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[] Epicurious Cooking Website No Longer Publishes Beef Recipes, Because They're "Pro-Planet" There is no end to the wokification of hobbies. Cooking, knitting, Magic the Gathering, comic books, RPGs; movies and sports -- the Nazi infiltrators take over each and every hobby and group to make sure you are never free of... Published:4/28/2021 3:33:56 PM
[Entertainment] 10 books to read in May Pam Jenoff, Michael Lewis and Mieko Kawakami have new books out next month. Published:4/27/2021 2:59:48 PM
[Right Column] Under Biden’s Socialist Green New Deal, Regulation Of Red Meat Will Happen

A new book by Marc Morano is a must-read, Green Fraud: Why the Green New Deal Is Even Worse Than You Think, and will tell you everything you need to know about the socialist green new deal.

Published:4/26/2021 3:33:17 PM
[Markets] The Fall Of Turkey, The Rise Of Bitcoin The Fall Of Turkey, The Rise Of Bitcoin

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog,

It never ceases to amaze me how tone deaf those with power are.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in serious trouble for the first time in his political career.  He’s a man staring at a massive electoral problem coming this fall.

Erdogan is currently presiding over an economy in complete freefall. With recent reports of food riots over government handouts of potatoes and onions the news only seems to be getting worse there on the eve of national elections.

Turkey is emblematic of what happens to a country systemically mismanaged because of its geopolitical importance. A man like Erdogan is able to maintain power because he’s constantly schmoozing both sides of the Bosporus to get subsidies to fuel his personal ambitions.

This is part of the reason why Turkey has the largest army in NATO while the private economy has the worst foreign capital liabilities position of any major emerging market.

And it looks like Erdogan may have finally overplayed his hand too many times in the last year.

He has made multiple major missteps on the geopolitical stage, attempting to assert Turkey as a regional powerhouse only to be thwarted at every turn by Russia.  Be it Libya, Cyprus, Syria, Azerbaijan, or Iraq Putin has outplayed Erdogan at every turn.

With each of these setbacks his gambits become more and more desperate.  And he is egged on by the U.S. and the EU to make these gambits as he hides behind the shield of Turkey’s membership in NATO.

Anyone else who wasn’t so strategically important who made this many major geopolitical and military blunders would have already been overthrown. But now it looks like he’s run his full course.

This puts him in the position of thinking he can play Russia off the U.S. to his advantage and then turn around and play the U.S. off Russia for his advantage.  In all instances he only sees the upside and never the down.

His real weakness is Turkey’s foreign currency deficit which cannot be serviced nor is there any incentive for it to resolve itself because Erdogan constantly bites the hand that feeds him.  China and Russia are more than wealthy enough to have helped Erdogan balance Turkey’s books since the U.S. first attacked him financially in 2018.

I wrote about this extensively at the time.   

But Erdogan always turns on the person who last helped him thinking he’s a bigger player than he is. 

And now with President Biden acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, one of the few things Turkey and Israel have agreed on for decades, Erdogan is being told he’s no longer needed by the U.S. Erdogan has maintained power through aggressive nationalist domestic policy. His Neo-Ottoman ambitions played well at home for nearly two decades but with the Turkish economy now hollowed out by his adventurism and mismanagement of the Lira he’s is serious trouble politically in a way he hasn’t ever been.

There’s many angles here to Biden’s Armenian Genocide move here. It’s a clear rebuke of Israel while the U.S. and Iran are in deep negotiations about bringing back the JCPOA, which have made significant progress. Remember, the WEF and Europe want the JCPOA, Israel does not. And this week’s fireworks between Iran and Israel point to a dangerous future the closer we get to its reinstatement and Iran rejoining the global economy.

This leaves Turkey with almost no friends anymore as it is clear the JCPOA is supposed to be the carrot to Iran while maximum isolation stick is transferred to Russia. This is a very high-stakes game which is as much a power play by Europe against Israel and the U.K. as it is anything else.

And that leaves Turkey with a decision to make.

Today, Turkey’s foreign debt position is only marginally better than it was in 2018 and got worse over 2020.  Deleveraging in dollar terms improved and then it got worse once the Fed went back to the zero-bound after the Coronapocalypse and Erdogan let go of control of Turkey’s Central Bank.


source: tradingeconomics.com

If you are playing a game this big and understand the rules of it at the level Erdogan does, then I cannot understand why he let the Bank of Turkey reverse course after his scathing attacks on the IMF in 2018, which, to be fair were spot on and, in my opinion, the right course of action for Turkey to free itself from the vaster powers.  

But it didn’t work out that way and the situation in Turkey today is worse than it was in 2018 because now he can no longer count on Putin and/or Xi to bail him out.  All of the major powers are now tired of him and his game and are allowing him the big fall from grace.

This is why the lira is imploding and it’s why Erdogan is trying to save himself by backing the U.S.’s play in Ukraine and announcing the banning of bitcoin for payment services in Turkey. 

I’m sure the WEF and the Biden administration are happy with him for this.

The timing of this announcement was done to stifle the latest breakout to a new high in Bitcoin and undermine the Coinbase (COIN) IPO, which was very successful especially when you remember Facebook’s IPO back in 2012.  Since then it’s been one attack after another on the crypto market as I talked about in a recent post.

And it looks like it’s finally been successful in slowing down bitcoin’s momentum. First causing a big breakout in high-quality altcoins.  DASH hit $400, Decred hit $250, Litecoin went past $300, Monero threatened $375.  ARRR $15.00, And DOGE hit a truly staggering $0.45.  

They have all since finally succumbed to the same loss of momentum which is shaping up to being a significant top, possibly now, for the rest of 2021. There’s been sufficient stabilization of the U.S. treasury market with good demand for the long-end of the yield curve, evidenced by a solid 20-year auction this week, to warrant some consolidation of 2021’s immense gains.

The important thing to remember here, isn’t that bitcoin is or even was in a bubble, but that this rotation into altcoins occurred because people no longer want to rotate back to USDs or EURs.  They want custody.

And that brings me back to the counter-move by China who threw Turkey’s banks a lifeline by announcing that China’s banks can now import gold for the first time since 2019.  

Since Turkey’s banks can hold gold as reserves, the languishing gold price has really harmed them and Turkey’s financial position.   Because if a new rally in gold starts with last week’s move up in gold prices, then watch Turkey’s foreign debt position improve as well.

It won’t quell the rampant inflation, soaring food prices and any of Turkey’s other societal problems in time for elections later this year. Turks, by the look of the current polling, are beginning to see that Erdogan doesn’t have any real answers nor does he have any friends.

If they have to swallow being the only country left to refuse to admit to their own history this will be a moment of memetic collapse for them about just how far their position has fallen thanks to Erdogan’s failed adventures and failed stewardship of their wealth.

The suppression of gold was important to try and keep a lid on institutional money moving into bitcoin. China enabling some stability in gold prices should mitigate some of the downward momentum in the crypto-space, depending on how much leverage is still out there. With the U.S. economy getting an artificial boost from all the ridiculous stimulus money flowing out from D.C. in the most unsustainable way, the Fed is under no compunction to bail out emerging markets, like Turkey, short of dollars.

Erdogan had to take steps to stem the tide against the lira. Making a public move against bitcoin was the easiest thing, and obviously done to appease his partners in the West who then stabbed him in the back less than a week later. But it won’t be enough and this move may have been the strongest signal yet of how powerful bitcoin’s ability to find weaknesses in the financial system is.

Erdogan wouldn’t have made this announcement against bitcoin and cryptos if it didn’t pose a real threat to the lira. In a world where US dollar stablecoins are paying 10+% and can be bought and sold for nearly nothing, what could a Turkish bank possibly offer Turks at this point other than an unsafe place to park their money?

Turkey is rapidly approaching a serious decision point as is Erdogan. His pride has led him to places he should have never went and having bit the hands that fed him too many times, his future along with his government’s is looking grim. Thankfully for his victims there are solutions available to protect them from him.

*  *  *

UPDATEErdogan’s goons have now gone after the 2nd bitcoin exchange in Turkey in less than a week. These are the moves of a desperate leader.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/26/2021 - 05:00
Published:4/26/2021 4:31:34 AM
[Markets] The Ignorant World And What to Do About It The Ignorant World And What to Do About It

Authored by Joakim Book via The American Institute for Economic Research,

A spectre is haunting the Western world – the spectre of a grossly mistaken understanding of the world. 

British kids have nightmares about the climate. Half of French respondents think it likely that climate change will cause “the extinction of the human race.” American teachers coddle students who have panic attacks when wildfires rage somewhere on the planet. Eco-anxiety has clearly gripped the Western world, but what’s worse is that most people have a dismal outlook on all of humanity’s progress, not just climate change. 

Because slow changes don’t get noticed, and because humans use mental shortcuts to understand the world, we end up with a grossly misinformed view of what is. The late Hans Rosling, the Swedish professor of international health that most of us know as the excited man on YouTube (the one who explains the progress of the world with bubbles and giant blocks), dedicated his life to dispelling these misperceptions. The Gapminder Foundation that now carries on his legacy writes

Our ignorance surveys have shown that the general public is misguided about many basic global facts. Reliable global statistics exist for nearly every aspect of global development, but these numbers are not transformed into popular understanding because using and teaching statistics is still too difficult.” 

Gapminder routinely asks 12 questions (sometimes with a thirteenth question on global temperatures, which most people tend to get right) about basic, uncontroversial, changes in global development – multiple-choice questions on things like demographic change, how many girls in poor countries finish primary school, and what’s happened to extreme poverty in the last twenty years. 

The results are terrible, but it’s not a question of ignorance. If people genuinely didn’t know, by chance alone they’d pick the right answer a third of the time: this is the chimpanzee threshold. Instead, the average human gets 2.2 answers right. The results for some questions, like global life expectancy (50, 60, or 70 years?), ought to scare us more than any dismal vision of climate change. Having more than doubled since 1900, the global improvements in the last forty years seem to have passed most smart people by. Of students and faculty at top universities less than one in five manage to get this right – even Nobel Laureates underperform the chimps. The worst-performing groups were Swedish trade unionists (10% got the answer right) and Norwegian teachers (7% correct). In one memorable lecture, Rosling animatedly exclaimed “What in the world are you teaching the kids?!”

In that one line lies much of the problem for our continued misinformation about the world. 

Media coverage inundates us with a constant flow of catastrophes from one part or the world or another, while overlooking the great non-events of the world. When super cyclones kill 128 people instead of the hundreds of thousands they used to or would have, we don’t even hear about them. When hundreds of thousands of people are lifted out of extreme poverty a day, every day, that’s no longer newsworthy. The result is, Gapminder notes, that “people end up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school).”

Counteracting that requires information and an updated framework for thinking about the world. To embrace the notion that things gradually get better – not worse – as we solve more problems, invent better things, and bring more people into the global marketplace. The return of such an optimist mentality (Rosling prefers ‘possibilist’) requires nothing more than accepting that “facts are better than myths – especially for understanding the world.”

Thou shalt not misinform

To say that the world is getting better is not to be complacent about its problems. It is not to be Pollyannaish about the future or believe that from here the only way is up. It’s to say that, on net and over time, the world gets better. It’s to say that progress is hard-earned; that it’s a gradual process, with deep structural and historical roots; that the small heavens we may create in our own lives combine to make the entire world slightly less bad than it was yesterday. I work for you doing what I’m good at; you work for me doing what you’re good at – and inventors and entrepreneurs halfway around the world figure out ways to do things that make both our lives better.  

This isn’t a predetermined path, and it most certainly isn’t always up. Last year was a setback in just about every way we know how to measure (mortality, life expectancy, poverty). The twentieth century saw some of humanity’s worst atrocities: world wars, genocide, autocrats. Sometimes progress pauses, and sometimes our past progress gives rise to new challenges we have yet to overcome – like the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from the coal and oil we burned for (great!) use as fuel, production, and transportation. 

While that’s a global challenge to talk seriously about with our children, we don’t have to overdo it. Imbuing them with mistaken doom-mongering helps nobody. When we do, we’re not setting up the next generation for a flourishing world, or even a factful one

Nobody told these kids that wildfires destroy less area now than they used to and forests in California burned much more before Europeans arrived. Deaths from natural disasters, those like storms, hurricanes, and floods that we usually associate with worsening climate change, are massively down over almost any time frame, even though we are many more people on the planet. Child mortality is falling everywhere around the globe, and we produce more food than we ever have. None of those trends are about to suddenly stop, reverse, and undo the progress we’ve already made. 

What is the point of studying when the world is collapsing around us?

This is a point that many schoolchildren have raised, Greta Thunberg perhaps most prominently. The world is heading for an urgent climate disaster, so why should they study for a future they won’t have? 

One reason would be to learn that the world isn’t collapsing, that things are getting better – even though the pandemic coverage and climate change alarmism seem to suggest otherwise. Disasters are quick and sudden; progress is slow and hard-won. We live longerhealthier, safer, better, and more fulfilling lives, with better access to almost anything you can imagine. So far, human ingenuity has outpaced anything that a hostile planet has thrown at us or a declinist mentality has conjured up.

In all this mess, thankfully, there’s at least one thing you can do: imbue your child not with the dangers of the world, but with the factful progress of the world. This is what Tony Morley, a fellow traveler and prominent advocate for progress, is doing: Targeted at 6-to-12-year-olds, Morley is bringing together a hundred one-page stories about the forces, the people, and the astonishing history of how humans have progressed and collectively improved our global living standards. Human Progress for Beginners tries to

“tell the dramatic history of human civilization and the jagged upward path of improved living standards in the last 250 years. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, civilization has experienced the greatest increase in living standards, prosperity, and well-being in our species’ history. […] Human Progress for Beginners will tell the untold story of progress for young readers in a bright and engaging book, the likes of which has never been attempted.”

Chapters span the innovations that rocked our world: the printing presses, steam power, and combustion engines; the history of living standards, of light, and of food; and the progress of literacy, peace, and pollution. 

“Progress forward,” Morley emphasizes, “is not progress completed,” and our world certainly has room for improvement. But that’s not reason enough to despair and invoke the doom-and-gloom zeitgeist of “civilizational decline,” “apocalypse,” or “climate emergency.” Instead, we ought to celebrate our achievements, even in the areas that many of our young people now believe are irrevocably destroyed. 

It’s a counterintuitive notion and a difficult thing to wrap one’s head around, that the world can both be better and is still in many respects bad. We do nobody any favors, least of all our children, by exaggerating one while forgetting how far we’ve come.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/26/2021 - 02:00
Published:4/26/2021 1:08:56 AM
[Middle Column] Watch: Kids TV channel Nickelodeon teaches kids to ‘learn the meaning of environmental racism’ – ‘A form of systemic racism’

Identity politics invades the climate change debate

Read Green Fraud for more on how identity politics has invaded the climate debate. 

