are imposing “woke” views on employees in countries like Poland, which tends to be socially conservative. Dreher recounts the ordeal of an employee who resisted the push by the Swedish firm IKEA to celebrate day-themed holidays and was fired. Dreher also writes:

It was a beautiful summer afternoon today in Warsaw. Sitting on a terrace in one of the city’s squares, I found myself talking to an executive who works for a local branch of a US-based multinational company. When he found out that I’m working on a book about “soft totalitarianism,” he told me about the culture inside his corporation.

Like most American and Western European corporations here, he said, his firm pushes LGBT Pride heavily inside its corporate culture. It is very difficult to resist if, like him, you have religious or moral qualms about it. It is getting to the point where silence is not sufficient: you must affirm.

This new corporate workplace enforcement of limited worldviews only is different in degree than what used to pass for the loyalty oaths in totalitarian states. These “woke” workplaces remind me of religious institutions (including a few where I have taught) in which the employees had to hold to certain beliefs about Jesus, the Bible, and Christian doctrine in general. However, the purpose of those colleges was to help train people in the Christian faith; they were religious in nature, and they were run by people who held to certain doctrinal beliefs. Furthermore, like-minded people tend to self-select to such institutions.

Google, IKEA, and even Ben & Jerry’s (for all its left-wing fervor) are not religious institutions, or at least they were not established in order to better train their workers and customers in “the woke faith.” Yet, that is exactly what they are doing; the latest iterations of the Sexual Revolution serve as their doctrines and their leaders seem increasingly determined to produce something akin to a Holy Priesthood of Woke from the ranks of employees.

Whether it is affirming the latest consonant to the LGBTQ+ list, using new sets of “pronouns” to address the sexual identity of individuals, or supporting the sexualization of children, the woke corporate workplace has moved well beyond trying to help one’s employer make a profit. In fact, it seems that places like Google would rather have mediocre employees who are “woke” than excellent employees who are Christians. At that point, we are dealing with a totalitarian mentality, and free markets cannot easily coexist with such thinking.

Furthermore, many American and international businesses have become almost hopelessly politicized. WhenGoogle executives are recorded as saying they plan to manipulate the algorithms they create to influence the 2020 presidential election in order to elect the “right” candidate, we are dealing with something well beyond even the most politicized actions of companies during the New Deal when the federal government saw no limits on the desire of the Roosevelt administration to interfere with the marketplace.

Perhaps the most important question we can ask, however, is this: Can Woke Capitalism on its own become a coercive or even totalitarian force in our society? Before answering such a question (if it is possible to clearly answer it), we should recall that people on the Left have been making such predictions for decades regarding corporations and their power over Americans. John Kenneth Galbraith’s books are full of that stuff, and those of us who have reached our senior citizen years heard such claims from the alleged threat from General Motors to the power of IBM to Microsoft. Evil corporate geniuses apparently wanted to control the world — but they could not even control their own marketplaces. Nabisco may display their “pronoun” Oreos, but that doesn’t mean everyone will buy them. That should provide food for thought.

There are some caveats. Douthat writes:

In certain ways the Peace of Palo Alto won’t be fully tested until the next time the Democrats hold real power, when we’ll get to find out whether the left’s antimonopoly forays have any follow-through, whether more than a token portion of the Trump corporate tax cuts will get rolled back — or whethercorporate wokeness will suffice as a concession to the new spirit of liberalism, enabling the easy post-1980s relationship between corporate America and the Democratic Party to endure.

As I see it, the verdict on Woke Capitalism is mixed. Rod Dreher sees it as an existential threat to freedom and that the coercion (adopt our beliefs or be fired) that is part of the Woke Workplace will spill into greater society and be further used by governments that have no commitment to individual freedoms. That could be the case, although no matter what sets of beliefs toward the Sexual Revolution may guide corporate boardrooms, no business firm can get away from the fundamentals of private property, prices, and profits and losses. What Mises wrote in Bureaucracy 75 years ago about the need for these things still holds, and no amount of bluster and coercion can change those facts.

It is highly unlikely that Woke Big Business on its own can turn the USA into a totalitarian society. Historically speaking, business policies have followed the lead of governments, not the other way around. At worst, firms like Google and Microsoft might aid governments in the expansion of surveillance and the implementation of tools of totalitarianism.

There is one huge difference between businesses (even Woke Capitalism) and government: business firms cannot engage in the kind of coercion that is the lifeblood of government rule. While Americans might still believe that corporations one day will rule the world, creating a Rollerball dystopia, there is a reason that such scenarios are depicted in fiction, and that is because they are fiction. Government coercion and brutality, unfortunately, are quite real. While one can fear what is happening in corporate boardrooms and executive offices, one always should fear government more.

Published:7/25/2019 6:02:14 PM
[Markets] Welcome, Comrade Mueller, To America's Soviet-Style Show-Trials!

Authored by Robert Bridge,

Any hope that the interrogation of prosecutor, Robert Mueller, would provide some closure to the endless spectacle of Russiagate was dashed. As long as Donald Trump is in power, the show must go on.

When Mueller, 74, was led into the lion’s den of the congressional coliseum on Wednesday to defend his 22-month, multi-million-dollar investigation from the slings and arrows of partisan power-brokers, the temptation to feel some pity for the man was surprisingly strong.

The former special counsel appeared frail, disheveled and, as many others have acknowledged, well past his prime. His demeanor resembled that of a powerful official who had just been yanked from bed at gunpoint to appear before a midnight military tribunal. The flimsy shield he hid behind when confronted with any serious question regarding his 448-page report was deference to “the ongoing investigation.”

The Republicans drew blood early. Jim Jordan, veteran House member and former wrestling champ, maneuvered Mueller into an inescapable lock-hold. Jordan pressed Mueller as to why the ‘witch hunt’ hauled away half a dozen Trump-connected cohorts to prison – including Roger Stone, a former adviser to the president, who was arrested in a crack-of-dawn FBI raid that was all-too conveniently filmed by a CNN camera crew – yet nobody affiliated with the Democratic Party suffered equally harsh measures.

Jordan reminded the mute Mueller that the FBI, with the blessing of the Democratic Party, had pulled off a historic first when they spied on two members of the Trump campaign, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. That brazen act of espionage should have been at the heart of Mueller’s probe, but strangely it went missing in action.

Here’s where things get really dark. In the course of the FBI’s undercover work, a mysterious Maltese professor by the name of Joseph Mifsud – who purportedly lied three times to investigators – passed along ‘secret information’ to Mr Papadopolous that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Papadopolous then informed a diplomat about the claim, which was then – thanks to the notoriously bad plumbing inside of the nation’s capital – leaked to the media. That single drop of fake news put into motion not only the bogus Steele dossier, complete with a bizarre reference to golden showers in Moscow, but the entire Russiagate hoax.

Jordan demanded to know why Mifsud, who was once photographed alongside Boris Johnson, the newly elected British prime minister, was not dragged in for questioning as were so many Republicans. Mueller’s silence on the matter was deafening.

There were other glorious moments for the Republicans in this made-for-TV reality show. Rep. Mike Turner, for example, resorted to props as he argued over a single word that appeared at the end of the Mueller Report: “exonerate.” The termwas found in the very last sentence of the report: “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.That controversial statement has attracted much ire from the Republican camp, not to mention Trump himself.

Turner, with law books piled high on his pulpit, together with a copy of the US Constitution, lectured Mueller that neither he nor the attorney general has any power to exonerate the president of the United States, since ‘exonerate’ is not a legally binding term. The inclusion of that word, Turner argued, “colored the report,” thereby allowing US news channels to run with the ‘breaking news’ that “Trump was not exonerated.It was a very clever way of demonstrating how the mainstream media can frame a story according to its political bias, which is known to lean heavily liberal and Democrat.

Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed those sentiments when he said “the Russia investigation was never about finding the truth. It’s always been a simple media operation… this operation continues in this room today.”

The Democrats, meanwhile, were also fixated with words, first and foremost ‘obstruction.’ Since they failed to nail Trump to the cross of collusion, their next best approach was to accuse him of preventing Mueller from carrying out his assigned duties, which is a federal offense.

When asked by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler if “the report did not conclude that [the president] did not commit obstruction of justice,” Mueller responded: “That is correct.”

It was obvious to everyone watching where Nadler’s line of inquiry was leading, and that was to the explosive I-word: impeachment. Yet no amount of coaxing and fawning by the Democrats could get Mueller to spit out the one word that has been the wet dream material of every liberal voter since the debacle of the 2016 presidential election. So now the Democrats, if they decide to press forward with impeachment proceedings, will have to do so without the solemn consent of Robert Mueller, a veteran Washington insider with considerable standing and influence in the swamp. That makes the idea of impeaching Trump downright risky to the point that it has reportedly unhinged the Democrats down the middle.

According to Politico, Nadler suggested that several House committee chairs could start “drafting articles of impeachment against Trump.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called the idea “premature, according to anonymous sources.

So now the Democrats find themselves in a very precarious situation as the United States prepares to enter what promises to be one of the most momentous, not to mention tempestuous, presidential election seasons of all time. If they proceed with impeachment proceedings against Trump, they risk alienating a large segment of their constituents, many of whom are suffering ‘probe fatigue’ and are anxious to turn the page.

At the same time, however, many high-ranking Democrats may feel they have no choice but to make a major effort to dislodge Trump from the Oval Office due to one nagging consideration: Attorney General William Barr is actively investigating the many players involved in the ‘Russiagate’ saga and what he may unearth – specifically as to who was responsible for launching the greatest conspiracy theory of modern times – has certainly got a lot of Democrats extremely concerned. 

If Barr discovers that there was no legal basis for spying on the Trump campaign, some very influential people may find themselves – like Roger Stone – the target of early morning FBI raids at the behest of a Republican inquest.  

What this means is that the Democrats, by pushing for the impeachment of Trump, are in reality engaging in their own form of obstruction of justice, and that is justice over their own possible crimes.

In other words, fasten your seat-belts and start the popcorn because ‘Russiagate’ is not over; in fact, it has only just begun.

Published:7/25/2019 2:16:07 PM
[Markets] Clark: Don't Mourn May, She Was One Of Britain's Worst-Ever PMs

Authored by Neil Clark,

It’s a crowded field but, by any objective standard, outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May must rate as one of the worst – if not the worst – occupants of the office of all time.

Spare us the Uriah Heep-style hypocrisy and gushing ‘tributes.’ The truth is an Op-Ed on the achievements of Theresa May would be the shortest one ever written.

Winston Churchill helped defeat the Nazis in World War Two. Clement Attlee gave Britain the NHS. Harold Wilson established the Open University. Ted Heath saved Rolls Royce. Gordon Brown gave over-60s and disabled people free nationwide bus travel. What did Theresa May give us except a Brexit impasse and the worst movements to Abba’s Dancing Queen ever seen?

May boasted about delivering “strong and stable” leadership but in reality she was as weak and wobbly as a plate of jelly.

Given the task of implementing the EU referendum vote of 2016, she gave the horse named ‘Brexit’ such a terrible ride that if she’d been a jockey she’d have been hauled before the stewards.

Of course every one was to blame for this debacle except Theresa herself.  But as Prime Minister, the buck stopped with her. She prevaricated and this prevarication emboldened the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaign.

In 2017, she needlessly called a general election, and fought the most unimpressive election campaign any sitting prime minister has ever fought. Mr Bean himself couldn’t have ballsed it up more.

May would in normal circumstances have gone the morning after she lost her party’s Parliamentary majority, but the Establishment’s fear of Jeremy Corbyn kept her hanging on for two more excruciating years.

On the foreign policy front May did her bit to stoke up Cold War 2.0 tensions with Russia and in April 2018 rushed to join in with Trump’s punishment bombing of Syria before chemical weapons experts could carry out a proper investigation into reports of an attack in Douma.

New revelations of a leaked but hitherto unpublished report cast doubt on but do not conclusively prove that it wasn’t Syrian government forces that carried out an attack, but May preferred to bomb first and wait for evidence later.

At home, she continued policies of austerity, which have caused great misery across the land. Drug trade-fuelled knife crime has spiralled horrifically following cuts to frontline police services – which began in 2010 when one Theresa May was Home Secretary. Hundreds of local libraries, the hallmark of a civilized society, have closed during May‘s period in power. In December 2018 it was reported that almost 130 of Britain’s public libraries had closed during the previous year.

Even under Thatcher it was never this bad.

Promises to the electorate were broken even before they were made. 

In 2017, the Tory Manifesto pledged to ‘maintain’ pensioner benefits “including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament”.

Yet a month before it was published, May’s government had already handed over the power to the BBC to take TV licences away from over-75s in 2020 – a full two years before the new Parliament’s expiry date. Last month, the BBC said they would be withdrawing free TV licenses for up to 3.7 million over-75s. May could have said ‘the government will step in to keep good our promise made to pensioners’ but she didn’t. Instead we just got a government minister saying the BBC ‘should do more to support older people.’  Meaningless waffle when instead action was needed.

May posed as a ‘moderate‘ – to contrast herself both from her own ‘right-wing’ and Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘left-wing extremism’ but there was, in truth, nothing moderate about her or her policies. Under her watch the gradual privatization of the NHS has continued. In March it was reported that the number waiting more than 18 weeks for operations had tripled in five years. Early this year, NHS chiefs asked May to reverse pro-privatization reforms.

In October 2018 May declared ‘austerity is over,’ but the situation on the ground was very different.

Just take a tour of Britain’s town and city centers and count the number of boarded-up retail outlets, to see the impact austerity has had. 

Theresa Mayhem inspired no-one but demoralized millions.

Britain is best rid of her.

Published:7/25/2019 12:32:29 AM
[Entertainment] Austin Butler's Latest Praise for Vanessa Hudgens Just Won Him Boyfriend of the Year Vanessa Hudgens, Austin ButlerWhen it comes to Hollywood love stories, Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler's is one for the books. For more than seven years now, the former Disney Channel darling and her actor beau...
Published:7/23/2019 9:23:06 PM
[Markets] Every Flaw In Markets Is Worse Under Socialism

Authored by Chloe Anagnos via The American Institute for Economic Research,

As the granddaughter of a survivor of communism and socialism, I find it almost unfathomable that the political ideology my family left a continent for is creeping into my neighborhood.

I was alerted to an event on Facebook called “Summer Socialism 101 classes,” which will be hosted at the Indianapolis Central Library this August. The group will offer the following classes: “Why we need a revolutionary party, Introduction to Marxism, and Contradictions of Capitalism.”

You can imagine my disbelief and frustration when I saw this event shared on Facebook by people urging others to learn more about a political ideology that killed at least 100 million men, women, and children — more than all the deaths of all the major wars of the 20th century – combined.

Published by Harvard University Press, The Black Book of Communism documents the victims of each Marxist socialist regime in, but not necessarily limited to, 

  • China under Mao Zedong

  • North Korea under Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un

  • Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh

  • Cuba under Fidel Castro

  • Cambodia under Pol Pot

  • Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile

  • Venezuela under Nicolás Maduro

Greece is no exception.

After World War II, a civil war broke out in Greece between the Greek government (backed by the U.S. and the UK) and the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece (supported by then-socialist states Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria).

During the war (1946-49), Greeks either publicly supported or joined the Communists or were thrown in jail. My Yiayia's (grandmother’s) oldest brother and both of her parents didn't join the Communists, so they quickly became political prisoners. 

(My great grandparents – the Antonakes family.) 

As best as my Yiayia can recall, they were held as political prisoners for more than three years.

When the war broke out, my Yiayia was the youngest of the family — just eight years old. While her parents were in prison, she and her siblings were raised by family and neighbors. Although this conflict started after World War II, the internal political struggles began during the German occupation of Greece in the early 1940s.

She remembers Nazis occupying her village, one of them shooting a neighbor’s goat in the head in front of her and others while saying something to the effect of "If you don't fall in line, this is what will happen to you."

My great uncle lost part of a finger and some of his scalp during the occupation of another village. That is the only injury I'm aware of  — or at least the only one anyone is willing to talk about. Miraculously, not only did the family survive World War II and the civil war, but the three were released from prison. 

In total, 80,000 Greeks were killed and another 700,000 were left homeless. Soon, parts of my family left for better opportunities. Some went to Canada and others eventually got to the United States. Some stayed in Greece and are still there today.

My immediate family and I are only in Indiana because our first relative who came here from Ellis Island wanted to get to Chicago but didn't have enough money to get there. Instead, he made a life in Elkhart, Indiana — 108 miles short. From there, four generations have worked to achieve the American dream, which wouldn't be possible without the free market.

Senior AIER fellow Michael Munger says it best:

“The problem for Marxists is simple: every flaw in markets is worse under socialism. At the micro level, every flaw in consumers is worse, and in fact much worse, in voters. Unless you are willing to advocate monarchism, or actual communist dictatorship, markets and democracy are the only two mechanisms we have for organizing society.”

For those in my home state flirting with Marxist ideals, I suggest you read Munger’s forthcoming book from AIER, Is Capitalism Sustainable? along with the other brilliant publications we offer.

After all, capitalism is what truly lifts the masses out of poverty and into freedom. 

Just look at my family.

Published:7/22/2019 10:45:39 PM
[Political correctness] Charles speaks again (Scott Johnson) Last year we celebrated the week of Charles — Charles Kesler, Dengler-Dykema Distinguished Professor of Government at Clarmeont McKenna College, editor of the Claremont Review of Books, long-time friend and tutor — for his receipt of one of 2018’s Bradley Prize awards along with Allen Guelzo and Jason Riley. Video of the event is posted here on Vimeo. Charles is a gentleman, scholar, author, teacher, editor, advocate of America and Published:7/22/2019 9:43:07 AM
[Volokh Conspiracy] [Eugene Volokh] Welcome to Our New Coblogger, Josh Blackman I'm delighted to report that Prof. Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law will be joining our blog. Josh teaches, writes, and litigates about constitutional law; he has been extensively involved in debates about Obamacare, the Emoluments Clause, 3D-printed guns, DAPA, the proposed ABA speech code for lawyers (Rule 8.4(g)), and much more. He has written many law review articles and four books, two of them with our own Randy Barnett: Constitutional Law: Cases in Context (3d ed.) and An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know. He has also guest-blogged often with us here, as well as writing his own blog, JoshBlackman.com, so many of you may know him from that. We very much look forward to having him with us! Published:7/21/2019 10:41:41 PM
[Markets] Hyperinflation Is Back: "Zimbabwe Burns While The Lights Are Out"

Submitted by Cathy Buckle, who writes in to describe the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe, and the nation's second encounter with hyperinflation in under two decades; to receive her letters from Zimbabwe by email contact cbuckle.zim@gmail.com.

"Zimbabwe burns while the lights are out"

Dear Family and Friends,

A red light or high pitched alarm are the two most dreaded things in our lives in Zimbabwe today. They mean that the car has almost run out of fuel, the prepaid electricity meter is about to run out of money, the phone battery is almost flat, the internet connection has gone, the inverter battery is dying. And when the red lights go off completely we just grind to a halt.

After weeks of twelve to seventeen hour a day power cuts we are worn down to a frazzle. Getting up in the middle of the night, every night, to cook, charge batteries and electronic equipment, catch up on domestic chores, work on computers, meet deadlines and keep any sort of production going, is taking a heavy toll on all of us. People running businesses are forced to put prices up to cover costs of using generators. Others are cutting staff down to one or two days a week and others are just closing their doors altogether. We hear of farmers ploughing in winter wheat crops as they cannot irrigate without electricity and cannot afford the hundreds of litres of fuel needed every day to run generators and remain viable. In my home town and many others, the water situation is dire. As I write the whole town has had no water for over a week. Local authorities apportion blame to different departments and either say there is no money to buy chemicals, no electricity to run pumps or that they are doing refurbishments. Which one is true we mutter as we bend, stoop, fill and carry buckets and boil unsafe water on open fires outside.

This week the official inflation rate for June 2019 was announced; jumping from 97% in May to 175% in June. According to ZIMSTATS the “prices of basic goods from sugar to cooking oil to building materials soared during the month by as much as 200%.” In the month since the government banned trading in anything except Zimbabwe dollars, the new but mostly non-existent Zimbabwe dollar has lost 27.9% of its value. The ability to change US dollars cash into Zimbabwe dollars cash is all but impossible, despite being required by law. Going into a bank in my home town I asked if they could change US dollars to Zimbabwe dollars. Oh yes, they said and told me the rate of exchange for the day. Trying then and there to change US$10 cash into Z$ cash wasn’t going to happen however. “I can only do it if we’ve got the cash,” the teller said and advised me to come back every day to check if they had cash. “You never know when you’ll be lucky,” he said and went on to try and persuade me to open an account there; an account which attracts a minimum balance, administration and ledger fees, 2% mandatory government tax on transactions over $10, debit card fees etc, etc. Outside in the sun scores of people were just waiting to “be lucky,” either to be able to withdraw their meager monthly government pension of Z$80 in cash or to get the US dollars cash that had been sent to them by their relations outside the country via Western Union, Mukuru or other international currency remitters.

Absurdly, ironically, while getting Zimbabwe dollars out of the banks is almost impossible, the Reserve Bank Governor, John Mangudya said they were just about to revise upwards the weekly withdrawal limit of Z$300. Revising the limit upwards at a time when you can’t withdraw any Z$ at all; how does that work? Not to mention the fact that the existing weekly limit of Z$300 is the equivalent of less than US$5 a day.

Equally absurd is the claim made at every opportunity by the Minister of Finance that Zimbabwe has been recording a budget surplus since December 2018 and continues to do so. The Minister doesn’t mention the fact that it is us, the people, who have to pay 2% tax on every electronic transaction over $10 and we assume that’s where much of the budget surplus came from. We also assume the 2% tax is the reason why it’s almost impossible to get cash because if you pay in cash you don’t pay the 2% tax. The Minister also doesn’t explain why the budget surplus isn’t used to pay off electricity debts and resume power imports from South Africa and Mozambique.

Behind all of this absurdity are the countless numbers of people of all ages and races across the country who are simply falling through the cracks. A man told me about the mountain of medical bills waiting to be paid for his 83 year old Dad who had been in a car accident. Medical specialists, no longer allowed to charge in US dollars, have multiplied everything by ten or more. An anaesthetist’s charge, quoted at US$850 is now Z$9,000. Rural teachers who were earning US$438 a month now find their salary only worth the equivalent of US$49. In a petition to the Ministry of Finance they said “We have been robbed of our dignity. We have been reduced to paupers.”

An appeal from an Old Age Home in Harare, in operation for 50 years, who say they have reached a crossroads and do not know how to continue without urgent assistance. They are crippled by huge fuel prices needed to run generators during 17 hour a day power cuts. Generators for preserving food, cooking, lighting, heating water and providing oxygen to elderly residents with breathing difficulties. They say their food prices have quadrupled, that their staff are struggling to feed their families. The Chairman of the Home writes that they need a miracle to remain “standing strong in the winds of change.”

Heartbreaking stories are all around us from the young and old and everywhere you look, in every shop and supermarket people look dazed and bewildered, looking at prices of the most basic items and leaving without them. As I write this letter the late winter annual slash and burn environmental devastation is underway: unchecked, unstoppable: cut the trees, burn the grass, acquire a piece of wetland, or green belt and call it your own “self apportioned plot.” Zimbabwe burns while the lights are out. Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter from Zimbabwe, now in its 19th year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, love cathy.

Cathy Buckle. www.lulu.com/spotlight/CathyBuckle2018

For information on my new books “FINDING OUR VOICES,” and “WHEN WINNERS ARE LOSERS,” and other eye witness books about life in Zimbabwe: “SLEEPING LIKE A HARE,” “MILLIONS, BILLIONS, TRILLIONS,” “CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS,” “INNOCENT VICTIMS” “AFRICAN TEARS”, “BEYOND TEARS” ”RUNDI,” and “IMIRE,” please go towww.lulu.com/spotlight/CathyBuckle2018 or to subscribe/unsubscribe to this letter, contact cbuckle.zim@gmail.com

Published:7/20/2019 1:33:38 PM
[Markets] Bowling Alone: How Washington Has Helped Destroy American Civil Society And Family Life

Via Ammo.com,

Church attendance in the United States is at an all-time low, according to a Gallup poll released in April 2019. This decline has not been a steady one. Indeed, over the last 20 years, church attendance has fallen by 20 percent. This might not sound like cause for concern off the bat. And if you’re not a person of faith, you might rightly wonder why you would care about such a thing.

Church attendance is simply a measure of something deeper: social cohesion. It’s worth noting that the religions with the highest rate of attendance according to Pew Forum have almost notoriously high levels of social cohesion: Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical Protestants, Mormons and historically black churches top the list.

There’s also the question of religious donations. Religious giving has declined by 50 percent since 1990, according to a 2016 article in the New York Times. This means people who previously used religious services to make ends meet now either have to go without or receive funding from the government. This, in turn, strengthens the central power of the state.

It is our position that civil society – those elements of society which exist independently of big government and big business – are essential to a functioning and free society. What’s more, these institutions are in rapid decline in the United States, and have been for over 50 years.

Such a breakdown is a prelude to tyranny, and has been facilitated in part (either wittingly or unwittingly) by government policies favoring deindustrialization, financialization and centralization of the economy as well as the welfare state. The historical roots of this breakdown are explored below, along with what concerned citizens can do to mitigate its impact on their loved ones.

What Is Bowling Alone?

The urtext of this topic is Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by political scientist Robert D. Putnam. He uses the decline in league bowling as a sort of shorthand for the overall decline in American participation in social life.

The local bowling alley was known as the blue-collar country club, and it was the invention of the automatic pinsetter that changed the game, making it faster and more accessible. The first million-dollar endorsement sports deal was Don Carter receiving a million dollars to bowl with an Ebonite signature ball designed for him in 1964.

Business was driven by league play. People would sign up to join a league, which had them in for 30 weeks of once-weekly play. In the course of doing this, they would rub elbows with teammates, opponents and whoever happened to be hanging out in the bowling alley at the time. Between 1940 and 1958, the United States Bowling Congress’ membership exploded from 700,000 to 2.3 million. The Women's International Bowling Congress’membership climbed from 82,000 to 866,000, with the American Junior Bowling Congress ballooning from 8,000 to 175,000. In their heyday, bowling leagues brought in a whopping 70 percent of all bowling alley income. Now they bring in a paltry 40 percent.

Again, the point here is not that there is something magical about bowling, which acts as a social glue in the United States. Rather, it is that the existence of bowling alleys as a third place in American life was the symptom of a vibrant and healthy civil society, not its cause. People preferred to socialize with others in a place outside of home or work. Putnam is quick to point out that the number of people who bowl in the United States has actually increased since the golden age of bowling – the problem is that they’re all doing it alone.

The decline in bowling league membership parallels the decline of memberships in a number of other civic organizations including the Knights of ColumbusB’Nai Brithlabor unionsthe Boy Scoutsthe Red Crossthe Lionsthe Elksthe Kiwanisthe Freemasonsparent-teacher organizationsthe League of Women Voters and the Junior Chamber of Commerce to name only a few examples other than bowling leagues and churches.

What this means is that there are significantly fewer connections between people and fewer civic-minded discussions going on now than there were in the past. It also means the loss of identity tied to something other than work and consumer goods (see the explosion of adults spending their money on Star Wars or Harry Potter knick-knacks).

Putnam lays the blame at the foot of technology. Television, and to a much greater extent, the Internet, individualized how people spend their spare time. Still, there is a solid case to be made that the decline of civil society and the resulting loss of social capital is not simply the result of new technologies. It is equally the result of government policies which, through design or through negligence, further erode civil society.

The Destruction of the Rust Belt

It is difficult to talk about the decline of civil society and social capital in the United States without looking at the destruction of the Rust Belt. The decline of the population in Rust Belt industrial cities over the last 50 years is worth a cursory glance before delving further into this topic:

  • In 1940, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh were all among the 10 most populated cities in the United States.

  • By 1980, Cleveland and Pittsburgh had dropped off.

  • While Detroit hung around in the top 10 until the 2010 census, it was also the first city to have its population drop below one million.

Cities outside of the top 10 in 1940 paint an even starker picture:

  • Between 1960 and 2010, Buffalo lost over half of its population, plummeting from 532,000 (20) to 261,000 (71).

  • Cincinnati was hit about this hard during the same time period, with its population dropping from 502,000 (21) to 296,000 (63).

  • Gary, Indiana is perhaps the most extreme case of Rust Belt depopulation. It lost over half its population between 1960 and 2010, going from 178,000 (70) to 80,000 (unranked).

Most of these massive depopulations are tied closely to deindustrialization and the financialization of the economy. While other factors cannot be ignored, such as central air conditioning, which makes living in cities like Phoenix (439,000 in 1960 and the 29th largest city to 1.4 million and the 6th largest by 2010) much more palatable, a conscious set of policies contributed to the destruction of America’s manufacturing base.

If one sees the United States as nothing more than a group of consumers, there’s nothing to fret about here. If, however, one sees the United States as a nation with a value beyond its simple GDP, the replacement of civil society with the marketplace is a disastrous scenario.

The Destruction of Black Business Districts

Another place where this can be seen is the destruction of the black middle class. A frequently untold story of American life is that by the 1950s, the United States actually had a thriving black middle class. Black business ownership peaked during the years between the end of the Second World War and the Great Society. Every city with any significant black population hosted a black business district where a primarily black clientele spent their money within their own community. Black home ownership was likewise high at this point.

This is all very much a thing of the past.

The per capita number of black employers declined by 12 percent between the years 1997 and 2014. An article by Brian S. Feldman in Washington Monthly notes a significant decline in certain sectors of black business ownership as well, namely grocers, insurers and banks. Black-owned insurance agencies declined by 68 percent between 1989 and 1999 in what Black Enterprise magazine called “a bloodbath.”

The article in question lays this at the feet of not specific government policies, but at the doorstep of a more general trend toward market concentration.

It’s worth looking at the question of wealth and market concentration (separate from the question of so-called “wealth inequality”) from a freedom-minded perspective. The massive amounts of government handouts to big business, in the form of both direct subsidies as well as favorable legislation for regulations and taxes alike, creates an environment favoring those most capable of purchasing influence – namely, big business.

This is not the half-baked conspiracy theory of a college Marxist. No less an authority than the Foundation for Economic Education correctly identifies that the wealth concentration that made the destruction of black small business possible is choking the American economy at the expense of Main Street. Likewise, licensing regimes in a number of states choke the pipeline of small business competition by making it more difficult for people to enter fields, from nail tech to brain surgeon. The FEE likewise identifies health insurance requirements and increasingly rising minimum wage laws as government intervention raising the bar to entry into the market and crushing small business.

There is another, highly unlikely and ironic, culprit behind the decimation of black business and the black community – integration.

This is a position championed by Clay Middleton of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Basically, under segregation, black consumers were limited in their choices of business. They could not, in many cases, go to (for example) white hamburger joints. Instead, they had to patronize the equivalent business for black customers. In many cases, these businesses were owned and operated by fellow black Americans. Black hotels are another example of this phenomenon.

The point is not that Southern states should reintroduce segregation to prop up black businesses, but simply to give a broader and more complete picture of how and why black business districts have disappeared. It also offers some insight into the destruction of small business in America in general.

While cheap, imported widgets from Walmart benefit consumers with lower prices, they also create an intangible and difficult-to-quantify social problem. When big business replaces small business, wealth is not only centralized, it is also centralized outside of the communities that it serves.While larger businesses are arguably more “efficient” economically speaking, the loss of small business (most acutely seen in the black community) provides an illustrative example of how lost economic capital and lost social capital are often closely tied. Without black business, there is less of a “black community” than there is a “black marketplace.”

Strictly speaking, small business (black or otherwise) is business, not civil society proper. However, greater economic leverage of big business in the nation means an economically impoverished civil society.

Civil Society, the Welfare State, and Mutual Aid

While direct connections are difficult to establish, it is worth noting that there is a chicken-egg effect of the welfare state, which began during the New Deal, but accelerated under President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society.

What did people do before the advent of social welfare programs? This is a question that even few libertarians can answer without stammering something about private charity. And indeed, private charity did play a role in meeting social needs for the less fortunate. However, there is a hidden story in how communities met social needs prior to the advent of the welfare state.

Mutual aid in the 21st century is largely a nonprofit form of insurance, particularly life insurance – a sort of analog to the credit union. However, in earlier days they oversaw a number of social welfare programs.

Mutual aid societies, also known as benefit societies (or friendly societies in the United Kingdom and Ireland) date back to the Middle Ages. Medieval guilds were effectively mutual aid societies organized within skilled trades. In the United States, they were popular with black Americans during post-revolutionary times: the Free African Society dates back to 1787.

One of the key differences between mutual aid and benefit societies and the welfare state is the role of civil society and accountability. Mutual aid societies presented a counterweight to both the state and big business. They offered services such as healthcare, unemployment benefits, disability insurance and other services now provided by big business or state and federal governments.

What’s more, the mutual aid societies generally had a set of values tied to their services. Social values were advanced and an ethos of moral character and self-improvement underpinned membership in a mutual aid society. For example, the Ancient Order of United Workmen forbade its members from selling liquor on penalty of forfeiting their death benefit.

Finally, it’s worth noting the primary difference between mutual aid societies and the welfare state. Members who wanted to collect had to look a peer in the eye and request aid. This had a twin psychological effect: First, it diminished spurious claims. Let’s say “Jim” needed some unemployment insurance. His neighbors are also members of his mutual aid society. They know if Jim actually needs help or if he’s just goldbricking. The flipside is that Jim is also receiving aid from his friends and neighbors. This inspires him to look for work so that he can pay everyone back in his own way, in addition to providing a source of social solidarity during his hardest times.

According to A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State, in the year 1890, 112,000 Americans were living in housing provided by private charitable organizations. Compare this to 73,000 residing in publicly funded almshouses. What’s more, benefit societies were decentralized. The spirit was one of fraternity, not of paternalism. Reciprocity was a driving ethic, which in turn removed the stigma of receiving charity. People were not receiving handouts, they were receiving support from the very same people whom they had supported in the past.

Additionally, belonging to a mutual aid or benefit society was a lot cooler than receiving welfare. They had secret handshakes, among other secret symbols of membership. What’s more, the humble house-call doctor was a feature of mutual aid society membership. Society locals frequently hired a doctor to service a membership area. They have since been regulated to the point where they provide little in the way of services, except for life insurance and annuities, making them effectively non-profit financial organizations.

In addition to accountability, assistance beyond simple financial support and decentralization, private assistance carries other benefits. For example, philanthropic organizations tend to operate leaner and to be more innovative in how they tackle problems. Such organizations tend to tailor their assistance to the individual in need, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach. This is true of individuals and communities alike. Finally, philanthropic and mutual aid societies seek to treat the underlying cause, rather than just the symptom of need.

Such organizations are now limited by the federal tax code 501(c)(4), which greatly restricts the activities such organizations are allowed to participate in. Many of them, such as Mutual of Omaha, underwent demutualization and handed out stocks in place of membership. They are now for-profit financial organizations.

A Decline in Family Life

One of the main pillars of civil society is the nuclear family. Any discussion of the decline of civil society in the United States would be incomplete without a discussion of the decline of family life in the United States.

Perhaps the best numbers to look at with regard to the American family are from the 2010 Census. These are, admittedly, a bit old. However, there is no reason to suspect that the trend has reversed itself and that the nuclear family has experienced some kind of resurgence in the years since that census. If anything, the opposite is probably true. So what does the last United States Census say?

  • Non-college graduates are more than twice as likely to be single parents.

  • Affluent families are more common than poor ones.

