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[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 it. American journalist Dan Cohen appears to be the first to highlight the scandal to an English-speaking audience.

It started with a request from Juan Guaido to billionaire investor and regime-change enthusiastRichard Branson.

The stated purpose of the concert was to help raise funds for humanitarian aid and spotlight the economic crisis. At least that’s how it was billed to Americans. To Venezuela’s upper class, it was touted as the “trendiest concert of the decade.”

It was to be a congregation of the elite with the ostensible purpose of raising funds for the poor. One director of Popular Will told Vice News in 2014 that “the bulk of the opposition protesters are from the middle and upper classes and are led by Venezuela’s elite.” The class character of the opposition has not changed since.

Meanwhile, USAID was to coordinate the delivery of aid alongside Guaido; and Elliot Abrams, who in Guatemala used “humanitarian aid” as cover for the delivery of weapons into the country, is running the White House’s policies toward Venezuela. And so the aid was widely criticized, even by the International Red Cross, as politicized. By others, it was called a Trojan Horse.

The concert was held in Colombia across a bridge linking the country to Venezuela. International media had claimed Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro had the bridge shut down to prevent the delivery of aid, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that the “Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE.” But the bridge, in fact, has never been opened for use.

Nonetheless, Richard Branson sought to raise $100 million and promised that Guiado “will be coming to the other side of the bridge with maybe a million of his supporters.” In the end, it was a little more than 200,000 who came.

Venezuelan singer Carlos Baute, left, gets ready to embrace Venezuela Aid Live concert organizer Sir Richard Branson, prior to the start of the concert on the Colombian side of the Tienditas International Bridge on the outskirts of Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, Feb. 22, 2019. Fernando Vergara | AP

Meanwhile, Guaido told the President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, that more than 1,450 soldiers had defected from the military to join them. But that figure was also inflated. A new report by PanAmPress, a Miami-based libertarian newspaper, reveals that it was just 700. “You can count on your fingers the number of decent soldiers who are there,” one local told the outlet.

Despite the low turnout, organizers lived it up in Colombia. Representatives from Popular Will, which rejects the socialist leadership of Venezuela, found themselves living like socialites across the border.

There were earlier signs of excess and debauchery. One Popular Will representative was hospitalized and his assistant found dead after overdosing while taking drugs with prostitutes, although Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) claims they were poisoned.b

The inflated soldier count meant more funds for the organizers, who were charged with putting them up in hotel rooms. Guaido’s “army was small but at this point it had left a very bad impression in Cucuta. Prostitutes, alcohol, and violence. They demanded and demanded,” the report said. 

They also left a bad taste in the mouth of the authorities. The Colombian government was supposed to pay for some of the hotels, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was to cover the costs of others, while Guaido’s people were only going to pony up the cash for two of the seven hotels.

But Popular Will never paid, leaving one hotel with a debt of $20,000. When the situation became completely untenable, the hotel kicked 65 soldiers and their families to the curb. One soldier anonymously told the outlet that the party was not taking care of their financial needs as promised.

Guaido’s ambassador to Colombia took money out of his own pocket to try to resolve the dispute, but the check bounced.

The responsibility of taking care of the needs of the defectors went to Popular Will militants Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, as decreed by Juan Guaido in a signed statement. They were also charged with overseeing the humanitarian aid.

Barrera is the sister-in-law of Popular Will member of Congress Sergio Vargara, Guaido’s right-hand man. She and Rojas were managing all the funds.

But the pair started to live well outside their means, a Colombian intelligence source told the outlet. “They gave me all the evidence,” writes PanAmPress reporter Orlando Avendano. “Receipts that show excesses, some strangely from different check books, signed the same day but with identical writing styles.”

Rojas and Berrera were spending nearly a thousand dollars at a time in the hotels and nightclubs. Similar amounts were spent at times on luxurious dinners and fancy drinks. They went on clothes shopping sprees at high-end retail outlets in the capital. They reportedly overcharged the fund on vehicle rentals and the hotels, making off with the extra cash. Berrera even told Popular Will that she was paying for all seven hotels, not just the two. And they provided Guaido with the fake figure of more than 1,450 military defectors that needed accommodation.

In order to keep the funds flowing, Rojas and Berrera pitched a benefit dinner for the soldiers to Guiado’s embassy in Colombia. But when the embassy refused to participate, Berrera created a fake email address posing as a representative of the embassy, sending invitations to Israeli and U.S. diplomats. They canceled the event after Guaido’s embassy grew wise to the scheme and alerted those invited.

“The whole government of Colombia knew about it: the intelligence community, the presidency, and the foreign ministry,” writes PanAmPress, calling it an “open secret” by the time Guaido dismissed the pair. But that was after Guaido had been defending them staunchly, trying to avoid a firing by transferring responsibilities to the embassy.

Berrera was called to the embassy for a financial audit, represented by Luis Florido, a founding member of Popular Will. She turned in just a fraction of the records uncovered by Colombian intelligence, accounting for only $100,000 in expenditures. “The [real] amount is large,” the outlet reports, citing an intelligence agent who says far more was blown.

Meanwhile, “at least 60 percent of the food donated” by foreign governments “was damaged.”

“The food is rotten, they tell me,” the PanAmPress reporter said, adding that he was shown photographs. “They don’t know how to deal with it without causing a scandal. I suppose they will burn it.”

It isn’t yet known exactly how much was embezzled by Popular Will, but it is likely the truth will come out in due time, and more investigations are likely underway. On Monday, Venezuelan defectors said they will hold a press conference in Cucuta, showcasing more corruption by Popular Will. For now, however, the fallout remains to be seen.

Guaidone?

One thing is certain: the scandal threatens to end Juan Guaido’s 15 minutes of fame. The de facto opposition leader had little name recognition inside Venezuela and never won a political position with more than 100,000 votes behind him. But the overnight sensation never had a lengthy life expectancy anyway.

Though he received so few votes (Venezuela’s population is nearly 32 million), Guaido became the president of the National Assembly because the body is controlled by a coalition of opposition groups, despite President Nicolas Maduro’s PSUV Party being the largest in the country. That was in January, and the length of the term lasts only one year. In 2015, the opposition coalition decided that after each term, the seat would be rotated to a representative of a different opposition party. While there is no law barring Guaido from being appointed president of the National Assembly again, tradition runs counter to it and another party may want to seize on a chance to get into the limelight.

Supporters of the coup — and Guaido’s self-declaration as interim president — claim that Maduro is derelict of his duties, which justifies a transition of presidential power according to the constitution. But the article that allows for such a transition in certain cases stipulates that ”a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days.”

To date, Guaido has run 145 days past his deadline to have elections held, and the opposition has made it clear they are not willing to accept new elections if Maduro runs.

This, of course, makes little dent in Guaido’s legitimacy in the eyes of the U.S. and other countries that have recognized his presidency. U.S. allies in Latin America have shown over the past few years that they have little regard for the sanctity of their constitutions. In 2017, a U.S.-backed candidate in Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, ran for re-election in explicit violation of that country’s constitution and only wound up winning through fraud. Last week, Ecuador made the decision to allow the U.S. military to operate from an airfield in the Galapagos Islands despite a constitutional provision stating that the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed.”

Published:6/18/2019 4:08:07 PM
[Markets] Hong Kong's Lam Offers "Sincere & Solemn" Apology, But Won't Abandon Extradition Bill

For the third time since withdrawing the extradition bill over the weekend, embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has softened her stance on the extradition bill, though she has neither resigned, nor promised that the hated legislation, which catalyzed the biggest street demonstrations since HK was handed back to China, won't be reconsidered.

Lam

In a statement on Tuesday, Lam again apologized for her handling of the extradition bill, which she said is now "unlikely" to pass, offering a "sincere and solemn" apology to the people of Hong Kong. Lam said the bill wouldn't be revived until demonstrators' concerns had been addressed.

"I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibility. This has led to controversies, disputes and anxieties in society," Lam said.

"For this I offer my most sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong."

Asked by a BBC reporter why she hadn't resigned, Lam said her decision to withdraw the bill showed she was listening. She said she understood that she needed to "do better."

Her statement marked the first press conference since some 2 million demonstrators, more than one-quarter of HK's population, took to the streets for a largely peaceful march on Sunday.

Lam said she would not resign and insisted that the extradition law would be left on the books until it legally expires in just over a year. She said only protesters who had used violence would not need to worry about rioting charges, citing a previous statement from the city’s police chief.

While Lam said her government had "stopped all work" on the extradition bill, Lam refused to confirm that the bill had been truly abandoned. That's bound to anger demonstrators, who see abandoning the bill as an essential condition. Already, one protest leader has slammed Lam's statement. Jimmy Sham of Civil Human Rights Front said: "We don’t need to hear her feelings. We want her to respond to our demands..."

For now, at least, it looks like Lam will hang on. She retains the support of Beijing, and the Executive Council Secretariat issued a statement of support in response to Lam's statement.

But the threat of more civil unrest will continue to create problems for Lam's government, as protests have brought commerce in the Hong Kong to a virtual standstill. There's also the fear that Beijing might soon find it easier to sacrifice Lam to ensure that the unrest doesn't spread across the border into Shenzen.

Published:6/18/2019 11:37:01 AM
[Markets] Covering Up Our Culture To Avoid Giving Offense

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

Three years ago, the Italian government made a shameful decision. It veiled its antique Roman statues to avoid offending Iran's visiting President Hassan Rouhani. Nude statues were encased in white boxes. A year earlier, in Florence, another statue featuring a naked man in Greco-Roman style had also been coveredduring the visit of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Now, one of the most famous British art galleries has covered two paintings, after Muslim complaints that they were "blasphemous".

At the Saatchi Gallery in London, two works, again featuring nudes, this time overlaid with Arabic script, prompted complaints from Muslim visitors, who requested that the paintings be removed from the Rainbow Scenes exhibition. In the end, the paintings were covered with sheets. "The Saatchi is behaving like Saudi Arabia, hiding from public view artworks that blaspheme against Islam", commented Brendan O'Neill on Spiked. One expert described the paintings as "The Satanic Verses all over again". The reference was to the book by Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, published in 1988. Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 condemned Rushdie to death for writing the book. The bounty on Rushdie's head was increased to $4 million in 2016 when a group of Iranians added $600,000 to the "reward" -- with no protest from Britain.

It was after Rushdie's The Satanic Verses that many Western publishing houses began bowing to Islamist intimidation. Christian Bourgois, a French publishing house that had bought the rights, refused to publish The Satanic Verses. It was the first time that, in the name of Islam, a writer was condemned to disappear from the face of the earth -- to be murdered for a bounty.

In 1988, The Satanic Verses was published, written by Salman Rushdie (left), a British citizen. Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) in 1989 condemned Rushdie to death for writing the book. The Rushdie affair seems to have deeply shaped British society. (Image sources: Rushdie - Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Khomeini - Mohammad Sayyad/Wikimedia Commons)

Rushdie is still with us, but the murder in 2004 of Theo van Gogh for producing and directing a film, "Submission", about Islamic violence toward women; the death of so many Arab-Islamic intellectuals guilty of writing freely, the Danish cartoon riots and the many trials (for instance, here and here) and attempted murders (such as here and here), the slaughter at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the attacks after Pope's Benedict speech in Regensburg, the booksand scripts cancelled, the depictions of Muhammad closeted in the warehouses of museums, and the increasing threats and punishments, including flogging, to countless journalists and writers such as Saudi Arabia's Raif Badawi, should alarm us -- not bring us to our knees.

As the Saatchi Gallery's capitulation shows, freedom of speech in Europe is now exhausted and weak. So far, we have caved in to Islamic extremists and Western appeasers. It is the tragic lesson of the Rushdie case 30 years later: no author would dare to write The Satanic Verses today; no large publishing house such as Penguin would print it; media attacks against "Islamophobes" would be even stronger, as would the bottomless betrayal of Western diplomats. Also today, thanks to social media as a weapon of censorship and implicit mass threats, any author would probably be less fortunate than Rushdie was 30 years ago. Since that time, we have made no progress. Instead, we have been seeing the jihad against The Satanic Verses over and over again.

"Nobody would have the balls today to write 'The Satanic Verses', let alone publish it," said the writer Hanif Kureishi.

"Writing is now timid because writers are now terrified".

According to the author Kenan Malik, writing in 2008:

"What we are talking about here is not a system of formal censorship, under which the state bans works deemed offensive. Rather, what has developed is a culture of self-censorship in which the giving of offence has come to be seen as morally unacceptable. In the 20 years since the publication of The Satanic Verses the fatwa has effectively become internalised".

The Rushdie affair also seems to have deeply shaped British society. The Saatchi Gallery's surrender in London is not unique. The Tate Britain gallery shelved a sculpture, "God is Great", by John Latham, of the Koran, Bible and Talmud embedded in glass. Christopher Marlowe's "Tamburlaine the Great" was censoredat the Barbican Centre. The play included a reference to the Prophet of Islam being "not worthy to be worshipped" as well as a scene in which the Koran is burned. The Whitechapel Art Gallery in London purged an exhibit containing nude dolls which could possibly have upset the Muslim population. At the Mall Galleries in London, a painting, "ISIS Threaten Sylvania", by the artist Mimsy, was censoredfor showing toy stuffed-animal terrorists about to massacre toy stuffed-animals having a picnic.

At the Royal Court Theatre in London, Richard Bean was forced to censor himself for an adaptation of "Lysistrata", the Greek comedy in which the women go on a sex strike to stop the men who wanted to go to war. In Bean's version, Islamic virgins go on strike to stop terrorist suicide bombers.

Unfortunately, in the name of fighting "Islamophobia", the British establishment now appears to be submitting to creeping sharia: and purging and censoring speech on its own.

Recently, some major conservative intellectuals have been sacked in the UK. One is the peerless philosopher Roger Scruton, who was fired from a governmental committee for saying that the word "Islamophobia" has been invented by the Muslim Brotherhood "to stop discussion of a major issue".

Then it was the turn of the great Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, whose visiting fellowship at Cambridge University was rescinded for posing with a man wearing an "I'm a proud Islamophobe" T-shirt. Professor Peterson later said that the word "Islamophobia" has been "partly constructed by people engaging in Islamic extremism, to ensure that Islam isn't criticised as a structure".

The instances of Scruton and Peterson only confirm the real meaning of "Islamophobia", a word invented to silence any criticism of Islam by anyone, or as Salman Rushdie commented, a word "created to help the blind remain blind". Where is the long-overdue push-back?

Writing in 2008, The Telegraph's Tim Walker quoted the famous playwright Simon Gray saying that Nicholas Hytner, director of London's National Theatre from 2003-2015, "has been happy to offend Christians," but "is wary of putting on anything which could upset Muslims." The last people who did so were the journalists of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They paid with their lives. By refusing to confront the speech police, or to support freedom of expression for Salman Rushdie, Roger Scruton, Jordan Peterson, Charlie Hebdoand Jyllands-Posten -- just the tip of a huge iceberg -- we have started down the road of submission to sharia law and to tyranny. We all have been covering up our supposedly "blasphemous" culture with burqas to avoid offending people who do not seem to mind offending us.

Published:6/18/2019 1:05:14 AM
[Politics] The limits of Trump’s superpowers In comic books, a key to a compelling superpower is its limitations. Magneto can manipulate metal but only metal. Superman has problems with magic, red suns and kryptonite. The limitations drive the drama. In politics, President Trump has a couple of superpowers. Shamelessness is one: He’s willing to say whatever he thinks will benefit him,... Published:6/16/2019 9:59:40 PM
[Markets] Publisher Delays Feminist Author's Book After UK Radio Host Destroys Author's Premise Live On Air

Progressive feminist author Naomi Wolf's new book has been delayed by the publisher after a BBC radio host destroyed a major part of the book's premise during a live interview in May. 

Naomi Wolf

In the course of her research for the book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love - which deals with the British government's criminalization of same-sex relationships in the 19th century - Wolf misinterpreted the ancient UK legal term "death recorded" to mean that homosexuals were executed. 

"I found, like, several dozen executions, uh, but that was again only looking at the old daily records in the crime tables," Wolf told host Matthew Sweet. 

Sweet jumped on it, saying "I don't think you're right about this," pointing out that one of the young men Wolf claims was executed was not. 

"I was really surprised by this," says Sweet, adding "death recorded is what's in most of these cases that you've identified as executions. It doesn't mean that he was executed. It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capital convict." 

"I don't think any of the executions you've identified there actually happened." 

While Wolf's book has already been released in the UK, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it would not move forward with a June 18 date. On Thursday, the publisher told the New York Times

As we have been working with Naomi Wolf to make corrections to ‘Outrages,’ new questions have arisen that require more time to explore. We are postponing publication and requesting that all copies be returned from retail accounts while we work to resolve those questions. 

Wolf responded in a series of tweets, claiming that she objected to the delay, and that the false premise over executions wasn't the "heart of my book." 

Her explanation didn't seem to garner much sympathy:

Published:6/16/2019 5:26:42 PM
[Entertainment] 5 books not to miss: The Try Guys, 'The Tenth Muse,' Mark Haddon's 'The Porpoise' The Try Guys apply their viral charm to a self-help book, Catherine Chung dazzles with "The Tenth Muse" and more new books we can't wait to read.
      
Published:6/16/2019 11:55:51 AM
[Podcasts] The Power Line Show, Ep. 129: “Cocktails From Hell” with Austin Bay (Steven Hayward) This week’s special guest is Col. Austin Bay, author of a lively new book on foreign affairs and grand strategy, Cocktails From Hell: Five Complex Wars Shaping the 21st Century. Austin Bay has an extraordinary biography, including earning a Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War. But that is only the beginning. Austin is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books (including a novel or Published:6/15/2019 12:18:50 PM
[Culture] Drawn to the Beat

When Donald Fagen and Walter Becker joined to begin new recordings in 1972, they decided to call their band "Steely Dan," taking the name from a dildo—"Steely Dan III from Yokohama"—that makes a brief appearance in William S. Burroughs’s 1959 novel Naked Lunch.

And from that stray bit of information, one could begin to construct a genealogy, a tree of inspirations and references, that takes us to a very strange place. Start with the fact that English-language rock 'n' roll, from the 1960s through the 1980s, remains the best-selling, most-listened-to music in the history of the world. Add the fact that just about every influential rocker has mentioned Burroughs's books, with half of them trekking across America at one point or another, on pilgrimage to meet the man. And we arrive at the conclusion that William S. Burroughs is the single most influential novelist who ever lived.

The post Drawn to the Beat appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:6/15/2019 4:18:39 AM
[Entertainment] Julia Roberts reveals the dark, original 'Pretty Woman' ending Julia Roberts remembers the tragic original ending of "Pretty Woman" before the script went rom-com. It was very dark.
      
Published:6/14/2019 9:48:46 PM
[Markets] Top US Regulator Warns Financial System Is At Risk Due To... Climate Change

Submitted by Nick Cunningham of OilPrice.com

A top U.S. financial regulator is worried that climate change could threaten global financial markets.

Rostin Behnam, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), said that the financial system was at risk from the growing frequency and severity of storms.

“The impacts of climate change affect every aspect of the American economy – from production agriculture to commercial manufacturing and the financing of every step in each process,” Behnam said at the meeting of the CFTC’s market risk advisory committee on Wednesday. “As most of the world’s markets and market regulators are taking steps towards assessing and mitigating the current and potential threats of climate change, we in the U.S. must also demand action from all segments of the public and private sectors, including this agency.”

He added: “Our commodity markets and the financial markets that support them will suffer if we do not take action to mitigate the risk of contagion.”

The message is not necessarily a new one, but it is significant since it comes from the CFTC, which is not exactly a hippy enclave. Also of significance is the fact that Behnam was appointed to the CFTC by President Trump, although by law the vacancy that he filled had to be a Democrat.

Behnam will help set up a panel of experts to study the risks to the financial system from climate change.

“If climate change causes more volatile frequent and extreme weather events, you’re going to have a scenario where these large providers of financial products — mortgages, home insurance, pensions — cannot shift risk away from their portfolios,” Benham said in an NYT interview. “It’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system.”

Benham said that the world saw $160 billion in economic costs last year from natural disasters. More recently, the U.S. Midwest is facing a crisis with biblical levels of flooding that have decimated American farms – the type of disaster that is expected to become more frequent.

Financial regulators have begun to pay greater attention to the risk of climate change. A global network of roughly 40 central banks have formed the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), an initiative intended to “manage risks and to mobilize capital for green and low-carbon investments.” If climate change presents threats to the global financial system, then it is imperative that central banks prepare for such dangers. “The NGFS recognises that there is a strong risk that climate-related financial risks are not fully reflected in asset valuations,” the NGFS said in an April 2019 report.

“A transition to a green and low-carbon economy is not a niche nor is it a ‘nice to have’ for the happy few. It is crucial for our own survival,” Frank Elderson, Chair of the NGFS, said in the report. “There is no alternative.”

In March, the San Francisco Fed also raised the alarm, noting the widespread risks across various industries. “These risks include potential loan losses at banks resulting from the business interruptions and bankruptcies caused by storms, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme events,” the San Francisco Fed said. “There are also transition risks associated with the adjustment to a low-carbon economy, such as the unexpected losses in the value of assets or companies that depend on fossil fuels.”

That last point is an argument that has been gaining credence in the energy industry. The idea is that the oil and gas industry may have inflated valuations given that a large portion of the reserves on their books may never be extracted and burned. They will be stuck with “stranded assets.” These oil and gas companies may be worth only a fraction of what they are currently trading at if this turns out to be the case.

David Fickling of Bloomberg Opinion recently observed that Royal Dutch Shell seems to be bucking the trend of oil companies aggressively trying to replace every last barrel of oil extracted. Shell, instead, appears content to let its reserves run down, an apparent strategy to begin to prepare for a low-carbon future. Shell is scaling up investment in power generation.

But the risk is not limited to oil and gas companies. “[F]inancial firms with limited carbon emissions may still face substantial climate-based credit risk exposure, for example, through loans to affected businesses or mortgages on coastal real estate,” the San Francisco Fed warned. “If such exposures were broadly correlated across regions or industries, the resulting climate-based risk could threaten the stability of the financial system as a whole and be of macroprudential concern.” Ultimately, climate risks threaten the economy “through elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis.”

Published:6/14/2019 8:15:18 PM
[Revolutionary War] America’s Fabian revolution: Prelude to a Second American Revolution

We are in the 7th decade of a slo-mo socialist revolution in America, but there are signs it will be followed by a successful Second American Revolution. One of my favorite books is Daddy-Long-Legs, an epistolary novel that Jean Webster wrote in 1912. The letter writer is Judy Abbott, a young woman who was raised […]

The post America’s Fabian revolution: Prelude to a Second American Revolution appeared first on Bookworm Room.

Published:6/13/2019 10:04:49 PM
[Media] Dear Diary: I showed up to sign books and nobody was there :-(

CNN’s Jim Acosta made a “surprise” visit to the Arlington, VA Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his new book, “The Enemy of the People”: Surprise signing at Arlington, Virginia Barnes & Noble! pic.twitter.com/8UCrbfwsQ4 — Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 13, 2019 Um. . . Hillary did better at Costco. — GayPatriot Is A Jerk […]

The post Dear Diary: I showed up to sign books and nobody was there :-( appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:6/13/2019 8:34:17 AM
[Markets] Debate Over Brexit Fee: Would Non-Payment Constitute Default? Who Owes Whom?

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Round and round we go. After more than two years the UK and EU are still debating Brexit breakup fees.

On March 29, 2017, the UK filed Article 50, triggering an exit process from the EU, but the UK is still trapped.

Theresa May negotiated such a poor deal that the British Parliament would not accept it. Yet, there is no support for the default legal position which is a No Deal (WTO Deal) Brexit.

Theresa May did manage to get two extensions, the latest one expires October 31.

May's is now gone and a leadership vote is in progress. Boris Johnson, the heavy favorite has pledged to not pay the Brexit breakup fee of £39 billion (about $50 billion).

France Says Not Paying Would Constitute Default

“Not honoring your payment obligations is a failure of international commitments equivalent to a sovereign debt default, whose consequences are well known,” a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron told Reuters.

Unwise to Default Says Telegraph

Telegraph writer Jeremy Warner says Britain Would be Unwise to Ruin its Perfect Record on Sovereign Debt by Defaulting on the EU Divorce Bill.

Britain is the only one time dominant power that has consistently honoured the terms of its government debt. Germany, France and China have all been serial defaulters, and even the mighty US has reneged on the terms of its debt on occasions.

What, then, to make of Boris Johnson’s comments on the EU divorce settlement? The Tory Party leadership frontrunner has threatened not to pay the agreed £39bn unless he wins a better deal, or to be more precise - the script keeps changing - he has said that he would withhold “at least half” this sum until a satisfactory free trade deal is concluded.

This would of course not be the same as defaulting on sovereign debt, but it would arguably amount to reneging on the country’s international obligations, so might reasonably be thought of as much the same thing.  It is therefore not a threat to be made lightly.

Higher Ground

Telegraph writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says Refusing to pay the £39bn Brexit bill is not a default, but Boris Johnson should stake out higher ground.

Who Owes Whom?

In 2017, Lawyers for Britain made the legal case We Don’t Owe the EU Any Money.

We do not owe the EU any money as a Brexit divorce bill. That is the conclusion that Martin Howe QC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain, and Charlie Elphicke MP have come to after an exhaustive analysis (click to download full report) of the claims the EU Commission sent to the British Government in June. The Government would, therefore, be right to stand firm and not be blackmailed into a multi-billion pound divorce bill. Particularly as it transpires that the legal position is that the EU owes us €10 billion.

The EU’s main claim appears to be that the UK is obliged to contribute to the EU’s budget for a period of roughly two years after withdrawal. This claim is without merit as a matter of international law. The EU’s “Own Resources Decision” and its “Multiannual Financial Framework” are legally subordinate to the EU treaties. They have no binding force in law independently of the treaties. Therefore they cease to impose any legal obligation on the date when the Treaties themselves cease to apply to the UK – on March 29, 2019.

The EU’s second claim relates to the large deficit of its staff pension scheme. The UK could not be liable for a share of that without having a claim on a corresponding share of EU assets. Yet there is no general practice in international law of States making or receiving balancing payments representing the net assets or liabilities of an international organisation when they join or withdraw. No such balancing payments were made when Member States joined the EU. It is therefore difficult to see any credible basis upon which the UK is obliged to make any net payment when it leaves.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is in a rather different position. Member States have paid up capital to this organisation, and that capital stands in its books. There is a compelling argument that the UK, on EU exit, is entitled to the return of its paid up capital and to a corresponding share of the accumulated reserves of the EIB. This amounts to about €10 billion.

Certainly Not Default

Regardless of who owes whom, if the UK refuses to pay, it certainly would not constitute default.

The rating agencies would not label it a default and there are no bonds or interest in play.

Macron's position is ludicrous.

How Much?

£15.9 billion of the £39 pertains to EU budget contributions for 2019 and 2020. A portion of the liability has already depleted.

Warner cautions "Watch out for any politician who says they have negotiated the sum down."

Also watch out for the EU suddenly agreeing to lower the bill as a matter of goodwill.

Honorable Silliness

Pritchard wants Johnson to pursue the higher ground. What a hoot.

The EU openly admitted a desire to trap the UK into a permanent customs union and Pritchard is worried about matters of honor.

Moreover, and as Theresa May proved countless times, giving int to the EU never gets a positive result.

Will the EU return the good will?

Hell no. So why bother?

Agreeing to pay £39 billion that a fool negotiated is silly. Only by making £39 negotiable can Johnson possibly get anything in return.

The UK is in this mess precisely because Theresa May is a piss poor negotiator who gave away the farm for nothing in return.

Brazen Liars

The EU is nothing but a brazen pack of liars. And Theresa May was in bed with the lot of them.

I cannot emphasize that point enough: Let's Discuss Brexit (and How the EU Bragged, on Film, About Screwing the UK)

Please click for a shocking (if you have not seen it yet) video.

No Honor in Being a Fool

Telegraph writers Pritchard and Warner have lost their minds.

There is no honor or high road in being the EU's fool.

Published:6/13/2019 8:34:17 AM
[Markets] The Omnipresent Surveillance State: Orwell's 1984 Is No Longer Fiction

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” - George Orwell, 1984

Tread cautiously: the fiction of George Orwell has become an operation manual for the omnipresent, modern-day surveillance state.

It’s been 70 years since Orwell - dying, beset by fever and bloody coughing fits, and driven to warn against the rise of a society in which rampant abuse of power and mass manipulation are the norm - depicted the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism in 1984.

Who could have predicted that 70 years after Orwell typed the final words to his dystopian novel, “He loved Big Brother,” we would fail to heed his warning and come to love Big Brother.

“To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone - to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink - greetings!”—George Orwell

1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. People are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or "Party," is headed by Big Brother who appears on posters everywhere with the words: "Big Brother is watching you."

We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” - George Orwell

Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move. Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.” Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.”

And in keeping with Philip K. Dick’s darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state—which became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller Minority Report—we are now trapped in a world 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 and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.

What once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of science fiction.

Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike—facial recognition, iris scanners, massive databases, behavior prediction software, and so on—are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, the dystopian visions of past writers is fast becoming our reality.

Our world is characterized by widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, fusion centers, driverless cars, voice-controlled homes, facial recognition systems, cybugs and drones, and predictive policing (pre-crime) aimed at capturing would-be criminals before they can do any damage.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Government agents listen in on our telephone calls and read our emails. Political correctness—a philosophy that discourages diversity—has become a guiding principle of modern society.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” - George Orwell

The courts have shredded the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In fact, SWAT teams battering down doors without search warrants and FBI agents acting as a secret police that investigate dissenting citizens are common occurrences in contemporary America. And bodily privacy and integrity have been utterly eviscerated by a prevailing view that Americans have no rights over what happens to their bodies during an encounter with government officials, who are allowed to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” - George Orwell, Animal Farm

We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state.

What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. The government requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.

In fact, Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother, and we are now ruled by the Corporate Elite whose tentacles have spread worldwide. For example, USA Today reports that five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue. This security spending to private corporations such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future.

The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate the government and our lives. At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so.

Money, power, control. There is no shortage of motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government. But who is paying the price? The American people, of course.

Orwell understood what many Americans, caught up in their partisan flag-waving, are still struggling to come to terms with: that there is no such thing as a government organized for the good of the people. Even the best intentions among those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and control over the citizenry at all costs. As Orwell explains:

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” ? George Orwell

How do you change the way people think? You start by changing the words they use.

In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used. In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.

Dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, reading is banned and books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted and controlled.

In Huxley’s Brave New World, serious literature, scientific thinking and experimentation are banned as subversive, while critical thinking is discouraged through the use of conditioning, social taboos and inferior education. Likewise, expressions of individuality, independence and morality are viewed as vulgar and abnormal.

And in Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.” In this dystopian vision of the future, the Thought Police serve as the eyes and ears of Big Brother, while the Ministry of Peace deals with war and defense, the Ministry of Plenty deals with economic affairs (rationing and starvation), the Ministry of Love deals with law and order (torture and brainwashing), and the Ministry of Truth deals with news, entertainment, education and art (propaganda). The mottos of Oceania: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

All three—Bradbury, Huxley and Orwell—had an uncanny knack for realizing the future, yet it is Orwell who best understood the power of language to manipulate the masses. Orwell’s Big Brother relied on Newspeak to eliminate undesirable words, strip such words as remained of unorthodox meanings and make independent, non-government-approved thought altogether unnecessary. To give a single example, as psychologist Erich Fromm illustrates in his afterword to 1984:

The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as "This dog is free from lice" or "This field is free from weeds." It could not be used in its old sense of "politically free" or "intellectually free," since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed as concepts....

Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted). The power elite has made their intentions clear: they will pursue and prosecute any and all words, thoughts and expressions that challenge their authority.

This is the final link in the police state chain.

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” - George Orwell

Americans have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their privacy rights. In fact, the addiction to screen devices—especially cell phones—has created a hive effect where the populace not only watched but is controlled by AI bots. However, at one time, the idea of a total surveillance state tracking one’s every move would have been abhorrent to most Americans. That all changed with the 9/11 attacks. As professor Jeffrey Rosen observes, “Before Sept. 11, the idea that Americans would voluntarily agree to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping malls, subways and stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a dystopian fantasy of a society that had surrendered privacy and anonymity.”

Having been reduced to a cowering citizenry—mute in the face of elected officials who refuse to represent us, helpless in the face of police brutality, powerless in the face of militarized tactics and technology that treat us like enemy combatants on a battlefield, and naked in the face of government surveillance that sees and hears all—we have nowhere left to go.

We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government. In search of so-called terrorists and extremists hiding amongst us—the proverbial "needle in a haystack," as one official termed it—the Corporate State has taken to monitoring all aspects of our lives, from cell phone calls and emails to Internet activity and credit card transactions. Much of this data is being fed through fusion centers across the country, which work with the Department of Homeland Security to make threat assessments on every citizen, including school children. These are state and regional intelligence centers that collect data on you.

“Big Brother is Watching You.”?George Orwell

Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now being watched, especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint. When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card. There is even a video camera at most locations equipped with facial recognition software. When you use a cell phone or drive a car enabled with GPS, you can be tracked by satellite. Such information is shared with government agents, including local police. And all of this once-private information about your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to the U.S. government.

The government has nearly inexhaustible resources when it comes to tracking our movements, from electronic wiretapping devices, traffic cameras and biometrics to radio-frequency identification cards, satellites and Internet surveillance.

Speech recognition technology now makes it possible for the government to carry out massive eavesdropping by way of sophisticated computer systems. Phone calls can be monitored, the audio converted to text files and stored in computer databases indefinitely. And if any "threatening" words are detected—no matter how inane or silly—the record can be flagged and assigned to a government agent for further investigation. Federal and state governments, again working with private corporations, monitor your Internet content. Users are profiled and tracked in order to identify, target and even prosecute them. 

In such a climate, everyone is a suspect. And you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. To underscore this shift in how the government now views its citizens, the FBI uses its wide-ranging authority to investigate individuals or groups, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity. 

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” ? George Orwell

Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand, however: it’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted. We’ve already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called “hateful” thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter. 

Say hello to the new Thought Police.

Total Internet surveillance by the Corporate State, as omnipresent as God, is used by the government to predict and, more importantly, control the populace, and it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. For example, the NSA is now designing an artificial intelligence system that is designed to anticipate your every move. In a nutshell, the NSA will feed vast amounts of the information it collects to a computer system known as Aquaint (the acronym stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence), which the computer can then use to detect patterns and predict behavior.

No information is sacred or spared.

Everything from cell phone recordings and logs, to emails, to text messages, to personal information posted on social networking sites, to credit card statements, to library circulation records, to credit card histories, etc., is collected by the NSA and shared freely with its agents in crime: the CIA, FBI and DHS. One NSA researcher actually quit the Aquaint program, “citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.” 

Thus, what we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of the watched (average Americans such as you and me) and the watchers (government bureaucrats, technicians and private corporations).

Clearly, the age of privacy in America is at an end.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” - Orwell

So where does that leave us?

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.

It won’t be long before we find ourselves looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted without those thoughts, words and activities being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.

To be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government’s roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.

Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw.

So how do you survive in the American surveillance state?

We’re running out of options.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’ll soon have to choose between self-indulgence (the bread-and-circus distractions offered up by the news media, politicians, sports conglomerates, entertainment industry, etc.) and self-preservation in the form of renewed vigilance about threats to our freedoms and active engagement in self-governance.

Yet as Aldous Huxley acknowledged in Brave New World Revisited:

“Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in their calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those would manipulate and control it.”

Published:6/12/2019 11:27:22 PM
[Markets] Bonds & Bitcoin Bid As Stocks & Commodities Skid

Weaker than expected CPI - more room for The Fed to ease right? So why didn't stocks rally as we've been trained they would?

 

After two days of melting-up, Chinese stocks took a breather overnight...

 

European stocks were lower on the day with Spain still worst on the week...

 

In the US, Trannies  (best) and Small Caps (barely green) outperformed, Nasdaq was the day's biggest loser (hurt by FB among others) as The Dow and S&P hovered just in the red all day...

 

Today seemed all about Dow 26,000 - as the market just could not stop testing it up and down...

NOTE - critically that 26k level also coincides with the 50DMA.

 

Futures show the crazy spike that occurred at the open, suggesting options books needed squaring dramatically

 

Zuck'd...

 

Has Elon lost his touch?

 

Stocks are slowly catching down to VIX...

 

Bonds and stocks remain in different world...

 

Treasury yields were generally lower but the long-end notably underperformed (30Y unch, 2Y -4.5bps)

 

The Dollar rallied today, helped by cable weakness (no-deal Brexit) and euro weakness (Nordstream 2 sanctions threats)...

NOT - the dollar is now higher on the week, marginally.

Cable slipped on the no-deal Brexit no-vote...

 

And the euro slipped on Trump's threats over sanctions...