Published:4/25/2021 2:56:57 PM
[Markets] Portland Mayor Belatedly Urges Residents To Help "Unmask" Rioters, Stops Short Of Condemning Antifa Portland Mayor Belatedly Urges Residents To Help "Unmask" Rioters, Stops Short Of Condemning Antifa

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Last year, I testified in the Senate on Antifa and the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States. I specifically disagreed with the statement of House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler that Antifa (and its involvement in violent protests) is a “myth.”  What was most striking about that hearing was the refusal of Democratic members to condemn Antifa’s activities or recognize the scope of anarchist violence even as riots raged in Portland, Oregon and other cities. Indeed, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, famously walked out of that hearing after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, challenged her to condemn Antifa and leftist violence.

Now, Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler who previously blamed former President Donald Trump and the federal government for violence is calling on citizens to stand up to the “self-described anarchist mob.”  I am not sure why Wheeler added “self-described” but his belated recognition of the threat is still welcomed. He notably did not specifically condemn Antifa, including the homegrown and notoriously violent Rose City Antifa (RCA).

Wheeler called for the city’s residents to assist authorities in their efforts to “unmask” members of the “self-described anarchist mob” who continue to riot and loot in the city. Portland is in a state of emergency and riots have continued for years. Indeed, Democratic leaders in the city appear to have finally worked through all of the “stages of grieving” identified by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

They began with denial and transference in blaming federal authorities and Trump for the violence. 

They then joined protesters in angry denunciations of the federal government is seeking an alliance.

They then bargained with the groups. (They did not go as far as cities like Seattle in allowing actual “autonomous zones” last summer, but avoided confrontations and limited police responses). Wheeler himself was criticized for failing to act against the rioting but insisted that he was trying to find a middle road of “compromise” with the groups. The riots, of course, continued and intensified.

After a period of depression when the rioting continued after the Biden election, they have finally made it to acceptance.

That progression however is not evident with other national and even state Democratic leaders. Democratic leaders continue to avoid criticizing Antifa and some like Nadler deny their very existence. This level of fear and denial is precisely what Antifa has struggled to create. As I have written, it has long been the “Keyser Söze” of the anti-free speech movement, a loosely aligned group that employs measures to avoid easy detection or association.  Yet, FBI Director Chris Wray has repeatedly pushed back on the denials of Antifa’s work or violence. He told one committee last year Wray stated “And we have quite a number — and “Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a fiction.”

Some Democratic leaders not only recognize Antifa but support it. Former Democratic National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison, now the Minnesota attorney general, once said Antifa would “strike fear in the heart” of Trump. This was after Antifa had been involved in numerous acts of violence and its website was banned in Germany. His son, Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, declared his allegiance to Antifa as riots raged in his city last summer.

Notably, one of the witnesses from the Senate hearing last year was conservative journalist Andy Ngô, who was previously attacked by Antifa members in Portland. He wrote a book about the group but stores like Portland’s famed shop Powell’s Books have banned it from its shelves. When musician Winston Marshall congratulated Ngô on his book, he was condemned and later issued a cringing public apology.  Ngô recently had to leave the country due to the attacks and death threats from Antifa and other groups. One does not have to agree with Ngô to support his right to speak or oppose the efforts to block people from being able to buy or read his book.  Yet, the “deplatforming” campaign against Ngô, his book, and anyone who praises him is a signature of Antifa.

Wheeler’s success in “getting to acceptance” was not easy. He was repeatedly targeted himself by protesters at home and at restaurants. Finally, as riots continue for a second year, Wheeler is willing to rally the public against “self-described anarchists” while avoiding the forbidden reference to the real “A word”: Antifa.

Wheeler’s fear of confronting the Rose City Antifa is conspicuous and pathetic. As I noted in my Senate testimony, the RCA is arguably the oldest reference to “Antifa” in the United States. In 2013, various groups that were part of ARA, including RCA, formed a new coordinating organization referred to as the “Torch Network.” This lack of structure not only appealed to the anarchist elements in the movement but served the practical benefit of evading law enforcement and lawsuits.

The RCA and other aligned groups have little patience for free speech. It is at its base a movement at war with free speech, defining the right itself as a tool of oppression. That purpose is evident in what is called the “bible” of the Antifa movement: Rutgers Professor Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Bray emphasizes the struggle of the movement against free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says, ‘I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’” Indeed, Bray admits that “most Americans in Antifa have been anarchists or antiauthoritarian communists…  From that standpoint, ‘free speech’ as such is merely a bourgeois fantasy unworthy of consideration.” It is an illusion designed to promote what Antifa is resisting “white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, ultra-nationalism, authoritarianism, and genocide.” Thus, all of these opposing figures are deemed fascistic and thus unworthy of being heard.

The signature of the group is the same orthodoxy and militancy that characterizes groups that they oppose. Like its counterparts in right-wing groups like Proud Boys, Antifa has a long and well-documented history of such violence. Bray quotes one Antifa member as summing up their approach to free speech as a “nonargument . . . you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.”

Notably, when George Washington University student and self-professed Antifa member Jason Charter was charged as the alleged “ringleader” of efforts to take down statues in Washington, D.C., Charter declared the “movement is winning.” He is right. It is winning because politicians, the media, and academics have refused to recognize it for what it is: a violent, anti-free speech movement. Wheeler’s indirect criticism is tiny blip in a sea of indifference or denials from other leaders. That is all that Antifa needs to win. Silence.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/25/2021 - 12:03
Published:4/25/2021 11:26:07 AM
[] Sunday Morning Book Thread 04-25-2020 Armchair Books, Edinburgh, Scotland Good morning to all you 'rons, 'ettes, lurkers, and lurkettes, wine moms, frat bros, crétins sans pantalon (who are technically breaking the rules). Welcome once again to the stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning... Published:4/25/2021 8:24:07 AM
[Markets] Why Interest Rate Management Fails Why Interest Rate Management Fails

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

This article explains why attempting to achieve economic outcomes by managing interest rates fails. The basis of monetary interventionist theories ignores the discoveries of earlier free-market thinkers, particularly Say, Turgot and Böhm-Bawerk.

It also ignores Gibson’s paradox, which demolishes the theory that managing interest rates controls price inflation. And incredulously, the whole basis of banking regulation assumes that commercial banks are just intermediaries between depositors and borrowers. That model of banking fails to address the simple fact that banks create credit out of thin air and that deposits are the property of the banks, and not their customers.

The process of credit creation is described herein and is markedly different from that commonly assumed. Changes in the level of outstanding bank credit have nothing to do with interest rates, except perhaps in extremis.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that critical mistakes are being made by policy planners. And we find that the US bank cohort is now reducing outstanding bank credit for the non-financial economy, which will make it impossible for businesses to deliver sufficient product to satisfy expected consumer demand. Far higher consumer prices than currently discounted in financial markets will follow.

Consequently, bond yields are set to rise much further, marking the end of the global financial asset bubble, and the failure of the fiat currency regime.

Introduction

It must be a mystery to central bankers that reducing interest rates to the zero bound hasn’t stimulated their economies as expected. It is also a surprise to the vast majority of economists and financial commentators. Part of the problem is the modern habit of taking government statistics as Gospel, another part is not understanding what individual statistics truly represent, and finally there are the fault lines in neo-Keynesian macroeconomics. And at the root of it is the cost of production theory of prices.

For the establishment, interest is a cost, which along with other costs plus a margin for profits is the basis of setting consumer prices. Reduce the cost, it is argued, and with prices targeted to increase at two per cent annually, there is a strong incentive for businesses to invest in production. We see the cost theory of prices reflected in government regulations and government spending as well, which forces everyone into paying monopoly prices — regulated, of course, to stop profiteering.

The error has a long history, starting with Adam Smith and continuing with Marx where it took a more distinct form in his cost of labour theory of prices. But there were early dissenters, such as the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), who about prices wrote, “subject to the influence of the faculties, the wants and the desires of mankind, they are not susceptible of any rigorous appreciation, and cannot, therefore, furnish any data for absolute calculations”. In other words, the idea that prices are simply a matter of a cost-plus basis is wrong. With respect to interest, it was another early French economist, Turgot (1727-1781), who gave the relationship with capital its proper context. He understood that the capitalist-entrepreneur required capital to finance production; to pay wages and other costs before anything could be sold. It was capital that had to be accumulated from savings for which a return must be paid in the form of interest.

Turgot was the first economist from the time of the early industrial revolution to explain the role of capital and why providers of capital had the right to expect to be compensated for their temporary parting with it. Interest rates were a matter for negotiation between lender and borrower. The interest “profit” was no different from profits from other activities, and the rate included factors such as the risk that the money would not be returned, and the loss of its possession for a period of time. Turgot anticipated the Austrian school and in particular the work of Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914) on time preference.

These findings were passed over by later economists, particularly Keynes. In the process, Keynes noted and named Gibson’s paradox, which demonstrated a strong positive correlation between price levels and long-term interest rates, and not between interest rate borrowing costs and the rate of price inflation, as commonly supposed. Keynes declared it to be “one of the most completely established empirical facts in the whole field of quantitative economics” before he succumbed to his macroeconomic visions which denied its existence.

The history of borrowing for industrial production

All capitalist ventures require the assembly of raw materials, plant and equipment, premises, labour skilled and unskilled, additional services and monetary capital. Arguably, the most important of all these is monetary capital, because the time taken between assembling these factors and the sale of a final product requires funding. A businessman or entrepreneur must calculate all the costs, the length of the period of the absence of any income and make assumptions about the volumes and prices of the final product he can expect to achieve.

These factors are all interrelated and require estimation. What initially concerns us are the assumptions an entrepreneur makes about the value of the final product. For him it all hangs on his estimates of final sales and the prices he can expect to obtain. When he has estimated them and calculated his costs, he will know how profitable the venture should be, and only then can he estimate what he is prepared to pay in interest to obtain the capital to fund the project. To calculate margins any other way is to put the cart before the horse.

The basis of business calculation must therefore reflect a basic correlation between prices and the cost of business funding, and Figure 1 illustrates this correlation in the UK over a 250-year period.

Even in the 1970s, when money was fully fiat and the trend of prices was rising more than at any time since 1750, the relationship held. In a business recession, when the level of business activity declines, an entrepreneur uses the same factors in his calculations as in better times, so business cycles are irrelevant to the process. And with respect to the price for his final product, his assumptions can only be based on prices at the time of calculation. What he actually achieves in terms of final prices is not something he guesses at the beginning of a project, and this is why medium- and long-term financing costs usually track prices.

The other side of this correlation was the non-correlation between price inflation and borrowing costs, since the latter are tied to the general price level as illustrated in Figure 1 and not its rate of change. At least, that was the case until central banks increasingly distorted money relationships in the post-war years. This is illustrated in Figure 2, again for the UK.

The non-correlation shown in Figure 2 demolishes the basic assumptions behind interest rate management by central banks. For interest rates to relate to the change in prices, and therefore their effect on the cost of funding, there would have to be a correlation between the rate of price inflation and borrowing costs. Even allowing for a time lag and differences between short- and longer-term rates, this should still hold true. But the history shown in Figure 2 says otherwise. The implications go even further: Gibson’s paradox tells us that interest rate management by central banks can never achieve their objectives, and that it is predicated on incorrect assumptions about how capitalistic markets work.

For this reason, various economists since Keynes have tried to explain the paradox unsuccessfully. The problem they faced was that their statist approach to interest rate management ignores the lessons of Gibson’s paradox, which proves that attempts to influence the course of the economy by varying interest rates will always fail. The explanation why this was so turned out to be very simple: borrowing rates for industrial investment were set by borrowers bidding up for capital within the confines of their business calculations. It turns out that it is not greedy capitalists that set interest rates at all, but entrepreneurial demand for scarce capital. Keynes, in particular, had a thing about the idle rich rentiers living off their money without doing a day’s work. His prejudice had blinded him, and all who have subsequently subscribed to his macroeconomic theories.

The erroneous assumptions regarding bank credit

When policy planers reduce interest rates, they expect commercial banks to pass on the benefits to their borrowing customers in order to stimulate production, and in recent decades in order to stimulate consumption as well. It is not only over interest rates that policy planners are mistaken, but they seem to wilfully misunderstand the role of commercial banks. If this allegation is correct, then it is an accusation of gross incompetence on the part of the monetary authorities concerning interest rate policy, so it must be tested.

The basis of state intervention in the banking system is based upon the premise that they act as agents between depositors and borrowers. At first sight the supposition appears reasonable, but there are in fact two other theories of banking; that they operate on a fractional reserve basis, creating bank credit regulated by the levels of required bank reserves set by the central bank, or that they simply lend money into existence. All three theories have been favoured at different times and in different jurisdictions.

Generally, the fractional reserve model is now regarded as redundant, with global bank regulation having moved to Basel-imposed standards. These standards and their approach are consistent with the assumption that banks intermediate between depositors and borrowers, and that depositors need protection from loan failures by requiring banks to have sufficient capital buffers.

While the regulators and authorities assume an intermediation model, it is widely understood that banks do indeed lend money into existence, and we even refer to it as bank credit. It is just that central banks still attempt to manage money and interest rates through the banks on an intermediation basis. Additionally, in some major jurisdictions, notably the US, UK, Eurozone and Japan, central banks have been attempting to replace savings deposits with monetary inflation as the source of capital for industrial investment by quantitative easing. But while monetarists avidly monitor the expansion of central bank money, they often fail to understand that the leading creators of fiat money are the banks themselves, and they have been so certainly since the 1844 Bank Charter Act in English law, if not before.

In our quest to explain further the fallacies behind interest rate policies we must examine the creation process of bank credit. The common assumption in the credit creation theory is that when it is drawn down, a loan created by a bank results in new deposits being created as the borrower makes payments to his creditors. With loans being created by all commercial banks all the time and existing loans being drawn up, all banks see new deposits, and at the same time see existing deposit levels changing. But is a closed loop system. Any imbalances, such as with banks ending up short of deposit funding at the end of the day, are adjusted in the wholesale interbank markets by borrowing from banks with surplus deposits on their books.

It turns out that while banks do create credit, the procedures are significantly different. In 2014, Richard Werner, a banking expert, conducted an experiment with a small German bank which entailed the bank lending him €200,000 euros so that he could follow all the accounting procedures behind the loan.