Pew Research likewise has good data on the state of the American family:

  • Americans who have never been married reached an all-time high in 2012, with 25 percent of all adults over the age of 25 having never been married. In 1960, this figure stood at 9 percent.

  • Men were significantly less likely to have ever been married than women.

  • 24 percent of never-married adults were cohabiting with their partner.

  • For black Americans, the percentage over 25 who had never been married was 36 percent.

  • Pew Research indicates that it expects this trend to continue and that, while people are getting married later in life, it does not expect a significant increase in marriage as the population ages.

  • Financial security was cited as the main hurdle to marriage by one third of all those polled who wanted to get married.

  • 67 percent of Americans under 50 who are married are in their first marriage, compared to 83 percent in 1960.

  • 46 percent of children live with two parents in their first marriage. In 1980, this number was 61 percent. In 1960, it was 73 percent.

The above-cited figures point toward two conclusions: First, the nuclear family is in sharp decline. Second, it is far more common for educated and affluent Americans to form traditional families.

It’s difficult to assign direct blame to any one factor. The centralization of the economy cited above plays a role, as does the financialization and deindustrialization of the economy. In the 1960s, from where our earliest data comes, it was not difficult for a high school graduate or even a high school dropout to earn a living at a stable job that was effectively a career for life. With this job came a defined benefit pension, healthcare, etc. The wages and benefits made having and raising a family easier.

The welfare state is another significant driver of the decline of the nuclear family. Unsurprisingly, the black family is massively impacted. In 1965, 25 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock. In 2016, that rate had increased to 70 percent and even topped 80 percent in certain urban areas. In the 1940s, this number was five percent, which was comparable to that of white children. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate in 2016 was 52 percent, while for whites it was 30 percent.

The rise in children born out of wedlock cannot be separated from the massive expansion of the welfare state under Johnson’s Great Society. In a report from the Mises Institute, the basic argument is that welfare disincentivizes marriage. In times past, when women had children out of wedlock, it meant an incredibly difficult life balancing whatever work and charity they could get. It also carried a social stigma (from our old friend civil society), which further disincentivized single motherhood.

Today, however, there are a host of social programs specifically for single mothers. A partial list of programs assisting single motherhood includes:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) commonly known as “food stamps”

  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), another food assistance program

  • Child Care Assistance Program, Head Start and Early Head Start, all daycare assistance programs

  • Section 8 housing assistance

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps single mothers pay their utilities

  • Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), health insurance assistance programs

  • Supplemental Security Income, often called “disability,” but accessible to those without bona fide physical disabilities

  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program, two more food assistance programs

These programs act as a disincentive toward family formation. Benefits are means tested, meaning that if one’s income is low enough, one qualifies. This means that it is advantageous in many cases for couples to remain unmarried so that only one income is counted for the purpose of benefits. Such programs, when coupled with a diminishing stigma against single motherhood, further incentivizes promiscuity and poor mate selection – why not have a child with a man who can’t support it when the welfare state is there to pick up the slack?

The impact of single-parent households is far further reaching than you probably think: In the most extensive study ever done on single parenthood (in permissive, tolerant and liberal Sweden), it was found that children in single-parent households were twice as likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders and addiction. This figure might be conservative, as it only includes hospitalizations. Some other striking statistics about fatherless households include:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides take place in fatherless homes.

  • 90 percent of all homeless youth and runaways are from fatherless homes, which is a whopping 32 times the national average.

  • 85 percent of all children with behavior issues come from fatherless homes, 20 times the national average.

  • 80 percent of rapists with established anger issues come from fatherless homes, 14 times the national average.

  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, nine times the national average.

  • 70 percent of those in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, nine times the national average.

  • 85 percent of all juveniles in prison come from single-parent households, 20 times the national average.

  • 90 percent of adolescent repeat arson offenders are from fatherless homes.

  • Fatherless children are nearly twice as likely to be victims of abuse or neglect.

These striking statistics are a serious indictment of the decline of the nuclear family. If, as is common of behaviors, single parenthood is heritable, we have not yet begun to see a crisis.

The End of Civil Society in the United States

The big takeaway is that in the United States, civil society has declined. While the blame cannot entirely be laid at the feet of big government and big business (individual actors are involved), there is strong evidence to suggest that the crisis in American civil society is driven primarily by the welfare state and government policies favoring deindustrialization, financialization and centralization of the economy.

There is a reinforcing quality about the destruction of civil society. As the size of big government and big business increases, they become more capable of taking greater power. Smaller communities become increasingly reliant upon each, making it harder to resist further growth and greater disempowerment. It’s a vicious downward spiral.

So what’s the solution for a concerned individual or family? It’s not political. Instead, the best one can do to counteract these trends are to become as financially independent as possible, make durable local connections in the community, and learn to think critically in order to insulate oneself from the more pernicious effects of social decay and the power of the state.

Published:7/18/2019 10:51:26 PM
[The Blog] Turmoil fatigue: Politics book sales falling flat

Turning the page on books

The post Turmoil fatigue: Politics book sales falling flat appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:7/18/2019 6:21:10 PM
[Markets] Will The Multi-Polar World Be Backed By Gold?

Authored by Tom Luongo,

It’s not news that China and Russia have been buying gold by the hundreds of tonnes. It’s not news that Russia divested itself of most of its U.S. Treasury holdings last year in response to Donald Trump’s sanctions on Rusal, upsetting the global Aluminum market.

Russia has led the charge on central bank gold buying, having increased its official holdings from 400.3 tonnes in Q1 of 2007 to 2168.3 tonnes as of the end of Q1 2019. That’s a 442% increase in gold reserves.

China, on the other hand, has only in the past couple of years joined Russia’s party of announcing its gold buying on a monthly basis. Previously, China would simply drop a 500-600 tonne bomb on the markets and see what would shake out of it.

Now, few people who follow this stuff believe China’s government only owns 1916.3 tonnes of gold. Estimates range from 4000 to 6000 tonnes. Like Russia, very little of China’s domestic production of gold (404 tonnes in 2018) leaves China and makes its way into the global market.

It is mostly absorbed by the Chinese population via purchases off the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE). And the PBoC itself uses Chinese banks as proxies to buy its gold overseas from the U.K., Singapore and Switzerland.

Russia’s gold buying consumes most, and sometimes all, of Russia’s domestic production (297 tonnes in 2017). The same is true for Kazakhstan (68.4 tonnes) and a few other countries.

It’s easy when looking at these trends to see that something big may be on the horizon, that gold is on the verge of being re-monetized and a major shakeup to the world financial system is imminent.

That the multi-polar world is here. It’s not, but it’s coming.

The boys at The Duran had a fascinating (if a bit forward-looking) video recently where they discuss the situation brewing between the U.S. and China.

The basic thesis is that the U.S. and China are headed for a mostly amicable divorce of their economies, a disentangling as it were. And that that would then allow for the emergence of the so-called multi-polar world that both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are working towards.

On this point I don’t disagree. It’s a strong point Alex Mercouris makes here that the U.S. and China have acknowledged their growing contention in the global economy but that there is no need for a completely antagonistic relationship.

The U.S. doesn’t have to extend the unipolar moment into infinity to ‘win’ this ‘war’ with China. That is globalist thinking, maximalism to the extreme.

The U.S. and China can, strategically, disengage from each other while cultivating different paths for their futures. And this is the essence of the phrase ‘multi-polar.’ If that is Trump’s vision on this that is an improvement over the globalist Davos Crowd perspective so entrenched in Europe, which brooks no dissent from its Borg-like behavior.

It’s neither optimal nor likely but it sets a tone that will shift the future outcomes in the right direction. To do this Trump has to win re-election and be successful in confronting the Swamp via Jeffrey Epstein like I believe he’s doing.

However, and this is the bigger point coming back to gold, I do think Russia and China setting up their part of the multi-polar world based on a gold standard similar to Bretton-Woods is not workable.

There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is that Bretton-Woods never worked in the first place. The discipline of the reserve currency nation, the U.S., was never in observed. We violated the terms of the $35/ounce gold peg immediately.

First, by selling off the greatest hoard of silver ever amassed and then by simply printing the money during the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. It is insane to think that Russia and/or China will for any length of time exhibit any real fiscal discipline that would allow for a Bretton-Woods-style currency regime to work.

This is libertarian critique 101, folks. Just because the U.S. can’t keep its hand out of the cookie jar, doesn’t mean Russia post-Putin will. And the less said about the Chinese shadow banking bubble the better.

Moreover, the U.S. and the EU still have their gold reserves. Even if some or all of it has been lent out to suppress the price at times. I don’t believe that’s been the case since China opened up the Shanghai Gold Exchange and Russia began accumulating in earnest.

That would have put explosive upward pressure on the price of gold as thousands of tonnes would have had to be sourced to settle those positions. Instead, the U.S. and the EU were likely allowed to unwind any short positions over time which allowed years of annual production to flow east.

And this is the fundamental problem of a government-backed gold standard. It will not ever last. Governments create market interventions which have to be paid for via money printing or debt. And both of those things belie the discipline of the gold standard.

There is an infinite gap between the intention of China and Russia to build a multi-polar global financial system between East and West and the re-emergence of a gold-backed currency regime.

Because, for a moment, let’s get real about who owns what gold.

On the West side of the world we have the U.S., EU, BIS, the IMF and the Gulf states.

On the other side we have the central banks in the Russia/China orbit who are currently accumulating gold or are becoming independent actors on the world stage. It’s a bigger list than in the past twenty years, but that list is still small (The BRI Bloc (as defined by me herein) consists of the following countries: Russia, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Malaysia, Serbia and Brazil).

Going through World Gold Council numbers for Q1 2019 we get the following numbers. Just over 7000 tonnes of gold for what I’m calling Eastern BRI Bloc, those countries that are both accumulating gold in their reserves and are important partners in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s impressive that they have added more than 3000 tonnes over the past six-plus years.

Total Belt + Road Bloc Gold Holdings Still Dwarfed by U.S. Reserves.

However, that’s still less than the U.S.’s 8133.5 tonnes let alone the more than 10,000 tonnes that make up the reserves of the European Union countries and doesn’t include the 2814 tonnes owned by the IMF, the 504 tonnes owned by the ECB itself or the 102 tonnes owned by the Bank of International Settlements.

For any discussion of this bloc challenging the reserve status of the U.S. and European systems, There would have to be at least another 6000 tonnes available between China and Russia that are not on their official books to even being to make that argument look realistic.

Let’s use M1 money supply figures for a proxy of what gold backing would look like, just to get a lay of the land.

For all of the talk of the U.S.’s imminent bankruptcy, the gold reserves at current prices make up 9.6% of M1 at current prices ($1415/oz). China’s official gold reserves make up just 1.0% of M1. Even if you believe the upper end of China’s estimated real gold holdings it’s still only 3.3% of M1.

If you count the estimated 16,000 tonnes held privately in China and that was convertible into currency that would still only get China up to 12.2% backing of M1 with gold.

Russia is the closest there is to a gold-backed currency there is. The ruble by that metric (M1) 84.0% backed by Russia’s official gold reserves.

That is an eye-popping number and it tells you that the Russians have very prudently saved over the past fifteen years or so. They have built what we Austrian economists like to call a ‘pool of real savings’ to lever into higher order investments.

Russia is now ready to deploy a significant part of its trade surplus and even some of its pool of real savings to build new and needed infrastructure for Russia. Putin mentioned in his annual 4-hour direct line that he was ready to begin spending some of Russia’s oil revenues, drifting away from neoliberal and monetarist Alexei Kudrin and towards the nationalist/Keynesian Sergei Glazyev.

Given the state of Russia’s finances and a 10+ billion per month trade surplus, this is a no-brainer really. It’s their down-payment on the multi-polar world.

And it marks a specific shift in attitude which will assist China in building out Belt and Road but it will do nothing to allow for a return to any kind of gold standard until China gets its financial house in order.

To sum up, what killed Bretton-Woods was the same thing that killed the British pound post-WWI, a refusal to price gold accurately by the governments printing the money. Britain could have kept the gold standard and more of its empire had it re-valued the pound to reflect the money supply in 1918.

It didn’t and it destroyed the British post-war economy. The same thing is happening now. And the U.S. will either have to allow the world’s assets to plunge by 50-90% or allow the price of gold to rise to reflect the amount of money in circulation.

Given the numbers I just laid out that should give you an idea of just how much higher gold has to go to balance the books of the world. And no one in power, other than the Russians, are prepared for that kind of event.

Because until that happens there is no incentive for gold to circulate as money, or the discipline of the gold standard to be observed.

What China is doing, like Russia and the rest of the BRI Bloc, is they are building gold reserves to build the confidence of the world for the day when trust in the Western system fails. By having significant gold ‘backing’ but without convertibility those countries today adding to their rainy day funds will be the places capital will flow towards to avoid the whirlwind.

That is when the multi-polar world can be inaugurated.

*  *  *

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Published:7/16/2019 5:09:17 PM
[Markets] Mainstream Media Hide Skripal's Connections To Russiagate-Trump Case

Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

First of all, everyone should read this:  “The 10 Worst, Most Embarrassing US Media Failures on the Trump-Russia Story”. It is important background for understanding what follows, because the following helps to explain what is displayed in that brilliant prior article.

News has slowly been getting out that the British Government’s account of the poisoning of the Skripals is a fabrication which had been done in order to escalate hostilities against Russia, and that when information from Democratic Party and Clinton campaign computers subsequently became either leaked or hacked to Wikileaks, the Democratic National Committee hired, in order to investigate that, British contractors who were also involved in the Skripal fraud, and Skripal himself might have been a crucial part of the Russiagate-Trump operation. Russiagate — the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government — resulted from this DNC-UK team. There was collusion, but it was between the US Government (then under Obama) and the UK Government (under Cameron and then May), directed against Trump, and not actually between candidate Trump and the Russian Government, directed against Clinton. The present report summarizes the gradual making-public of this actual history.

Developing that case about the real collusion has been and is a remarkably slow process, because the evidence in the real case requires extensive expertise in order to understand and interpret correctly the relationships between the people who were involved in it. So: the following summary encapsulates those relationships; and, at all points, it will link directly to the reports by the courageous investigative journalists who have participated in making public parts of what is, effectively, a key component of the history of the US Obama Administration’s collusion with the UK Government in order to cripple — and having the aim to overthrow — Trump’s US Government, in the event that Trump would win the 2016 US Presidential contest, as he did. (Perhaps the main reason for this manufactured case against Trump was that Trump had publicly criticised NATO, and that doing this, by any US Presidential candidate who has a real chance of winning his or her Party’s nomination, is prohibited by the Deep State — the rulers of both Parties, and of both US and UK.)

Throughout this peeling-off (thus far) of the layers of this onion that’s behind both the Skripal fraud and the Russiagate fraud, the case became progressively stronger that the US and UK Governments were actually colluding together, in order to prevent any possibility that the Cold War would end on the US-and-allied side, as it had decades earlier ended only on Russia’s side in 1991. All of this has been done so to keep in place the myththat when Russia ended the Cold War on its side in 1991, the US and its allies likewise ended it on their side, instead of secretly proceeded forward on their side of the Cold War (as they have done), their ultimate aim being to gradually isolate and then take control of Russia’s Government, and thereby emerge with incontestable control over the entire planet, the first and only globally all-encompassing empire, a dictatorial government of the entire world — any imperialistic regime’s dream — an unchallengeable rule over everyone. Both the Skripal set-up and the Russiagate-Trump scam (and the cover-ups of both) were parts of that broader international operation.

*  *  *

PEELING THE ONION

Layer 1:

On 8 May 2018, David Allan Miller of the University of Bath in England headlined at Spinwatch, “Revealed: rebranded D-Notice committee issued two notices over Skripal affair”, and he posted, and then commented upon, a leaked email that the UK’s Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) office had distributed to all of UK’s major news-media, which started:

From: DSMA Secretary <secretary@dsma.uk>

Date: 7 March 2018

Subject: URGENT FOR ALL EDITORS – DEFENCE AND SECURITY MEDIA ADVISORY (DSMA) NOTICE

To: DSMA Secretary <secretary@dsma.uk>

Private and Confidential: Not for Publication, Broadcast or for use on Social Media

TO ALL EDITORS

The issue surrounding the identity of a former MI6 informer, Sergei Skripal …

You can see the full notice here. It instructs all of the major news-media to hide “the identifies [identities] of intelligence agency personnel associated with Sergei Skripal.” This, of course, would include the name of his MI6 handler, Skripal’s MI6 boss.

David Miller then went on to summarize the evidence:

On the evening of 6 March [2018] a Russian opposition news outlet Meduza, styling itself ‘Russia’s free press in exile’, published a long piece on Skripal in English. [Dr. Miller didn’t link to it, but it is dated “March 6, 2018” and opens “On March 4, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate was hospitalized in critical condition in Salisbury, England,” and that Meduza article can be seen here.] Citing a variety of online sources including in Russian, some from over a decade old, identifying Pablo Miller as the MI6 agent inside the Estonian embassy who had recruited Sergei Skripal. By the next afternoon, the notice [on 7 March] was issued to the mainstream media. The Telegraph was the first mainstream outlet to discuss – in discreet and decorous terminology – the connection between Skripal and a ‘security consultant’ who is ‘understood to have known him for some time’ and ‘is also based in Salisbury’. … The Telegraph reported that the ‘consultant’ worked at the same company (Orbis Business Intelligence) that compiled the controversial dossier on Donald Trump and Russia – paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Convention. The consultant was, as we now know, Pablo Miller, who had ‘known’ Skripal in the specific sense that he was his MI6 handler. Some, such as Guardian journalist Luke Harding, have suggested that Miller never worked for Orbis, but this seems to be false. …

The notice helps to encourage the climate of anti-Russian hysteria implying that investigative reporting on this matter that might discuss British intelligence is in effect Russian propaganda. This is a nice illustration of David Leigh’s phrase from nearly 40 years ago: ‘the obverse of the secrecy coin is always propaganda’.

It is a standing rebuke to the notion that journalism should question power, that 15 senior media people should agree to sit on this censorship committee. As well as the BBC, ITV, ITN and Murdoch’s Sky News, representing broadcasters, there are a variety of representatives from the broadsheet and tabloid press, regional and Scottish newspapers and magazines and publishing – including two News UK and Harper Collins, (both owned by Murdoch) as well as Trinity Mirror, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. On the government side of the committee are the chair from the MoD and four intelligence connected representatives from the MoD (Dominic Wilson, Director General Security Policy), Foreign Office (Lewis Neal, Director for National Security), Home Office (Graeme Biggar, unspecified post in the OSCT) and Cabinet Office (Paddy McGuinness, Deputy National Security Adviser for Security, Intelligence, and Resilience).

The DSMA [Defence and Security Media Advisory] committee likes to cultivate the impression that it is a rather uninteresting committee that is, as a former vice chair of the committee (a journalist) put it, ‘is emphatically not censorship… but voluntary, responsible media restraint’. Then working at Sky News, that vice chair, Simon Bucks, is now CEO at the Services Sound and Vision Corporation, the broadcasting service which says it is ‘championing the Armed Forces’. Bucks also wrote [in the Guardianthat the DSMA committee is ‘the most mythologised and misunderstood institution in British media. … ‘Slapping a D-notice’ on something the establishment wanted suppressed has been the stuff of thrillers, spy stories and conspiracy theories for more than a century.”

This is a typical deception used regularly by defenders of the British system of censorship.

Layer 2:

This comes from Ludwig De Braeckeleer: “Salisbury Incident — UK Media silenced by D-Notices Over Skripal Affair” Posted on May 10, 2018 [two days after David Miller’s article, and adding context to it]

Quick Analysis

In the aftermath of the Skripal incident, the UK government moved quickly to ‘protect’ the identity of Sergei Skripal as well as the identity of his former MI6 handler Pablo Miller who happens to live near Salisbury.

On March 7, the first D-Notice was issued, but their names had already been revealed.

At the same time, a few journalists planted false information regarding Pablo Miller and Orbis, the private Intel company that became famous because of the infamous dossier Chris Steele compiled on Trump’s Russiagate.

On March 8, Gordon Corera tweeted that his sources were certain that no link exists between Skripal and Orbis or Chris Steele.

On the same day, Luke Harding suggested that Miller never worked for Orbis, which is obviously untrue. Pablo Miller had listed his employment by Orbis Business Intelligence on his LinkedIn profile.

So, this much is certain. The UK government has quickly moved to black out the identity of Pablo Miller and his connections to both Sergei Skripal and Orbis.

In 2017, a D-Notice was already issued against British journalists revealing the identity of the Trump’s Dossier author (Chris Steele).

Multiple British outlets ignored this advice and revealed his name anyway, including BBC News, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

The use of a D-Notice is not a rare event. But it is not used very frequently either.

I believe that a couple of such notices have been issued annually on average in the UK over the last ten years. And we KNOW that at least three of these notices were issued in connection with the Skripal and Orbis Affair(s?). Stay tuned!

REFERENCES

Revealed: rebranded D-Notice committee issued two notices over Skripal affair — SpinWatch

The DSMA notices can be found here:

DSMA notice 7 March 2018

DSMA notice 14 March 2018

Layer 3

On 19 March 2018, the anonymous “Moon of Alabama” blogger headlined “No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury” and was perhaps the first person to put it all together:

Is this third person the MI6 agent Pablo Miller who in 1995 recruited Skripal as British double agent. Miller who was also involved in handling the MI6 assets Boris Berezovski and Alexander Litvinenko. Pablo Miller who lives close to Sergej Skripal in Salisbury and is considered to be his friend? The same Pablo Miller who worked with former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s Orbis Business Intelligence which created the ‘dirty dossier’ about Donald Trump? How deep were the Skripals involved in making up the fake stories in the anti-Trump dossier for which the Clinton campaign paid more than $168,000. Did the Skripals threaten to talk about the issue? Is that why the incident [the poisoning] happened?

Layer 4

On 5 July 2019, Aaron Maté issued his enormous study, “CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims”, which points out that:

There is also reason to question CrowdStrike’s impartiality. Its co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, the preeminent Washington think tank [NATO’s PR agency, actually] that aggressively promotes a hawkish posture towards Russia. CrowdStrike executive Shawn Henry, who led the forensics team that ultimately blamed Russia for the DNC breach, previously served as assistant director at the FBI under Mueller.

And CrowdStrike was hired to perform the analysis of the DNC servers by Perkins Coie – the law firm that also was responsible for contracting Fusion GPS, the Washington, D.C.-based opposition research firm that produced the now discredited Steele dossier alleging salacious misconduct by Trump in Russia and his susceptibility to blackmail.

Layer 5

On 31 August 2017, Scott Ritter issued his “DUMBSTRUCK: a HomeFront Intelligence Report on how America was conned about the DNC hack”, which described how

the DNC prohibited the US Government from having access to the evidence, and instead went directly to the major ‘news’-media in order to (mis)inform the public what had happened:

At first the DNC tried to get the FBI to make the attribution call, figuring that it would garner more attention coming from the US government. But when the FBI wanted full access to the DNC server so that it could conduct a full forensic investigation, the DNC balked. Instead, after meeting with Alperovitch and Henry, the DNC and CrowdStrike devised a strategy to take the case to the public themselves. Alperovitch prepared a formal technical report that singled out the Russians for attribution. When it was ready, the DNC invited in a reporter from the Washington Post named Ellen Nakashima, who was given exclusive access to senior DNC and CrowdStrike personnel for an above-the-fold, front-page article. … The Post article, published on the morning of June 14, 2016, went viral, with nearly every major media outlet.

Layer 6

On 11 June 2019, Matt Kennard posted a long string of tweets: https://twitter.com/DCKennard/status/1138493594728304640

Matt Kennard [abbreviated here]

@DCKennard

Guardian’s deputy editor @paul__johnson joined state censorship D-Notice committee (run by MOD) after Snowden revelations in sop to British spooks. In board minutes, they thank him for being “instrumental in re-establishing links” between UK mil/intel and Guardian. Explains a lot

10:09 AM – 11 Jun 2019

Matt Kennard

@DCKennard

Who was @carolecadwalla’s “highly placed contact with links to US intelligence” who fed her clear disinformation? (Mueller report makes clear Podesta/DNC leaks transmitted digitally). Since Snowden, intel agencies have used Guardian/Obs to launder their disinformation operations.

Matt Kennard

@DCKennard

Guardian dep ed @paul__johnson joins D-Notice comm for 1st meeting at MOD in 2014. Air Vice-Marshal Vallance reports relationship w/ Guardian has “continued to strengthen”. Alongside Air Commodore Adams and Brigadier Dodds he’s now in “regular dialogues” w/ “Guardian journalists”

12 Jun 2019 

CONCLUSION

So: not only was it “Pablo Miller as the MI6 agent inside the Estonian embassy who had recruited Sergei Skripal,” but “In the aftermath of the Skripal incident, the UK government moved quickly to ‘protect’ the identity of Sergei Skripal as well as the identity of his former MI6 handler Pablo Miller who happens to live near Salisbury.” MI6 was covering its tracks. And, “At the same time, a few journalists planted false information regarding Pablo Miller and Orbis, the private Intel company that became famous because of the infamous dossier Chris Steele compiled on Trump’s Russiagate.” And, “Pablo Miller had listed his employment by Orbis Business Intelligence.” And, “Orbis Business Intelligence … compiled the controversial [MI6 Christopher Steeledossier on Donald Trump and Russia – paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Convention [Democratic National Committee]. The consultant was, as we now know, Pablo Miller, who had ‘known’ Skripal in the specific sense that he was his MI6 handler.” And, “CrowdStrike was hired to perform the analysis of the DNC servers by Perkins Coie – the law firm that also was responsible for contracting Fusion GPS, the Washington, D.C.-based opposition research firm that produced the now discredited Steele dossier alleging salacious misconduct by Trump in Russia and his susceptibility to blackmail.” And, “At first the DNC tried to get the FBI to make the attribution call, figuring that it would garner more attention coming from the US government. But when the FBI wanted full access to the DNC server so that it could conduct a full forensic investigation, the DNC balked. Instead, after meeting with Alperovitch and Henry, the DNC and CrowdStrike devised a strategy to take the case to the public themselves.” And, “Since Snowden, intel agencies have used Guardian/Obs to launder their disinformation operations.”

Masterful. The Obama-Clinton DNC and MI6, and their hired private contractors, worked together to frame Russia for both the Skripal poisonings and the Trump victory.

And yet, key questions remain unanswered: “How deep were the Skripals involved in making up the fake stories in the anti-Trump dossier for which the Clinton campaign paid more than $168,000. Did the Skripals threaten to talk about the issue? Is that why the incident [their poisoning] happened?” There is the possibility that the Skripals’ poisoning was an inside job, by a contractor, for the UK and/or US Governments.

Not to mention other questions: Why are the Skripals still prohibited from speaking to the press and from answering questions in a court? After all, Boris Johnson, who is likely soon to be UK’s Prime Minister, lied, and repeatedly, in order to allege that UK’s Porton Down intelligence lab had identified Russia as the source of the poison: “Asked how the British government could be so sure Russia was behind the attack, Johnson deferred to ‘the people from Porton Down,’ who he said were ‘absolutely categorical.’” And here’s how corrupt he is.

But the historical background of this entire matter — both Skripal and Trump-Russiagate — is obvious: MI6 is Britain’s equivalent to America’s CIA. That was Obama’s CIA. This was entirely a MI6-CIA disinformation campaign, which was an extension from Obama’s (and the UK Government’s) participation in US President G.H.W. Bush’s decision, on 24 February 1990, to continue the Cold War until Russia becomes swept up in, controlled by the USAnd Britain’s Guardian served the Deep State as the core conduit for disinformation to the public on this particular operation (Russiagate-Trump — Obama’s operation to make irreversible Obama’s public restoration (most obvious in Ukraine) of the Russia-is-America’s-top-enemy meme), for and on behalf of the Deep State, so as to continue G.H.W. Bush’s Cold War, inside the US — never to reverse it, until ‘victory’ is achieved.

The “special relationship” between the US and UK (CIA and MI6) is obviously to assist each other in deceiving the other’s public. (Not only did MI6 participate in deceiving UK’s public to fear and despise Putin, but it was crucial in deceiving the US public that Trump was Putin’s stooge.)

On 21 March 2016, the Washington Post had headlined “Trump questions need for NATO, outlines noninterventionist foreign policy” and reported:

“I do think it’s a different world today, and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” Trump said. “I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting, probably, on a bubble. And it’s a bubble that if it breaks, it’s going to be very nasty. I just think we have to rebuild our country.”

He added: “I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’re blown up. We build another one, we get blown up. We rebuild it three times and yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn. We have no money for education because we can’t build in our own country. At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ So, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”

Five days later, the New York Times bannered “Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views”and reported his saying, “NATO is obsolete” because it “was set up to talk about the Soviet Union. Now of course the Soviet Union doesn’t exist now.” How would the controlling owners of corporations such as Lockheed Martin — and extractive international US corporations such as ExxonMobil — feel about that? NATO has produced a significant portion of Lockheed’s sales, and of Exxon’s access to other nations’ natural resources. That sort of thing — enforcement and extension of empire — is NATO’s real purpose. And it didn’t end when the USSR’s communism, and Warsaw Pact, did in 1991.

The Skripal poisonings had occurred earlier that same month, March 2016. And the DNC went to the very same UK operators that UK did in order to frame Russia for Skripal’s poisoning — but now to place that Russian frame around Trump’s face. All of this was part of the US empire’s decision, which had been made on 24 February 1990, to conquer Russia.

In the timeline of events leading up to the DNC’s hiring of its investigators, we also have this, in 2016,

29 April: The DNC discovers the penetration of its servers by unknown hackers. An emergency meeting is calledbetween Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (DNC Chief Executive), Amy Dacey (DNC Technology Director), Andrew Brown, and Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Perkins Coie. Sussmann is a former federal prosecutor for the DOJ whose expertise is computer crime. …

4 May: Five days after first discovering the server penetration at the DNC, Michael Sussmann – of Perkins Coie – finally calls CrowdStrike to arrange for analysis of the problem.

In other words: Sussman wanted to privatize the ‘investigation’ instead of to hand to the FBI control over it, which would have given the FBI subpoena-power to require the DNC to provide to the FBI access to their computers — the actual evidence which was in their posession on their end of the case. Even the Special Counsel, Robwrt Miller, had no access to that crucial evidence.

Furthermore, Aaron Maté’s painstakingly thorough analysis of the entire Mueller Report, on July 5th, showed “CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims”; and, so, even regarding the allegations that Mueller makes against Russia (not merely regarding whether Trump was colluding with Russia), Mueller’s Report was trash — extremely unreliable and untrustworthy. Mueller has a long history as being a Deep State agent.

And through all of this has been the US and UK Governments’ imprisoning-without-trial Julian Assange — for many years including the part that was spent at the Ecuadorean Embassy — and never even negotiating with Assange for him to answer questions under oath such as “Did that information come to you physically via a thumb-drive or instead purely by electronic transmission?” “Did Craig Murray bring it to You?” They’d rather kill Assange or keep him incommunicado in prison for life, than to do that. Why? And Trump, himself, is part of this, no less than Obama was. Obviously, both Presidents serve the same Deep State (even though they serve different billionaires in it).

This, at least, is a credible scenario. There is no evidence for the PR’d one, regarding either Skripal or Russiagate-Trump. There are accusations, but no case, for those.

*  *  *

NOTE: In the current hyper-partisan American political climate, when a vast majority of the supporters of each of the two Parties hates the opposite Party so much as to be closed-minded - blinded to the reality of their ownParty’s evilness, and to its incessant lying and cover-ups - I should make clear that there is nothing in this article that is, at all, supportive toward either Party. My personal view is that, ever since at least 1981, only Deep State controlled people have lived in the US White House and controlled Congress. As a group, they have perpetrated incalculable harm (such as this) to the entire world. Their only masters have been America’s billionaires. America certainly is a dictatorship, no democracy — it represents only its hundreds of billionaires and their millions of agents, no public at all. The two Parties represent the two factions into which America’s aristocracy have divided themselves. Neither represents the public. Each represents only a faction of America’s billionaires. A democracy cannot consist merely of contending factions of the aristocracy. That’s not a democracy. It’s like almost all other dictatorships throughout history. But the vast majority of Americans refuse even to consider this scientifically proven fact, that America is a dictatorship, not a democracy. For example: recently, a Democratic Party propaganda site, the Daily Beast, headlined “Mueller Missed the Crime: Trump’s Campaign Coordinated With Russia”, and the law-professor who wrote it ignored the much deeper criticisms that Maté’s article leveled against the Mueller Report. A prominent Democratic Party propaganda site continues, even now, “The Moscow Project” about “Trump’s collusion with Russia.” Closed-minded people are simply closed-minded — and that’s the vast majority. They’re open only to ‘information’ that confirms their prejudices. This widespread closed-mindedness is the Deep State’s biggest protector. The manufacture of consent is based upon it. Being open-minded doesn’t mean being gullible — a fool, manipulable. Being closed-minded does. Most people aren’t even aware of that basic epistemological-psychological fact. It’s the reason why both among Democrats and among Republicans, the vast majority still trust their Party, even after all of the blatant and consistent lying of the US Government at least since 9/11. Any Government with a track-record like this, warrants zero trust, and gets that from any intelligent citizen.

Published:7/16/2019 1:04:18 AM
[Music] Musical notes (Scott Johnson) I am crazy about American popular music. I admire the songwriters, the performers, the musicians, the producers, the historians and even (in the case of Norman Granz) the managers. In just the past year, for example, I have paid tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (and Granz), Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, Ann Hampton Callaway, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Lamott, Philip Furia (for his books Published:7/15/2019 6:04:26 AM
[Markets] The Four Dimensions Of The Fake Money Order

Authored by EconomicPrism's MN Gordon, annotated by Acting-Man's Pater Tenebrarum,

A Good Story with Minor Imperfections

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there, is a quote that’s oft misattributed to Lewis Carrol. The fact that there is ambiguity about who is behind this quote on ambiguity seems fitting. For our purposes today, the spirit of the quote is what we are after. We think it may help elucidate the strange and confusing world of fake money in which we all travel.

Consumer price index, y/y rate of change – the Fed is not satisfied with the speed at which monetary debasement raises everybody’s cost of living lately. And no, they don’t think said speed should be lowered. [PT]

For example, the monetary policy outlook immediately following last month’s FOMC meeting was as clear as a flawless (FL grade) diamond. The principal message, if you recall, was that inflation was muted and the Fed, after suffering an overt beating from President Trump, would soon be shaving basis points off the federal funds rate. You could darn near take it to the bank.

Wall Street took the news and acted upon it with conviction.  Investors piled into stocks and bonds without pausing to take a closer look for imperfections.  Why worry when fortune favors the bold?

From June 19 through Wednesday July 3, everything held up according to plan.  The S&P 500 rallied 2.5 percent to close at a new all-time high of 2,995. The yield on the 10-Year Treasury note, over this period, dropped 13 basis points, as mindless buyers positioned to front run the Fed.

But then, in the form of Friday’s job’s report, several feathers of imperfection were identified.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 224,000 jobs in June. This far exceeded the consensus estimates of 160,000 new jobs.  As this week began, doubt and hesitation crept into the market.  What to make of it?

Powell Stays on Point

To begin, in today’s fake money world, clear thinking and honest appraisal are handicaps for investors.  What is really important is the inverse relationship between the economy and the stock market.  Good economic reports are bad for stocks.  Conversely, bad economic reports are good for stocks.

S&P 500 Index performance vs. US macroeconomic data surprises – this is the biggest disconnect ever observed. [PT]

According to the prevailing logic, with unemployment below 4 percent, real GDP growth at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, and stocks at all-time highs, the Fed shouldn’t be cutting rates.  Instead, it should be raising rates.  But if the Fed raises rates, there will be less cheap credit to speculate on stocks with.  Therefore, stocks will go down.