 

Cryptos drifted higher (but Litecoin dropped notably intraday after a spike)...

 

Bitcoin back above $8,000...

Additionally, Ethereum back above $250...

 

Precious Metals shrugged off dollar strength but copper and crude slipped lower...

 

WTI tumbled back to the lowest levels for crude since early Jan (a $50 handle)...

 

As the price of oil slips relative to gold, we see a potential replay of 2014-2016's shift from hope to nope in the global economy...

 

Finally, we note that the late-day leg lower in stocks and crude seemed to coincide with Chinese media's warning that "Beijing is preparing for China-US ties getting further worsening."

And perhaps more notably, Bloomberg's David Wilson points out that commodities are trading at the lowest prices relative to U.S. stocks in half a century or more as a bear market persists.

The ratio between the S&P/GSCI Total Return Index and the S&P 500 Index dropped Monday to its lowest level since calculations of the commodity gauge begin in 1970, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Since peaking in July 2008, the ratio has plunged as much as 91%, including a 6.2% decline for the year through Monday. This year’s slump follows losses in 10 of the past 11 years. The exception was 2016, when the S&P/GSCI -- based on 24 commodity futures -- rose 1.7% in relative terms.

And if you are still wondering what has been driving stocks higher in the last week or so - it's simple - money-printing as the global economy collapses...

Welcome to the new normal of the financialization of the global economy.

Published:6/12/2019 3:25:20 PM
[Markets] Turkey's New Violent Political Culture

Authored by Burak Bekdil via The Gatestone Institute,

  • At the heart of the matter is a culture that programs most less-educated masses (and in Turkey average schooling is 6.5 years) into a) converting the "other" and, if that is not possible, b) physically hurting the "other." A deep societal polarization since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 has widened to frightening levels.

  • After opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu was taken to a safehouse, members of the mob surrounded it and chanted, "Let's burn down the house!"

  • Apparently each unpunished case of political violence committed on behalf of the dominant state ideology (Islamism) and its sacrosanct leader (Erdogan) encourages the next. In May, a journalist critical of Erdogan's government and its nationalist allies was hospitalized after being attacked outside his home.

In most civilized countries, citizens go to the ballot box on election day -- be it parliamentary, presidential or municipal -- cast their votes, go home to watch news reporting the results and go to work the next day, some happy, some disappointed, to live in peace until the elections. Not in Turkey, where any political race looks more like warfare than simple democratic competition.

One reason is the dominance of identity politics in the country that has its roots deep in the 1950s, when Turkey evolved into multi-party politics. The fighting between "us" and "them" goes on since then. At the heart of the matter is a culture that programs most less-educated masses (and in Turkey average schooling is 6.5 years) into a) converting the "other" and, if that is not possible, b) physically hurting the "other." A deep societal polarization since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 has widened to frightening levels.

None of the incidents that opposition journalists are facing today is a coincidence.

In September 2015, for instance, an angry group of AKP fans attacked the editorial headquarters of Hürriyet, Turkey's largest newspaper, at that time an opposition media company. Smashing the building's windows with sticks and stones, the crowd chanted: "Allah-u aqbar" ("God is great!") as if they were in a religious war. In fact, they thought they were in one because Hürriyet at that time was a secular newspaper critical of Erdogan. For a long time, security forces watched the incidents with only one police team. The crowd took down the flag of the Dogan Group (which then owned Hürriyet) and burned it. After repeated demands, extra police were dispatched. The AKP Istanbul deputy and the head of the AKP youth branch, Abdürrahim Boynukalin, was in the crowd. He announced on his Twitter account, "We are protesting false news in front of Hürriyet and we are reciting the Quran for our martyrs." It was a jihad: attacking a newspaper...

A month later, Ahmet Hakan, a prominent Hürriyet columnist and a presenter at CNN-Türk, was outside his home. Hakan was followed home from the television station by four men in a black car before being assaulted near his residence. Hakan was treated for a broken nose and ribs. Only a few months before those incidents, Erdogan had accused Hürriyet's owner of being a "coup lover" and described his journalists as "charlatans".

In October 2016, Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, or "Diyanet," issued a circular for the formation of "youth branches" to be associated with the country's tens of thousands of mosques. Initially, the youth branches would be formed in 1,500 mosques. But under the new plan, 20,000 mosques would have youth branches by 2021, and finally 45,000 mosques would have them, in what would look like "mosque militia".

Then there is the curious case of the Alperen Hearths, a fiercely pro-Erdogan group that fuses pan-Turkic racism with Islamism, neo-Ottomanism, and anti-Semitism. In 2016, the Alperen threatened violence against an annual gay pride march in Istanbul. Alperen's Istanbul chief, Kürsat Mican, said:

"Degenerates will not be allowed to carry out their fantasies on this land...We're not responsible for what will happen after this point ... We do not want people to walk around half-naked with alcohol bottles in their hands in this sacred city watered by the blood of our ancestors."

The Istanbul governor's office later banned the march.

Another time, in 2016, Alperen members protested outside one of the most significant synagogues in Istanbul, to denounce Israel's security measures after a deadly attack at the Temple Mount that left two Israeli police officers dead. "If you prevent our freedom of worship there [at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque] then we will prevent your freedom of worship here [at Istanbul's Neve Shalom Synagogue]," a statement from the Alperen said. "Our [Palestinian] brothers cannot pray there. Putting metal detectors harasses our brothers." Some Alperen youths kicked the synagogue's doors and others threw stones at the building.

More recent times are not more peaceful, sadly. On March 31, when Turks went to the ballot boxes to elect their mayors, violence in one single day claimed six lives and left 115 people injured by sticks, knives, batons and gunfire. A few days later, the death toll increased.

In a most spectacular show of violence, Erdogan fans nearly lynched Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). In April, Kiliçdaroglu went to a small town on the outskirts of Ankara to attend the funeral of a fallen soldier, killed during clashes with the separatist Kurdish militiamen. During the funeral, he was attacked by a nationalist crowd and taken to a nearby house for protection. A video of the incident on social media showed a mob pushing, shoving and punching Kiliçdaroglu as he made his way through the crowd. After he was taken to a safehouse, members of the mob surrounded it and chanted, "Let's burn down the house!" The man who punched the opposition leader, later happened to be an official member of AKP.

Pictured: Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. (Photo by Erhan Ortac/Getty Images)

The attacker, Osman Sarigün, after a brief detention, was immediately released. The next day, he was a hero. Flocks of Erdogan fans rushed to his farmhouse to kiss his hands in the Sicilian "baccio la mano" manner, paying him the utmost respect for physically attacking a leader of the opposition.

Apparently each unpunished case of political violence committed on behalf of the dominant state ideology (Islamism) and its sacrosanct leader (Erdogan) encourages the next. In May, a journalist critical of Erdogan's government and its nationalist allies was hospitalized after being attacked outside his home. The Yeniçag newspaper said columnist Yavuz Selim Demirag was beaten up by five or six people with baseball bats after appearing on a TV show. The assailants escaped the scene in a vehicle.

Everything went miraculously well for Göknur Damat, a 34-year-old beauty specialist who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2017, she appeared on a television show and, weeping, told the audience that her doctors said she would not live longer than six months. She won Erdogan's (and other people's sympathies) and received an invitation to meet the president, who thereafter called her "my foster daughter." She was now the darling of all AKP supporters. Her business prospered and, even better, Damat miraculously won her fight against cancer. Recently, however, she made a mistake. She donated 20 liras (approximately $3.50) to the election campaign of the opposition candidate running for mayor of Istanbul. Worse, knowledge of her donation somehow fell into the public domain, with thousands of Erdogan fans asking, "How come our president's foster daughter donated to the opposition campaign..." Recently, as she came out of her home, an unfamiliar man approached her, asked: "Are you that braveheart?" and stabbed her in the leg. The attacker, like most others, has not yet been found.

Turkey never was a Denmark or Norway in political maturity, tolerance and culture but it is dangerously coming closer to being like one of its neighbors to the south or to the east.

Published:6/12/2019 1:21:35 AM
[Media] ‘Because it’s all riding on us’: Check out this excerpt from the foreword to Jim Acosta’s new book

No big deal, but what ends up in the history books about what happened to America is all up to Jim Acosta.

The post ‘Because it’s all riding on us’: Check out this excerpt from the foreword to Jim Acosta’s new book appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:6/11/2019 3:47:50 PM
[Markets] Trump's North Korea Policy Should Be Encouraged, Not Undermined

Authored by Peter Huessy via The Gatestone Institute,

  • China is rarely called to task in Washington by US leaders for its role in proliferating nuclear-weapons programs in some of the world's most notorious rogue states. Pressure is rarely placed on Beijing even by US arms-control groups.

  • The Chinese government made a deliberate choice in 1982 -- in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 -- to disperse nuclear-weapons technology to its allies in the Third World. Through the A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network in Pakistan, China was able to help produce nuclear weapons in Pakistan and North Korea, and start nuclear programs of varying significance in Iran, Libya and Iraq, and later in Syria.

  • The Trump administration is doing more than its predecessors to meet the challenges and threats posed by North Korea, and therefore should be encouraged to continue the policy of employing a mixture of tough measures and diplomacy.

At a recent event on Capitol Hill -- hosted by the Washington-based Mitchell Institute -- the former China Country Director at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joe Bosco, defended U.S. President Donald Trump's North Korea policy against critics who were accusing the White House either of leaning too far in the direction of diplomacy with Pyongyang, or too bent on imposing maximum economic and military pressure on it.

The criticism, according to Bosco, stems from two false narratives -- emanating from Pyongyang and Beijing -- which have been governing the debate.

The first is that North Korea is justified in having nuclear weapons, due to America's long-standing "hostile policy" towards the regime in Pyongyang.

The second is that China has had virtually no role in the establishment of North Korea's nuclear program -- and that Beijing seeks "denuclearization" and "stability" on the Korean peninsula.

To grasp the absurdity of North Korea's claim that its nuclear program is "defensive" in nature and created to counter American "hostility" -- one need only ask why Pyongyang was party to the 1994 "Agreed Framework Between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" and the 2003 Six-Party Talks.

China's denial of having had anything to do with North Korea's nuclear weapons program is equally ridiculous.

In their 2009 book, The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation, co-authors Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman illustrate that the Chinese government made a deliberate choice in 1982 -- in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 -- to disperse nuclear-weapons technology to its allies in the Third World. Through the A.Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network in Pakistan, China was able to help produce nuclear weapons in Pakistan and North Korea, and start nuclear programs of varying significance in Iran, Libya and Iraq, and later in Syria.

Nevertheless, China is rarely called to task by US leaders for its role in proliferating nuclear-weapons programs in some of the world's most notorious rogue states. Pressure is rarely placed on Beijing even by US arms-control groups. They, one would assume, would be most upset with China's proliferation policies and seek to get China to admit that its gambit in deploying nuclear weapons in North Korea was designed to fuel tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Ignoring China's role is only one way in which Trump's critics undermine his administration's attempts at forging a successful policy to keep North Korea's nuclear program in check.

Another, more important, way in which Trump's detractors harm his ability to re-establish deterrence against Pyongyang is by denouncing any move by the White House or State Department. On the one hand, senior members of Congressroutinely accuse the administration of provoking a confrontation and risking war through economic sanctions, missile-defense deployments and tough rhetoric.

When, however, the administration scheduled a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and suspended certain joint military exercises to be held with South Korea, Trump was criticized by a former member of the National Security Council for achieving "virtually nothing."

Yet the North Korean government did suspend tests of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles -- and for the first time in nearly 25 years, a North Korean leader put a nuclear deal on the table.

This act, although far short of denuclearization, did eliminate the endless speculation of what the North Korean government would or would not do with its nuclear weapons, if left undeterred.

Pictured: U.S. President Donald Trump meets for negotiations with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore, on June 12, 2018. (Image source: Dan Scavino Jr./Wikimedia Commons)

What this means is that the Trump administration is doing more than its predecessors to meet the challenges and threats posed by North Korea, and therefore should be encouraged to continue the policy of employing a mixture of tough measures and diplomacy.

Published:6/10/2019 10:15:16 PM
[Markets] Kunstler: America Today Is "A Debris-Field Of Broken Ideals & Lost Trust"

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

Sometimes Things Turn

A February night in 1924, in a Manhattan concert hall owned by the Aeolian piano company... the wailing, warped, and flatted clarinet glissando that opens George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue announced the 20th century’s self-recognition that something new was up in the world, and especially in the USA. The composer tried to represent the stupendous energy of the maturing industrial culture in a symphonic cacophony with a core of the deepest tenderness - capturing all the wonder and grace of the moment. For America, everything was on the move. Love and power were in the air.

The idea that this was the American century stuck. The 1920s were a kind of hormonal rush of wonders and amazements. Radio, movies, airplanes, giant industries, electric power in farm houses, the dizzying rush of progress that welled up into a dangerous wave that broke over the world in economic depression, and then war in 1939 - by which time George Gershwin was gone at 38.

America performed splendidly in World War Two, rescuing Europe and Asia from manifest evil. The nation found itself the fully mature leader of the free world, with daunting responsibilities in the Atomic Age, filled with confidence, but tinged with an understandable paranoia in the nervous peace of the 1950s. This was the time of my childhood, along with my fellow travelers, the Baby Boomers. What a time to come into this world!

For a while, the USA luxuriated in power and stability. I sang the Davy Crockett theme song from the Disney TV show, and wore a coonskin hat, and lived in a home where dad left for work in a business suit, and all was well in the world. To me and my childhood friends, the mindboggling horrors of the recent war were reduced to comic books and plastic soldiers in the sandbox. Everything else in America seemed to work as advertised. We built a lot of stuff and saw the USA in our Chevrolet. President Ike bossed around Britain’s PM Anthony Eden. The Yankees bossed around the major leagues. Hardly anyone knew what the Federal Reserve did, or even what it was. Elvis was in the Army, babysitting the defeated Germans.

Then somebody splattered John F. Kennedy’s brains all over Dealey Plaza in Dallas, and everything changed again.

That event was not the beginning of the Deep State, but it was the recognition of a more deeply sinister thing than the public had previously imagined — if they thought about it at all. The Vietnam War coincided exactly with the Baby Boomers’ adolescent rebellion and was widely viewed as an exercise in Deep State wickedness. It was violently opposed, and it only ended when our vaunted military lost control of the entire field of operations and got ignominiously shoved out. Meanwhile a rush of events confounded and aggravated the country: the civil rights commotion, more assassinations of major political leaders, Watergate, Feminism, and then the slow, demoralizing dismantling of the very industry that made the 20th century America’s moment in history.

The memory of all that lingers on, while dreams die hard, the clichés go. The institutional damage along the way has been epic. The outstanding moral lesson of World War Two was that there are some things worth believing in and even fighting for.

The scene today is a debris field of broken ideals and lost trust in any organized endeavor that advertises itself as having national purpose. The Baby Boomers in their own twilight’s last gleaming seem to be equally composed of the most hardened cynics and the most credulous fantasists. In any case, we are doing a controlled demolition on what used to be pretty rigorous American values while leaving the planet a ruin.

That was not exactly the plan, but as the sad song goes: sometimes things turn instead of turn out. The century we are now in may turn out to be somebody else’s, or perhaps nobody’s — and by that I don’t necessarily mean the end of the world, just the end of a certain chapter in human history. In a mere hundred years we’ve journeyed from George Gershwin’s tender nocturne at the center of his Rhapsody to the clanking, thrash-metal morbidity of Megadeath and beyond. You cannot possibly miss the point. But even that is passing into history. The question begging this haunted country now is: what do we become? And can we find any grace in it?

Published:6/10/2019 3:44:24 PM
[Markets] MSM Mourns Death Of CIA-Backed Syrian Al-Qaeda/ISIS Ally

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

On Wednesday the alternative media outlet Southfront published an articletitled “New Video Throws Light On Jaysh Al-Izza High-Tolerance To Al-Qaeda Ideology” about newly discovered footage showing the leader of a “rebel” faction in Syria cozying up with a militant who was wearing a badge of the official flag of ISIS.

The video shows Jaysh al-Izza General Commander Major Jamil al-Saleh congratulating a group of his fighters on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr in a underground bunker,” Southfront reports.

“One of the fighters greeted by Saleh was wearing a batch of the Islamic Black Standard with the Seal of Muhammad. This is a well-known symbol of al-Qaeda and the official flag of ISIS.”

Today, mass media outlets are mourning the death of a well-known Jaysh al-Izza fighter named Abdel-Basset al-Sarout with grief-stricken beatifications not seen since the death of war criminal John McCain. An Associated Pressreport which has been published by major news outlets like The New York TimesThe GuardianPBS and Bloomberg commemorates Sarout as a “Syrian soccer goalkeeper” who “won international titles representing his country”, as “the singer of the revolution”, and as “an icon among Syria’s opposition”.

Remember Major Jamil al-Saleh from two paragraphs ago? AP features his glowing eulogy in its write-up on Sarout’s death:

“He was both a popular figure, guiding the rebellion, and a military commander,” said Maj. Jamil al-Saleh, leader of Jaish al-Izza rebel group, in which Sarout was a commander.

“His martyrdom will give us a push to continue down the path he chose and to which he offered his soul and blood as sacrifice.”

Other mainstream outlets like BBCThe Daily Beast and Al Jazeera have contributed their own fawning hagiographies of the late Jaysh al-Izza commander.

“Formed in 2013, Jaysh al-Izza was one of the first Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups in northern Syria to benefit from U.S. support through the CIA’s ‘Timber Sycamore’ train and equip program, which had been approved by then U.S. President Barack Obama,” Southfront reports in the aforementioned article. “The group received loads of weapons from the U.S. including Grad rockets, as well as Fagot and TOW anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).”

“Jaysh al-Izza received this support under the pretension of being a ‘moderate group’ led by a known Syrian Arab Army (SAA) defector, al-Saleh,” Southfront adds. “However, the group’s acts were not in line with these claims. Since its formation, Jaysh al-Izza has been deeply linked to al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the al-Nusra Front. The group became one of the main allies of al-Nusra when its changed its name to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in 2017.”

“Western thought leaders are lionizing Abdel Baset al-Sarout who was killed fighting the Syrian army,” tweeted journalist Dan Cohen of the mass media response to Sarout’s death.

“They conveniently omit that he fought in a militia allied with al-Qaeda and pledged allegiance to ISIS.”

Cohen linked to an excerpt from his mini-documentary The Syria Deceptionfeaturing footage of Sarout holding an ISIS flag, leading chants calling for the extermination of the Alawite minority in Syria, and announcing his allegiance to ISIS.

Other publicly available video footage includes a speech by Sarout urging cooperation between his own faction, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise), saying “we know that these two groups are not politicized and have the same goals as us, and are working for God.”

“God willing we will work with them shoulder-to-shoulder when we leave here,” Sarout has been translated as saying in the speech.

“And we are not Christians or Shiaa to be scared of suicide belts and car bombs. We consider these things as strengths of ours, and God willing they will be just that. This message is to the Islamic State and our brothers in Jabhat al-Nusra, that when we come out of here we will all be one hand to fight Christians and not to have internal fights among ourselves. We want to take back all the lands that have been filthied by the regime, that were entered and taken over by Shiaas and apostates.”

This bloodthirsty terrorist warmongering was taken by the aforementioned AP hagiography and twisted into the single sentence, “He repeatedly denounced rebel infighting and called on Syrians to unite against government forces.”

The Atlantic’s Hassan Hassan framed Sarout’s unconscionable agendas as mere “flaws” which actually add to his inspiring and heroic story, tweeting, “Some individuals celebrated as heroes make you doubt all stories of heroes in history books. Others, like Abdulbasit Sarout, not inspire of but despite his flaws, make those stories highly plausible. He’s a true legend & his story is well documented. May his soul rest in peace.”

Yeah, come on, everybody’s got flaws. Some people suck at parallel parking, some people team up with ISIS and Al-Qaeda on genocidal extermination campaigns. We’ve all got our quirky little foibles.

We can expect more and more of these mass media distortions as Syria and its allies draw closer to recapturing Syrian land from the extremist forces which nearly succeeded in toppling Damascus just a few short years ago.

As these distortions pour in, keep this in mind: all of the violence that is still happening in Syria is the fault of the US and its allies, who helped extremist jihadist factions like Jaysh al-Izza overrun the nation to advance the preexisting goal of effecting regime change. The blame for all the death, suffering and chaos which ensues from a sovereign nation fighting to reclaim its land from these bloodthirsty factions rests solely on the government bodies which inflicted their dominance over the region in the first place.

You will see continuing melodramatic garment-rending from the US State Department and its mass media stenographers about “war crimes” and “human rights violations” as though the responsibility for this violence rests somewhere other than on the US-centralized power alliance, but they will be lying. What these warmongering propagandists are doing is exactly the same as paying a bunch of violent thugs to break into a home and murder its owner, then standing by and sounding the alarm about the way the homeowner chooses to fight off their assailants.

After it was discovered that the US and its allies armed actual, literal terrorist factions in Syria with the goal of effecting regime change, the only sane response would have been for the public to loudly and aggressively demand that all governments involved to take immediate action to completely rectify all damage done by this unforgivable war crime at any cost, and for there to be war crimes tribunals for every decision maker who was a part of it. Instead, because of propaganda circulated by the same mass media narrative management firms who are sanctifying the memory of Abdel-Basset al-Sarout today, the public remains asleep to the depravity of its rulers. This dynamic must change if we are to survive and thrive as a species.

*  *  *

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 onFacebook, 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 has my unconditional 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:6/9/2019 9:38:19 PM
[Markets] "The Skid Is Everywhere" And We Just Got Confirmation That The Worst Is Yet To Come

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

All over America, large portions of our major cities are being transformed into stomach-churning cesspools of squalor.  Thousands of tens cities are popping up from coast to coast as the homeless population explodes, even the New York Times admits that we are facing “the worst drug crisis in American history”, there were more than 28,000 official complaints about human feces in the streets of San Francisco last year alone, and millions of rats are currently overrunning the city of Los Angeles.  And yet the authorities continue to insist that the economy is in good shape and that everything is going to be just fine.

Perhaps everything may seem “just fine” if you live in a heavily sanitized wealthy suburban neighborhood and you only get your news from heavily sanitized corporate media sources, but in the real world things are getting really bad.

The other day, LZ Granderson authored an editorial in which he described what life is like in Los Angeles right at this moment…

LA spent nearly $620 million in tax dollars last year to address the issue, and yet the number of homeless people increased by 16%,reaching nearly 60,000 people.

As a Los Angeles resident, I am among those who wonder what the mayor’s office is doing. When I lived downtown it was virtually impossible to walk a full block in any direction without seeing a homeless person. In Silver Lake where I live now, there are tent cities. On my drive to work I see people living underneath the highway overpasses. It’s no longer Skid Row here. The skid is everywhere.

Of course that phrase, “the skid is everywhere”, could also apply to San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and countless other U.S. cities.

But without a doubt, L.A. is particularly disgusting at this point.  In fact, last weekend a columnist for the Los Angeles Times admitted that “Los Angeles has become a giant trash receptacle”

A swath of Los Angeles has devolved into a wasteland with rats scurrying among piles of decaying garbage and squalid tent cities, according to a series of stomach-churning photos that the Los Angeles Times says depict the “collapse of a city that’s lost control.”

“The city of Los Angeles has become a giant trash receptacle,” columnist Steve Lopez complained on Sunday.

We are seeing this happen at a time when we are being told that the U.S. economy is still relatively stable.

And I will concede that point.  Right now, the U.S. economy is a whole lot more stable than it will be in the months ahead.

So if things are this bad already in our major cities, what are those cities going to look like once we get deep into the next economic downturn?

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that 75,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May.  That number is consistent with the extremely disappointing figure that ADP reported a few days earlier, and it is well below the number of jobs that we need just to keep up with population growth each month.

Prior to this latest report, there were already more working age Americans without a job than at any point during the last recession, and now things just got even worse.

But the government conveniently categorizes the vast majority of working age Americans without a job as “not in the labor force”, and so officially the unemployment rate is “very low” right now.

What a joke.

The truth is that the middle class has been steadily shrinking for an extended period of time, and all of the numbers that have been rolling in seem to indicate that an economic slowdown has begun.

For instance, when economic activity is expanding demand for key industrial resources such as copper, zinc and lumber increases and prices tend to go up.

But when economic activity is contracting, demand for those key industrial resources diminishes and prices tend to go down.

And right now we are seeing prices for copper, zinc and lumber decline precipitiously

Copper prices have fallen 6% in just the past month while zinc is down 8.5%. Copper and zinc are big components for many industrial and technology companies. People pay so much attention to copper as a barometer that traders jokingly call it Dr. Copper, as if it has a PhD in economics.

Lumber prices are falling as well, plunging about 10% in the past month. That could be viewed as a sign that the housing market — particularly new home construction — is weakening.

If you were looking for some exceedingly clear indications of where the U.S. economy is heading in the near future, you just got them.

But most Americans will continue to live in denial until the very end.  And even though 59 percent of the population is living paycheck to paycheck, people continue to rack up debt as if there was no tomorrow.

In fact, we just learned that the average size of a new vehicle loan in the U.S. just hit a brand new record high

People buying a new vehicle are borrowing more and paying more each month for their auto loan.

Experian, which tracks millions of auto loans each month, said the average amount borrowed to buy a new vehicle hit a record $32,187 in the first quarter. The average used-vehicle loan also hit a record, $20,137.

People ask me all the time about how they can prepare for the next economic downturn, and one of the key pieces of advice that I always give is to not take on more debt.

Right now everyone should be building up their financial cushions, because what is coming is not a joke.

Unfortunately, most Americans are still completely in denial about what is happening, and they will find themselves ill-prepared to handle the very harsh economic environment that is ahead.

Published:6/8/2019 12:02:56 PM
[Culture] Better Than It Has To Be

David Drake's books always seem to carry a blurb from the Chicago Sun-Times—a line extracted from an old review that claims Drake has a "prose as cold and hard as the metal alloy of a tank." He "rivals Crane and Remarque" as a writer of military fiction. And there you have it: The Red Badge of Courage (1895) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) are joined by Drake's tale of intergalactic mercenaries, Hammer's Slammers (1979).

The post Better Than It Has To Be appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:6/8/2019 4:55:31 AM
[Entertainment] Five best-selling books to gift dad this Father's Day based on his tastes Looking for just the right book to gift dad this Father's Day? We chose some standouts from our best-selling books list.
      
Published:6/7/2019 6:21:40 PM
[Markets] 70 Years Later, It's Still '1984'

Authored by Matthew Feeney via InsideSources.com,

In October 1947 Eric Blair, known today by his pen name George Orwell, wrote a letter to the co-owner of the Secker & Warburg publishing house. In that letter, Orwell noted that he was in the “last lap” of the rough draft of a novel, describing it as “a most dreadful mess.” 

Orwell had sequestered himself on the Scottish island of Jura in order to finish the novel. He completed it the following year, having transformed his “most dreadful mess” into “1984,” one of the 20th century’s most important novels. Published in 1949, the novel turns 70 this year. The anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on the novel’s significance and its most valuable but sometimes overlooked lesson.

The main lesson of “1984” is not “Persistent Surveillance is Bad” or “Authoritarian Governments Are Dangerous.” These are true statements, but not the most important message. “1984” is at its core a novel about language; how it can be used by governments to subjugate and obfuscate and by citizens to resist oppression.

Orwell was a master of the English language and his legacy lives on through some of the words he created. Even those who haven’t read “1984” know some of its “Newspeak.” “1984” provides English speakers with a vocabulary to discuss surveillance, police states and authoritarianism, which includes terms such as “Big Brother,” “Thought Police,” “Unperson” and “Doublethink,” to name a few.

The authoritarian government of Orwell’s Oceania doesn’t merely severely punish dissent - it seeks to make even thinking about dissent impossible. When Inner Party member O’Brien tortures “1984’s” protagonist, Winston Smith, he holds up his hand with four fingers extended and asks Smith how many fingers he sees. When Smith replies, “Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!” O’Brien inflicts excruciating pain. After Smith finally claims to see five fingers, O’Brien emphasizes that saying “Five” is not enough; “’No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four.”

Orwell’s own name inspired an adjective, “Orwellian,” which is widely used in modern political rhetoric, albeit often inappropriately. It’s usually our enemies who are acting Orwellian, and it’s a testament to Orwell’s talents that everyone seems to think “1984” is about their political opponents. The political left sees plenty of Orwellian tendencies in the White House and the criminal justice system. The political right bemoans “Thought Police” on college campuses and social media companies turning users into “Unpersons.”

But politicians can lie without being Orwellian, and a private company closing a social media account is nothing like a state murdering someone and eliminating them from history. Likewise, perceived academic conformity might be potentially stifling, but it’s hardly comparable to a conformity enforced by a police state that eliminates entire words from society.

Yet when U.S. government officials use terms such as “enhanced interrogation,” “alternative facts,” “collateral damage,” or “extremists” they understand that what they’re describing is actually “torture,” “lies,” “innocent civilian deaths” and “political dissidents.” They prefer it if others, especially the press, used and believed in Orwellian language that dehumanizes enemies of the government and makes their horrific violence sound tolerable or even justified.

We see far more nefarious and barbaric distortions of language abroad. According to reports by activists and researchers, the Chinese state has put about 1 million people including many Uyghurs — a majority-Muslim ethnic group — in “re-education” camps. Reports reveal that the camps are hardly schools. They’re brutal indoctrination sites, with inmates forced to recite Communist Party propaganda and renounce Islam.

North Korea, the country that comes closest to embodying “1984,” has hampered its citizens’ abilities to think for themselves with a disheartening measure of success. In her memoir, North Korean defector Yeonmi Park describes discovering the richness of South Korea’s vocabulary, noting “When you have more words to describe the world, you increase your ability to think complex thoughts.” It’s hardly surprising that when Park read Orwell’s classic allegorical novel “Animal Farm” she felt as if Orwell knew where she was from.

Orwell was not a prophet, but he identified a necessary feature of any successful authoritarian government. To control you effectively it can’t merely threaten death, imprisonment or torture. It’s not enough for it to ban books and religions. As long as the state doesn’t dominate your consciousness, it’s under constant risk of overthrow. We shouldn’t fear the U.S. turning into Orwell’s dystopian nightmare just yet, but at a time when political dishonesty is rampant we should remember 1984’s most important lesson: The state can occupy your mind. 

Published:6/7/2019 4:24:34 PM
[Culture] ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ Review

Now that 21st Century Fox has become the property of Disney, one imagines that the nearly 20-year-old X-Men franchise will be rebooted* and integrated into the stunningly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in the next few years. It may be worth taking a moment, then, to pay tribute to the series of films that most closely approximated what it's like to read comic books.

The post ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ Review appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:6/7/2019 4:16:32 AM
[Markets] Stop Boris Campaign Is Doomed From The Start: Prepare For No Deal

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

The bookmakers give Boris a 1 in 3 shot of becoming the next PM. Focus on reality, not bookie odds.

The "Stop Boris" campaign is in full swing, but it's as likely to be as much of a success as the "Anybody But Trump" Campaign in 2016.

Stop Boris Theory

  1. Boris has to beat out all of the other Brexiteers. He may fail.

  2. If Boris survives to the final round, he still has to beat out someone who promises to secure a deal.

  3. Tories will rally around the second choice.

For starters, don't confuse betting odds with true odd. Betters are not reliable predictors of elections. Bookies arrange their books (or at least attempt to), based on bets people make. The bookies don't care who wins or loses if their books are properly balanced. Betting is not a scientific poll.

Missing the Boat

An alleged Tory "Polling Expert" says Boris Johnson Fails to Appeal to Floating Voters Needed to Win Election.

Tory peer Lord Hayward said there was a "striking antipathy" towards the former Foreign Secretary in traditional Tory areas like the Home Counties.

The peer said whoever becomes the next Tory leader must win over those who voted Leave in 2016 if the party is to stand any chance of victory.

However, he said they must also be "transfer-friendly", meaning they appeal to floating voters more interested in competent government.

By that measurement, Mr Johnson scores badly compared to leadership rivals Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt. "Boris is pitching to MPs at the moment saying 'I am the one who will win'," Lord Hayward said.

Remainer Sap

Hayward does not provide "expert analysis".

Instead, Hayward provides heaping cups of Remainer sap in the form of the same misguided Remainer theories that led to the demise of Theresa May.

Delusional Remainers

Similarly, Independent writer John Rentoul misses the mark by a mile with his analysis: Boris Johnson is going to blow it – and it will be Michael Gove who will pip him to become prime minister.

These people are delusional Remainers.

Rise of the Brexit Party

  • Gove and Hunt are as pathetic as Theresa May.

  • Wishy-washy compromise is not the way to go.

  • Nigel Farage's Brexit Party provides all the evidence one needs.

MP's Rally Around Boris

Eurointelligence provides excellent analysis of what's really taking place.

We are full of admiration for the sporting spirit of the British media. But leadership race feels to us like a bit of a misnomer for what is currently dominating Tory and UK politics. It is not really a race. It may not even be a competition. Boris Johnson has been in pole position from the start, and he is now building on his lead.

The Times has a story this morning that three Remain-supporting Tory junior ministers are supporting Johnson. They said that he is the only candidate who can save the party from extinction. Self-preservation - not Brexit - has suddenly become the main issue for the Tories. Johnson is the only candidate with a chance to defeat Jeremy Corbyn in a general electionMPs have strong views on Brexit. But they have even stronger views on the importance of holding their own seats. They are supporting the leader most likely to ensure their political survival. 

The main effect of Farage on British politics is not his own election results, but his impact on the Tories. Like Farage, Johnson draws on the benefit of a simple message. Farage frames the argument as one of Brexit versus betrayal. For Johnson it is a choice between Brexit and the extinction of the Tory party.

The whole stop-Boris campaign some MPs talked about never made sense to us because of the way the vote is structured. Starting Thursday next week, MPs will vote for a shortlist of two candidates in four elimination rounds. The remaining three votes will take place June 18, 19 and 20. Johnson has so far received public endorsements by forty MPs, which will be enough to get him into the third round of voting. Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt have twenty-six each.

Tory members will then choose one of the two from the shortlist. We know that Johnson is the strong favourite among the party faithful. If he were to drop out for some reason, we expect the winner to be one of the other Brexiteers - Dominique Raab for instance. We doubt that Tories will vote for Gove, given his support for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. A recent story in the Daily Telegraph claimed Gove proposed a Brexit extension until 2020 in a cabinet meeting. That makes him essentially unelectable in view of the Farage threat. We cannot see the Tories voting for any candidate who fails to deliver Brexit before general elections. And these might arrive early, given the narrow majority in the House of Commons.

Self-Preservation

Eurointelligence commented "MPs have strong views on Brexit. But they have even stronger views on the importance of holding their own seats."

Bingo.

Change UK Provides Lesson in Reality

The misguided set of eleven "Change UK" MPs is now down to five.

"Change UK" is a new political party formed by former Labour and Tory MPs who wanted to Remain.

What the hell kind of change is that?

Dire Results

Amusingly, Change UK Lost Six of its 11 MPs After Dire EU Elections Result.

Six of Change UK’s 11 MPs, including its spokesman, Chuka Umunna, and interim leader Heidi Allen, have abandoned the fledgling party after its dire performance at the European elections.

Message is Clear

Change UK will soon vanish. It elected zero MPs in the EU parliament elections and will elect zero MPs in the next UK general election.

Six Change UK politicians already abandoned the party out of self-preservation.

The best way for politicians to keep their job is to deliver Brexit.

Neither Hunt nor Gove will do that.

One way or another a die-hard no-deal Brexiteer (Johnson or Dominic Raab) will properly deliver Brexit.

Published:6/7/2019 4:16:32 AM
[Markets] Russia's Lavrov Blasts D-Day Memorials As Part Of A "False History" Of WWII

Speaking at a weekly news conference in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the western front of World War Two but her comments likely irked many war veterans in Britain where the 75th anniversary on Wednesday of the largest seaborne invasion in history was marked at a ceremony in Portsmouth attended by Queen Elizabeth and world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel.

As Reuters reports, Russia told the West on Wednesday the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 did not play a decisive role in ending World War Two and that the Allied war effort should not be exaggerated.

It should of course not be exaggerated. And especially not at the same time as diminishing the Soviet Union’s titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened,” she said.

“As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, mainly at Stalingrad (in late 1942) and Kursk (in mid-1943),” Zakharova told reporters.

The Soviet Union lost over 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War, and Moscow under President Vladimir Putin has taken to marking victory in the war with a massive annual military parade on Red Square.

This followed an op-ed from Russian foreign minister Sergie Lavrov, saying that D-Day memorials are part of a 'false' history of World War II meant to airbrush out the Soviet Union.