Professor Werner discovered that when a bank makes a loan it credits the asset side of the balance sheet, as one would expect. But at the same time, it enters in its balance sheet a liability to the borrower in the full amount of the loan. There is no outside involvement with the central bank or any other bank, nor internally with the transfer of any funds from any other customer accounts held by the bank. The fact that the bank signs with the customer a loan contract not only creates the loan, but also the bank’s liability (booked as a deposit), which is why when you walk out of the bank having signed on the dotted line, the bank says the funds are now in your account. Operations in wholesale markets have nothing to do with the creation of bank deposits, as commonly supposed, and the creation of bank credit does not depend on their being balanced with deposits through wholesale money markets as it is drawn down.

This leads to Professor Werner making an extremely important point. Not only do banks create money out of thin air but being no more than obligations resulting from money creation, deposits are fictitious in every sense. They are created as a counterpart of the loan process, and any transfers from other banks will have originated in the same way: they are loans to the bank and the so-called depositor is a mere creditor. Werner quotes Henry Dunning Macleod in his Theory of Credit (1891): “A bank is not therefore an office for ‘borrowing’ or ‘lending’ money, but it is a Manufactory of Credit”.

Some of this we knew already, such as the legal status of bank deposits, which are the bank’s property with only an obligation to its creditors. But there are consequences that should be taken into account, particularly from the central bankers’ misapprehension that banks are offices for borrowing and lending money, and that they are as a matter of fact no more than Manufacturers of Credit.

The limitations on bank credit creation

We have now established that there is no common interest between central banks and their commercial charges, because the intermediation theory is bunkum. Commercial banks will go about their business, with the advantage that they can create money whenever they like and for whatever purpose. The only limitations are the risks they are prepared to take, and the most important factor in this regard is the relationship between total assets and the bank’s balance sheet equity.

Of course, lending is just one activity. Investing in bonds, derivatives, and mortgage-backed securities are others. The differences between headline bank credit and loans to the non-financial US economy are illustrated in Figure 3.

Over the last ten years, the proportion between the two held reasonably steady with loans and leases at about 72% of total bank credit until early last year. The sudden jump in both series between March and early May 2020 meant that the relationship still held initially, before loans and leases declined while investment in US Treasuries and agency debt continued to increase, such that the ratio is now under 68%. We should further note that with over-night interest rates held at the zero bound since March 2020, commercial banks are not increasing their lending to non-financial businesses, as conventional central bank monetary policy suggests should be the case, but they are reducing them instead.

In defiance of these clear trends, forecasters are expecting a rapid economic recovery in the coming months. But so long as commercial banks continue to contract bank credit, that cannot happen.

For this recovery to take place requires the banks to act on a pass-through basis, allowing helicoptered money to be credited to consumers’ accounts and to increase the production capital available by increasing revolving loans for businesses in order for them to respond to consumer demand. But this is not happening, and the error analysts appear to be making in their economic forecasts is to misunderstand the interests of the banks. They are not simple intermediaries but businesses which have the luxury of creating money, elevating the returns for their shareholders. But with that elevation comes risk. And looking at the balance sheets of the largest US banks — the G-SIBs, the relationship between their total assets and the sum of their shareholders’ equity is an average of 10.5 times. For these banks, bad debts, which are now an increasing risk, will wipe out balance sheet equity at over ten times the rate on total assets.

The chart in Figure 3 tells us that US banks regarded the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic as an interruption to business as normal, and we will recall that at the time there was a widespread consensus of a V-shaped recovery. By default, bankers would have initially believed the recovery would indeed occur and be V-shaped, until evidence began to mount that bad debts would increase as the time for economic recovery was increasingly delayed. It is understandable that banks are now withdrawing credit from the non-financial economy and are redeploying resources in favour of the trading opportunities arising from the Fed’s expansionist monetary policies. But the thoughtful analyst will see that the US banking community is at a dangerous crossroads: headline trading conditions are hiding a rapidly deteriorating situation on their mainstream lending to the non-financial sector, and the banks’ survival requires them to unwind their past credit creation with increasing urgency.

These are developing into the conditions recognised by Irving Fisher when commenting on the reasons for the banking crisis in the 1930s. Fisher described how banks selling collateral to recover debts reduced the value of all similar classes of collateral, triggering foreclosures on otherwise creditworthy borrowers. Not only did these actions intensify the slump, but it led to multiple bank failures.

In short, the conditions are developing for a rerun of the 1929-32 financial and economic crisis, and the Fed in common with other major central banks is powerless to stop it.

The effect of rising bond yields

Another aspect of the desire of banks to reduce their exposure to bad debts in the non-financial economy is their increased dependency on the bull market in financial assets. At the root of it is interest rate suppression by central banks, with the Fed by no means being the most extreme. In addition to zero rates, every month the Fed is pumping $120bn of indirect buying of risky financial assets through quantitative easing targeted at pension and insurance funds who have to reinvest the proceeds.

With no change in the Fed funds rate which has been held at the zero bound since 19 March 2020, the yields on US Treasuries have begun to rise, with the 10-year bond yield tripling from a low point of 0.54% last July to 1.73% recently. The reason for this increase must concern us.

For a ten-year US Treasury bond to yield as little as 0.54% was an aberration only explained by the initial consequences of money flooding financial markets at a time of zero interest rates on overnight money. That moment has passed, and market participants are reassessing the situation. They will have noted that since the Fed cut its funds rate to the zero bound, commodity prices have increased significantly, indicating to commercial holders of dollars, both at home and abroad, that their balances are buying less when measured in the commodities and raw materials relevant to their production.

In that context, even a yield of 1.7% is paltry, with the purchasing power of the dollar falling measured against a basket of commodities. And with the threat of prices for goods and services now rising significantly above the 2% target (due to the contraction of bank credit and therefore working capital for producers), bond yields are set to rise even more. There will come a point when rising bond yields undermine financial asset prices more widely, and no amount of QE puffery will rescue markets from a collapsing bubble.

The next rise in bond yields will probably do the trick. Having switched their balance sheets away from credit creation for the non-financial sector in favour of financial asset activity, the banks will then face unexpected losses arising from rising bond yields and deflating equity bubbles. Furthermore, with most of their lending secured against financial assets and commercial property, their values are tied to interest rate prospects and so the pressure to foreclose on loans is bound to increase.

Can CBDCs rescue the situation?

There is growing publicity being given to central bank digital currencies as a means of targeting monetary stimulation. It involves something never done before, with everyone and all businesses having an account with the CBDC issuer, either the central bank or a subsidiary organisation under its control. It allows the central bank to select the recipients of a digital currency, so that it can target areas of the economy it decides needs stimulating, and by putting an expiry date on it, even stimulate consumption to be more immediate. It is not clear how this will work, because the illusion that fiat money has value would almost certainly be undermined by free distributions of CBDCs.

Commercial banks are bypassed. Having pointed out earlier in this article that central banks have no control over commercial banks, it appears that CBDCs might be a solution; only that having demonstrated their wilful ignorance over money and interest rates in general, central banks seem unsuited to make this judgement. And it should be noted that nowhere in the growing quantity of literature on the subject is there any suggestion that CBDCs are not supplemental to existing fiat currencies. By diluting the total stock of money, they are to be an additional means of inflation, transferring wealth from the general population to the central bank to be deployed as the central bank sees fit.

To have monetary planners drawn from central banks and their governments directing economic activity through the selective application of CBDCs would be the final nail in the coffin for personal freedom. Fortunately for those who cherish what’s left of their freedom, to get a CBDC up and running will take time, and the factors that are leading towards the end of existing fiat currencies suggest that time is one commodity not available for the introduction of working CBDCs. Just imagine a government bureaucracy processing anti-money laundering and KYC for every citizen and business — with all the testing and trial runs required, it probably takes years to implement.

Economic outcomes

It therefore seems that CBDCs will be irrelevant to economic outcomes. And the economic and monetary future is being managed by forces which ignore reasoned economic and monetary theory, and the legal basis of banking. So established have the planners’ deceptions become that we can begin to map the developments likely to lead to the death of neo-Keynesian fallacies over money and the role of interest rates. We can pencil in the following order of events.

  • The lack of production capacity, restricted by contracting bank credit will lead to an increase in marginal prices far greater than expected, when post-lockdown cash balances begin to be restored to their customary levels. This will lead to an anticipation of higher bond yields than currently discounted.

  • A rise in bond yields will expose government finances to be entrapped in debt, with debt finance having increasingly replaced government revenues as the principal source of public sector finance. 48% of US Government finance in the last year was by debt. The Congressional Budget Office forecast is for an improvement in the current budget deficit on last year’s, which is unlikely given President Biden’s lavish spending plans and undue optimism over the economic outlook and tax revenues.

  • Stock markets will be undermined by higher government bond yields and the bubble will burst, taking other financial asset values down with it. The next increase in bond yields — perhaps a matter of only weeks away — threatens to plunge equities into sudden bear markets.

  • Supply chains are unlikely to return to full functionality before the end of the calendar year, which with the banks’ determination to scale back on outstanding credit undermines current economic assumptions, and therefore tax revenues, as being far too optimistic.

  • With contracting bank credit beginning to be fuelled by bad debts and falling collateral values, banks in some jurisdictions such as the Eurozone and China seem destined to fail and require state intervention. International counterparty risk becomes a dominant issue.

  • The future of currencies, and particularly the US dollar, have become tied to their respective bubbles in financial assets. In a desperate attempt to contain imploding asset bubbles, to compensate for contracting bank credit and to rescue failing supply chains, the pace of monetary creation by central banks is bound to accelerate, because the authorities have no other policy. It will mark the beginning of a rapid end for fiat money.

The application of modern macroeconomic theory will have not only failed to rescue economies from a slump and fiat currencies from collapse, but it will have been demonstrated that attempts to achieve economic outcomes through the manipulation of interest rates will have resulted in catastrophe. We will have seen the establishment having run with ill thought-out concepts. Instead of abandoning them, they are doubling down, blind to the chaos being caused. They are following the same interventionist policies as Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt did in the 1930s, modified for contemporary factors and unbacked fiat money. Sadly, this demonstrates how little has been learned about the fallacies of state intervention over the last ninety years.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/24/2021 - 13:30
Published:4/24/2021 12:49:05 PM
[Markets] Playing Fast And Loose With Numbers Playing Fast And Loose With Numbers

Authored by Joakim Book via The American Institute for Economic Research,

Journalism is hard. To portray the world accurately to a layman audience without delving into the complexities and nuances of the universe we inhabit, writers must always simplify, explain, and make difficult content relatable for their readers. You can do this well and comprehensively, and you can do it poorly. 

Often, writers simplify and give concrete examples with the best of intentions, even though I don’t put it past some of the activist writers out there to fudge what they portray and fidget with the details. But what really strikes a nerve with me is when writers end up misleading so grossly that their readers walk away with a completely twisted view of the world. The late Hans Rosling was a master at pricking the bubbles that these mistakes had created in our heads.  

I have summarized his perhaps most valuable advice to Always Be Comparing Thy Number; never let numbers stand alone; always have readily available comparisons that let you answer the crucial questions: is that a lot? What was it last year? Ten years ago? Do informed researchers think it’s a lot?

Most of us don’t walk around with easily comparable frameworks for what’s a large and small number in areas we know nothing about – how many people normally die in car accidents or from medical errors, how long the Amazon River is or how much ice there is in the world. Implicitly or explicitly, we rely on fact-checking journalists to tell us in the process of covering the crucial topic they’re writing about. 

Too often, they don’t. And not only do they neglect their professional role, they tend to make our misunderstandings worse when they actually engage in contrived comparisons. In any story that includes climate change this tendency seems to have gone completely haywire (maybe the covidocracy can give it a run for its money). 

Far from being settled, climate science is tricky: we don’t know well what happens to global temperatures when atmospheric CO2 doubles (“climate sensitivity”); we can’t properly model clouds and cloud formation, crucial for how much of the sun’s incoming heat will be reflected away; the range for best-guesses as to what the global temperature rise over the coming century will be is vast (maybe 1° Celsius – maybe 5° Celsius) – so vast, in fact, that it hardly warrants a quantification. 

Yet, the science is “settled,” we hear, and we must “listen to the scientists.” 

The Sea Level Rise, the Olympic Swimming Pools, and the Football Fields

But the worst crime are the subtle throwaway lines that journalists tuck onto their coverage of impending doom that give a completely mistaken impression about the future of the world.

Let’s start with the Amazon. 

The Amazon forest is huge. So huge, in fact, that few of us can even fathom how mind-bogglingly huge it is: numbers just won’t do it justice – does anyone have a reference point for what 5.5 million square meters look like? The main Amazon River, not considering its countless tributaries, is some 6,400 km long: traveling at a comfortable 20 km/h (12.5 mph), it would take you a good two weeks of traveling day and night – probably more because of weather, currents, and debris. The area of the forest itself is the size of all U.S. states west of the Mississippi (minus Alaska): from the Gulf to the Canadian border, the Pacific to the Mississippi, all covered in forest. 

In addition to that, we have the Cerrado, an area south and east of the Amazon the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi, that’s technically tropical savannah but few of us would hesitate calling it forested. 

When the scientific journal Nature has a headline that reads “deforestation rate in 2020 is the greatest of the decade,” they’re not lying. The BBC even trumped them a little by slapping “deforestation ‘surges to 12-year high’” on unsuspecting readers. So, we get the impression that Brazilian deforestation is really bad:

Source: INPE, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research

Here I overlaid a simple trendline and a ten-year moving average for illustration. The 11,000 km2 deforested last year was indeed the highest since 2008, but is dwarfed by what routinely came before it. More importantly, we must ask: is it a lot? If your target rate of deforestation – in the poorest areas of a relatively poor country, mind you – is zero (which it shouldn’t be), it looks like things are not just terrible but going the wrong way. A longer, and wider, perspective tells you otherwise. 

It didn’t take long before BBC’s science editor, David Shukman, brought up the familiar “football field-per minute” metric. The area deforested last year was around 1,552,320 standard British football fields, or over 4,000 of them each day, for just under 3 football fields a minute. While Shukman and countless others have tried to make the topic visually understandable for a layperson – we can imagine the size of three adjacent football fields – our imagination is quickly swamped by a “massively large area that I can’t even grapple with.” Quickly, when we scale those minutes to hours and days, we get the impression that huge areas of this important forest is melting away faster than ice cream on a hot summer’s day. 