So how can the Fed possibly cut rates later this month when the economy’s headline numbers appear so doggone good?  This question, and many others, greeted Fed Chairman Jay Powell this week during his two-day semiannual testimony on monetary policy to the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee.

Powell – that is, the post pivot dovish Powell – stayed on point. Specifically, he did what he needed to do to propel stocks to what Irving Fisher once called a “permanently high plateau.”  He told Chairman Crapo and other committee members that the economy is soft, but not too soft.  And that the Fed will use its policy tools to, somehow, boost the economy.

Of course, Wall Street was tickled pink.  First, the S&P 500 hit a new all-time high over 3,000.  Then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average eclipsed 27,000 for the first time ever. These milestones were toppled in such rapid succession that Art Cashin hardly had a chance to change hats.

Cashin did find time to don an SPX 3,000 hat – coincident with Powell’s first day of testimony. Powell reassured everyone that the rate cut was still on, regardless of the stronger than expected payrolls report. [PT]

The Four Dimensions of the Fake Money Order

The stock market is no longer about pricing anticipated future earnings or business profits.  It is merely about front running the Fed’s applications of cheap credit. That is why weak economic reports, which provide cover for more monetary stimulus, are bullish.

Fake money has taken us to this strange and confusing place.  By fake money, we mean legal tender that is conjured at will by central planners. Fake money includes the dollar, euro, yen, yuan, pound, peso, loonie, toonie, and practically all other world currencies.

Remember, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.  Alas, the fake money order has taken us to the four dimensions of debasement, distortion, disfiguration, and destruction. How each dimension progresses to the next is somewhat ambiguous.  Though it generally advances as follows…

The dollar is debased through centrally planned and coordinated applications of monetary and fiscal stimulus. These stimulus applications distort financial markets to where the S&P 500 is at 3,000, the DJIA is at 27,000, there is $13 trillion in subzero yielding debt, and shacks sell for a million bucks.

Going “parabolic” – in a stunning display of collective insanity, the amount of outstanding government debt with negative yields to maturity hits a new record high of $13 trillion in what appears to be an unseemly hurry. Buying debt securities with a negative yield is a trade that relies  100% on the greater fool theory to be profitable. So far there is evidently no shortage of greater fools, so the theory works – for now. Our wild guess is that this absurdity is not destined for a happy end. [PT]

They disfigure the economy through mass applications of concrete to the landscape, unwarranted building booms, glass skyscrapers with polished concrete floors and urban industrial pendant lighting, demolition of cars that aren’t really clunkers, and other disfigurements undertaken to support a cheap credit induced false demand.

Lastly, is the fourth dimension of destruction. This is when the books are reckoned via hyperinflation, debt deflation, wide-ranging bankruptcy, or any combination thereof.

The fourth dimension is also when government’s become extremely intolerable as they try anything and everything to hold onto their power. This week, no doubt, advanced us further toward this unpleasant end.

Published:7/13/2019 1:45:43 PM
[] The Left, Books and Culture [KT] Are today's progressives actually totalitarians? A piece worth reading, from 2014 Happy Saturday! I am seldom around to comment on the Book Thread on Sundays, but I still love it. Books are important. It's nice to see some discussion... Published:7/13/2019 10:20:30 AM
[Markets] Michael Hudson: De-Dollarizing The American Financial Empire

Via GunsandButter.org,

Economist Michael Hudson continues his discussion of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire with a focus on US monetary imperialism; President Trump’s demand for lower interest rates undercuts America’s requirement for foreign investment to fund its domestic and balance of payments deficit, increases the carry trade and turns IMF and World Bank policies on the US; analysis of US economic domination of the world from its position as the world’s largest creditor post-WWI; analysis of US economic domination of the world from its position as the world’s largest debtor after the 1971 close of America’s gold window; emergence of the dollar-debt standard; how war has bankrupted the US; the difference between imperialism and super imperialism; US bribes foreign governments; China’s banking system; China and Russia stockpile gold as the world breaks out of dollar domination.

*  *  *

I’m Bonnie Faulkner.  Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street Financial Analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His most recent books include, And Forgive Them Their Debts … Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee YearKilling the Host:  How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy; and J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception. We return again today to a discussion of Dr. Hudson’s seminal 1972 book, Super Imperialism:  The Economic Strategy of American Empire, a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank.  We discuss how the United States has dominated the world economically both as the world’s largest creditor, and then later as the world’s largest debtor, and take a look at the coming demise of dollar domination.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Michael Hudson, welcome back.

Michael Hudson:  It’s good to be back, Bonnie.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Why is President Trump insisting that the Federal Reserve lower interest rates? I thought they were already extremely low. And if they did go lower, what effect would this have?

Michael Hudson:  Interest rates are historically low, and they have been kept low in order to try to keep providing cheap money for speculators to buy stocks and bonds to make arbitrage gains. Speculators can borrow at a low rate of interest to buy a stock yielding dividends (and also making capital gains) at a higher rate of return, or by buying a bond such as corporate junk bonds that pay higher interest rates, and keep the difference. In short, low interest rates are a form of financial engineering.

Trump wants interest rates to be low in order to inflate the housing market and the stock market even more, as if that is an index of the real economy, not just the financial sector that is wrapped around the economy of production and consumption. Beyond this domestic concern, Trump imagines that if you keep interest rates lower than those of Europe, the dollar’s exchange rate will decline. He thinks that this will make U.S. exports more competitive with foreign products.

Trump is criticizing the Federal Reserve for not keeping interest rates even lower than those of Europe. He he thinks that if interest rates are low, there will be an outflow of capital from this country to buy foreign stocks and bonds that pay a higher interest rate. This financial outflow will lower the dollar’s exchange rate. He believes that this will increase the chance of rebuilding America’s manufacturing exports.

This is the great neoliberal miscalculation. It also is the basis for IMF models.

How low interest rates lower the dollar’s exchange rate, raising import prices

Trump’s guiding idea is that lowering the dollar’s value will lower the cost of labor to employers. That’s what happens when a currency is devalued. Depreciation doesn’t lower costs that have a common worldwide price. There’s a common price for oil in the world, a common price of raw materials, and pretty much a common price for capital and credit. So the main thing that’s devalued when you push a currency down is the price of labor and its working conditions.

Workers are squeezed when a currency’s exchange rate falls, because they have to pay more for goods they import. If the dollar goes down against the Chinese yen or European currency, Chinese imports are going to cost more in dollars. So will European imports. That is the logic behind “beggar my neighbor” devaluations.

How much more foreign imports will cost depends on how far the dollar goes down. But even if it plunges by 50 percent, even if the dollar were to become a junk currency like the Argentinian or other Latin American currencies, that cannot really increase American manufacturing exports, because not much American labor works in factories anymore. Workers drive cabs and work in the service industry or for medical insurance companies. Even if you give American workers in manufacturing companies all their clothing and food for nothing, they still can’t compete with foreign countries, because their housing costs are so high, their medical insurance is so high and their taxes are so high that they’re priced out of world markets. So it won’t help much if the dollar goes down by 1 percent, 10 percent or even 20 percent. If you don’t have factories going and if you don’t have a transportation system, a power supply, and if our public utilities and infrastructure are being run down, there’s nothing that currency manipulation can do to enable America to quickly rebuild its manufacturing export industries.

American parent companies have already moved their factories abroad. They have given up on America. As long as Trump or his successors refrain from changing that system – as long as he gives tax advantages for companies to move abroad – there’s nothing he can do that will restore industry here. But he’s picked up International Monetary Fund’s junk economics, the neoliberal patter talk that it’s given to Latin America pretending that if a country just lowers its exchange rate more, it will be able to lower its wages and living standards, paying labor less in hard-currency terms until at some point, when its poverty and austerity get deep enough, it will become more competitive.

That hasn’t worked for fifty years in Latin America. It hasn’t worked for other countries either, and it never worked in the United States. The 19th-century American School of Political Economy developed the Economy of High Wages doctrine. (I review this in my book on America’s Protectionist Takeoff: 1815-1914.) They recognized that if you pay labor more, it’s more productive, it can afford a better education and it works better. That’s why high-wage labor can undersell low-wage “pauper” labor. Trump is therefore a century behind the times in picking up the IMF austerity idea that you can just devalue the currency and reduce labor’s wages and living standards in international terms to make the economy more profitable and somehow “work your way out of debt.”

What currency depreciation does do when the dollar is devalued is to enable Wall Street firms to borrow 1% and to buy European currencies and bonds yielding 3 percent or 4 percent or 5 percent, or stocks yielding even more. The guiding idea is to do what Japan did in 1990: have very low interest rates to increase what’s called the carry trade.  The carry trade is borrowing at a low interest rate and buying bonds yielding a higher rate, making an arbitrage gain on the interest-rate differential. So Trump is creating an arbitrage opportunity for Wall Street investors. He pretends that this is pro-labor and can rebuild manufacturing. But it only helps hollow out the U.S. economy, sending money to other countries to build themup instead of investing in ourselves. So the effect of what Trump’s doing is the opposite of what he says he’s doing.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Exactly. What is the point of driving investment into foreign countries, away from the United States?

Michael Hudson:  If you’re an investor, you can make more money by dismantling the U.S. economy. You can borrow at 1 percent and buy a bond or a stock that yields 3 or 4 percent. That’s called arbitrage. It’s a financial free lunch. The effect of this free lunch, as you say, is to build up foreign economies or at least their financial markets while undercutting your own. Finance is cosmopolitan, not patriotic. It doesn’t really care where it makes money. Finance goes wherever the rate of return is highest. That’s the dynamic that has been de-industrializing the United States over the past forty years.

Bonnie Faulkner:  From what you’re saying, it sounds like Donald Trump’s policies are leading to doing to the United States what the IMF and World Bank have traditionally done to foreign economies.

Michael Hudson:  That’s what happens when you devalue. The financial sector will see that interest rates are going down, so the dollar’s exchange rate also will decline. Investors will move their money (or will borrow) into euros, gold or Japanese yen or Swiss francs whose exchange rate is expected to rise. So you’re offering a financial arbitrage and capital gain for investors who speculate in foreign currencies. You’re also hollowing out the economy here, and squeezing real wage levels and living standards. 

Why devaluation will not help re-industrialize the U.S. economy

Bonnie Faulkner:  Do you think that Donald Trump understands what he’s doing?

Michael Hudson:  I don’t think he understands. I think he has an oversimplified view of how the world works. He thinks that if we devalue the dollar, we can undersell China and Europe. But you can only undersell them if you have car-making factories available. If you don’t have a factory, you’re not going to be able to undersell foreign carmakers no matter how low the dollar goes. And if you don’t have a set of computer manufacturing factories and local suppliers already in the United States, you’re not going to have production capacity able to undersell China. Most of all, you need public infrastructure and affordable housing, education and health care. So Trump’s view is a fantasy. It’s like saying, “If we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs.” It leaves the causes of America’s de-industrialization out of account.

If we had unemployed car makers, computer makers and other manufacturers here – factories that were idle in an economy that was pretty competitive – then devaluation might make some sense. But Americans are not just a bit uncompetitive. The housing costs in America are so high, the medical and health-insurance costs, the taxes and wage withholding on labor and prices for basic infrastructure that there’s no way that we can compete with foreign countries simply by currency manipulation.

Since 1980 the U.S. economy has been made very high-cost. Yet there also has been a huge squeeze on labor, by raising the prices it has to pay for basic needs. Even if wages go up, people can’t afford to live as well as they did thirty years ago. A radical restructuring is needed in order to restore a full-employment industrial economy. You need de-privatization, you have to break up monopolies, you need the kind of economy and economic reform that America had under Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. I don’t see that happening.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Do you think that Donald Trump was installed as U.S. president to oversee the bankruptcy of the United States and dismantling the U.S. Empire?

Michael Hudson:  Nobody installed him; he installed himself. I don’t think most people expected him to win. If you look at the odds that professional bookies and oddsmakers gave from the time he announced his candidacy, most people thought that sleepy Jeb Bush would get the nomination, and that Bush then would lose to Hillary. So there were indeed attempts an attempt to install Hillary or Bush. But nobody tried to install Trump. He made an end run around them, by straight talk, humor and celebrityhood.

He didn’t have advisors that he would listen to, because he’s always been a one-man show. And he doesn’t really know what he’s doing economically. He knows how to cheat people, victimize suppliers, and how to make money in real estate simply by not paying suppliers, and by borrowing from banks and not paying them. But he has no idea that you can’t run an economy this way. Being a real estate mafioso isn’t the same thing as running a whole economy. Trump has no idea and I don’t think anyone knows how to control him, except maybe Fox News.

Wall Street vs. the “real” economy: Which turns out to be more real?

Bonnie Faulkner:  What is going on with the ruling class in the United States? Does anybody in its ranks know how to run an economy?

Michael Hudson:  The problem is that running an economy to help the people and raise living standards, and even to lower the cost of living and doing business, means not running it to help Wall Street. If someone knows how to run an economy, the financial sector wants to keep them out of any public office. High finance is short-term, not long-term. It plays the hit-and-run game, not the much harder task of creating a framework for tangible economic growth.

You can do one of two things:  You can help labor or you can help Wall Street. If running the economy means helping labor and improving living standards by giving better medical care, this is going to be at the expense of the financial sector and short-term corporate profits. So the last thing you want to do is have somebody run the economy for its own prosperity instead of for Wall Street’s purpose.

At issue is who’s going to do the planning. Will it be elected public officials in the government, or Wall Street? Wall Street’s public relations office is the University of Chicago. It claims that a free market is one where rich Wall Street investors and the financial class run an economy. But if you let people vote and democratically elect governments to regulate, that’s called “interference” in a free market. This is the fight that Trump has against China.  He wants to tell it to let the banks run China and have a free market. He says that China has grown rich over the last fifty years by unfair means, with government help and public enterprise. In effect, he wants Chinese to be as threatened and insecure as American workers. They should get rid of their public transportation. They should get rid of their subsidies. They should let a lot of their companies go bankrupt so that Americans can buy them. They should have the same kind of free market that has wrecked the US economy.

China doesn’t want that kind of a free market, of course.  It does have a market economy. It is actually much like the United States was in its 19th-century industrial takeoff, with strong government subsidy.

U.S. changing monetary strategy, from payments-surplus to deficit status

Bonnie Faulkner:  In your seminal work from 1972, Super Imperialism:  The Economic Strategy of American Empire, you write: “Whereas US domination of the world economy stemmed from 1920 through 1960 from its creditor position, its control since the 1960s has stemmed from is debtor position. Not only have the tables been turned, but US diplomats have found that their leverage as the world’s major debtor economy is fully as strong as that which formerly had reflected its net creditor position.” This sounds counter-intuitive. Could you break it down? Let’s start with 1920 through 1960. How was the United States able to dominate the world economy from its creditor position?

Michael Hudson:  The U.S. creditor position really began after World War I, based on the money it lent to the Allies before it joined the war. When the war ended, U.S. diplomats told England and France to pay us for the arms they had bought early on. But in the past, for centuries, the victors usually forgave all the debts among each other once a war was over. For the first time, America insisted that the Allies pay for the military support it had sold them before joining them.

The European Allies were pretty devastated by the war, and they turned to Germany and insisted on reparations that quickly bankrupted Germany. German bankrupted its economy trying to pay England and France, which simply sent it on to pay the United States. Their balance of payments was in deficit, and their currencies weregoing down. American investors saw an opportunity to buy up their industry. Gold was the measure of power, the backing for domestic money and credit and hence capital investment.

America was much more productive, not having suffered war damage here. Between the end of World War II and 1950 when the Korean War broke out, America accumulated over 75 percent of the world’s monetary gold. The United States had heavy agricultural exports, growing industrial exports, and enough money to buy up the leading industries of Europe and Latin America and other countries.

But beginning in 1950 with the Korean War, the U.S. balance of payments moved into deficit for the first time. It got even worse when President Eisenhower decided that America had to support French colonialism in Southeast Asia, in French Indochina – Vietnam and Laos. By the time the Vietnam War escalated in the 1960s, the dollar was running large balance-of-payments deficits. Every week on Wall Street we would watch the gold supply go down, losing gold to countries that weren’t at war, like France and Germany. They were cashing in the excess dollars that were being spent by the U.S. military. By the 1960s it became clear that America was on a trajectory to run out of gold within a decade because of this overseas war spending.

It finally did, by August 1971when President Nixon stopped selling bold on the London exchange and the price was allowed to soar far above $35 an ounce. The U.S. balance-of-payments was still running a deep deficit because of the fighting in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, creating a permanent balance-of-payments deficit. The private sector was just in balance during the 1950s and 1960s. The entire deficit was military.

When America went off gold, people began to wonder what was going to happen. Many predicted an economic doomsday. It was losing its ability to rule the world through gold. But what I realized (and was the first to publish) was that if countries no longer could buy and hold gold in their international reserves, what werethey going to hold? There was only one asset that they could hold: U.S. Government securities, that is, Treasury bonds.

A Treasury bond is a loan to the US Treasury. When a foreign central bank buys a bond, it finances the domestic U.S. budget deficit. So the balance of payments deficit ends up financing the domestic budget deficit.

The result is a circular flow of military spending recycled by foreign central banks. After 1971 the United States continued to spend abroad militarily, and in 1974 the OPEC countries quadrupled the price of oil. At that time the United States told Saudi Arabia that it could charge whatever it wanted for its oil, but it had to recycle all its net dollar earnings. The Saudis were not to buy gold. The Saudis were told that it would be an act of war if they didn’t recycle into the American economy the dollars they received for their oil exports. They were encouraged to buy U.S. Treasury bonds but, could also buy other U.S. bonds and stocks to help push up the stock and bond markets here while supporting the dollar.

The United States kept its own gold stock, while wanting the rest of the world to hold its savings in the form of loans to the United States. So the dollar didn’t go down. Other countries that were receiving dollars simply recycled them to buy U.S. financial securities.

What would have happened if they wouldn’t have done this? Let’s say you’re Germany, France or Japan. If you don’t recycle your dollar receipts back to the U.S. economy, your currency is going to go up. Dollar inflows from export sales are being converted into your currency, increasing its exchange rate. But by buying U.S. bonds or stocks, bid the price of dollars back up against your own currency.

So, when the United States runs a balance-of-payments deficit under conditions where other countries keep their foreign reserves in dollars, the effect is for other countries to keep their currencies’ exchange rates stable – mainly by lending to the U.S. government. That gives the United States a free ride. It can encircle the world with military bases, and the dollars that this costs are returned to the United States.

Imagine writing IOUs when you go out to spend at a store or restaurant – but your IOUs are never going to be collected! The store might say, “We have an IOU from Bonnie Faulkner. Let’s keep it as our savings. Instead of putting it in the bank or asking for payment in real money, we’re just going to keep collecting these IOUs from Bonnie Faulkner.” Corporations call such IOUs and trade credit “receivables.” Now, suppose you went on a spending spree and gave the store a billion dollars’ worth of your IOUs. There’s no way that you could pay off this billion dollars. In that case the stores receiving these IOUs would say, “Well, we really don’t want to foreclose on Bonnie, because we know that she can’t pay. We’d lose the value of receivables on the asset side of our balance sheet – all these IOUs that we’ve been collecting.

That’s essentially what foreign countries are saying about their buildup of dollars. The U.S. position is, in effect, that we are not going to repay any foreign country the dollar debt we owe them. As Treasury Secretary John Connolly said, “It’s our dollars, but your problem.” Other countries have to pay us or else we’ll bomb them. The military dimension to this arrangement is the U.S. position that it would be an act of war if other countries don’t keep spending their export earnings on loans or U.S. stocks and bonds.

That’s what makes the United States the “exceptional country.” The value of our currency is based on other countries’ savings. The money they save has to be held in the form of dollars or securities that we’re never going to repay, even if we could.

This is a huge free ride. You’d think that Donald Trump would want to keep it going. But he claims that China is manipulating its currency by recycling its dollars into loans to the U.S. Treasury. What does he mean by that?  China is earning a lot of dollars by exports its goods to the United States. What does it do with these dollars? It tried to do what America did with Europe and South America: It tried to buy American companies. But the United States blocked it from doing this, on specious national security grounds. The government claims that our national security would be threatened if China would buy a chain of filling stations, as it wanted to do in California. The United States thus has a double standard, claiming that it is threatened if China buys any company, but insisting on its right to buy out the commanding heights of foreign economies with its electronic dollar credit.

That leaves China with only one option: It can buy U.S. Treasury bonds, lending its export earnings to the U.S. Treasury.

Trump is now driving other countries out of the dollar orbit

China now realizes that the U.S. Treasury isn’t going to repay. Even if it wanted to recycle its export earnings into Treasury bonds or U.S. stocks and bonds or real estate, Donald Trump now is saying that he doesn’t want China to support the dollar’s exchange rate (and keep its own exchange rate down) by buying U.S. assets. We’re telling China not to do what we’ve told other countries to do for the past forty years: to buy U.S. securities. Trump accuses countries of artificial currency manipulation if they keep their foreign reserves in dollars. So he’s telling them, and specifically China, to get rid of their dollar holdings, not to buy dollars with their export earnings anymore.

So China is buying gold. Russia also is buying gold and much of the world is now in the process of reverting to the gold-exchange standard (meaning that gold is used to settle international payments imbalances, but is not connected to domestic money creation). Countries realize that there’s a great advantage of the gold-exchange standard: There’s only a limited amount of gold in the world’s central banks. This means that any country that wages war is going to run such a large balance-of-payments deficit that it’s going to lose its gold reserves. So reviving the role of gold may prevent any country, including the United States, from going to war and suffering a military deficit.

The irony is that Trump is breaking up America’s financial free ride – its policy of monetary imperialism – by telling counties to stop recycling their dollar inflows. They’ve got to de-dollarize their economies.

The effect is to make these economies independent of the United States. Trump already has announced that we won’t hire Chinese in our IT sectors or let Chinese study subjects at university that might enable them to rival us. So our economies are going to separate.

In effect, Trump has said that if we can’t win in a trade deal, if we can’t make other countries lose and become more dependent on U.S. suppliers and monopoly pricing, then we’re not going to sign an agreement. This stance is driving not only China but Russia and even Europe and other countries all out of the U.S. orbit. The end result is going to be that the United States is going to be isolated, without being able to manufacture like it used to do. It’s dismantled its manufacturing. So how willit get by?

Some population figures were released a week ago showing the middle of America is emptying out. The population is moving from the Midwestern and mountain states to the East and the West coasts and the Gulf Coast. So Trump’s policies are accelerating the de-industrialization of the United States without doing anything to put new productive powers in place, and not even wanting other countries to invest here. The German car companies see Trump putting tariffs on the imported steel they need to build cars in the United States. It built them here to get around America’s tariff barriers against German and other automobiles. But now Trump is not even letting them import the parts that they need to assemble these cars in the non-unionized plants they’ve built in the South.

What can they do? Perhaps they’ll propose a trade with General Motors and Chrysler. The Europeans will get the factories that American companies own in Europe, and give them their American factories in exchange.

This kind of split is occurring without any attempt to make American labor more competitive by lowering its cost of housing, or the price of its health insurance and medical care, or its transportation costs or the infrastructure costs. So America is being left high and dry as a high-priced economy in a nationalistic world, while running a huge balance-of-payments deficit to support its military spending all over the globe.

Bonnie Faulkner:  So it sounds like when the United States went off the gold standard, the dollar basically replaced gold as the main asset in which foreign governments could hold their assets. Now you’re saying that when there was no more gold standard, if foreign economies didn’t buy U.S. Treasuries, the price of their currency would rise and make them uncompetitive.

Michael Hudson:  Yes. Imagine if Americans would have to pay more and more dollars to buy German cars. There’s going to be a larger demand for German currency, the euro, whose exchange rate would rise. That was happening throughout the 1960s and 1970s, before the euro. The only way that Germany could keep down the value of its mark was to buy something that cost dollars. It didn’t buy American exports, because America already was making and exporting less and less, except for food – and Germany can only eat so much wheat and soybeans. So the only thing that Germany could buy that was priced in dollars were U.S. Treasury bonds. That kept the German mark from rising even more rapidly, and kept the balance of payments in balance.

Japan had a similar problem. The Japanese tried to buy U.S. real estate, but they didn’t have any idea of what made real estate valuable here. They lost a reported billion dollars on buying Rockefeller Center, not realizing that the building was separate from the land value, and the land was owned by Columbia University. The building itself was running at a deficit. Most of the rental value paid was to the owner of the land’s groundrent. The Japanese had no idea of how American real estate worked.

The euro is only a satellite currency of the U.S. dollar

Some Americans worried that the euro might become a rival to the dollar. After all, Europe is not de-industrializing. It is moving forward and producing better cars, airplanes and other exports. So the United States persuaded foreign politicians to cripple the euro by making it an austerity currency, creating so few government bonds that there’s no euro vehicle large enough for foreign countries to keep their foreign reserves in. The United States can create more and more dollar debt by running a budget deficit. We can follow Keynesian policies by running a deficit to employ more labor. But the eurozone refuses to let countries run a budget deficit of more than 3 percent of its GDP. Now running more than 3 percent of their GDP. That level is very marginal compared to the United States. And if you’re trying not to run any deficit at all – and even if you keep it less than 3% – then you’re imposing austerity on your country, keeping your employment down. You’re stifling your internal market, cutting your throat by being unable to create a real rival to the dollar. That’s why Donald Rumsfeld called Europe a dead zone, and why the only alternatives for a rival currency are the Chinese yuan. They’re moving into a gold-based currency area along with Russia, Iran and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Bonnie Faulkner:  The European Union not allowing European countries within the eurozone to not run deficits more than 3 percent was basically cutting their own throat.  Why would they do such a thing?

Michael Hudson:  Because the heads of the Central Bank are fighting a class war. They look at themselves as financial generals in the economic fight against labor, to hurt the working class, lower wages and help their political constituency, the wealthy investing class. Europe always has had a more vicious class war than the United States does. It’s never really emerged from its aristocratic post-feudal system. Its central bankers and universities follow the University of Chicago free-market school, saying that the way to get rich is to make your labor poorer, and to create a government where labor doesn’t have a voice. That’s Europe’s economic philosophy, and it’s why Europe has not matched the growth that China and other countries are experiencing.

Bonnie Faulkner:  So it sounds like then the United States has been able to dominate the world economy since 1971 from a debtor position.

Michael Hudson:  When it was losing gold, from 1950 to 1971, that wasn’t dominating; that was losing America’s gold supply to France, Germany, Japan and other countries. Only when it stopped the gold-exchange standard and left countries with no alternative for their international savings but to buy U.S. Treasury bonds or other securities was it able to pay for its military spending without losing its power.

Since 1971, world diplomacy has essentially been backed by American military power. It’s not a free market. Military power keeps countries in a financial strait jacket in which the United States can run into debt without having to repay it. Other countries that run payments deficits are not allowed to expand their economies, either to rival the United States or even to improve living standards for their labor force. Only countries outside the U.S. orbit – China, and in principle Russia and some other countries in Asia – are able to increase their living standards and capital investment and technology by being free of this globalized financial class war.

Bonnie Faulkner:  In Super Imperialismyou write that, “Pressures to create a New International Economic Order collapsed by the end of the 1970s.” Are you saying that other countries simply gave up and acquiesced to American monetary imperialism? What happened?

Michael Hudson:  I’m told that there was wholesale bribery. Officials in the Reagan administration told me that they just paid off foreign officials to support the U.S. position, not a New International Economic Order. U.S. agencies maneuvered within the party politics of European and Near Eastern countries to promote pro-American officials and sideline those who did not agree to act as U.S. satellites. A lot of money was involved in this meddling.

So the United Stateshas corrupted democratic politics throughout Europe and the Near East, and much of Asia. That has succeeded in sterilizing foreign independence in the United States. Meanwhile, Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neoliberal ideas were promoted instead of the kind of mixed economy that Roosevelt and social democracy had been pressing for fifty years.

Who will plan economies: Financial managers, or democratic governments?

Bonnie Faulkner:  If there were pressures to create a New International Economic Order in the 1970s, what was this new order looking to achieve?

Michael Hudson:  Other countries wanted to do for their economies what the United States has long done for its own economy: to use their governments’ deficit spending to build up their infrastructure, raise living standards, create housing and promote progressive taxation that would prevent a rentierclass, a landlord and financial class from taking over economic management. In the financial field, they wanted governments to create their own money, to promote their own development, just like the United States does. The role of neoliberalism was the opposite: it was to promote the financial and real estate sector and monopolies to take economic management away from government.

So the real question from the 1980s on was about who would be the basic planning center of society. Would it be the financial sector – the banks and bondholders, whose interest is really the One Percent that own most of the banks’ bonds and stocks? Or, is it going to be governments trying to subsidize the economy to help the 99 Percent grow and prosper? That was the social democratic view opposed by Thatcherism and Reaganism.

The international drive to de-dollarize

Bonnie Faulkner:  Was this pressure that blocked a New International Economic Order brought on by the United States going off the gold-exchange standard?

Michael Hudson:  No. It was a reaction against the U.S. policy of siphoning off the commanding heights of foreign economies. The United States wants to control their raw-materials exports, especially their oil and gas. It wants to control their financial system, so that all of their economic gains will go to foreign investors, mainly U.S. investors. It wants to turn other economies into service economies to the United States, and to make them into a kind of super-NATO military alliance that will oppose any country that does not want to be part of the U.S.-centered unilateral global order.

Bonnie Faulkner:  How does today’s monetary imperialism – super imperialism – differ from the imperialism of the past?

Michael Hudson:  It’s a higher stage of imperialism. The old imperialism was colonialism. You would come in and use military power to install a client ruling class. But each country would have its own currency. What has made imperialism “super” is that America doesn’t have to colonize another country. It doesn’t have to invade a country or actually go to war with it. All it needs is to have the country invest its savings, its export earnings in loans to the United States Government. This enables the United States to keep its interest rates low and enable American investors to borrow from American banks at a low rate to buy up foreign industry and agriculture that’s yielding 10 percent, 15 percent or more. So American investors realize that despite the balance-of-payments deficit, they can borrow back these dollars at such a low rate from foreign countries – paying only 1 percent to 3 percent on the Treasury bonds they hold – while pumping dollars into foreign economies by buying up their industry and agriculture and infrastructure and public utilities, making large capital gains. The hope is that and soon, we’ll earn our way out of debt by this free ride arrangement.

Imperialism is getting something for nothing. It is a strategy to obtain other countries’ surplus without playing a productive role, but by creating an extractive rentiersystem. An imperialist power obliges other countries to pay tribute. Of course, America doesn’t come right out and tell other countries, “You have to pay us tribute,” like Roman emperors told the provinces they governed. U.S. diplomats simply insist that other countries invest their balance-of-payments inflows and official central-bank savings in US dollars, especially U.S. Treasury IOUs. This Treasury-bill standard turns the global monetary and financial system into a tributary system.

That is what pays the costs of U.S. military spending, including its 800 military bases throughout the world, and its foreign legion of Isis, Al Qaeda fighters and “color revolutions” to destabilize countries that don’t adhere to the dollar-centered global economic system.

Bonnie Faulkner:  You write: “Today it would be necessary for Europe and Asia to design an artificial, politically created alternative to the dollar as an international store of value. This promises to become the crux of international political tensions for the next generation.” How does the world break out of this double-standard dollar domination?

Michael Hudson:  It’s already coming about. And Trump is a great catalyst speeding departing guests. China and Russia are reducing their dollar holdings. They don’t want to hold American Treasury bonds, because if America goes to war with them, it will do to them what it did to Iran. It will just keep all the money, not pay back the investment China has kept in U.S. banks and the Treasury. So they’re getting rid of the dollars that they hold. They’re buying gold, and are moving as quickly as they can to be independent of any reliance on U.S. exports. They are building up their military, so that if the United States tries to threaten them, they can defend themselves. The world is fracturing.

Bonnie Faulkner:  What are foreign countries like China and Russia using to buy gold? Are they buying it with dollars?

Michael Hudson:  Yes. They earn dollars or euros from what they’re exporting. This money goes into the central bank of China, because Chinese exporters want domestic yuan to pay their own workers and suppliers. So they go to the Bank of China and they exchange their dollars for yuan. The Bank of China, the central bank, then decides what to do with this foreign currency. They may go into the open market and buy gold. Or, they may spend it in foreign countries, on the Belt and Road Initiative to build a railway and steamship infrastructure and port development to help China’s exporters integrate their economy with others and ultimately with Europe, replacing the United States as customer and supplier. They see the United States as a dying economy.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Can the Chinese build up their Belt and Road infrastructure projects with dollars?

Michael Hudson:  No, they are getting rid of dollars. They already are receiving such a large surplus each year that they only use the dollars to buy gold or some goods, such as Boeing airplanes, but mostly food and raw materials. When China buys iron from Australia, for instance, they sell dollars from their foreign-exchange reserves and buy Australian currency to pay Australians for the iron ore that they import. They use dollars to pay other countries that are still part of the dollar area and still willing to keep adding these dollars to their official monetary reserves instead of holding gold.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Well, it is kind of surprising, Michael, that countries haven’t started doing this a lot sooner.

Michael Hudson:  There has been political pressure not to withdraw from the dollar-debt system. If countries act independently, they risk being overthrown. It takes a strong government to resist American interference and dirty tricks to put its own country first instead of following the U.S. advisors and agents who pay them to serve the U.S. economy rather than their own, or to resist brainwashing by University of Chicago’s junk economics.

Bonnie Faulkner:  How far along is the dollar’s demise as the world’s reserve currency?

Michael Hudson:  It’s already slowing. Trump is doing everything he can to accelerate it, by threatening that if foreign countries continue to recycle their export earnings into dollars (raising the dollar’s exchange rate), we’ll accuse them of manipulating their currency. So he would like to end it all by the end of his second term in 2024.

Bonnie Faulkner: What would the United States look like if the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency?

Michael Hudson:  If it continues to let Wall Street do the economic planning, the economy will look like that of Argentina.

Bonnie Faulkner:  And what does Argentina look like?

Michael Hudson:  A narrow oligarchy at the top, keeping labor at the bottom, taking away labor’s rights to unionize – an economy whose financial and military sectors have won the class war.

Bonnie Faulkner:  China, with its Belt and Road infrastructure project, is now buying gold on the open market, as are a number of other countries. Has the Western banking system penetrated China? And if so, how would you characterize China’s banking system?

Michael Hudson:  There’s an attempt by the United States to penetrate China. In the recent trade agreements China did permit U.S. banks to create their own credit. I’m not sure that this is going to really take off, now that Trump is accelerating the trade war. But basically, in America you have private banks extending credit to corporations. In China you have the government banks extending the loans. That saves China from having a financial crisis in the way that the United States does.

About 12 percent of American companies are said to be zombie companies. They’re already insolvent, not able to make a profit after paying their heavy debt service. But banks are still giving them enough credit to stay in business, so they won’t have to go bankrupt and create a crisis. China doesn’t have that problem, because when Chinese industry and factories are not able to pay, the public Bank of China can simply forgive the debt. Its choice is clear: Either it can let companies go bankrupt and be sold at a low price to some buyer, mainly an American; or, it can wipe the bad debts off the books.

If China had been crazy enough to have student loans and leave its graduates impoverished instead of providing free universities, China’s central bank could simply write off the student loans. No investors would lose, because the banks are owned by the government. Its position is, “If you’re a factory, we don’t want you to have to close down and unemploy your labor. We’ll just write down the debt. And if your employees are having a really hard time, we’ll just write down their debts, so that they can spend their money on goods and services to help expand our internal market.”