The month of May and the fireworks are now behind us. The country and the world celebrated Victory Day, which is a holiday of war veterans, home front workers, and all the people of Russia and other victorious nations. There was a grand parade on Red Square and a wreath laying ceremony at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The march of the Immortal Regiment – a civil initiative that has acquired a truly global dimension – took place again not only in Russia, but in many other countries as well, with the participation of hundreds of thousands of Russians, our compatriots abroad and citizens of other countries – all people who cherish the memory of Victory and the memory of those who worked to bring it closer.

There’s another date ahead – June 22, the day of memory and grief for those who died during the Great Patriotic War. We will be remembering those who fell in battles, were tortured to death in captivity and concentration camps, or died of hunger and the toils of war. Preparations are beginning for celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory in 2020, which, of course, will be held at a level appropriate to the scale of the feat and the greatness of the spirit of the heroes of that war. One can’t help thinking about it: what does May 9 mean for the peoples who were on the verge of annihilation, and why do some people loathe this holiday today?

As someone who is part of the first post-war generation, who grew up on the stories told by war veterans and family tales about the war, I believe the answers to these questions are obvious. The peoples of the Soviet Union and other countries became the object of the inhuman ideology of Nazism, and then the victim of aggression on behalf of the most powerful, organised and motivated war machine of that time. At the cost of terrible sacrifices, the Soviet Union made a decisive contribution to defeating Nazi Germany and, jointly with the Allies, liberated Europe from the fascist plague. The victory laid the foundation for the post-war world order based on collective security and state-to-state cooperation, and paved the way to creating the UN. These are the facts.

Unfortunately, however, the memory of Victory is not sacred to all around the world. It is regrettable that there are individuals in Russia who picked up the myths spread by those who want to bury this memory, and who believe that time has come to stop solemn celebrations of Victory Day. The greater the anniversary numbers become, the more we come face to face with the desire to forget.

Bitter as it is to witness, we see the attempts to discredit the heroes, to artificially generate doubts about the correctness of the path our ancestors followed. Both abroad and in our country we hear that public consciousness in Russia is being militarised, and Victory Day parades and processions are nothing other than imposing bellicose and militaristic sentiment at the state level. By doing so, Russia is allegedly rejecting humanism and the values of the “civilised” world. Whereas European nations, they claim, have chosen to forget about the “past grievances,” came to terms with each other and are “tolerantly” building “forward-looking relations.”

Our detractors seek to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and portray it if not as the main culprit of the war, then at least as an aggressor, along with Nazi Germany, and spread the theses about “equal responsibility.” They cynically equate Nazi occupation, which claimed tens of millions of lives, and the crimes committed by collaborationists with the Red Army’s liberating mission. Monuments are erected in honour of Nazi henchmen. At the same time, monuments to liberator soldiers and the graves of fallen soldiers are desecrated and destroyed in some countries. As you may recall, the Nuremberg Tribunal, whose rulings became an integral part of international law, clearly identified who was on the side of good and who was on the side of evil. In the first case, it was the Soviet Union, which sacrificed millions of lives of its sons and daughters to the altar of Victory, as well as other Allied nations. In the second case, it was the Third Reich, the Axis countries and their minions, including in the occupied territories.

However, false interpretations of history are being introduced into the Western education system with mystifications and pseudo-historical theories designed to belittle the feat of our ancestors. Young people are being told that the main credit in victory over Nazism and liberation of Europe goes not to the Soviet troops, but to the West due to the landing in Normandy, which took place less than a year before Nazism was defeated.

We hold sacred the contribution of all the Allies to the common Victory in that war, and we believe any attempts to drive a wedge between us are disgraceful. But no matter how hard the falsifiers of history try, the fire of truth cannot be put out. It was the peoples of the Soviet Union who broke the backbone of the Third Reich. That is a fact.

The attacks on Victory Day and the celebration of the great feat of those who won the terrible war are appalling.

Notorious for its political correctness, Europe is trying to smooth out “sharp historical edges” and to substitute military honours for winners with “neutral” reconciliation events. No doubt, we must look forward, but we must not forget the lessons of history either.

Few people were concerned that in Ukraine, which gravitates towards “European values,” the former Poroshenko regime declared a state holiday the day of founding the Ukrainian Insurgent Army – a criminal organisation responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilian Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, Poles and Jews (although in Israel, whose people survived the Holocaust, May 9 is an official holiday, Victory Day). Other glaring examples from neighbouring countries include Nazi Germany-like torchlight processions of neo-Banderites along the main streets of the Hero City of Kiev, and the marches of veterans and supporters of Waffen-SS in Riga and Tallinn. I would like to ask those who do not like the tears of our veterans during parades and who criticise the “militarised” events in honour of Victory: how do you like this kind of “demilitarisation” of consciousness in a European way?

No one will admit this, of course, but here are the facts: the United States, NATO and the EU let their junior partners, who are using blatant Russophobia to build their careers, get away with quite a lot. These guys get away with everything, including glorification of Nazi henchmen and hardcore chauvinism towards ethnic Russians and other minorities for the sole purpose of using them to keep Western alliances on anti-Russian positions and to reject a pragmatic dialogue with Moscow on an equal footing.

Occasionally it appears that the purpose of such connivance on behalf of the West is to relieve of responsibility those who, by colluding with Hitler in Munich in 1938, tried to channel Nazi aggression to the east. The desire of many in Europe to rewrite that shameful chapter of history can probably be understood. After all, as a result, the economies of a number of countries in continental Europe started working for the Third Reich, and the state machines in many of them were involved in the Nazi-initiated genocide of Russians, Jews and other nations. Apparently, it is no accident that the EU and NATO members regularly refuse to support the UN General Assembly resolution on the inadmissibility of glorifying Nazism, which was advanced by Russia. The “alternative vision” of World War II among Western diplomats clearly does not stem from the lack of historical knowledge (although there are problems in this department as well). As you may recall, even during the Cold War such blasphemy did not exist, although it would seem that an ideological face-off was a perfect setting for it. Few dared to challenge the decisive role of the Soviet Union in our common Victory back then and the standing our country enjoyed during the post-war period, which our Western allies recognised without reservations. Incidentally, it was they who initiated the division of Europe into “areas of responsibility” back in 1944, when Churchill raised this issue with Stalin during the Soviet-British talks.

Today, distorting the past, Western politicians and propagandists want to make the public doubt the fair nature of the world order that was approved in the UN Charter following World War II. They adopted a policy seeking to undermine the existing international legal system and to replace it with a certain “rule-based order.” They want to create this order based on the principle of “he who is stronger is right” and according to the “law of the jungle.”

This primarily concerns the United States and its peculiar perception of 20th century history. The idea of “two good wars” is still widespread there, as a result of which the United States secured military dominance in Western Europe and a number of other regions of the world, raised confidence in its strength, experienced an economic boom and became the world leader.

Just as enthusiastically as the Europeans, the Americans are creating an image of “militaristic Russia.” However, most of their own history is a sequence of endless wars of conquest. Over 243 years of “American exceptionalism,” interventionism has become an integral part of Washington’s foreign policy. Moreover, the US political elite think of the use of force as a natural element of “coercive diplomacy” designed to resolve a wide range of issues, including domestically.

Not a single election campaign in the United States is complete without the candidates trying on a toga of a commander-in-chief in action. The ability to resort to the use of force for any reason is proof of an American politician’s prowess. There are many examples of such stereotypes being implemented under various “plausible” pretexts: Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Yugoslavia in 1999 and Iraq in 2003. At the same time, America honours its fallen soldiers regardless of what cause they fought for. Memorial Day is celebrated in May, and no one has any suspicions of “militarism” when naval parades and air shows with the participation of military equipment take place in various US cities.

We are essentially accused of preserving the memory of our fathers and grandfathers, who laid down their lives in a sacred liberation war, giving them military honours, and celebrating Victory Day widely and with pride. Was it Russia or the Soviet Union that unleashed two world wars? Is it us who today operate an extensive network of military bases that were created to control the entire world?

For diplomats and politicians, May 9 is also a good occasion to recall that the Allies referred to themselves as the United Nations in 1945. They stood shoulder to shoulder during the war, conducted Arctic convoys and fraternised on the Elbe. French pilots in the Normandie-Neman fighter regiment fought the enemy on the Soviet-German front. Awareness of the common threat in the face of the inhuman ideology of National Socialism had helped the states with different political and socioeconomic models to overcome differences. The belief that the defeat of Nazi Germany will mark the triumph of justice and the victory of light over darkness was the unifying factor.

After the war, the Allies built a new architecture of international relations based on the ideal of equal cooperation between sovereign states. The creation of the UN was supposed to warrant that the sad fate of its predecessor, the League of Nations, will not be repeated. The founding fathers learned the lessons of history well and knew that without the “concert of the great powers” – that is, the unanimous consent of the leading countries of the world which hold permanent seats at the Security Council – the world cannot enjoy stability. We must be guided by this commandment today as well.

This year, as we took part in Victory Day celebrations, we once again told everyone willing to listen: “Yes, just like our ancestors we are ready to decisively repel any aggressor. But Russians do not want war, and do not want to go through horror and suffering again.” The historical mission of our nation is to guard peace. The peace we are trying to preserve. Therefore, we are offering a hand to anyone who wants to be good partners to us. Our Western colleagues have long had our proposals which open realistic ways to overcoming confrontation and putting up a reliable barrier to all those who allow for the possibility of a nuclear war. These proposals were further reinforced by an appeal made by the CSTO member states to the North Atlantic Alliance in May to begin a professional depoliticised dialogue on strategic stability issues.

I am confident that the citizens of Russia and other countries will be watching parades in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory on May 9, 2020 and joining the ranks of the Immortal Regiment with St George ribbons attached to their lapels with thoughts of peace in their minds. The memory of those who fell in battle fighting the enemies of the homeland, the enemies of civilisation, will remain alive as long as we mark the great holiday of victorious nations, the holiday of salvation and the holiday of liberation. And there is no need to be embarrassed about the grandiose scale of this celebration.

*  *  *

Of course, as we noted previously, when asked "who beat Hitler?" The answer very much depends who is being asked...

In 1945, most French people thought that the Soviet Union deserved the most credit for Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II - even though the Soviets did not play much of a role in France's liberation, relative to the US and Britain.

By 1995 and 2004, however, the French had changed their minds, and were crediting the US as the biggest contributor to victory in Europe (survey data from the French Institute of Public Opinion)...

Source: Olivier Berruyer at Les Crises blog

Assessing the "biggest contributor to victory" in a rigorous way is exceptionally difficult. They tend to devolve into comparisons of counterfactuals, and the truth is that nobody has any strong idea how the war would have turned out absent US involvement, or if the German-Soviet non-aggression pact had held, etc. Soviet Union's successful resistance of Nazi invasion and subsequent reclamation of Eastern Europe was the most important of many factors in defeating Germany. As historian Richard Overy Explains In His book Why the Allies Won :

If the defeat of the German army was the central strategic task, the main one was the conflict on the eastern front. The German army was first weakened and then driven back, before the main weight of Allied ground and air forces was brought to bear in 1944. Over four hundred German and Soviet divisions fought along more than 1,000 miles. Axis divisions between 1941 and 1945. The scale and geographical extent of the eastern front dwarfed all earlier warfare. Losses on both sides far exceeded anywhere else in the military contest. The war in the east was fought with a ferocity almost unknown on the western fronts. The battles at Stalingrad and Kursk, which broke the back of the German army, drew from the soldiers of both sides the last ounces of physical and moral energy.

If you are looking at the human toll of the war, the Soviets clearly incurred the heaviest losses. Tony Judt's Postwar cites Estimates Suggesting There Were 8.6 million Soviet Military Deaths and over 16 million civilian Deaths in World War II. The US lost 418.500 Military and Civilians in all theaters of the war - still a staggering figure, but not on the scale as Sami Soviet Losses. Of course, it's possible - and highly preferable! - to contribute to the success of the process. But it's worth reflecting on just how massive the sacrifice the Soviet people made was.

Source: Olivier Berruyer at Les Crises blog

"The victors are those who write History. It is this one that is written in our school books, not the true History as it unfolded, but a History that caresses the camp of the winners. History has ceased long ago to be the sum of the humanities today it belongs only to a handful of individuals. "

[Maxime Chattam, The mysteries of chaos ]

Published:6/7/2019 1:21:45 AM
[Entertainment] 'Looking for Alaska' details revealed for Hulu limited series, based on John Green novel The highly anticipated debut comes with a 14-year history of adaption attempts and fails.
     
 
 
Published:6/4/2019 10:57:37 AM
[Markets] Lies, Lies, and More Lies: EU Style

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Brexit chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is boxing with the wind, landing no punches with wild blasts at the UK.

Looking for humorous lies of the day? I can help.

Please consider EU Chief Negotiator Blames Brexit on 'Nostalgia for the Past'.

  1. In an interview with the New York Review of Books, Barnier identified “typically British” causes for the vote to leave, saying one was “the hope for a return to a powerful global Britain, nostalgia for the past”.

  2. He also warned Tory leadership hopefuls that Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was the only option for leaving the EU.

  3. Speaking about anti-EU sentiment across the continent, he said: “People on the ground feel lost, that they have been abandoned; they feel their cultural identity is in danger … we have to respect these local identities. “The more the economy is global, the more people need to be reassured that their roots will be respected.”

  4. “If the UK wants to leave in an orderly manner, this treaty is the only option,” Barnier said. “If the choice is to leave without a deal – fine. If the choice is to stay in the EU – also fine.”

  5. He also repeated negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the EU could start immediately once the agreement was signed. “We are ready, we are waiting,” he said.

  6. The two-times EU commissioner and former French foreign minister, is increasingly seen as the next president of European commission. “That’s not a question for today,” Barnier said.

  7. Talking about the EU, he stressed the importance of Europe speaking with one voice to increase its clout in the world: “The fact that we speak with one voice on issues of trade or competition makes us a global actor. Otherwise, Europe would turn into a museum.”

  8. Speaking of his political heritage on the French centre right, Barnier recalled that Charles de Gaulle had once said merging all the peoples of Europe would be like making a purée de marrons (chestnut puree). “That doesn’t sound very appealing, so we cannot merge all the nations.”

Lies and Contradictions

  • Point 1 contradicts point 8: Barnier blasts the UK for the nostalgia of doing things its own way while stating "We cannot merge all the nations.” Which is it?

  • Point 7 contradicts point 8: This contradiction is even more obvious. Barnier simultaneously wants Europe to speak with one voice while also stating the obvious "We cannot merge all the nations.”

  • Point 3 contradicts points 1 and 7. It is also a lie. You cannot "respect local identities" while demanding "Europe speak with one voice."

  • Points 2 and 4 are lies. No deal can be very orderly. The only way it won't be is if the EU insists on making it disorderly.

  • Point 5 is a lie. Barnier specifically stated he would use the Irish backstop as a means of "permanently" applying pressure on the UK.

  • Point 6. I accept Barnier's statement, at least in regard to not fitting in with the rest of the discussion. However, the statement isn't very clear. Does he want the job? The answer is yes, or he would have explicitly stated so.

Lie Caught on Tape

Of all the lies, point 5 is a standout.

Barnier admitting using the Irish backstop as a means to permanently trap the UK.

I have clips of Barnier on video: Let's Discuss Brexit (and How the EU Bragged, on Film, About Screwing the UK)

Yes, Barnier used the word "permanent".

Published:6/3/2019 2:54:38 AM
[Markets] Ralph Nader: Society Is In Decay – When The Worst Is First & The Best Is Last

Authored by Ralph Nader via CommonDreams.org,

If you want to see where a country’s priorities lie, look at how it allocates its money

Plutocrats like to control the range of permissible public dialogue. Plutocrats also like to shape what society values. If you want to see where a country’s priorities lie, look at how it allocates its money.

While teachers and nurses earn comparatively little for performing critical jobs, corporate bosses including those who pollute our planet and bankrupt defenseless families, make millions more. Wells Fargo executives are cases in point. The vastly overpaid CEO of General Electric left his teetering company in shambles. In 2019, Boeing’s CEO got a bonus (despite the Lion Air Flight 610 737 Max 8 crash in 2018). Just days before a second deadly 737 Max 8 crash in Ethiopia.

This disparity is on full display in my profession. Public interest lawyers and public defenders, who fight daily for a more just and lawful society, are paid modest salaries. On the other hand, the most well compensated lawyers are corporate lawyers who regularly aid and abet corporate crime, fraud, and abuse. Many corporate lawyers line their pockets by shielding the powerful violators from accountability under the rule of law.

Physicians who minister to the needy poor and go to the risky regions, where Ebola or other deadly infectious diseases are prevalent, are paid far less than cosmetic surgeons catering to human vanities. Does any rational observer believe that the best movies and books are also the most rewarded? Too often the opposite is true. Stunningly gripping documentaries earn less than 1 percent of what is garnered by the violent, pornographic, and crude movies at the top of the ratings each week.

On my weekly radio show, I interview some of the most dedicated authors who accurately document perils to health and safety. The authors on my program expose pernicious actions and inactions that jeopardize people’s daily lives. These guests offer brilliant, practical solutions for our widespread woes (see ralphnaderradiohour.com). Their important books, usually go unnoticed by the mass media, barely sell a few thousand copies, while the best-seller lists are dominated by celebrity biographies. Ask yourself, when preventable and foreseeable disasters occur, which books are more useful to society?

The monetary imbalance is especially jarring when it comes to hawks who beat the drums of war. For example, people who push for our government to start illegal wars (eg. John Bolton pushing for the war in Iraq) are rewarded with top appointments. Former government officials also get very rich when they take jobs in the defense industry. Do you remember anyone who opposed the catastrophic Iraq War getting such lucrative rewards?

The unknown and unrecognized people who harvest our food are on the lowest rung of the income ladder despite the critical role they play in our lives. Near the top of the income ladder are people who gamble on the prices of food via the commodities market and those who drain the nutrients out of natural foods and sell the junk food that remains, with a dose of harmful additives. Agribusiness tycoons profit from this plunder.

Those getting away with major billing fraud grow rich. While those people trying to get our government to do something about $350 billion dollars in health care billing fraud this year – like Harvard Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow – live on a college professor’s salary.

Hospital executives, who each make millions of dollars a year, preside over an industry where about 5,000 patients die every week from preventable problems in U.S. hospitals, according to physicians at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The watchdogs who call out this deadly hazard live on a fraction of that amount as they try to save lives.

Even in sports, where people think the best athletes make the most money, the reverse is more often true. Just ask a red-faced Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM, who, over twenty years, has spent massive sums on athletes who failed miserably to produce compared to far lesser-paid baseball players. Look at today’s top ranked Yankees – whose fifteen “stars” are injured, while their replacements are playing spectacularly for much smaller compensation than their high priced teammates.

A major reason why our society’s best are so often last while our worst are first is the media’s infatuation with publicizing the worst and ignoring the best. Warmongers get press. The worst politicians are most frequently on the Sunday morning TV shows – not the good politicians or civic leaders with proven records bettering our society.

Ever see Congressman Pascrell (Dem. N.J.) on the Sunday morning news shows? Probably not. He’s a leader who is trying to reform Congress so that it is open, honest, capable and represents you the people. Surely you have heard of Senator Lindsey Graham (Rep. S.C.) who is making ugly excuses for Donald Trump, always pushing for war and bloated military budgets, often hating Muslims and Arabs and championing the lawless American Empire. He is always in the news, having his say.

Take the 162 people who participated in our Superbowl of Civic Action at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. in May and September 2016. These people have and are changing America. They are working to make food, cars, drugs, air, water, medical devices, and drinking water safer. Abuses by corporations against consumers, workers and small taxpayers would be worse without them. Our knowledge of solutions and ways to treat people fairly and abolish poverty and advance public services is greater because of their courageous hard work. (see breakingthroughpower.org).

The eight days of this Civic Superbowl got far less coverage than did Tiger Woods losing another tournament that year or the dismissive nicknames given by the foul-mouth Trump to his mostly wealthy Republican opponents on just one debate stage.

All societies need play, entertainment, and frivolity. But a media obsessed with giving 100 times the TV and radio time, using our public airwaves for free, to those activities than to serious matters crucial to the most basic functioning of our society is assuring that the worst is first and the best is last. Just look at your weekly TV Guide.

If the whole rotted-out edifice comes crashing down, there won’t be enough coerced taxpayer dollars anymore to save the Plutocrats, with their limitless greed and power. Maybe then the best can have a chance to be first.

Published:6/1/2019 8:45:19 PM
[Markets] Why Being A Politician Is No Longer Fun

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

As a society, we are ill-prepared for the end of "politics is the solution."

It's fun to be a politician when there's plenty of tax revenues and borrowed money to distribute, and when the goodies get bipartisan support. An economy that's expanding all household incomes more or less equally is fun, fun, fun for politicians because more household income generates more income tax revenues and more spending that generates other taxes.

Despite the usual ideological squabbles, the general mood is upbeat: the horse-trading is about the relative share of the spoils each constituency will receive. Nobody gets everything they want, but everybody gets a good chunk and after an appropriate period of whining, resentment and indignation eventually counts their blessings.

But once the pie starts shrinking, the mood darkens: rather than goodies being distributed, losses and belt-tightening must be distributed. The game is now zero-sum: one constituency's gain is another's dead loss.

Politics is no longer fun once the pie starts shrinking. The illusion of "growth" can be maintained for a while by borrowing enormous sums and distributing the windfall as if it were real, organic growth but eventually the wheels fall off the substitute debt for income and tax revenues game and the entire rotten structure collapses.

The other dynamic in play that's visible in the chart below is the distribution of wealth and power is so asymmetric that it's destroying politics as a "solution." Financialization, neoliberalism and its handmaiden globalization have skewed income, wealth and power to the very top of the distribution pyramid: the rich are getting richer, and the super-rich are getting super-richer--and more politically powerful as a result.

But the asymmetry isn't driven solely by the perversities of neoliberalism / financialization: beneath the surface, the economy is shifting in fundamentally dramatic ways that exacerbate wealth-income distribution asymmetries: there are fewer winners and more losers.

These forces have polarized politics into two camps: one with an ideological faith that markets left to themselves will sort it all out to everyone's satisfaction and the other camp with an ideological faith that the central state is the only solution via redistribution of income.

As I've explained here many times and in my many books, both are wrong: neither the market nor the state can maintain the status quo in an era of DeGrowth and tectonic shifts in demographics, natural resources, energy, technology, etc.

Humans being humans, the failure of politics as a "solution" only hardens the ideological resolve of each camp, insuring even more bitter partisanship and more zealotry, as neither side is willing to admit that both "solutions" are wanting, as both "solutions" only work in periods of rapid growth that generates more goodies for everyone.

That era ended a decade ago, and the illusion of growth has been generated by the temporary artifice of debt and money-creation.

As a society, we are ill-prepared for the end of "politics is the solution." No wonder being a politician is no longer fun.

*  *  *

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format. My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF). My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

Published:6/1/2019 8:41:41 AM
[Markets] Paul Craig Roberts Warns Western Supremacy Is On Its Way Out

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

On May 28 I wrote that “the Western world is collapsing so rapidly that I am afraid that I am going to outlive it”. My article was about the rising demonization of white people that is producing a collapse in their confidence. Inculcated guilt is making whites willing to accept discrimination against them in order to elevate Arab, African, and Hispanic migrants that greedy corporations and witless political leaders have brought into the country.  The Identity Politics of the Democratic Party works to the advantage of darker skinned migrants who present themselves as the victims of the white-faced victimizer.

Psychological and emotional collapse is not the only form of collapse underway in the US and Western world generally.  There is also economic and social collapse, especially in the United States.  Today America’s once great manufacturing and industrial cities, such as Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Flint Michigan, Gary Indiana, have lost 20% of their populations, largely due to the offshoring of US manufacturing.

Social collapse is evident in rising homelessness.  Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have large homeless populations that encamp on city streets, parks, and upscale neighborhoods such as Venice Beach.

In Los Angeles feces and garbage in public streets have caused a plague of rats and fleas.  Dangerous sanitation conditions have caused medical authorities to predict “a major infectious disease epidemic this summer in Los Angeles”.  The flea-infested carpets in City Hall are being ripped out because of fear of a typhus outbreak brought on by rat infestation. 

Costs are mounting on already struggling taxpayers. For example, in Los Angeles in 2016 voters approved a $1.2 billion measure to finance 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The initial cost three years ago was $140,000 per housing unit.  Now it is $500,000 per unit.  As one news report put it, “Spending a half-million dollars to build one basic rental unit to get one homeless family out of the rain” doesn’t come across as a viable idea.

Among the solutions being investigated are refugee camps and a rethinking of the policy of taking in millions of peoples from impoverished and unstable countries. We are impoverishing ourselves without making a dent in world poverty.  For every person the US takes in, tens of thousands remain.  Already areas of the US look and function like India of 100 years ago. 

Homeless alleviation is at least benefiting liberal and progressive organizations who are amassing money and power to fight homelessness at the expense of taxpayers. 

Rising violence is another indicator of social collapse. Over Memorial Day weekend 42 people were shot in Chicago. The violent MS-13 gang, formed originally by Salvadoran and Honduran migrants, has expanded its operation from California to Long Island and is now invading the Hamptons.  Residents are installing bullet-proof windows, steel doors, and safe rooms inside their homes for protection.

Another sign of social collapse is growing water problems. The Flint Michigan problem is well known, but there are many others with less publicity. Henry Ford Hospital and the Detroit Health Department report a drastic increase in levels of waterborne diseases.

This is just a taste of the accelerating social collapse.  Readers will write to inquire why I didn’t include x,y, and z and the health care crisis.  The answer is that this is an article, not a book.  

What we are experiencing is the failure of government at all levels.  Huge sums are being spent on wars and the fomenting of wars while Los Angeles faces the prediction of a typhus epidemic.  For two decades the US has spent trillions of dollars on wars in the Middle East in behalf of Israel. Washington calls it “the war on terror,” which is a cover story that hides the real agenda and motivation of violence that has killed, maimed, orphaned and displaced millions of Muslims. One consequence of these senseless wars has been to radicalize Muslims against Americans and Europeans even as the US and Europe import millions of displaced Muslims into their countries. 

Countries without a homogeneous population are already disadvantaged by disunity, but to bring in massive numbers of peoples who have every reason to hate you is insanity.  Once here, the hatred is weaponized against white people by Identity Politics.

If a country decided to self-destruct, it would do precisely what the US and Europe have done.  This is the serious problem, not Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, China.  It is likely the case that Identity Politics is now so entrenched in American institutions, such as the New York school system, that disunity is now a permanent feature of the United States.

The largely unacknowledged problems that the US faces would overwhelm even a unified country.  For a country as disunited as America, it is difficult to see any favorable odds.  

Published:5/31/2019 9:04:55 PM
[Markets] The America That Was - The Good & The Bad

Authored by Richard Ebeling via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

We live in a time when an understanding and an appreciation of what a free society can or should be like is being slowly lost. Or so it seems, often, to a friend of human liberty. Political interventionism and a revived interest in “democratic socialism” dominate public discourse in almost every corner of life.

Calls are constantly being made for government to do more. Remaining areas of personal life are to be invaded by increased government regulation, redistribution, control, command, and constraint. The idea of the independent and self-responsible individual diminishes in the number of its supporters, or so it appears, with every passing day.

Public-policy debates concern not whether something should be overseen and managed by government, but merely how far the interventionist welfare state should go, and who is going to pay for it.

Lost memory of freedom past

The idea that there was a time in American history when many more matters of daily life were considered the domain of personal decision-making and voluntary collaborative community effort has mostly been erased from people’s memory. To a great extent that is because it is rarely if ever taught anymore, other than in the most negative of images.

Few people know or take an interest in that history of a freer America and the lives of those who lived during that earlier time. That makes it worthwhile, however briefly, to take a glimpse at that American past. To have a small flavor of it, sometimes the most interesting accounts are by Europeans who came to visit America in the early and middle decades of the nineteenth century, and who wrote books about their impressions of this great experiment in a free society on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean.

One of them was by a noted French economist and classical liberal, Michel Chevalier (1806–1879), who traveled around the United States in the mid 1830s, and on returning home wrote Society, Manners and Politics in the United States (1839). He described a land of energetic, free men and women who enthusiastically took their lives and destinies into their own hands, fearlessly facing the uncertainties to make their way and their fortunes on what seemed to be a boundless continent of opportunity.

They were not afraid of change or adapting to the personal and financial ups and downs of life. Indeed, they often viewed them as challenges to be grasped and turned to their advantage, rather than run away from them and then beg for government handouts and social safety nets. Everyday market competition was the lifeblood of success and a natural part of processes of human improvement.

The character and quality of earlier Americans

Perhaps it’s best to allow Michel Chevalier to explain a little bit of his impressions of the Americans of that time:

The American is a model of industry…. The manners and customs are altogether those of a working, busy society. At the age of fifteen years, a man is engaged in business; at twenty-one he is established, he has his farm, his workshop, his counting-room, or his office, in a word his employment, whatever it may be.

He now also takes a wife, and at twenty-two is the father of a family, and consequently has a powerful stimulus to excite him to industry. A man who has no profession, and, which is the same thing, who is not married, enjoys little consideration; he, who is an active and useful member of society, who contributes his share to augment the national wealth and increase the numbers of the population, he only is looked upon with respect and favor.

The American is educated with the idea that he will have some particular occupation, that he is to be a farmer, artisan, manufacturer, merchant, speculator, lawyer, physician, or minister, perhaps all in succession, and that, if he is active and intelligent, he will make his fortune.

He has no conception of living without a profession, even when his family is rich, for he sees nobody about him, not engaged in business. The man of leisure is a variety of the human species, of which the Yankee does not suspect the existence, and he knows that if rich today, his father may be ruined tomorrow.  Besides, the father himself is engaged in business, according to custom, and does not think of dispossessing himself of his fortune; if the son wishes to have one at present, let him make it himself!

… An American is always on the lookout lest any of his neighbours should get the start of him. If one hundred Americans were going to be shot, they would contend for the priority, so strong is their habit of competition.

American individualism seen as essential to liberty

Americans were, indeed, rugged individualists. In fact, the word “individualism” was used to convey an essential quality in the American character by that other famous Frenchman who traveled to the United States in the mid 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), and who wrote of his journeys in his classic two-volume political study of a free society, Democracy in America (1835; 1840).

Tocqueville was not an uncritical devotee of American individualism, but he believed that its healthy aspects allowed the individual to see himself as a distinct person separate from the mass of humanity. The individual person was able to form his own freely chosen circle of partners and associations through family, friends, and commercial enterprise. Individualism was a bulwark against one of the most serious dangers in free societies with democratically elected governments: the tyranny of majorities, both politically and culturally.

Tocqueville expressed concerns that the American individualism that he observed could make the individual less conscious and attentive to the general society in which he lived. At the same time, he saw that the answer to the various social problems requiring the efforts and energies of combinations of people outside of family and business had been found among the Americans through the voluntary associations of civil society.

The American spirit of voluntary association

In fact, Tocqueville considered that to be one of the most impressive aspects of American community life, to which he felt Europeans should be most attentive as an alternative to the presumption in the “old world” that all such “welfare” matters needed to be left to the State. In Tocqueville’s own words,

The political associations which exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, — religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools….

… I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.

As soon as several of the inhabitants of the United States have taken up an opinion or a feeling which they wish to promote in the world, they look out for mutual assistance; and as soon as they have found each other out, they combine. From that moment they are no longer isolated men, but a power seen from afar, whose actions serve for an example, and whose language is listened to….

Nothing, in my opinion, is more deserving of our attention than the intellectual and moral associations of America….

From local fire departments, to friendly societies for mutual assurance, to charitable organizations to assist those in a community who had fallen on hard and difficult times, as well as many other purposes, the spirit of individualism, Tocqueville explained, was to shoulder those responsibilities yourself as a free and responsible person in voluntary collaboration with your fellows in society.

Political plunder in earlier America

The idea of turning to government for such activities was clearly anathema to much that was in the American character. Yet government did exist in this earlier America, and it did more than merely secure people’s lives, liberty, and honestly acquired property. State and local governments subsidized privately built canals and ferries, gave protection to state-level banks that mismanaged their depositors’ funds, and gave out government contracts to special interests close to those in the legislatures.

The British traveler Charles MacKay (1814–1889) is perhaps best known for his 1841 volume, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, but he journeyed around the United States in the second half of the 1850s, and then published Life and Liberty in America: Sketches of a Tour (1859). He spent time in Washington, D.C., and was invited to the White House to meet President James Buchanan.

The place was crawling with those wanting special favors, government jobs, federal contracts, and trade protections from foreign competitors. Others were just busybodies and gossips wanting to shake the president’s hand and tell him what the government should do according to their pet projects for making America great; some just wanted to poke around the White House to see how the president lived.

Glad-handing for power and patronage

Charles Mackay shared his observations and impressions of his visit to the White House:

The White House … is a plain but elegant building, befitting the unpretending dignity of the popular magistrate of a country where government is minimized, and where the trappings and paraphernalia of state and office are unknown or uncongenial.

Here, the President — a man who possesses, during his term of office, a far greater amount of power and patronage than the sovereign of any state in Europe, except the Emperors of France, Russia, and Austria — transacts, without any unnecessary forms, and with no formality or ceremony at all, the business of his great and growing dominion.

Here he receives, at stated days and periods, ladies or gentlemen who choose to call upon him, either for business or pleasure, or from mere curiosity…. There is no man in the United States who has such a quantity of hand-shaking to get through as the President.

… Never was there a place in which office-hunters and place-seekers more assiduously congregate. The antechambers of the President are daily thronged with solicitants — with men who think they helped to make the President, and who are constantly of the opinion that the President should help to make them.

I thought, when presented to Mr. Buchanan, that he seemed relieved to find that I was an Englishman, and had nothing to ask him for — no little place for self, no cousin, or friend, or son for which to beg his all-powerful patronage.

Of course, when Chevalier, MacKay, and Tocqueville, traveled around the United States, there was another plague across the land besides the growing special interest plunder, privilege, and favoritism that eventually grew into the twentieth century’s full-blown interventionist-welfare state.

The perversity of American slavery

That was slavery, and the national conflict and controversy already everywhere as to its legitimacy and the designs by Southerners to extend their “peculiar institution” into the Western territories and states. That, too, virtually every foreign visitor to America saw and commented upon.

Charles Mackay visited one of the auction sites in New Orleans, and was shocked when on orders of an auctioneer, female black slaves came up asking him to buy them. “I felt a sensation something similar to that of the first qualm of sea-sickness to be so addressed by my fellow creatures — a feeling of nausea, as if I were about to be ill. I entertained at that moment such a hatred of slavery that, had it been in my power to abolish it in one instant off the face of the earth by the mere expression of my will, slavery at that instant would have ceased to exist.”

A Russian visitor to America in 1857, Aleksandr Borisovich Lakier (1825–1870), also saw slavery in action in New Orleans. He went to the levee to watch the unloading of the ships that had come down the Mississippi River or up from the Gulf of Mexico. “Most of the work is done by Negroes, who, under the watchful eye of the white overseer, carry bales of cotton and barrels of flour, sugar, and molasses from the steamboats to the shore,” Lakier explained. “The overseer, whip in hand, keeps account of the goods brought ashore and zealously drives the slaves to keep working without resting. If they tarry or daydream, the whip is always ready.”

Lakier, too, visited one of the slave auction sites in New Orleans. Thinking that Lakier was a potential buyer, the auctioneer took him around the premises. “If we stopped in front of a Negress, he turned her around, displayed her charms and spoke in my ear about her various recommendations. The poor woman, forgetting her natural shame, smiled and asked that I buy her.”

The only thing that matched “the feeling of revulsion one brings to a place where Negroes are sold” Lakier said, was to read the advertisement flyers offering rewards for the capture and return of runaway slaves. There was included a description of the physical characteristics of the human being to be hunted down that was “precisely how we in our country [Russia] describe distinctive marks when we advertise for a missing dog.”

This blight on the politics, economics, culture, and soul of the American people was finally ended a few years after Mackay and Lakier witnessed this shame and insult to the universal principles of individual liberty on which the country was declared to be founded. Unfortunately, it came about only through a destructive and devastating civil war, the full effects from which the United States has still not completely recovered.

The American ideal of freedom continued to shine.

But out of the shadow of this terrible crime against humanity and morality, America still continued as a hope and a reality of the possibility and potential for liberty and prosperity for tens of millions who came to the United States from many other parts of the world. Here people did not have bow low to those who claimed to be their aristocratic betters owing to military conquests from long ago. Here your past and its mistakes mattered much less than what you could demonstrate as your abilities to freely offer others what they may want in voluntary trade and exchange as the peaceful and productive means to your own betterment.

Here you could say what you wanted, write what you wanted, go where you wanted, work at what you wanted, associate freely with others as you wanted, without permission or approval of kings, princes, or their government ministers. Also, here in America to be wealthy was neither a sin nor something to be embarrassed by or to feel guilty about.