But we already know that the Amazon forest alone is some 5,500,000 m2 large, the portion within Brazil’s borders some 4,000,000 m2. What was deforested last year, then, was less than 0.3% of the Brazilian forest left standing. Now, does it still sound like an incredibly vast amount? If we estimate that farmers and loggers deforest a similar amount in the next few years, and we ignore potential runaway feedback processes for a minute, Brazilians have enough forest for 360 years. We know enough about economic development and Kuznets curves to know that Brazilians won’t mindlessly deforest the Amazon for that long.

Yet, the picture the reader carries with them is one of runaway deforestation rather than a mild return to longer-term trend.  

The world of ice isn’t much better.

Here we don’t employ the unhelpful and unscientific metric of football fields per minute, but Olympic swimming pools to gauge the amount of meltwater – or sea meter equivalents to compare amounts of ice (mostly in Antarctica and the Greenland Ice Sheet, or ‘GIS’). 

The Guardian, always ready to deliver alarmism, reported that the GIS lost a record 530 billion metric tons of ice in 2019. Again, we’re faced with a number we can’t relate to. Is that a lot? The journalist kindly calculated that it’s about 1 million tons of ice per minute, but that still doesn’t quite cut it – where can I store a million tons of ice? Enter the swimming pools. Think seven of them, in some gigantic swimming facility, filled to the brim with Greenland ice. OK, I can somewhat picture that amount of ice. But then we add seven more pools the next second; and seven more, the next. Quickly we run into the same problem we did with the football fields: this is just a massive amount of ice that’s melting. The images flash before our eyes: an ice-free world, the extra water in the oceans sweeping over our cities and drowning us all, Day After Tomorrow-style.  

For some unfathomable reason, the journalists forgot to report how incredibly large the GIS is – not to mention Antarctica at something like 10x its volume. The ice sheet that covers 80% of Greenland is a dome of permanent ice, 1.7 million m2 and some 2-3 km thick at its peak. Comparing it in size to U.S. states, it’s something like the area of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana combined, covered in kilometers of ice. Estimates put it at 2.85 million cubic kilometers of ice, from which we last year lost about 530 km3. That’s 0.02% of the ice sheet. Unless I displaced a few zeros somewhere – which wouldn’t even change my argument – the GIS has enough ice left to fill more Olympic swimming pools than the dollar values of all the assets in the world (where each dollar’s value represents one Olympic swimming pool of ice). It’s, um, a lot. 

A listener to British statistician and economist Tim Harford’s show More or Less wondered about a figure he had heard in the media of 70 meters of sea level rise if all of Antarctica melted. Bethan Davies at University of London helps explain that if all the ice in the West Antarctica, East Antarctica, and Antarctic Peninsula ice sheets were to melt, we’d be looking at something like 58 meters rise in global sea levels. In her defense, Davies quickly dispelled any notions of that happening: zero, nada, zilch. Antarctica’s vast ice sheets probably will contribute to sea level rises over the next century, but nothing like the 50+ meters that scary hypothetical calculations like those conjure up – with walls of ocean water suddenly battering down our coastal lands. 

Still, journalists keep talking about a future without ice, about ice-free summers in the Arctic, and casually throwing in “sea level rise if x were to melt completely” as if x was in any danger of melting away entirely over anything but geological time frames. This places the completely wrong ideas in their readers’ heads and gravely misinforms the public about the world. 

Doctors abide by the “First, do no harm” promise. Maybe journalists should too.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/23/2021 - 19:00
Published:4/23/2021 6:13:52 PM
[Markets] "Go Big Or Go Home!" - Mars Helicopter Flies Higher And Longer In Second Flight  "Go Big Or Go Home!" - Mars Helicopter Flies Higher And Longer In Second Flight 

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completed a second flight on Mars Thursday morning, just three days (April 19) after making history with the first helicopter to liftoff on another planet. 

Ingenuity autonomously flew for approximately 1 minute and climbed to an altitude of 16 feet. It briefly hovered and moved sideways 7 feet. This flight was more complex than the first. 

"Go big or go home! The Mars Helicopter successfully completed its 2nd flight, capturing this image with its black-and-white navigation camera," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) tweeted. "It also reached new milestones of a higher altitude, a longer hover and lateral flying."

NASA's rover Perseverance tweeted a short GIF of Ingenuity's second flight. 

Mars's super-thin atmosphere is just 1% the density of Earth's, making it more challenging for the helicopters' blades to spin around and need about 2,500 revolutions per minute to generate lift. For comparison, on Earth, most helicopters operate at about 450-500 revolutions per minute.

"So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate," said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.

Balaram continued: "We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity."

The team is prepared for three more flights next week. 

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/22/2021 - 18:45
Published:4/22/2021 6:08:01 PM
[Markets] Market Cap Of Money-Losing Companies Surpasses Dot Com Bubble Record Market Cap Of Money-Losing Companies Surpasses Dot Com Bubble Record

In a recent note from SocGen's Andrew Lapthorne, the cross-asset strategist summarizes the ongoing market insanity delightfully, saying that "there is an increasingly large number of weird and wonderful signs of market excess, from surging crypto currencies started as a joke to a single New Jersey Deli trading at $100m market cap."

To be sure, it's not just the record liquidity that has pushed the Goldman index of financial conditions to record easy levels...

... there is also a lot of good news, with the economic narrative improving and vaccination programs accelerating worldwide, with most now hoping that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. At the same time, global profit expectations are being revised upwards and earnings growth is forecast to jump by a third in 2021.

Given this almost euphoric market backdrop, Lapthorne correctly notes that "anything bearish is met with groans."

But to complete the record, the SocGen strategist adds that even after this profit rebound, global equities will be trading at over 21x earnings, which is extremely expensive on most historical measures, and at a stock level, "the distribution of valuations is as extreme as during the 1999 tech-bubble."

Finally, the amount of global market capitalization that has reported a negative profit number in the last year and in each of the last three years is higher than at any point during the past 22 years, and has even surpassed the dot com bubble.

Lapthorne's rhetorical question: "We wonder how the history books will describe 2021."

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/22/2021 - 13:55
Published:4/22/2021 1:05:11 PM
[Markets] The Only Way To Get Ahead Now Is Crazy-Risky Speculation The Only Way To Get Ahead Now Is Crazy-Risky Speculation

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

It's all so pathetic, isn't it? The only way left to get ahead in America is to leverage up the riskiest gambles.

It's painfully obvious that the only way left to get ahead in America is crazy-risky speculation, but nobody seems to even notice this stark and stunning reality. Why are people piling into crazy-risky bets on speculative vehicles like Gamestop and Dogecoin? The obvious answer is because others have reaped a decade or two of wages in a few weeks, and skimming a couple hundred thousand dollars in a few weeks or months is the only way an average wage earner is going to be able to buy a house, fund a retirement account, afford to have a family, etc.

Look at the reality of wage stagnation: I made $12 an hour in 1986, and I wasn't some highly paid techno-guru or Wall Street shill. $12 an hour was an OK wage in 1986 but it wasn't fantastic. Now 35 years later, $12 is still an OK wage. A lot of people make less than $12/hour.

But what happened to the cost of healthcare, housing, childcare and everything else required to have a family in those 35 years? These costs have exploded higher. It was already a stretch to buy a house in 1986 making $12/hour, but now--are you joking? Depending on the region, the cost of a modest house has tripled or gone up five-fold or even ten-fold in the past 35 years.

As for getting ahead by starting your own business--that's another bitter joke. In 1986 I was able to provide our single employees decent healthcare insurance for $50 each and those with families for about $150 per month. Our employees did not pay a dime for this coverage. We (the employers) paid all the healthcare insurance costs as well as workers compensation, liability insurance and unemployment insurance (federal and state).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the consumer price index (CPI) has risen such that what $1 bought in 1986 now costs $2.40. Try buying real healthcare insurance for an employee today for $50 X 2.4 = $120 per month. The CPI is a pathetic joke when it comes to housing, childcare, healthcare, higher education and all the other big-ticket expenses of having a family.

All the expenses of operating a business have soared even as liability exposure, compliance costs and junk fees have skyrocketed. And by definition, you're "rich," even if you're losing money, because you're a business owner, so there's a tax target on your back as state and local governments jack up junk fees, penalties, fines and taxes on everything that isn't already overtaxed.

As for getting a graduate degree to place yourself above the competition--credential inflation is even worse than price inflation. There are 100 other equally credentialed candidates for every high-paying slot, and if you (foolishly) accept the big-bucks job, your life outside of work is over. You are essentially a well-compensated indentured servant of your Corporate America masters.

And now that you're "rich," you're also a Tax Donkey, paying between 40% and 50% of your earnings in taxes. The billionaires and their corporations pay little or nothing, as they've got the tax dodges (philanthro-capitalist foundations, offshore tax gimmicks, subsidies enacted by cheaply-bought politicians, etc.), but you, indentured servant of Corporate America--you're "rich" and should pay more.

So please work harder and make even more income, and if you're lucky we'll let you keep a slice of the higher earnings. But maybe not, because, well, you're "rich." You don't own anything and can barely afford a family, but you're "rich" in terms of earnings, and that's what counts.

And so the last best hope for the non-elite workforce without the privileges of a wealthy well-connected family is to play the riskiest tables in the Federal Reserve's casino, maxing out margin (borrowing money against one's stock portfolio) and buying options, which expire worthless if the bet goes south.

Because the reality of American life is the ways to get ahead are down to: 

1) choose wealthy parents

2) win the lottery

3) follow the FIRE path (financial independence, retire early) which requires a high-paying job and super-low expenses,

4) join a friend's software start-up that gets bought by Microsoft, Google, Apple or Facebook for mega-millions, or

5) gamble and win at the Fed casino's riskiest tables.

Take a look at three charts: margin debt (all-time high - above), M2 money supply (all-time high - below), and money velocity (all-time low - below). The Fed creates trillions of dollars out of thin air which flows into speculative asset bubbles, punters with no other realistic options to get ahead max out their margin accounts to boost their bets at the riskiest tables and meanwhile, back in the real economy, stagnation reins supreme: stagnant wages, stagnant family / household formation, stagnant business formation and the velocity of money is in a free-fall to dead money.

It's all so pathetic, isn't it? The only way left to get ahead in America is to leverage up the riskiest gambles at the riskiest tables, betting that everyone will be a winner at the Fed's rigged tables--but you have to play to win.

Or lose, but nobody mentions that. All you'll hear in the Fed's casino is the Fed has our back, until the entire casino collapses in a putrid heap of fraud, corruption, greed, systemic risk and hubris.

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Tyler Durden Thu, 04/22/2021 - 13:00
Published:4/22/2021 12:05:05 PM
[Books] Through Douglass’s eyes (Scott Johnson) The relationship between the former slave Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln provides deep insight into both men. Douglass’s recollection of his first meeting with Lincoln — “I shall never forget my first interview with this great man” — is a highlight of the 1892 version of Douglass’s autobiography (The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass). In the Claremont Review of Books celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s birth Published:4/22/2021 7:33:49 AM
[Health] Oath Care just raised $2 million to develop a social, health-focused app that groups expectant and new parents Being an expectant mom can be frightening, as can mothering an infant or toddler. Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, and while there’s no shortage of books and websites (and advice from grandparents) about how to parent at every stage, finding satisfying, instructive, conclusive information often proves a lot harder than imagined. There are online […] Published:4/22/2021 12:32:23 AM
[Markets] How Government Subsidizes Obesity How Government Subsidizes Obesity

Authored by Barry Brownstein via The American Institute for Economic Research,

Austrian mathematician Abraham Wald was a World War II hero. He worked out of a nondescript apartment building in Harlem for the Applied Mathematics Panel. Wald’s ability to see the unseen was a significant factor in the Allied victory in World War II. 

Allied bomber planes were being shot down at such an alarming rate that bomber airmen were called “ghosts already.” The Air Force concluded that more armor was needed on the planes but adding armor would add weight. David McRaney, the author of several books on cognitive biases, tells the story of how Wald saved the military from a major blunder:

“The military looked at the bombers that had returned from enemy territory. They recorded where those planes had taken the most damage. Over and over again, they saw that the bullet holes tended to accumulate along the wings, around the tail gunner, and down the center of the body. Wings. Body. Tail gunner. Considering this information, where would you put the extra armor? Naturally, the commanders wanted to put the thicker protection where they could clearly see the most damage, where the holes clustered. But Wald said no, that would be precisely the wrong decision. Putting the armor there wouldn’t improve their chances at all.”

Wald looked at the same bullet holes and saw a pattern revealing “where a bomber could be shot and still survive the flight home.”  

Wald didn’t fall for survivorship bias. Here is what he advised

“What you should do is reinforce the area around the motors and the cockpit. You should remember that the worst-hit planes never come back. All the data we have come from planes that make it to the bases. You don’t see that the spots with no damage are the worst places to be hit because these planes never come back.”

McRaney writes, “The military had the best data available at the time, and the stakes could not have been higher, yet the top commanders still failed to see the flaws in their logic. Those planes would have been armored in vain had it not been for the intervention of a man trained to spot human error.” 

We easily succumb to what you see is all there is (WYSIATI) mindset bias. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains, “You cannot help dealing with the limited information you have as if it were all there is to know. You build the best possible story from the information available to you, and if it is a good story, you believe it.”

Think of the last time you looked to a “survivor” for career and life advice, eager to learn their ticket to success. McRaney writes, “The problem here is that you rarely take away from these inspirational figures advice on what not to do, on what you should avoid, and that’s because they don’t know.” We make faulty decisions when we ignore the evidence from those who did not survive a selection process. 

As an example of entrepreneurial success, Kahneman took a look at narratives of how Google beat its competition. Kahneman writes of such narratives: 

“The story could give you the sense that you understand what made Google succeed; it would also make you feel that you have learned a valuable general lesson about what makes businesses succeed. Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that your sense of understanding and learning from the Google story is largely illusory. The ultimate test of an explanation is whether it would have made the event predictable in advance.” 

Clearly, any story of the rise of Google will not meet a forecasting test. Kahneman writes, “No story can include the myriad of events that would have caused a different outcome. The human mind does not deal well with nonevents.”

We are all too ready to ignore our ignorance, especially when there is much that is unknown. At the same time, in our ignorance it is easier to construct a story. Kahneman explains, “Paradoxically, it is easier to construct a coherent story when you know little, when there are fewer pieces to fit into the puzzle. Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”

In short, we don’t spend a lot of time wondering about what we don’t know. Kahneman warns that to “focus on what we know and neglect what we do not know… makes us overly confident in our beliefs.”

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the media and politicians have insisted we rely on the “judgment calls” of their proclaimed experts to guide policy. Facile but incorrect stories about lockdowns dominated. 