America’s banks are owned by the stockholders and bondholders, who would never let Chase Manhattan or Citibank or Wells Fargo just forgive their various categories of loans. That’s why public banking is so much more efficient from an economy-wide level than private banks. It’s why banking should be a public utility, not privatized.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Can you explain further how writing down debts is good for the economy?

Michael Hudson:  Well, think of the alternative to writing down debts. If you don’t write down America’s student debts, the graduates are going to have to pay so much of the student debt service (now to the government) that they’re not going to have enough money to be able to buy a house, they won’t have enough money to get married, they won’t have enough money to buy goods and services. It means that most people who can buy houses are graduates with trust funds – students whose parents are rich enough that they didn’t have to take out a student loan to pay for their children’s education. These hereditary families are rich enough to buy them their own apartment.

That’s why the American economy is polarizing between people who inherit enough money to be able to have their own housing and budgets free of student loans and other debts, compared to families that are debt strapped and running deeper into debt and without much savings. This financial bifurcation is making us poorer. Yet neoliberal economic theory sees this as a competitive advantage. For them, and for employers, poverty is not a problem to be solved; it is the solution to their own aim of profitability.

Bonnie Faulkner:  So is this whole privatization scheme, particularly the privatization of the banking system and privatizing a lot of infrastructure what’s bankrupting the United States?

Michael Hudson:  Yes, just as it’s bankrupted England and other countries that followed Thatcherism or the neo-liberal philosophy since about 1980.

Bonnie Faulkner:  Michael Hudson, thank you again.

Michael Hudson:  It’s always a pleasure to have these discussions.

Bonnie Faulkner:  I’ve been speaking with Dr. Michael Hudson.  Today’s show has been:  De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire.  Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian.  He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street Financial Analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  His 1972 book, Super Imperialism:  The Economic Strategy of American Empire, the subject of today’s broadcast, is posted in PDF format on his website at michael-hudson.com.  He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, which is the academic sister volume to Super Imperialism.  Dr. Hudson acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide on finance and tax law. Visit his website at michael-hudson.com.

Published:7/13/2019 7:28:22 AM
[Markets] Banning Firearm Sound Suppressors Will Have No Effect On Homicide Rates

Authored by José Niño  via The Mises Institute,

In the aftermath of the Virginia Beach shooting, the usual gun control debate has come back into the national conversation.

The shooting, which witnessed a disgruntled public employee, DeWayne Craddock, kill 12 people at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center was odd in certain respects. Apart from taking place in another gun-free zone, the shooter acquired his firearms legally and also used a handgun with a suppressor.

The use of a suppressor in this shooting made the media go wild. Certain Democratic officials like New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez immediately called for a ban on these accessories. Even President Donald Trump said, “I don’t like them at all,” when asked about what to do about suppressors.

Indeed, the media have gone on a massive misinformation campaign labeling suppressors as “silencers,” but these devices do not completely silence guns whatsoever. These ill-informed opinions are more likely to come from what journalists have seen in Call of Duty videogames or Hollywood movies. In an article for the Washington Post, gun violence researcher John Lott highlights what the sound suppressing capacities of suppressors actually entail:

The .45 caliber handgun used in the Virginia Beach attack creates sounds that measure at 158 decibels. The average suppressor reduces the sound by around 30 decibels. But 128 decibels is still very high — virtually the same as peak crowd noise in a stadium. If you use a suppressor in conjunction with earmuffs, you can get the sound down to about 100 decibels, which is about as loud as an average motorcycle.

Furthermore, these accessories can’t be acquired by law-abiding individuals with ease. For starters, suppressors are already heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. To acquire this accessory, the government imposes a $200 fee. As of early 2017, approximately 1.3 million Americans were already registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) as suppressor owners.

From a crime frequency standpoint, crimes that involved firearms equipped with suppressors are statistically insignificant in the country. Lott’s research in the previous article also debunks this:

These legal owners have been extremely law abiding. In the 10 years from 2008 through 2017, the BATF only recommended an average of 44 suppressor-related prosecutions per year. This means that roughly .003 percent of “silencers” are used in crimes each year.

Calls for tightened regulation of suppressors or even bans will do nothing to stop acts of gun violence. Not only that, the forgotten men in a potential suppressor ban scenario are the gun owners with hearing problems. Suppressors aren’t designed for Bond villains who want to pick off people in the shadows. They help certain segments of the gun community with acute hearing problems. Although suppressors don’t completely silence firearms, they do an adequate job in reducing shooters’ noise exposure. The Center for Disease Control details this in a report:

The only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel.

In their zeal “to do something” our enlightened political class often enacts regulations that hurt the most disadvantaged in society. A suppressor ban would be no exception to this trend.

The Very Real Threat of Over-Bureaucratization

Both the media and its pro-gun opponents mostly focus on gun laws and conventional methods to carrying out gun policy. But what’s often ignored is the massive bureaucratic monstrosity in the background that micromanages all gun affairs in America.

This bureaucratic “Deep State,” if you will, poses a major threat to gun rights in America. For a start, the usual suspect of the ATF and the way it creates arbitrary policies to crack down on gun owners give us an unsettling image of bureaucratic tyranny.

Under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s stewardship of the Justice Department, ATF continued the Obama administration’s vigorous gun control enforcement program. Knowing how things work in DC, simply selling a gun without the right government seal of approval could land an individual in prison. Despite Trump's marketing himself as the most “pro-gun” president in American history, the Justice Department banned bump stocks under his watch. The manner in which this ban was carried out — bureaucratic fiat — is rather troubling.

Let’s look back: When was the last time a bureaucrat was ever unseated at the ballot box? Bad legislation can at least be tied to politicians who are susceptible to the wrath of voters come election season. The same cannot be said about bureaucracy. This harkens back to Ludwig von Mises’s astute observation that “the worst law is better than bureaucratic tyranny.”

A Bi-Partisan Consensus

Thomas Massie is one of the few elected officials in Washington DC who actually understands the problems that government-mandated gun-free zones present. As a result, he has filed the Safe Students Act which repeals the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA) — the legislative source of today's “gun-free zone.”

Given Democratic control of the US House, this bill will likely not receive a hearing, let alone pass out of this chamber of Congress. However, it’s naïve to assume this bill would pass by default under Republican control of all branches of government. Massie introduced similar bills on prior occasions in 2017 and 2018, when there were solid Republican majorities and it still was not able to pass.

Despite, a lot of generic Republican talking points about how Joe Biden (which he deserves some blame for) sponsored the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, it was still a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, who ultimately signed the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act into law. In sum, both parties have had their hands in the gun control cookie jar.

Some people suggest that the courts, not Congress, will save us from decades of constitutional violations. This is particularly relevant on the issue of suppressors when looking at a recent case that could have been heard by the Supreme Court.

In 2017, two individuals — Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler — were sentenced for violating federal law. Cox waspunished for the manufacture and sale of a suppressor without paying the mandatory federal license and tax, whereas Kettler was punished for the possession of this accessory. The attorney general, Derek Schmidt, refused to take action against the federal agents, despite Kansas’s nullification law on the books. Cox and Kettler were left with no choice but to go through the courts to plead their case.

They argued the federal government’s action violated their rights as protected by the Bill of Rights, and that they should have been protected by Kansas’s law. Their case ended up going to the Supreme Court, but was ultimately dismissed.

It’s no stretch to say that all branches of the federal government have been tepid at best when dealing with the rollback of unconstitutional policies.

Published:7/12/2019 7:47:15 PM
[Government] TrickBot malware learns how to spam, ensnares 250M email addresses Old bot, new tricks. TrickBot, a financially motivated malware in wide circulation, has been observed infecting victims’ computers to steal email passwords and address books to spread malicious emails from their compromised email accounts. The TrickBot malware was first spotted in 2016 but has since developed new capabilities and techniques to spread and invade computers […] Published:7/12/2019 1:43:12 PM
[Markets] "There's No Escape": One Japanese Bank Owns Over Half A Trillion US Corporate Bonds

What do you do if you are a major Japanese investor, whose mandate is to invest in safe assets, yet the yield on Japanese govvies is too low to cover the cost of your liabilities?

That's the question that Japan Post Bank Co., the banking unit of Japan Post Holdings, has been grappling with. Its answer: buy and hold over half a trillion dollars, or $577 billion to be precise, worth of foreign corporate bonds. That, as Bloomberg notes, is "more than the investment-grade portfolio at Fidelity Investments or the fixed-income holdings at Britain’s Standard Life Aberdeen Plc." And since Japan Post is a public company, majority-owned by the government, it means that one Japanese bank (really, Japan, due to its state-ownership)  is directly funding countless US-based corporations, resulting in hundreds of billions in stock buybacks , and this bank is also indirectly funding the hiring of thousands of US workers. In this "new normal" era of super low rates, this represents a major change from just a decade ago, when the foreign bond portfolio at Japan Post Bank was virtually nil.

This new global bond market "whale" did not emerge voluntarily: as a result of decades of ZIRP and NIRP, Japan Post was effectively pushed out Japan's bond market and forced to look for investment opportunities elsewhere. Long-term yields in Japan are around 0%, far below even the exceptionally slim rates in the U.S, crippling the business model the postal bank used for more than a century.

Some background: as Bloomberg details, Japan’s postal system set up savings accounts in 1875, which at one point grew to become the world’s largest deposit-taking institution. However, to maintain an especially safe risk profile, the bank was barred from making loans like those of a normal commercial bank, and so the banking unit plowed those deposits into government bonds. Which, when yields were well north of 1%, that made for a boring, yet profitable, enterprise, and helped the bank grow its deposits to a whopping $1.7 trillion, comprising the savings of millions of Japanese households in big cities and remote villages. And, being a bank, it has to invest this money somewhere. But with Japan’s bond yields too low to cover the cost of servicing the bank’s funds, which according to S&P is 0.57%, the bank had to look to other assets.

“It’s a road to insolvency” for the postal bank to invest in Japanese government bonds now, says David Threadgold, a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst in Tokyo who’s followed banks there for more than three decades. And with no other domestic asset class big enough to pour deposits into other than equities, which would require the bank to keep higher capital reserves, “they have to turn themselves into an overseas investment vehicle,” he says.

Such as corporate bonds.

To be sure, the majority of the bank’s investments are still boring enough: Instead of buying supersafe Japanese government bonds paying essentially nothing, it buys supersafe U.S. Treasuries yielding about 2%, which should be sufficient to leave the bank comfortably profitable; the main risk is currency fluctuation, although investors can hedge that risk, even as the cost of doing so has climbed in recent years due to rate differentials between the US and Japan.

Still, its profit margins remain razor thin, and so to boost its profits, the Postal bank has been on the hunt for new kinds of assets. However, with $539 billion of domestic government bonds still on the books and set to mature over time, and deposits continuing to grow, "that’s no simple task."

To broaden its universe of possible investments, the bank aims to direct some funds to private equity and real estate. It’s also gone into credit investments, including U.S. collateralized loan obligations—which bundle together loans made to riskier companies. Of course, it isn’t the only Japanese savings institution diving into CLOs in search of better yield. Norinchukin Bank, a cooperative that invests the deposits of millions of Japanese farmers and fishermen - and which has recently emerged as a CLO whale - is too. Norinchukin bought $10 billion of CLOs in the U.S. and Europe in the last three months of 2018, accounting for almost half of the top-rated issuance for the period, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg (more on this later).

So are Japanese savers and pensioners going to be the next financial crisis' German "widows and orphans", i.e., bagholders of the trillions in fallen angel corporate bonds and "safe" CLO tranches?

While Bloomberg notes that observers are confident Japan Post doesn’t have major time bombs on its balance sheet, the sad record of Japanese investment overseas is replete with missteps; just two examples:

  • In March, Japan’s No. 3 bank, Mizuho Financial Group Inc., surprised investors by booking 150 billion yen ($1.4 billion) of losses on its foreign bond holdings.
  • Norinchukin posted a $6 billion loss during the financial crisis because of its purchases of toxic assets in the U.S.

“You are asking if we are comfortable with this? I don’t think everything is fine. There are risks," a resigned Japan Post Holdings CEO Masatsugu Nagato said about the need to invest abroad at a June press briefing. He also said: “We are very careful, but foreign bond investment will increase” for one simple reason: he is forced to buy the next generation of "toxic assets" because the BOJ assures the bank's insolvency, as Keefe, Bruyette said, if it sticks with Japanese assets.

To be sure, this is not the first time questions have been asked about Japan seemingly price-insensitive investments around the world, and mostly in US corporate bonds and CLOs (see "A Japanese Tsunami Out Of US CLOs Is Coming"). Aware of the growing concerns about its massively levered financial system, financial regulators say they are keeping an eye on lenders’ investments in CLOs and other loans, so the postal bank’s freedom to pile into particularly risky assets may be limited (although who can forget that according to none other than Ben Bernanke, "subprime was contained"). 

Yet even so, another risk is on the horizon: what if even more Japanese investors scramble for the "high yield" of US Treasurys and corporate bonds? If U.S. Treasury yields fall? "The scary thing really is that they are all depending on the U.S. market," Michael Makdad, a Morningstar analyst said of Japan Post Bank and its peers.

Indeed, prompting speculation that US Treasuries have become a Giffen Good,  10Y Treasury yields have tumbled by more than a percentage point over the past nine months, as investors have bought up government debt expecting central banks to become even more dovish as economic growth slows; and yet foreign demand appears to be stable, if not rising. On the other hand, with the Fed set to cut rates, Treasury yields are expected to slide well below 2%. Of course, the euro region hardly offers a better option, with much of the area’s debt trading with negative yields. “If you turn the rest of the world into Japan, then there’s no escape,” Threadgold says.

Meanwhile, as the scramble for yield comes back with a vengeance now that all global central banks have turned dovish again, Japanese mega-buyer Norinchukin Bank - better known as Nochu - and lender to Japan’s farmers and fisherman, has re-started purchasing CLOs after dramatically cutting back around April amid heightened market scrutiny, Bloomberg reported separately.

How big is Nochu in the US CLO market? Let's just say there is no single bigger player, because until very recently it was a massive presence in the $600 billion CLO market, buying as much as half of the highest-rated bonds in the fourth quarter in Europe and the U.S.

That helped sustain record growth which in turn sparked regulatory scrutiny and diverted attention to the bank’s outsized role in the market, prompting its recent retrenchment. And after taking a brief sabbatical, the bank is back yet even in its absence, CLO sales held near record pace, underscoring their popularity with investors starved of yield; indeed, even with a largely absent Nochu, sales hit $35.9 billion in the second quarter of 2019, compared with $29.5 billion in the first three months of the year.

“We aim to build a portfolio of bonds, equities and credit with healthy risk balances by exercising necessary checks,” a representative for Nochu told Bloomberg. “CLOs are credit assets that we will invest in based on this concept.”

The silver lining is that Japanese banks invest mostly in the super-senior, AAA-tranches. Yet even so, it is only a matter of time before they too are forced to buy riskier tranches. Consider that even with Nochu's brief absence, average spreads on the triple-A rated bonds sold by top-tier managers tightened to roughly 130 basis points across May and June, compared with about 138 basis points in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Market participants point to the tightening as proof of the CLO market’s resilience. Of course, the other, more correct explanation, is that with central banks herding investors into increasingly riskier assets, CLOs had nowhere to go but up.

On the other hand, CLO risk premia have been more resistant to tightening than other asset classes in 2019, so the increase in Japanese buyers will likely result in a spike in demand for the bundled loans. That would lower borrowing costs for junk-rated companies and help increase the volume of leveraged buyouts, but could also add air to a market that regulators worry is already over-inflated.

Meanwhile, as Japanese banks seek to allocate trillions in local savings, they have emerged as some of the world's largest bond, and CLO, investors: Nochu alone held more than 18% of all triple A-rated CLO bonds outstanding at the end of March 31, according to research by Citigroup. Wells Fargo held around 9.5% while Japan Post Bank Co. owned approximately 2.9%, the Citi research showed (of course, Japan Post appears far more interested in buying corporate bonds outright).

“The basic concept of Norinchukin Bank’s investment is global diversification,” the bank’s representative said in its email, written in response to questions from Bloomberg News. As a reminder "diversification" is how you try to justify a reckless investment just after the crash.

And speaking of growing concentration risk, Japanese regulators - and millions of Japanese savers - appear to have no choice but to see more investments into increasingly risky fixed income.

One option to mitigate such risk, according to Bloomberg, would be to wind down balance sheets of banks such as Post Bank and make it smaller. But Japan Post is sometimes the only provider of financial services in areas where the population is shrinking. And the banking unit subsidizes the postal business, so it is a monopolistic Catch 22. Furthermore, the idea of turning customers away or discouraging deposits by adding fees is difficult for any national policymaker to embrace. Japan Post Bank is “a national brand,” says Rie Nishihara, a senior analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo. “They face a more challenging yield cycle and credit challenges, and that’s very difficult while also supporting 24,000 branches” across the postal system, she says.

So, as Bloomberg concludes, "the fortunes of this mammoth institution may rely on the U.S. avoiding the same low-rates-forever dynamic that has driven the bank overseas." Yes, but that's just half the story, because if instead of dreaded low-rates, yields on the US investments in which Japan has invested trillions suddenly were to suddenly soar, then neither Post Bank nor Nochu would survive absent full-blown nationalization. While it is unclear if such an option is amenable to Japan's taxpayers, the alternative is for tens of millions of pensioners and savers in the demographically crippled country to one day wake up and upon checking their retirement account finding that it's gone... it's all gone.

Or, as Threadgold said earlier, for Japan "there’s truly no escape."

Published:7/12/2019 1:43:11 PM
[Uncategorized] Scenes from the Progressive Freakout (2) (Steven Hayward) The week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the new Commission on Unalienable Rights, to be chaired by the distinguished Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, the author of, among other fine books, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse. Glendon’s book is a classic for explaining how the idea of individual rights has been rubbished by the modern conceptions of “human rights,” which in practice are any good (health Published:7/12/2019 12:12:17 PM
[World] 'Politico 40' reading lists reflect D.C. parochial narcissism

Politico recently surveyed 40 so-called "political heavy hitters" about what books they plan to read this summer. The answers were greeted with any manner of chortling and a whole lot of skepticism: "I like book lists like this because it is fun to see who is a liar," quipped ... Published:7/11/2019 6:44:02 PM

[Markets] Wall Street Banks Are Starting To Give Up On Lending To Farmers

After years of farm income falling and the U.S./China trade war now taking its toll on the sector, Wall Street banks look as though they are giving up on lending to farmers, according to Reuters

Meanwhile, total U.S. farm debt is slated to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation adjusted $317 billion just 10 years ago. The debt is reaching levels not seen since the 1980's farm crisis. 

Agricultural loan portfolios of the nation's top 30 banks was lower by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019. This is a 17.5% fall.

An analysis performed by Reuters identified the banks by their quarterly filings of loan performance with the FDIC and grouped banks that were owned by the same holding company.

The slide in farm lending is happening as cash flow worries surface for farmers. We've highlighted numerous instances of farmers under pressure due to the U.S./China trade war and poor conditions, like this report from early June and this report on farmer bankruptcies from May.  

Sales of products like soybeans have fallen significantly since China and Mexico imposed tariffs in retaliation to U.S. duties on their goods. The trade war losses exacerbated an already strained sector, under pressure from "years over global oversupply and low commodity prices."

Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings for small farmers were up from 361 filings in 2014 to 498 in 2018. 

Minneapolis-St. Paul area bankruptcy attorney Barbara May said: 

“My phone is ringing constantly. It’s all farmers. Their banks are calling in the loans and cutting them off.”

At the same time, surveys are showing that demand for farm credit is growing. The demand is most pronounced among Midwest grain and soybean producers. Having fewer options to borrow could threaten the survival of many farms, especially when incomes have been cut in half since 2013. 

Gordon Giese, a 66-year-old dairy and corn farmer in Mayville, Wisconsin, was forced to sell most of his cows, his farmhouse and about one-third of his land last year to pay off his debt obligations. 

He said: 

“If you have any signs of trouble, the banks don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to get out of farming, but we might be forced to.”

Michelle Bowman, a governor at the U.S. Federal Reserve called the decline in farm incomes a "troubling echos of the 1980's farm crisis". 

Between the end of 2015 and March 31 of this year, JP Morgan pared back its farm loan holdings by 22%, or $245 million. Capital One's farm-loan holdings at FDIC-insured units fell 33% between the end of 2015 and March 2019. U.S. Bancorp’s fell by 25%. Agricultural loans at BB&T Corp have fallen 29% since summer of 2016. PNC Financial Services Group Inc has cut its farm loans by 12% since 2015.

The four-quarter growth rate for farm loans at all FDIC-insured banks slowed from 6.4% in December 2015 to 3.9% in March 2019. But many smaller, regional banks depend on farms as the main key to their loan books. 

In March, FDIC insured banks reported 1.53% of farm loans were 90 days past due, up from 0.74% at the end of 2015. 

Curt Everson, president of the South Dakota Bankers Association said: “All you have are farmers and companies that work with, sell to or buy from farmers.” 

Published:7/11/2019 12:39:47 PM
[Political Cartoons] California, Make America Mexico Again – Grrr Graphics – Ben Garrison Cartoon

By Ben Garrison -

California, Make America Mexico Again I’ve read several good books by Victor Davis Hanson. One of them was “Mexifornia.” Gray Davis, Jerry Brown, and its current executive, Gavin Newsom all seem to welcome that transformation. That’s why I call them “The Three Amigos.” Gray Davis was actually recalled by angry ...

California, Make America Mexico Again – Grrr Graphics – Ben Garrison Cartoon is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:7/11/2019 8:05:57 AM
[Markets] Two Years Later, Trump Has Failed To Reverse America's Decline

Authored by Dilip Hiro via TomDispatch.com,

President Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline - and they weren’t wrong. Trump is capable of tweeting many things, but none of those tweets will stop that process of decline, nor will a trade war with a rising China or fierce oil sanctions on Iran.

You could feel this recently, even in the case of the increasingly pressured Iranians. There, with a single pinprick, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei effectively punctured Trump’s MAGA balloon and reminded many that, however powerful the U.S. still was, people in other countries were beginning to look at America differently at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Trump wearing MAGA cap in 2016. (Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons)

Following a meeting in Tehran with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who brought a message from Trump urging the start of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, Khamenei tweeted, “We have no doubt in [Abe’s] goodwill and seriousness; but regarding what you mentioned from [the] U.S. president, I don’t consider Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with, and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future.” He then added: “We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the U.S., and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure.”

A flustered Trump was reduced to briefly tweeting: “I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!”

And soon after, the president halted at the last minute, in a distinctly humiliating retreat, U.S. air strikes on Iranian missile sites that would undoubtedly have created yet more insoluble problems for Washington across the Greater Middle East.

Keep in mind that, globally, before the ayatollah’s put-down, the Trump administration had already had two abject foreign policy failures: the collapse of the president’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (followed by that regime’s provocative firing of several missiles over the Sea of Japan) and a bungled attempt to overthrow the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

America’s Global Standing at a Record Low

What’s great or small can be defined in absolute or relative terms. America’s “greatness” (or“exceptional” or “indispensable” nature) — much lauded in Washington before the Trump era — should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry. Another way of assessing the nature of that “greatness” and what to make of it would be through polls of how foreigners view the United States.

Take, for instance, a survey released by the Pew Research Group in February 2019. Forty-five percent of respondents in 26 nations with large populations felt that American power and influence posed “a major threat to our country,” while 36 percent offered the same response on Russia, and 35 percent on China. To put that in perspective, in 2013, during the presidency of Barack Obama, only 25 percent of global respondents held such a negative view of the U.S., while reactions to China remained essentially the same. Or just consider the most powerful country in Europe, Germany. Between 2013 and 2018, Germans who considered American power and influence a greater threat than that of China or Russia leapt from 19 percent to 49 percent. (Figures for France were similar.)

China’s Xi with Russia’s Putin after talks in June 2019. (The Kremlin)

As for Trump, only 27 percent of global respondents had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, while 70 feared he would not. In Mexico, you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, confidence in his leadership was at a derisory 6 percent. In 17 of the surveyed countries, people who lacked confidence in him were also significantly more likely to consider the U.S. the world’s top threat, a phenomenon most pronounced among traditional Washington allies like Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.

China’s Expanding Global Footprint

While 39 percent of Pew respondents in that poll still rated the U.S. as the globe’s leading economic power, 34 percent opted for China. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 to link the infrastructure and trade of much of Southeast Asia, Eurasia, and the Horn of Africa to China (at an estimated cost of $4 trillion) and to be funded by diverse sources, is going from strength to strength.

One way to measure this: the number of dignitaries attending the biennial BRI Forum in Beijing. The first of those gatherings in May 2017 attracted 28 heads of state and representatives from 100 countries. The most recent, in late April, had 37 heads of state and representatives from nearly 150 countries and international organizations, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Leaders of nine out of 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended, as did four of the five Central Asian republics. Strikingly, a third of the leaders participating came from Europe. According to Peter Frankopan, author of “The New Silk Roads,” more than 80 countries are now involved in some aspect of the BRI project. That translates into more than 63 percent of the world’s population and 29 percent of its global economic output.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping is intent on expanding the BRI’s global footprint further, a signal of China’s dream of future greatness. During a February two-day state visit to Beijing by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Xi suggested that, when it came to Riyadh’s overly ambitious economic plan, “our two countries should speed up the signing of an implementation plan on connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi Vision 2030.”

Flattered by this proposal, the crown prince defended China’s use of “re-education” camps for Uighur Muslims in its western province of Xinjiang, claiming it was Beijing’s “right” to carry out antiterrorism work to safeguard national security. Under the guise of combating extremism, the Chinese authorities have placed an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in such camps to undergo re-education designed to supplant their Islamic legacy with a Chinese version of socialism. Uighur groups had appealed to Prince bin Salman to take up their cause. No such luck: one more sign of the rise of China in the 21st century.

China Enters High-Tech Race with America

In 2013, Germany launched an Industry 4.0 Plan meant to fuse cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing with the aim of increasing manufacturing productivity by up to 50 percent, while curtailing resources required by half. Two years later, emulating this project, Beijing published its own 10-year Made in China 2025 plan to update the country’s manufacturing base by rapidly developing 10 high-tech industries, including electric cars and other new-energy vehicles, next-generation information technology and telecommunications, as well as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, aerospace engineering, high-end rail infrastructure, and high-tech maritime engineering.

As with BRI, the government and media then publicized and promoted Made in China 2025 vigorously. This alarmed Washington and America’s high-tech corporations. Over the years, American companies had complained about China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property, the counterfeiting of famous brands, and the stealing of trade secrets, not to speak of the pressuring of American firms in joint ventures with local companies to share technology as a price for gaining access to China’s vast market. Their grievances became more vocal when Donald Trump entered the White House determined to cut Washington’s annual trade deficit of $380 billion with Beijing.

As president, Trump ordered his new trade representative, the Sinophobe Robert Lighthizer, to look into the matter. The resulting seven-month investigation pegged the loss U.S. companies experienced because of China’s unfair trade practices at $50 billion a year. That was why, in March 2018, Trump instructed Lighthizer to levy tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Lighthizer, second from left with earpiece, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump at session on the global economy at G-20 Summit, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

That signaled the start of a Sino-American trade war which has only gained steam since. In this context, Chinese officials started downplaying the significance of Made in China 2025, describing it as nothing more than an inspirational plan. This March, China’s National People’s Congress even passed a foreign direct-investment law meant to address some of the grievances of U.S. companies. Its implementation mechanism was, however, weak. Trump promptly claimed that China had backtracked on its commitments to incorporate into Chinese law significant changes the two countries had negotiated and put into a draft agreement to end the trade war. He then slapped further tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

The major bone of contention for the Trump administration is a Chinese law specifying that, in a joint venture between a foreign corporation and a Chinese company, the former must pass on technological know-how to its Chinese partner. That’s seen as theft by Washington. According to Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Yukon Huang, author of “Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong,” however, it’s fully in accord with globally accepted guidelines. Such diffusion of technological know-how has played a significant role in driving growth globally, as the IMF’s 2018 World Economic Outlook report made clear. It’s worth noting as well that China now accounts for almost one-third of global annual economic growth.

The size of China’s market is so vast and the rise in its per capita gross domestic product — from $312 in 1980 to $9,769 in 2018 — is so steep that major U.S. corporations generally accepted its long-established joint-venture law and that should surprise no one. Last year, for instance, General Motors sold 3,645,044 vehicles in China and fewer than 3 million in the U.S. Little wonder then that, late last year, following GM plant closures across North America, part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan, the company’s management paid no heed to a threat from Trump to strip GM of any government subsidies. What angered the president, as he tweeted, caught the reality of the moment: nothing was “being closed in Mexico and China.”

What Trump simply can’t accept is this: after nearly two decades of supply-chain restructuring and global economic integration, China has become thekey industrial supplier for the United States and Europe. His attempt to make America great again by restoring the economic status quo of before 2001 — the year China was admitted to the World Trade Organization — is doomed to fail.

In reality, trade war or peace, China is now beginning to overtake the U.S. in science and technology.study by Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Richard Freeman of Harvard University noted that, between 2000 and 2016, China’s global share of publications in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics quadrupled and, in the process, exceeded that of the U.S. for the first time.

In the field of high technology, for example, China is now well ahead of the United States in mobile payment transactions. In the first 10 months of 2017, those totaled $12.8 trillion, the result of vast numbers of consumers discarding credit cards in favor of cashless systems. In stark contrast, according to eMarketer, America’s mobile payment transactions in 2017 amounted to $49.3 billion. Last year, 583 million Chinese used mobile payment systems, with nearly 68 percent of China’s Internet users turning to a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

Russia’s Advanced Weaponry

In a similar fashion, in his untiring pitch for America’s “beautiful” weaponry, Trump has failed to grasp the impressive progress Russia has made in that field.

While presenting videos and animated glimpses of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and underwater drones in a March 2018 television address, Russian President Vladimir Putin traced the development of his own country’s new weapons to Washington’s decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty with the Soviet Union. In December 2001, encouraged by John Bolton, then under secretary of state for arms control and international security, President George W. Bush had indeed withdrawn from the 1972 ABM treaty on the spurious grounds that the 9/11 attacks had changed the nature of defense for America. His Russian counterpart of the time, the very same Vladimir Putin, described the withdrawal from that cornerstone of world security as a grievous mistake. The head of Russia’s armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, warned then that the pullout would alter the nature of the international strategic balance, freeing up countries to restart arms buildups, both conventional and nuclear.

As it happened, he couldn’t have been more on the mark. The U.S. is now engaged in a 30-year, trillion-dollar-plus remake and update of its nuclear arsenal, while the Russians (whose present inventory of 6,500 nuclear weapons slightly exceeds America’s) have gone down a similar route. In that televised address of his on the eve of the 2018 Russian presidential election, Putin’s list of new nuclear weapons was headed by the Sarmat, a 30-ton intercontinental ballistic missile, reputedly far harder for an enemy to intercept in its most vulnerable phase just after launching. It also carries a larger number of nuclear warheads than its predecessor.

Putin meets in 2014 with young researchers at Russian Federal Nuclear Centre – All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics, a key facility in Russia’s nuclear military complex. (President of Russia)

Another new weapon on his list was a nuclear-powered intercontinental underwater drone, Status-6, a submarine-launched autonomous vehicle with a range of 6,800 miles, capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead. And then there was his country’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile with a “practically unlimited” range. In addition, because of its stealth capabilities, it will be hard to detect in flight and its high maneuverability will, theoretically at least, enable it to bypass an enemy’s defenses. Successfully tested in 2018, it does not yet have a name. Unsurprisingly, Putin won the presidency with 77 percent of the vote, a 13 percent rise from the previous poll, on record voter turnout of 67.7 percent.

In conventional weaponry, Russia’s S-400 missile system remains unrivalled. According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, “The S-400 system is an advanced, mobile, surface-to-air defense system of radars and missiles of different ranges, capable of destroying a variety of targets such as attack aircraft, bombs, and tactical ballistic missiles. Each battery normally consists of eight launchers, 112 missiles, and command and support vehicles.” The S-400 missile has a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), and its integrated system is believed to be capable of shooting down up to 80 targets simultaneously.

Consider it a sign of the times, but in defiance of pressure from the Trump administration not to buy Russian weaponry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, ordered the purchase of batteries of those very S-400 missiles. Turkish soldiers are currently being trained on that weapons systems in Russia. The first battery is expected to arrive in Turkey next month.

Trump talks with Turkey’s Erdogan at G-20 Summit, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (White House/ Shealah Craighead)

Similarly, in April 2015, Russia signed a contract to supply S-400 missiles to China. The first delivery of the system took place in January 2018 and China test fired it in August.

Expanding Beijing-Moscow Alliance

Consider that as another step in Russian-Chinese military coordination meant to challenge Washington’s claim to be the planet’s sole superpower. Similarly, last September, 3,500 Chinese troops participated in Russia’s largest-ever military exercises involving 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships, and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Codenamed Vostok-2018, it took place across a vast region that included the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan. Little wonder that NATO officials described Vostok-2018 as a demonstration of a growing Russian focus on future large-scale conflict: “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.” Putin attended the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese President Xi was his guest. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres,” he declared, while Xi praised the two countries’ friendship, which, he claimed, was “getting stronger all the time.”

Map of Northern Sea Route along the coast of Russia. (Mohonu at English Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to climate change, Russia and China are now also working in tandem in the fast-melting Arctic. Last year Russia, which controls more than half the Arctic coastline, sent its first ship through the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaker in winter. Putin hailed that moment as a “big event in the opening up of the Arctic.”

Beijing’s Arctic policy, first laid out in January 2018, described China as a “near-Arctic” state and visualized the future shipping routes there as part of a potential new “Polar Silk Road” that would both be useful for resource exploitation and for enhancing Chinese security. Shipping goods to and from Europe by such a passage would shorten the distance to China by 30 percent compared to present sea routes through the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per voyage.

Icebreaker Yamal, August 2013. (International Maritime Organization via Flickr)

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic holds petroleum reserves equal to 412 billion barrels of oil, or about 22 percent  of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbons. It also has deposits of rare earth metals. China’s second Arctic vessel, Xuelong 2 (Snow Dragon 2), is scheduled to make its maiden voyage later this year. Russia needs Chinese investment to extract the natural resources under its permafrost. In fact, China is already the biggest foreign investor in Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the region — and the first LNG shipment was dispatched to China’s eastern province last summer via the Northern Sea Route. Its giant oil corporation is now beginning to drill for gas in Russian waters alongside the Russian company Gazprom.

Washington is rattled. In April, in its latest annual report to Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon for the first time included a section on the Arctic, warning of the risks of a growing Chinese presence in the region, including that country’s possible deployment of nuclear submarines there in the future. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a meeting of foreign ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland, to assail China for its “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic.

In an earlier speech, Pompeo noted that, from 2012 to 2017, China invested nearly $90 billion in the Arctic region. “We’re concerned about Russia’s claim over the international waters of the Northern Sea Route, including its newly announced plans to connect it with China’s Maritime Silk Road,” he said. He then pointed out that, along that route, “Moscow already illegally demands other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply with their demands.”

Leaders of the Arctic Council meet in Rovaniemi, Finland, May 6, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha)

American Downturn Continues

Altogether, the tightening military and economic ties between Russia and China have put America on the defensive, contrary to Trump’s MAGA promise to American voters in the 2016 campaign. It’s true that, despite fraying diplomatic and economic ties between Washington and Moscow, Trump’s personal relations with Putin remain cordial. (The two periodically exchange friendly phone calls.) But among Russians more generally, a favorable view of the U.S. fell from 41 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018, according to a Pew Research survey.