The glory of America: freedom of industry and enterprise

Walter Raleigh Houghton (1845– 1929) was a professor of political science at Indiana University in the late nineteenth century. In 1886, he authored Kings of Fortune, or the Triumphs and Achievements of Noble, Self-Made Men, a series of biographies of people from many walks of life — scientists, inventors, philanthropists, lawyers, artists and
actors, and merchants and businessmen — who demonstrated excellence and enterprise in achieving recognition and stature in American society.

But what is noteworthy is that Houghton especially emphasized the significance and mark left by private enterprisers on American society. Their successes were indicative of what the country was all about. He said,

The chief glory of America is, that it is the country in which genius and industry find their speediest and surest reward. Fame and fortune are here open to all who are willing to work for them. Neither class distinctions nor social prejudices, neither differences of birth, religion, nor ideas, can prevent the man of true merit from winning the just reward of his labors in this favored land. We are emphatically a nation of self-made men, and it is to the labors of this worthy class that our marvelous national prosperity is due….

To an American, business is the quintessence of energy, the well-spring of ambition, and the highway to wealth, honor and fame. On it are based the push and the drive which are daily adding millions to the treasures of this nation, as well as giving us reputation and integrity among the peoples of the world.

What was wanted in any American for there to be a prosperous and ethical country were the qualities of honesty, integrity, industry, politeness, and courtesy. In another of his books, American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness (1883), Houghton tutored the young would-be businessmen on the personal qualities to cultivate in his interactions with others:

Form good habits and be polite to all; for politeness is the key to success. Be cheerful and avoid breaking an engagement. If you have to fail in carrying out an engagement you should make the fact known, stating your reasons. Do not deceive a customer. It will ruin your business. “Honesty is the best policy.”

Never loose your temper in discussing business matters. Meet notes and drafts promptly. To neglect this is to ruin your reputation. If you cannot pay, write at once to your creditor, stating plainly the reason why you cannot pay him, and say when you will be able. Pay bills when presented. Never allow a creditor to call a second time to collect a bill. Your credit will be injured if you do. When you collect a bill of a man, thank him.

Political destruction of private virtue

The private sector in America still retains many of these characteristics in daily life. To a great extent that is because the market has not been totally destroyed; voluntary association in this arena means that it still pays to act and see the personal benefit from so acting in a setting in which you can lose business that could have been yours if you do not behave in the way Houghton described.

What honesty, truthfulness, politeness, or sincerity exists today in American politics? Such qualities were, no doubt, wanting in the politics of that earlier time, in the nineteenth century about which foreign visitors wrote. But today the political arena in America really is nothing but a cesspool of connivance and corruption.

An understanding and appreciation of the underlying principles of a free society upon which the United States was originally established must be regained. Because even with its many contradictions, inconsistencies, and sometimes cruelties in its past, and into the present, the idea and ideal upon which it was founded, that principle of individual freedom was — and still is — the only enduring hope for mankind.

This article was originally published in the April 2019 edition of Future of Freedom.

Published:5/31/2019 4:15:22 PM
[Entertainment] Summer reading guide: 20 of the season's hottest new books This summer is looking to be a good one for book lovers. Here's a look at the 20 books we can’t wait to read (on the beach or otherwise).
     
 
 
Published:5/30/2019 10:56:05 AM
[Markets] Technotyranny: The Iron-Fisted Authoritarianism Of The Surveillance State

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“There will come a time when it isn't ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” ? Philip K. Dick

Red pill or blue pill? You decide.

Twenty years after the Wachowskis’ iconic 1999 film, The Matrix, introduced us to a futuristic world in which humans exist in a computer-simulated non-reality powered by authoritarian machines - a world where the choice between existing in a denial-ridden virtual dream-state or facing up to the harsh, difficult realities of life comes down to a red pill or a blue pill - we stand at the precipice of a technologically-dominated matrix of our own making.

We are living the prequel to The Matrix with each passing day, falling further under the spell of technologically-driven virtual communities, virtual realities and virtual conveniences managed by artificially intelligent machines that are on a fast track to replacing us and eventually dominating every aspect of our lives.

Science fiction has become fact.

In The Matrixcomputer programmer Thomas Anderson a.k.a. hacker Neo is wakened from a virtual slumber by Morpheus, a freedom fighter seeking to liberate humanity from a lifelong hibernation state imposed by hyper-advanced artificial intelligence machines that rely on humans as an organic power source. With their minds plugged into a perfectly crafted virtual reality, few humans ever realize they are living in a dream world.

Neo is given a choice: to wake up and join the resistance, or remain asleep and serve as fodder for the powers-that-be. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix. “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Most people opt for the red pill.

In our case, the red pill—a one-way ticket to a life sentence in an electronic concentration camp—has been honey-coated to hide the bitter aftertaste, sold to us in the name of expediency and delivered by way of blazingly fast Internet, cell phone signals that never drop a call, thermostats that keep us at the perfect temperature without our having to raise a finger, and entertainment that can be simultaneously streamed to our TVs, tablets and cell phones.

Yet we are not merely in thrall with these technologies that were intended to make our lives easier. We have become enslaved by them.

Look around you. Everywhere you turn, people are so addicted to their internet-connected screen devices—smart phones, tablets, computers, televisions—that they can go for hours at a time submerged in a virtual world where human interaction is filtered through the medium of technology.

This is not freedom.

This is not even progress.

This is technological tyranny and iron-fisted control delivered by way of the surveillance state, corporate giants such as Google and Facebook, and government spy agencies such as the National Security Agency.

We are living in a virtual world carefully crafted to resemble a representative government, while in reality we are little more than slaves in thrall to an authoritarian regime, with its constant surveillance, manufactured media spectacles, secret courts, inverted justice, and violent repression of dissent.

So consumed are we with availing ourselves of all the latest technologies that we have spared barely a thought for the ramifications of our heedless, headlong stumble towards a world in which our abject reliance on internet-connected gadgets and gizmos is grooming us for a future in which freedom is an illusion.

It’s not just freedom that hangs in the balance. Humanity itself is on the line.

Indeed, while most people are busily taking selfies, Google has been busily partnering with the NSA, the Pentagon, and other governmental agencies to develop a new “human” species.

Essentially, Google—a neural network that approximates a global brain—is fusing with the human mind in a phenomenon that is called “singularity.” Google will know the answer to your question before you have asked it, said transhumanist scientist Ray Kurzweil. “It will have read every email you will ever have written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.”

But here’s the catch: the NSA and all other government agencies will also know you better than yourself. As William Binney, one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA said, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”

Cue the dawning of the Age of the Internet of Things, in which internet-connected “things” will monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free.

The key word here is control.

In the not-too-distant future, “just about every device you have — and even products like chairs, that you don’t normally expect to see technology in — will be connected and talking to each other.”

By 2020, there will be 152 million cars connected to the Internet and 100 million Internet-connected bulbs and lamps. By 2021, it is estimated there will be 240 million wearable devices such as smartwatches, keeping users connected it real time to their phones, emails, text messages and the Internet. By 2022, there will be 1.1 billion smart meters installed in homes, reporting real-time usage to utility companies and other interested parties.

This “connected” industry—estimated to add more than $14 trillion to the economy by 2020—is about to be the next big thing in terms of societal transformations, right up there with the Industrial Revolution, a watershed moment in technology and culture.

Between driverless cars that completely lacking a steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal and smart pills embedded with computer chips, sensors, cameras and robots, we are poised to outpace the imaginations of science fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. (By the way, there is no such thing as a driverless car. Someone or something will be driving, but it won’t be you.)

The aim of these internet-connected devices, as Nest proclaims, is to make “your house a more thoughtful and conscious home.” For example, your car can signal ahead that you’re on your way home, while Hue lights can flash on and off to get your attention if Nest Protect senses something’s wrong. Your coffeemaker, relying on data from fitness and sleep sensors, will brew a stronger pot of coffee for you if you’ve had a restless night.

Internet-connected techno gadgets as smart light bulbs can discourage burglars by making your house look occupied, smart thermostats will regulate the temperature of your home based on your activities, and smart doorbells will let you see who is at your front door without leaving the comfort of your couch.

Nest, Google’s $3 billion acquisition, has been at the forefront of the “connected” industry, with such technologically savvy conveniences as a smart lock that tells your thermostat who is home, what temperatures they like, and when your home is unoccupied; a home phone service system that interacts with your connected devices to “learn when you come and go” and alert you if your kids don’t come home; and a sleep system that will monitor when you fall asleep, when you wake up, and keep the house noises and temperature in a sleep-conducive state.

It’s not just our homes that are being reordered and reimagined in this connected age: it’s our workplaces, our health systems, our government and our very bodies that are being plugged into a matrix over which we have no real control.

Moreover, given the speed and trajectory at which these technologies are developing, it won’t be long before these devices are operating entirely independent of their human creators, which poses a whole new set of worries.

As technology expert Nicholas Carr notes, “As soon as you allow robots, or software programs, to act freely in the world, they’re going to run up against ethically fraught situations and face hard choices that can’t be resolved through statistical models. That will be true of self-driving cars, self-flying drones, and battlefield robots, just as it’s already true, on a lesser scale, with automated vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers.”

For instance, just as the robotic vacuum, Roomba, “makes no distinction between a dust bunny and an insect,” weaponized drones will be incapable of distinguishing between a fleeing criminal and someone merely jogging down a street.

For that matter, how do you defend yourself against a robotic cop—such as the Atlas android being developed by the Pentagon—that has been programmed to respond to any perceived threat with violence?

Unfortunately, in our race to the future, we have failed to consider what such dependence on technology might mean for our humanity, not to mention our freedoms.

Ingestible or implantable chips are a good example of how unprepared we are, morally and otherwise, to navigate this uncharted terrain. Hailed as revolutionary for their ability to access, analyze and manipulate your body from the inside, these smart pills can remind you to take your medication, search for cancer, and even send an alert to your doctor warning of an impending heart attack.

Sure, the technology could save lives, but is that all we need to know? Have we done our due diligence in dealing with the ramifications of giving the government and its cronies access to such intrusive programs? For example, asks reporter Ariana Eunjung Cha, “How will patients be assured that the technology won’t be used to compel them to take medications they don’t really want to take? Could what started as a voluntary experiment be turned into a compulsory government identification program that could erode civil liberties?

Let me put it another way.

If you were shocked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about how NSA agents have used surveillance to spy on Americans’ phone calls, emails and text messages, can you imagine what unscrupulous government agents could do with access to your internet-connected car, home and medications?

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Imagine what a SWAT team could do with the ability to access, monitor and control your internet-connected home: locking you in, turning off the lights, activating alarms, etc.

Thus far, the public response to concerns about government surveillance has amounted to a collective shrug.

After all, who cares if the government can track your whereabouts on your GPS-enabled device so long as it helps you find the fastest route from Point A to Point B? Who cares if the NSA is listening in on your phone calls and downloading your emails so long as you can get your phone calls and emails on the go and get lightning fast Internet on the fly? Who cares if the government can monitor your activities in your home by tapping into your internet-connected devices—thermostat, water, lights—so long as you can control those things with the flick of a finger, whether you’re across the house or across the country?

It’s hard to truly appreciate the intangible menace of technology-enabled government surveillance in the face of the all-too-tangible menace of police shootings of unarmed citizens, SWAT team raids, and government violence and corruption.

However, both dangers are just as lethal to our freedoms if left unchecked.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in virtually every way by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

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 the NSA or some other entity, will be listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

In other words, there is no form of digital communication that the government cannot and does not monitor: phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, internet video chats, etc., are all accessible, trackable and downloadable by federal agents.

The government and its corporate partners-in-crime have been bypassing the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions for so long that this constitutional bulwark against warrantless searches and seizures has largely been rendered antiquated and irrelevant.

We are now in the final stage of the transition from a police state to a surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are in the process of turning the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers and real-time crime centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

In other words, the surveillance state that came into being with the 9/11 attacks is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America. Having been persuaded to trade freedom for a phantom promise of security, Americans now find themselves imprisoned in a virtual cage of cameras, wiretaps, sensors and watchful government eyes.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases and exploiting your social media posts.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike. As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces, and … multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

The NSA is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

Control is the key here.

Total control over every aspect of our lives, right down to our inner thoughts, is the objective of any totalitarian regime.

George Orwell understood this. His masterpiece, 1984, portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. And people are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Big Brother, who appears on posters everywhere with the words: “Big Brother is watching you.”

Make no mistake: the Internet of Things is just Big Brother in a more appealing disguise.

Now there are still those who insist that they have nothing to hide from the surveillance state and nothing to fear from the police state because they have done nothing wrong. To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning: the danger posed by the American police state applies equally to all of us, lawbreaker and law-abider alike.

In an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, there is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

We are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

Published:5/29/2019 10:53:33 PM
[Markets] Martenson: "They've Stolen Our Future!"

Authored by Chris Martenson via PeakProsperity.com,

It’s time to have a serious conversation.  I know we’ve been having it, but maybe there’s another glove hidden beneath the one we’ve already taken off.

Put bluntly, there doesn’t seem to be any hope of avoiding a collapse of civilization.  The forces of the Business-As-Usual crowd are just too strong, the narrative machine too honed, the interests too entrenched to allow any sort of meaningful course correction at this time.

But is that the case?

Writing about the outcomes of the recent Australian elections which saw a pro-business, conservative government elected, Australian based reader-member ezlxq1949 said:

“They’ve stolen our future!”

That was the wail of the 11-y.o. daughter of a Greens candidate who cried herself to sleep the night after the astonishing election results came in. It couldn’t be worse; the public have sold themselves into almost complete captivity to the neoliberal élites called the Liberal Party. (Liberal = Conservative. Go figure.) It was supposed to have been a climate change election but became a jobs ‘n growth election.

Mind you, it wouldn’t have been much better if the opposition Labor Party had won; they’ve moved so far to the right that like the US we really have only one party with two heads. For instance, Labor would not commit to stopping the monster Adani coal mine.

So it’s goodbye to:

  • the ABC (the excellent government broadcaster which has the gall and temerity to criticise the government of the day; the government badly wants to get even)

  • renewable energy (fossil fools rule ok)

  • the Great Barrier Reef (sliced and diced to let coal ships cross it)

  • our river systems (suck them dry, privatise the water, send the profits to the Cayman Islands — as is already happening)

  • the Great Artesian Basin (world’s largest and deepest, to be contaminated by coal mines and fracking)

  • public services (cut back yet again to create a damaging government budget surplus)

  • public health (to be Americanised)

  • public education (to be privatised; maybe high schools this time)

  • the Great Australian Bight (a pristine area which may have oil under it; damn the pollution, full greed ahead)

  • southern ocean fish stocks (they’ll let the supertrawlers in now).

The environment is completely expendable. All resources are permanently abundant and all will be fed into the growth machine. Climate change is NOT HAPPENING. It’s fake, right? Bah. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we fry.

There’s one ray of hope. Steve Keen predicts a severe recession, Depression really, within 6 months to a year from now. Our economy is indeed wobbling already. This will happen on the Liberals’ watch and they will be blamed for mismanaging the economy. This isn’t supposed to happen. Only Labor does that. Only Labor mismanages the economy. That’s what the Murdoch press drums into our heads. The Libs will panic. The Murdoch press won’t know what to say. Maybe this will shake up people’s belief and confidence in mainstream economics.

I’m not sleeping well at the moment. I wonder why.

(Source)

I feel your pain and anguish ezlxq1949!  You’d think by now people could have and would have gotten the message that Business-As-Usual (BAU) is a killing machine.

But, no, sadly they have not speaking to the power of the BAU narrative machine to spew out complete rubbish unchallenged in either deed or thought.

I wish I shared the hope that elections might do something, but I have no data to support this idea.  Whatever parties you have in your country, no matter how they differ at the margins, they are both, or all (depending on your country’s system), in agreement on the need for jobs, economic growth, and keeping things more or less headed exactly where they are now going.

For example, we might note that under Obama what few binding agreements came from Kyoto were set aside for another generation.

This piece captures that well, and speaks to the necessity of having some sort of a rebellion:

Social collapse and climate breakdown

A huge number of people – 350,000 and counting  – have downloaded Jem Bendell’s paper Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.

Here I want to develop one thing that Bendell talks about: social collapse.

But first, for those who have not read his research paper, there are three key truths Bendell tells.

Three truths 

Firstly, climate change has been moving much faster than scientists predicted. Things are going to get very bad within the lifetime of some of us now living. We don’t know and can’t know how bad, or how quickly this will happen.

Everyone that Bendell speaks with bases their predictions on their political beliefs. That’s true of everyone I talk to too.

Bendell chooses to think that social collapse is inevitable, catastrophe probable and extinction possible. That’s my guess too.

A second truth: scientists have, for many reasons, been under constant pressure to downplay the dangers and extent of climate change, and not to scare the mob.

Non-governmental organisations have constantly colluded with governments and corporations to conceal the scale of the catastrophe, and to push solutions that will not solve it. Scientists and NGOs do this because their funders demand that.

A third truth: Bendell says it is hard, at first, to accept what is coming. I have found that too.

Climate politics

I first got involved in climate politics because I’m a freelance writer and in 2004 I decided to write a book about climate change. I thought it would be interesting and there would be a market, God forgive me.

I got involved with a climate action group – the Campaign against Climate Change – and started reading. Several months later I began having the same nightmare most nights for months. In that nightmare I was trying to tell some people something, and they were not listening.

What was happening is that I was understanding the implications of what I was reading. One reason is that I take science seriously, and I understand numbers. The other is that I already understood social collapse.

That was bad enough. For the next four years I knew what would happen if we did not act. Then at the end of the UN climate talks in 2009, on a Friday lunchtime in Copenhagen, I read the text of the agreement Barack Obama had just made the other governments agree to.

That text ended the Kyoto agreement and said that henceforward no government would have to make compulsory cuts in emissions. Every government could choose what cuts or increases they wanted. The Paris talks in 2015 extended that to 2035.

I understood what Obama had done immediately. That text ended the possibility of action for a generation. Since then, I have understood social collapse is coming.

(Source)

The Extinction Rebellion is capturing that energy of those who realize that we may well yet have to go down swinging.

The powers that be would like us to continue with the fantasy that politics could, may, might, possibly offer a sliver of a chance…if only we could elect the right sorts of people!  (Spoiler alert, those sorts of people are never placed on offer to be elected…they are comprehensively weeded out well before then, as we see with Tulsi Gabbard currently in the US for merely daring to offer an alternative to the Bomb First crowd).

In the end, it may simply be that humans cannot rise above their brain stems.  Collapse is already baked in the cake.  So then the question becomes who you wish to be in these times?  How will you act?  What sorts of decisions are you going to make?

That’s what I asked in my most recent pieces entitled From Survival to Significance and Creating a World Worth Inheriting.

The continued ““market”” jamming efforts (as well underway today, again) are just attempts to ignore the inevitable.  The continued efforts of the mainstream media to heavily promote completely irrelevant items while totally ignoring extremely important topics are best understood through the lens of evolutionary biology.

Humans, you see, are with few bright exceptions, wired wrong to manage connecting complex dots.  When given the choice between basic biology (eating, reproducing, and staying safe & warm) and engaging in a bit of temporarily difficult introspection or thought, nearly everybody defaults to basic biology.

Our leaders know that dynamic well, as do advertisers and media moguls and so they give the people what they want.  It’s dreadfully simple, easy and popular.

It takes a rare individual to buck that trend.  The young tend to be far more facile at it than the old.  That’s why rebellions usually begin with the youth.

But meanwhile, the unthinkable is forcing its way into our collective consciousness.  The ecosystems of the world that have gently held civilizations over the past 10,000 years are collapsing.

Rains no longer fall where they should, or too much where they shouldn’t.  The careful food webs developed over hundreds of millions of years are being suddenly upended.  What will it mean that phytoplankton numbers are dropping like a rock, or that insects are 80% depleted?  Nobody knows.  What happens next is completely unpredictable.  Such is the nature of complex systems.

Let me quote again from the above piece of writing, which goes on to speculate how the power structures will go about dealing with the inevitable crises.  After writing about the many tens of millions killed during various state imposed famines, wars, and pogroms he writes:

All these numbers are approximate, you understand. No one was counting properly.

Almost none of those horrors were committed by small groups of savages wandering through the ruins. They were committed by States, and by mass political movements.

Society did not disintegrate. It did not come apart. Society intensified. Power concentrated, and split, and those powers had us kill each other. It seems reasonable to assume that climate social collapse will be like that. Only with five times as many dead, if we are lucky, and twenty-five times as many, if we are not.

Remember this, because when the moment of runaway climate change comes for you, where you live, it will not come in the form of a few wandering hairy bikers. It will come with the tanks on the streets and the military or the fascists taking power.

Those generals will talk in deep green language. They will speak of degrowth, and the boundaries of planetary ecology. They will tell us we have consumed too much, and been too greedy, and now for the sake of Mother Earth, we must tighten our belts.

Then we will tighten our belts, and we will suffer, and they will build a new kind of gross green inequality. And in a world of ecological freefall, it will take cruelty on an unprecedented scale to keep their inequality in place.

These formerly “unthinkable” thoughts are now popping up all over the place in print, word and deed.  The students on strike in Europe, the Yellow Vests, and the Extinction Rebellion are all examples.

I hinted at these things in The Crash Course, and purposely did not expound upon them because I was trying to gently wake those who were close to waking already.  I did not want to scare people back to sleep by drawing the conclusions to the many possible ends.  For those with the ability to add and subtract, and to connect dot A to dot B, the implications were clear enough.

A global civilization that is expending 10 or even 20 calories of fossil fuels to grow and deliver a single food calorie, yet has no plans on the books for how it will feed everyone once that source of energy runs down, has a predicament on its hands.  The author quoted above takes the next step and connects the dots through history to conclude that we’ll probably just ignore that predicament until we can’t and then be rather unpleasant about it all with each other when the time comes.

He’s got history on his side, and the 11-year old quoted at the top has managed to rightly conclude “they’ve stolen out future!”  Indeed, they have.

Sustaining the Unsustainable

I would hazard that about 99% of everything in the mainstream media is dedicated to sustaining the unsustainable, and 100% of everything in the financial “markets” is geared towards the same.

Politicians seem to have a near complete inability to grasp these issues while in office, and a stunning ability to “get it” once they’ve left.

Would it surprise you to learn that most of the financial titans who spend their every waking hour promoting and leveraging the system for their own private gain also have but out plans and escape holes readied?

This idea of sustaining the unsustainable is really so popular that it’s never examined.

I did recently when I observed that if the US Federal Reserve gets its way, and somehow magically manages to create 3% real GDP growth for the next century, what will it have done?  Will it have saved us all and delivered to us some awesome future?

Well, if we take the US economy as being $20 trillion now, it will be $385 trillion after 100 years of 3% growth.

That would make the US economy alone nearly 5 times larger than the entire world economy right now.  Need we point out again that even 1x current world GDP is killing the planet?  Is it not self-evident that it’s not possible for the US alone to be 5x larger than the entire current world economy without destroying everything that even makes having an economy possible (or worth it) in the first place?

Or what if we magically held world population steady from here, but then delivered the equivalent of an Australian standard of loving to everybody?  Well, then we’d increase consumption by the planet’s citizens by a factor of more than 20.  Oops.  Another unworkable idea.

These are very simple thoughts to entertain but let me list for you know every single question of this sort posed by every journalist covering the Federal Reserve’s hearings and press announcement:  0

None.  Nada.  Zilch.

How is this even possible?  How can the most powerful entity in the world, charged with steering the economy to ever larger levels never, not once, be asked a question along the lines of “tell us please, if you are as successful over the next 100 years as you have been over the past 100, what sort of world do your models indicate for us?”

How is this not a legitimate question to ask?  Every one of us has an interest in the answer, including every single journalist, but the question is never asked.

Why?

Probably because the answer would be too disturbing to the average sensibility (or brain stem)

And yet, the pressure grows.  The natural world that sustains us all, the immature space fantasies of Bezos and Musk aside, is the most important thing there is.  Destroy that, and all the rest matters not one tiny bit.

Someday, I predict, your choices will narrow down to “join the young” or “become one of them.”  Rebel, or suppress the rebellion.  This side, or that.  Agent of change, or victim of circumstances.

Same as has been true every time throughout human history when the rains did not come, and resource became tight.

Once things have gone too far in one direction, then collapse is in the cards.

Published:5/29/2019 8:25:39 PM
[Markets] Markets Tumble, S&P Below 2,800, Bond Yields Crater As Traders Brace For Impact

It's going from bad to worse for global equity market and US stock futures, which again are a sea of red as Sino-U.S. trade tensions continue to escalate - with a rare earth boycott by China now virtually assured - while fears of an Italy-EU confrontation are growing again, accelerating a global bond rally on Wednesday, as investors dumped shares and scurried for the safety of government debt, the dollar and gold.

Amid the rush out of risk, German yields fell deeper into negative territory and inched toward record lows around minus 0.2%. In the US, 10Y Treasury bond yields reached 20-month lows, dropping as low as 2.20%, having fallen almost 30 basis points this month.

Benchmark yields slid to the lowest since 2016 in Japan, to a record in New Zealand and below the central bank’s policy rate in Australia. The 3M-10Y yield curve continued to slide deeper into negative territory, touching -13bps in the US, the lowest since 2007, and inverted in Australia and South Korea.

“What I see as more consistent is that typically when the yield curve inverts you get central bank easings. So the question about recession would be: would the U.S. Fed ease enough to avoid a recession?” said Nikko Asset Management PM Chris Rands. In relation to that, US. rates futures are pricing in two cuts by the Federal Reserve by the middle of next year to help prop up the country’s economy. "The fact that you have got a bit more noise around the trade war now at the same time as manufacturing is rolling over — it’s getting people to think that things are a little bit worse than they had expected," he said.

Amid the global risk off, S&P500 futures slumped, with the Emini sliding below 2,800 for the first time since March after a bout of overnight selling, indicating a weak opening in New York.

Sentiment soured after President Trump’s comment that he was “not yet ready” to make a deal with China over trade. Chinese newspapers responded on Wednesday with a warning Beijing could use rare earths to strike back at the United States, suggesting further tit-for-tat escalation is imminent.

Asian stocks dropped, led by health care and consumer staples companies, after rising in the previous three trading days. Most markets in the region were down, with South Korea’s Kospi losing its year-to-date gain. The Topix gauge fell 0.9%, driven by Takeda Pharmaceutical and Sony. The Shanghai Composite Index edged higher, though, rising 0.2%, as large insurers rallied on a tax deduction.

Later in the session, declines in European miners and tech companies pulled the Stoxx Europe 600 Index lower, after Japanese and South Korean equities bore the brunt of losses in Asia. European shares opened lower, with Germany’s exporter-heavy index down 1% and a pan-European share benchmark losing 1.3%. Europe'

Europe's Stoxx 600 Banks Index falls as much as 1.7% on Wednesday, erasing all gains for the year 2019, to head for its worst month in three years. The decline was skewed by BNP Paribas down 7.9% as stock trades ex-dividend, however it was mostly bond yields hitting new lows that was once again weighing on the sector’s earnings outlook. Italian banks remain vulnerable as the political drama continues with EU Commission President Juncker confirming the EU is ready to open a disciplinary procedure concerning Italy’s debt, la Repubblica reported.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, emboldened by his party’s strong EU election showing, has stepped up promises to slash taxes and is calling for new EU budget rules, raising fears his plans will drive up Italy’s huge public debt. Italian 10-year bond yields rose for the third day in a row to 2.73%.

A gauge of emerging-market stocks fell to the lowest since January and most developing-nation currencies declined versus the dollar.

It's not just trade war and renewed Italian tensions that are spooking markets: as Morgan Stanley noted overnight, the US economy was already sliding into a slowdown ahead of the May trade war return. Recent economic data, such as purchasing-manager surveys, have disappointed — U.S. manufacturing growth dropped to 10-year lows. A barrage of American data tomorrow and Friday will give traders more to chew on as they reassess the Federal Reserve’s policy path.

“Then we have a weaker growth outlook ... so we have the negative shock of trade added to lower growth and the cushion of protection isn’t as good as it was eight to nine months ago.”

Another round of tariffs would sharply raise U.S. recession risk, said Justin Onuekwusi, a fund manager at Legal & General Investment Management. “The market is simply calculating what the impact will be of the next set of tariffs as it doesn’t look like the rhetoric is calming down. Then we have a weaker growth outlook ... so we have the negative shock of trade added to lower growth and the cushion of protection isn’t as good as it was eight to nine months ago.”

As Reuters adds, the news was gloomy on the political front as well. Eurosceptic parties gained in recent EU elections, Austria and Greece face elections and Italy’s dispute with the European Commission over its budget may be escalating. In Britain, many speculate risks of a hard Brexit have risen, because candidates lining up to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May are mostly eurosceptic.

Currency activity was muted, with the dollar edging higher versus its major counterparts for a third day. The dollar is on track for its fourth straight month of gains, benefiting from flows away from markets such as Asia that are considered at greater risk from trade wars. The yuan steadied following news that the People’s Bank of China had injected the most in money-market operations since January. The euro was unchanged at $1.1159 after falling two straight days. The British pound slid to $1.2639.

On Tuesday, in its delayed report, the US Treasury said no major trading partner met currency manipulation list but added that China, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam warrant placement on its currency monitoring list (Switzerland and India were removed). Furthermore, it lowered 2 thresholds used to designate FX manipulators and urged China to take necessary steps to avoid a persistently weak currency

In commodities, West Texas oil futures dropped, losing all of their gains from Tuesday and more, dipping below $59 a barrel in New York. Gold recovered most of Tuesday’s losses as U.S.-China trade tensions climbed and global growth concerns escalated, as investors continue to seek haven assets. The metal has missed out on some haven buying in recent days, with investors favoring the dollar and bonds. Gold is on pace for its fourth monthly decline.

Expected data include mortgage applications. Canada Goose, Trulieve Cannabis and Palo Alto Networks are among companies reporting earnings

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.5% to 2,790.25
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 1.2% to 371.30
  • MXAP down 0.7% to 152.67
  • MXAPJ down 0.7% to 497.36
  • Nikkei down 1.2% to 21,003.37
  • Topix down 0.9% to 1,536.41
  • Hang Seng Index down 0.6% to 27,235.71
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.2% to 2,914.70
  • Sensex down 0.4% to 39,606.99
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.7% to 6,440.03
  • Kospi down 1.3% to 2,023.32
  • Brent futures down 2.2% to $68.60/bbl
  • German 10Y yield fell 0.2 bps to -0.163%
  • Euro down 0.02% to $1.1158
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 0.6 bps to 2.31%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 4.9 bps to 0.738%
  • Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,284.73
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.1% to 99.04

Top Overnight News

  • The Trump administration again refrained from labeling China a currency manipulator. The U.S. Treasury Department issued its semi-annual foreign-exchange report, expanding the number of countries it scrutinizes for currency manipulation to 21 from 12
  • Traders are pricing in quicker and deeper rate cuts by the Federal Reserve as global macro risks ratchet higher. Swap markets now indicate expectations for three 25 basis point cuts by the end of 2020, a new dovish extreme for this cycle
  • China accused the U.S. of abusing a national security exception at the WTO by cutting off Huawei Technologies to American suppliers and warned the move could have grave consequences
  • Treasuries are in the vanguard of a bull run in global bonds, bringing into sight the prospect of benchmark 10-year yields dropping to 2% for the first time since late 2016
  • Oil climbed for a second day as supply risks from the Middle East to the U.S. Great Plains overwhelmed concerns trade tensions will swamp energy demand
  • Beijing is gearing up to use its dominance of rare earths as a counter in its trade battle with Washington, according to a salvo of media reports in China that included hints from the state planning agency
  • Angela Merkel has decided that Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who took over as leader of the Christian Democratic Union in December, is not up to the country’s top job, according to two officials with knowledge of her thinking
  • Escalating U.S.-China trade tensions and faltering global growth have seen U.S. 10-year yields tumble and has brought into sight the prospect of benchmark yields dropping to 2% for the first time since late 2016
  • German unemployment unexpectedly rose by 60,000 in May, compared with economists’ forecasts for a decline of 8,000. This was the first climb in almost two years as the economic slowdown finally started to take a toll on the labor market
  • China’s central bank moved to curb the risk of a funding squeeze on banks after the government’s surprise seizure of Baoshang Bank Co. sparked a jump in borrowing costs. The PBOC injected a net $36 billion Wednesday

Asian equity markets were mostly lower following the headwinds from US where all major indices declined on return from the extended weekend and in which the E-mini S&P eventually broke below the 2800 level. The weakness was attributed to lingering trade tensions after Chinese press pointed the blame on US for the recent breakdown in talks and as the outspoken Global Times Editor suggested China is seriously considering restricting rare earth exports to the US. ASX 200 (-0.7%) and Nikkei 225 (-1.2%) were negative with broad weakness seen across nearly all sectors in Australia and with financials subdued by the recent declines in global yields, while currency strength added to the pressures for Tokyo stocks. Hang Seng (-0.6%) and Shanghai Comp. (+0.1%) declined amid the trade uncertainty and as early data indicators reportedly suggested China’s economy weakened this month, although the losses were cushioned by a substantial liquidity operation of CNY 270bln which resulted to the PBoC’s largest daily net injection since mid-January. Finally, 10yr JGBs were higher as they tracked the upside in global counterparts amid declining yields and the negative risk sentiment, which lifted prices of the Japanese 10yr benchmark to above 153.00 and its best level since early April.

Top Asian News

  • The Old Yen-as-Haven Trade Just Isn’t Panning Out as It Should
  • Malaysia Weighs Bids for Return to Euro, Swiss Franc Bond Market
  • Bank of Thailand MPC Member Expects Period of Key Rate Stability

European equities are lower across the board [Eurostoxx -1.6%] following on from a downbeat session in Asia as sentiment took the queue from Wall Street after the E-Mini S&P took out the 2800 level to the downside. Sectors are all in the red with IT names lagging after Huawei signalled that it is pressing ahead with its lawsuit against the US government as US-China tech tensions intensify. Defensive stocks such as utilities and healthcare names are somewhat faring better, albeit still in the red. In terms of individual movers, ProsiebentSat1 (+4.0%) spiked higher amid reports that Mediaset (-0.8%) are to purchase a 9.1% stake in the company, which would grant 9.9% of voting rights, although Mediaset noted that they do not seek board representation. Elsewhere, Casino (-4.6%) shares slid after the company announced that it will not pay an interim dividend this year, whilst S&P downgraded its credit after its parent company entered French safeguard procedures. Finally, ArcelorMittal (-4.0%) opened lower by as much as 7% after cutting production guidance in Europe amid weak market demand. In light of the recent sell-off in stocks amid trade woes, Nomura believe that the downside can be seen as orderly and sentiment is not out of control. The analysts state that the recent sell off in equities is being fuelled by transient stock selling via speculative players and a seasonal rise in volatility, as global equities pass through a predictable second wave of selling. Following the E-mini S&P’s declined below 2800, eyes turn to the cash market at the US open where Nomura warns that “CTAs have been pressed to close out long positions and cut their losses once the S&P 500 broke below 2,820”, but CTAs have already unwound over 80% of their longs, thus the risk of a chain reaction sell-off has diminished.

Top European News

  • German Unemployment Rises as Weaker Economy Starts to Bite
  • Berlusconi’s Mediaset Buys Stake in Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1
  • Swiss Open Criminal Probe After Complaint Against Glencore
  • Varta Acquires Varta Consumer Batteries Business From Energizer

In FX, we start with CHF/JPY/USD - The Franc’s resurgence or rebound from yesterday’s lows seems symptomatic of the wider safe-haven demand and deeper risk-off sentiment. Usd/Chf has retreated towards 1.0050 again vs a fraction shy of 1.0100 at one stage on Tuesday, while Eur/Chf is drifting back down to 1.1200 compared to almost 1.1280, albeit with the single currency under pressure independently on the back of latest bleak German data – see below. Usd/Jpy has also recoiled to retest key Fib support ahead of 109.00 at 109.23 (Fib retracement level) having bounced firmly to just over 109.60, but decent option expiry interest may prop up the headline pair (1 bn between 109.00-15) on top of anticipated buying interest at the big figure. Note also, the Buck has extended its recovery in wake of upbeat US consumer confidence and with the aid of gains vs riskier/high beta currencies, with the DXY back above 98.000, albeit just and eyeing last week’s 98.373 ytd best within a 98.043-97.861 range.