In March, Dr. Fauci again incorrectly predicted that doom was upon us when Texas relaxed its pandemic rules. 

Kahneman writes:

“It is wrong to blame anyone for failing to forecast accurately in an unpredictable world. However, it seems fair to blame professionals for believing they can succeed in an impossible task.” Perhaps, Kahneman is too kind.

With Covid, predictions are founded on politics, not science, as Bill Maher recently pointedly and humorously explained. 

We are ignorant of our ignorance. It is time to look for new patterns in the evidence of those who have not survived.

Who Didn’t Come Back from Covid

The military was wise enough to listen to Wald. It would have been perverse to ignore the cockpit and reinforce parts of the plane that could survive bullet hits.

Policy makers, politicians, and the media have largely ignored the cockpit of good health: the human immunological system.

Maher pointed to a recent CDC study that reported the vast majority (78%) of those hospitalized or dead from Covid have been overweight or obese.

Of Americans aged 20 and over 73.6% are overweight; 42.5% are obese. (Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.) Many studies explain how obesity decreases resistance to infection. Obesity is linked to type 2 diabeteshypertension, and heart disease, which increase the odds of hospitalization from Covid

The Covid survival narrative has focused attention on lockdowns, masks and vaccinations. Maher pointed out the role that obesity played:

“People died because talking about obesity had become a third rail in America.” Maher continued, “the last thing you want to do is say something insensitive. We would literally rather die. Instead, we were told to lock down. Unfortunately, the killer was already in the house and her name is Little Debbie.”

Little Debbie, of course, is Maher’s reference to heavily processed foods that are ubiquitous in the American diet. 

 

A significant factor in the startling numbers of overweight Americans is the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in heavily processed foods. 

The total per capita consumption of all sugars in the United States is approximately 150 pounds a year. Of that, the average American consumes over 50 pounds of corn sweeteners a year.

Sugar is heavily subsidized by the US government through loans, purchases of sugar, and tariffs on imported sugar. Government incentives have created a high-fructose corn syrup industry which didn’t exist prior to the 1970s. US sugar prices can be up to twice the world price.

From 1995-2020, corn subsidies in the United States totaled $116.6 billion. The subsidized and surplus corn ends up not only as processed food but as animal feed.  

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan explains, “Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find.” Pollan describes the corn food chain:

“Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn. Head over to the processed foods and you find ever more intricate manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of a nugget’s other constituents, including the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget “fresh” can all be derived from corn. To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn. Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient.” 

You might say at least we are getting cheap food for our tax dollars but not so fast. Heavily processed foods appear less expensive than they are, shifting consumption away from foods that do not promote obesity.

Notably, the cow is a ruminant animal and is meant to thrive on grass, not grains. Pollan explains why subsidized feedlot farming places your health at stake: 

“We’ve come to think of “corn-fed” as some kind of old-fashioned virtue, which it may well be when you’re referring to Midwestern children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor virtuous. Its chief advantage is that cows fed corn, a compact source of caloric energy, get fat quickly; their flesh also marbles well, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have come to like. Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass. A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with corn-fed beef. (Modern-day hunter-gatherers who subsist on wild meat don’t have our rates of heart disease.) In the same way ruminants are ill adapted to eating corn, humans in turn may be poorly adapted to eating ruminants that eat corn.”

Pollan explains how corn subsidies distort many aspects of animal production:

“To help dispose of the rising mountain of cheap corn farmers were now producing, the government did everything it could to help wean cattle off grass and onto corn, by subsidizing the building of feedlots (through tax breaks) and promoting a grading system based on marbling that favored corn-fed over grass-fed beef. (The government also declined to make CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations] obey clean air and clean water laws.)” 

Consequences of subsidized corn production abound, Pollan points out, “which are never charged directly to the consumer but, indirectly and invisibly, to the taxpayer (in the form of subsidies), the health care system (in the form of food-borne illnesses and obesity), and the environment (in the form of pollution), not to mention the welfare of the workers in the feedlot and the slaughterhouse and the welfare of the animals themselves.”

Throughout this pandemic, corn subsidies have continued unabated. Americans have continued to consume heavily processed foods while health consequences are ignored. Indeed, lockdowns fueled the consumption of junk foods. Yet, as Maher pointed out, it is not acceptable to point to the pattern of obesity in many who suffered and died from serious cases of Covid. It is not a stretch to say that subsidizing foods known to increase obesity has killed people. Of course, we are all responsible for our food choices but there is no need to incentivize poor choices. 

Other patterns can be observed linking government policy and Covid deaths. Parks were closed and outdoor activities prohibited. A recent study found that “people who tended to be sedentary were far more likely to be hospitalized, and to die, from Covid than those who exercised regularly.” We know too that Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immunological system. Government policy dictated that we stay home rather than get outdoors, exercise, and allow the human body to manufacture Vitamin D from exposure to sunshine.

Heavily processed foods are designed to excite the taste buds. The illusion of tasty has killed Americans. Change begins with the willingness of individuals and families to overcome ignorance of what weakens the immunological cockpit of the human body. We can learn from those that didn’t come back from Covid. We can strengthen our immunological system by rejecting a diet of subsidized, heavily processed calories.

Tyler Durden Wed, 04/21/2021 - 17:00
Published:4/21/2021 4:02:01 PM
[Books] Sean McMeekin: The story behind “Stalin’s War” (Scott Johnson) Sean McMeekin is Francis Flournoy Professor of European History and Culture at Bard College and the author of Stalin’s War: A New History of World War II, officially published by Basic Books today. Professor McMeekin is one of the most prominent of the younger generation of historians of the Soviet Union. His first book — The Red Millionaire — is a personal favorite of mine. He graciously accepted my invitation Published:4/20/2021 5:48:27 AM
[Markets] America's Fatal Synergies America's Fatal Synergies

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

America's financial system and state are themselves the problems, yet neither system is capable of recognizing this or unwinding their fatal synergies.

Why do some systems/states emerge from crises stronger while similar systems/states collapse? Put another way: take two very similar political-social-economic systems/nation-states and two very similar crises, and why does one system not just survive but emerge better adapted while the other system/state fails?

The answer lies in what author Geoffrey Parker termed Fatal Synergies and Benign Synergies in his book Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. Synergy results from "interactions that produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects." In other words, 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8 is linear, while synergy is 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 16.

Given that the core function of states is the distribution of resources, capital and agencywe can distill the difference between Fatal Synergies and Benign Synergies into two questions:

1. What problems cannot be resolved by the financial system/state, no matter how many reforms are thrown at them?

2. Which groups have a meaningful voice in decision-making / governance and which groups are effectively voiceless / powerless?

The first question identifies the structural weak points in the system. These weak points could have any number of sources: they could be perverse incentives embedded in the system, elites caught up in their own enrichment, or even a willful blindness to the nature of the crisis threatening the system.

Here's an example in the U.S. system: corporations reap $2.4 trillion in profits annually, roughly 15% of the nation's entire output. Politicians need millions of dollars in campaign contributions to win elections. Those seeking political influence have not just billions but tens of billions. Those needing to distribute political favors will do so for mere millions.

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens:

"I'd say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups -- of economic elites and of organized interests."

This asymmetry cannot be overcome. Indeed, the past 40 years have witnessed an increasing concentration of wealth and power in corporations and their lobbyists and a decline of political influence of the masses to near-zero. Every reform has failed to slow this momentum, which is constructed of incentives to maximize profits, gain political favors and win elections.

In a similar fashion, the Imperial Presidency has gained power at the expense of Congress for decades--a reality that scholars bemoan but the reforms allowed by the system are unable to stop. So we have endless wars of choice without a declaration of war by Congress, one of the core powers of the elected body.

An analogy to these systemic weak points is the synergies of an organism's essential organs: if any one organ fails, the organism dies even though the other organs are working just fine. In other words, any system is only as robust as its weakest essential component/process.

Whatever problems the system is incapable of resolving have the potential to bring down the system once they interact synergistically.

The second question identifies how many groups have been suppressed, silenced or ignored by those at the top of the heap. If these groups have an essential role in the system as producers, consumers and taxpayers, their demand to have a say in decisions that directly affect them is natural.

Another group with understandable frustrations at being left out of the decision-making are those in the educated upper classes whose expectations of roles in the top tier were encouraged by their families, society and training. When these expectations are not met because there are no longer enough slots in the top tier for the rapidly proliferating upper classes, the group left out in the cold has the time, education and motivation to demand a voice.

In other words, those denied access to resources, capital and agency who felt entitled to this access will not be as easily silenced as those who accept their low status and restricted access to resources, capital and agency as "the natural order of things."

All the groups that are denied a voice and access to resources, capital and agency are in effect a sealed pressure cooker atop a flame. The pressure builds and builds without any apparent consequence until it explodes.

The more that power is concentrated in the hands of the few, the greater the desperation of the groups who are locked out of power. As their desperation rises, some of these groups are willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to effect change.

The process of explosive demands for change erupting is difficult to manage once released. The system's essential subsystems may be destabilized--the equivalent of organ failure--and once destabilized, it's often no longer possible to restore the previous stability.

In this environment, the common good falls by the wayside and the system collapses.

In the context I've laid out, Fatal Synergies arise when access to resources, capital and agency are limited by elite hoarding or massive declines in available resources and capital.

Beneficial Synergies arise when whatever resources and capital are available are shared, if not equitably, at least in a process in which every group affected by the distribution has a voice in public decision-making.

Fatal Synergies arise when the identity of each group is based not on shared values and cooperation but on unyielding resistance to competing claims on the nation's wealth and income.

Beneficial Synergies arise when all groups have a voice and a say in the process of distribution, even if it is limited.

Crises reveal the problems the system is incapable of resolving. How we respond to those constraints and weak points is the difference between Fatal Synergies and collapse and Beneficial Synergies that generate successful evolutionary responses to pressing selective pressures: simply put, "adapt or die."

America's financial system and state are themselves the problems, yet neither system is capable of recognizing this or unwinding their fatal synergies.

*  *  *

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.

*  *  *

My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World (Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/19/2021 - 17:10
Published:4/19/2021 4:16:26 PM
[Markets] Stock Market Leverage In La-La Land, Rises To Historic WTF High Stock Market Leverage In La-La Land, Rises To Historic WTF High

Authored by Wolf Richter via WolfStreet.com,

Archegos shows how leverage is the great accelerator of stock prices on the way up, and on the way down. One of its bets, ViacomCBS, after skyrocketing, collapsed by 60%.

Vast, unreported, and at the time unknown amounts of leverage blew up Archegos Capital Management, dishing out enormous losses to its investors, the banks that brokered the swaps, and holders of the targeted stocks. The amount of leverage became known only after it blew up as banks started picking through the debris. ViacomCBS [VIAC] was one of the handful of stocks on which Archegos placed huge and highly leveraged bets, thereby pushing the shares into the stratosphere until March 22, after which they collapsed by 60%.

Archegos is an example of how leverage operates: It creates enormous buying pressure and drives up prices as leverage builds, and then when prices decline, the leveraged bets blow up as forced selling sets in. Most of the leverage in the markets is unreported until it blows up. The only type of stock-market leverage that is reported is margin debt – the amount that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings as tracked by FINRA at its member brokerage firms. Margin debt is an indicator for overall leverage, and it has reached the zoo-has-gone-nuts level.

FINRA reported on Friday that margin debt jumped by another $9 billion to $823 billion in March, having soared by $163 billion in five months, and having exploded by 72% from March 2020 and by 51% from February 2020, to historic WTF highs:

Archegos is an example of how leverage is the great accelerator of stock prices, on the way up, and on the way down. Its massive bets on a handful of stocks, powered by huge leverage, drove up prices of those stocks because it created buying pressure with borrowed money. As prices rose, Archegos could borrow more to increase its bets. And then suddenly, when these stocks started selling off because other investors got out, Archegos got the margin calls, and leverage became the great accelerator on the way down.

While we don’t know how much total stock market leverage there is, we can look at margin debt as a measure of the trend. And the trend has reached whopper proportions. History shows that a big surge in margin balances preceded – and perhaps was a precondition for – the biggest stock market declines:

In a chart like this that covers over two decades, the long-term increases in the absolute dollar amounts are not critical since the purchasing power of the dollar with regards to stocks has dropped. What is critical are the steep increases in margin debt before the selloffs.

As the world has seen unfold with Archegos, the amounts of other types of stock market leverage aren’t known. Even Wall Street banks that deal with their clients don’t know about their clients’ total leverage at other banks. Each bank knew how much leverage Archegos had with it, but not how much it had with other banks, or that it had any leverage with other banks.

And when banks issued their margin calls – said to have been the second largest margin call in US history, after Lehman – and liquidated the underlying shares, they were selling those shares against each other. The first-out-the-door, including Goldman Sachs, came away relatively unscathed. Late movers, such as Credit Suisse got mauled.

That’s also a feature of leverage: The first-out-the-door pocket the gains and get away unscathed. Late movers get crushed.

And since everyone knows this, everyone is trying to get out the door first, which is not possible, but it speeds up the selloff.

Among the types of stock market leverage, in addition to margin debt, are derivative products, such as the swaps that sank Archegos, portfolio-based lending, and Securities-Based Loans. Each broker knows what they have on their books, presumably, but they don’t know what other brokers have on their books, and no one knows the total, and no one knows just how leveraged the markets are.

*  *  *

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? Using ad blockers – I totally get why – but want to support the site? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/19/2021 - 08:25
Published:4/19/2021 7:42:24 AM
[Markets] Navalny's Team Claims He 'Could Die At Any Moment' As US Warns Russia Of "Consequences"  Navalny's Team Claims He 'Could Die At Any Moment' As US Warns Russia Of "Consequences" 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has told CNN on Sunday that "We have communicated [to Russia] that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies."

Alexei Navalny's name was conspicuously absent from President Biden's Thursday evening address describing the administration's latest sanctions against Russia in response to a wide range of issues, mostly focused on the SolarWinds hack and election 'interference'. 

It was days later, over the weekend, that Navalny's media team began claiming he's "dying" in prison. He has for weeks complained that prison doctors have "refused" to treat him for various urgent conditions, particularly a suspected trapped nerve in his back that's been giving him severe leg problems. 

Via AFP

Following this there were fears he had tuberculosis and possibly COVID-19 - all which became a narrative pushed by his supporters that the Kremlin is "slowly killing him" while serving out a 2.5 year sentence at what's known as Penal Colony No. 2 east of Moscow. Prison authorities have denied the claims of maltreatment, saying repeatedly that his health is satisfactory and that he has not been denied treatment.