There’s nothing new about great powers, even the one that proclaimed itself the greatest in history, declining after having risen high. In our acrimonious times, that’s a reality well worth noting. While launching his bid for reelection recently, Trump proposed a bombastic new slogan: “Keep America Great” (or KAG), as if he had indeed raised America’s stature while in office. He would have been far more on target, however, had he suggested the slogan “Depress America More” (or DAM) to reflect the reality of an unpopular president who faces rising great power rivals abroad.

Published:7/10/2019 10:33:27 PM
[Markets] 'Mad' Magazine Told The Truth About War, Advertising, And The Media

Authored by Jeet Heer via TheNation.com,

“After Mad, drugs were nothing...” - Patti Smith

In the summer of 1954, almost any American kid who had the wherewithal to scrounge up a dime could walk into a drugstore and buy the sharp satire on Senator Joseph McCarthy found in the pages of Mad comics #17. The Army-McCarthy hearings had dominated television, and the Wisconsin demagogue had finally alienated so many establishment forces that the Senate was at last moving to censure him. Harvey Kurtzman, the editorial impresario who created Mad, was impressed neither by McCarthy’s buffoonery nor the more deliberative political theater of the Senate. Kurtzman seized on the television drama to recast the whole McCarthy fiasco as a game show called “What’s My Shine?(a travesty of a then-popular program called What’s My Line?).

In real life, such as it was, McCarthy brandished a photo purporting to show Army secretary Robert T. Stevens meeting alone with David Schine, a McCarthy crony and reputed lover of McCarthy’s aide, Roy Cohn. That photo turned out to be cropped so that others at the meeting were out of sight. In the Mad version, drawn by cartoonist Jack Davis, Senator Joseph McCartaway, complete with Roy Cohn hanging over his shoulder like a sinister ventriloquist, flaunts a fake photo to prove that “Even Steven is in reality a Red Skin!” As both press and onlookers go bug-eyed, McCartaway fills the TV screen with a picture of the cabinet secretary with a tomahawk and a war bonnet. Mad’s satire was directed not just at McCarthy’s dishonesty but also, more pointedly, at the medium that allowed the rabble-rouser to rule the national stage.

In Mad, McCarthy and other senators are performing for the TV camera and work their parliamentary antics to fit the time allotted to them by a commercial sponsor. Politics, the story suggests, is just another TV show. The sting of this message has only gotten sharper under the presidency of Donald Trump, Fox News addict and Roy Cohn’s proud political acolyte.

Last week the magazine’s current owners, DC comics, announced that Mad, which started as a comic book in 1952 and became a magazine in 1955, is on the verge of suspending publication. According to news reports, the magazine will continue publishing issues filled with reprint material to fill out existing subscriptions, but it’ll cease buying new material.

Born in the troubled era of McCarthyism, Mad is dying in another squalid political epoch. Mad was arguably America’s greatest and most influential satirical magazine, a strange claim to make of a publication that was mostly read throughout its existence by children and teenagers, but still justifiable.

Mad was often rude, tasteless, and childish - which made it all the more potent as a tributary of youth culture. The kids who read Mad learned from it to distrust authority, whether in the form of politicians, advertisers or media figures. That was a lesson that successive generations took to heart. Without Mad, it’s impossible to imagine underground comics, National LampoonSaturday Night LiveThe SimpsonsThe Daily Show, or Stephen Colbert. In the historical sweep of American culture, Mad is the crucial link between the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers and the counterculture that emerged in the 1960s.

Writing in The New York Times Magazine on the occasion of Mad’s 25th anniversary in 1977, Tony Hiss and Jeff Lewis argued,

“Month after month and issue after issue, in a relentlessly good-natured way, Mad told us that everything was askew—that there were lies in advertising, that other comic hooks lied, that television and movies lied, and that adults, in general, when faced with the unknown, lied.”

Hiss and Lewis cited an impressive array of cultural figures who attested to Mad’s shaping force. Gloria Steinem said, “There was a spirit of satire and irreverence in Mad that was very important, and it was the only place you could find it in the 50’s.” Singer Patti Smith made a similar point more succinctly: “After Mad, drugs were nothing.”

Kurtzman, the genius who was the wellspring for Mad, sometimes denied any political intent.

“I never regarded myself as political,” he once said.

“I don’t think the fact that you have a platform necessarily gives you to qualification to make a speech.”

He admitted he made an exception for McCarthy because he was “so evil. It was like doing a satire on Hitler.” But the truth was more complicated. Kurtzman, born in 1924, was something of a red diaper baby. His parents subscribed to The Daily Worker and sent him to the famously progressive Camp Kinderland.

Kurtzman didn’t inherit his parents’ politics, but his background left him hostile to conventional American culture, which he regarded as filled with lies. Prior to Mad, Kurtzman’s major achievement as a cartoonist was writing and editing two war comics—Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat—which were nearly unique in their unvarnished portrayal of the brutality of the Korean War. “It struck me that war is not a very nice business, and the comic book companies dealing in the subject matter of war tended to make war glamourous,” Kurtzman recalled. “That offended me—so I turned my stories to antiwar.”

Unlike the war comics, Mad was meant to be funny—but the same underlying ethic, a detestation of lies, guided Kurtzman whether he was doing realistic stories or parodies. Kurtzman’s satire aimed at uncovering the deceptions of the media and popular culture. Mickey Mouse in Kurtzman’s unvarnished version became Mickey Rodent while Superduperman was a “creep” who had an unhealthy fixation on “Lois Pain, Girl Reporter.”

Kurtzman produced those war books and Mad for EC Comics, run by Bill Gaines, a young publisher who enjoyed risks and didn’t mind legal trouble. The bread and butter of EC Comics were horror comics like Tales from the Crypt which were so lurid they helped incite a best-selling tirade, a Senate investigation, and the eventual creation of an industry-wide censorship code.

Gaines’s Senate testimony was almost as much of farce as Mad’s rendition of the McCarthy hearings. Pepped up on weight-loss pills, Gaines made a sweaty and unconvincing witness to hostile senators who were not about to buy his advanced theories that teenagers can be trusted with challenging art. These were ideas that might win more favor in other decades, but went completely against the grain of conventional wisdom in the 1950s.

The early years of Mad were genuinely dangerous times for Gaines. Lyle Stuart, Gaines’s business manager, was arrested for sale of “disgusting literature” in the form of an EC comic book story that parodied Mickey Spillane’s violent detective novels. (The story was called “My Gun Is The Jury”—a riff on Spillane’s I, The Jury). Stuart faced a jail term of a year before the judge threw out the case.

Besieged by the Senate, the legal system, parent groups, other publishers, and distributors, Gaines had to give up comic books. Turning Mad into a magazine was his lifeboat. Initially, Gaines and Kurtzman were simpatico, although they eventually split in 1956 when Kurtzman asked for half ownership of the magazine.

When they were on good terms, Gaines didn’t even mind when Kurtzman’s parodies of ads miffed advertisers. In fact, after the break with Kurtzman, Gaines decided to make Mad ad-free in 1957, a policy that continued until 2001 (nearly a decade after Gaines’s death in 1992).

Gaines would cite the progressive tabloid PM, which briefly flourished in the 1940s, as a precedent for Mad’s no-advertising policy. “In those days there was no such thing as running an anti-cigarette story because they were terrified of losing their cigarette advertising,” Gaines noted. “So PM comes along and tears into everything and doesn’t give a shit.”

Gaines had the same jaunty nonchalance he admired in PM. One Mad mock-ad in the 1960s had Adolf Hitler endorsing smoking. The parody ran:

“Hi. I’m Adolph [sic] Hitler. In the 30’s and 40’s we knocked off millions of people and filled countless cemeteries. That’s nothing! I want to talk about a really fantastic cemetery-filler.”

Mad’s willingness to tweak the noses of the powers that be earned it many enemies. In 1961, retired brigadier general Clyde J. Watts claimed Mad was “the most insidious Communist propaganda in the United States today.” In 1979, Bill Wilkinson, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, wrote to the magazine saying,

“You and the jew-communist run MAD magazine are obviously trying to do away with the great Red, White and Blue and promote radicalism in this country’s youth.”

Tragically, the subversive publication that so angered Watts and Wilkinson won’t be around to poison future American generations.

Published:7/9/2019 10:45:04 PM
[Markets] Bidens Earned More Than $15 Million In The Past Two Years

While the topic of Joe Biden's financial assets is hardly as controversial as that of Donald Trump, on Tuesday it was revealed that the Democratic presidential front-runner and his wife Jill earned more than $15 million during the past two years - when they left the White House, - with the bulk of their income coming from payments for the memoirs they’ve each written since the former vice president left office in January 2017. The couple’s total income in 2017 was $11 million and nearly $4.6 million in 2018, according to filed tax returns.

Biden's campaign said that the vast majority of that income ($10,048,739 in 2017 and $3,236,764 in 2018) was derived from payments for the writing of two books: Joe's “Promise Me, Dad” and Jill's “Where the Light Enters,” as well as paid speaking engagements. Biden’s first book, an account of his son Beau’s death from cancer, topped bestseller lists in 2017.

Additionally, Joe Biden’s income in both years included about $400,000 from the University of Pennsylvania for his role as Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor, while Jill Biden took in a far lower $90,000 each year for her professorship at Northern Virginia Community College.

Biden’s financial disclosure also lists 47 speaking appearances; 30 were for his 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad.“

The couple's earnings from the books and speaking engagements were paid through so-called S-Corporations, which the campaign described as “a common method for taxpayers who have outside sources of income to consolidate their earnings and expenses.” The campaign also said Joe and Jill Biden employed staff and engaged contractors to support their work through their S-Corporations, known as “CelticCapri” and “Giacoppa”, according to Fox News.

Biden, who was never one of the wealthier members of Congress during his decades as a senator, has seen his fortunes turn considerably since the end of Obama administration. During a four-decade political career, Biden brought home little more than his government salary.

Yet despite the turn in his fortune and his generous income in the past two years, the couple's assets are materially smaller, and excluding retirement plans, the Bidens hold between $500,000 and $1.2 million in cash and have S-corpoprations with between $1 million and $5 million, and $500,000 and $1 million.

The leading Democrat in the 2020 presidential race, who has now made public the last 21 years of tax returns, has moved into a $5 million mansion outside Washington since he left the White House.

“Middle-Class Joe” more recently has resided in a 12,000-square-foot home in McLean, Va., that came complete with “five bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, marble fireplaces, a gym and a sauna,” The Washington Post reported last month. The home was rented from multi-millionaire Mark Ein.

 

 

Published:7/9/2019 5:14:18 PM
[Markets] Twitter Blocks "More Guns Less Crime" Author John Lott Jr Over Factual New Zealand Tweet

Authored by John Crump via AmmoLand.com,

Twitter has suspended prominent gun-rights activist and researcher, John R. Lott Jr over a Tweet about the New Zealand mass murder that killed a group of Muslims as they attended Mosque.

Lott is the founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC). The CPRC is a registered non-profit that researches the relationship between laws regulating guns and gun ownership and crime. He is the author of nine books including “More Guns, Less Crime,” “The Bias Against Guns,” and “Freedomnomics.” and others. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from UCLA.

When Lott logged onto Twitter, the platform greeted him with a message stating that one of his Twitter posts violated the company’s rules although the social media platform did not list and the exact reason why the Tweet violated their terms of service. The tech giant hasn't responded to Lott's appeal as of this writing.

The Tweet that Twitter flagged was from March 15th of this year. It is unclear whether the tweet was flagged manually or by machine learning. Google has come under fire recently for a Project Veritas Investigation that showed the tech giant allegedly rigging their algorithmic software to help left-wing presidential candidates. Since this Tweet is almost four months old it seems likely this was flagged manually.

To be able to post again, Twitter requires that Lott deletes the offending post. Lott told AmmoLand that removing the Tweet is something he is not willing to consider. He is asking everyone to retweet the screenshots that the CPRC shared on their Tweeter feed and Tweet at Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, and Twitter Support.

Twitter claims that they do not use political affiliation when enforcing their rules. That is at odds with their actions such as when Twitter removes groups like the Proud Boys, but organizations like Rose City Antifa, the group that attacked police and journalist in Portland, OR last weekend, still are free to use the platform to organize their violent protest.

When AmmoLand News reached out to Twitter to see why the company decided to ban the Proud Boys but let Rose City Antifa operate on their site, Director for Global Policy Communications, Ian Plunkett, stated that the Marxist group was “not currently in violation of our policies.

Twitter did not give AmmoLand News an exact reason why Lott's account was locked, but in the statement that Twitter gave to AmmoLand, it seems like the Social Media company is accusing Lott of glorifying violence.

The statement given to AmmoLand by Twitter reads:

“We don't comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons, but for background, it's against our policies to share content that glorifies violence on Twitter, including directly linking to that information. Additionally, we enforce the Twitter Rules impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation.”

AmmoLand's follow up questions to Twitter about how exactly Lott's Tweet glorified violence were not returned. The company also did not explain how his Tweet differs from reports by NBC, CBS, New York Times, various other news organization. Lott’s Tweet was factually accurate and easily verifiable.

As of now, Twitter still has Lott's account lock although readers can see screenshots of the Tweet on the CPRC's Twitter Feed.

Published:7/9/2019 2:45:26 PM
[Christianity] Amazon.com is the 21st Century Version of Book Burning by Banning Christian Books

The following article, Amazon.com is the 21st Century Version of Book Burning by Banning Christian Books, was first published on Godfather Politics.

Today, Amazon.com is performing the exact same crime of book burning by banning Christian books from its services.

Continue reading: Amazon.com is the 21st Century Version of Book Burning by Banning Christian Books ...

Published:7/9/2019 11:16:41 AM
[Markets] Matrix-Like Reality Goes Mainstream: NBC Asks "Are We Living In A Simulated Universe"

Authored by Dan Folk via NBCNews.com,

What if everything around us - the people, the stars overhead, the ground beneath our feet, even our bodies and minds - were an elaborate illusion?

What if our world were simply a hyper-realistic simulation, with all of us merely characters in some kind of sophisticated video game?

This, of course, is a familiar concept from science fiction books and films, including the 1999 blockbuster movie "The Matrix." But some physicists and philosophers say it’s possible that we really do live in a simulation — even if that means casting aside what we know (or think we know) about the universe and our place in it.

“If we are living in a simulation, then the cosmos that we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence,” Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom said in a 2003 paper that jump-started the conversation about what has come to be known as the simulation hypothesis.

“While the world we see is in some sense ‘real,’ it is not located at the fundamental level of reality.”

Simulating worlds and beings

Rizwan Virk, founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s PlayLabs program and author of "The Simulation Hypothesis," is among those who take the simulation hypothesis seriously. He recalls playing a virtual reality game so realistic that he forgot that he was in an empty room with a headset on. That led him to wonder: Are we sure we aren’t embedded within a world created by beings more technologically savvy than ourselves?

That question makes sense to Rich Terrile, a computer scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Detailed as they are, today’s best simulations don’t involve artificial minds, but Terrile thinks the ability to model sentient beings could soon be within our grasp. “We are within a generation of being those gods who create those universes,” he says.

Not everyone is convinced. During a 2016 debate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall said the odds that the simulation hypothesis is correct are “effectively zero.” For starters, there’s no evidence that our world isn’t the array of stars and galaxies that it appears to be. And she wonders why advanced beings would bother to simulate Homo sapiens. “Why simulate us? I mean, there are so many things to be simulating,” she said. “I don’t know why this higher species would want to bother with us.”

Echoes of Genesis

Yet, there’s a familiar ring to the idea that there’s a simulator, or creator, who does care about us. Similarly, the idea of a superior being forging a simulated universe parallels the notion of a deity creating the world — for example, as described in the Book of Genesis.

Some thinkers, including Terrile, welcome the analogy to religion. If the simulation hypothesis is correct, he says, then “there’s a creator, an architect — someone who designed the world.” It’s an ancient idea recast in terms of “mathematics and science rather than just faith.”

(click image for link to poll and updated distribution)

But for other scholars, including University of Maryland physicist Sylvester James Gates, the similarity between the simulation hypothesis and religious belief should be taken as a warning that we’re off track. Science, as he said in a recent radio interview, has taken us “away from this idea that we are puppets” controlled by an unseen entity. The simulation hypothesis, he said, “starts to look like a religion,” with a programmer substituting for god.

Who, or what, is the godlike entity that may have created a simulated universe? One possibility, supporters of the simulation hypothesis say, is that it’s a race of advanced beings — space aliens. Even more mind-bending is the possibility is that it’s our own descendants — “our future selves,” as Terrile puts it. That is, humans living hundreds or thousands of years in the future might develop the ability to simulate not only a world like ours but the bodies and minds of the beings within it.

“Just as you can simulate anything else, you can simulate brains,” Bostrom says. True, we don’t yet have the technology to pull it off, but he says there’s no conceptual barrier to it.

And once we create brain simulations “sufficiently detailed and accurate,” he says, “it is possible that those simulations would generate conscious experiences.”

The search for evidence

Will we ever learn whether the simulation hypothesis is correct? Bostrum says there’s a remote chance that one day we might encounter a telltale glitch in the simulation. “You could certainly imagine a scenario where a window pops up in front of you, saying, ‘You are in a simulation; click here for more information,’” he says. “That would be a knock-down proof.”

More realistically, physicists have proposed experiments that could yield evidence that our world is simulated. For example, some have wondered if the world is inherently “smooth,” or if, at the smallest scales, it might be made up of discrete “chunks” a bit like the pixels in a digital image. If we determine that the world is “pixelated” in this way, it could be evidence that it was created artificially. A team of American and German physicists have argued that careful measurements of cosmic rays could provide an answer.

What if we did confirm that we were living in a simulation? How would people react upon learning that our world and thoughts and emotions are nothing more than a programmer’s zeroes and ones? Some imagine such knowledge would disrupt our lives by upending our sense of purpose and squashing our initiative. Harvard astronomer Abraham Loeb says the knowledge could even trigger social unrest.

Knowing that our thoughts and deeds aren’t our own could “relieve us from being accountable for our actions,” he says. “There is nothing more damaging to our social order than this notion.”

Others imagine evidence in support of the simulation hypothesis could engender a new fear — that the creators might grow tired of the simulation and switch it off. But not Bostrum. “You could similarly ask, ‘shouldn’t we be in perpetual fear of dying?’ You could have a heart attack or a stroke at any given point in time, or the roof might fall down,” he says.

Whatever we might think of the simulation hypothesis, Bostrom thinks the mere act of pondering it provides a welcome dose of humility. He cites Hamlet’s cautionary remark to a friend in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet": “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And Botrum insists that he takes the simulation hypothesis seriously.

“For me, it’s not just an intellectual game,” he says. “It’s an attempt to orient myself in the world, as best I can understand it.”

Published:7/8/2019 9:45:40 PM
[Markets] What's Left To Monetize?

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

What's left to monetize? It appears the answer is "very little."

Advertising has always monetized consumers' time and attention, what we call engagement today. Newspapers and periodicals publish advertisements, radio/TV networks and stations air adverts, movie theaters run trailers/ads, billboards occupy our mental space while driving and websites and apps post adverts. The more media you consume, the more adverts you see/hear, and the more time you spend consuming media, the greater your exposure to advertising.

Monetizing our time and attention has a long history, as does the monetizing encroachment on what was once private time / attention. Time spent on the telephone escaped monetization until the advent of telemarketing, a particularly invasive and galling conquest of what was once a private domain. Now thanks to voicemail and robo-calling, our phones are increasingly the domain of intrusive monetization. (Is anyone else getting endless voicemails pitching services in Mandarin Chinese?)

No visual space has been left unmonetized: shopping carts display adverts, the plastic dividers between customers' groceries in the checkout display adverts, even the floors of stores display adverts.

Many forms of communication have been rendered essentially unusable by monetization. Many people no longer look at their email since it has been taken over by spam, and many of those with landline phones no longer answer their phones due to the constant robo-calls.

Big Tech has generated billions of dollars by monetizing other forms of engagement and privately owned capital/assets. Google has monetized web search, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have monetized social media, Uber and Lyft have monetized privately owned vehicles, as are on-demand delivery services (Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats) and Amazon. AirBNB has monetized privately owned or leased homes and flats.

Many startups have attempted to monetize other privately owned assets ("it's Uber for bicycles," etc.) with varying results.

The spare time of the under-employed or unemployed has been monetized by Task Rabbit, Fiverr, et al.

As has been widely noted, the net income paid by the monetizing platforms to the owners/providers does not fully compensate costs of ownership or match conventional wages and labor benefits. The benefits of monetizing what was previously unmarketable--a few hours of driving one's own car or performing paid work on a flexible schedule--are obvious, as is the profit potential of controlling the marketplaces of buyers and sellers of these services.

So here's my question: what's left for Big Tech to monetize? Many people already spend more time staring at screens (i.e. "leisure" consumption of media, entertainment, gaming, etc.) than they do at work or school, so in terms of time left to monetize, Hulu, Apple Music, Spotify, Netflix et al. are competing with sleep, meal preparation, reading books, conversation, dinner parties, intimacy and other traditional forms of non-media, non-screen uses of time.

As for privately owned capital/assets, there's a marketplace for sharing or renting privately owned consumer goods, but in a society awash in "stuff" it's difficult to monetize low-value, often informal activity.

So what happens to the lofty valuations currently enjoyed by Big Tech as the asymmetries of monetization start moving political gears and the gold-rush of monetizing engagement and privately owned assets runs out of new territories to conquer? What happens when diminishing returns set in as growth rates slow, marginal costs rise and political blowback builds momentum?

Just as there are only so many hours of the day consumers can stare at screens, so too are there limits on monetizing engagement and privately owned assets. What's left to monetize? It appears the answer is "very little."

*  *  *

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Published:7/5/2019 10:46:43 AM
[Markets] What Did President Trump Say When Asked About The Epidemic Of Human Feces On America's Streets

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

If you go visit Japan, I guarantee that you won’t see a single person defecating on the sidewalk.  It just doesn’t happen over there, or in most other highly civilized nations on the planet. 

But here in the United States, we have such a problem with human waste on our city streets that even the president of the United States is talking about it on national television.  President Trump has been known to comment on the deplorable conditions in other nations from time to time, but during an interview on Monday night Fox host Tucker Carlson asked Trump about the horrific conditions in some of our own cities.  In particular, Carlson noted that unlike New York and Los Angeles, there is “no one going to the bathroom on the streets” in Japan

Trump sat for an interview with Tucker Carlson during his trip to South Korea over the weekend. The Fox News host observed that cities in Japan, host of the Group of 20 summit, had “no graffiti” and “no one going to the bathroom on the streets,” and said New York City and Los Angeles had a “major problem with filth.”

In response, President Trump blamed the liberals that are running those big cities for the current conditions, and he described what some homeless people are going through as “living in hell”

The president described cities in a dire state, claiming police officers are “getting sick just by walking the beat,” and some people are “living in hell.”

Some people may be tempted to think that Trump was exaggerating, but the truth is that conditions on the streets of some of our major cities just continue to deteriorate at a very rapid pace.

For example, just consider the following excerpt from a Los Angeles Times article that was published about a month ago

I’ve seen so many rats the last two weeks in downtown Los Angeles, I have to suspect they’re plotting a takeover of City Hall, which vermin infiltrated last year.

The city of Los Angeles has become a giant trash receptacle. It used to be that illegal dumpers were a little more discreet, tossing their refuse in fields and gullies and remote outposts.

Now city streets are treated like dumpsters, or even toilets — on Thursday, the 1600 block of Santee Street was cordoned off after someone dumped a fat load of poop in the street. I’m not sure when any of this became the norm, but it must have something to do with the knowledge that you can get away with it.

Of course similar things could be said about Seattle, Portland, Denver or just about any major city out west.

When authorities cleaned up the homeless camps that had popped up on a two mile stretch along a bike trail in Orange County last year, this is what they hauled away

  • 404 tons of debris

  • 13,950 needles (approximate number based on what disposal containers hold)

  • 5,279 pounds of hazardous waste (human waste, propane, pesticides and other materials)

It literally took months to clean everything up, and that was just one very small two mile stretch of southern California.

But when it comes to human feces, nobody can even come close to San Francisco.

According to Forbes, there have been more than 118,000 officially reported cases of human feces on the streets since 2011…

Since 2011, there have been at least 118,352 reported instances of human fecal matter on city streets.

New mayor, London Breed, won election by promising to clean things up. However, conditions are the same or worse. Last year, the number of reports spiked to an all-time high at 28,084. In first quarter 2019, the pace continued with 6,676 instances of human waste in the public way.

This is supposed to be one of the wealthiest cities on the entire planet, and yet it has become a giant human manure pile.

Of course much of this is being fueled by drugs.  Addicts are often so zombified that they don’t care who or what is around when it comes time to use the potty.  In the U.S. today, more people die from drug overdoses than from traffic accidents, and even the New York Times admits that we are in the midst of the “worst drug crisis in American history”.

But for many others, being homeless has nothing to do with drugs at all.  The middle class is being eviscerated all around us, and poverty is growing with each passing day.  And it turns out that several of the counties with the most unaffordable housing in America just happen to be in California

ATTOM Data Solutions published its 2Q19 US Home Affordability Report, which reveals median home prices last quarter weren’t affordable for the average American in 74% (353 of 480 counties) of the counties analyzed.

The most unaffordable counties, the reported noted, were in Los Angeles County, California; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; San Diego County, California; and Orange County, California.

There is never going to be any sort of a permanent solution to the homelessness crisis in California until there is a lot more affordable housing, and right now liberal policies are standing in the way of that happening.

Unfortunately, the entire country is likely to see a substantial rise in homelessness as this new economic downturn continues to escalate.  At this point things have already gotten so tight that a third of all Americans have cut spending within the last 12 months

A third of Americans say they’ve cut spending in the last year, and that percentage is about the same no matter the demographic. Reasons for spending less ranged from a loss of household income and new debt to fear of recession, job loss or large medical bills from an unexpected illness or injury.

Considering the fact that 59 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck, the truth is that most of us are just a couple of bad breaks away from financial disaster.

So instead of looking down on homeless people, the rest of us should be working harder than ever so that we can survive the very rough times that are coming.

Nobody plans to fall into poverty, and nobody actually wants to be homeless.

But tonight more than 550,000 Americans do not have a home, and that number is only going to keep rising.

Published:7/3/2019 4:09:38 PM
[Markets] China Forcing Tourists To Install 'Spy' App That Steals Personal Data

Authored by Alvine Chaparadza via TechZim.co.nz,

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Watch exposed how police in a Chinese region called Xinjiang used a smartphone app to monitor (and oppress) its people.

image source

The app monitors everything, from flagging use of banned apps such as WhatsApp to gaining access to contacts, text messages, and almost everything else on a user’s smartphone. And this data would then be used by the police to decide which individuals to question or detain.

"This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world."

However, a new investigation carried out by Motherboard, The Guardian, the New York Times, and others, has now revealed that smartphone surveillance in Xinjiang is imposed on tourists as well. 

According to the report, foreigners crossing into Xinjiang are “forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities.”

The trickery

The malware, named Feng Cai or BXAQ, scans the target device’s files against a huge target list of over 70,000 files, including things like Islamic extremist content, and even things like installed copies of the Quran, “innocuous Islamic material, academic books on Islam by leading researchers, and even music from a Japanese metal band.”

China’s voice

China has repeatedly claimed that its actions in Xinjiang are internal affairs and the international community shouldn’t try to interfere with however China chooses to handle its “counter-terrorism” efforts within its borders.

"There is an increasing trend around the world to treat borders as law-free zones where authorities have the right to carry out whatever outrageous form of surveillance they want," Edin Omanovic, state surveillance programme lead at Privacy International said.

"But they’re not: the whole point of basic rights is that you’re entitled to them wherever you are. Western liberal democracies intent on implementing increasingly similar surveillance regimes at the border should look to what China is doing here and consider if this is really the model of security they want to be pursuing."

These reports, however, just go to show how China is carrying out mass surveillance under the guise of counter-terrorism, and not just on its locals, but even tourists and foreigners visiting the country are subjected to such invasive surveillance activities.

Published:7/3/2019 3:37:53 PM
[Entertainment] Visit our new standalone entertainment section for all the latest news on movies, music, books, TV and celebrities.
      
Published:7/3/2019 2:36:26 PM
[CULTURE] Capitol Hill Books Insults Trump Supporters

An historically loved Washington, D.C. bookstore named Capitol Hill Books is facing backlash after taking to Twitter to insult Trump supporters ahead of the 4th of July weekend. The book store posted the following tweet on July 3rd: “Reminder: the best way to avoid MAGA tourists in DC this holiday weekend is to enter a […]

The post Capitol Hill Books Insults Trump Supporters appeared first on Human Events.

Published:7/3/2019 2:04:46 PM
[Uncategorized] ‘Same bigoted nonsense’: Capitol Hill Books slammed for ‘joyless and nasty’ swipe at Trump supporters

"No wonder Amazon.com is eating your lunch."

The post ‘Same bigoted nonsense’: Capitol Hill Books slammed for ‘joyless and nasty’ swipe at Trump supporters appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:7/3/2019 12:34:27 PM
[Markets] Three Steps To Save America From Collapse

Authored by George Gilder via DailyReckoning.com,

Our monetary system is broken. It’s given us low growth, a shrinking job force, inequality beyond what a healthy economy would produce, inefficiency, and the unnatural growth of finance as a portion of the economy.

Our aging Federal Reserve System starves both small businesses and Silicon Valley of the capital needed to grow jobs and wages.

Fed policy translates into zero-interest-rate loans for the government and its cronies, and little or nothing for savers or small businesses. And it has transformed Wall Street from an engine of innovation into a servant of government power.

But I believe America can be set on the right path towards a robust and broadly shared capitalism again with just three steps. 

Step 1: Abolish Capital Gains Tax on Currencies 

This country already allows gold currency. The Treasury mints millions of one-ounce silver eagle dollars that are worth more than twenty dollars apiece and one-ounce gold eagle fifty-dollar pieces that are worth $1,150 apiece. 

Virtually all of these are hoarded. 

Though it has been legal since 1987 to use them at their metallic value, that route leads to a capital gains tax on their appreciation. 

Since the appreciation of a gold or silver piece is by reasonable definition all inflation, the tax is simple confiscation (like all capital gains taxes on spurious inflationary profits). 

The move of gold and silver coins into circulation would offer a corrective of constitutional money for any dollar debauchery by the Fed. 

Step 2: Remove Obstacles to Alternative Forms of Money

Despite imprudent governmental interference, the internet remains a bastion of American power, with U.S. companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, eBay, Cisco, Qualcomm, and scores of others capturing the bulk of all internet revenues. 

The internet plays a central role in the American economy. But there is a profound flaw in its architecture, as I have explained before. It was designed for communications, not transactions.

Around the globe, transactions are shifting toward the internet. Although online purchases remain between 6-7% of all commerce, internet trade is expanding rapidly. 

But to buy something on the Internet, you often have to give the supplier sufficient information — credit card number, expiration date, address, security code, mother’s maiden name, and so on — to defraud you or even to steal your identity. 

This information therefore has to be protected at high cost in firewalled central repositories and private networks, which are irresistible targets for hackers. 

With transactional overhead dominated by offline financial infrastructure, micropayments are uneconomic, and the internet fills with fake offers, bogus contracts, and pop-up hustles. Some 36% of web pages are bogus, emitted by bots to snare information from unwary surfers. 

The internet today desperately needs a new trusted and secure payment method that conforms to the shape and reach of global networking and commerce. 

It should eliminate the constant exchanges of floating currencies, more volatile than the global economy that they supposedly measure. It should be capable of transactions of all sizes. And it should partake of the same monetary sources of stable value that characterize gold. 

The new system should be distributed as far as internet devices are distributed: a dispersed organization based on peer-to-peer links between users, rather than a centralized hierarchy based on national financial institutions. 

Fortunately such a payment system has already been invented. It is set to become a new facet of internet infrastructure. 

It is called the bitcoin blockchain. 

The bitcoin blockchain is already in place. It functions peer-to-peer without the need for outside trusted third parties. And it follows theorist Nick Szabo’s precursor, bitgold. Its value, like gold’s, is ultimately based on the scarcity of time.

Even if bitcoin proves flawed, scores of companies are developing alternatives based on the essential blockchain innovation that can serve as a successful transactions medium for digital commerce. The existence of such a system would enable sellers on the internet, such as content producers, to name their own prices and collect their funds directly. 

And the very process that validates the transaction would prohibit spam. There would be no hassle of bartering content for advertising revenues at some aggregator such as Google. Aggregators with advertising clout would merely add inefficiency to an automated system that minimize transaction costs. 

The internet would have a money system of its own.

With a low market price for goods and services — Google and other players could charge millicents for their services and still make a mint — the internet economy would transcend its current den of thieves and hustlers. 

It could attain its promise as a frictionless facilitator of human creativity rather than as a channel of chicanery. Its markets would impel the world toward new realms of knowledge and wealth. 

But the success of a new global standard of value on the internet entails a ban on taxation of internet currencies. If only government currencies escape taxation, alternative currencies such as bitcoin will always be relegated to niches.

Step 3: Fix the Dollar 

That brings us to the third step: fixing the U.S. dollar.

How do we do this? 

Monetary scholar Judy Shelton already devised a play. The chief instrument would be the creation of Treasury Trust Bonds — five-year Treasuries redeemable in either dollars or gold. They could be enacted either through legislation or as a Treasury initiative.

Legislation would specifically authorize the issuance of five-year Treasury securities that pay no interest, but provide for payment of principal at maturity in either ounces of gold or the face value of the security, at the option of the holder. 

The instrument would be an obligation of the U.S. government to redeem the nominal value (“face value”) in terms of a precise weight of gold stipulated in advance or the dollar amount established as the monetary equivalent. The rate of convertibility (in gold grams) is permanent throughout the life of the bond; it defines the gold value of the dollar.

As Alan Greenspan declared in the Wall Street Journal during the previous era of monetary turmoil, in 1981: 

In years past a desire to return to a monetary system based on gold was perceived as nostalgia for an era when times were simpler, problems less complex and the world not threatened with nuclear annihilation. But after a decade of destabilizing inflation and economic stagnation, the restoration of a gold standard has become an issue that is clearly rising on the economic policy agenda.”

In fact, Greenspan suggested that “Shelton bonds” would pave the path to the future…

“The degree of success of restoring long-term fiscal confidence will show up clearly in the yield spreads between gold and fiat dollar obligations of the same maturities. Full convertibility would require that the yield spread for all maturities virtually disappear.”

Of course, as Fed chairman, Greenspan went on to become a major maestro of monopoly money at the Fed. And in his subsequent books he expressed many regrets and misgivings about the nature and role of central banks. 

But in an era of new monetary turmoil, Shelton bonds still have traction. In addition, as bitcoin blockchain innovations spread through the internet, borrowers could also issue bonds with a bitcoin payoff. So new systems based on gold and blockchain innovations can evolve into a new world monetary infrastructure.

These are the three steps that can restore integrity to the monetary system. 

As I explained previously, this is how we can save Main Street from the menace of monopoly money, transcend the dismal science of stagnation and decline, and restore the American mission and dream.

Published:7/2/2019 3:32:14 PM
[Politics] New York Review of Books Slams Mayor Pete

A new review of Pete Buttigieg's Shortest Way Home pushes back against praise of it as the best political biography since Barack Obama's 2008 book, instead finding Buttigieg's presentation of his life to be devoid of any actual "human experience" or "self-analysis."