  • NZD/CAD/GBP/AUD/EUR - All softer vs the Greenback, and with the Kiwi underperforming after the latest RBNZ FSR and NBNZ business survey showing that expectations remain weak. Nzd/Usd has slipped back below 0.6550 to around 0.6515, with the Aud/Nzd cross climbing over 1.0600 again even though the Aussie is also struggling to retain 0.6900+ status following yet another uber dovish RBA call overnight as JPM is now predicting a total of 100 bp worth of easing by mid-2020. Elsewhere, the Loonie is really trading on the defensive as the clock ticks down to a potentially dovish BoC with Usd/Cad not far from 1.3520+ late April peaks and options pricing a circa 53 pip break-even over the event – see our policy meeting preview on the Research Suite. Meanwhile, Cable is slipping further from 1.2700 towards the big figure below as another Tory leadership hopeful joins the list and the EU stresses no renegotiation of the WA, and Eur/Usd is hovering just above 1.1150 stops having failed to hold above the 30 DMA (1.1191) again. Note, a shock jump in German unemployment and uptick in the jobless rate that was only partly mitigated by a reclassification of the labour force also weighed on the Euro as noted above.
  • NOK/SEK - Divergence between the Scandi Crowns as Eur/Nok rebounds through 9.7500 amidst another retreat in oil prices (that may also be niggling the Cad), but Eur/Sek is capped around 10.7000 after significantly stronger than forecast Swedish Q1 GDP data (largely due to a healthy export contribution vs depressed domestic consumption however).
  • EM - Contrasting fortunes for the Lira and Rand as well, like yesterday, as Usd/Try revisits 6.0000, but Usd/Zar pivots 14.8000 within 14.8900-7000 parameters on a further fall-out from SA political developments and the return of Mabuza to Ramaphosa’s fold.

In commodities, WTI (-2.3%) and Brent (-2.0%) futures continue to free-fall amidst the risk-off tone in the market, with the former extending loses below the psychological USD 58.00/bbl and under its 100 DMA at USD 58.46/bbl. Similarly, its Brent counterpart trades south of the USD 69/bbl level and closer to the USD 68.50/bbl mark. News flows has been relatively light in the complex although the Druzhba pipeline will be pumping clean oil to Hungary as of 1700BST following the halt in operations amid contaminated oil from Russia in mid-April. Turning to OPEC, ahead the upcoming meeting of the cartel (date yet to be confirmed), Kazakhstan’s Energy Minister noted that it stands ready to join the extension of the global oil cut deal if the decision in taken. On that front, Russia’s First Deputy PM noted that they will consider an extension to the deal but have arguments in favour and against an extension, adding that Moscow will continue to weight the arguments. Finally, as a reminder, the API crude inventory data will be released tonight due to US’ market absence on Monday, and thus the EIA release has been delayed until tomorrow.

Over in the metal complex, gold (+0.4%) continues to rise despite a firmer USD as investors flee to the safe haven amid the current risk aversion; meanwhile, copper (-0.8%) falls in tandem with the risk tone. Further for the red metal, workers at the Chilean Chuquicamata copper mine of have been voting on a potential strike after labour unions rejected management’s final offer on wages. The results of the vote are expected this evening.

US Event Calendar

  • 7am: MBA Mortgage Applications, prior 2.4%
  • 10am: Richmond Fed Manufact. Index, est. 7, prior 3

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

If like me you are looking to fill the Game of Thrones void you can do worse than to watch “Chernobyl” if it’s available in your region. I got home late from Madrid last night and didn’t even say hello to my wife but instead rushed in and sat down next to her to watch the gripping penultimate episode after binge watching the previous three over the last week. Obviously the subject matter and scenes are not for the faint hearted but it really is very good. I looked at the definitive big screen database IMDb last night and remarkably it’s already become the highest ranked TV show in history. For those interested, the full top 10 are Chernobyl, Planet Earth II, Band of Brothers, Planet Earth I, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Our Planet, The Wire, Cosmos and Blue Planet. Obviously a lot of natural history fans on this site. The only problem about getting hooked on the five episodes of Chernobyl is that I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to have a season 2!!

It feels like the trade war still has a number of episodes left with the option of being renewed for a new season. The stand-off continues to dominate proceedings in markets with yesterday’s highlight being a fresh new low for 10y Treasuries after they closed at 2.266%, down -5.4bps (a further -2.4bps this morning) and to the lowest for over 20 months. Though equities opened higher and held up well for most of the day, they ended up selling off in the last two hours of NY trading. The S&P 500 fell -0.84%, with the DOW and NASDAQ down -0.93% and -0.39%, respectively. The utilities sector fell -1.61%, retracing some of its recent outperformance, while the NYFANG index was the rare bright spot after a +0.05% advance.

Earlier comments from President Trump about the US not being ready to reach a trade deal with China and that tariffs could go up “very very substantially”, as well as the not-so-insignificant news that the Chinese government had taken control of Baoshang Bank – the first Chinese bank seized in 20 years – and also that China is “seriously considering” restricting rare earth exports to the US according to the Global Times Editor, all contributed to the negative sentiment even if the full sell off only occurred late in the day. In fairness a surprisingly upbeat consumer confidence reading (more on that below) was reason for some earlier optimism.

A flight to quality dominated though and not only did yields fall but the US curve flattened with 2s10s -1.5bps at +13.9bs and to the lowest since March. It has reversed this move this morning though as 2yr yields are over 4bps lower. Bunds ticked down another -1.7bps yesterday to close at -0.161%. I must admit that after they sold off from their all time record low of -0.189% in July 2016, I was pretty confident that we may not see these lows again for perhaps a thousand years given where yields have traded over the last millennium. I’m 2.7bps from being 997 years wrong.

Meanwhile the STOXX 600 closed -0.22% with Italian assets remaining choppy yesterday. They initially opened much weaker although they did at least attempt to bounce back late afternoon. The FTSE MIB closed -0.50% after being down -1.33% in the morning session and 10y BTPs finished flat after rallying back 5bps from the earlier wides. The partial recovery appeared to be supported by the EU’s Moscovici stating that he didn’t support sanctions for Italy. A reminder that this followed stories of the European Commission proposing a disciplinary procedure for Italy as soon as next week following failure to reduce its debt. Regardless, Northern League leader Salvini said he plans to push ahead with his tax cut plan by submitting it to the cabinet, so this issue will continue to fester for many more months.

After US markets had closed, the US Treasury released their latest FX Report, which refrained from labeling any countries as “currency manipulators,” but expanded the list of countries under review and added Italy, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam to the “watch list.” Notably, they did not designate China as a manipulator, which would have automatically triggered a new bilateral negotiation process and possible additional sanctions, though the language criticised the “misalignment and undervaluation of the RMB relative to the dollar.” The new countries join China, Japan, Korea, and Germany on the watch list, while India and Switzerland were removed. The criteria used to evaluate countries were also modified, with stricter definitions for a material current account surplus and persistent one-sided intervention.

Turing to trade war related news, most of China’s news dailies are carrying articles today signifying that China could use rare earth exports as a bargaining chip in the ongoing trade war with the US. The Global Times carried an editorial today saying that “sooner or later'' China will use “the weapon of rare earth'' if the US keeps escalating the trade war while adding that although this weapon is powerful, it will only be used as a tool for defence to convey a message that China won't bow to US pressure. The People’s Daily, a flagship newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, also carried an editorial today stating that the US shouldn’t underestimate China’s ability to fight the trade war while using some historically significant language on the weight of China’s intent, like the phrase “don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The specific wording was used by the paper in 1962 before China went to war with India and in 1979 before conflict broke out between China and Vietnam. The Global Times had said in an article in April that “those familiar with Chinese diplomatic language know the weight of this phrase.” Meanwhile, an official at the China’s National Development & Reform Commission told CCTV that people in the country won’t be happy to see products made with exported rare earths from China being used to suppress China’s development. Elsewhere, at a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Market Access in Geneva yesterday, China said that the US had violated WTO rules and urged the Trump administration to “immediately lift all unilateral sanction measures against Chinese companies” while warning that the move could have grave consequences for the global trading system. So lots of more negative rhetoric.

This morning in Asia markets are mostly trading down with the Nikkei (-1.17%), Hang Seng (-0.40%), Shanghai Comp (-0.11%) and Kospi (-1.47%) all lower. The South Korean won is down -0.631% this morning while the onshore Chinese yuan is trading flattish (-0.06% to 6.9142). Meanwhile, yields on 10yr JGBs are down -0.4bps to -0.09% and crude oil prices (WTI -1.03% and Brent -0.68%) are heading lower. Elsewhere, futures on the S&P 500 are down -0.32%. In commodities, base and ferrous metals are heading lower with iron ore futures (down c.3%) leading the declines.

In other news, the PBOC stepped up its efforts to bridge the funding gap in China’s financial system after the surprise seizure of Baoshang Bank Co. led to a jump in borrowing costs by injecting c. CNY 250bn into the financial system via open-market operations today. So lots of moving parts at the moment.

In terms of data yesterday, US consumer confidence in May surprisingly jumped +4.9pts to 134.1, exceeding expectations for a 130.0 reading. In fact the headline reading is now back to being at the highest level since last November. Both the present situations and expectations components rose also with the data collected through the 18th of this month, and thus capturing some of the recent risk off. So a surprisingly positive set of data given the recent trade escalation. It’s worth noting that within that survey, the jobs plentiful/hard-to-get differential hit the highest since 2000 which points to a still healthy labour market. Elsewhere, we also got plenty of house price data yesterday including the FHFA house price index (+0.1% mom vs. +0.2% expected) and S&P CoreLogic index (+0.09% vs. +0.46% expected) – both of which disappointed in March and confirmed that home price appreciation has slowed meaningfully in recent months. Finally, the Dallas Fed’s manufacturing activity survey dropped to -5.3 from 2.0, close to its multi-year low.

As for Europe, the most significant release was the ECB’s M3/credit report for April. Our economists in Europe noted that in summary the monthly credit data were positive in aggregate with net bank loan flows, after recent soft prints, recovering to EUR +43bn, the highest monthly print in the current cycle. As a result, the euro area credit impulse rebounded from negative levels in recent months to its strongest reading since summer 2018, with credit growth picking up to +3.7% yoy. However, the team also flagged that country details show signs of concern due to underperformance in the periphery. Though the credit impulse rebounded in Italy and Spain, it was boosted by base effects and it is set to turn negative again if the current pace of loan flows, with negative corporate credit growth, continues. For the ECB, the credit data continue to favour generous TLTRO3 terms but less so deposit tiering in the view of the team. On that topic of deposit tiering and the adverse impact of negative interest rates, Bank of France Governor Villeroy said yesterday that “the issue should certainly not be ignored, but we also need to avoid blowing it out of proportion.”

As for the other data yesterday, the May economic confidence reading for the Euro Area improved 1.2pts to 105.1, far exceeding expectations for a broadly flat print. In addition industrial and service sector confidence was higher however industrial order books, and especially export orders, were down once again. On a country level, Germany’s consumer confidence ticked down slightly while France’s rose. Over in Turkey, consumer confidence fell to 55.5, its lowest level on record going back to 2004, though the lira nevertheless strengthened +0.50%.

To the day ahead now, which is another quiet one for data with the preliminary May CPI and final Q1 GDP reports in France this morning, May unemployment data in Germany and then the May Richmond Fed manufacturing survey in the US being the only releases due. Away from, that we’re due to hear from the ECB’s Mersch and Rehn this morning before we get the release of the ECB’s financial stability review. The BoC rate decision is also due this afternoon.

Published:5/29/2019 6:49:58 AM
[Markets] Buy This, Not That: Dreaming of early retirement? The No. 1 book you need to read to make it happen Want to learn how to retire early? The books financial pros say you need to read to do it
Published:5/29/2019 6:19:55 AM
[Markets] Yield Curve Flashing Biggest Recession Signal Yet: Shilling Thinks It Started!

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Treasury yields have plunged at the mid to long end of the yield curve producing biggest recession warning yet.

On Friday, US Treasury yields plunged at the mid to long end of the curve providing the most inversions since the start of the Great Recession. This is the biggest recession warning since 2007.

Yield Curve

Major portions of the yield curve are inverted for nearly 15 years.

Let's take a look at what others are saying.

Core Capital Goods

That is something I pointed out as well in Dismal Durable Goods Report: Inventories Up, Shipments and New Orders Down.

Core capital goods are a measure of future business expansion. The March revision to the downside was massive, from +1.3% to +0.3%. April was -0.9%. Economists expected +0.1%. Oops.

Strong Economy Not

GDP Assessment From Markit

1.2% and falling

What's the ECB Gonna Do?

Spotlight Trade War

What About Systemic Risks?

Japanese Exports

South Korea Exports

Major Appliance Shipments

Recession Already Started?!

Published:5/28/2019 1:45:22 PM
[Markets] Trillion-Dollar Money-Manager Unveils Fund To Catch Europe's 'Falling Angel' Knives

Just a week after DoubleLine CEO Jeff Gundlach warned of the risks emanating from the corporate bond market, Europe’s largest asset manager is building a credit fund centered around a ratings category maligned as a catalyst for the next global economic downturn - fallen angels.

As Gundlach explained, the increasingly leveraged BBB companies could be on the verge of a destabilizing crash as 'fallen angels' drop out from investment-grade indexes after being downgraded once the ratings firms can no longer ignore their worsening leverage ratio.

To amplify the risk surrounding the corporate bond market, Dodd Frank banned proprietary trading, which it said could make it more difficult for brokers to offer some support for the market that could soften the blow of a selloff.

"I think Jay Powell has his eye on the credit markets...broker dealer balance sheets don't have the cushion they used to have...there's no capacity in the financial system for a run on bond ETFs," Booth said.

"In the old days, when retail would sell...dealers would balloon up their balance sheets...it was actually a great money maker. They can't do that anymore - this shock absorber has been destroyed," Gundlach added.

And this is where Amundi Fund Solutions SICAV, the Paris-based firm that oversees 1.425 trillion euros ($1.6 trillion) of assets, comes in - potentially as the new shock absorber.

Bloomberg reports that the fund will buy bonds with an average rating of BBB-, the lowest investment-grade rank, in currencies including euros, dollars, and sterling from high grade to high yield.

As Jean-Marie Dumas, head of fixed income solutions at Amundi, said in a statement this week:

“In a world of persistently low interest rates, investors are looking for new ways to get attractive returns on their investments.’’ 

The fund is capitalizing on a sudden turnaround for debt pegged as the next source of financial havoc by the likes of Scott Minerd, Jeff Gundlach, and Deutsche Bank's Aleksandar Kocic  who fear the wholesale prolapse of the BBB-rated investment grade space, a tsunami of "fallen angels" that would obliterate the junk bond market as it more than doubles in size overnight from $1.1 trillion, and catalyzes the next financial crash.

Or, as Kocic puts it, "the global hunt for yield has encouraged investors to move down the credit spectrum to enhance returns. Within the IG universe, BBB issuance has grown significantly." This is shown in the chart below, which shows that more than 50% of the entire IG index is now BBB-rated.

To Kocic, this is also the most negatively convex sector which is sensitive to spread wideners in steepening sell off. In other words, a possible wholesale downgrade to BB or lower would result in disorderly unwind of positions of the IG money managers which would be capable of raising volatility significantly. From there it would promptly spread to the rest of the market, and global economy, and lead to the next financial crisis.

But, for Jean-Marie Dumas' new fund, it's worth catching those falling knives angels, despite one glimpse at the level of yields on corporate bonds in Europe suggests there isn't much downside to those yields...

And the gap between BBB and A spreads in euros now stands at 53 basis points after approaching 70 basis points at the start of 2019. Again, not a lot of 'cheapness' to profit from?

To sum it all up is simple - one of Europe's largest asset managers (likely with billions of risky EU debt on its books just as the EU looks set to re-enter recession, despite "whatever it takes" monetary policy) is creating another vehicle to use other people's money to buy said corporate debt before it falls off a ratings cliff - in other words - It's a leveraged bet on The ECB (and Draghi's replacement) going full-whatever-it-takes-er...

Published:5/27/2019 3:37:06 AM
[Markets] "The Fund Went Seriously Wrong This Month" - The World's Most Bearish Hedge Fund Suffers Spectacular Loss

According to conventional wisdom, anybody who has remained bearish on global markets since the financial crisis has not only lost a boatload of money, but has missed out on the opportunity to cash in on one of the most torrid bull markets in recent memory. They should also be out of business, insolvent or both.

However, as Horseman Global's Russell Clark has proven over and over again, this is not the case at all. . A few years back, we anointed Horseman "The world's most bearish hedge fund" for a very simple reason: Of all existing asset managers, Horseman may be the one with the biggest and longest net short position in history. Just look at the chart below, which shows not only that Clark's net exposure was a remarkable $-60.58% (after -88.14% in March), with a gross short position of 108%, but that he had been effectively net short since 2011.

Yet, to assume that Clark has either thrown in the bearish towel, or somehow lost his shirt over the past ten years would be a mistake. Actually, his fund outperformed the S&P 500 for the period between 2012 - when he first went net short - until the end of 2018, only underperforming in  2016. In 2014, Clark posted double-digit returns when oil prices cratered (he was short). In 2013, he made money shorting Brazilian equities. He started with just $111 million when he took over the fund in January 2011, but AUM peaked at $1.5 billion in 2015.

Assets

However, the fund's inconsistent performance (it's not unusual for Horseman to be up or down 5% in a single month) has alienated some investors who are uncomfortable with the volatility, even as Horseman has bested most other hedge funds in terms of performance, as one former investor told Bloomberg.

Tim Ng, chief investment officer of Princeton, N.J.-based Clearbrook Global Advisors LLC, says his fund pulled its money for similar reasons. "The stretches of negative performance and the high volatility of monthly returns became a consistent drag on our portfolio’s overall return, which prompted us to redeem," he says.

But after a bruising Q1, when Clark got crushed by the torrid rally in US equities, more LPs have pulled out, and AUM has shrunk to just $713 million.

Horseman

And unfortunately for Clark, after a dismal Q1, the fund's losses more than doubled in April, when the Fund was down a was a staggering 12%, which has brought its total loss YTD to more than 25%. 

Unfortunately for Horseman investors, in April the fund suffered a 12.23% drop as the market melted up just ahead of Trump's renewed trade and tech war on Beijing and Huawei. The drop was the second worst month in the hedge fund's history after it lost 12.73% in September 2011, when the market ripped as many shorts (Clark included) pressed their positions after the US downgrade by S&P. The result is that Horseman's YTD performance of -25.5% would mark the worst year in the fund's history if the books were closed today.

So what happens next? Well, as we noted two weeks ago, Clark is convinced that the crash is almost upon us, warning recently that "the stars are aligning, and the markets are complacent," and urging clients to "get the popcorn ready, it’s showtime."

But not quite yet, because as Clark wrote in his latest investor letter, "your fund lost 12.23% this month. Losses came mainly from the short book."

What follows are excerpts from Clark's latest letter to investors explaining just what happened in April, and also why the fund may be in for a remarkable recovery in May:

The fund went seriously wrong this month. And as it went wrong, I could see that this was going to be very bad news for me. Not only was I losing a large amount of my own money, I was losing investors', friends' and family's money. I was also losing trust and respect and causing untold problems to the very small group of people out there who are still willing to back macro funds, or funds that are willing to use a short book.

Normally when the fund is performing poorly, it is easy for me to pick out what went wrong and why. What went wrong, is that the semiconductor stocks have been the best performing sector this year. The problem is, it is hard to understand why these stocks have rallied so hard. Earnings are poor, chip prices are falling, Chinese capacity is coming on stream and inventories are high. These are not the conditions for new highs. It is very unusual behavior.

To be sure, we posted our own observations on the bizarre outperformance of semiconductor stocks in early 2019, especially in the context of what the March Beige Book said was "semiconductor orders from China plunging the most since the collapse of Lehman", predicting the SOX party should have been long over.

A subsequent report by IHS Markit also found the semiconductor market was lurching into the worst-in-a-decade downturn in 2019, and noted that the 7.4% decline in semi revenue will mark the semiconductor industry’s biggest annual percentage decrease since the Great Recession year of 2009, when chip sales plunged by nearly 11%:

Going back to the Horseman letter, Clark writes that "one reason we were so heavily short semiconductors was because I felt I had a good hedge to the semis in a large short USD position, and a long basic materials position, often in areas that had large shorts against them. I typically choose a long book that is meant to protect the fund from the short book as markets are squeezed higher. But in this case the long book was not working."

And when he says "heavily short", he isn't kidding: as the next chart shows, even more so than his financial short, Horseman's biggest short was a massive -30% net position in semis. No wonder the fund got crushed in April, if only due to semis.

Clark continues, writing that instead of dwelling "on why semiconductors were going up, I looked at why our long book was not doing so well. On a day to day basis, materials look great. Iron ore prices are back to 2008 highs, oil has bounced with markets and Chinese cement prices are strong. I decided to dig deeper and look at the global steel market. And here was where I was most surprised. Chinese steel production was growing at 9% year on year, while the rest of the world was contracting. When I looked at the Chinese property sector, USD debt has returned to the leading companies. Suddenly everything became clear."

And just in case it isn't clear to everyone, he explains:

Markets turned around in 2016 when it became obvious that the Chinese policy of cutting capacity and pushing up commodity prices was the real deal. This was Chinese policy to create inflation internally to the benefit of corporates and the financial sector. However, it seems these polices have been reversed, and share prices of Chinese steel companies and banks are beginning to reflect these problems again. If the US dollar stays strong, and China cannot create inflation internally, then they are going to be forced to devalue. Many of the long positions of the fund began to reflect this at the end of April, including mining stocks and currencies.

This Chinese weakness explains the move in tech and semis this year. Investors are busy rotating out of classic emerging market assets such as commodities, steel, capital goods and autos, and moving it to "secular" growth stories like tech, utilities, healthcare and staples. Semis are pushed higher by these flows, even with bad earnings and worse outlooks.

So what does that mean for portfolio of "the world's most bearish hedge fund"? While we already know the bad news, here's some good news: On the core themes of higher volatility and autocallables blowing up, both are made more likely according to Clark, who notes that "semis are also still shorts, and so are autos, financials and aerospace. But commodities are a problem. And so we are selling large chunks of the long book."

This began in April and will continue in May. I have a rule that when I cut a profitable position (which is most of the commodity longs) I cut a loss-making position (which has mainly been in the short book) so the gross is falling, even as the net stays very short. We have also cut the longs Australian dollar, Euro and Chinese yuan positions from the FX book.

Finally, now that doubts are emerging that 2019 is a mirror image of 2016 and the first Shanghai Accord with Chinese policy beginning and attempts to reflate the world failing, "the likelihood of sustained inflation is beginning to disappear" according to Horseman. As a result, "deflation again looks more likely, just as it did from 2011 to 2016." The punchline:

And just like we did back then, it's time to move the portfolio back to a deflationary positioning. We have begun to add 30-year treasuries to our existing Japanese Government Bond position. Your fund is long bonds and short equities (and long volatility).

As for whether the disastrous April plunge in the fund's P&L will repeat, the best new for Clark is that after a relentless ramp higher, none other than Donald Trump came to Horseman's rescue, with the recent return of US-China trade - and the most violent escalation in global tech war - meaning that much if not all of the April losses are now revered, and Horseman will have a far better YTD performance after May.

The question, as always, is whether LPs will have the patience to keep invested in such a volatile, stomach-churning hedge funds as the one which, with its money where its mouth is, claims month after month that the Fed is not only wrong, but on the verge of failure.

* * *

One final point: Clark's assiduously dedicated contrarianism has earned him a cult following among professional investors. Though his name isn't as widely known as an Ackman or a Loeb, his interview with RealVision was one of the company's most requested videos from 2018, largely thanks to his reputation built up on these pages over the past 5 years as the "world's most bearish hedge fund", yet one which stubbornly refuses to throw in the towel.

Despite a wave of redemptions in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Clark, who keeps the bulk of his own wealth in Horseman, has retained an unflappable confidence in his investing view: "When people hate you and write terrible things about you, it tends to be the best time to invest."

Published:5/26/2019 2:13:32 PM
[Markets] Doug Casey: "This Is Going To Be One For The Record Books"

Authored by Doug Casey via InternationalMan.com,

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

What is a depression?

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

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

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

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

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

Using the first definition, any natural disaster can cause a depression. So can living above your means for long enough. But the worst kind of depression has not just economic effects, but economic causes. That's where definitions 2 and 3 come in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  *  *

A financial depression far greater than any crisis America has seen could soon strike. For some it could completely wipe out their savings… and for others it could be the fortune-building opportunity of a lifetime. Doug Casey and his team just released an urgent video on surviving and thriving during an economic collapse. Click here to watch it now.

Published:5/25/2019 8:31:02 PM
[Markets] Confronting The Myths About "Arming Teachers"

Authored by Bill Tallen via The Mises Institute,

There is a disproportionate buzz about the newly signed Florida legislation that allows its school districts (each at its own discretion) to authorize concealed carry of firearms by teachers in their schools.

Why disproportionate? Because the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, signed into law in March 2018 soon after the Parkland mass shooting, had already established the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program” named after the coach who gave his life attempting to shield students with his body during that shooting. That program gave school boards the option of allowing school staff members to carry firearms, excluding most classroom teachers who were not JROTC teachers, or current service members, or current or former law enforcement officers.

Last year’s bill established a tough training standard, and left the decision to local school boards, both very good things. And since school staff who are not classroom teachers often comprise as high as 50% of the total, this approach was rational, if overly cautious, as school boards would still have the authority to approve or disapprove any applicant, without the no-teacher provision imposed by law.

The only change with the new law is that now all classroom teachers are also eligible to volunteer for the Guardian program.

Note “eligible” and “volunteer” and you will understand why so much of the near-hysterical opposition to this law is baseless.

Of course, no one is actually “arming” any teachers — there is no arms room where they will line up to be issued weapons before filing into the trenches — much less “all” teachers, which is how the opposition likes to frame its strawman argument. They will arm themselves, if their school board votes to implement the Guardian program, and if they individually volunteer, pass rigorous screening and selection, and complete the legally mandated 132 hours of training. No one is guaranteed approval, and the standards they must meet are high.

The Miami New Times, not known for smart or principled positions on any firearms issue, is one of the media outlets appalled that the legislature and governor, elected by citizens to legislate and govern, have not allowed themselves to be ruled by teachers’ unions, high school students, and some school boards and administrators. All those folks display their statist leanings by wanting to impose their own fears of positive protective measures on everyone. Under Florida law, if they (and, pointedly, the voters in their school districts) do not want to implement the Guardian program, they don’t have to. They can keep the Gun Free Zone signs over their doors and hope for the best. But that’s not enough for them; they think they know better than anyone else what is best for every school district in Florida.

Local control on this issue is a sound and sensible approach, in line with the rule of subsidiarity, the concept that decision-making should occur at the lowest level appropriate to its purpose. Local control is often preferable to decision making by officials far-removed from the affected population, less responsive to their local and regional preferences, and more likely to impose one-size-fits-all solutions. Voters can more easily influence or replace an unresponsive local elected official than his state or federal counterparts. Here it means what Florida and many other states have ruled: let the school districts decide for themselves.

Beyond that repugnant statist attitude, opponents of “arming” school staff try to bolster their argument with unsupportable claims and sloppy ‘research’ — textbook examples of confirmation bias, the tendency to only consider evidence that supports one’s preconceived notions. The Miami New Times cites an analysis by Gabrielle Giffords’ anti-gun organization that purports to show how dangerous introducing “more guns” to schools will be. It is such a sloppy piece of research and reasoning that I cannot let it go unanswered.

This long piece cites 67 “incidents of mishandled guns in schools” from all over America, from 2014 to the present, to support their opposition to concealed carry of firearms by school staff who meet the requirements of Florida’s Guardian program. But here’s the rub: only one of these 67 incidents involved a school staffer carrying a firearm under similar requirements. That one involved a Texas superintendent who left her authorized firearm locked in a district vehicle when she and her staff visited another district where she was not authorized to carry it – and then forgot to recover the weapon and left it in the van overnight, to be found in the morning.

Every other incident on this list actually supports the premises behind Florida’s Guardian program, and similar programs in the many other states with similar laws on the books. Not one carefully vetted armed staff member carrying a concealed firearm with knowledge and approval of their school board, in accordance with strict standards, in well over 1,000 schools around the country, was involved in any of the other 66 incidents cited.

Fifteen of the incidents on this list involved subjects who were not staff members at all; some of these were commissioned officers, while others were merely family members or or other visitors carrying firearms on school property in violation of the law. Another incident involved two coaches, but occurred off school property. Desperate to plump up the numbers, are we?

(For a tabulation of the incidents the Giffords piece cites, see here.)

What this list actually does is to demolish the assertion often made by opponents of armed school staff, that guns in school should be left to the “armed professionals.” While the Miami New Times quotes some who seem to believe that armed officers make schools safer, Giffords does not think so, and on this point at least, we can at least understand the sentiment. Fully 27 of the 67 incidents in the Giffords study involve “armed professionals” — commissioned police officers or deputies assigned to a school, officers responding to a call for assistance or visiting for other reasons, or other uniformed security guards or school resource officers employed on site. These “armed professionals” had unintentional discharges (several of which injured themselves or others), left their weapons in restrooms or elsewhere unattended, and in two egregious cases, failed to stop a child from pulling the trigger of their holstered weapon.

So much for "armed professionals" — we who are armed professionals know how little sustained, realistic, demanding training most officers undergo, and how easily complacency creeps in. Uniformed guards — commissioned or not — are not ten feet tall. They are unfortunately sometimes less dedicated and often less proficient than educators who understand their responsibilities “in loco parentis” and undergo rigorous and frequent training required by law and school district policy. Who has not heard educators saying, “we would sacrifice our lives to protect the kids in our care”? Give the tools and the skills to those who are willing, and they can do better than just sacrifice themselves like Coach Feis did at Parkland.

This is not to say that officers are all deficient in their skills and judgment — far from it — or that they cannot train to a high standard; but we who are trainers know without a shadow of a doubt that motivated civilians can do just as well, with the proper training. In the schools as on the streets, they are not volunteering to act as law enforcement officers, which is a very broad skill set indeed, but only to protect innocents against lethal threats — a very narrow skill set that comprises only a small slice of a police officer’s responsibilities.

In fact, what we do know is that responding police — even when do not have unintentional discharges like several in this list — do not protect schools against active shooters, because they almost always arrive too late; and that uniformed officers on site have a very spotty record. The uncertainty in a potential aggressor’s mind that is created by the prospect of an unknown number of trained staff members carrying concealed weapons at various but unpredictable locations throughout a school, appears to be a better deterrent than one uniformed officer, as evidenced by the complete absence of active shooter incidents in such schools. Arguably, if one is swayed by logic, they will prove to be a more effective and flexible defense as well, if that unprecedented day does arrive when a shooting happens in their school.

Again, with the exception of that Texas superintendent, none of these incidents involved an approved, trained, school staff member carrying a concealed weapon. The closest thing to it is the anomalous case of a teacher in Utah in 2014. State law there allows any resident with a concealed carry permit to carry in the schools. There is no requirement to even notify the school board or administration, much less be vetted or approved, or to be trained to any standard beyond the 8 hours of mostly classroom training required for a permit. This teacher dropped her weapon in a toilet stall (before school, with no students in the building); it discharged, shattering the bowl and cutting her calf with a flying shard. That’s not a laughing matter, or not only a laughing matter, but should be taken in context. Utah’s law has been in place for 20 years, and out of 700,000 citizens with concealed carry permits (14 million person-years?), this is the only reported occasion in which anyone has been injured by a legal concealed carrier’s firearm in a Utah school. And she doesn’t work there any more. It may also be significant that Utah has had no mass shootings in its schools, but we can only speculate. Pretty safe state, Utah, for all that their statute is far less prescriptive than Florida’s or many other states.

Gifford titles its piece “Every Incident of Mishandled Guns in Schools” and assures us that theirs is a “systematic analysis,” and that this list of 67 incidents is “comprehensive” for the date range of 2014-2014. But in reality, theirs is a list of those who violate the law and/or handle firearms incompetently — precisely the sort who are unlikely to volunteer in the first place, or to pass a careful vetting and selection process, or a demanding, standards-based training program, as required by statute in Florida and many other states that authorize concealed carry by school staff.

The actions of criminals and incompetents do not form a rational basis for criticizing or opposing these programs, which have been successful everywhere they are in place. Giffords has absolutely failed to make a case against armed school staff members in districts that opt in, under authorizing state law, with well-drafted programs and requirements.

Opponents of protecting our schools and children with armed staff on site will have to do better than this, to make a case worth listening to.

Published:5/25/2019 1:56:49 PM
[Entertainment & Gossip] Man Found James Joyce Novel 'Ulysses' Heavy Going, And Gave It Up As A Bad Job There are books, and there are 'books', literary accomplishments that set them apart from the rest, that stand out like shining beacons of light on a hilltop, or a cliff's edge, or somewhere lofty like that. You know what I mean. 'Ulysses' by... Published:5/25/2019 7:28:48 AM
[Markets] Oxford University Dumbs-Down Admissions Process For 'Disadvantaged' Applicants

With the goal of increasing Oxford University's undergraduate students intake from disadvantaged backgrounds from 15% to 25% over the next four years, the prestigious British university has unveiled a "sea change" in its admissions process.

Echoing the new SAT 'Adversity Score' in the US, which attempts - through various socioeconomic factors - to adjust applicants' 'clean' merit score for their relative disadvantage in life, The Telegraph reports that Oxford will offer places with lower grades to students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the first time in its 900-year history.

50 students in the new intake - which will include refugees and young carers - will be eligible to receive offers “made on the basis of lower contextual A-level grades, rather than the university’s standard offers”.

Additionally, the University revealed that it will launch two new programmes, entitled Opportunity Oxford and Foundation Oxford, in a bid to boost diversity.

  • Foundation Oxford will be open to 50 students with “high academic potential” who have personally experienced particularly severe disadvantage or educational disruption - as well as refugees and carers - and will last for a year. Students will have to pass the 'Foundation' year before being admitted to their undergraduate course.

  • Meanwhile, Opportunity Oxford will run for two weeks and is aimed at 200 students from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who are on track for the required grades, but who “need additional support to transition successfully from school to Oxford”.

So, what counts as disadvantaged?

The BBC reports that it is not by income thresholds or ethnicity, but is mainly based on a socio-economic profile of where people live, which sounds very similar to the Adversity Score.

This uses two postcode-based systems, called Polar and Acorn, which measure local levels of deprivation or affluence.

The particular focus of Polar is the level of entry to university from people living in that area.

There have been critics of Polar - including Universities Minister Chris Skidmore, who wants to find a better way of showing disadvantage.

For instance, a very poor area with relatively high levels of university entry, such as in some parts of London, might not appear to be disadvantaged.

But the university says it will also consider some individual markers of hardship - such as spending time in care or eligibility for free school meals.

Such approaches depend on helping people who have already tried for a place at Oxford.

These efforts by the university come after  Labour MP David Lammy became embroiled in a Twitter row with Oxford University after he dubbed the institution “a bastion of white, middle class, southern privilege”. Additionally, Sutton Trust social mobility charity showed recently that Oxford and Cambridge recruit more students from eight, mostly-private schools than almost 3,000 other UK state schools put together.

However, the diversity drive has sparked frustration among some in the education sector.  

As The BBC points out, if 25% of places are to be targeted at applicants from poorer areas - and in recent years, about 40% of places have gone to pupils from private schools - then that leaves 35% for everyone else. That would be the remaining slice of places for all those state school pupils who do not live in the most deprived areas - which is to say, state-educated families in the middle.

Dr Anthony Wallersteiner, head of Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, said that the number of privately-educated children getting places at Oxbridge had been “driven down” as part of efforts to boost diversity.

He recently told The Times that private-school parents claimed that their children were being “edged out” by social engineering.

Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who read law at Oxford, writes that she was from a “disadvantaged background.” And she would not have wanted adversity points to help her get into Oxford:

If someone had told me that the college only admitted me because of “contextual data” – my family’s low income, the paucity of books in our house, the fact I was from a broken home, or because, in my touching ignorance, I thought a Reader’s Digestcondensed version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a literary masterpiece (bless!), I would have been mortified.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be patronised in that way. If I wasn’t good enough to be admitted on my own merits to a university renowned for its excellence, then I’d rather not have gone to Oxbridge at all.

Pearson explains how the new policy came about:

The trouble starts when well-meaning, guilt-stricken liberals (that’s pretty much all university lecturers) start lowering the bar because too many comprehensives are bad at helping the brightest pupils to reach their full potential. (And too many teachers are Corbynists who detest Oxbridge anyway.)

Consider this perverse logic: those class warriors who are keenest on social mobility are also violently opposed to grammar schools, the greatest-known engine of social mobility, which give poorer children a high-class academic education that enables them to compete on a level playing field with their more privileged counterparts.

As IWF concludes, if adversity points become the norm, we will truly live in a post-merit world.