He's also now three weeks into a hunger strike in protest of the harsh confinement conditions. But given the likely disappointment that his plight has begun to fall out of Western media coverage, there was this latest over the weekend

Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is three weeks into a hunger strike, protesting the lack of medical attention he has received while in prison. Now, his doctor fears his death is imminent.

Physician Yaroslav Ashikhmin said test results that Navalny's family shared with him reveal increased potassium levels, which could lead to cardiac arrest, as well as heightened creatinine levels from deteriorating kidneys.

"Our patient could die at any moment," Ashikhmin wrote, according to a translated version of his Facebook post on Saturday.

Jake Sullivan addressed the absence of Navalny's name among Biden's latest Russia sanctions remarks as follows:

Asked whether a POTUS-Putin summit would still take place if Navalny dies, Sullivan says he is not going to get into hypotheticals largely because there is no summit even on the books yet—but adds that it would have to take place in the right circumstances and at the right time.

So it looks like Navalny is indeed once again getting the White House's attention, given Sullivan's new threat of "consequences" against Russia if the anti-Putin activist who last August said he was poisoned with nerve agent.

His allegations against prison authorities and against Putin himself are likely to grow louder and to continue. Most recently he alleged in a statement shared on Instagram that amid his hunger strike prison guards are now threatening to force feed him. 

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/18/2021 - 16:45
Published:4/18/2021 4:07:50 PM
[Markets] Yet Another Ridiculous Stock Market Bubble... In Three Charts Yet Another Ridiculous Stock Market Bubble... In Three Charts

Authored by David Rubino via DollarCollapse.com,

The Fiat Currency Age is nothing if not repetitious.

There are dozens of charts that illustrate how closely today’s financial bubble resembles its predecessors. But simple is better when expressing a hard truth, so let’s go with that old standby, margin debt. This is debt created when over-stimulated investors borrow against their stocks to buy more stocks. At its high extremes, the result is always the same: A price decline that forces overleveraged investors to liquidate at any price, turning correction into bloodbath. Note that the steeper the rise in margin debt, the more severe the resulting plunge in share prices.

The next chart illustrates more clearly the “steep” thing. The current spike is one for the record books.

Now, during past spikes in margin debt the “investors” who were swept up in the euphoria of easy money frequently responded to criticism with a variation on “corporate earnings are about to soar, which will make everything okay. Plus we know you’re only complaining because you missed the gravy train and you’re jealous.”

But corporate earnings almost never completely offset extreme valuations and soaring margin debt. A useful measure for visualizing this fact is “earnings yield,” which is the S&P 500 index’s aggregate earnings expressed as a percentage of its aggregate market cap. This is how much a buyer of the average stock receives in earnings per dollar invested. Common sense says the more the buyer receives the better the deal. And history says the less the buyer receives the higher the likelihood of stock prices falling in the ensuing few years. Today’s yield of 2.36% is the second-lowest ever. That’s really bad.

So here we are again. Stocks are soaring because corporate earnings are going to rise even faster. Yet – this being the peak of a long cycle – interest rates are also up, inflation is stirring, government deficits are otherworldly, and geopolitics are unsettled. It’s a virtual lock that corporate earnings will not save anyone this time around.

As in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, we’ve reached the point where share prices have to restore balance by falling to where it makes logical (as opposed to emotional) sense to own equities. And given the parabolic rise in margin debt, the process won’t be pretty.

As hedge fund manager David Einhorn recently lamented, “From a traditional perspective, the market is fractured and possibly in the process of breaking completely.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/18/2021 - 10:20
Published:4/18/2021 9:34:48 AM
[Entertainment] Five great new mysteries and thrillers to look forward to this spring Find intrigue, suspense — and an escape! — in new books by Linwood Barclay, Nancy Tucker, M.L. Longworth and more. Published:4/18/2021 8:04:19 AM
[Markets] The Political Economy Of Fear The Political Economy Of Fear

Authored by Robert Higgs via The Mises Institute,

[This article was originally published May 16, 2005... but seems ominously prophetic given our current age of rage and unreason.]

[S]ince love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. 

- Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

All animals experience fear - human beings, perhaps, most of all. Any animal incapable of fear would have been hard pressed to survive, regardless of its size, speed, or other attributes. Fear alerts us to dangers that threaten our well-being and sometimes our very lives. Sensing fear, we respond by running away, by hiding, or by preparing to ward off the danger.

To disregard fear is to place ourselves in possibly mortal jeopardy. Even the man who acts heroically on the battlefield, if he is honest, admits that he is scared. To tell people not to be afraid is to give them advice that they cannot take. Our evolved physiological makeup disposes us to fear all sorts of actual and potential threats, even those that exist only in our imagination.

The people who have the effrontery to rule us, who call themselves our government, understand this basic fact of human nature. They exploit it, and they cultivate it. Whether they compose a warfare state or a welfare state, they depend on it to secure popular submission, compliance with official dictates, and, on some occasions, affirmative cooperation with the state's enterprises and adventures. Without popular fear, no government could endure more than twenty-four hours. David Hume taught that all government rests on public opinion, but that opinion, I maintain, is not the bedrock of government. Public opinion itself rests on something deeper: fear.

Hume recognizes that the opinions that support government receive their force from "other principles," among which he includes fear, but he judges these other principles to be "the secondary, not the original principles of government" ([1777] 1987, 34). He writes: "No man would have any reason to fear the fury of a tyrant, if he had no authority over any but from fear" (ibid., emphasis in original). We may grant Hume's statement yet maintain that the government's authority over the great mass of its subjects rests fundamentally on fear. Every ideology that endows government with legitimacy requires and is infused by some kind(s) of fear. This fear need not be fear of the government itself and indeed may be fear of the danger from which the tyrant purports to protect the people.

The Natural History of Fear

Thousands of years ago, when the first governments were fastening themselves on people, they relied primarily on warfare and conquest. As Henry Hazlitt ([1976] 1994) observes,

There may have been somewhere, as a few eighteenth-century philosophers dreamed, a group of peaceful men who got together one evening after work and drew up a Social Contract to form the state. But nobody has been able to find an actual record of it. Practically all the governments whose origins are historically established were the result of conquest—of one tribe by another, one city by another, one people by another. Of course there have been constitutional conventions, but they merely changed the working rules of governments already in being.

Losers who were not slain in the conquest itself had to endure the consequent rape and pillage and in the longer term to acquiesce in the continuing payment of tribute to the insistent rulers—the stationary bandits, as Mancur Olson (2000, 6–9) aptly calls them. Subjugated people, for good reason, feared for their lives. Offered the choice of losing their wealth or losing their lives, they tended to choose the sacrifice of their wealth. Hence arose taxation, variously rendered in goods, services, or money (Nock [1935] 1973, 19–22; Nock relies on and credits the pioneering historical research of Ludwig Gumplowicz and Franz Oppenheimer).

Conquered people, however, naturally resent their imposed government and the taxation and other insults that it foists on them. Such resentful people easily become restive; should a promising opportunity to throw off the oppressor's dominion present itself, they may seize it. Even if they mount no rebellion or overt resistance, however, they quietly strive to avoid their rulers' exactions and to sabotage their rulers' apparatus of government. As Machiavelli observes, the conqueror "who does not manage this matter well, will soon lose whatever he has gained, and while he retains it will find in it endless troubles and annoyances" ([1513] 1992, 5). For the stationary bandits, force alone proves a very costly resource for keeping people in the mood to generate a substantial, steady stream of tribute.

Sooner or later, therefore, every government augments the power of its sword with the power of its priesthood, forging an iron union of throne and altar. In olden times, not uncommonly, the rulers were themselves declared to be gods—the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt made this claim for many centuries. Now the subjects can be brought to fear not only the ruler's superior force, but also his supernatural powers. Moreover, if people believe in an afterlife, where the pain and sorrows of this life may be sloughed off, the priests hold a privileged position in prescribing the sort of behavior in the here and now that best serves one's interest in securing a blessed situation in the life to come. Referring to the Catholic Church of his own day, Machiavelli takes note of "the spiritual power which of itself confers so mighty an authority" ([1513] 1992, 7), and he heaps praise on Ferdinand of Aragon, who, "always covering himself with the cloak of religion, ... had recourse to what may be called pious cruelty" (59, emphasis in original).

One naturally wonders whether President George W. Bush has taken a page from Ferdinand's book (see, in particular, Higgs 2003a and, for additional aspects, Higgs 2005b).

Naturally, the warriors and the priests, if not one and the same, almost invariably come to be cooperating parties in the apparatus of rule. In medieval Europe, for example, a baron's younger brother might look forward to becoming a bishop.

Thus, the warrior element of government puts the people in fear for their lives, and the priestly element puts them in fear for their eternal souls. These two fears compose a powerful compound—sufficient to prop up governments everywhere on earth for several millennia.

Over the ages, governments refined their appeals to popular fears, fostering an ideology that emphasizes the people's vulnerability to a variety of internal and external dangers from which the governors—of all people!—are said to be their protectors. Government, it is claimed, protects the populace from external attackers and from internal disorder, both of which are portrayed as ever-present threats. Sometimes the government, as if seeking to fortify the mythology with grains of truth, does protect people in this fashion—even the shepherd protects his sheep, but he does so to serve his own interest, not theirs, and when the time comes, he will shear or slaughter them as his interest dictates.

Olson (2000, 9–10) describes in simple terms why the stationary bandit may find it in his interest to invest in public goods (the best examples of which are defense of the realm and "law and order") that enhance his subjects' productivity. In brief, the ruler does so when the present value of the expected additional tax revenue he will be able to collect from a more productive population exceeds the current cost of the investment that renders the people more productive. See also the interpretation advanced by Bates (2001, 56–69, 102), who argues that in western Europe the kings entered into deals with the merchants and burghers, trading mercantilist privileges and "liberties" for tax revenue, in order to dominate the chronically warring rural dynasties and thereby to pacify the countryside. Unfortunately, as Bates recognizes, the kings sought this enlarged revenue for the purpose of conducting ever-more-costly wars against other kings and against domestic opponents. Thus, their "pacification" schemes, for the most part, served the purpose of funding their fighting, leaving the net effect on overall societal well-being very much in question. Both Olson and Bates argue along lines similar to those developed by Douglass C. North in a series of books published over the past four decades; see especially North and Thomas 1973, and North 1981 and 1990.

When the government fails to protect the people as promised, it always has a good excuse, often blaming some element of the population--scapegoats such as traders, money lenders, and unpopular ethnic or religious minorities. "[N]o prince," Machiavelli assures us, "was ever at a loss for plausible reasons to cloak a breach of faith" ([1513] 1992, 46).

The religious grounds for submission to the ruler-gods gradually transmogrified into notions of nationalism and popular duty, culminating eventually in the curious idea that under a democratic system of government, the people themselves are the government, and hence whatever it requires them to do, they are really doing for themselves—as Woodrow Wilson had the cheek to declare when he proclaimed military conscription backed by severe criminal sanctions in 1917, "it is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling: it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass" (qtd. in Palmer 1931, 216–17).

Not long after the democratic dogma had gained a firm foothold, organized coalitions emerged from the mass electorate and joined the elites in looting the public treasury, and, as a consequence, in the late nineteenth century the so-called welfare state began to take shape. From that time forward, people were told that the government can and should protect them from all sorts of workaday threats to their lives, livelihoods, and overall well-being—threats of destitution, hunger, disability, unemployment, illness, lack of income in old age, germs in the water, toxins in the food, and insults to their race, sex, ancestry, creed, and so forth. Nearly everything that the people feared, the government then stood poised to ward off. Thus did the welfare state anchor its rationale in the solid rock of fear. Governments, having exploited popular fears of violence so successfully from time immemorial (promising "national security"), had no difficulty in cementing these new stones (promising "social security") into their foundations of rule.

The Political Economy of Fear

Fear, like every other "productive" resource, is subject to the laws of production. Thus, it cannot escape the law of diminishing marginal productivity: as successive doses of fear-mongering are added to the government's "production" process, the incremental public clamor for governmental protection declines. The first time the government cries wolf, the public is frightened; the second time, less so; the third time, still less so. If the government plays the fear card too much, it overloads the public's sensibilities, and eventually people discount almost entirely the government's attempts to frighten them further.

Having been warned in the 1970s about catastrophic global cooling (see, for example, The Cooling World 1975), then, soon afterward, about catastrophic global warming, the populace may grow weary of heeding the government's warnings about the dire consequences of alleged global climate changes—dire unless, of course, the government takes stringent measures to bludgeon the people into doing what "must" be done to avert the predicted disaster.

Recently the former Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge revealed that other government officials had overruled him when he wanted to refrain from raising the color-coded threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, in response to highly unlikely threats. "You have to use that tool of communication very sparingly," Ridge astutely remarked (qtd. by Hall 2005).

Fear is a depreciating asset. As Machiavelli observes, "the temper of the multitude is fickle, and ... while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion" ([1513 1992, 14). Unless the foretold threat eventuates, the people come to doubt its substance. The government must make up for the depreciation by investing in the maintenance, modernization, and replacement of its stock of fear capital. For example, during the Cold War, the general sense of fear of the Soviets tended to dissipate unless restored by periodic crises, many of which took the form of officially announced or leaked "gaps" between U.S. and Soviet military capabilities: troop-strength gap, bomber gap, missile gap, antimissile gap, first-strike-missile gap, defense-spending gap, thermonuclear-throw-weight gap, and so forth (Higgs 1994, 301–02).4

One of the most memorable and telling lines in the classic Cold War film Dr. Strangelove occurs as the president and his military bigwigs, facing unavoidable nuclear devastation of the earth, devise a plan to shelter a remnant of Americans for thousands of years in deep mine shafts, and General "Buck" Turgidson, still obsessed with a possible Russian advantage, declares: "Mr. President, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap!"

Lately, a succession of official warnings about possible forms of terrorist attack on the homeland has served the same purpose: keeping the people "vigilant," which is to say, willing to pour enormous amounts of their money into the government's bottomless budgetary pits of "defense" and "homeland security" (Higgs 2003b).

This same factor helps to explain the drumbeat of fears pounded out by the mass media: besides serving their own interests in capturing an audience, they buy insurance against government punishment by playing along with whatever program of fear-mongering the government is conducting currently. Anyone who watches, say, CNN's Headline News programs can attest that a day seldom passes without some new announcement of a previously unsuspected Terrible Threat—I call it the danger du jour.