The post New York Review of Books Slams Mayor Pete appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:7/2/2019 12:59:14 PM
[Markets] In A Few Hours, This Will Be The Longest Economic Expansion On Record: What Happens Next?

In just a few hours, on July 1, the US economic expansion will become the longest on record, entering its 121st month since the end of the 2009 recession (which according to the NBER ended in June of that year), and surpassing the previous record - the March 1991 - March 2001 expansion - which ended with the bursting of the dot com bubble.

As Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid writes, since US business cycles have been tracked from 1854 there have been 34 expansions. The last four have all been long relative to the past and are all in the top six in terms of duration. The other two in this top six were the June 1938-cycle which was boosted by the WWII rearmament efforts, and the Feb 1961-cycle where the Fed were late to deal with ever increasing US inflation, leading to too loose monetary policy and an extended cycle.

As part of a recent analysis, Deutsche Bank explains why this cycle – and the past four – have been so long relative to history, show various economic and market indicators from this cycle relative to the past to put the record-breaking expansion in some context, and predict what may happen next.

It may come as a surprise to exactly nobody, that there is a distinct correlation between the rising length of the US business cycle - and ensuing economic and market crashes which terminate said expansion - and the advent of the Federal Reserve. Oh, and globalization has a lot to do with everything too.

But first, a quick stroll down memory lane...

As Deutsche Bank writes, during the earliest monitored business cycles, the US economy was predominantly agriculturally based. Indeed the share of employment made up from this sector was 59% in 1850 and only dipped below 30% by 1920 and below 10% by 1960. This likely made GDP more volatile as the economy was more exposed to the boom and bust crop cycles without much sector diversity. In addition, prior to 1913 there was no central bank and banking runs and panics were a fairly regular feature of the economic landscape.

As the economy became more diverse and less dependent on agriculture and the Federal Reserve appeared in 1913 and became increasingly more active in the economy and capital markets, economic cycles were able to be extended. However, WWI and its aftermath, the stock market crash, the 1930s Depression, and the fact that the US operated under a gold standard ensured that cycles were still relatively short by modern standards until at least WWII.

The gold standard and subsequent Bretton Woods system (1946-1971) restricted stimulative policy (both fiscal and monetary). The dollar was convertible into gold at a fixed price and policy had to ensure that there wasn’t a run on gold reserves.

Amusingly, indirectly summarizing the current economic and market climate, Deutsche Bank writes that back int he day, "loose fiscal or monetary policy to extend a business cycle would have likely led to the perception that the authorities were prepared to generate inflation and erode the value of the dollar." Which, of course, is the current situation, only it's not just the US that is doing it, but everyone is. In any case, when this happened during various points in the past, gold would have flowed out of the country threatening the economic management model of the time. The chart below shows the price of gold to the USD alongside the length of each business cycle and suggests that business cycles were a lot shorter when the dollar was rigidly price fixed against gold. As the ties slowly loosened to gold - culminating with Nixon closing the gold window on August 15, 1971 and effectively ending the Bretton-Woods system - and devaluations occurred, business cycles started to get longer.

It's worth noting that as the ties to gold were loosened, economic policy could become more flexible - think more and more debt - allowing the "opportunity" for more stimulus. Deutsche Bank shows this by highlighting the length of each US business cycle but this time with the annual US budget deficit (left) and total Government Debt to GDP (right) overlaid on top. Bottom line: with the US dollar becoming unanchored from gold in the 1970s, it allowed every successive administration to avoid recessions by piling up more debt and spending at an ever faster rate.

What may come as a surprise to several generations of Americans is that prior to the late 1960s, the US ran close to a balanced budget every year outside of war time and the Great Depression. Deficits temporarily ballooned and debt increased on these occasions and membership of the gold standard was often suspended allowing for more flexible policy for a brief period of time. However, the US quickly went back to balanced budgets after these events alongside a stable gold/USD parity which made it very hard to be overly stimulative.

Pressure on this system started to build as the post-WWII landscape emerged, leading to structural deficits slowly building up in the late 1960s. There was huge population growth in this era and at the same time we saw the birth of the welfare state and "great society" type movements. Across the globe, citizens were increasingly demanding more access to education, healthcare, a safety net for the poor and unemployed, better public services, and the increased provision of state pensions. This led to increased demands for governments to spend more and this was funded by deficit spending across the world, a trend that lasts to the current day. Very few countries have managed to balance their fiscal books over the last 50 years.

Of course, this new trend was not sustainable in a precious metal currency system and eventually the increases in US/global deficits put pressure on the Bretton Woods system. In 1971 President Nixon suspended the convertibility of dollars into gold and the US moved to the fiat currency regime that is still in existence today. At that point the vast majority of global currencies - that had been fixed to the USD in the Bretton Woods system - also effectively became fiat currencies.

As currency ties to gold broke around the globe, cycles started to get longer but debt started to increase – a pattern that has extended to the current day with the added kicker in this current cycle being the largest round of central bank balance sheet expansion in history in the US, and at a global level: i.e. the entire world is now all in on avoiding a recession, and the cost is the greatest accumulation of sovereign debt in history.

Incidentally, as we showed back in 2015, the end of the US gold standard in 1971 in addition to permitting ever longer economic cycles (at the expense of record debt), also marked the moment when the US middle class stopped growing, as the income of 90% of the US population ended its ascent, while unleashing a golden age for the US "top 1%", whose asset holdings exploded in "value" at the time the USD was delinked from gold. Which, incidentally, is the solution to the nationalist problem in every developed nation - if you want the middle class to return, and income for the vast majority of the population to increase, all that has to happen is for the gold standard to return. Of course, since that means crippling the wealth of the top 1%, it will never happen.

Obviously the start of this new era (the 1970s), in which fiat currencies emerged as ties to gold were broken, saw great economic challenges with high inflation and the oil shocks ensuring that managing the business cycle was still very difficult. Nevertheless, as DB's Jim Reid notes, it was interesting that the first full cycle of the post Bretton Woods era starting in 1975 ended up being the third longest on record at the time (out of 29), behind only the 1938- WWII rearmament cycle and 1961- Fed policy error cycle.

What about the Fed?

The next chart shows the Fed Funds rate over the last century with recessions marked. In the Post WWII period, the interesting thing is that there have been two long rate 'super-cycles'. The first extended from the end of the War until the early 1980s and saw rates structurally head higher across multiple cycles. During this period there were regular recessions with only the 1960s cycle an extended one due to what is now widely believed to be a policy error from the Fed as they failed to hike rates fast enough to control inflation. Rates eventually peaked just before the start of the long cycle era and since then they've been on a near four decade reversal of the 1945-1982 trend. So in the former period the Fed was in a long hiking super cycle which would have helped contribute to multiple recessions in that period. The opposite was true post 1982 where the structural ability to cut rates must have elongated cycles that might have otherwise been prone to roll over. This, as Deutsche Bank notes, undoubtedly played a part in the move from short to long cycles.

All of this worked great... until the Lehman failure and the global financial crisis unleashed a deflationary shockwave across the globe.

After an economic golden age for the global economy between 1982 and 2008, the Global Financial Crisis was then a huge threat to the era of long business cycles as it exposed the debt fuelled super-cycle that this policy flexibility encouraged. Allowing a great global debt restructuring that may have naturally occurred as a consequence would have restrained the flexibility of governments and central bankers to manage the business cycle and we could have quickly moved to a world of shorter cycles again. Being at the zero rate bound for the first time in history in many countries
(including the US) compounded the risks. However, as Jim Reid observes "global debt has continued to increase post the GFC and central banks found new weapons – namely QE and negative rates – to ensure that the economies could continue to grow over a period where left to their own devices we may have experienced a more sober economic environment and shorter cycles."

As such, the US now is on the brink of its longest business cycle on record, continuing the trend of long cycles seen over the last 35-40 years

How long will US business cycles be in the future?

With the last four super-long US cycles attributed to globalisation, demographics, downward wage pressures, positive global disinflation, fiat money, increased debt/deficits, and QE, then the answer will come from answers as to how sustainable these trends are.

We'll skip demographics and globalization as these are slower-acting, tectonic shifts, and focus on topics that are as salient today as ever - especially with another debt ceiling fight looming in D.C. With regards to debt and deficits, if anything the US has moved into an era of higher structural deficits and higher government debt, according to DB. Figure 10 extends the earlier charts to show CBO forecasts for both alongside business cycle lengths historically. Here the conclusion is simple: if the US can maintain such consistent deficits then perhaps it can continue to have long business cycles. Most market participants would likely say that such an increase in debt is not sustainable longer term but it could of course be sustainable for this and the next business cycle.

Similarly, the era of fiat money won't be under terminal threat until there is sustained inflation - and not just the hyperinflation recorded in asset prices which the US government and Fed, for some reason, continue to ignore. As such central banks will still have money printing and balance sheet expansion in their armoury. Linked into debt and deficits, going forward QE may be used to finance specific government spending more than it has over the last decade where it was used to buy financial assets – particularly government bonds. So this could extend business cycles in the future and is again only likely to be more troublesome for the business cycle length when inflation rises.

So to conclude, retreating globalisation and weakening demographics are more negative for business cycle length going forward. However, while we are still able to run large deficits, accumulate more debt, and conduct more money printing we can still manipulate the length of cycles relative to the past. Maybe inflation is the glue here. Once that starts to structurally increase, business cycle management becomes more challenging.

How does this cycle compare to the past

Now that we know how we got here, and to mark the occasion that in just a few hours this will be the longest US cycle on record, let's take a look at how this cycle compares to previous US cycles through history. Where Deutsche Bank has data, it stretches back to the start of US business cycle tracking in 1854, covering 34 expansions. Where data is missing, the analysis uses yearly data and start the cycle from the beginning of the year in which the recovery started. The titles indicate the periods covered in the graphs.

First we look at nominal GDP. As can be seen from the annual data back to 1854 or the quarterly data starting in 1921, this current cycle has seen the lowest growth at all stages of all the 18 cycles that have lasted more than three years. In fact, that might have helped encourage its longevity as economic activity has not got overly ahead of itself. It took until around 2018 for the output gap from the GFC recession to close and as such we were still in 'catch-up' mode for most of it.

A similar picture emerges in real GDP terms. Using the full annual data series, this is the shallowest recovery of all the 11 that have extended past 4 years. In the quarterly data post 1949, this cycle has been the weakest of any of the 11 expansions at all points through their respective cycles. So perhaps the policy breaks have not been needed to be applied by the authorities in the same manner as in virtually all previous cycles.

Given that population growth in this cycle has been the slowest of all the 34 cycles covered, low nominal and real GDP growth shouldn't be a surprise. However one could also make the argument that low growth makes recessions more likely as the margin for error is reduced. As such, the longevity of this cycle becomes even more impressive.

Next, moving to what may be the most critical metric for modern economists - inflation. The early cycles observed covered a period where inflation was structurally much lower. So in this respect, this current expansion looks less extreme on the downside than it does on the growth front. However the impressive element to this cycle is how steady inflation has been throughout. Indeed prices are only up 18.5% over the now 10-year expansion. This has allowed the Fed to maintain an accommodative policy stance for as long as they have and has helped extend the cycle beyond any other.

At the same time, the decline in unemployment doesn’t look particularly unusual in this cycle relative to the past but the key takeaway from this graph is that recessions tend to start with unemployment still trending down or at least flat  lining. It also proves the point that employment is a lagging indicator.

Looking at capital markets reveals an entirely different story.

In terms of equities, this cycle has always been at the upper end of those seen through the entire history back to 1854. As we go past the 1991 expansion - that was previously the longest on record - returns on the S&P 500 are similar to that remarkable cycle which ended with the 2000 stock market bubble bursting. In that cycle, the graph highlights that the equity market peaked in March 2000 before the eventual recession was deemed to have begun in March 2001.

As Deutsche Bank concludes, it's an interesting paradox that this cycle has consistently been one of the weakest in  terms of economic growth but one of the strongest in terms of asset price growth. It also hints at the extraordinary lengths global authorities have gone to ensure this recovery continued. Liquidity and intervention has been enormous and this has flowed into assets, not the economy.

So as we celebrate the longest US expansion in history, and the fourth ultra long cycle in a row, the only question worth pondering is what the costs of what as of July 1 will be the longest cycle in history, will end up being?

Published:6/30/2019 7:59:34 PM
[Markets] For Americans, War Has Always Been A Spectator Sport

Authored by Nick Turse via TomDispatch.com,

From the Civil War to Vietnam, Americans have always been captivated by war’s spectacle...

Sometimes war sounds like the harsh crack of gunfire and sometimes like the whisper of the wind. This early morning - in al-Yarmouk on the southern edge of Libya’s capital, Tripoli - it was a mix of both.

All around, shops were shuttered and homes emptied, except for those in the hands of the militiamen who make up the army of the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed, internationally recognized government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. The war had slept in this morning and all was quiet until the rattle of a machine gun suddenly broke the calm.

A day earlier, I had spent hours on the roof of my hotel, listening to the basso profundo echo of artillery as dark torrents of smoke rose from explosions in this and several other outlying neighborhoods. The GNA was doing battle with the self-styled Libyan National Army of warlord Khalifa Haftar, a US citizen, former CIA asset, and longtime resident of Virginia, who was lauded by President Donald Trump in an April phone call. Watching the war from this perch brought me back to another time in my life when I wrote about war from a far greater distance—of both time and space—a war I covered decades after the fact, the one that Americans still call “Vietnam” but the Vietnamese know as “the American War.”

During the early years of US involvement there, watching the war from the hotels of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was a rite of passage for American journalists and the signature line of unfortunate articles that often said far more about the state of war reporting than the state of the war. “On clear days patrons lunching in the ninth-floor restaurant in the Caravelle Hotel can watch Government planes dropping napalm on guerrillas across the Saigon River,” Hedrick Smith wrote in a December 1963 New York Times article.

As that war ground on, the pastime of hotel war-watching never seemed to end, despite a recognition of the practice for what it was. Musing about the spring of 1968 in his fever dream memoir, DispatchesEsquire’s correspondent in Vietnam, Michael Herr, wrote:

“In the early evenings we’d do exactly what the correspondents did in those terrible stories that would circulate in 1964 and 1965, we’d stand on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel having drinks and watch the airstrikes across the river, so close that a good telephoto lens would pick up the markings on the planes. There were dozens of us up there, like aristocrats viewing Borodino from the heights, at least as detached about it as that even though many of us had been caught under those things from time to time.”

“IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THERE WAS A WOMAN KILLED THERE BY OUR GUNS”

Today, few know much about Borodino—unless they remember it as the white-hot heart of the war sections of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace—a Napoleonic victory that proved so pyrrhic it would have been regarded as the French Emperor’s Waterloo, if the actual battle of that name hadn’t finally felled him. Still, even for those who don’t know Borodino from Bora Bora, Herr’s passage points to a grand tradition of detached war-watching. (Or, in the case of Ernest Hemingway’s famed Spanish Civil War coverage, war-listening: “The window of the hotel is open and, as you lie in bed, you hear the firing in the front line seventeen blocks away.”)

In fact, the classic American instance of war-as-spectator-sport occurred in 1861 in the initial major land battle of the Civil War, Bull Run (or, for those reading this below the Mason-Dixon line, the first battle of Manassas).

“On the hill beside me there was a crowd of civilians on horseback, and in all sorts of vehicles, with a few of the fairer, if not gentler sex,” wrote William Howard Russell who covered the battle for the London Times.

“The spectators were all excited, and a lady with opera glasses who was near me was quite beside herself when an unusually heavy discharge roused the current of her blood—‘That is splendid, Oh my! Is not that first rate? I guess we will be in Richmond tomorrow.’”

That woman would be sorely disappointed. US forces not only failed to defeat their Confederate foes and press on toward the capital of the secessionist South but fled, pell-mell, in ignominious retreat toward Washington. It was a routof the first order. Still, not one of the many spectators on the scene, including Congressman Alfred Ely of New York, taken prisoner by the 8th South Carolina Infantry, was killed.

But that isn’t to say that there were no civilian casualties at Bull Run.

Judith Carter Henry was as old as the imperiled republic at the time of the battle. Born in 1776, the widow of a US Navy officer, she was an invalid, confined to her bed, living with her daughter, Ellen, and a leased, enslaved woman named Lucy Griffith when Confederate snipers stormed her hilltop home and took up positions on the second floor.

“We ascended the hill near the Henry house, which was at that time filled with sharpshooters. I had scarcely gotten to the battery before I saw some of my horses fall and some of my men wounded by sharpshooters,” Captain James Ricketts, commander of Battery 1, First US Artillery, wrote in his official report.

“I turned my guns on that house and literally riddled it. It has been said that there was a woman killed there by our guns.”

Indeed, a 10-pound shell crashed through Judith Henry’s bedroom and tore off her foot. She died later that day, the first civilian death of America’s Civil War.

No one knows how many civilians died in the war between the states. No one thought to count. Maybe 50,000, including those who died from war-related disease, starvation, crossfire, riots, and other mishaps. By comparison, around 620,000 to 750,000 American soldiers died in the conflict—close to 1,000 of them at that initial battle at Bull Run.

“WHAT YOU SAW WAS THEM SHELLING MY HOME.”

A century later, US troops had traded their blue coats for olive fatigues and the wartime death tolls were inverted. More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam. Estimates of the Vietnamese civilian toll, on the other hand, hover around two million. Of course, we’ll never know the actual number, just as we’ll never know how many died in air strikes as reporters watched from the rooftop bar of Saigon’s Caravelle Hotel, just as I’ll never know how many—if any—lives were snuffed out as I scanned the southern edge of Tripoli and watched smoke from artillery shells and rockets billow into the sky.

That same afternoon in Libya’s capital, while taking a break from war watching, I met Salah Isaid and his two children. They were, like me, guests at the Victoria Hotel, although we were lodged there for very different reasons. When I mentioned having spent the previous hour on the roof as a suburb was being shelled hard, a glimmer of recognition flashed across Isaid’s face. “That’s Khalat Furjan,” he replied with a sad smile. “What you saw was them shelling my home.”

Isaid, his wife, and his two boys had found it difficult to escape the war zone, but finally made it to the safer north side of Tripoli, to this very hotel, in fact, a few weeks earlier. Worried that his house had been looted or destroyed, he tried several times to investigate only to be turned away at militia checkpoints. Now, he was homeless, jobless, and—even with the hotel’s special displaced-persons’ rate—rapidly burning through his savings. “I sold real estate, but who wants to buy a house in a war zone?” Isaid asked me with a wry smile that faded into a grimace.

My own experience as a reporter, in country after country, has more than confirmed his assessment. The “real estate” I saw in Tripoli’s war-ravaged suburbs was spectral, the civilian population having fled. Other than a car that had been hit by an air strike, the only vehicles were tanks or “technicals”—pickup trucks with machine guns or anti-aircraft weapons mounted in their beds. Many buildings had been peppered with machine-gun fire or battered by heavier ordnance. The sole residents now were GNA militiamen who had appropriated homes and shops as barracks and command posts.

Real estate, as Isaid well knows, is a losing proposition on a battlefront. After Judith Carter Henry’s hilltop home in Manassas Junction, Virginia, was blasted by artillery, its remains were either demolished by Confederate soldiers or burned down during the Second Battle of Bull Run, another staggering US defeat with even heavier casualties in August 1862. A photograph of Henry’s home, possibly taken in March 1862, months before that battle, already shows the house to be a crumpled ruin. (It wouldn’t be rebuilt until 1870.) Judith Henry was buried in a small plot next to her devastated home. “The Grave of Our Dear Mother Judith Henry” reads the tombstone there, which notes that she was 85 years old when “the explosion of shells in her dwelling” killed her.

One hundred and fifty years after Henry became the first civilian casualty of the Civil War, Libyans began dying in their own civil strife as revolutionaries, backed by US and NATO airpower, ended the 42-year rule of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Before the year was out, that war had already cost an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 lives. And the killing never ended as the country slid into permanent near-failed-state status. The current conflict, raging on Tripoli’s doorstep since April, has left more than 4,700 people dead or wounded, including at least 176 confirmed civilian casualties (which experts believe to be lower than the actual figure). All told, according to the United Nations, around 1.5 million people—roughly 24 percent of the country’s population—have been affected by the almost three-month-old conflict.

“Heavy shelling and airstrikes have become all too common since early April,” said Danielle Hannon-Burt, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s office in Tripoli.

“Fierce fighting in parts of Tripoli includes direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and their property. It also includes attacks against key electricity, water, and medical infrastructure essential for the survival of the civilian population, potentially putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk.”

In this century, it’s a story that has occurred repeatedly, each time with its own individual horrors, as the American war on terror spread from Afghanistan to Iraq and then on to other countries; as Russia fought in Georgia, Ukraine, and elsewhere; as bloodlettings have bloomed from the Democratic Republic of Congo to South Sudan, from Myanmar to Kashmir. War watchers like me and like those reporters atop the Caravelle decades ago are, of course, the lucky ones. We can sit on the rooftops of hotels and listen to the low rumble of homes being chewed up by artillery. We can make targeted runs into no-go zones to glimpse the destruction. We can visit schools transformed into shelters. We can speak to real estate agents who have morphed into war victims. Some of us, like Hedrick Smith, Michael Herr, or me, will then write about it—often from a safe distance and with the knowledge that, unlike Salah Isaid and most other civilian victims of such wars, we can always find an even safer place.

War has an all-consuming quality to it, which is at least part of what can make it so addictive for those blessed with the ability to escape it and so devastating to those trapped in it. A month of war had clearly worn Isaid down. He was slowly being crushed by it.

In the middle of our conversation, he pulled me aside and whispered so his boys couldn’t hear him, “When I go to bed at night, all I can think is ‘What is going on? What does war have to do with me?’” He shook his head disbelievingly. Some days, he told me, he gets into his car and weaves his way through the traffic on the side of the capital untouched by shelling but increasingly affected by the war. “I drive by myself. I don’t know where I’m going and don’t have any place to go. My life has stopped. This is the only way to keep moving, but I’m not going anywhere.”

I kept moving and left, of course. Isaid and his family remain in Tripoli - homeless, their lives upended, their futures uncertain - pinned under the heavy weight of war.

Published:6/29/2019 10:46:33 PM
[7f510bc7-4ce4-518d-b4ca-cb0d910cb242] Tom Del Beccaro: Dems show America that the debate is set -- and there are radical differences for 2020 Both Democrat debates are in the books. We can argue over who won and who lost, who helped themselves and who didn’t. More importantly, however, the debates cemented that 2020 will be the most divisive election in over a century and will be the very height of our Divided Era. Published:6/28/2019 10:30:43 AM
[Entertainment] How we tell the story of America 40 books from 2019 that wrestle with what defines our country Published:6/27/2019 2:01:43 PM
[62f88093-a799-544b-abeb-93e001615eff] Tom Del Beccaro: First Democratic debate -- The top five takeaways The first debate for the Democrat 2020 nomination is in the books. After two hours and 10 participants, we likely learned only a few meaningful things. Here is my list of the top five takeaways. Published:6/27/2019 11:03:05 AM
[Entertainment] 15 things to do in the D.C. area this weekend This weekend's events include the Folklife Festival, a musical block party and Solid State Books' anniversary. Published:6/27/2019 7:31:40 AM
[Markets] How Evil Wins: The Hypocritical Double Standards Of Political Outrage

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“She was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80 percent could be moved in either direction.” - Kurt Vonnegut

Please spare me the media hysterics and the outrage and the hypocritical double standards of those whose moral conscience appears to be largely dictated by their political loyalties.

Anyone who believes that the injustices, cruelties and vicious callousness of the U.S. government are unique to the Trump Administration has not been paying attention.

No matter what the team colors might be at any given moment, the playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its spots. Scrape off the surface layers and you will find that the American police state that is continuing to wreak havoc on the rights of the people under the Trump Administration is the same police state that wreaked havoc on the rights of the people under every previous administration.

Brace yourselves.

While we squabble over which side is winning this losing battle, a tsunami approaches.

Case in point: in Charlottesville, Va.—home of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, champion of the Bill of Rights, and the nation’s third president—city councilors in a quest for so-called “equity” have proposed eliminating Jefferson’s birthday as a city holiday (which has been on the books since 1945) and replacing it with a day that commemorates the liberation of area slaves following the arrival of Union troops under Gen. Philip Sheridan.

In this way, while the populace wages war over past injustices, injustice in the here and now continues to trample innocent lives underfoot. In Charlottesville, as in the rest of the country, little is being done to stem the tide of the institutional racism that has resulted in disproportionate numbers of black Americans being stopped, frisked, shot at, arrested and jailed.

Just recently, in fact, Phoenix police drew their guns, shouted profanities, assaulted and threatened to shoot a black couple whose 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a doll from a dollar store. The footage of the incident—in which the cops threaten to shoot the pregnant, young mother in the head in the presence of the couple’s 1- and 4-year-old daughters—is horrifying in every way.

Tell me again why it’s more important to spend valuable political capital debating the birthdays of dead presidents rather than proactively working to put a stop to a government mindset that teaches cops it’s okay to treat citizens of any color with brutality and a blatant disregard for their rights?

It doesn’t matter that Phoenix and Charlottesville are 2100 miles apart. The lethal practices of the American police state are the same all over.

No amount of dissembling can shield us from the harsh reality that the danger in our midst is posed by an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution, Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

We’ve got to get our priorities straight if we are to ever have any hope of maintaining any sense of freedom in America. As long as we allow ourselves to be distracted, diverted, occasionally outraged, always polarized and content to view each other—rather than the government—as the enemy, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny (or government corruption and ineptitude) in any form.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedoms of its citizenry.

So stop with all of the excuses and the hedging and the finger-pointing and the pissing contests to see which side can out-shout, out-blame and out-spew the other. Enough already with the short- and long-term amnesia that allows political sycophants to conveniently forget the duplicity, complicity and mendacity of their own party while casting blame on everyone else.

This is how evil wins.

This is how freedom falls and tyranny rises.

This is how good, generally decent people—having allowed themselves to be distracted with manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring us vs. them camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware. Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware. And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

The world has been down this road before.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people-—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.

We are no longer living the American Dream. We’re living the American Lie.

Indeed, Americans have been lied to so sincerely, so incessantly, and for so long by politicians of all stripes—who lie compulsively and without any seeming remorse—that they’ve almost come to prefer the lies trotted out by those in government over less-palatable truths.

The American people have become compulsive believers: left-leaning Americans are determined to believe that the world has become a far more dangerous place under Trump, while right-leaning Americans are equally convinced that Trump has set us on a path to prosperity and security.

Nothing has changed.

The police state is still winning. We the people are still losing.

In fact, the American police state has continued to advance at the same costly, intrusive, privacy-sapping, Constitution-defying, heartbreaking, soul-scorching, relentless pace under the current Tyrant-in-Chief as it did under those who occupied the White House before him (Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.).

Police haven’t stopped disregarding the rights of citizens. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip, shoot and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials are no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace. Indeed, they continue to keep the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies and slaves rather than citizens.

SWAT teams haven’t stopped crashing through doors and terrorizing families. Nationwide, SWAT teams continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activities or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own heavily armed law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties continue to rise.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t stopped militarizing and federalizing local police. Police forces continue to be transformed into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. In training police to look and act like the military and use the weapons and tactics of war against American citizens, the government continues to turn the United States into a battlefield and “we the people” into enemy combatants.

Schools haven’t stopped treating young people like hard-core prisoners. School districts continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment for childish infractions: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court. In this way, the paradigm of abject compliance to the state continues to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior.

For-profit private prisons haven’t stopped locking up Americans and immigrants alike at taxpayer expense. States continue to outsource prison management to private corporations out to make a profit at taxpayer expense. And how do you make a profit in the prison industry? Have the legislatures pass laws that impose harsh penalties for the slightest noncompliance in order keep the prison cells full and corporate investors happy.

Censorship hasn’t stopped. First Amendment activities continue to be pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

The courts haven’t stopped marching in lockstep with the police state. The courts continue to be dominated by technicians and statists who are deferential to authority, whether government or business. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decisions in recent years have most often been characterized by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests.

Government bureaucrats haven’t stopped turning American citizens into criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to an overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal, while reinforcing the power of the police state and its corporate allies.

The surveillance state hasn’t stopped spying on Americans’ communications, transactions or movements. On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether it’s your local police, a fusion center, the National Security Agency or one of the government’s many corporate partners, is still monitoring and tracking your every move.

The TSA hasn’t stopped groping or ogling travelers. Under the pretext of protecting the nation’s infrastructure (roads, mass transit systems, water and power supplies, telecommunications systems and so on) against criminal or terrorist attacks, TSA task forces (comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams) continue to do random security sweeps of nexuses of transportation, including ports, railway and bus stations, airports, ferries and subways, as well as political conventions, baseball games and music concerts. Sweep tactics include the use of x-ray technology, pat-downs and drug-sniffing dogs, among other things.

Congress hasn’t stopped enacting draconian laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the NDAA. These laws—which completely circumvent the rule of law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, continue to re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the rule of law, our U.S. Constitution, becomes the map by which we navigate life in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t stopped being a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” Indeed, this is the agency that is notorious for militarizing the police and SWAT teams; spying on activists, dissidents and veterans; stockpiling ammunition; distributing license plate readers; contracting to build detention camps; tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices; carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities; using the TSA as an advance guard; conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners; carrying out soft target checkpoints; directing government workers to spy on Americans; conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers; carrying out Constitution-free border control searches; funding city-wide surveillance cameras; and utilizing drones and other spybots.

The military industrial complex hasn’t stopped profiting from endless wars abroad. America’s expanding military empire continues to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

The Deep State’s shadow government hasn’t stopped calling the shots behind the scenes.Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government continues to be the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our so-called representatives. It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

And the American people haven’t stopped acting like gullible sheep. In fact, many Americans have been so carried away by their blind rank-and-file partisan devotion to their respective political gods that they have lost sight of the one thing that has remained constant in recent years: our freedoms are steadily declining. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

So you can try to persuade yourself that you are free, that you still live in a country that values freedom, and that it is not too late to make America great again, but to anyone who has been paying attention to America’s decline over the past 50 years, it will be just another lie.

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were definitely there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined:

[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life was good.

Life is good in America, too.

Life is good in America as long as you’re not one of the hundreds of migrant children (including infants, toddlers, preschoolers) being detained in unsanitary conditions by U.S. Border Patrol without proper access to food and water, made to sleep on concrete floors, go without a shower for weeks on end, and only allowed to brush your teeth once every 10 days.

Life is good in America as long as you don’t have to come face to face with a trigger-happy cop hyped up on the power of the badge, trained to shoot first and ask questions later, and disposed to view people of color as a suspect class.

Life is good in America as long as you’re able to keep sleep-walking through life, cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, and distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Life is good in America as long as you’ve got enough money to spare that you don’t mind being made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the 99%. 

Life is good in America for the privileged few, but as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Published:6/26/2019 11:02:55 PM
[Markets] Teen Vogue Promotes "The Legacy Of Karl Marx" To Its 3.3 Million Twitter Followers

Calling him the "famed German that co-authored The Communist Manifesto"as if the work should be celebrated, the historical scholars over at Teen Vogue are now indoctrinating their young readers as to why they should be reading Karl Marx.

A recent article in Teen Vogue celebrates Marx's 200th birthday and says Marx's ideas "can still teach us about the past and present."

Yeah, here's what didn't work - any why we should never attempt it again. 

And perhaps in an attempt to align themselves with the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates (we're only half joking), Teen Vogue tweeted out "The legacy of Karl Marx’s ideas" to its 3.3 million Twitter followers just days ago. 

First, the article goes on to celebrate Marx's resume:

The Communist Manifesto is most usually the work of Marx taught in schools, and he is one of the most assigned economists in United States college classes. Many may not know that he also studied law in university. He authored three volumes of Das Kapital, which outlined the fundamentals of Marxist theory of capitalism and also organized workersthrough the International Working Men's Association, otherwise known as the First International.

He was an editor of a newspaper that was eventually censored by the Prussian government for speaking out against censorship and challenging the government. His writings have inspired social movements in Soviet RussiaChinaCubaArgentinaGhanaBurkina Faso, and more. Many political writers and artists like Angela DavisFrida KahloMalcolm XClaudia JonesHelen Keller, and Walter Rodney integrated Marxist theory into their work decades after his death.

Then, the article goes on to cite high school English teacher Mark Brunt, who encourages his students to "learn the legacy of Marx’s ideas".

Brunt said: “I do a little role-playing with [my class]. [I tell them,] I’m the boss, you’re my workers, and you want to try to take me down. I have the money. I own the factory. I control the police. I control the military. I control the government. What do you guys have?”

He continued: “It’s always just one student, whose hand shoots up and goes, ‘We outnumber you!’”

Brunt then ostensibly uses that line of logic to try and empower students to rebel, teaching them about the tension between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, and reminding students that workers in factories "had very little control over their work, including their working conditions, compared to the profiteering factory owners."

But then, almost comically, the article dryly notes: "...if such a revolution occured in Brunt’s classroom, his students would overthrow him as a teacher — and the principal, the superintendent, and so on."

But the indoctrination doesn't stop there, with Brunt working to convince his students that they are being tricked, and could be playing into false consciousness. Brunt tells his students: “False consciousness is when you think that the social conditions are different than they actually are. You’re tricked into thinking your allies are different and your enemies are different than they actually are.”

And it's not just Brunt the article cites. Teen Vogue also pointed out former Drexel professor George Ciccariello-Maher, who reminds his students that capitalism emerged through a "state of violence": 

“When I teach Marx, it’s got a lot to do with questions of how to think critically about history. Marx says we live under capitalism [but] capitalism has not always existed,” Ciccariello-Maher tells Teen Vogue.

“It’s something that came into being and something that, as a result, just on a logical level, could disappear, could be overthrown, could be abolished, could be irrelevant. There’s this myth of the free market, but Marx shows very clearly that capitalism emerged through a state of violence.”

Maher continues: "Dialectics means that the history moves forward not slowly or gradually or bit by bit, but it moves forward through the sort of crushing blows of struggles between generally two opposing ideas or groups or concepts or people."

And of course, even if you don't "identify" as a Marxist, the article notes, "...you can still use Karl Marx’s ideas to use history and class struggles to better understand how the current sociopolitical climate in America came to be."

Published:6/26/2019 5:57:10 PM
[Markets] Meotti: The Suicide Of France

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

  • "Frenchness" is disappearing and being replaced by a kind balkanization of enclaves not communicating with one another.... this is not a good recipe.

  • The more the French élites with their disposable incomes and cultural leisure cloister themselves in their enclaves, the less likely it is that they will understand the everyday impact of failed mass immigration and multiculturalism.

  • The globalized, "bobo-ized [bourgeois Bohemian] upper classes" are filling the "new citadels" -- as in Medieval France -- and are voting en masse for Macron. They have developed "a single way of talking and thinking... that allows the dominant classes to substitute for the reality of a nation subject to severe stress and strain the fable of a kind and welcoming society." — Christophe Guilluy, Twilight of the Elites,Yale University Press, 2019.

"Regarding France in 2019, it can no longer be denied that a momentous and hazardous transformation, a 'Great Switch', is in the making", observed the founder and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, Michel Gurfinkiel. He was mourning "the passing of France as a distinct country, or at least as the Western, Judeo-Christian nation it had hitherto been presumed to be". A recent cover story in the weekly Le Point called it "the great upheaval".

Switch or upheaval, the days of France as we knew it are numbered: the society has lost its cultural center of gravity: the old way of life is fading and close to "extinction". "Frenchness" is disappearing and being replaced by a kind balkanization of enclaves not communicating with one another. For the country most affected by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, this is not a good recipe.