Published:5/25/2019 6:55:12 AM
[Conservatism] Roger Kimball: Restoring the lost consensus (Scott Johnson) Roger Kimball is a man of many parts. He is the author of more than a dozen outstanding books on art, politics, and intellectual history. He is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion. He is the publisher of Encounter Books. He is an eloquent columnist and regular commentator on current events in the Notes & Comments section of the New Criterion as well as other outlets including PJ Published:5/25/2019 6:26:07 AM
[Asia] Amazon finally supports Traditional Chinese books on Kindle A long-awaited service for readers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and some other overseas Chinese communities have finally come true: Amazon has just started offering Traditional Chinese books for its Kindle E-reader. The release filled an obvious gap for Kindle, which debuted back in 2007 and has been growing the number of languages it supports over […] Published:5/24/2019 11:50:43 AM
[Markets] BoJo, Brexit, & May's Final Act

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

Brexit has been a long, drawn-out saga. But finally, Theresa May’s indecision appears to be coming to an end. She has finally been cornered in a tragic opera with more twists and turns than Wagner’s Ring Cycle. May’s Götterdämmerung is reaching its conclusion. Brünnhilde is riding Grane, her trusty steed, into immolation on the funeral pyre of her heavily-amended withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May’s initial error was to seek consensus between Remainers and Brexiteers. In the words of one of her sacked advisers, Nick Timothy, she viewed Brexit as a damage-limitation exercise. Her mission statement evolved from her Lancaster House speech, when she declared she would deliver Brexit in terms which were clear, complying with the referendum and applauded by ardent Brexiteers. It became a fatally flawed compromise, which has failed to be ratified by MPs on three occasions so far, and a proposed fourth in the next week or so is likely to suffer the same fate.

Her problems started in earnest when she over-ruled her first Brexit secretary, David Davis. Unknown to her Brexit ministers, with her own civil service advisors she began negotiating behind her Brexit secretary’s back. Davis was informed of May’s Chequers proposal only a few days before that fateful Checkers meeting, following which Davis and Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary) resigned from the Cabinet, while five other ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries also resigned.

If ever there was evidence that in politics you should keep your enemies close and your friends closer still, this was it. It has allowed those that have resigned to expose May’s duplicity to their fellow MPs and to organise the opposition to May’s Chequers proposal and the subsequent Withdrawal Agreement she cooked up with the EU.

Mrs May was always a Remainer, and her presence as Prime Minister has encouraged leading Europhiles to overturn the Brexit referendum. That is why she sees it as a damage limitation exercise: produce something that can be said to be Brexit, but still leaves the UK tied to Brussels. It is Hotel California, with Britain only leaving if both sides agree to it, or alternatively, Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s customs union. That cannot happen, not least because the DUP would end its vital support for May’s minority government.

Putting the Northern Ireland issue to one side, in order to get the agreement of the other EU nations for a full and final exit, the UK relies on “The duty of good faith which prohibits the deliberateexploitation of the implementation period to damage British interests” (Barclay’s emphasis). This was written in a letter by Steve Barclay, the current Brexit Secretary, to John Redwood, a senior Conservative backbench MP, in response to his concerns over the Withdrawal Agreement.

Good faith in politics? Barclay must be joking. Spain has a political interest in securing Gibraltar: won’t a future Spanish politician not be tempted to only agree to opening the door to Hotel California if Gibraltar is signed over? French fisherman enjoy free access to British fishing grounds. What French politician has the resolve to stand up to striking fisherman on a good-faith commitment? We haven’t seen one yet.

In short, May’s attempt to limit Brexit damage is a stitch-up, pleasing neither side of the House.

The established legal position

The EU Withdrawal Act 2018 (not to be confused with May’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement) sets the terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Its first clause is the repeal on Exit Day of the EU Communities Act 1972, by which the UK joined the then Common Market. It is primary legislation and cannot be overturned. As Stewart Jackson, who was involved with its drafting put it, you cannot wish away the EU Referendum Act 2015, the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and EU Withdrawal Act 2018 on a whim.

You wouldn’t think so, judging by the back-tracking of the Remainers in Parliament. David Davis and Stewart Jackson knew that “Remainer refuseniks would use every low and disreputable trick in the book to disavow the settled will of the electorate in 2016”. They drafted the legislation with this in mind. The fact of the matter is no one can block No Deal.

Press reporting has skated over this fact. The BBC and other media outlets take most of their briefing from those who are wishing away the law. It has confined Mrs May in her attempts to get her withdrawal agreement through the House: all she has been able to do is postpone Exit Day with the EU’s agreement, the date when legislation comes into force. In the absence of any agreement the UK will leave on WTO terms on Exit Day, currently 31 October.

Labour’s role in all this

In desperation, Mrs May has turned to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to gain sufficient support to push her Withdrawal Agreement through the House against the wishes of her own MPs. Corbyn is a Marxist, as is his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Both of them have promoted far-left activists, who now have a high degree of control over both party policy and the selection of Labour MPs, meaning that moderates are being side-lined and expunged.

This creates Labour’s own crisis, with Marxist activists alienating moderate Labour voters in the constituencies. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Labour Party has its own split between Remainers and Brexiteers. The whole Brexit issue is a hot potato with which the Labour leadership would rather not be involved. It was with this in mind the Labour leadership held talks with Mrs May’s government, at her invitation, to try to find common ground.

Labour's tactics were simple, only an increasingly desperate Prime Minister seemed unable to see them. Labour took and kept the moral high ground, appearing reasonable by accepting the invitation to talks. They ensured they would go nowhere (not difficult, given Mrs May’s stubbornness), then withdraw blaming her for the breakdown. Their hope is to force a general election following a No Confidence Motion only after Brexit has been resolved, capitalising on Mrs May’s disastrous handling of the Brexit issue. And if Mrs May brings her proposed withdrawal agreement to the House for a fourth time, they almost certainly won’t support it, again blaming Mrs May for her “failure to listen”.

The Labour leadership will be observing with interest the battle to succeed her, and it will be clear to them that either No Deal or a compromise in that direction will be the result. This is unlikely to worry them on two counts. Firstly, Labour will not want to alienate voters in their northern constituencies any further by compromising on Mrs May’s deal or anything close to it. And secondly, the leadership, being committed Marxists, will probably take the view that a “right-wing” Prime Minister will improve their own prospects in a general election.

It all points to a continuing strategy of not supporting Mrs May, avoiding any deal with the Conservatives, and hoping the Conservatives will elect a leader that will destroy the Conservatives’ electoral prospects.

The EU elections

This article will be published on the day Britain votes in the EU elections. Britain will be returning 73 Members of the European Parliament in a vote that was never meant to take place.

By extending Exit Day to 31 October, Mrs May has forced this election upon herself. She has made herself extremely unpopular with Brexiteers, and anyone who expected Brexit to be delivered in accordance with the 2016 referendum result. In effect, she has stood in the way of a democratic vote. It is a stance which has exposed the British Parliament as being dominated by career politicians who have become divorced from their electors and undemocratic in their outlook. This behaviour from the Conservatives and prevarication by Labour has seriously undermined electoral support for both parties.

Consequently, Nigel Farage, who can claim much of the original credit for Brexit, has re-entered the fray. He has positioned himself with a new party (the Brexit Party), sanitised of perceived extremism, but combining candidates from all backgrounds. It is politically neutral but with a simple message: get democracy back. From a standing start in about a month, the Brexit Party has gone up in the polls ahead of all the other parties by a substantial margin. Meanwhile, in the polls the Conservatives have slumped into single percentage figures. The election may turn out to be close to a whitewash for them.

You can tell the establishment is worried, when they send the Electoral Commission around to look at the Brexit Party’s books in the hope that some impropriety can be identified. Furthermore, the EU has all of a sudden decided to examine Farage’s finances. These moves by biased establishments are so obviously muck-raking, they could end up strengthening support for Farage and his Brexit Party even more.

The likely effect on the more supine Tory MPs should be to wake them up to the fact that Mrs May must go as soon as possible and be replaced by someone who will not only deliver a proper Brexit but neutralise Farage’s Brexit party. Nothing less will suffice, and the announcement of her amended withdrawal agreement on Tuesday undermines her position even further.

The selection process, in theory anyway, starts with Conservative MPs voting for any candidate who cares to stand. If necessary, a second round of voting takes place, those that have dropped out lending their support, along with many of the votes of their supporters to one of the remaining candidates. The two leading candidates in a final ballot are then put forward to the constituency members for a final selection. It should be completed by end-June.

Mrs May’s likely replacement

At the time of writing, it appears that Mrs May will fail disastrously if she puts her amended withdrawal agreement to a Commons vote for a fourth time. She has tried to appeal to the Remainers with a fourth vote by offering a possible second referendum if MPs back her bill. She has now broken every red line she previously set out. She may not even get the chance for it to be voted.

In the coming days, her position will surely become untenable, though we have all said that before. But this time, she will have exhausted every possibility and have nowhere else to go. And if the Conservative vote collapses in today’s European elections, the fence-sitters in Parliament will be galvanised into getting rid of her.

In the last few days, leadership contenders have been lining up their bids for the premiership. Those jostling for position are talking of everything but Brexit. The Remainers, such as Philip Hammond (the Chancellor) do not appear to be in the race and have become so unpopular outside Parliament that they wouldn’t get a mandate from the constituencies anyway. The next leader is very likely to be a staunch Brexiteer.

It would bore an international audience to list and analyse the runners, other than to concentrate on the clear favourite, Boris Johnson, who currently shows as 7/4-on. His nearest rival, Dominic Raab is 9/2-against. The news on Boris is for him both good and tricky. The good is that he is clearly the favourite with the constituency members, and if he can be one of the two names put forward, he should be home and dry. The tricky bit is Remainer MPs and fence-sitters in the parliamentary party, who claim to be one-nation Tories, would rather not support Boris.

He is regarded as right-wing, when in fact he favours freer markets, less regulation, and free trade. He is a classic Tory. It is the party’s middle ground that has become socialistic. In an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph he wrote the following:

“What we cannot now know – as the great French economist Bastiat observed in the 19th century – is the unseen opportunity cost of the way the UK economic structure has evolved to fit the EU over the last four and a half decades, and the productive ways in which it might now evolve.”

The reference to Frédéric Bastiat is important. He is referring to Bastiat’s parable of the broken window, which points out that the state’s intervention (the boy who broke the window) denies the more productive use of the baker’s money to his desired ends. The fact that Johnson knows the parable and understands the message is good evidence of his libertarian credentials.

That being the case, it is the socialistic element of the Conservative parliamentary party, masquerading as one-nation Tories, that he has to overcome. Reportedly, he has been having one-to-one meetings with his fellow MPs to do just that. Sometime ago, there was a well-founded belief that if Johnson became leader of the Conservative Party at least five MPs would resign the whip. Since then, Change UK, a dustbin of disillusioned Remainers has been formed with eleven MPs, three of which were Conservatives. It has been a complete failure and a sharp lesson to other would-be jumpers, so there are likely to be no more defections on a Johnson leadership.

Johnson has also been taking the advice of Lynton Crosby, probably the most successful political strategist today. It was Crosby who advised Scott Morrison in last weekend’s Australian election, when the expected Labour opposition victory was successfully overturned. He also advised Johnson in his successful elections as Mayor of London in 2008 and 2012.

This is interesting, because Johnson appears to be working to a carefully constructed plan. He avoids press comment over Brexit and writes about anything else in his Monday column at the Daily Telegraph. His contributions in Parliament have been brief, the few on Brexit generally confined to democracy rather than trade. He has positioned himself to rescue the party from electoral destruction if called upon, rather than appear to be an overtly ambitious politician, unlike all the other contenders. It is quite Churchillian, in the sense there is a parallel with Churchill’s election by his peers to lead the nation in its darkest hour. He even wrote about it in a recent bestseller, The Churchill Factor, and understands intimately what it took for Churchill to gain the support of the House.

It is therefore hardly surprising Johnson is the favourite to succeed Mrs May. His appreciation of free markets means he is not frightened by trading with the EU on WTO terms. Furthermore, President Trump admires him, and would be likely to fast-track a US trade deal with the UK. However, Johnson is likely to pursue a deal on radically different terms on a take-it-or-leave-it basis with no further extensions to Exit Day.

As soon as the 31 October deadline has passed, Remainers will no longer have a cause. They have yet to appreciate the fact, and they may vote for him in the hope that after restoring the party’s fortunes, they can get rid of him and mend relations with the EU. But the Brexit debate would effectively end after Exit Day and its divisiveness with it. Farage’s Brexit party will wither on the vine, its purpose of restoring democratic accountability to Parliament and delivering Brexit being restored.

Johnson would then have the task of rebuilding the party for the next general election, set for 5 May 2022.

In the coming days, having seen Mrs May’s last roll of the dice, all these factors will be uppermost in the minds of both backbenchers and of government ministers in their private capacity. If there is one thing that is certain, the Conservative Party is a survivor. If Boris Johnson is the best option, MPs will swallow their prejudices and elect him.

Published:5/24/2019 2:50:32 AM
[Markets] Amazon Pulls Hezbollah Deputy Leader's Book After Israeli Media Outcry

This week Amazon pulled a controversial book being sold through its website after Israeli media led an outcry against it, charging the US retail giant with hosting Hezbollah propaganda containing incitement to violence against Israelis written by the group's second in command. 

"Hezbollah: The Story from Within" was published in 2010 by Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, who is a designated international terrorist by the United States. The rare "insider account" of Iran-backed Hezbollah has been translated into several languages and had reportedly long been available in English through Amazon.com

Deputy leader of Hezbollah Gen. Naim Qassem, via Reuters.

According to the Israeli national Hebrew-language daily newspaper Maariv, "a reporter found that the English edition of the book was being offered for sale on the Amazon site," and was alarmed at "a clear instance of breaking sanctions and helping to finance terrorism" on the part of Amazon. 

"A Maariv reporter contacted Amazon with findings in the book and Amazon subsequently decided to immediately remove the book from its sales sites in the United States and around the world," a rough English translation of the Maariv story said. The Hebrew-language report said the book was filled with anti-Semitic statements and questioned Israel's right to exit. 

Though it had apparently been offered by Amazon for years, the book was spotlighted this week after controversy erupted between Israel and a United Nations official, after the official called it "necessary reading".

On Tuesday Israel slammed the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis for holding a high level meeting with Qassem after which the UN official publicly praised the senior Hezbollah official.

Kubis had confirmed on Twitter that he not only met with Qassem, but received a copy of his most well-known book, which he also praised.

The Times of Israel reported of the statement:

Kubis was likely referring to “Hizbullah (Hezbollah): The Story from Within,” a 464-page tome first published in English a decade ago. The book, published by the London-based Saqi Books, is available on Amazon.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman went so far as to denounce the meeting via Twitter, saying “You know what else is ‘necessary reading’? U.N. Resolution 1701” in reference to a resolution intended to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Within two days following the incident, the initial link through which the book had been sold on Amazon led to an error page, in apparent confirmation that Amazon banned the book at the request of the Israeli reporter. 

On Thursday, Middle East and Iran analyst Matthew Levitt confirmed that the "Hezbollah deputy Secretary General's book [is] no longer available on Amazon after journalist points out its anti-Israel incitement to violence & sanctions implications of selling it."

The fresh controversy comes following new efforts by Israel to convince the UN to officially recognize Hezbollah as a terror group — an effort which has reportedly failed to gain traction. 

The Trump administration has also of late taken more aggressive sanctions measures on Hezbollah leadership amid the ongoing heightened tensions with Iran. Hezbollah has long been seen as an arm of the Ayatollahs in Lebanon and Syria. 

Published:5/23/2019 6:19:24 PM
[Markets] Coming to a VR device near you: interacting with your favorite superheroes Facebook’s Oculus could be what comic books need to crack virtual reality, writes Michael Brush.
Published:5/22/2019 4:40:34 PM
[Markets] Two Scenarios For Trump-Russia Investigators... And Neither Is Comforting

Authored by Sharyl Attkisson , op-ed via The Hill,

As the investigations into the Trump-Russia investigation proceed, it’s not too difficult to figure out a few of the theoretical starting points.

The first and most obvious theory is the one largely promulgated in the media for the better part of two years. It goes something like this: The sharp, super-sleuth investigative skills of top officials within the Justice Department and our intel community enabled them to identify Donald Trump and his campaign as treacherous conduits to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

That theory was summarily dismissed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that there wasn’t so much as even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American.

So that leaves several other possibilities … and none of them is good:

They knew

One possibility to be considered is that top Obama administration officials knew all along there never was any real collusion or crime at play, but they manufactured the false Russia premise in order to justify their political spying.

Under this hypothetical scenario, they wanted to get inside information on the Trump campaign and, perhaps, gather dirt against the competition for blackmail or political purposes.

This effort included surveillance using paid spies and wiretaps on multiple Trump associates, as reported in the press.

The Obama officials had lots of help from foreign players such as the United Kingdom and Russia’s nemesis, Ukraine. Ukrainian-linked Democrats assisted with an early effort to gin up negative press coverage about key players, such as Trump associate Paul Manafort, who had been hired by the pro-Russian Ukrainian government prior to the anti-Russian Ukrainian government taking over in 2014. There were other Ukraine entanglements, such as the lucrative position earning millions of dollars that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son got in 2015 to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company under the anti-Russia Ukraine regime.

Anyhow, under this scenario, after Trump defied all predictions and won the election, those who had conspired against him went into panic mode. They rightly worried that Trump, his national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and others outside the “establishment” would be able to see what Justice Department and intel officials had been up to in secret.

They were worried that not only would their furtive activities in 2016 be exposed but that their behavior during the past decade-plus, when there were many other documented surveillance and intel abuses. These abuses include improper surveillance of American citizens, political figures, journalists and other targets.

One can only imagine all the things they did that never became public. Whose communications did they pretend to capture accidentally? Whose bank records, photos, emails, text messages, internet history and keystrokes were monitored? What unverified or false evidence did intel officials present to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get wiretaps on political enemies? Who improperly “unmasked” whom?

Hypothetically, these government officials — desperate to keep their deeds in the dark — rushed to amplify the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Putting Trump under investigation, even if under false pretenses, would accomplish the goal of keeping him from poking around into their business and practices. Any attempts he’d make to find out what was going on inside his own Justice Department or intel agencies would automatically be declared “Obstruction!”

However, they were sloppy.

First, they were sloppy in the improper actions they undertook over a decade or more. They never imagined outsiders would ever really get a look at the evidence of their alleged wrongdoing. Then, they became sloppier in their panic-stricken attempts to cover up after Trump got elected.

As you can see, this scenario presumes a level of corruption.

For those who aren’t prepared to accept the possibility that some within our Justice Department and intel community would frame Trump and his associates to keep their own alleged crimes secret, there is at least one other possibility. But it may not be much more palatable.

They didn’t know

If Mueller is correct and there was no collusion or even coordination between Russia and Trump, or any American, and if the Obama administration officials who insisted that was the case are not corrupt, then they collectively suffered from one of the most historically monumental cases of poor judgment in U.S. intelligence history.

Under this scenario, the seasoned experts entrusted to protect our national security committed the kind of bush-league mistakes that few novice investigators would make. They jumped to conclusions with no evidence. They let their own biases lead them down trails in the wrong direction. They misinterpreted evidence, misread people’s actions and barked up the wrong trees. They misconstrued exceedingly common business and political contacts with Russians as deep, dark, dastardly plots. They wasted energy and resources chasing specters, ghosts and conspiracies where none existed.

Under this scenario, the misguided obsession over nonexistent treachery and enemies of the state caused the officials to underestimate or ignore the real threats that were right under their noses.

We do know this much: Only after Trump was elected did these officials ring major alarm bells about the Russians. It’s as if they are utterly unaware that the election interference they suspected and detected happened while they were in charge.

Or maybe they just hope to convince us to look the other way.

Instead of looking the other way, we might be well advised to open the books and examine how these officials were running their shops well before 2016. What does either scenario imply about how these operators behaved behind closed doors? How did they use their power and the powerful tools at their disposal? How well did they guard the nation’s interests and our deepest secrets?

Whether they were corrupt or inept, whether they knew or whether they didn’t know, the questions seem important to answer.

Published:5/21/2019 8:05:34 PM
[Entertainment] Will the Game of Thrones Books End Differently Than the Show? George R.R. Martin Says... Sean Bean, George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones PremiereIt's the end of an era for George R.R. Martin. The author whose books served as the launching pad to HBO's Game of Thrones took to his blog to discuss the end of the acclaimed series--and...
Published:5/21/2019 9:46:20 AM
[8ae4ab74-7ff4-58b7-aa12-762eb364cf12] ‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin teases book ending, what’s next for series “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin hinted at what’s next for the acclaimed fantasy series following the finale of its HBO television adaptation Sunday night and teased fans with how the books may end differently—or not. Published:5/21/2019 9:46:20 AM
[Markets] The Origins Of The Deep State In North America, Part 3

Authored by Matthew Ehret via The Duran,

Click here for part one:  The Rise of the Round Table Movement and the Sad Case of Canada (1864-1945)

Click here for part two: Milner’s Perversion Takes Over Canada (1945-1971)

Our first two installments have dealt with the origins of the Deep State in North America by reviewing the creation of the Rhodes Scholarship/Chatham House network at the end of the 19th century and the infiltration of indoctrinated scholars into every governing branch of western society. We traced the key players in this Oxford-based network who were formed with the intent of fulfilling the will of Cecil Rhodes to “form a church of the British Empire” and undo the effects of the American Revolution as a global phenomenon. We also saw how these networks worked closely with another early “think tank” called the Fabian Society in order to advance an agenda that required the destruction of the sovereign nation state system which had been founded upon the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia. This was exemplified by the 1999 “Chicago speech” of Fabian asset Tony Blair when he stated that the world must now embark upon a “post-Westphalian order” setting the stage for 9/11 and the new era of regime change that was soon unleashed. In the following report, we will look at the origins of the Fabian Society, by examining some of its founding members and governing philosophy.

The Nature of the Beast

Polarization is the name of empire. If a society can be kept under the control of their belief in what their senses tell them, then the invisible structures governing their behaviour will remain mystical and unknowable. More importantly than that, those intentions shaping such structures towards a pre-determined goal will also remain unknowable. If unknowable, then beyond the reach of judgement, and if beyond the reach of judgement, then unchangeable. This has been the great secret of empire since the days of the Babylonian priesthood and Babylon`s whore Rome, since whose collapse, three more incarnations have manifested themselves in the forms of the Byzantine, Venice and Anglo-Dutch empires. This is the dynamic at the heart of what has today come to be known as “the Deep State”.

With the 15th century rediscovery of the efficient power of self-conscious reason as a knowable and self-developing potential in the soul of every human, the renaissance-humanist conception of mankind had blossomed. With that conception of imago viva dei (1) led in large measure by the unique discoveries and life`s devotion of Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1460), a revolution in science, art and statecraft occurred. Natural law both in the sciences, in the arts and especially as a standard when shaping physical economic policy became accessible to self-consciousness.

With such discoveries came new principles of self-organization, such as the 1648 Peace of Westphalia that not only put an end to the oligarchy`s 30 year religious warfare, but established the principle of `The Benefit of the Other` as the basis of national sovereignty. From the 1648 Peace, a new platform was created upon which the next great revolution could begin with the 1776 American Declaration of Independence. With the 1776 Declaration and 1789 Constitution, a nation founded upon life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was instituted for the first time amongst men. By 1791, Alexander Hamilton, First Treasury Secretary and Benjamin Franklin protégé established his American System of Political Economy with his 1791 reports on the National Bank, Public Credit, and most importantly the Subject of Manufactureswhere Hamilton defined the purpose and value of economic planning, not according to “pleasure/pain, utility or money”, but rather “to cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted.  Even things in themselves not positively advantageous, sometimes become so, by their tendency to provoke exertion. Every new scene, which is opened to the busy nature of man to rouse and exert itself, is the addition of a new energy to the general stock of effort.”

This American System was the effect of rigorous studies of Platonic texts such as the Republic, and the French Cameralist (aka: Dirigist) economic school as applied by such leading organizers of the Westphalian Treaty as Cardinal Mazarin, and France’s Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, not to mention their spiritual heir, the great scientist and statesmanGottfried Leibniz. Nearly written out of today’s history books, these men played a direct role in the formation of the early colonies of the Americas and New France. In his 1984 So You Wish to Learn All About Economics?a modern representative of this tradition, Lyndon H. LaRouche (1923-2019), credits Leibniz as also having been the founder of the science of Physical Economy and intellectual inspiration for the American System (2). Virtually every nationalist American president who attempted to revive this system throughout the coming two centuries, including President Trump today had to contend with Britain’s deep state structures within America itself.

Marx and Smith: Two Imperial Reactions to American Progress

Our most recent 500 years of universal historyhave been principally driven by the British oligarchy`s burning fear of the applied truth of these discovered principles of self-organization of mankind as a whole. Every innovation by the British Empire since that time, has been effected specifically with the intention of undoing the truth that such singular leaps in potential imply for humanity`s true destiny.

In order to obscure the truth of the American System`s success and even existence as an idea, two programs were formulated by liars and fools directly under the pay and control of the leading priests of the British Empire. The first was known as Adam Smith`s doctrine of Free Trade as elaborated in his 1776 Wealth of Nations. The second was Marx`s doctrine of Communism as elaborated in his 1867 Das Capital. Wealth of Nations was a response to the American Revolution, and served as a framework to convince the new republic to abandon plans at developing manufacturing and remain agrarian, emphasizing individual liberty/pleasure but not the well-being of the whole. In Smith’s doctrine, national rights to protectionism against the dumping of cheap goods and directed credit were antagonistic to “self-regulating marketplaces”. Inversely Marx’s Capital was produced as a response to the `2nd American Revolution` of 1865 and served as a sophistical argument to attempt to control the industrialization built up by the Hamiltonian American System since 1791.  Das Capital focused on the utilitarian “Good” of the whole at the expense of the individual.

Both systems of Smith and Marx were not only grounded in a radical empiricism (belief in the validity of sense-impressions), but also empiricism`s necessary corollary: that mankind is in essence no more than 1) his material flesh and 2) his ability to adapt to his material environment, both political and physical. Thus, contrary to the Renaissance humanist view that premises mankind’s essence on his soul and capacity to express his creative personality by discovering and changing the laws of the universe for the better, the empiricist of the left or the right, concludes that mankind is actually a beast. Creative leaps of progress in the arts and science which apparently separate man from the biosphere, and permit for the increase of the productive powers of labour without intrinsic limit must be assumed by the empiricist to be merely chimerical anomalies which must be kept as obscure as possible from the mass of the human cattle.

By Marx’s day, Darwin’s thesis of natural selection as the effect of a constant struggle for existence had provided new fuel for the imperialist’s world view and had fed Marx’s thesis. After reading On the Origin of Species, Marx sent a personally signed copy of Das Capital to Darwin in 1873 and had a German edition dedicated “In deep appreciation for Charles Darwin”.

Both systems also share the common lie that since universal principles are unknowable, that the only metrics a society is permitted to use in judging value are some mixture of “pleasure” and “utility”. Of the two, Smith was much more explicit in his writings on this point. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), he writes:

 “Hunger, thirst, and the passion which unites the two sexes, the love of pleasure, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sake, and without any consideration of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them.”

Fabianism: Fascism from the Left

It is a fact that cannot be missed by the honest intellect that recent history has been shaped by agencies operating outside of the general field of perception of the majority of the population. As previous reports have documented, such agencies have expressed themselves in the form of two polarities operating from one Oxford mind during the first years of the 20th century. Those two operations were the Round Table Movement catering to the so called “new right” anglophiles of the world on the one side, and a “new left” sect known as Fabian Socialists on the other. Through their various manifestations over the century, both organizations have worked together to create structures of thought, belief and law which lock their victims into a world where creative improvement of man and nature mediated by self-conscious reason is abandoned.

In this world of no change, the ugly fact of diminishing returns cannot be avoided since no new resources except those that are already in practice can come into being. In this system of scarcity, the ugly necessity of sterilization, and murder of the unfit based on material considerations (both genetic and environmental) becomes real, and the laws of Malthus become hegemonic. This process of decay has become more popularly known as “Entropy” or “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” (3), and has become treated by a language developed as an outgrowth of the belief called “systems analysis”. The hegemony of systems analysis today is due directly to the Fabian Society networks and Rhodes Trust allies working through both Soviet and Western systems throughout the Cold War.

The Fabian Society was founded by an elitist clique of Darwinian propagandists in 1884 who saw Karl Marx’s newly published system as the perfect vehicle to carry Darwin’s logic into the belief structure of the masses. In fact, all members were devout racists obsessed with the problem of convincing mankind to submit to racial cleansing along the lines prescribed by Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism and Francis Galton’s field of Eugenics. Both Spencer and Galton were closely directed by Thomas Huxley’s X Club, at this point entirely in charge of imperial science policy. The eerie Fabian Symbol features a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing.

The most prominent founding members were Sidney and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw. This group was soon joined by various influential aspiring priests of the British Empire, namely leading Theosophist Annie Besant, Huxley protégé H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, Arthur Balfour, and the founder of Geopolitics Halford Mackinder. The name “Fabian” was chosen for the Roman General Fabius Maximus (aka: The Delayer), who’s fame is founded on having beaten Hannibal by never engaging in direct combat, but rather by sheer endurance and attrition. In the founding Fabian document it was written:

“For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless.”(4)

The Fabian society program focused on broad social welfare programs such as universal health care, mass education, and better working conditions which were designed to attract the disenfranchised masses. Under the Fabian program, such programs held no substance in reality, as the true means to justify their creation was banned a priori (aka: scientific and technological progress). That is, the activation of self-conscious reason in all members of society.

This ruse was thus designed to merely bring the will of the lower classes under the deeper influence of a ruling oligarchy via the promise of “democratic socialism” and a naïvely utopian “end of history” ideal. All the masses have to do in order to receive their treats, is to accept being governed by a scientific priesthood which will manage their lives and eventually kill them if they are deemed too numerous or troublesome to maintain. This priesthood will manage pre-existing wealth in such a way as is expedient to placate the mob, but will not allow the creation of new wealth via the activation of the powers of mind as that would force the changing of the parameters of the fixed channels of the system which they seek to manage as gods. The controllers of Fabian Socialism are not, nor have they ever been “democratic socialists”, but brutish social Darwinists. As theosophist Annie Besant said to the Indian Congress party:

“But the general idea is that each man should have power according to his knowledge and capacity. […] And the keynote is that of my fairy State: From every man according to his capacity; to every man according to his needs. A democratic Socialism, controlled by majority votes, guided by numbers, can never succeed; a truly aristocratic Socialism, controlled by duty, guided by wisdom, is the next step upwards in civilization.”(5)

Without a genuine commitment to scientific discovery and the unbounded increase of the productive powers of labour, as laid out clearly in the American System of Political Economy, then no promise of social welfare measures are durable. Any such handouts will necessarily result in a Ponzi-pyramid crisis which will, by its very nature, force the logic of triage and thus fascism onto the dupes that “democratically” permitted its hegemony. All current arguments to cut social security, pension plans, health care, and education are derived from this function. The rise of environmentalism as a “new post-industrial religion” today pushed by a Green New Deal has a blood curdling agenda of depopulation behind its nominal socialist costume.

Working closely with leading figures of Oxford, and especially the Rhodes Trust, the Fabians set up their own school with Rothschild funding called the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1895. The ideological framework employed by both the LSE and Oxford agents were always formulated by Cambridge, which to this day remains the core intellectual hive of the empire’s rotten ideas. Oxford and LSE continue to exist primarily for the purposes of setting up programs which “apply” those “pure” ideas formulated in Cambridge into general practice in the interests of the ruling oligarchy. Prominent Fabian controllers who recruited young talent at the LSE were Frederick von Hayek, Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, and Harold Laski.

Five years after LSE was established, the Labour Party was created as the official Fabian political party. Its function was essentially take over the role of the left from the Liberals in opposition to the Conservative government which had previously been the two hegemonic parties in Britain. One of the most perverse members of the movement, playwright George Bernard Shaw laid out the method of permeation which had governed the Fabian success in permeating influential socio political institutions:

 “Our propaganda is one of permeating – we urged our members to join the Liberal and Radical Associations in their district, or, if they preferred it, the Conservative Associations – we permeated the party organizations and pulled all the strings we could lay our hands on with the utmost adroitness and energy, and we succeeded so well that in 1888 we gained the solid advantage of a Progressive majority full of ideas that would never have come into their heads had not the Fabians put them there.”

This is exactly what was done. Over this century, the LSE has conditioned dozens of heads of state, tens of thousands of civil servants and several generations of academics.

In Canada this process was replicated in 1931 when the “Fabian Society of Canada” was created by 5 Rhodes Scholars and dubbed the League of Social Reconstruction. It quickly created a pro-eugenics political party called the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1932 which changed its name to the NDP in 1961. Many of its core controllers took over the Liberal Party after the purge of pro-American system statesman C.D. Howeand his allies after 1957.

More cabinet officials under Barack Obama had studied at Oxford and LSE than its American counterparts Yale, Harvard or Princeton (6). This is the essence of the Deep State which has sought to overthrow President Trump ever since he became a serious candidate in the 2016 elections.

This method of “permeation” is analogous to a virus taking over the white blood cells of a victim. At first, the virus’ presence in the system is hardly noticeable, but when organs begin to unexpectedly malfunction, the thoughtless person may foolishly choose not to seek help, but wait for the immanent point at which he is past the point of no return. This infection has taken place thousands of years ago, and while humanity produced bursts of potential led by creative genius over the generations, mankind still has not learned his lesson.

Throwing off Zeus’ Shackles

It is of absolute necessity that now, even at this late date, the lessons of past mistakes are learnt before the lawful outcome of this virus runs its course and kills its host. The essence of mankind’s troubles is not derived by any defect in our nature, or our “greedy yearning for progress”. It is not due to our fixed “selfish nature”, nor will our problems be resolved by adopting a “sustainable” system of zero technological growth under “Green New Deals”. Such a system only exists in the delusional mind of an oligarch or their victims, but not in nature. If such a system were to be imposed on our 21st century society, a genocide magnitudes greater than anything Hitler could have dreamed will be the result.

So let us put away such Fabian theories as “man-made global warming”, and “zero growth green technologies” which will produce only famine, war, and chaos. Let us instead rediscover the identity which was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s discovery of electric fire. The quickest path to reawakening this identity within the greatest portion of the species is by engaging in such great projects the Belt and Road Initiative, embarking upon a total nuclear power renaissance, and returning to John F. Kennedy’s vision for unbounded space exploration as Presidents Trump, Xi, and Putin have all made national priorities. If the nature of humanity is to truly live as made in the image of the creator, then adapting like an animal to the unchangeable and unknowable cycles of nature is not compatible with our purpose.

*  *  *

BIO: Matthew J.L. Ehret is a journalist, lecturer and founder of the Canadian Patriot Review. He is an author with The Duran, Strategic Culture Foundation, Fort Russ. His works have been published in Zero Hedge, Executive Intelligence Review, Global Times, Asia Times, L.A. Review of Books, and Sott.net. Matthew has also published the book “The Time has Come for Canada to Join the New Silk Road” and three volumes of the Untold History of Canada (available on untoldhistory.canadianpatriot.org).

*  *  *

Appendix: The Fabian Society and Round Table: Eugenics by Another Name

The Fabian Society: Eugenics From the Left

In case any doubts yet linger that the Fabians or their Rhodes Trust counterparts on the so-called “right” have advanced their agenda in order to apply genocidal eugenics programs on a scale unimagined by even Hitler, then simply read their own words, and judge for yourself. 

“The moment we face it frankly we are driven to the conclusion that the community has a right to put a price on the right to live in it … If people are fit to live, let them live under decent human conditions. If they are not fit to live, kill them in a decent human way. Is it any wonder that some of us are driven to prescribe the lethal chamber as the solution for the hard cases which are at present made the excuse for dragging all the other cases down to their level, and the only solution that will create a sense of full social responsibility in modern populations?”

-George Bernard Shaw, Prefaces (London: Constable and Co., 1934), p. 296

“I believe that now and always the conscious selection of the best for reproduction will be impossible; that to propose it is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what individuality implies. The way of nature has always been to slay the hindmost, and there is still no other way, unless we can prevent those who would become the hindmost being born. It is in the sterilization of failure, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies.”

-H.G. Wells in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 10 (1904), p. 11

“We may perhaps assume that, if people grow less superstitious, government will acquire the right to sterilize those who are not considered desirable as parents. This power will be used, at first, to diminish imbecility, a most desirable object. But probably, in time, opposition to the government will be taken to prove imbecility, so that rebels of all kinds will be sterilized. Epileptics, consumptives, dipsomaniacs and so on will gradually be included; in the end, there will be a tendency to include all who fail to pass the usual school examinations. The result will be to increase the average intelligence; in the long run, it may be greatly increased. But probably the effect upon really exceptional intelligence will be bad.