By keeping the population in a state of artificially heightened apprehension, the government-cum-media prepares the ground for planting specific measures of taxation, regulation, surveillance, reporting, and other invasions of the people's wealth, privacy, and freedoms. Left alone for a while, relieved of this ceaseless bombardment of warnings, people would soon come to understand that hardly any of the announced threats has any substance and that they can manage their own affairs quite well without the security-related regimentation and tax-extortion the government seeks to justify.

Large parts of the government and the "private" sector participate in the production and distribution of fear. (Beware: many of the people in the ostensibly private sector are in reality some sort of mercenary living ultimately at taxpayer expense. True government employment is much greater than officially reported [Light 1999; Higgs 2005a] .) Defense contractors, of course, have long devoted themselves to stoking fears of enemies big and small around the globe who allegedly seek to crush our way of life at the earliest opportunity. Boeing's often-shown TV spots, for example, assure us that the company is contributing mightily to protecting "our freedom." If you believe that, I have a shiny hunk of useless Cold War hardware to sell you. The news and entertainment media enthusiastically jump on the bandwagon of foreign-menace alarmism—anything to get the public's attention.

Consultants of every size and shape clamber onboard, too, facilitating the distribution of billions of dollars to politically favored suppliers of phoney-baloney "studies" that give rise to thick reports, the bulk of which is nothing but worthless filler restating the problem and speculating about how one might conceivably go about discovering workable solutions. All such reports agree, however, that a crisis looms and that more such studies must be made in preparation for dealing with it. Hence a kind of Say's Law of the political economy of crisis: supply (of government-funded studies) creates its own demand (for government-funded studies).

Truth be known, governments commission studies when they are content with the status quo but desire to write hefty checks to political favorites, cronies, and old associates who now purport to be "consultants." At the same time, in this way, the government demonstrates to the public that it is "doing something" to avert impending crisis X.

At every point, opportunists latch onto existing fears and strive to invent new ones to feather their own nests. Thus, public-school teachers and administrators agree that the nation faces an "education crisis." Police departments and temperance crusaders insist that the nation faces a generalized "drug crisis" or at times a specific drug crisis, such as "an epidemic of crack cocaine use." Public-health interests foster fears of "epidemics" that in reality consist not of the spread of contagious pathogens but of the lack of personal control and self-responsibility, such as the "epidemic of obesity" or the "epidemic of juvenile homicides." By means of this tactic, a host of personal peccadilloes has been medicalized and consigned to the "therapeutic state" (Nolan 1998, Szasz 2001, Higgs 1999).

In this way, people's fears that their children may become drug addicts or gun down a classmate become grist for the government's mill—a mill that may grind slowly, but at least it does so at immense expense, with each dollar falling into some fortunate recipient's pocket (a psychiatrist, a social worker, a public-health nurse, a drug-court judge; the list is almost endless). In this way and countless others, private parties become complicit in sustaining a vast government apparatus fueled by fear.

Fear Works Best in Wartime

Even absolute monarchs can get bored. The exercise of great power may become tedious and burdensome—underlings are always disturbing your serenity with questions about details; victims are always appealing for clemency, pardons, or exemptions from your rules. In wartime, however, rulers come alive. Nothing equals war as an opportunity for greatness and public acclaim, as all such leaders understand (Higgs 1997). Condemned to spend their time in high office during peacetime, they are necessarily condemned to go down in history as mediocrities at best.

Upon the outbreak of war, however, the exhilaration of the hour spreads through the entire governing apparatus. Army officers who had languished for years at the rank of captain may now anticipate becoming colonels. Bureau heads who had supervised a hundred subordinates with a budget of $1 million may look forward to overseeing a thousand with a budget of $20 million. Powerful new control agencies must be created and staffed. New facilities must be built, furnished, and operated. Politicians who had found themselves frozen in partisan gridlock can now expect that the torrent of money gushing from the public treasury will grease the wheels for putting together humongous legislative deals undreamt of in the past. Everywhere the government turns its gaze, the scene is flush with energy, power, and money. For those whose hands direct the machinery of a government at war, life has never been better.

Small wonder that John T. Flynn (1948), in writing about the teeming bureaucrats during World War II, titled his chapter "The Happiest Years of Their Lives":

Even before the war, the country had become a bureaucrat's paradise. But with the launching of the war effort the bureaus proliferated and the bureaucrats swarmed over the land like a plague of locusts. ... The place [Washington, D.C.] swarmed with little professors fresh from their $2,500-a-year jobs now stimulated by five, six and seven-thousand-dollar salaries and whole big chunks of the American economy resting in their laps. (310, 315)

Sudden bureaucratic dilation on such a scale can happen only when the nation goes to war and the public relaxes its resistance to the government's exactions. Legislators know that they can now get away with taxing people at hugely elevated rates, rationing goods, allocating raw materials, transportation services, and credit, authorizing gargantuan borrowing, drafting men, and generally exercising vastly more power than they exercised before the war.

Although people may groan and complain about the specific actions the bureaucrats take in implementing the wartime mobilization, few dare to resist overtly or even to criticize publicly the overall mobilization or the government's entry into the war—by doing so they would expose themselves not only to legal and extralegal government retribution but also to the rebuke and ostracism of their friends, neighbors, and business associates. As the conversation stopper went during World War II, "Don't you know there's a war on?" (Lingeman 1970).

Because during wartime the public fears for the nation's welfare, perhaps even for its very survival, people surrender wealth, privacy, and liberties to the government far more readily than they otherwise would. Government and its private contractors therefore have a field day. Opportunists galore join the party, each claiming to be performing some "essential war service," no matter how remote their affairs may be from contributing directly to the military program. Using popular fear to justify its predations, the government lays claim to great expanses of the economy and the society. Government taxation, borrowing, expenditure, and direct controls dilate, while individual rights shrivel into insignificance. Of what importance is one little person when the entire nation is in peril?

Finally, of course, every war ends, but each leaves legacies that persist, sometimes permanently. In the United States, the War between the States and both world wars left a multitude of such legacies (Hummel 1996, Higgs 1987, 2004). Likewise, as Corey Robin (2004, 25) writes, "one day, the war on terrorism will come to an end. All wars do. And when it does, we will find ourselves still living in fear: not of terrorism or radical Islam, but of the domestic rulers that fear has left behind." Among other things, we will find that "various security agencies operating in the interest of national security have leveraged their coercive power in ways that target dissenters posing no conceivable threat of terrorism" (189). Not by accident, "the FBI has targeted the antiwar movement in the United States for especially close scrutiny" (189).

Such targeting is scarcely a surprise, because war is, in Randolph Bourne's classic phrase, "the health of the state," and the FBI is a core agency in protecting and enhancing the U.S. government's health. Over the years, the FBI has also done much to promote fear among the American populace, most notoriously perhaps in its COINTELPRO operations during the 1960s, but in plenty of others ways, too (Linfield 1990, 59–60, 71, 99–102, 123–28, 134–39). Nor has it worked alone in these endeavors. From top to bottom, the government wants us to be afraid, needs us to be afraid, invests greatly in making us afraid.

Conclusion

 Were we ever to stop being afraid of the government itself and to cast off the phoney fears it has fostered, the government would shrivel and die, and the host would disappear for the tens of millions of parasites in the United States—not to speak of the vast number of others in the rest of the world--who now feed directly and indirectly off the public's wealth and energies. On that glorious day, everyone who had been living at public expense would have to get an honest job, and the rest of us, recognizing government as the false god it has always been, could set about assuaging our remaining fears in more productive and morally defensible ways.

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/18/2021 - 00:00
Published:4/17/2021 11:31:28 PM
[Markets] What's Taboo? Everything Except Greed What's Taboo? Everything Except Greed

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

OK, now I get it. Take a couple tabs of Euphorestra and Hopium, and stick to talking about making money in the market. Greed won't offend anyone.



So I started to tell my buddy about my new screenplay idea: "There's a global pandemic, and when they rush a bunch of vaccines to market, then...."

"Stop right there--even talking about vaccines will get you renditioned to a hellhole in one of the 'stans."

"But it's just fiction."

"You can argue with your guard in the hellhole, just before they haul you off to be waterboarded."

"Jeez, has everything really gotten that crazy? OK, never mind. Anyway, I'm working on a little nostalgic story about the good old days when we plinked cans with our .22 rifles..."

"Don't mention guns. Doesn't matter who you talk to, somebody will get upset."

"But this was in the mountains, nobody around, just single-shot .22s."

"Doesn't matter. You'll lose friends or make new enemies just mentioning guns. Forget it."

"OK, if you say so. Hey, did you read about that proposal for the Supreme Court?"

"Are you trying to get people to hate on you? Never bring up politics and the Supreme Court, it's a sewage sandwich. Whatever you say will unleash hell."

"Dang, is it really so insane out there? I think you're getting psycho-paranoid."

"Don't ever joke about anything related to mental illness. That's super-taboo."

"Anyways, I was reading an article about cryptos and energy consumption, and--"

"Never bring up cryptos except privately, it's like a religious war. You'll get burned at the stake one way or the other."

"Has everyone forgotten what Thomas Merton said, 'The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves'?"

"Merton was a Christian, right? Don't bring up Christianity, that'll get you crucified. If you want to talk about religion, talk about Zoroastrianism, but only to people who don't know anything about it."

"This is nuts! What can I talk about? The weather?"

"Nope, never bring up the weather unless you want to lose friends and make new enemies. The word "weather" means global warming now, and there you go, down the rathole to hell again."

"OK Mr. Smart-Guy. What isn't taboo yet? A movie I saw?"

"No way, that's guaranteed to set off a firestorm because every movie has a subtext that offends someone. And if you praise a comedy, that's offensive to everyone who's offended on behalf of the offended."

"Don't tell me that bringing up the killer burrito I had at that taco truck down by the harbor--"

"Are you joking? It's cultural appropriation even mentioning an ethnic food, and the word 'killer' is verboten--just another example of the normalization of violence."

"Is there anything that isn't taboo?"

"As far as I can tell, only one thing: minting money in the market. Talk about options and penny stocks, you're golden with everyone. Those who scored big gains are gloating, and those who missed out want in."

"So greed and folly are the only non-taboo topics left?"

"Yes, greed is still good, but only if you're bullish and upbeat. If you're bearish, forget it. You're better off in the rendition hellhole in the 'stans."

"OK, now I get it. Take a couple tabs of Euphorestra and Hopium, and stick to talking about making money in the market. Greed won't offend anyone."

"Correct. At least until the bubble pops. After that, better stick with kittens and puppies."



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Tyler Durden Sat, 04/17/2021 - 10:10
Published:4/17/2021 9:31:02 AM
[Markets] Hunter Biden's Memoir Flops Despite Media Fluffing Hunter Biden's Memoir Flops Despite Media Fluffing

Hunter Biden's memoir, Beautiful Things, has totally flopped - selling under 11,000 copies to date, according to Publishers Weekly.

The dismal sales come despite, as Sara Carter's Douglass Braff notes, "the abundant media promotion from places such as CNN, CBS News, and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!“ - especially about the memoir’s sex and drug content - in the lead-up to the book’s release."

The book of President Joe Biden‘s youngest son debuted at twelfth place among hardcover nonfiction books. Some notable books that beat Hunter Biden’s memoir include National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” in first place with 42,318 copies and Fox News host Shannon Bream’s “The Women of the Bible Speak: The Wisdom of 16 Women and Their Lessons for Today” in second with 32,686 copies during the same timeframe.

His memoir did have a stronger showing on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list though, finishing its debut week in fourth place in the “Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction” category. -Sara A. Carter

Braff also notes that Biden attempted to downplay the significance of the infamous laptop scandal broken by the New York Post in the run-up to the 2020 US election - telling Jimmy Kimmel that it's a "red herring," while falsely claiming that it had been deemed part of a Russian disinformation operation by the Director of National Intelligence's office.

Of note, Donald Trump Jr.'s book Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us sold 70,000 copies in its first week, according to Neilsen BookScan, and infuriated liberals when it made the New York Times' best seller list.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/16/2021 - 20:40
Published:4/16/2021 8:00:04 PM
[Markets] Friday Fun? 7 Ways The World Would Be Better Without Police Friday Fun? 7 Ways The World Would Be Better Without Police

Via The Babylon Bee,

Police are part of a system of oppression that is very systemic and oppressive. It's true - our rich white sociology professor told us so. 

Some politicians are calling us to "reimagine policing," but we think that's not far enough! It's time to imagine a world with no police!

Here are 7 reasons the world would be better without police. 

1. There would be more doughnuts available for the rest of us - We're sick of showing up at the doughnut shop to find the police already came in and took all the best ones. Oppression at its finest. 

2. Vigilante justice is way more fun - At least, according to the movies, it is. Why call the police when you can form your own posse and hunt down the evildoers yourself? 

3. With speed limits not enforced, you can finally test the limits of your 2013 Honda Odyssey - Always wanted to see what this puppy could do!

4. There would be much more liberation of TVs from Walmart - Think about it: there are thousands of TVs, tennis shoes, and top-shelf liquor being held in captivity all across the nation. It's time to liberate these high-priced goods from their shelves! 

5. Unlimited loitering outside 7-Eleven - You can stand out there for hours and no one will bother you. Heaven on earth! 

6. You can yell in the library now - Not only that, but you can check out unlimited books and never bring them back with complete impunity.

7. All problems in the black community will go away - Everything wrong in the inner city is the cops' fault. If the cops go, everything will be solved. It's just that simple! 

Isn't it fun to imagine?

Now, all we have to do is vote in politicians who will promise to make all the cool things in our imagination come true.

Get on it, people! 

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/16/2021 - 17:00
Published:4/16/2021 4:18:27 PM
[Open Threads] Idle thoughts of an idle blogger

I haven’t been posting on my blog but I’ve still been thinking about politics and world issues. This is a potpourri of those thoughts. Does anyone today remember Jerome K. Jerome? He was a Victorian-era author of whimsical books. I believe his best-known book was Three Men in a Boat,

The post Idle thoughts of an idle blogger appeared first on Bookworm Room.

Published:4/16/2021 3:53:34 PM
[Markets] Record JPMorgan Bond Offering 2x Oversubscribed Record JPMorgan Bond Offering 2x Oversubscribed

In his latest investment letter, Jamie Dimon made it quite clear that he sees the US economy as overheating in the coming years and expects far higher rates (to be sure, he has been expecting higher rates for years now but we'll let that slide), and today the largest US commercial bank put its money - or rather debt - what its mouth was when it announced it would sell a whopping $13 billion of bonds, a record for the largest bond sale ever from a bank, as it looks to lock in some of the cheapest borrowing rates in years.