The French switch is also becoming geographical. France now appears split between "ghettos for the rich" and "ghettos for the poor", according to an analysis of the electoral map by France's largest newspaper, Le Monde. "In the poorest sector, 6 out of 10 newly settled households have a person born abroad", notes Le Monde. A kind of abyss now separates peripheral France -- small towns, suburbs and rural areas – from the globalized metropolis of the "bourgeois Bohemians", or "bobos". The more the French élites with their disposable incomes and cultural leisure cloister themselves in their enclaves, the less likely it is that they will understand the everyday impact of failed mass immigration and multiculturalism.

A recent European poll reflected these "two Frances that do not cross or speak to each other", observed Sylvain Crepon of the University of Tours, in analyzing the success of Marine Le Pen's National Rally party in the recent European Parliament election. Le Pen and President Emmanuel Macron, the two winners in the election, speak to completely different sociological groups. In the Paris suburbs -- Aulnay-sous-Bois, Sevran, Villepinte and Seine-Saint-Denis -- the far-right National Rally has been experiencing a boom. In the cities, Le Pen is largely behind: she came fifth in Paris, third in Lille, fourth in Lyon. According to Crepon:

"[T]hese cities will be protected from the National Rally's vote by their sociological structuring. It gives credit to the populist talk that diagnoses a disconnected elite. This [view] backs the idea of ??a sociological break, which is not completely wrong".

On one side of this break are towns such as Dreux, which Valeurs Actuelles called"the city that prefigures the France of tomorrow":

"On one side, a royal city with the vestige of a history believing that all things are being changed [millenarian]; on the other, cities imbued with [drug] trafficking and Islam. The bourgeois of the city center vote for Macron, the 'small whites' for Le Pen".

On the other side, is Paris. "All the metropolises of the world know the same fate. This is where wealth flows and where the alliance between the 'winners of globalization' and their 'servants', immigrants who have come to serve the new masters of the world, keep their children, bring their pizzas or work in their restaurants", writes the distinguished social commentator Èric Zemmour in Le Figaro. From now on, he writes, "Paris is a global city, not really a French city".

The globalized, "bobo-ized [bourgeois Bohemian] upper classes", according to one of France's most respected authors. Christophe Guilluy, are filling the "new citadels" -- as in Medieval France -- and are voting en masse for Macron. They have developed "a single way of talking and thinking... that allows the dominant classes to substitute for the reality of a nation subject to severe stress and strain the fable of a kind and welcoming society". Guilluy has been criticized by some French media for addressing this reality.

The recent "yellow vests" movement -- whose demonstrators have been protesting every Saturday in Paris, for months, against President Macron's reforms -- is a symbol of this division between the working class and the gentrified progressives.

Pictured: "Yellow vests" protestors occupy the steps leading to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur on March 23, 2019 in Paris, France.

According to Guilluy, it is a "social and cultural shock". This shock, according to the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, consists of the "ugliness of peripheral France and its effects on concrete lives, the sadness of these working classes who have lost not only a standard of living but also a cultural referent". In France, there is now a pervasive sense of "dispossession".

Marine Le Pen's party won more than twice as many electoral department as Macron. Le Pen won in the depressed and deindustrialized areas of northern, south-central and eastern France that spawned the yellow vests.

"Since moving to France in 2002, I've watched the country complete a cultural revolution", Simon Kuper recently wrote in the Financial Times.

"Catholicism has almost died out (only 6 per cent of French people now habitually attend mass), though not as thoroughly as its longtime rival 'church', communism. The non-white population has kept growing".

Macron, Kuper explains, is the symbol of "a new individualised, globalised, irreligious society".

France's flight from Catholicism is so evident that a new book, L'archipel français: Naissance d'une nation multiple et divisée, by the pollster Jerôme Fourquet, has described the cultural failing of the French society as a "post-Christian era": French society's displacement from its Catholic matrix has become almost total. The country, Fourquet states, is now implementing its own de-Christianization. And there is only one strong substitute at the horizon. There are today already, according to a new academic study, as many Muslims as Catholics among 18-29 year-olds in France; and Muslims represent 13% of the population of France's large cities, more than double the national average.

Sometimes Muslim feelings of community solidarity appear to have been taking advantage of this fragmentation by creating their own "ghettos of sharia". A report from Institut Montaigne, "The Islamist Factory", has detailed the radicalization of the French Muslim society. Instead of integration, assimilation and Europeanization, Muslim extremists in France are pursuing multiculturalism, separation and partition. The enclaves of immigrants at the edges of French cities, posits Gilles Kepel in his book, La Fracture, foment "a rupture in values with French society, and a will to subvert it". "People do not want to live together", said France's former Interior Minister, Gérard Collomb, in comments reported by Valeurs Actuelles.

This "fracture" was noted again in the same publication: "Four out of ten boys in Seine-Saint-Denis have Arab-Muslim first names". Pollster Jérôme Fourquet revealed in a new study that "18 percent of newborn babies in France have an Arab-Muslim name".

France's "Great Switch" is underway. As the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut recently wrote, "The Notre-Dame fire is neither an attack nor an accident, but a suicide attempt."

Published:6/24/2019 1:09:09 AM
[Markets] JPMorgan: There Is Now Just One Scenario That Is Positive For Stocks

Amid record high asset prices in virtually everything following last week's dovish FOMC, a fresh concern has emerged: the gaping "alligator jaws" between bond yields and stocks have never been wider, with the latest thrust coming first after Powell's early June admission that an easing cycle is imminent, following by last week's even more dovish FOMC announcement, which confirmed that a July rate cut is in the books, and sent stocks to new all time highs, while bond yields tumbled below 2%, the lowest in three years.

The problem boils down to one simple observation: on one hand stocks are telegraphing substantial market upside and, at least in theory, a booming economy, while bond yields - at 3 year lows - are screaming recession.

Some Wall Street strategists, such as Deutsche Bank's Aleksandar Kocic took on a traditionally whimsical approach to the problem and explained it in the context of Schrödinger paradox... or in his case plates:

In the same way as Schrödinger plates, the economy at the moment is in a superposition of two states - it is both booming and it is headed for a recession. The two states of the economy are entangled. However, we cannot know which state we are in without interfering with it.

And visually:

The extended metaphor - which we discussed extensively yesterday - culminated with the following dilemma:

If the Fed does not cut rates (we open the door), the recession is likely.

If the Fed cuts rates, however (we do not open the door), the recession is averted, but we wouldn’t know if the cuts were needed.

His conclusion: "in either case, Fed actions interfere with the state of the economy and affect the outcome, and in both cases we face the consequences." What is more troubling is that we have reached a point where the consequences of the Fed's actions are dire in either case, resulting in either recession or loss of Fed credibility and independence:

In the case of unresponsive Fed it is a recession, while in the case of an accommodative Fed it is the loss of central bank independence and potentially another round of trade wars and even more pressure on the Fed to cut rates with further markets addiction to stimulus and possibly higher inflation etc.

In not so many words, that is the ultimate Catch 22 that the Fed has created: the market and economy are only viable as long as the Fed is backstopping them; once the support goes away, the wave function - to extend the flawed analogy - of the economy and market collapses, and the true state of both is exposed (at the cost of trillion in risk asset losses).

Others have observed the ongoing divergence between risk assets and yields at a more simplistic level, and as Bloomberg observes, the moves have extended the "dueling bull market" theme in which Treasury traders fret about dimming growth while everyone else celebrates an accommodative Fed. Each camp expects it to end badly for the other.

“A race of this pace in both stocks and fixed income is unsustainable,” said Marshall Front, the chief investment officer at Front Barnett Associates. “People who were long bonds are going to have a problem. We’re not going to have a recession or a dip in economic activity that’s going to take us off course, and rates are going to go back up.”

Others are similarly perplexed:

“There’s been a lot of press suggesting that the bond and stock markets are conveying different messages to investors,” said Mark Heppenstall, chief investment officer of Penn Mutual Asset Management. “But to me where we stand in interest rates today, where we stand in persistent low inflation today means that whatever investors are willing to pay for earnings should be higher based on the fact that interest rates are lower.”

To be sure, the recent movement in asset classes has been a gift to those portfolios which are long both sets of assets, modeled on the classic 60/40 stock-bond allocation, and which in Q1 of 2019 enjoyed the best period for the strategy in nearly a decade, and now it looks as though those gains are set to grow come the end of the second.

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg notes, "for the naturally skeptical, it’s hard to watch everything go up at once without conjuring visions of bubbles doomed to pop." Of course, everything is only going up because the Fed is doing, or at least saying (for now) whatever the market wants to hear, in the process making this decoupling even greater.

* * *

There is another key observation: maybe the surge in both bonds and stocks is not an ill omen, but perfectly self-explanatory. This is the argument made in a Friday note from JPM's Nikolaos Panagirtzoglou, in which the derivatives strategist writes that while this year’s co-movement of bonds and equities seems rather unusual, "it is actually more common than typically thought. In fact a co-movement between equities and bonds has been in place as a broad trend for most of the past few years. This is shown in Figure 1 which depicts the MSCI AC World index along with the Bloomberg Global Agg total return index currency unhedged. The two indices have been trending up sometimes in tandem over the past six years. More importantly, any significant deviations between the two were not sustained for more than a few months."

But what explains this "unnatural" co-movement, which - all else equal - telegraph a future beset with both inflation and deflation? In JPM's opinion the prevalence of fixed-weight allocation frameworks among investors, such as 60:40 risk-parity and balanced funds, retail investors, pension funds and SWFs (e.g. the Norges Bank), "are responsible to a significant extent for this co-movement between equities and bonds."

Here are the mechanics, as explained by Panigirtzoglou: When the bond market expands because of a strong bond rally  like this year, these fixed weight allocation investors find themselves overweight bonds and underweight equities and thus need to buy equities to rebalance their portfolios in line with their rebalancing thresholds. Via this rebalancing these fixed weight investors push equity prices up and thus a bond rally ends up inducing an equity rally. And the intensification of this year’s bond rally in May and June has put even more pressure on such investors to rebalance away from bonds or deploy available funds into equities."

This, to an extent, is a paraphrase of the "Fed model" which suggests that the lower rates drop, the higher equities rise as investors are forced into riskier assets to make up for the lack of yield in risk-free securities.

One way to quantify the divergence practically is to look at the allocation to bonds and stocks across the world's investors. To do this, JPMorgan excludes banks - entities that typically invest in bonds rather than equities - and focuses on the universe of non-bank entities, finding the the amount of bonds held by this group of investors is around $32trillion and unchanged from the end of 2016. This compares to $54tr of cash and $67tr of equities based on DataStream’s global equity index universe. More importantly, on a percentage basis, non-bank investors, which invest in both bonds and equities globally, have an allocation to bonds of 21.1% currently (Figure 2). This 21.1% bond allocation
is just above the post Lehman historical average and well above the 19% low seen in September last year.

This is an important difference to last year. This year’s bond rally which gathered pace in recent weeks has unwound entirely the large bond underweight that had emerged in September last year.

Meanwhile, over on the equity side, the mirror image of this unwinding of the previous bond underweight is that the current equity overweight is significantly smaller from that seen in September last year, which at 45.5% represented a post Lehman high at the time.

So, according to JPMorgan, despite global equity prices being close to the highs of last September, investors are not as OW in equities as they were last September simply because bond markets rallied strongly this year making them less UW in bonds, or to put it another way:

"this year’s bond rally has been boosting equities by creating more room for investors to increase their equity allocations. This is shown in Figure 3 which shows that investors globally have an allocation to equities of 43.6% currently, which is somewhere in between the post Lehman high of 45.5% seen last September and the recent low of 41.8% seen last December. This 43.6% represents an OW equity allocation as it is above both the 40% post Lehman average and the 43% longer-term historical average."

But to all those who say that it is only a matter of time before stocks see the prior, post-Lehman highs, JPM says "not so fast", because while allocations could theoretically approach their previous cyclical extremes, there are two reasons why previous levels are less likely to be achieved.

  1. The first is that already over the previous two cycles, the cyclical peak in equity allocations had already been declining, and the cyclical trough in bond allocations rising, likely reflecting structural and demographic changes over time. Given the structural changes in markets and economies in the post-Lehman environment, this suggests that post-Lehman period comparisons are more relevant.
  2. The second is that G4 central banks may have to shift to even more aggressive QE programs going forward than those seen over the past decade, in order to induce the non-bank private sector to shed even more bonds from here.

So with that in mind, and by looking at Figure 3, one simple way of thinking about the upside for equities from here according to Panigirtzoglou is "to calculate the rise in equity prices needed for investors to become as OW in equities as they were last September." According to JPM's calculations global equities would need to rise by 7.8% from here ceteris paribus to make investors as OW in equities as last September. In other words, assuming no further upside for bonds from here, any upside for equities should be limited to high single digits.

There are some more reasons why this this potential single-digit equity upside is facing several challenges.

  1. The first one is the extreme cash UW that has emerged this year as a result of the simultaneously strong rally in bonds and equities. Indeed, this is shown in the next chart below, which shows an implied cash allocation by investors globally of 34.3%, the lowest in the post Lehman period and the lowest since 2007.
  2. The second challenge is the extremity of this year's bond rally. It is true that, given the prospect of central banks cutting rates from here, the extremity of this year’s cash underweight and the extremity of this year’s bond rally are perhaps justified.

But what if rate markets got ahead of themselves? What if the gloom scenario postulated by Kocic does not materialize, and "central banks fail to validate market expectations over the coming months?" - this would be the scenario which the Deutsche Bank strategist yesterday wrote would lead to a recession (as the wave function of the "plates" collapses... and so do they).

In a nutshell, to the top JPMorgan strategist, "this is a major risk for equity markets going forward: if central banks fail to validate over the coming months market expectations of universal rate cuts, equities could be hit not only by a potential selloff in bonds that would mechanically make investors more OW in equities, but also by a potential increase in cash allocations as investors cover their currently extreme cash UW."

To JPMorgan, this potential for market disappointment emerging from the Fed as framed by this discussion (and yesterday, by Deutsche Bank), shows the challenge equity markets are facing going forward.

Said otherwise, as hinted by James Bullard's letter explaining why he objected to the Fed's latest decision to keep rates unchanged, the prevailing thesis is that equity markets appear to be pricing in at the moment is of a pre-emptive Fed that is set to provide insurance similar to the 1995 and 1998 episodes.

But is it?

In a scenario where the Fed and/or other central banks fail to cut by as much as markets expect, perhaps because growth turns out to be better than expected, the upside for equities from better growth news could be offset by a bond selloff via the mechanism described above.

Finally, in the third and most painful for the bulls, scenario where the Fed and/or other central banks end up being rather reactive and cut rates in response to weak growth, equities could follow a weak trajectory similar to more typical previous Fed easing cycles, rather than the strong trajectory seen during 1995 or 1998. For those who need a reminder, it is also the case that the last three recessions all followed within a few months after the Fed's first rate cut. Furthermore as @Northmantrader recently pointed out, every time the FED cut their rates while unemployment was below 4%, a recession started almost immediately?

In other words, of the above three scenarios only one scenario, that of a pre-emptive Fed that is set to provide insurance similar to the 1995 and 1998 episodes, is positive for equities. 

And here a problem emerges, because as Bullard explained last week, preemptive means cutting rates when growth indicators are still good rather than waiting for growth indicators to weaken.

And this brings up what JPMorgan believes is the most important question following this week’s FOMC meeting:

"If the Fed is truly committed to preemptive rate cuts in order to provide insurance why did it not cut its policy rate this week?"

* * *

And while not necessarily connected to JPM's line of reasoning, if perfectly summarizing the zeitgeist on the continued Fed manipulation and intervention in markets, here is a must-read quote from Steve Chiavarone, a portfolio manager with Federated Investors: 

"Everyone, whether they admit it or not, believes that there needs to be some major comeuppance, some cleansing moment, because for whatever reason the good puritan instinct that lies in America feels as though you can only cleanse through some level of pain. There’s an obsession of when the next recession is going to come. What I think has been forgotten is that if you want lower for longer, you also have to accept the longer part of it. And that’s what we’re getting."

We are indeed, but with the business cycle set to become the longest in history in just one week...

... the questions of just how much longer can the Fed keep indefinitely postponing the "longer" part will only grow louder, until finally not even the monetary Atlas that is Jay Powell, can keep the sky from falling any longer.

Published:6/23/2019 7:37:26 PM
[Markets] Are Starvation Sanctions Worse Than Overt Warfare?

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” President Trump tweeted today.

“I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again?—?The sooner the better!”

Iran’s economy is already floundering due to the steadily mounting sanctionsthat the Trump administration has been heaping upon it since its withdrawal from the JCPOA last year. Crucial goods are four times the price they used to be, sick Iranians are having difficulty obtaining life-saving medicine, and life in general has been getting much more difficult for the poorest and frailest Iranian civilians.

For this reason, it is a very safe bet that there have been Iranians who have died because of the sanctions. Being unable to obtain enough life-saving medicine will inevitably increase mortality rates, as will inadequate nutrition and care for those whose health is at risk. There’s not really any way around that, and it’s only going to get worse.

And that’s exactly what was supposed to happen. As far as their intended purpose is concerned, the sanctions are working. They’re doing exactly what they were intended to do: hurt Iranian civilians.

How do I know this? Well for one thing America’s Secretary of State has said it openly. The New York Times reports the following:

Last week, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged to Michael J. Morrell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., that the administration’s strategy would not persuade Iranian leaders to change their behavior.

“I think what can change is the people can change the government,” he said on a podcast hosted by Mr. Morrell, in what appeared to be an endorsement of regime change.

The Trump administration isn’t leveling these sanctions because it believes they’ll cause Tehran to capitulate to Washington’s impossible list of demands; they know full well that that will never happen. What they claim, based on no evidence or historical precedent whatsoever, is that by making life so painful for the hungry and malnourished Iranian people they’ll be forced to rise up against their government to effect regime change themselves.

Can you think of anything more sociopathic than this? Off the top of my head, I personally cannot.

Starvation sanctions kill people. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have reportedly already died as a result of this administration’s relentless assault on their economy; those human beings are no less dead than they would have been if the US had killed them by dropping cluster bombs on Caracas. Yet these deaths have received virtually no mainstream media coverage, and Americans, while they strongly oppose attacking Iran militarily, have had very little to say about Trump’s attacks on the nation’s economy. The economy which people use to feed their children, to care for their elderly and their sick.

I’m titling this essay “Starvation Sanctions Are Worse Than Overt Warfare”, and I mean it. I am not saying that starvation sanctions are more destructive or deadly than overt military force in and of themselves; what I am saying is that the overall effect is worse, because there’s no public accountability for them and because they deliberately target civilians.

If the US were to launch a barrage of Tomahawk missiles into an Iranian suburb with the goal of killing civilians, there’d be international outrage and the cohesion of the US-centralized power alliance would take a major hit. Virtually everyone would recognize this as an unforgivable war crime. Yet America will be able to kill the same number of civilians with the same deliberate intention of inflicting deadly force, and it would suffer essentially no consequences at all. There’s no public or international pressure holding that form of violence at bay, because it’s invisible and poorly understood.

It reminds me of the way financial abuse gets overlooked and under-appreciated in our society. Financial abuse can be more painful and imprisoning than physical or psychological abuse (and I speak from experience), especially if you have children, yet you don’t generally see movies and TV shows getting made about it. In a society where people have been made to depend on money for survival, limiting or cutting off their access to it is the same as any other violent attack upon their personal sovereignty, and can easily be just as destructive. But as a society we haven’t yet learned to see and understand this violence, so it doesn’t attract interest and attention. That lack of interest and attention enables the empire to launch deadly campaigns targeting civilian populations unnoticed, without any public accountability.

It’s great that more people are starting to understand the cost of war, to the extent that we’re even seeing US presidential candidates make opposing it central to their platforms, but this is happening at a time when overt warfare is becoming more obsolete and replaced with something subtler and more sinister. We must as a society evolve our understanding of what starvation sanctions are and what they do, and stop seeing them as in any way superior or preferable to overt warfare.

The fact that people generally oppose senseless military violence but are unable to see and comprehend a slow, boa constrictor-like act of slaughter via economic strangulation is why these siege warfare tactics have become the weapon of choice for the US-centralized empire. It is a more gradual way of murdering people than overt warfare, but when you control all the resources and have an underlying power structure which maintains itself amid the comings and goings of your officially elected government, you’re in no hurry. The absence of any public accountability makes the need for patience a very worthwhile trade-off.

So you see this siege warfare strategy employed everywhere by the US-centralized empire:

The US-centralized power alliance is so powerful in its ability to hurt nations with financial influence that in 1990 when Yemen voted against a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing the attack against Iran, a senior US diplomat was caught on a hot mic telling the Yemeni ambassador, “That will be the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” According to German author Thomas Pogge, “The US stopped $70 million in aid to Yemen; other Western countries, the IMF, and World Bank followed suit. Saudi Arabia expelled some 800,000 Yemeni workers, many of whom had lived there for years and were sending urgently needed money to their families.”

That’s real power. Not the ability to destroy a nation with bombs and missiles, but the ability to destroy it without firing a shot.

It’s no wonder, then, that the drivers of this empire work so hard to continue growing and expanding it. The oligarchs and their allies in opaque government agencies no doubt envision a world where all noncompliant nations like Iran, Russia and China have been absorbed into the blob of empire and war becomes obsolete, not because anyone has become any less violent, but because their economic control will be so complete that they can obliterate entire populations just by cutting them off from the world economy whenever any of them become disobedient.

This is the only reason Iran is being targeted right now. That’s why you’ll never hear a factually and logically sound argument defending Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal; there is none. There was no problem with the JCPOA other than the fact that it barred America from inflicting economic warfare upon Iran, which it needed for the purpose of toppling the nation’s government so that it can be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized empire.

And all the innocent human beings who die of starvation and disease? They don’t matter. Imperial violence only matters if there are consequences for it. The price of shoring up the total hegemony of the empire will have been worth it.

*  *  *

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish or use any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Published:6/23/2019 6:36:32 PM
[Markets] Black SUNY Prof.: Seeing Poor White People Makes Me Happy

Via The College Fix,

A professor of literature at SUNY Old Westbury says it makes him happy when he sees poor white people on the street begging for food or money.

Nicholas Powers writes in Race Baitr (the article has since been deleted, apparently) that:

“white people begging us for food feels like justice. It feels like Afro-Futurism after America falls. It feels like a Black Nationalist wet dream. It has the feels I rarely feel, a hunger for historical vengeance satisfied so well I rub my belly.”

The professor is cognizant that this isn’t  a “good look”; however, when he thinks about Martin Luther King Jr.’s invocations of “be [thy] best self” and “show compassion to those who spite you,” he retorts “go fuck another secretary Martin!”

White people, Powers says, are a Rorschach test: “I see in them the history of colonization, slavery and mass incarceration that makes their begging Black people for money ironic—if not insulting. You wasted your whiteness! Why should we give to you?”

From the piece:

Here is a descendant of murderers who killed our ancestors now begging us to save their life. So let’s turn the other cheek! But it’s not always honest. It is the trick of internalized racism that Black anger is transformed into showy altruism to show the “white gaze” that we’re safe—good Negroes. So we aren’t attacked by more powerful whites—instead rewarded by them. …

[…] when a white person begs, maybe a white woman breastfeeding or a young white boy whining like a broken flute, I feel better. Good. It’s not just us. I feel happy. I feel like the scales of justice could shift.

The other day I jogged up the subway stairs and saw the homeless white boy again. “Can you get me something to eat,” he barked out to the river of people passing by. “Someone stole all my shit!” Scabs covered his mouth. He was sunburnt and thin. I ignored him but thought “Baby, you stole all mine.” I glanced at his blanket, shopping cart and books. Who is he? Why is he here? Where are his people?

According to his faculty webpage, Powers’ research interests include African American aesthetics, surrealism, Marxism, and feminist theory. His “personal website” is actually a page full of his writings for The Indypendent, a “free, progressive monthly newspaper and online news site.”

Read the full article here...

Published:6/23/2019 6:07:23 PM
[Markets] UK: A Clash Of Educations

Authored by Denis MacEoin via The Gatestone Institute,

  • While Britons are striving to promote British values, those increasingly appear not to be the values everyone here wants.

  • The No Outsiders curriculum... teaches acceptance of people different from oneself, which is what brings pupils into contact with mutual respect for Christians, Muslims and Jews, the disabled, gays and everyone who might be considered "other". "It should make absolutely clear that no group should be left out...."

  • There seems to be a broader agenda at work here: that is, to find ways in which to maintain British values when faced with people who in many instances seem to oppose them. One example might be a lesson summed up in the Anderton Park expressions about British values...: "Jewish people are equal to Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and people with no religion." Many might not agree to that sentiment, whether in primary or secondary education, and possibly many Muslim parents would wish their children not to be taught it....

  • The importance of teaching children about respect for other people cannot be exaggerated. In the light of this, can there be any question that the lessons at Anderton Park school are vital for the West?

What started as a small protest in the UK has taken on wider dimensions that are already spreading to other cities. For more than two months now, a primary school in Birmingham in the UK has been at the centre of a standoff between modern Western values and the concerns of a large group of Muslim parents. As early as April, reports said, leafleters were targeting schools in Birmingham, Manchester, Oldham, London, Blackburn and Bradford.

The almost daily protests outside the schools, although on a more muted scale, are the biggest since those against Salman Rushdie and his book, The Satanic Versesback in 1988 -- events that for some radicalized a generationAccording to the author Kenan Malik, those early protests sowed the seeds of rifts that have since become wider. Some form of clash between these two sets of values is taking place again.

Anderton Park Primary School is an outstanding place of education for children between the ages of five and eleven. Most of the children are Muslims, but that does not restrict the efforts to introduce them to being fully educated citizens in the country where most were born.

Pictured: Anderton Park Primary School. (Image source: Oosoom/Wikimedia Commons)

According to the UK's 2011 Census, Muslims, numbering 234,014, make up 21.6% of Birmingham's population, well above the average for England and Wales as a whole (4.8%). Birmingham is the largest city by population after London. Its Muslim population is almost as large, and the city itself is even more ethnically diverse than the capital. Muslims have arrived from Africa, Asia (mainly Bangladesh and Pakistan), and parts of eastern Europe.

"Islam is a growing social force in Britain's second city", according to The Economist, and its Central Mosque "has influence everywhere from the classroom to the bedroom".

Clearly, what is happening in Birmingham may have a disproportionate bearing on Muslims and others throughout the UK. The context within which social pressures are growing seems, first, that Muslims now make up one in every twenty people in the UK. Alongside that, there is the understanding, developed by Dame Louise Casey in her 2016 governmental review of opportunity and integration in the UK, that Muslim communities have been proving the hardest to assimilate within British society at large.

If some Muslims find it hard to integrate (whether of their own volition or because of lack of opportunity within the general public), they often run their own communities, and often seem to reject the opportunities Britain offers them. Many have also been given to what appears to some Britons as unneighbourly behaviourin a period when many in the UK have been striving to promote British values while enjoying and accommodating the diversity of its many new inhabitants. This is what Prime Minister Theresa May emphasized in her introduction to the government's 2018 Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper, that while Britons are striving to promote British values, those increasingly appear not to be the values everyone here wants. She said:

Britain is one of the world's most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith societies. We can rightly be proud of this diversity, which has contributed so much to our culture and our economy, and has made us the strong, vibrant nation we are today. But we cannot ignore the challenges we face. We still have a long way to go to tackle the inequalities and injustices that hold people back. It is not right that where you are born, who your parents are, or where you went to school should determine your outcomes in life. The government's ground breaking Race Disparity Audit of public services reinforces the importance of addressing the inequalities that can act as barriers to integration and opportunity, barriers which prevent us from building a Britain where everyone has the chance to succeed. We must also do more to confront the segregation that can divide communities. This undermines our unity as a nation and prevents those in isolated communities from playing a full part in society and benefiting from the opportunities that living in Britain brings.

Let us take this for a broad context in which to look at Anderton Park Primary, after which we can examine the protests being made against it.

Anderton Park Primary stands out as one of several British schools that put special emphasis on teaching children the ways in which they can grow up to fulfil those hopes of Mrs May and all those in and outside government who work to bring about what they consider a good society for all citizens. Here are, first, Anderton Park's Equality Charter, and then its love for British Values. It is worth reading in some detail:

Anderton Park Equality Charter

  • In our school everyone is equal.

  • We treat everyone equally and fairly & challenge inequality & stereotypes

  • We cannot sparkle if we are not equal

  • We use positive, kind language to and about each other

  • We do not use the language of hate

  • We celebrate and protect differences

  • We fully uphold and believe in the Equality Act 2010 and do not discriminate against anyone because of gender, race and nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation (and gender identity, LGBT+), pregnancy, religion or beliefs or marital status

  • We actively promote equality and foster good relationships between people who share a characteristic and those who don't

  • We always challenge views or comments that are unacceptable.

  • Everyone is special. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is different.

We love Fundamental British values

By law this means we as staff, children, governors and families need to understand:

  • democracy

  • the rule of law

  • individual liberty

  • Mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.

  • Our favourite law is the Equality Law 2010. We love it!

  • Girls are equal to boys. Gay people are equal to straight people. Disabled people are equal to able bodied people. Jewish people are equal to Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and people with no religion. You get the idea. This is so important.

  • We expect everyone to challenge any language or behaviour that is unequal.

  • We do not allow 'like a girl' to be used as an insult, just as we would not allow 'gay' or 'black' to be used as an insult. Boys play with dolls, dress up, girls are builders, pink is not for girls. Thus, we help students develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence, to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law of England.

  • We encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative, and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality of the school and to society more widely. We teach children they have choices. We reward what we value.

  • We will promote harmony & understanding between those with different cultural traditions by enabling students to acquire an appreciation for and respect for their own and other cultures.

  • Watch 'Like a Girl', 'Children See Children Do', 'Love has no labels' regularly to remember why this is important.

As a reflection of these values, Anderton Park is recognized by UNICEF as a Rights Respecting School, that is to say, a school that embeds the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in their practice and ethos. There are now more than 5,000 rights respecting schools in the UK, and all compete for awards that recognize how far they have developed.

The protests against the school are being led by a young man named Shakeel Afsar, about whom little else is known other than that he has a niece and nephew at the school. "Anti-LGBT protests" have been focusing on the claim that Anderton Park is teaching young children about LGBT issues that are inappropriate on the grounds that Islam opposes and punishes homosexuals, often executing them. Parents were reportedly told, "If you take your kids to school today, you're not a Muslim and you'll burn in hell."

"LGBT issues" are, of course, a gross exaggeration of what the school actually teaches. Its head teacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, has made it clear that, among other things, Anderton Park does not even teach sex lessons:

The suggestion that Hewitt-Clarkson and her dedicated team are somehow "sexualising" pupils at the school is popular among the protest's leaders. But unlike many other primary schools, Anderton Park doesn't actually teach sex education.

"We have never taught sex here," Hewitt-Clarkson says. "Some primary schools do, but we don't, and we never will."

Anderton Park also does not deliver specific lessons on LGBT rights. Instead, the idea of families with "two mummies or two daddies" is normalised through the books that children read and the discussions they have with teachers.

"When you read all these news reports or listen to these protesters, you'd think we talk about being gay the whole time," Hewitt-Clarkson says. "It's probably 0.5 per cent of the time, but because it's here there and everywhere, it's just normal.

She goes on later, in Human Rights News and Views, to discuss the school's No Outsiders curriculum, which teaches acceptance of people different from oneself, which is what brings pupils into contact with mutual respect for Christians, Muslims and Jews, the disabled, gays and everyone who might be considered "other". "It should make absolutely clear that no group should be left out...."

These lessons are based on the No Outsiders lessons programme developed in Birmingham itself:

The No Outsiders programme was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, the assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham.

The programme aims to teach children about the characteristics protected by the Equality Act -- such as sexual orientation and religion.

Books used in programme include stories about a dog that doesn't feel like it fits in, two male penguins that raise a chick together and a boy who likes to dress up like a mermaid.

Regrettably, the protestors' emphasis on LGBT has forced schools emphasis on are forcing schools to cancel a wider programme, No Outsiders , which teaches diversity of all sorts. Next year the government might make lessons based on it compulsory.

Since the protests, several schools – Parkview Community School, and four primaries: Leigh Primary School, Alston Primary School, Marlborough Junior and Infants School and Wyndcliff Primary School – have stopped teaching "No Outsiders" altogether, even though lessons in diversity of all sorts do indeed provide the most important lesson for all children – a lesson that will be present, one hopes, throughout their lives.

What on earth, we may ask, can there be to prompt months of protest in which so many people have become incensed? In March, just before the Anderton Park School protests began, Afsar had led similar cries of outrage against another primary school not far away, Parkfield School. On that occasion, the school backed down and agreed to suspend all LGBT lessons until they came to an agreement with parents –- an agreement Afsar and others might again try to prevent.

There seems to be a broader agenda at work here: that is, to find ways in which to maintain British values when faced with people who in many instances seem to oppose them. One example might be a lesson summed up in the Anderton Park expressions about British values, which underpin so much of the school's ethos: "Jewish people are equal to Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and people with no religion."

Many might not agree to that sentiment, whether in primary or secondary education, and possibly many Muslim parents would wish their children not to be taught it as it contradicts one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Islamic faith: that in God's eyes Islam and Islam alone is the true religion. Unfortunately, however, that doctrine contravenes the law against religious discrimination under the 2010 Equality Act. Here again:

Anderton Park's approach to equalities education, which weaves teaching about equal rights and the challenging of stereotypes into the wider curriculum and has the 2010 Equality Act at its core, is nothing new. (Italics added).

Hewitt-Clarkson has for many years devoted 0.5% of her annual timetable to teaching the characteristics of the Equality Act, which underlies her school's Equality statement above. Half of the school's staff are themselves Muslim. But everyone is expected to be proactive against discrimination:

As public sector workers, teachers have a duty to eliminate discrimination, tackle prejudice and foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who don't. You don't just sit back and wait until a racist or homophobic thing happens to deal with it – you go out of your way to promote good relationships.

The headmistress's concern to meet the requirements of the Equality Act is endorsed by Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted, the government's Office for Standards in Education, which monitors, evaluates and grades all schools in the country.

With direct reference to the crisis facing Anderton Park and remarks by MP Esther McVey that parents know best and should be able to withdraw their children from relationship education until they are as old as 16, Spielman rebutted the idea forcefully:

"To be clear, this is about the Equality Act, which says children must be taught respect for the protected characteristics and to the extent we have got a case where it says this isn't a pick and choose whichever one's parents feel like."

The Equality Act is aimed at protecting people from discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.

Spielman said the new relationships education lessons were "age appropriate" and not to be confused with sex education, which is not mandatory until secondary school.

But she added that opt-outs would undermine the National Curriculum:

"The idea that, on the one hand, children need to be prepared for life in modern Britain and this is an obligation for all schools, yet at the same time parents can opt out completely ... well, what would you do if parents could opt out of biology, could opt out of geography, because they didn't want their children knowing about evolution or reproduction? Where would it end?

"At the point you start saying every parent can choose which topics, we have completely lost sight of a national curriculum, of a national education system that prepares all children in this country."

The matter will have to be concluded soon. In September 2020, RSE lessons will become statutory [relationships and sex education] for all state-funded schools. The RSE curriculum lasts to age 16 and teaches children necessary information about family and friend relationships, and in later stages about sexual matters. Many faith schools are included in the statutory requirements. To refuse to teach such classes will mean breaking the law, and parents who withdraw their children for reasons that contradict those legal requirements may well face charges of denying them an education.