Eugenics has, of course, more ambitious possibilities in a more distant future. It may aim not only at eliminating undesired types, but at increasing desired types. Moral standards may alter so as to make it possible for one man to be the sire of a vast progeny by many different mothers. … If eugenics reached the point where it could increase desired types, it would not be the types desired by present-day Eugenists that would be increased, but rather the type desired by the average official. Prime Ministers, Bishops, and others whom the State considers desirable might become the fathers of half the next generation…

If we knew enough about heredity to determine, within limits, what sort of population we would have, the matter would of course be in the hands of State officials, presumably elderly medical men. Whether they would really be preferable to Nature I do not feel sure. I suspect that they would breed a subservient population, convenient to rulers but incapable of initiative.”

Bertrand Russell, “ICARUS or the Future of Science” (1924)

“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

“Political unification in some sort of world government will be required… Even though… any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable.”

-Sir Julian Huxley, UNESCO: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy. 1946

The Round Table: Eugenics from the Right

“I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence, look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives. I contend that every acre added to our territory means in the future birth to some more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence. Added to this the absorption of the greater portion of the world under our rule simply means the end of all wars, at this moment had we not lost America I believe we could have stopped the Russian-Turkish war by merely refusing money and supplies. Having these ideas what scheme could we think of to forward this object.”

-Cecil Rhodes, Confession of Faith, 1888

“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

Published:5/19/2019 11:06:01 PM
[Markets] California's Housing Bubble's So Bad, 100s Forced To Live On Boats 

California's housing affordability crisis is getting worse. Affordability in San Francisco is now at 10-year lows, and only one in five households can afford to purchase a median-priced single-family home in the Bay Area. The crisis has driven many people onto the water, living on makeshift boats, outside marinas, and wealthy communities.

The floating homeless population in wealthy Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco, has doubled in the last five years to over 100. The community of 200 barges, sailboats, and other vessels comprise of people who are employed but can't afford to live on land, jobless folks, the homeless, and some people who are mentally ill. Boat life for them isn't easy:

"It's not a free ride. It's a lot of effort to be out here," said Kristina Weber, who moved onto a 54-foot vessel she purchased for $15,000 because she couldn't afford to rent in Sausalito. 

Wealthy people on land warn that the floating homeless community is devastating for their community. Weber and her neighbors told The Wall Street Journal these people have brought crime and poor sanitation to their area.

Residents complain that boats sometimes break away from anchor lines in storms, drift into waterfront homes, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Local authorities have called these seafaring homeless "anchor-outs," because they permanently anchor their vessels outside marinas and shore communities that is a direct violation of the law. Floating homeless communities have also sprung up in overpriced coastal regions from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Law enforcement removed 40 boats along the Oakland waterfront in 2013 and nine were taken away last month, said Brock de Lappe, harbor master for five Oakland marinas.

"They are taking over a public resource," de Lappe said.

Beth Pollard, executive director of the Richardson's Bay Regional Agency, said many of these floating homeless communities started showing up in the waters between the Marin County cities of Sausalito and Belvedere in the last several years.

Pollard and her organization aren't pushing these folks away from the area, but instead helping them secure their boats to more stable anchors.

Jim Robertson, a homeowner in Marin, said these boats have collided with his shore home 16 times over the last two decades, including one time that cost $20,000 to repair his dock.

"Nobody is looking for special treatment, just the enforcement of laws on the books," Robertson said.

His neighbor, Connie Strycker, said the homeless would paddle ashore in dinghies asking for food and water. "They're all filthy, because they have no place to bathe," said the 86-year-old.

Sausalito Police Chief John Rohrbacher said many of the homeless are inexperienced on the water.

Weber said living on the water is very difficult. The 40-year-old uses a dinghy to travel to shore for supplies.

Greg Baker, who lives alone in a 41-foot sailboat, has been on the water longer than anyone in the Marin area. The former tugboat captain said there are too many homeless people on the bay operating vessels with no experience at all.

Baker is leading an effort through a community association to educate the homeless on how to become better operators on the water.

He said that moving isn't an option for him.

"There are two ways I'm leaving: in a black body bag or handcuffs," said the 80-year-old.

While many San Franciscans cannot afford overpriced homes, this latest trend of housing communities springing up on the water with ragtag vessels is a sign of the times: the housing affordability crisis is progressively getting worse.

Published:5/19/2019 10:07:52 PM
[Markets] Over 1 Million Viewers Urge Remake Of Game Of Thrones Final Season "With Competent Writers"

With the much-anticipated finale of Game of Thrones just hours away, angry fans are demanding a remake of the highly successful series' last season.

As of Sunday evening, 1.07 million people had signed a Change.org petition saying the hit HBO series “deserves a final season that makes sense.”

'Dylan D.', who started the petition, exclaims:

"David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers when they have no source material (i.e. the books) to fall back on."

Petitioners were not shy in expressing their feelings...

"Perhaps a competent writing staff would make better use of Arya's face changing skills showrunners spent two seasons developing, instead of having her Leeroy Jenkins the night king"

"I unfortunately I had to watch this shit to know it needs redoing..."

"It doesn't matter if there's a remake or not, I just want D&D to know they're incompetent..."

In an update to his change.org petition after it topped the million votes mark, 'Dylan D' explained further:

I made this petition some few days after Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks”, aired. I was just so disappointed and angry. It was simply me venting a bit. I posted it to r/freefolk on Reddit, it got nowhere, and I shrugged and went about my day. I had forgotten all about it. A week later, a coworker caught me before I was leaving for the day and asked, “Hey, is this you?” The petition had almost reached 500,000 signatures. I was blown away. I hadn’t checked the thing for a week! And look at how far it has come!

I haven’t heard from anyone HBO-related. I don’t think people can reasonably expect HBO to completely remake the season, or any part of this particular series (keep in mind the prequel spinoffs). It costs a fortune to shoot one episode, and I think most signers understand that. Will HBO lose gobs of money over this? Eh probably not. As Heath Ledger’s Joker once said, “It’s not about the money, it’s about sending a message.” And I think this message is one of frustration and disappointment at its core.

There is so much awful crap going on in the world, people like me need to escape into things like Star Wars and Game of Thrones. We fans invested a wealth of passion and time into this series. I’ve been watching religiously since Season 2, myself. I’ve read all the books and eagerly await the next two. I love this story, and I, like most of you, was crushed to see how the last season (and Season 7, let’s be real) has been handled.

Is Dany going to succumb to madness in the books? Probably. Is Arya going to kill the Night King? Well he doesn’t exist in the books as of yet so…maybe? Is Jaime going to sacrifice his entire character arc to go embrace Cersei? I’d doubt it, but that’s GRRM’s decision. The issue I have is not necessarily with what we got, it’s HOW we got there -- A rushed, laughably inconsistent mess of a season fraught with cringe-inducing, arc-slaying dialogue and “everybody is stupid” syndrome. We can expect that the books will describe a more sensical path toward the ultimate conclusions that we will see on Sunday. No pressure, Mr. Martin.

D&D adapted those books in the beginning and it became one of the greatest TV shows of all time. No one can doubt their talents there. But they seemingly became tired of the series and rushed to the end, thereby doing the show and its fans a great disservice.

I feel for the actors and actresses too. I am sure some of them are happy with their arcs or perhaps are just happy to be done with the series so they can move on, but I am also sure that many are disappointed with the writing of their characters and the plot here in the end. They put their souls into these characters, and they could be every bit as disappointed as we are.

And no one can question the talents of the casting department, and cinematography, and music, and costuming, and the CGI team, and all those technical fields that went into keeping the show such a beautiful spectacle through to the end. They deserve all the accolades they can get and this petition is not a comment on their contributions to the show.

In closing, I didn’t make this petition to be an entitled, whiny fan. I made it because I was immensely disappointed and needed to vent. Do I have a solution? I’ve got plenty of ideas, but no, I’m not a Hollywood writer. But you don’t need to be a mechanic to know your car is broken.

Thank you to everyone for signing this silly thing.

Despite the heavy criticism of the series, fans have been watching in record numbers, with last week’s episode snagging an audience of over 12.5 million.

Published:5/19/2019 6:04:46 PM
[Loose Ends] Loose Ends (81) (Steven Hayward) • This is really neat: Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope is today sitting at #9 on the Amazon best-seller list. Not #9 among books on history—#9 among all books. Take that, all you Zinnsane people! Land of Hope indeed! (I credit Power Line readers, but if you haven’t ordered yet, please do and let’s see if we can get the book to Number One.) • Remember the headline that Glenn Published:5/19/2019 4:02:53 PM
[Markets] NewsWatch: The stock market punished earnings misses more than it rewarded earnings beats First-quarter earnings season is virtually in the books. A look back shows stock-market investors were in a mood to punish shares of companies that disappointed on results more than they rewarded companies that exceeded expectations.
Published:5/17/2019 4:22:23 PM
[Markets] "People Are Going To Get Burned": Uptick In Questionable Deals Telegraphs Market Pain Ahead

The sell off at the end of the year last year, despite being long gone from the memory of traders, did have one profound effect. It caused dealmakers to speed things up due to fears of the more than decade-long bull market finally coming to an end, according to Bloomberg.

So naturally, when 2019 gifted dealmakers with a market rebound, many of them rushed to peddle as many deals and arrangements as they could, especially deals that could test the limits of risk tolerance in a falling market. This has resulted in all types of shoddy deals in 2019 - from questionable IPOs, to private equity deals, to issuing junk bonds to pay dividends.

Junk bonds are "flying out of the door" in 2019. Companies that are deep in debt are borrowing even more now, while they can, to pay equity holders. And two of the most heralded IPOs in recent history, Uber and Lyft, both wound up turning into case studies for what happens when you try to stuff overpriced stock down the throats of retail investors.

Marshall Front, the chief investment officer at Front Barnett Associates said: 

“At some point, people are going to get burned. People want to take their companies public because they don’t know what the next years hold, and there are people who think we’re close to the end of the cycle. If you’re an investment banker, what do you do? You keep dancing until the music stops.”

Back in October, bankers had suggested a $120 billion valuation for Uber, whose market cap now sits at half of that. Lyft's market cap has also fallen by a third since its IPO, the timing of which "serves to further stoke the suspicions of those Wall Street observers who see a plot to transfer a private-market bubble into public hands."



Credit markets have also reversed much of their late 2018 carnage, allowing for companies to pick up the pace of borrowing. Junk bond issuance is ahead of last year‘s pace and last week alone saw $12 billion priced - the busiest the market has been in 20 months. And good old investment grade issuances are also gaining steam, despite being down from a year ago. Back to back offerings this month from Bristol-Myers Squibb and IBM were each around $20 billion.

Private equity is also taking advantage of the market conditions to cut risk and realize gains. They have taken the opportunity to saddle companies they’ve invested in with more debt in order to pay themselves dividends. Leveraged loans for distributions to equity holders has reached its highest point in six months.

Sycamore Partners, for example, pulled $1 billion out of Staples last month through a recapitalization that increased the company's interest expense by $130 million a year. Hellman & Friedman and Carlyle sold a junk bond to help pay for a $1.1 billion dividend from Pharmaceutical Product Development LLC. The bond sold was the largest of its kind since since 2017.

There have been very few instances where investors have extracted concessions from borrowers. One example, the buyout of NSO Group, found banks forced to offer debt at a steep discount to get it off their books, while ION Group dropped plans for a $250 million dividend that was going to be issued from a $2.2 billion leveraged loan sale.



And then there’s state oil giant Saudi Aramco, who borrowed $12 billion in an unprecedented sale, staging a massive comeback from a year ago when Wall Street turned a blind eye to the company after the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In early trading, the bonds fell, calling into question bank's claims that there was $100 billion worth of orders to buy the securities.

In the equity market, bankers have been working on unclogging a pipeline of IPO hopefuls. As of today, 89 offerings have raised $27.2 billion in the US, which is the fastest start for IPOs since 2014. Names like Beyond Meat and Pinterest have done well, while Uber and Lyft have been stark reminders of other flops, like Snapchat and Blue Apron.

Banks have even turned to unusual tactics to keep deals moving amid a backlog of filings for regulators as a result of the government shut down. Many recent IPOs skipped the process of price discovery and instead disclosed fixed IPO prices 20 days before the stock began trading. Seven companies set terms for IPOs while regulator offices were closed due to the government shut down. A majority of those names, including New Fortress Energy, fell below their listing prices.

But not all deals snuck through. Virgin Trains USA was withdrawn the same day it was expected to debut by bankers who had to pull the sale when they couldn’t get the $3.15 billion price tag they sought.

Front concluded:

 “People see it like this: it’s been great until now, but the window is going to shut, the door is going to close, should we do something now because the next few years are a question mark? Wall Street gets a lot of money between now and then and they’ll be able to put medals on their chest and say ‘Look how we did’ until they didn’t anymore.”

Published:5/17/2019 3:51:14 PM
[Markets] Market Extra: Bitcoin is up more than 100% in 2019 — why is no one Googling it? As the leading digital currency books fresh cycle highs by the day, it’s safe to assume that bitcoin is back after a calamitous 2018. Or is it?
Published:5/14/2019 1:06:01 PM
[Markets] George Soros & The 'Business' Of Illegal Immigration

Via GEFIRA,

AN INTERVIEW WITH FRANCESCA TOTOLO

Never before has a criminal phenomenon enjoyed widespread international support by governments, political parties, religious and civilian organizations, popular opinion, and never before has a sovereign state renounced to exercise control over its borders.”

These opening words by Gianandrea Gaiani are a fitting introduction to Francesca Totolo’s latest book Inferno Spa. Gaiani is no stranger to the business of illegal immigration, being an author of several books on the subject. He was interviewed by Gefira in 2017 when the Italian government was then still a center-left pro-migrants coalition. Totolo has agreed to an exclusive interview for Gefira and we recently met her in Florence, where she was presenting her new book.

Francesca Totolo is a freelance investigative journalist and collaborates with a variety of Italian and international press agencies and websites. Her investigations have been published both in Italy and abroad. We could easily call Totolo a diligent – and outspoken – journalist as her new book, which she wrote with Dante’s Inferno in mind, involves just that: solid, painstaking, diligent research and fact-checking. The result is the equivalent of an encyclopedia of who’s who in the business (Spa is the Italian acronym for joint-stock company, equivalent of the German AG) of the immigrants’ industry, an industry which moves an unending flow of human beings and money.

She has divided her book into different sections, entitling them with some of Dante’s appellatives in his Divine Comedy: first the ferrymen or Charons who deliver thousands of human beings to the other bank, then the hypocritical NGOs followed by the traitors to the country at all levels, sided by the omnipresent politically correct mainstream media and well-funded organizations of all sorts.

All these infernal characters have in the end one Master Mind, who acts like a modern and nefarious Virgil: George Soros and his mind-boggling network. Totolo is ready to point out, at the conclusion of her book, that Soros is himself an actor, albeit of the highest level, lending his face to higher “movers and shakers behind the curtains”, who have already decided that the original European population must be replaced.

GEFIRA: How long have you been working on this subject and what are your primary sources?

FT: Actually my interest was sparkled by the initial articles of Gefira (late 2016 – early 2017) that documented without a shred of doubt the smuggling of immigrants. The book is therefore the product of two years’ research. Since then I have been reviewing one by one these NGOs, their websites, and even asking them directly to disclose information, especially about their finances: needless to say I have been faced with the utmost denial, or, at best, with strictly sanitized reports which said nothing about their financial sources. What struck me about some of these NGO websites is that they put themselves above the law, with absolute certainty of impunity.

GE: What about the so-called mainstream media, the big newspapers: what about their sources when they write about this topic?

FT: Their main sources are the press releases from the NGOs themselves. Do you need to say any more than that?

GE: What – in your opinion – do all those NGOs have in common?

FT: All those international NGOs such as Avaaz, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many others have certainly one thing in common: their financial source, which is Soros. Their role has been, and continues to be, making the Italian people feel guilty if they don’t accept immigrants: legal or illegal, they must be accepted no matter what. So these NGOs, or modern Charons as I like to call them, have effectively – directly or indirectly – smuggled into Italy something like 700.000 people over the last few years. It must be understood, by all means, that something like this is a planned operation since its very beginning.

GE: Which is when, in your opinion?

FT: Let me just say that: as early as 2008 the association “carta di Roma” was founded in Rome. It can be considered the first NGO directly financed by Soros in Italy. What is the purpose of this “association of journalists”? To “promote correct information about immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers in Italy”. Doesn’t that make you inevitably think that Soros knew as early as 2008 what would happen three years later in Libya and was therefore paving the way for a “change of the paradigm”?

GE: What about the galaxy of Italian NGOs financed by Soros?

FT: I put them in my book among the traitors to their own people. One of them certainly stands out: ASGI.

GE: What is ASGI?

FT: I like to call ASGI the judiciary arm of Soros in Italy. ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione) works not only to promote new pro-immigrant legislation, but to effectively counteract – by legal means – every law-enforcing measure by the Italian government with a plethora of appeals which are a stranglehold on the judiciary system, rendering it notoriously slow. They even succeeded in passing into law the right for every newborn, regardless of his legal status, to receive an 800-euro bonus from INPS, the Italian welfare agency. They also went so far as to defend in court multiple convicted criminals preventing their deportation to their countries of origin. And, as I have found out, Italian NGOs like ASGI are part of an international network of NGOs such as ENAR.

GE: What is ENAR?

FT: ENAR stands for European Network Against Racism, comprising various NGOs and associations. A network which receives funds not just from Open Society but also from the EU and from an American NGO, the NDI (National Democratic Institute), directly financed by the US government through the notorious and omnipresent USAID agency. All these agencies contribute to creating what we could call Orwellian newspeak.

GE: What do you mean by that?

FT: The aforementioned press association “Carta di Roma” now “recommends” that any possible reference to the ethnic origin of a criminal be removed from a published article. As a journalist, you could be now facing even criminal charges for using words such as “clandestine” or “Gipsy”, and the sole mentioning of the nationality of a criminal is “highly discouraged”. All of which is the creation and enforcing of newspeak.

GE: Newspeak that has to be implemented by the press and by compliant politicians devoted to the cause. Which Italian politicians do you name in your book?

FT: I could not start this list without naming Emma Bonino. She can be considered by all means Soros’s right-hand agent in Italy. She has founded “Più Europa” (more Europe), a party which receives direct funding from Open Society. It speaks volumes.

GE: What about former prime ministers such as Matteo Renzi?

FT: While conducting research with Luca Donadel, another investigative journalist, I made an interesting discovery of a 2015 secret deal that Renzi in his capacity as PM of the Italian government made with Ireland and Malta, and which was prolonged by his successor Gentiloni. It lasted, for what we have been able to find out, at least until 2017. It was called operation Pontus.

GE: Pontus reminds us vaguely of a bridge, doesn’t it?

FT: A bridge operated by the Irish Navy with at least six different military ships and most likely paid – unknowingly – by the Italian taxpayers! This discovery can be dated back to the summer of 2017 when, together with Donadel, I noticed an Irish military vessel that was calling on a regular basis at Sicilian ports. What made us suspicious of all this was the fact that the Republic of Ireland was at that time no part of Operation Frontex, the Italian coordinated EU SAR (Search and Rescue) task force. This activity was not mentioned at all by the Italian press altogether. The Irish did, however, provide an answer to our enquiries, without any reluctance.

GE: And the answer was?

FT: That the Irish Navy was indeed engaged in SAR operations under a bilateral agreement with the Italian government signed in May 2015, then renewed in 2016 and 2017. The official statement released by the Irish Department of Defence made clear that the Irish Navy was operating in strict collaboration with the Italian authorities. Then suddenly the Irish became tight-lipped: they stopped answering my inquiries about the financing of this somewhat secret operation. Why this sudden reticence? My guess is that Renzi and Gentiloni had their own SAR operation financed by the unaware Italian taxpayers, and the Irish felt uneasy about disclosing what was really going on. It later turned out that this was not the only secret operation conducted by the Italian government.

GE: What else was going on?

FT: In July 2018 the leader of the opposition to the Maltese government, Arian Delia, revealed the existence of a secret deal dating back to 2014 between Renzi and Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat. Delia mentioned nothing less than a contract between the two: Malta would grant Italy oil exploitation rights in Maltese waters in exchange for not allowing SAR vessels to unload immigrants in Maltese ports.

GE: Any comments on this from the two governments?

FT: None so far.

GE: What about other Soros-friendly Italian politicians worth mentioning?

FT: Emma Bonino with her decades-long friendship with Soros actually opens quite a long list. There are at least fourteen Italian members of the European parliament classified as Open Society’s “reliable allies”. This was made public by hackers who rummaged Open Society’s server. Then Soros can always count on “old buddies” in Italian politics such as Romano Prodi, who in 1995 went so far as having the University of Bologna confer an honorary degree in Economic Sciences on Soros, a man who had pocketed only 3 years earlier an equivalent of today’s 8 billion euro speculating against the Italian lira! In the following – 1996 – year Prodi became prime minister and in 1999 president of the EU commission. But, of course, these are just mere coincidences.

GE: Last but not least. May we have your opinion on the current events in Libya and their potential danger for a new wave of migrants to Europe via Italian shores?

FT: What should make every Italian worry about the situation in Libya is that it resembles dramatically that of 2011: a divided Italian government unable to make any real mark on the international scene, a variety of countries always ready to maneuver against Italy for their own national interests.

GE: Who stands out among these countries?

FT: France, no doubt. France is certainly not willing to lose any of her economic interests it has in Libya. France effectively removed Qaddafi in a joint operation with the US in 2011, which led to the complete destabilization of the country and the consequent biblical mass migration of sub-Saharan Africans. It may happen again if Libya is thrown into a full-scale civil war. There are unconfirmed reports of numbers such as 800.000 people ready to get on the move toward Europe. I have reports that the same obsequious NGOs which I mentioned in the book are pressuring for the opening of “humanitarian corridors” to Europe treating any immigrant as a “refugee”. The situation is indeed volatile and we must hope that the current Italian government will remain steady on its course of keeping the ports closed.

GE: As always, there are plenty of sharks out there ready to make their best fishing in murky waters.

FT: Indeed.

Published:5/12/2019 8:23:03 AM
[Markets] The EU Is "The Embodiment Of Bureaucratic Hubris"

Authored by Markus Krall and Claudio Grass via The Mises Institute,

When it comes to identifying and evaluating the key vulnerabilities and inherent risks of the banking and financial system, there are few who have the insights and practical experience that is required to truly understand the scale of the issue and its investing implications. This is precisely why I turned to Dr. Markus Krall, who graciously agreed to share his thoughts and observations, as well as his outlook on the future of the financial system and the economy.

Dr. Markus Krall, managing director of the consulting firm goetzpartners, has worked in the financial industry for over 25 years. Over the span of his successful career, he has amassed extensive global experience working with leading international corporations, regulatory bodies, governments and supranational institutions, from a consulting as well as from a line role perspective, mainly in banking, primary insurance and reinsurance, and regulatory affairs.

He is also the author of two bestselling books on economics, monetary policy and geopolitics: “The Draghi-Crash” and “When Black Swans Multiply”. Additionally, he is a regular columnist for several of Germany’s leading print and online publications where he focuses on monetary policy and European affairs. Finally, as a knight of the papal order of the Holy Sepulchre, he is engaged in humanitarian work and foundations in the Middle East.

CG: You weren’t always as opposed to the current financial system, to the modus operandi of central banks or to the idea of a common currency in Europe as you are today. Why did you decide to seek ideas beyond the “received economic wisdom” and what made you change your mind?

MK: Yes, that is correct.

When the Euro was introduced and for a number of years, I did not perceive the common currency to be the problem and time bomb it later turned out to be. When the Euro was introduced in 1999, I mainly perceived it as an opportunity to reduce the transaction costs of intra-European trade and therefore a good thing. My awareness of the inescapable tensions a fixed exchange rate regime would introduce to a severely suboptimal currency area, which the Eurozone resembles, was underdeveloped to put it mildly. Also, back in the 90’s, I did view the EU and the integration it was driving as a force of free trade and thus believed it to be a good thing.

Two main developments changed my mind on this matter:

The EU retreated from the ideas of free trade, free markets, and competition and turned its attention, resources and intentions towards developing a bureaucratic, regulatory, planning economy approach which gave more and more economic decisions to bureaucrats, regulators and advocates of redistribution and forced equalization.

Today’s EU is the embodiment of bureaucratic hubris.

The second element was the mind-boggling mishandling of the Euro-crisis, as it was born out of the global financial crisis which laid bare the intrinsic tensions, weaknesses and governance deficits of the Eurozone. The answers presented in the face of the crisis were not an improvement on these deficits. They rather aggravated and deepened them. Instead of addressing the governance issues and adverse incentives, the answer of European politicians was to plaster over the problems with solutions buying time at the expense of long-term stability and reduction of imbalances. For them, economics seems to be the science of money pots, not of incentives and scarcities.

As it turned out, the promises on paper, specifically with regards to the Maastricht treaty did not pass the test of the crisis. The politicians running the show were effectively seeking quick fixes and sent the treaty and the rule of law wholesale overboard. But without the rule of law, any government degenerates into a band of robbers as the doctor of the Church Augustinus of Hippo observed already almost two millennia ago.

CG: When we met a few weeks ago, we talked about your professional background and especially the fact that you used to develop risk models for the banking system. Do you believe that this is why the central planners might be getting worried by your analysis and can you elaborate on your work and relevant conclusions?

MK: Well, it likely does have an influence on the credibility of my argument. 80% of banks in Germany use internal credit risk rating systems developed in projects I have managed and organized. In Austria the situation looks similar and in some other countries too. It is difficult to dismiss the warnings on systemic and credit risks if the person voicing them can point to a certain experience and “market share” regarding tools measuring those risks. But the critical point is about the argument. Understanding these tools also highlights the limits and weaknesses of our risk measurement and management infrastructure. And the silent contamination of the banks’ credit books has a lot to do with those limits.

The financial ratings built in the late 90’s and early 2000s were developed under the conditions of positive interest rates. They were not constructed to work in a system where the central bank artificially manipulates the interest rates down to the zero-line along the complete band of maturities and even into negative territory between overnight money and 5-year bonds, sometimes even longer maturity paper.

The key performance indicators inside the rating tools are distorted and blinded by this. They lose discriminatory power with regard to separating good credit from bad credit. The 12-year trend of falling defaults has seduced the banks and the regulators into thinking this is the new normal, instead of using their brains to understand that it is the result of a hidden subsidy for inefficient and unproductive companies called zero cost of capital. The government is pushing the banks in the same direction because it allows them to release credit risk reserves and thus show profits where in truth there are none. The tax collector, of course, is all in favor of this kind of creative accounting because those hot air profits produce tax revenues.

So, yes. Nobody likes to hear the message, but given my professional background, it is not so easy to dismiss.

CG: After a decade of loose money and central bank excesses, what were the consequences of these policies and what are your expectations for the markets and for the global economy at large in the next two years?

MK: There are several adverse effects on the consequences of which will cause us considerable pain in the next years.

Firstly, the artificially low-interest rates have depressed the number of defaults. Companies which should have been sent into bankruptcy have been kept alive by the subsidy of zero interest rates. They now make up around 15% of all companies in Europe. These are zombie companies: dead, but walking and they have been the recipients of large sums of loans which are zombie loans. They will sooner or later fall in a big wave of defaults. Banks are not prepared to absorb this shock.

Secondly, the flat yield curve has eroded the business model of commercial banking by destroying the interest margins on savings and maturity transformation. The escape route to hand out more credit has only depressed the credit margins too and accelerated the accumulation of bad credit in the form of the above-mentioned zombie-loans. Various accounting tricks have been used to hide this for years, but the reserves covering the growing gap are now largely consumed and the problem bubbles to the surface.

Thirdly, the accumulation of zombie companies is a drag on the economy’s productivity growth which itself is the only source of long-term growth. No demand stimulus can replace that. The resulting slowdown of productivity growth translates into overall anemic growth rates for Europe’s economy. Thus, we cannot grow out of our debt problem, but are dragged into the swamp by the cure we try to apply.

A longer version of this interview was originally posted at ClaudioGrass.ch.

Published:5/12/2019 6:21:02 AM
[Books] CRB: Giving up Darwin (Scott Johnson) We conclude our week-long preview of the new (Spring) issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here) this morning. I stretched our preview to from three days to five in part because of my indecision, in part because of my desire to give readers a glimpse of the many highlights on display in this issue. I think we have a good thing going. We conclude with a highlight of Published:5/10/2019 7:07:20 AM
[Markets] Global Stocks Rally Despite Trump Tariff Decision as Talks With China Continue Global stocks rebound despite the U.S. increasing tariffs on China-made goods as investors hope a narrow window in application will pave the way for a trade deal. Tariffs increased to 25% from 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, but wont' apply to goods already in transit, leaving a two week window during which Washington and Beijing can continue to negotiate. China stocks surge in a late-session rally, Asia books solid gains and Europe opens stronger on the trade optimism. Published:5/10/2019 3:08:57 AM
[Books] CRB: Tucker’s right (Scott Johnson) So far this week we have previewed three stellar review/essays from the new (Spring) issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here). It is an invaluable magazine for those of us who love penetrating essays on, and reviews of books about, politics, history, literature and culture. We continue this morning with Michael Anton’s review of Tucker Carlson’s book Ship of Fools. Tucker has a book? Well, yes, he does. Published:5/9/2019 6:30:36 AM
[Markets] Quantifying The Economic Effect Of Royal Babies

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, welcomed their first child to the world this week.

While you may have little to no interest in this, there are at least some substantial benefits to the UK economy when a royal baby is born.

Prince George's birth, for example, is estimated to have brought in £240 million from spending related to celebrations, souvenirs and books etc. Take a look at our infogaphic to learn more about the economic effect of royal babies.

This infographic was researched and designed by Statista Content and Information Design.

Infographic: The economic effect of royal babies | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Published:5/9/2019 2:02:09 AM
[Markets] D Is For A Dictatorship Disguised As A Democracy

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.”

- Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

Played out on the national stage and eagerly broadcast to a captive audience by media sponsors, this farcical exercise in political theater can, at times, seem riveting, life-changing and suspenseful, even for those who know better.

Week after week, the script changes (Donald Trump’s Tweets, Congress’ hearings on Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the military’s endless war drums, the ever-widening field of candidates for the 2020 presidential race, etc.) with each new script following on the heels of the last, never any let-up, never any relief from the constant melodrama.

The players come and go, the protagonists and antagonists trade places, and the audience members are quick to forget past mistakes and move on to the next spectacle.

All the while, a different kind of drama is unfolding in the dark backstage, hidden from view by the heavy curtain, the elaborate stage sets, colored lights and parading actors.

Such that it is, the realm of political theater with all of its drama, vitriol and scripted theatrics is what passes for “transparent” government today, with elected officials, entrusted to act in the best interests of their constituents, routinely performing for their audiences and playing up to the cameras, while doing very little to move the country forward.

Yet behind the footlights, those who really run the show are putting into place policies which erode our freedoms and undermine our attempts at contributing to the workings of our government, leaving us none the wiser and bereft of any opportunity to voice our discontent or engage in any kind of discourse until it’s too late.

It’s the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

Indeed, while mainstream America has been fixated on the drama-filled reality show being televised from the White House, the American Police State has moved steadily forward.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

None of these dangers have dissipated.

They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

The new boss has proven to be the same as the old boss, and the American people, the permanent underclass in America, has allowed itself to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss—the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

In the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer to spell out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one is talking about anymore.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the cop culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property.

D is for DRONES. It is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

E is for ELECTRONIC CONCENTRATION CAMP. In the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents and all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.

F is for FASCISM. A study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere economic units.

G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” will monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance.

J is for JAILING FOR PROFIT. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by private corporations, this profit-driven form of mass punishment has given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep their privately run prisons full by jailing large numbers of Americans for inane crimes.

K is for KENTUCKY V. KING. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can break into homes, without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home as long as they think they have a reason to do so. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by law enforcement officials.

L is for LICENSE PLATE READERS, which enable law enforcement and private agencies to track the whereabouts of vehicles, and their occupants, all across the country. This data collected on tens of thousands of innocent people is also being shared between police agencies, as well as with fusion centers and private companies. This puts Big Brother in the driver’s seat.

M is for MAIN CORE. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has acquired and maintained, without warrant or court order, a database of names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation. As Salon reports, this database, reportedly dubbed “Main Core,” is to be used by the Army and FEMA in times of national emergency or under martial law to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security. As of 2008, there were some 8 million Americans in the Main Core database.

N is for NO-KNOCK RAIDS. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for routine police matters. In fact, more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually possession of some small amount of drugs.

O is for OVERCRIMINALIZATION and OVERREGULATION. Thanks to an overabundance of 4500-plus federal crimes and 400,000 plus rules and regulations, it’s estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. As a result of this overcriminalization, we’re seeing an uptick in Americans being arrested and jailed for such absurd “violations” as letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, growing vegetables in their yard, and holding Bible studies in their living room.

P is for PATHOCRACY and PRECRIME. When our own government treats us as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, mistreated, and then jailed in profit-driven private prisons if we dare step out of line, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.” Couple that with the government’s burgeoning precrime programs, which will use fusion centers, 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 order to identify and deter so-called potential “extremists,” dissidents or rabble-rousers. Bear in mind that anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is now viewed as an extremist.

Q is for QUALIFIED IMMUNITY. Qualified immunity allows officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

R is for ROADSIDE STRIP SEARCHES and BLOOD DRAWS. The courts have increasingly erred on the side of giving government officials—especially the police—vast discretion in carrying out strip searches, blood draws and even anal probes for a broad range of violations, no matter how minor the offense. In the past, strip searches were resorted to only in exceptional circumstances where police were confident that a serious crime was in progress. In recent years, however, strip searches have become routine operating procedures in which everyone is rendered a suspect and, as such, is subjected to treatment once reserved for only the most serious of criminals.

S is for the SURVEILLANCE STATE. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, 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 the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

T is for TASERS. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like have been used by police as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint—even against women and children—and in some instances, even causing death. These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. A Taser Shockwave, for instance, can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button.

U is for UNARMED CITIZENS SHOT BY POLICE. No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, often attributed to a fear for their safety. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection.

V is for VIPR SQUADS. So-called “soft target” security inspections, carried out by roving VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams, are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat.

W is for WHOLE-BODY SCANNERS. Using either x-ray radiation or radio waves, scanning devices and government mobile units are being used not only to “see” through your clothes but to spy on you within the privacy of your home. While these mobile scanners are being sold to the American public as necessary security and safety measures, we can ill afford to forget that such systems are rife with the potential for abuse, not only by government bureaucrats but by the technicians employed to operate them.

X is for X-KEYSCORE, one of the many spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency that targets every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. This top-secret program “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Y is for YOU-NESS. Using your face, mannerisms, social media and “you-ness” against you, you can now be tracked based on what you buy, where you go, what you do in public, and how you do what you do. Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country.

Z is for ZERO TOLERANCE. We have moved into a new paradigm in which young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, often for engaging in little more than childish behavior. In some jurisdictions, students have also been penalized under school zero tolerance policies for such inane "crimes" as carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick, bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the post-9/11 America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age.

You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same: tyranny.

Published:5/8/2019 11:01:41 PM
[Markets] How The American Culture Of Convenience Is Killing Us

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

In the United States, we are lucky to have massive convenience at our fingertips. I was talking to one of the instructors for the urban survival course, who is from Sweden, on a car ride. He was blown away by some of the things I told him about the levels of convenience and comfort in the United States. Things I completely took for granted don’t even exist there. I thought some of you might be interested in hearing about some of the insights we discussed.

Before I left for the course, I was walking my dogs a mile or two every day with my dogs, but that was about it. I thought it was enough but I learned during the field exercises that it wasn’t even close to the physicality required during an SHTF situation. But I digress. Let’s get back to convenience.

A caveat before people respond indignantly and tell me about all the inconvenience with which they deal every day: this is an opinion piece. Obviously many people in America still work out hard and have manual jobs. But when two-thirds of American adults and 30% of American children are overweight or obese, you have to see that you are not in the majority.

And it’s the majority here that I’m discussing. Between a combination of low-quality food and extremely sedentary lifestyles, the majority are killing themselves with convenience.

The American Culture of Convenience

The first thing that struck me when I landed in the Balkans was how different their lifestyle is from ours in the United States. But the longer I’ve been here, the more obvious it has become.

In the United States, depending on where you live, everything is dropped in your lap.

Food can be quickly acquired by shouting your order into a microphone and driving around a building, all without you having to leave your car. And if you live in a larger town or city, with the advent of services like GrubHub and DoorDash, the food delivered to your home is no longer the domain of pizza chains. You can have your choice of practically any restaurant in town brought right to your door within 45 minutes.

But it isn’t just about food. Instacart offers pick-up services from a wide variety of stores, including places like chain grocers, Wal-Mart, and Target. All you have to do is drive up, let them know by phone that you’ve arrived, and pop your trunk. Poof. Your shopping is done. In some cities, you can even use services like Instacart to have these things brought to your door.

Amazon has brought us practically anything else we could want with two-day shipping, regardless of where you live in the country. Gone are the days of scouring half a dozen stores to locate the whatchamacallit you needed. A quick search on Amazon and One-Click ordering and it’s yours within 48 hours and you never moved off your comfy chair.

If you need to go somewhere you don’t even have to drive yourself or take public transit. Uber or Lyft will happily send somebody to pick you up and drive you anywhere you need to go for a reasonable price, and you can watch the approach of your driver from the convenience of your phone.

Entire billion dollar industries are evolving to make our lives more convenient and easy every single day. Imagine how stunned our hunter-gatherer ancestors would be to discover we don’t even have to leave the house to be clothed and fed in epic abundance.

We don’t walk much, either.

And speaking of drive-thrus and driving to the store to get your Instacart packages, we drive everywhere. Part of this is because of the way suburbia is developed. It’s rare to live in a neighborhood where you can walk to the market, the bakery, and the wine store. So instead of walking to get our goods, we drive there, dash in, and get back in our cars. Those in big cities probably walk far more than those in suburbia, and for those in the country, it depends if they actually have a place to walk and whether they’re taking care of a large property.

And if we’re not walking to run our errands, we’re not carrying stuff. We get as close as possible with our cars if heavy groceries need to be lugged in and we carry as little as we can if we’re heading somewhere. When you walk the dogs, you might take your phone and some poop bags but you’re generally not taking it as a training opportunity and strapping on a pack.

Then there are the stairs.

Even two-story buildings in the United States have elevators much of the time because everything, by law, has to be easily accessible to every person. (And no, I’m not saying that people in wheelchairs need to try to haul themselves up the stairs. I’m discussing a trend.) But it goes even further than that. Adding elevators to your home is a growing trend in both the United States and Canada. New home builders are including elevators in the original design of some homes.

On the other hand, in Europe, they don’t have elevators in many buildings with fewer than five floors. I walked up and down more stairs in the past month than I have in the past year at home combined, and I live in a three-story house.

And the list of conveniences that would blow the minds of people I met in the Balkans goes on.

It’s an agoraphobic’s paradise in the United States.

You can get all sorts of mobile services that come to your door – everything from hairstyling to dog grooming. Other people mow our lawns, clean our homes, service our vehicles, and take care of us in general. There are even people who hire others to walk their dogs. Some people definitely need help with physical tasks but able-bodied people should be able to do a little yard work, shouldn’t we? Especially if we’re preparing for some kind of apocalypse.

In many areas, things are perfectly level, the sidewalks are carefully maintained (because who wants to ask for trouble in our litigious society), and a slight incline is considered a “hill” that people avoid to make their dog walk a little easier.

You can get meal kits brought to your door with every single ingredient you need to make a gourmet meal, right down to the seasonings accurately doled out in little packages. You can have fresh fruits and vegetables dropped off at your door by your local CSA. You can get subscription services of all types with the delivery of things like cosmetics, fitness gear, food from exotic locales, wine, candy, home decor items, socks, and dog paraphernalia.

Looking at it from the perspective of the area where I’ve been spending time, it’s simply mind-boggling that all of these riches are brought to you at the click of a button.

And it’s killing us.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the obesity rate in the United States is staggering. A lot of it is our food. Thanks to subsidization by the USDA, many of the foods that are cheap are highly processed with low-quality ingredients. The NY Times reports:

At a time when almost three-quarters of the country is overweight or obese, it comes as no surprise that junk foods are the largest source of calories in the American diet. Topping the list are grain-based desserts like cookies, doughnuts and granola bars. (Yes, granola bars are dessert.)

That’s according to data from the federal government, which says that breads, sugary drinks, pizza, pasta dishes and “dairy desserts” like ice cream are also among Americans’ top 10 sources of calories.

What do these foods have in common? They are largely the products of seven crops and farm foods — corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk and meat — that are heavily subsidized by the federal government, ensuring that junk foods are cheap and plentiful, experts say.

Between 1995 and 2010, the government doled out $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to finance the production of these foods, the latter two in part through subsidies on feed grains. While many of these foods are not inherently unhealthy, only a small percentage of them are eaten as is. Most are used as feed for livestock, turned into biofuels or converted to cheap products and additives like corn sweeteners, industrial oils, processed meats and refined carbohydrates. (source)

And even when we try to clean up our diets, foods are genetically modified, produce is doused in pesticides, and it’s packaged in all sorts of hormone-disrupting material that leaches in when you heat it up.

But it’s not just the crappy food. A lot of folks in the United States just do not get off their butts. And – I hate to say it – but I’m talking to a lot of people in the survival and preparedness world. Sitting at a keyboard or phone typing all day while Netflix plays in the background is sedentary to a deadly degree. On average Americans sit for 8.2 hours per day and this does not include the average 7-ish hours a day we’re sleeping. And when we’re not sitting, it doesn’t mean we’re doing things that are good for us. We spend a great deal of time standing in line and driving in our cars. And the trend toward inactivity is only increasing.

Meanwhile, obesity contributes to many diseases such as:

  • High blood glucose (sugar) or diabetes.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension).

  • High blood cholesterol and triglycerides (dyslipidemia, or high blood fats).

  • Heart attacks due to coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.

  • Bone and joint problems, more weight puts pressure on the bones and joints. This can lead to osteoarthritis, a disease that causes joint pain and stiffness.

  • Stopping breathing during sleep (sleep apnea). This can cause daytime fatigue or sleepiness, poor attention, and problems at work.

  • Gallstones and liver problems.

  • Some cancers.

The National Institute of Health is incredibly concerned about the future of overweight, sedentary Americans.

More recent evidence points to differential roles for body fat distribution patterns, in addition to excess overall adiposity, in elevating risk of many major chronic diseases. The large numbers of children entering adulthood overweight, together with increased weight gain in adulthood, portend an enormous burden in terms of human suffering, lost productivity, and health care expenditure in the coming decades. (source)

And – since it’s the purview of this website – imagine if the SHTF and you were too overweight and sedentary to go out and acquire the supplies you need to survive. Imagine what will happen when your medication runs out and you have a preventable disease brought on by your sedentary lifestyle. Imagine how your family will feel watching you suffer.

You need to add more movement to your life.

Unless you are among the 23% of Americans who meet the national exercise guidelines, you need to add more movement to your life. I suspect that there are a lot of people who believe they are disabled because getting started on a movement program is hard. It really does hurt, I know. But there’s a very good chance as you begin to move more it will become far easier. Don’t give in to it if your doctor says, “Oh, you’re disabled” and hands you a sticker for your car unless you really, truly are. If there’s even a glimmer of doubt in your mind, try to move just a few more steps each day. Instead of using the scooter to shop, push a cart to give yourself something to lean on. You aren’t training for a marathon – 10 extra steps a day will add up if you keep on pushing. But, MOVE.

The best way to increase movement is to decrease convenience. I don’t mean that you need to suddenly become a hunter-gatherer but you need to get off your duff. (To get started, check out this article or Bug Out Boot Camp and of course, always contact your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Blah, blah, blah.)

You need to carry heavy things instead of getting them delivered. You need to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator. You need to actually go inside the store to do your shopping instead of sitting in your car, waiting for stuff to get loaded into your trunk. Park at the back of the parking lot, or better yet, at a store further away. Quit ordering from Amazon and buy things locally so you can walk around the store. Look for the hills and walk up and down them instead of avoiding them. If you want to eat restaurant food, go to the dad-gum restaurant. Find a place to walk to every day – maybe the post office, a coffee shop, or the dog park – and make it part of your routine.

It’s not unusual in other parts of the world to walk 8, 10, or even more miles, every single day. You don’t need to start there but maybe you should strive to get there. Once you’re in your groove, it should only take an hour or so to walk a mile. Using your feet as transportation is one of the healthiest things you can do.

Don’t be a casualty of the culture of convenience.

Published:5/8/2019 9:27:57 PM
[World] BOOK REVIEW: "White' By Bret Easton Ellis

WHITE

By Bret Easton Ellis

Knopf, $25.95, 272 pages

If there is something to be said about reading books for cultural awareness, then perhaps there is something to be said about Bret Easton Ellis' first non-fiction work, "White." Much like reading Tom Wolfe or Norman Mailer — fine writers each ... Published:5/8/2019 7:59:42 PM

[Entertainment] Kim Kardashian Explains How She Pleaded Alice Johnson's Case Over a Home-Cooked Meal on KUWTK Kim Kardashian, KUWTK 1606A dinner party for the books! In this clip from Sunday's new Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Alice Johnson brings a few family members with her to Kendall Jenner's house, where...
Published:5/8/2019 12:57:25 PM
[Free Speech] Not just another Google mistake (Scott Johnson) All this week we are featuring outstanding reviews and essays from the flagship publication of the Claremont Institute, the Claremont Review of Books. We are featuring one such essay in the adjacent post. It is one of the best magazines in the United States. I should probably add that I am a proud fellow of the Claremont Institute, in my case a purely honorific designation that I occasionally used with Published:5/8/2019 7:25:12 AM
[Europe] CRB: Hungary and the future of Europe (Scott Johnson) In the third installment of our preview of the new (Spring) issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here), Christopher Caldwell takes up Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. We have featured Caldwell’s several CRB essays on the Muslim immigration that is transforming Europe. As the author of the 2009 book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, he knows what he is talking about. His Published:5/8/2019 6:42:11 AM
[Markets] Nuclear War Vs. Belt And Road Initiative: Why China Will Prevail

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The global trend in international relations is often difficult to discern. But one can be helped in this task by looking at two events, organized in Washington and Beijing, comparing the different themes, participants, objectives, and broached for discussion. After all, we are talking about the two largest economies in the world, two colossi directing and shaping global culture, behavior and world opinion.

The last few weeks have offered the international community an opportunity to reflect. Two events took place in Washington and Beijing that, in terms of impact, depth, participation and issues discussed, are striking contrasts.

In Beijing at the Belt and Road Forum over 40 world leaders discussed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project that will transform the entire Eurasian continent, improving free trade between dozens of countries by investing in transport infrastructure as well as in energy and technological cooperation. The leader of this silent industrial revolution is China’s Xi Jinping, casting ancient ambitions and perspectives into the new millennium, anxious to once again acquire the leading role in global civilization.

The BRI is a gigantic project that will continue to expand in the years to come and at the rate the current technology allows, while of course remaining cognizant of the needs of the countries involved in the Chinese project. The numbers of participants at Beijing’s BRI event are astonishing, with more than 5,000 delegates, 37 heads of state (including that of G7 member Italy), and 10 of the most important members of ASEAN. A hundred and twenty-five countries have signed intentions to cooperate grand project, and 30 organizations have ratified 170 agreements that total a projected investment by the People’s Bank of China of over 1.3 trillion dollars from 2013 to 2027. This is what Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley’s Chief China Economist said:

“China’s investment in B&R countries will increase by 14% annually over the next two years, and the total investment amount could double to $1.2-1.3 trillion by 2027.”

It is a revolutionary project that will characterize the next few decades if not centuries. It will offer a stark contrast to the American drive for hegemonic domination by demonstrating the capacity of humanity to overcome conflicts and wars through cooperation and shared prosperity.

Washington is left demanding loyalty in exchange for nothing (but with Donald Trump, even this little is uncertain). Unable to inflict damage on Russia and China, the US focuses on pressuring her European allies through a trade war of duties, tariffs, technological bans ( Huawei’s 5G) and sanctions (against Iran and European banks) in order to favor US companies.

Reflecting the moral of Aesop’s fable “The North Wind and the Sun”, Beijing behaves in the opposite manner, offering in the BRI project win-win cooperation and the benefits that accrue from this. The project tends to improve people’s living standards through the huge loans extended to improve such basic infrastructure as railways, schools, roads, aqueducts, bridges, ports, internet connectivity and hospitals. Beijing aims to create a sustainable system whereby dozens of countries cooperate with each other for the collective benefit of their people.

The Eurasian continent has struggled over the last few decades to attain the same level of wealth as the West as a result of wars of aggression and economic terrorism committed by countries in search of a utopian global hegemony.

The Chinese initiative aims to offer to all the countries involved equal opportunities for development based not on military and/or economic power but on a real capacity to improve the well-being of all parties involved.

As Asia Times explained in an excellent article on Beijing’s most recent BRI forum:

“BRI is now supported by no less than 126 states and territories, plus a host of international organizations. This is the new, truthful, realistic face of the “international community” – bigger, more diversified and more representative than the G20.”

This Chinese initiative could have only taken place in a post-unipolar world with multiple centers of power. Washington is perfectly aware of the changes that have occurred over the last 10 years, and the accompanying change in attitude of policy makers can be seen in the drafting of two documents that are fundamental for every US administration, namely, the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the National Defense Strategy (NDS).

These two documents explain how the United States sees the world and what it intends to do to fight the emerging multipolar world order. Compared to Obama and his administration, Trump, Bolton and Pompeo are more anchored to the current reality, understanding well that Russia and China are their equal militarily. Obama, of course, infamously dismissed Russia as a regional power no more than five years ago.

Trump cannot afford a conflict with Venezuela, Iran or North Korea, whether militarily or politically. In the case of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil do not seem too keen on sacrificing themselves on behalf of Washington; and there are no jihadists to arm and launch against defenseless civilians as happened in the Middle East, so there is no force in the field capable of defeating a strongly patriotic nation dedicated to resisting US imperialism. Attacking Iran would result in a devastating Iranian response targeting US troops deployed in dozens of bases scattered throughout the Middle East and inflicting losses that would be too costly for Washington, making any gains made pyrrhic. As for North Korea, Kim cannot be touched thanks to nuclear deterrence.

What remains for Trump and his neocons are empty threats of war, documents declaring Russia and China as opponents to be defeated, and a great deal of war propaganda for the purposes of filling up the coffers of US arms manufacturers.

And now we come to the event organized in Washington as Beijing was busy discussing how to revolutionize three-quarters of the globe. The Brookings Institute, a think tank, organized a meeting that lasted several hours to discuss “The future of US extended deterrence“, focussing on the tools needed to deal with an attack from America’s opponents.

Anyone who has any experience with such conferences knows that it is often companies linked to the arms industry that fund such events, thereby encouraging speakers, guests and politicians to take a very hawkish line for the purposes of scaring the population into justifying an increase in arms spending.

This is exactly what happened at the event organized by Brookings, where the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense from the Trump administration, David Trachtenberg, explained to the audience how the US nuclear deterrent is now coming to the end of its life cycle after a period of 30, 40 or 50 years. The Undersecretary did not mention the overall figure that would be needed to modernize Washington’s entire nuclear triad (estimates put the figure at around a trillion dollars) and preferred instead to speak about a general increase in the defense budget of $60-70 billion dollars to begin to address the problems.

Often the numbers do not prove everything but are nevertheless useful in helping us better understand certain events. Former US President Jimmy Carter provided a useful explanation for how the Chinese came to surpass the United States:

“The US is the most warlike nation in the world, forcing other countries to adopt our American principles. How many miles of high-speed railroads do we have in this country? China has around 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of high speed rail lines while the US has wasted, I think, $3 trillion on military spending; it’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover; we’d have high-speed railroads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea or Hong Kong.”

Washington pressures its allies to join in seeking to damage Washington’s adversaries but ends up pushing allies and opponents closer together, as occurred when it walked away from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) agreement with Iran while the Europeans remained committed to it. Washington may be able to lean on European allies for the time being, but with the vast BRI project increasingly attracting the attention of Europeans, these days may be numbered, especially with the BRI project bringing the prospect of doing away with the US dollar as a reserve currency necessary for trade between countries.

Trump and his administration are acting in a multipolar context as if they are still in a unipolar one, behaving like a hegemonic superpower that does not care about the consequences of its actions, even against allies. This arrogant attitude will come back to bite the United States, not only undermining its economy but also the viability of the US dollar remaining as the global reserve currency.

By Trump behaving like a bull in a china shop, friends and enemies alike are forced to seek ways to counterbalance the United States economically and militarily. Of course Europe still remains subservient to the US, but other countries not in Washington’s good books seem to have understood the historical period we are going through, preferring dialogue and balancing between powers (a typical example being Erdogan’s Turkey, which is in neither camp but uses both for its own purposes) rather than an absolute declaration of loyalty to one side or the other.

China and Russia are perfectly comfortable operating in today’s fluid geopolitical environment, as this gives them the opportunity to offer countries resisting Washington’s hegemony the military and economic means to persevere and eventually prevail. It is an extremely effective strategy as it places before Washington red lines that cannot be crossed, reducing or eliminating the possibility of a new conflict (something that perhaps even Trump basically appreciates, given that this remains the last election promise that he has not yet broken).

Observing these two conferences held in Beijing and Washington within a week of each other, with their contrasting emphases, only highlights the differences between these two countries.

On one side, China seeks integration, cooperation and development for the collective benefit of almost three billion people.

On the other side, we see the US discussing the modernization of its nuclear triad, whose only contribution to humanity is its ability to wipe it out, only there to bully and intimidate those not prepared to kowtow to Washington’s diktats.

Published:5/7/2019 11:40:33 PM
[Barack Obama] CRB: True believers (Scott Johnson) We continue our preview of the new (Spring) issue of the Claremont Review of Books hot off the press. It went into the mail on Monday and is accessible online to to subscribers now. Buy an annual subscription including immediate online access here for the modest price of $19.95. If you love trustworthy essays on, and reviews of books about, politics, history, literature and culture, the CRB may be for Published:5/7/2019 7:11:09 AM
[Markets] More Alarm Bells As Banks Report Lowest Loan Demand Since Financial Crisis

The latest alarm signal that the US economy remains on collision course with a recession, and that the US consumer remains especially burdened by debt and challenged by cash flows despite the record high in the stock market, came after today's release of the latest Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS) by the Federal Reserve, which was conducted for bank lending activity during the first quarter of 2019, and which reported that while lending standards and terms for commercial and industrial loans remained largely unchanged from already generously easy levels, demand for those loans tumbled to levels not seen since the financial crisis. Even more concerning is that banks also reported weaker demand for both commercial and residential real estate loans for the second quarter in a row, echoing the softer housing data in recent months.

First, the good news: three months after we reported that banks had continued to tighten lending standards in the last few months of 2018, potentially risking a feedback loop of tighter standard and declining demand, banks managed to break the first negative trend, and lending standards for commercial and industrial (C&I) loans remained essentially unchanged over the first quarter of 2019 for both large- and medium-sized firms as well as small firms, and on net terms for large and medium-sized firms eased slightly while terms were basically unchanged for small firms.

Some more details, via Goldman, which notes that relative to the last survey which we profiled here, standards on commercial real estate (CRE) loans tightened on net over the first quarter of the year, if more modestly than last quarter:

  • 14% of banks reported tightening standards for construction and land development loans; 10% of banks reported tightening standards on loans secured by nonfarm nonresidential properties, and 8% of banks reported tightening credit standards on loans secured by multifamily residential properties.
  • Banks reported that lending standards for residential mortgage loans remained largely unchanged on net in Q1 relative to the prior quarter.
  • Banks reported that lending standards on auto loans remained largely unchanged, and about 20% of large banks tightened standards and terms for credit cards.
  • 33% of banks surveyed reportedly narrowed spreads of loan rates over the cost of funds, while 6% widened spreads. 15% on net reported easier loan covenants. Other terms, such as collateralization requirements and premiums charged on riskier loans, remained largely unchanged. Demand for loans reportedly weakened on balance.

And while the lack of further tightening in lending standards was largely unchanged from the prior quarter, despite some instances of tightening, where there was s disturbing trend continuation was in what loan officers responded described as loan demand from large and medium corporations: here, as the chart below shows, the percentage of domestic respondents (i.e., banks) reporting stronger demand for C&I loans tumbled to the lowest level since the financial crisis, which suggests that either nobody needs debt to fund growth, expansion and new projects any more (unlikely), or potential US creditors are so worried about the future and their ability to repay, they refuse to take out any loans in the current business climate.

Digging into the data, banks reported that demand for CRE loans across all categories weakened on net, and demand for construction loans reportedly declined at 27% of banks on net. Similarly, demand for auto loans was basically unchanged, while demand for credit card loans and other consumer loans was moderately weaker. Banks also reported weaker demand across all surveyed residential loan categories, including home equity lines of credit.

It goes without saying, that such a sharp decline in loan demand is not what one would expect in what the BEA would represent is an economy that is growing at a 3%+ annualized rate.

Finally, responding to special questions on C&I lending to firms exposed to developments in Asia or Europe, a "moderate net fraction of banks reported they expect the quality of loans to exposed firms to deteriorate over the remainder of 2019. As a result, banks that have taken steps to mitigate risk of loan losses from such exposures reported the tightening of lending policies on new credit to exposed firms as the most frequently used action over the past year.

* * *

Here would be a good time to remind readers that according to a Reuters investigation conducted in mid-December, when looking behind headline numbers showing healthy loan books, "problems appear to be cropping up in areas such as home-equity lines of credit, commercial real estate and credit cards" according to federal data reviewed by the wire service and interviews with bank execs.

Worse, banks are also starting to aggressively cut relationships with customers who seem too risky, which is to be expected: after all financial conditions in the real economy, if not the markets which just enjoyed the best January since 1987, are getting ever tighter as short-term rates remain sticky high and the result will be a waterfall of defaults sooner or later. Here are the all too clear signs which Reuters found that banks are starting to prepare for the next recession by slashing and/or limiting risky loan exposure:

  • First, nearly half of the applications from customers with low credit scores were rejected in the four months ending in October, compared with 43 percent in the year-ago period, according to a survey released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Second, banks shuttered 7 percent of existing accounts, particularly among subprime borrowers, the highest rate since the Fed started conducting surveys in 2013.
  • Third, home-equity lines of credit declined 8 percent across the industry, with growth slowing in areas such as credit cards and commercial-and-industrial loans, the survey showed.

Then there are the bank-specific signs, starting with Capital One - one of the biggest U.S. card lenders - which is restricting how much it lends to each customer even as it aggressively recruits new ones, CEO Richard Fairbank said last December.

We have been more cautious in the extension of credit, initial credit lines, the broad-based credit line increase programs," he said. "At this point in the cycle, we’re going to hold back on that option a bit."

Regional banks have become more cautious lately as well, as they avoid financing riskier projects like early-stage construction loans and properties without pre-lease agreements (here traders vividly recall the OZK commercial real estate repricing fiasco that sent the stock crashing). New Jersey’s OceanFirst Bank also pulled back on refinancing transactions that let customers cash out on their debt, and has started reducing exposure to industrial loans, CEO Chris Maher told Reuters.

“In a downturn, industrial property is extremely illiquid,” he said. “If you don’t want it and it’s not needed it could be almost valueless.”

What happens next?

While a recession is looking increasingly likely, especially as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with banks slashing loans resulting in even slower velocity of money, while demand for credit shrinks in response to tighter loan standards and hitting economic growth, the only question whether a recession is a 2019 or 2020 event, bankers and analysts remain optimistic that the next recession will look much more like the 2001 tech bubble bursting than the 2007-09 global financial crisis.

We wonder why they are so confident, and statements such as this one from Flagship Bank CFO Schornack will hardly instill confidence:

“I lived through the pain of the last recession. We are much more prudent today in how we underwrite deals.”

We disagree, and as evidence we present Exhibit A: the shock write down that Bank OZK took on its commercial real estate, which nobody in the market had expected. As for banks being more "solid", let's remove the $1.5 trillion buffer in excess reserves that provides an ocean of artificial liquidity, and see just how stable banks are then. After all, it is this $1.5 trillion in excess reserves that prompt Powell to capitulate and tell the markets he is willing to slowdown or even pause the Fed's balance sheet shrinkage.

Published:5/6/2019 4:02:01 PM
[Markets] The Most Powerful Woman On Wall Street Is In Talks To Become Wells Fargo's Next CEO: WSJ

Wells Fargo is reportedly in talks to hire Bridgewater Associates co-CEO Eileen Murray - one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, if not the most powerful - to take the open CEO job, according to WSJ. If the bank succeeds in recruiting Murray, it would both fulfill Charlie Munger's and Warren Buffett's urging to hire its next CEO from outside the Wall Street banking milieu, while also potentially neutralizing the bank's arch-nemesis, Elizabeth Warren, who has successfully scalped the bank's last two leaders. 

Eileen

Wells, which is still subject to a cap on its balance sheet imposed by the Fed and is still reeling from its infamous cross-selling scandal - where an 'insane incentives regime', as Munger described it during a Monday morning interview on CNBC, inspired branch managers to open millions of fraudulent accounts - as well as a string of other abuses, has been searching for a new CEO since Tim Sloan abruptly quit in March after Warren demanded he resign during a Congressional hearing.

Per WSJ, Murray has had conversations with several people inside the firm about leaving - in keeping with Bridgewater's 'radical transparency' ethos, she has been fully forthcoming - though the prospect of her departure has reportedly filled her co-CEO David McCormick with dread.

In a sign of just how exhausting Bridgewater's culture can be, WSJ reports that Murray has grown 'weary' of leading the world's largest hedge fund, and has discussed jumping ship several times in the recent past. Companies with which she has reportedly been in talks with include Uber, MetLife, BNY Mellon and Northern Trust, among others. Even Murrray, one of Bridgewater's top executives, has shared that according to the firm's internal ranking system she has scored high on creativity, but poorly on organization.

Wells is still in the early stages of its CEO search, but Murray's background would make her an ideal candidate. In addition to being a powerful woman on Wall Street, Murray boasts an inspiring rags-to-riches background, having grown up one  of nine children in a  NYC public housing project. She majored in accounting at Manhattan College before embarking on a storied Wall Street career.

Murray has increasingly taken on duties like meeting with top clients as Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio has shifted his focus to promoting his  books and - oh yeah - trying  to save the American capitalist system from itself.

Should Murray jump ship, Dalio might once again need to step in and help steer the firm on a day-to-day basis, something he was forced to do a few years back after another leadership shakeup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published:5/6/2019 11:01:40 AM
[Books] CRB: A kinder, gentler Gulag (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 Spring 2019 issue of the CRB has just been placed in the mail. The editors have Published:5/6/2019 6:31:56 AM
[Markets] Ending The Pentagon's Long Con

Authored by William Astore via TomDispatch.com,

Six Ways to Curb America’s Military Machine

Donald Trump is a con man. Think of Trump University or a juicy Trump steak or can’t-lose casinos (that never won). But as president, one crew he hasn't conned is the Pentagon. Quite the opposite, they've conned him because they've been at the game a lot longer and lie (in Trump-speak) in far biglier ways.

People condemn President Trump for his incessant lying and his con games -- and rightly so. But few Americans condemn the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state, even though we’ve been the victims of their long con for decades now. As it happens, from the beginning of the Cold War to late last night, they’ve remained remarkably skilled at exaggerating the threats the U.S. faces and, believe me, that represents the longest con of all. It’s kept the military-industrial complex humming along, thanks to countless trillions of taxpayer dollars, while attempts to focus a spotlight on that scam have been largely discredited or ignored.

One thing should have, but hasn’t, cut through all the lies: the grimly downbeat results of America’s actual wars. War by its nature tells harsh truths -- in this case, that the U.S. military is anything but “the finest fighting forcethat the world has ever known.” Why? Because of its almost unblemished record of losing, or at least never winning, the wars it engages in. Consider the disasters that make up its record from Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s to, in the twenty-first century, the Iraq War that began with the invasion of 2003 and the nearly 18-year debacle in Afghanistan -- and that’s just to start down a list. You could easily add Korea (a 70-year stalemate/truce that remains troublesome to this day), a disastrous eight-year-old intervention in Libya, a quarter century in (and out and in) Somalia, and the devastating U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen, among so many other failed interventions.

In short, the U.S. spends staggering sums annually, essentially stolen from a domestic economy and infrastructure that’s fraying at the seams, on what still passes for “defense.” The result: botched wars in distant lands that have little, if anything, to do with true defense, but which the Pentagon uses to justify yet more funding, often in the name of “rebuilding” a “depleted” military. Instead of a three-pointed pyramid scheme, you might think of this as a five-pointed Pentagon scheme, where losing only wins you ever more, abetted by lies that just grow and grow. When it comes to raising money based on false claims, this president has nothing on the Pentagon. And worse yet, like America’s wars, the Pentagon’s long con shows no sign of ending. Eat your heart out, Donald Trump!

Eternal MADness

"So many lies, so little time" is a phrase that comes to mind when I think of the 40 years I’ve spent up close and personal with the U.S. military, half on active duty as an Air Force officer. Where to begin? How about with those bomber and missile “gaps,” those alleged shortfalls vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s? They amounted to Chicken Little-style sky-is-falling hoaxes, but they brought in countless billions of dollars in military funding. In fact, the “gaps” then were all in our favor, as this country held a decisive edge in both strategic bombers and nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.

Or consider the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that served to authorize horrific attacks on Vietnam in retaliation for a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. Navy destroyers that never happened. Or think about the consistent exaggeration of Soviet weapons capabilities in the 1970s (the hype surrounding its MiG-25 Foxbat fighter jet, for example) that was used to justify a new generation of ultra-expensive American weaponry. Or the justifications for the Reagan military buildup of the 1980s -- remember the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”) or the MX ICBM and Pershing II missiles, not to speak of the neutron bomb and alarming military exercises that nearly brought us to nuclear war with the “Evil Empire” in 1983. Or think of another military miracle: the “peace dividend” that never arrived after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 and the last superpower (you know which one) was left alone on a planet of minor “rogue states.” And don’t forget that calamitous “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the name of neutralizing weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist or the endless global war on terror that still ignores the fact that 15 of the 19 September 11th terrorist hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.

And this endless long con of the Pentagon’s was all the more effective because so many of its lies were sold by self-serving politicians. Exhibit one was, of course, John F. Kennedy’s embrace of that false missile gap in winning the 1960 presidential election. Still, the Pentagon was never shy in its claims. Take the demand of the Air Force then for 10,000 -- yes, you read that right! -- new ICBMs to counter a Soviet threat that then numbered no more than a few dozen such missiles (as Daniel Ellsberg reminds us in his recent book, The Doomsday Machine).

To keep the Air Force happy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara settled on a mere 1,000 land-based Minuteman missiles to augment the 54 older Titan II ICBMs in that service’s arsenal, a figure I committed to memory as a teenager in the 1970s. And don’t forget that some of those missiles were MIRVed, meaning they had multiple nuclear warheads that could hit many targets. It all added up to the threat of what, in those years, came to be called “mutually assured destruction,” better known by its all-too-apt acronym, MAD.

And the Pentagon’s version of madness never ends. Think, for instance, of the planned three-decade $1.7 trillion “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear triad now underway, justified in the name of “overmatching” China and Russia, “near-peer” rivals in Pentagon-speak. No matter that America’s current triad of land-based, submarine-based, and air-deployed nukes already leave the arsenals of those two countries in the shade.

Reason doesn’t matter when the idea of a new cold war with those two former enemies couldn’t be more useful in justifying the through-the-ceiling $750 billion defense budget requested by President Trump for 2020. The Democrats have pushed back with a still-soaring budget of $733 billion that accepts without question the “baseline” minimum demanded by Pentagon officials, a level of spending Trump once called “crazy.” Talk about resistance being futile!

In other words, when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, the Washington establishment of both parties has essentially been assimilated into the Pentagon collective. The national security state, that (unacknowledged) fourth branch of government, has in many ways become the most powerful of all, siphoning off more than 60% of federal discretionary spending, while failing to pass a single audit of how it uses such colossal sums.

All of this is in service to what’s known as a National Defense Strategy (NDS) whose main purpose is to justify yet more prodigious Pentagon spending. As Vietnam War veteran and professor at National Defense University Gregory Foster wrote of the latest version of that document:

In the final analysis, the NDS is an unadulterated call for a new Cold War, with all its attendant appurtenances: more gluttonous defense spending to support escalatory arms races in all those ‘contested domains’ of warfare; reliance on bean-counting input measures (weapons, forces, spending) for determining comparative ‘competitiveness’; reinforcement and reaffirmation of the sacrosanct American way of war; and the reassuring comfort of superimposing an artificially simplistic Manichean worldview on the world’s inherent complexity and thereby continuing to ignore and marginalize actors, places, and circumstances that don’t coincide with our established preconceptions.”

Such a critique is largely lost on Donald Trump, a man who models himself on perceived tough guys like Andrew Jackson and Winston Churchill. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he did, at least, rail against the folly and cost of America’s wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. He said he wanted better relations with Russia. He talked about reinvesting in the United States rather than engaging in new wars. He even attacked costly weapons systems like the sky’s-the-limit $1.4 trillion Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter.

Suffice it to say that, after two-plus years of posing as commander-in-chief, strong man Trump is now essentially owned by the Pentagon. America’s wars continue unabated. U.S. troops remain in Syria and Afghanistan (despite the president’s stated desire to remove them). Relations with Russia are tense as his administration tears up the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

What to make of the president’s visible capitulation to the Pentagon? Sure, he’s playing to his conservative base, which is generally up for more spending on weaponry and war, but like so many presidents before him, he’s been conned as well. The con-man-in-chief has finally met his match: a national security state that, when you consider its record, has had far greater success at lying its way to power than Donald J. Trump.

The Biggest Lie of All

Now, let’s take a hard look at ourselves when it comes to weaponry and those wars of “ours.” Because the most significant lies aren’t the ones the president tells us, but those we tell ourselves. The biggest of all: that we can continue to send young men and women off to war without those wars ever coming home.

Think again. America’s shock-and-awe conflicts have indeed come home, big time -- with shocking and awful results. On some level, many Americans recognize this. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is now a well-known acronym. A smaller percentage of Americans know something about TBI, the traumatic brain injuries that already afflict an estimated 314,000 troops, often caused by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), another acronym it would have been better never to have to learn. Wounded Warrior projects remind us that veterans continue to suffer long after they’ve come home, with roughly 20 of them a day taking their own lives in a tragic epidemic of suicides. Meanwhile, surplus military equipment -- from automatic weapons to tank-like MRAPs -- made for the mean streets of Iraq are now deployed on Main Street, USA, by increasingly militarized police forces. Even the campus cops at Ohio State University have an MRAP!

Here, Americans would do well to ponder the words of Megan Stack, a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times who drew on her own “education in war” when she wrote: “You can overcome the things that are done to you, but you cannot escape the things that you have done.” She was undoubtedly thinking about subjects like the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, torture at the CIA’s “black sites,” cities rubblized in the Greater Middle East, and refugees produced by the tens of millions. Somehow, sooner or later, it all comes home, whether we as Americans admit it, or even realize it, or not.

“Here is the truth,” Stack notes:

“It matters, what you do at war. It matters more than you ever want to know. Because countries, like people, have collective consciences and memories and souls, and the violence we deliver in the name of our nation is pooled like sickly tar at the bottom of who we are. The soldiers who don’t die for us come home again. They bring with them the killers they became on our national behalf, and sit with their polluted memories and broken emotions in our homes and schools and temples. We may wish it were not so, but action amounts to identity. We become what we do... All of that poison seeps back into our soil.

And so indeed it has. How else to explain the way Americans have come to tolerate, even celebrate, convenient lies: that, for instance, Tomahawk missile strikes in Syria could make a feckless figure like Donald Trump presidentialor even that such missiles are beautiful, as former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams once claimed.  Imagine if leading media and political figures boasted instead of taking on the Pentagon, reining in its ambitions, and saving taxpayers trillions of dollars, as well as countless lives here and overseas.

Ending the Pentagon’s Long Con

War is the ultimate audit and, as any American should know, the Pentagon is incapable of passing an audit. Sadly, even when Congress acts to end U.S. support for a near-genocidal war that has nothing to do with any imaginable definition of national defense, in this case in Yemen, President Trump vetoes it. Remember when Candidate Trump was against dumb and wasteful wars? Not anymore. Not, at least, if it involves the Saudis.

The best course for this country, unimaginable as it might seem today, is to fight wars only as a last resort and when genuinely threatened (a sentiment that 86% of Americans agree with). In other words, the U.S. should end every conflict it’s currently engaged in, while bringing most of its troops home and downsizing its imperial deployments globally.

What’s stopping us? Mainly our own fears, our own pride, our own readiness to believe lies. So let me list six things Americans could do that would curb our military mania:

1. Our nuclear forces remain the best in the world, which is hardly something to brag about. They need to be downsized, not modernized, with the goal of eliminating them -- before they eliminate us.

2. The notion that this country is suddenly engaged in a new cold war with China and Russia needs to be tossed in the trash can of history -- and fast.

3. From its first days, the war on terror has been the definition of a forever war. Isn’t it finally time to end that series of conflicts? International terrorism is a threat best met by the determined efforts of international police and intelligence agencies.

4. It's finally time to stop believing that the U.S. military is all about deterrence and democracy, when all too often it’s all about exploitation and dominance.

5. It's finally time to stop funding the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state at levels that outpace most of the other major military powers on this planet put together and instead invest such funds where they might actually count for Americans. With an appropriate change in strategy, notes defense analyst