The importance of teaching children about respect for other people, including people with different sexual orientations, cannot be exaggerated. In the light of this, can there be any question that the lessons at Anderton Park school are vital for the West?

Published:6/23/2019 6:35:17 AM
[Markets] Silicon Valley Is Destroying American Democracy by Playing Political Favorites

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Perhaps it was expecting too much that the tech giants would check their political allegiances at the door to ensure fairness. Instead, they have let their political affinities disrupt the process every step of the way and this is leading the country down a blind alley.

June 2019 may go down in the history books as the defining moment when the American IT giants – in cahoots with the limping ‘legacy’ media – removed their masks, as well as their gloves, revealing the real threat they have become to the institution of US democracy, fragile as it already is.

The New York Times got the ball rolling when it ran a front-page story (‘The Making of a YouTube Radical’) detailing the trials and tribulations of one tortured Caleb Cain, a college dropout who was “looking for direction” in life but instead tumbled headlong into a rabbit hole of “far-right politics on YouTube” where he eventually found himself “brainwashed” and “radicalized.”

The article, quoting “critics and independent researchers,” which I suppose could mean just about anyone, says the Google-owned platform has created “a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining … a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens.”

Some people would call that the very same business model that keeps the wheels of capitalism rolling: Keep the product hot and spicy so that the consumer comes back for more. The so-called “alt-right,” however, is not serving up extremist beliefs or Nazi ideology to attract viewers, as the New York Times claims, but rather coherent arguments that challenge the tenets of modern Liberal thinking. It may shock a lot of people, but a person does not have to be a Neo-Nazi to want strong national borders, for example, and laws that prohibit children from being taught about transgender lifestyles in grade school. Yet that is exactly how the right-leaning creators are being portrayed. And it is worth noting that these conservative ‘citizen journalists’ are doing a much better job at attracting audiences than the mainstream media, which is hemorrhaging both viewers and profits.

At the same time, the Times’ article assumes many things about YouTube users, none of which are remotely flattering. First, customers of the video platform, according to the Times, lack any sort of free will and independence. Thus, when a video appears in the recommendation box the user – not unlike a helpless heroin addict – will automatically press ‘play’, thereby involuntarily becoming subjected to yet another right-wing indoctrination session. Soon enough there’s a veritable vegetable sitting in front of the computer, helpless to pull itself away from the recommended video selections.

The article also assumes, with amazing naiveté, that people could not have had uneasy feelings about some issue until a crafty content creator came along and presented it to them. That is simply absurd. Such assumptions infantilize the user, making him appear incapable of making rational judgments on everyday social and political issues. The real reason, of course, that many users find a particular video on a particular subject is because they had been searching for answers to the very questions presented. Nevertheless, it is necessary, Google believes, that these YouTube creators be demonetized and banished from the platform, lest the unsuspecting user fall prey to their dastardly ways and radicalize an entire generation to loathe open borders, marijuana, abortion, transgender lifestyles, and any other controversial issue that is dear to the heart of Liberals.

But the Times hit piece was not the only whiff of grapeshot to grab the headlines. YouTube also demonstrated that it will swiftly move to defend other social media giants when it removed a video by the undercover investigative group, Project Veritas, that showed how Pinterest suppressed conservative talking points.

James O’Keefe, Project Veritas founder, slammed YouTube’s decision in a statement posted on Twitter.

“The established media and technology are so afraid of investigative journalism they need to censor it. YouTube calls REPORTING on someone by showing their face and name, and how they added a pro-life group to a porn blacklist, a ‘privacy complaint.’ Would they do this to NYT?” he wrote.

So here we have a situation where the largest American social media companies are able to shame and ban users with impunity, while also deleting efforts by any outside agency that demonstrates their political bias.

This leads us to the crux of the matter: As the social media companies hide behind their ‘private’ corporate status in order to curb political speech on their platforms with total impunity, they are exerting, at the very same time, powerful influence on the political process. In other words, they are empowered to do the very thing that many of their platform users are not, and that is to support their political convictions without fear of reprisal, banning and censorship. They want to have their private cake and eat it too.

Needless to say, such hypocrisy and double standards on the part of the social media behemoths cannot continue in the so-called ‘land of the free.’ And with US presidential elections approaching in 2020, tensions over such arbitrary power by the social media companies will only intensify when the people come to understand their voices are being silenced. The situation may get bad enough that the question of social media freedoms will even be heard on the debate floor during the campaigns. At least we can dream; it seems to be all we have left these days.

Published:6/22/2019 6:36:34 PM
[Markets] Did Venezuelan Coup Leaders Pocket $70 Million From Citgo's Stolen US Assets?

Authored by Anya Parampil via TheGrayZone.com,

Venezuela’s government has claimed the Department of Justice will investigate Citgo’s opposition-appointed board for the theft of $70 million. But the board is itself the product of a massive theft – that of the elected government’s wealth.

Former Exxon Lawyer and Venezuela opposition envoy to Washington, Carlos Vecchio, may have overseen a multi-million dollar fraud scheme since his political allies were handed control of his country’s US-based oil accounts.

On June 17, Venezuela’s government claimed that the US Justice Department was opening an investigation into Citgo’s opposition-appointed board of directors. Hours later, the ad-hoc council confirmed it had received a subpoena from US officials.

Citgo appeared to confirm the existence of the US government probe, stating that it “received a subpoena from the Department of Justice, which has been conducting a multi-year investigation into corruption practices in PDVSA.” Citgo is a subsidiary of Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), the country’s state-owned oil company.

Citgo said it has “pledged full cooperation” with the investigation. It did not specify the nature of the subpoena or whether it concerned illegal activities alleged to have taken place before or after Guaido’s appointees took control of the company.

Citgo’s announcement followed an ominous comment by Venezuela’s Vice Minister of Communications on June 17:

“It is very likely that the United States Department of Justice will open an ad hoc investigation into the fake board of directors that Juan Guaidó appointed to the Citgo company,” Rodriguez proclaimed during a presentation from Venezuela’s presidential palace.

According to Rodriguez, the investigation was sparked by an alleged accounting fraud totaling $70 million. Rodriguez asserted the money, originally meant to cover PDVSA’s 2020 bond payment due in April, was stolen by Guaido’s representative in the US.

“It seems like the person directly involved in having pocketed those $70 million in excesses, due to cooking the books, is Mr. Carlos Vecchio,” charged Rodriguez.

The allegations of theft on a mass scale came just a day after members of Guaidó’s inner circle were exposed for embezzling $125,000 in money intended for humanitarian aid, spending it on expensive hotels and luxury items in Colombia.

Guaidó’s coup administration is not only facing a collapse of its credibility, but now the possibility of serious legal consequences for its brazen conduct.

Asked by The Grayzone about the existence of an investigation into the opposition’s Citgo accounts, the US Department of Justice stated that it “generally does not confirm, deny or otherwise comment on the existence or non-existence of an investigation.”

Stacking Citgo’s board with corporate consultants and pre-Chavez oil executives

The Trump Administration recognized Vecchio as Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington in January, after he was appointed by Guaidó.

Vecchio has since surrounded himself with an entourage of professional opposition activists in Washington DC. They include David Smolansky, a former local official from Vecchio’ Popular Will party who was appointed to PDVSA’s board of directors by the opposition-controlled National Assembly this February.

Vecchio did not reply to questions sent by The Grayzone pertaining to the management of Citgo accounts and where he finds the funding to cover his salary and those of his staff.

“Why doesn’t Guaidó have appointed ministers?” Rodriguez asked, insisting that the US-appointed leader had selected “representatives of Citgo to steal $7 billion.”

“We have information that interests which belong to Citgo are moving to personal accounts,” the government spokesman added.

$7 billion represents the entirety of PDVSA’s US-based assets seized by the US in January when it rolled out unprecedented sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil industry. In conjunction with the Trump Administration’s announcement, Guaidó ordered Venezuela’s legally defunct National Assembly to appoint a new board of directors to PDVSA and Citgo.

Within weeks, Reuters reported the new Citgo board “was arranging its first meeting at the company’s headquarters” in Houston.

“It seems like the U.S. legal system will generally accept the legal fiction that PDVSA, Citgo’s sole shareholder, is controlled by Guaidó rather than by the people in Venezuela who actually control it,” Bloomberg opinion columnist Matt Levine wrote at the time, highlighting the bizarre character of the move.

The Guaidó-appointed board was subsequently stacked with corporate consultants and former PDVSA employees who were forced out of the company under the watch of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Citgo’s new chairwoman, Luisa Palacios, previously served as chief of Latin America Macro and Energy Research at Medley Global Advisors, which bills itself as “the leading macro policy intelligence service for the world’s top hedge funds, investment banks, asset managers and corporations”.

While at MGA, Palacios’ job was to “[provide] primary-sourced intelligence and analysis on economic policy and political risk”. In other words, a woman who just months ago was advising hedge funds and corporations on Latin America energy policy now heads a major Latin American-based energy company.

Palacios has also worked as a strategist for British investment bank Barclays Capital and as a consultant at the World Bank’s Latin America division.

Joining Palacios on Citgo’s opposition-appointed board is financial analyst Andres Elloy Padilla. In an instance of flagrant nepotism, Padilla’s nomination was overseen by his brother, Luis Carlos, who was the Vice President of the Energy and Petroleum Commission of the National Assembly where nominations were decided.

Guaidó’s board also includes Luis Urdaneta, who once served as Citgo’s Chairman before becoming PDVSA’s Vice President in 1994. Urdaneta remained in that role until Hugo Chavez won power in 1998 and moved to fully socialize the company. Urdaneta’s colleague on Citgo’s new team, Angel Olmeta, similarly retired from his position on PDVSA’s board in 1998. While employed with PDVSA, Olmeta oversaw its acquisition of Citgo and went on to serve as the refinery’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

As former oil industry executives who saw their employment end with Chavez’s rise, Urdaneta and Olmeta have much in common with Guaidó’s US envoy, Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio enjoyed a successful career with private petrol, working as a tax lawyer for PDVSA before the rise of Chavez, then moving to ExxonMobil.

As The Grayzone reported, Vecchio led Exxon’s legal fight against the Chavez government and only entered the political arena once Chavez drove his former employer from the country.

As Guaidó’s US ambassador, Vecchio now stands accused of overseeing the embezzlement of $70 million from Citgo’s accounts. He has dismissed the reports, insisting his role as ambassador limits his involvement in Citgo’s affairs.

“I am not a part of PDVSA or Citgo’s board of directors, nor am I interested in being such,” Vecchio tweeted in response to the charges.

“We need to take control of those assets. Bank accounts, we need to protect that.”

While it’s unclear who exactly controls the assets handed over to Guaido earlier this year, Foreign Agent Registration Act filings list Vecchio as the “Foreign Principal” of “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela under President Juan Guaidó” in the US. The DOJ deleted that filing without explanation shortly after its publication.

“We have assets that belong to the republic. I represent the republic and [am] working on that,” Vecchio told Public Radio International in February when asked whether or not it was legal for him to manage Venezuela’s accounts.

“We need to take control of those assets,” he added.

When PRI asked what could “get done without an official embassy”, Vecchio replied without hesitation: “Bank accounts, we need to protect that. Gold reserves, we need to protect that and also public companies or corporations such as Citgo… So that’s what we are doing.”

What precisely Vecchio planned to do with the money was unknown, but his comments have taken on new meaning in light of the alleged fraud inquiry.

By transferring billions in oil assets belonging to the Venezuelan government into the hands of a group of opposition activists with a track record of corruption, the Trump administration has primed the pump for major scandals. Whether the former Exxon lawyer Vecchio and his cohort pocketed the Citgo accounts or “protected” them, as he pledged to do, the pilfering of Venezuela’s wealth through a slow-motion coup has already begun.

Published:6/22/2019 12:59:57 PM
[Anti-Semitism] Inside the Muslim Brotherhood (Scott Johnson) If you seek to understand the Muslim Brotherhood would benefit from exposure to Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower and Andrew McCarthy’s The Grand Jihad. Andy, incidentally, devotes two chapters to Minnesota. We’ve got the Brotherhood and we’ve got it bad. I believe each of these books to be invaluable in its own way, but they require a commitment of time and effort. It wouldn’t be quite correct to say that Published:6/22/2019 8:59:44 AM
[Markets] Publishers Warn Trade War Could Lead To Bible Shortages, "Think Of The Children"

Christian book publishers are pleading with President Donald Trump not to impose "a Bible tax," reported Bloomberg.

The US and China have been locked in a tit-for-tat trade war for more than one year, now risk the chance of a full-blown economic war. In the last several weeks, President Trump threatened China with a 25% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. If President Trump goes ahead with the next round of tariffs, it'll damage the Bible and the children's book industry because both have significant printing presence in China.

"We believe the administration was unaware of the potential negative impact these proposed tariffs would have on Bibles and that it never intended to impose 'a Bible tax' on consumers and religious organizations," Mark Schoenwald, chief executive officer of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, told a panel of officials at the US International Trade Commission.

Bloomberg noted that Bibles and children's books are primarily manufactured in China because of the "unique paper, printing technology and skills needed."

Daniel Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing Co., said there are no viable options outside of China to print children's books because of the waterproof and nontoxic materials used in some cases, as well as China's investment in recent decades in equipment.

"If tariffs are imposed, there will be fewer books available to American kids," he said.

M. Luisa Simpson, the vice president for global policy at the Association of American Publishers, told the panel that the American printing industry has been in decline for three decades and said reworking complex supply chains out of China to the US would be impossible because of the thin profit margins.

Simpson warned that price hikes could be coming to books if publishers have to move supply chains.

Stan Jantz, head of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, told the panel he hopes the president will wake up to just how damaging his tariffs could be on the book industry. Jantz mentioned that evangelicals are some of the president's largest supporters, and he hopes the trade war will find a resolution in the near term.

"I know there's a great interest in the area of religious freedom and access to religious goods on the part of the administration," Jantz said after he spoke with the panel. "We do hope that there would be an openness and strong consideration for Bibles in particular and also for books."

Again, just like the farmers, many of President Trump's base didn't do their homework in understanding what a trade war would do to businesses with complex supply chains. This is a delicate balancing act for the president and could risk a loss of votes from the business community if the trade war continues to deepen into 2H19.

Published:6/22/2019 7:58:56 AM
[Markets] The Jackboots Are Coming: Mass Arrests, Power Grabs, & The Politics Of Fear

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” - Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence and illegal immigration have been convenient ruses used to terrorized the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Case in point: on June 17, the same day President Trump announced that the government would be making mass arrests in order to round up and forcibly remove millions of illegal immigrants—including families and children—from the country, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Gamble v. United States that placed the sovereignty (i.e., the supreme power or authority) of federal and state governments over that of the citizenry, specifically as it relates to the government’s ability to disregard the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.

At first glance, the two incidents—one relating to illegal immigration and the other to the government’s prosecutorial powers—don’t have much to do with each other, and yet there is a common thread that binds them together.

That common thread speaks to the nature of the government beast we have been saddled with and how it views the rights and sovereignty of “we the people.”

Now you don’t hear a lot about sovereignty anymore.

Sovereignty is a dusty, antiquated term that harkens back to an age when kings and emperors ruled with absolute power over a populace that had no rights. Americans turned the idea of sovereignty on its head when they declared their independence from Great Britain and rejected the absolute authority of King George III. In doing so, Americans claimed for themselves the right to self-government and established themselves as the ultimate authority and power.

In other words, in America, “we the people”— sovereign citizens—call the shots.

So when the government acts, it is supposed to do so at our bidding and on our behalf, because we are the rulers.

That’s not exactly how it turned out, though, is it?

In the 200-plus years since we boldly embarked on this experiment in self-government, we have been steadily losing ground to the government’s brazen power grabs, foisted upon us in the so-called name of national security.

The government has knocked us off our rightful throne. It has usurped our rightful authority. It has staged the ultimate coup. Its agents no longer even pretend that they answer to “we the people.”

So you see, the two incidents on June 17 were not hugely significant in and of themselves.

Trump’s plan to carry out mass arrests of anyone the government suspects might be an illegal immigrant, and the Supreme Court’s recognition that the government can sidestep the Constitution for the sake of expediency are merely more of the same abuses that have been heaped upon us in recent years.

Yet these incidents speak volumes about how far our republic has fallen and how desensitized “we the people” have become to this constant undermining of our freedoms.

How do we reconcile the Founders’ vision of our government as an entity whose only purpose is to serve the people with the police state’s insistence that the government is the supreme authority, that its power trumps that of the people themselves, and that it may exercise that power in any way it sees fit (that includes government agents crashing through doors, mass arrests, ethnic cleansing, racial profiling, indefinite detentions without due process, and internment camps)?

They cannot be reconciled. They are polar opposites.

We are fast approaching a moment of reckoning where we will be forced to choose between the vision of what America was intended to be (a model for self-governance where power is vested in the people) and the reality of what she has become (a police state where power is vested in the government).

This slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what happened in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

We are walking a dangerous path right now.

The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps weren’t kept secret from the German people. They were well-publicized. As The Guardian reports:

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler's Holocaust... They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand. They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters… The reports, in newspapers and magazines all over the country were phases in a public process of "desensitisation" which worked all too well, culminating in the killing of 6m Jews….

Likewise, the mass of ordinary Americans are fully aware of the Trump Administration’s efforts to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

These mass arrests of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant may well be the shot across the bow.

You see, it’s a short hop, skip and a jump from allowing government agents to lock large swaths of the population up in detention centers unless or until they can prove that they are not only legally in the country to empowering government agents to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to similar treatment unless or until they can prove that they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books, and not guilty of having committed some crime or other.

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

You may be innocent of wrongdoing now, but when the standard for innocence is set by the government, no one is safe. Everyone is a suspect, and anyone can be a criminal when it’s the government determining what is a crime.

Remember, the police state does not discriminate.

At some point, once the government has been given the power to do whatever it wants—the Constitution be damned—it will not matter whether you’re an illegal immigrant or a citizen by birth, a law-breaker or someone who marches in lockstep with the government’s dictates. Government jails will detain you just as easily whether you’ve obeyed every law or broken a dozen. And government agents will treat you like a suspect, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, simply because they have been trained to view and treat everyone like potential criminals.

Eventually, all that will matter is whether some government agent—poorly trained, utterly ignorant of the Constitution, way too hyped up on the power of their badges, and authorized to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—chooses to single you out for special treatment.

We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.

All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—started out as a seemingly well-meaning plan to address some problem in society that needed a little extra help.

Be careful what you wish for: you will get more than you bargained for, especially when the government’s involved.

Remember, nothing is ever as simple as the government claims it is.

The war on drugs turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with SWAT teams and militarized police.

The war on terror turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention.

The war on immigration is turning out to be yet another war on the American people, waged with roving government agents demanding “papers, please.”

Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

If you’re inclined to advance this double standard because you believe you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, beware: there’s always a boomerang effect.

As commentator Shaun Kenney observed:

What civil liberties are you willing to surrender in the apprehension of 12 million people? Knock and drags? Detention centers? Checkpoints? House-to-house searches? Papers, please? Will we be racially profiling folks to look for or are we talking about people of Chinese... Indian... Irish... Polish... Italian... people-who-might-look-like-you descent as well? If the federal government makes a 1% rounding error and accidentally deports an American citizen, that's 120,000 Americans... what means will be used to restore their rights? Who will remunerate them for their financial loss? Restore their lost homes? Personal property? Families? ... What happens when these means are turned against some other group of undesirables in America by a president who does not share your political persuasion, but can now justify the act based on previous justifications?

We are all at risk.

The law of reciprocity applies here. The flip side of that Golden Rule, which calls for us to treat others as we would have them treat us, is that we shouldn’t inflict on others what we wouldn’t want to suffer ourselves.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to be forcibly separated from you, caged and lost—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how compelling a case the government makes for it or how fervently you believe in the cause.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t live in a constitutional republic if you allow the government to act like a police state.

You can’t claim to value freedom if you allow the government to operate like a dictatorship.

You can’t expect to have your rights respected if you allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law.

Indeed, when the government is allowed to operate as a law unto itself, the rule of law itself becomes illegitimate. As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

In other words, there comes a time when law and order are in direct opposition to justice.

Isn’t that what the American Revolution was all about?

Finally, if anyone suggests that the government’s mass immigration roundups and arrests are just the government doing its job to fight illegal immigration, don’t buy it.

This is not about illegal immigration. It’s about power and control.

It’s about testing the waters to see how far the American people will allow the government to go in re-shaping the country in the image of a totalitarian police state.

It’s about the rise of an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government misconduct and power grabs in the so-called name of national security.

It’s about how much tyranny “we the people” will tolerate before we find our conscience and our voice.

It’s about how far we will allow the government to go in its efforts to distract and divide us and turn us into a fearful, easily controlled populace.

Ultimately, it’s about whether we believe—as the Founders did—that our freedoms are inherently ours and that the government is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Freedom does not flow from the government. It was not given to us, to be taken away at the will of the State. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

We must get back to this way of thinking if we are to ever stand our ground in the face of threats to those freedoms.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The treatment being meted out to anyone that looks like an illegal immigrant is only the beginning. Eventually we will all be in the government’s crosshairs for one reason or another.

This is the start of the slippery slope.

Martin Niemöller understood this. A Lutheran minister who was imprisoned and executed for opposing Hitler's regime, Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Published:6/21/2019 10:59:38 PM
[Markets] Smith: An Examination Of The Leftist Cult And Their Religion

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

There is a common misconception among newer activists in the liberty movement that the idea of the “false left/right paradigm” means that there is no political spectrum; that the entire notion of left vs right is a fabrication. This is not exactly the case. When we talk about false paradigms in regards to politics (or geopolitics), what we are actually referring to is the elitist class, otherwise known as globalists, and the fact that they have no left or right political orientation. They do not care about Democrats or Republicans, they have no loyalty to either party. Their loyalty is to their own agenda, and they will exploit BOTH sides to get what they want whenever possible.

Beyond the globalists, average people do indeed fall on a political spectrum that could be broken down and simplified to a set of basic ideals or ideologies. On the left side of the spectrum we find the collectivists and socialists, who believe that society (the group) is vastly more important than the individual and that the actions of individuals must be strictly monitored and governed to prevent negative effects on the group.

The core argument of the leftists is:

“We are all a part of society and must act in harmony with society so that the system continues to function. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...”

On the right side of the spectrum we find the individualists, sovereignty activists and true conservatives. People who, in varying degrees, believe that society should be restricted from dictating the life of the individual and that group participation should be voluntary. Where leftists seek to centralize, people on the right seek to decentralize.

The argument of the conservative is:

“Without the individual the group does not exist. The group is an abstraction created in the mind. When groups do form they should only exist to serve and protect the inherent rights of individuals, not be used as a mechanism of control by weak people who are afraid to function on their own...”

This separation of philosophies is simple and easy to follow. Where things start to become confused and convoluted, however, is when political “gatekeepers” or globalist controlled pundits and media outlets get involved and muddy the waters. For example, there are some egregious misinterpretations of conservative principles in the mainstream, especially in places like Europe where the word “conservative” is considered dirty and is barely spoken. Gatekeepers who have no loyalties to actual conservative values have attempted to soil the image of conservatives as a whole by misleading them down the wrong path or acting as false representatives.

Inevitably, these pied pipers try to lure conservatives to support leftist ideologies, like big government interference in people's lives, or in the politics of other nations, or even in free markets. In other words, they want to sabotage real conservatives by making them look like hypocrites. But, the ideals of conservativism and centralization are mutually exclusive – If a conservative supports big government control, they are no longer a conservative. Period.

It is certainly the case that similar gatekeepers on the left side of the spectrum are misleading leftists to destructive ends, but not in the same way that they try to mislead conservatives. While globalists will attempt to trick conservatives to act more like socialists, they do not try to trick leftists into acting more like conservatives. Rather, they trick leftists into becoming even more extreme in their collectivist tendencies.

The end goal of the globalist cabal is to eventually reach a point where EVERYONE in the world is a supporter of totalitarian centralization – a world where everyone is a leftist, whether they realize it or not.

How they plan to achieve this goal is rather indirect but potentially very effective. By pushing one side (the political left) to extremes, they hope to drive the other side (conservatives) to respond with extreme measures that they would otherwise consider contrary to their principles. To avoid this outcome, conservatives must understand the root motivations and contradictions of what has become the leftist cult. To avoid falling into madness, we must examine the behaviors of the insane.

It is hard to say exactly where the left began to migrate away from more centrist politics and go full bore communist. Some would say it started when the Frankfurt School of academics transplanted to the US during and after WWII, bringing with them the ideology of cultural Marxism. Some might argue that they have been this way since the 1960's and 1970's during the rise of the antiwar movement and second wave feminism. But if leftists were raging socialists back then, for decades after that chaotic generation there was at least some self discipline among them in terms of revealing their true intentions outright.

I would place their transformation, or violent mutation, closer to 20 years ago as college campuses shifted completely away from a focus on practical skill sets and STEM fields over to hackneyed social sciences. This was the moment that the conspiracy to completely radicalize the left was truly implemented.

Colleges became centers of worship, but of a new religion called “social justice”. This religion relies on rehashing and reigniting old social conflicts as if they had not already been tackled by far smarter people decades beforehand. SJWs act as if America had never come to terms with slavery, racism, women's rights, sexual orientation, etc., as if all of these problems were boiling in the background waiting for the social justice warriors to finally grace us with their presence and solve them. The reality is that while there will ALWAYS be some conflict related to these issues, there is no need for the existence of “social justice” today. They are rebels without a legitimate cause, and so they create causes out of thin air.

Many pundits on the political left are careful not to publicly associate with SJWs, and attempt to portray democrats and progressives as somehow separate. And for some of these people this might be true. But social justice mantras and disinformation have absolutely permeated democrat language and conversation. Gatekeeping media outlets like The New York Times, Vox, and The Atlantic have seen to this, as they flood democrat oriented web spaces with article after article of rant laden editorials presented as if they are factual journalism.

Many of these articles are written more like personal biographical accounts and anecdotal tales; each leftist writer clamoring to become the next Steinbeck rather than an objective investigator of facts.  True journalism is now dead in the mainstream – hot garbage factories like The New York Times and Vox killed it and replaced it with a Roman bathhouse of narcissism and iniquity.

The only job of these outlets now is to continue fueling leftist faith. Colleges made them zealots; insane devotees of the cult, but the media keeps them on the path and ensures they do not stray. But what beliefs define this religion beyond vague notions of “social justice”?  Let's examine a few...

Burn It All Down?

While the Molotov cocktail was actually invented (or at least popularized) by the Finnish during the Winter War to help stop a massive communist invasion from the Soviet Union, it has now become a kind of symbol of communist rebellion in the West today. The Frankfurt School and Marxism in general teaches that existing systems are not changed diplomatically, but demolished violently through the exploitation of social conflicts. In traditional Marxism the idea was to use economic class conflict; to rally the lower classes to overthrow the upper classes. Cultural Marxism relies not just on economic disparities but also racial and political tensions to bring down a civilization.

After the dust settles the socialists/communists seek to introduce their own “Utopian” system and take control as the nation lays weak and helpless in the midst of complete breakdown.  When the existing system and government works in their favor and feeds their sense of public influence, leftists sing its praises. When it stops working 100% for them (even if only on the surface), they seek to tear it apart and remake it. These are the people you cannot play a game of chess with.  The moment they start losing they cry foul and dash the board to the ground in a rage.

Everyone Is Born The Same?

This notion is biologically absurd but it is gaining momentum in leftists movements.  Essentially, collectivists believe that all human beings are born as blank slates and that their entire personality is a product of their environment. While psychologists, anthropologists and scientists from across the spectrum from Carl Jung to Joseph Campbell to Stephen Pinker have all shown extensive evidence of inborn psychological traits and inherent constructs within the human psyche, this evidence is utterly ignored by leftists as it runs counter to most of their fundamental assumptions.

If everyone is born different, then fairness in society becomes subjective and inapplicable, and only accomplishment, hard work and merit can be trusted to determine what is "fair".  If people's characters are not necessarily ruled by their environment, then this means there is no point in creating a social Utopia to micro-manage every aspect of our lives. If psychopaths are not made but born, then the question of inherent evil becomes a possibility, and according to leftists there is no such thing as evil people, only evil systems that spoil the minds of good people. If gender is inborn and the vast majority of people fall on one side or the other psychologically, not just biologically, then leftists can no longer claim that gender is a social construct that must be dismantled.

The blank slate, or Tabula Rasa, is a key factor in the leftist religion that must be defended at all costs. Otherwise, half their ideology falls apart.

Everything Can And Should Be Fair?

Anyone who has actually lived in the world for a while on their own knows full well that life is not designed to be fair. Some people are born with advantages while others are born with handicaps. Some advantages and disadvantages have to do with family and wealth, while others are simply genetic. There is nothing that can ever be done about this that would not devastate our species.  What leftists don't seem to grasp is that perceived disadvantage is not always a bad thing.

People who struggle and overcome life's obstacles tend to be much wiser and more skilled than people who never had to put in the effort. Leftists want to take away all adversity, not in the name of equal opportunity, but in the name of equal outcome. In the process, they make all of society weaker, wimpier, less innovative and less productive. In a leftist world, humanity would have to create artificial “adversity camps” just to retain its survival instincts. But then, of course, those camps would eventually be put through the fairness filter as well...

"Intellect" Is More Important Than Experience?

Leftists worship intellect as a divine power. So much so that the notion of real world experience rarely crosses their minds as important in making decisions or forming opinions. When social justice warriors talk of things like “racism”, most of them have never and probably will never experience or witness legitimate racism. They read about it in books and hear about it in lectures, but have no personal relationship to it. They believe it is rampant everywhere, around every corner and under every bed because they must. Their reality depends on blind faith that this is true.

The idea of social inequality between men and women also relies on blind faith in misrepresented statistics and fraudulent accounts of crimes that were never committed. To this day these people still argue that the “gender wage gap” is a real thing despite the fact that it has been debunked endlessly. This behavior requires a cult-like devotion to fantasy. It is not normal or logical, it is extreme mental illness. If these people were to go into the working world and study real business models and talk to men and women who are not members of their own echo chamber, they would see through experience that their assumptions are wrong, but when intellectual notions outweigh first hand observation there is no hope of this.

Conservatives Are Evil Incarnate?

I started writing this essay in part because I've noticed a steady stream of articles in mainstream media outlets posing as studies of “conservative extremists”. I figure, if they are going to analyze us inaccurately then we can do them one better and analyze them as accurately as possible. In reading some of these pieces I find that leftists have created their own language completely separate from the rest of the world and reality. That which they interpret as “racism”, or “misogyny”, or “fascism” does not fit the textbook definition of said labels. They have developed their own bewildering vocabulary filled with made-up words and illogical concepts to describe the world in a way that fits their desires and supports their accusations.

Conservatives don't live in this world and frankly, we don't ever want to. To them we are heretics, or barbarians. In their eyes we are the dirty untouchables, the “deplorables”. We cannot be saved, and should be destroyed. Zealots always seek to treat ideological outsiders as mortal enemies even when those individuals have done nothing to them. The fact is, most modern political crimes and genocides have been enacted in the name of socialist ideals; in the name of concepts the left holds dear. We continue to suffer under these ideals in the name of globalism.

How many people have suffered because of decentralization and individual rights?  not many, if any.  How many people have been exterminated in the name of the non-aggression principle? Answer:  Zero.  Conservatives are certainly not evil, or extreme. But in the twilight zone of leftist thought, we are the monsters.

This is why leftist behavior is becoming so incomprehensible.  Corporate behemoths like Sony, Disney, Netflix, Facebook, Google, etc. have chosen to force feed the public social justice ideology, and have placed their business at risk because less and less people are buying the religion they are selling.  The same is true with companies like Gillette or Starbucks, which are willing to insult their own customer base and sabotage themselves just to preach the social justice gospel.  Why would they do this?  Because they see conservatives as demonic force that must be erased from civilized society.  We are not even allowed to be heard, otherwise the evil magic of our arguments will mesmerize the masses and turn them away from the light of cultural Marxism.

Another more covert reason is that through the use of popular media and corporate influence globalists are able to exploit the useful idiots on the left and manipulate them into acting even more absurd than they already do.  And, by extension, they hope to terrify conservatives into throwing out the Constitution and going full fascist as a defensive response.  They are absolutely willing to bring down entire corporate structures to make this possible.  They are going for broke.

The Leftist Gods

The social justice embrace of Atheism seems to have left them feeling unfulfilled as their explanations of existence do not satisfy the innate human relationship to the metaphysical. As a result the leftist cult is always seeking out gods these days, with all encompassing government filling in as a proxy for now. The next deity of the left is clearly nature, or “mother earth”, as this god satisfies their need for a vengeful and omnipotent force.

Many leftists desperately desire a kind of apocalypse, but an apocalypse on their terms. The globalists are giving them one, or at least a farcical version called “climate change”, in which mankind angers nature with his production and progress, but is smote down with catastrophe while the devout leftists watch on in their purity saying “We tried to warn you, but you would not repent...” This is of course fiction, based on junk science funded by organizations with agendas to undermine real science and common sense.

The solution to this apocalypse, coincidentally, always ends up being more government, more control over human trade and progress, population reduction, and perhaps even global governance of every aspect of life. Otherwise, we might incur the wrath of the great leftist war god of destruction – carbon fed global warming. In the minds of leftists that will be the moment when we will all understand that they were the sane ones, that their cult was right all along, and we will come to them willingly, prostrating ourselves before their mighty intellectual superiority.

It is this type of ignorant thinking that makes the left an easily exploited tool for the powers that be. It is also the source of calamity throughout the ages.  Attempting to appeal to these people's better nature is not going to help us as they are too far lost in their own dimension, and neither would using big government as a weapon against them.  It is quite a conundrum.

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Published:6/18/2019 11:10:33 PM
[Markets] Massive Embezzlement Scandal Threatens Juan Guaido's Political Future

Authored by Alexander Rubinstein via MintPressNews.com,

The big event that was supposed to be Guaido’s watershed moment has instead turned out to be a public-relations failure far worse than his quickly quelled attempted military coup...

The political party of Juan Guaido - Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) - was never all that popular to begin with. The sixth largest political party in Venezuela, Popular Will is heavily financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Now, a recently exposed embezzlement scandal in Colombia risks to further alienate the party from the Venezuelan people.

What was supposed to be Guaido’s watershed moment has instead turned out to be a public-relations failure far worse than his quickly quelled attempted military coup, which MintPress News reported caused even the New York Times to describe Guaido as “deflated.”

What happened in Colombia appears to be so damning that not only is the Colombian intelligence service leaking documents exposing wrongdoing by Popular Will representatives appointed by Guaido, but the Organization of American States (OAS) — which is typically just as pro-opposition as the Colombian government — has called for an investigation.

In a tweet issued June 14 at 10:47 p.m. Venezuela time, Guaido called on his ambassador to Colombia — whom he had shut out of the aid event — to formally request an investigation by Colombian authorities, whose already-existing investigation is the reason the story came out in the first place. That was more than four hours after Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro called for an investigation that would clarify the “serious charges,” identify those responsible and effectuate accountability.

But Guaido had already been well aware of the charges, having dismissed his appointees who appear to be ringleaders of the embezzlement scheme. According to the report, he was contacted by the journalist who exposed the scandal 30 days before the story was published.

What happened in Cúcuta isn’t staying in Cúcuta

There’s barely a peep about the scandal in the Western press. A Google News search for “Juan Guaido scandal” and “Popular Will scandal” turned up nothing of relevance at the time of this article’s writing. But on Latin America social media, everyone is buzzing about