According to Bloomberg, the longest portion of the five-part offering, a 31-year security, is expected to yield 107 basis points above Treasuries. The sale comes a day after JPMorgan reported strong first-quarter earnings, including a 15% increase in fixed-income, currency and commodity trading revenue and a $5.2 billion release from its credit reserves.

What we find especially curious, however, is that JPM's investors clearly don't share Jamie Dimon's reflationary fears and lined up in droves to buy bonds which - if the JPM CEO is right - would be worth far less in three decades if the US goes through the kind of growth "Golden Age" that Jamie predicted in his investor letter.

Indeed, according to Bloomberg, order books for the deal reached about $26 billion, making it at least twice oversubscribed. Including today’s sale, JPMorgan has raised $22 billion in the U.S. dollar investment-grade bond market this year, more than any other major U.S. bank, according to Bloomberg data. Not surprisingly, JPM is hitting the market with borrowing costs near all-time lows.

“Banks are always going to be hefty issuers, which lends a certain opportunism to tapping the markets especially when funding is still so cheap,” said Jesse Rosenthal, a senior analyst at CreditSights.

Besides record low rates, there may be another reason for the frenzied bond offering: according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Arnold Kakuda, the jumbo offering may be related to recent changes in regulatory relief for banks. As we discussed previously, JPMorgan’s equity and debt requirements are now higher after supplementary leverage ratio relief ended in March, and JPMorgan - the largest U.S. bank by assets - may be simply seeing to beef up its capital buffers as the fate of the SLR is decided.

Incidentally, as Bloomberg notes, the previous largest sale by a bank also came from JPMorgan, a $10 billion offering in April 2020. And yes, JPMorgan is the sole bookrunner of the sale by JPMorgan, and will pocket the fees issued by, well, itself. Proceeds are marked for general corporate purposes.

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/15/2021 - 18:10
Published:4/15/2021 5:14:55 PM
[Markets] Can The Great "Awokening" Succeed? Can The Great "Awokening" Succeed?

Authored by Victor Davis Hanson via AmGreatness.com,

We all know that we are living in revolutionary times. The origins, ascendence, values, laws, and future of the United States are all under assault by self-described, though accurately described, revolutionaries.

It is a Jacobin, Bolshevik, or Maoist moment. All aspects of life, well beyond politics, are now to be ideologically conditioned. Everything from kindergarten messaging, cartoons, workplace reeducation, and television commercials to college admissions, baseball games, and the airlines are to be “fundamentally transformed” along racial lines.

Long gone is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a colorblind society. Gone, at least at the state level, is confidence in the melting pot of assimilation, integration, and intermarriage (although mixed marriages and multiracial children are at an all-time high).

Gone are even the affirmative-action doctrines of proportional representation and disparate impact. (Yet the two mandates were always arbitrarily applied, in the sense that the U.S. Postal Service and the professional football and basketball leagues never paid much attention to racial quotas based on demographic percentages, which apparently only applied to white and Asian “overrepresentation” elsewhere).

Wokeism, however, is essentially tribal. It seeks to identify particular nonwhite constituencies, unite them not by identical class, not by similar skin color, not by collective similar history, not by shared experience, not by mutual cultural affinities, not by longstanding historical alliances, but simply by two premises:

1) Those of the woke collective are either claimants to being “nonwhite,” and thus victims of racism, or they are architects and supporters of the wokeist agenda, and:

2) they can thereby all either directly leverage reparatory concessions in hiring, admissions, careers, compensation, and general influence or ensure the revolutionary guillotine exempts themselves.

A cynic might add that much of this new racialism is a product of globalteering, and seeks to cater to huge foreign markets—China especially—by both “looking more like the world,” and delighting America’s critics, while appeasing far less moral audiences and consumers abroad than a perceived shrinking market at home.

Still for the woke revolution to succeed, a number of experiments will have to go its way.

Merit Was Always a Sham?

Wokeism assumes that merit was mostly an arbitrary white construct. Its use was to insist on ethnocentric and culturally exclusionary criteria to ostracize the Other. Otherwise, “merit” had not much relation with real competency.

Is that allegation true? We shall soon see.

But note first that few are saying to keep bar-exam grading static, or SAT minimum scores for admission the same, and thereby instead create a Marshall Plan effort in the inner-city to stop the violence, turn failed schools into stellar academies, and honestly critique single-parent households, illegitimacy, and inordinate criminality—as an effort to ensure African American youth are not just qualified, but better qualified meritocratically than those who are deemed to hold these monopolies.

Instead, take the United Airlines idea that it won’t necessarily train the most qualified would-be pilot candidates. Now it will target applicants by racial groupings and, by fiat, limit white males to 2,500 of 5,000 slots in its pilot-training schools. If a nonwhite applicant has less prior experience with flight, scores lower on a test, or compiled a less than competitive high school or college record, it won’t matter then. These were all always useless benchmarks apparently.

In today’s age of computer-driven avionics, the prerequisite ability to do math, to know something about navigation, to understand computers, or to have the proper temperament to fly a plane doesn’t really matter. The fact that thousands will enter pilot training, and soon aircraft controlling, in part on the basis of their gender or race, will not in any way affect the safety or efficacy of travel.

We will know fairly soon the answers to this woke experiment by two criteria: Will pilot error, whether fatal or incidental, increase? And will our elites, whether in Air Force One, or in their own Gulfstreams, follow suit and hire pilots on the basis of their diversity first, and avionics record second.

We can ditto race-based criteria now used at the corporate and financial level, in high-tech, the military, entertainment, education, and in likely everything from movie roles to book contracts to national awards.

Again, such emphases assume that our current managers, professionals, and directors of the last 50 years were heretofore racists or were hired by racists. Or at least they satisfied artificially constructed high standards that bore little relation to actual skills required on the job.

Or they must no longer enjoy percentages in the workplace simply representative of their demographic percentages, but rather in reparatory fashion become underrepresented rather than just demographically correct.

To sum up, in other words, if there were similar race-based/diversity criteria applied to the current meritocratic NBA, would it matter all that much?

If African American athletes were by protocol and statute kept to between, say, 12-20 percent of the NBA player roster, to reflect the black 12-13 percent of the U.S. population, would it make that much difference?

Would the starting L.A. Lakers five, with one African American forward, one white player, a Latino guard, an Asian center, and a Punjabi shooter be all that less exciting, skilled, or successful a team? Are the current standards that accept or reject an NBA player constructed or weighed to favor African Americans that can be judged by their “overrepresentation”?

In the logic of wokeness, would the resulting appeal of a team—that “looks more like” a multiracial America—make up in diversity, unity, cohesion, equity, inclusion, and appeal what it lost in sheer abilities to make plays, dribble, shoot, rebound, dunk, or block? Were the all-white racialist and exclusionary teams of the 1940s really no different in skill and ability than the purely meritocratic 2021 teams? Of course not.

Again, we are going to find out, and in a number of professions, what happens when traditional meritocratic standards are replaced by woke guidelines.

Some Racism Is Not Racism

Wokeism assumes asymmetry. That is, it assumes, for recompensatory purposes, that the spirit of slavery remains, that the hatreds propelling Jim Crow from 1879 to 2021 are very much alive, that the civil rights movement of “equality of opportunity” of the last 55 years was more or less a noble dud. And the result is wokeism’s doctrine that reparatory bias is not bias. Or if it is, the people will understand, Animal Farm-style, why some discrimination is good and different from other discrimination that is bad or why some prejudice is more tolerable than other prejudices.

If asymmetrical wokeism then operates with a necessary and correct imbalance accepted by most, then there will be nothing wrong. There will follow no backlash, no social chaos, in using race to denigrate others collectively.

There will be nothing wrong in ad nauseam using “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” and “white terrorists’” in pejoratively stereotypical terms—collectively to apply to all 230 million deemed whites‚ whether the unemployed welder or the part-time junior college instructor or Bill Gates—in a way that it would be terribly wrong to talk pejoratively and collectively in terms of any other group.

If one collates all the things that have been said over the years about whites in general by Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, or Maxine Waters, and yet more recently in more sophisticated fashion by the new generation of racialist-obsessed intellectuals such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, Damon Young, or Elie Mystal, and then switched the terms white to black, would there be any outcry that it was becoming wrong to deductively extrapolate from individuals collective values and beliefs, and then, in circular fashion, reapply them to individuals as an innate trait?

We shall soon discover whether this tenet of wokeism—asymmetrical use of collective stereotyping—is widely accepted by 330 million Americans. We will soon see one of three consequences from this unapologetic woke racial generalizing:

1) The American people are so inured to their hateful origins and history, that they do not mind at all when whites are collectively demonized as enjoying positions they never earned and thus logically should not continue to enjoy.

Or,

2) Given that no one objects to stereotyping 230 million people, no one objects to anyone stereotyping others on the basis of race, in the manner that once fostered the civil rights movement.

Or,

3) We will all for survival, as Rwanda, the Balkans, and Iraq teach us, group together by first-cousin affinities and tribes. Recalling Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes, we will freely stereotype, denigrate, and separate from other groups on the premises that our particular generalizations and deductions are the one and only true and accurate typecasting.

Artur Widak/NurPhoto

Dr. Frankenstein and His Woke Monster

What made a 90 percent white population of the late 1950s and 1960s finally sicken of racial bias? Many things—protests, boycotts, the force of moral persuasion. But three things stand out.

One, segregation and bias were always contrary to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Two, these assumptions of racial prejudice were not predicated on any discernible science, logic, or coherent basis other than tribal bias, hatred, and ignorance.

Three, racial unfairness robbed the United States of critical talent by ignoring merit and substituting pseudo-scientific tribal affinities.

Yet by the emerging 1960s did anyone really believe that Perry Como de facto had a better voice than Harry Belafonte or Sammy Davis, Jr., that Sidney Poitier must be a less gifted actor than Frank Sinatra, that Hank Aaron was innately less impressive than Roger Maris, or that Senator Edward Brooke was less competent an American senator than Senator Herman Talmadge? Again, no.

Wokeness is returning to such tribal separation and crackpot categorization on the one assumption that its arbitrary rules will not alienate Americans as they finally did in the past.

So now are we to believe that non-whites can pick the race of their future roommates in colleges without audit or complaint? Farm aid shall be doled out to all except whites? Welfare in Oakland must exclude poor white recipients? Vaccinations will be targeted to non-white groups first? Will 330 million Americans grow to accept that racial typology will govern all state policy—in following a noble and successful historical precedent?

In each mass shooting, we shall broadcast the horror only if the shooter is white and his victims not so, but mute the story if the opposite should be true?

For noble purposes, criminal suspects shall not be identified by race unless they are white? It will be fine in advance to announce the gender and race of a vice-presidential candidate that mostly alone will determine the selection? We will massage data, and suppress or publicize statistics depending on their usefulness to the woke movement?

If blacks are disproportionately responsible for hate crimes against Asian Americans, we will keep still, or better yet nobly lie that whites are.

Such wokeness assumes that the Eastern Europeans never tired of their ministry-of-truth propaganda, that the cynical Soviet citizen never ignored Pravda’s assertions, or that Cubans really believe the Castro communiques.

Wokeness is either unaware of, or unconcerned with, the seething religious, caste, and racial tensions that plague India, or wrecked Lebanon, or unwound Yugoslavia. That is, the woke believe their Byzantine books of race-based exceptions, exemptions, and absolutions will convince 330 million Americans that segregation, or official untruth, are permitted, given historical circumstances and the common good.

But they will not.

Finally, wokeness takes for granted that its elite white Dr. Frankenstein architects will always control the prejudicial woke monster they created—on the assumption that one will never devour its creators. But history suggests ideologies often do just that.

Over the last two weeks, many of America’s most elite colleges seem to have deliberately restricted white admissions to around 30-40 percent of their incoming classes—on the altar of diversity and post-George Floyd wokeness. Yet, not every high-earning, bicoastal white liberal can give $10 million to Yale or Stanford or sire a likely future Major League Baseball star.

For the woke white elite, then, it will be hard to find some exemption from the rules that 70 percent of the population will be artificially recalibrated to 30 percent of the successful admissions.

A white liberal may have said “Who cares?” when hard-working Asians who represent six percent of the U.S. population were deliberately restricted to no more than 30-40 percent of the nation’s “best” colleges. But now? Will he really preen, “Bravo, my super-prepped, hyper-achieving prodigy got rejected at all the good schools and I’m so proud he took one for the woke team?”

Or what happens to the wannabe woke CEO who offered every sort of humiliating “unearned” confession, but nevertheless was still of the wrong color? Or what will be the mindset of the progressive, white male lieutenant colonel who found that his loud wokeness was mostly useful in preparing him to better understand why he should not be promoted to brigadier general?

It is OK for woke whites to be constantly accused of “unearned privilege” as long as their bicoastal billets were tolerably reduced by just 20 percent due to racial gerrymandering. But does their magnanimity extend to a 30-40 percent white jizyah, that cuts so close to progressive homes?

Will the brilliant actress in a blockbuster classic mumble, if even just privately, that she was the wrong color to be nominated as best actress?

Sure, some may feel that these are elite psychodramas. But for that reason, they will become mostly the angsts of the Left. The liberal white elite class engineered a system of woke racialism that they assumed rested on some sort of unspoken 70 percent white/12 percent black/10 percent Latino/six percent Asian, and two percent “other” formula that would always still leave them plenty of spoils while the unhappy consequences fell instead on Dotty the Deplorable, Charlie Chump, Cliff the Clinger, and Irene Irredeemable. They did not sign up for a 30-40 percent white allotment that cuts into the white woke; that is, the good and the morally superior whites.

So this, too, will be another of wokeism’s greatest tests, when elite writers, professors, actors, lawyers, newsroom grandees, and CEO magnificoes learn that they, too, can be of the wrong color under the new tribal prejudice they fostered.

Wokeism is creating a future group of politically incorrect Trotskyites on a proverbial rendezvous with a Mexican ice ax, given that by birth they will never be woke enough for the new Stalinism.

Tyler Durden Wed, 04/14/2021 - 23:40
Published:4/14/2021 10:41:21 PM
[Markets] Bernie Madoff Has Died Bernie Madoff Has Died

Just over 12 years after he was jailed for the largest ponzi scheme fraud ever, AP reports that Bernie Madoff has died in a federal prison, believed to be from natural causes.

Timeline: Key dates in the Bernard Madoff case

1980s

Bernard Madoff, a renowned Wall Street trader, initiates a scheme to defraud his investment clients. He eventually accepts billions of dollars from individual investors, charitable organisations, pension funds, hedge funds, and others. He claims that his sophisticated trading and hedging strategy will produce investment gains in all market conditions, though securities regulators later say he never traded any shares for client accounts.

May 2000

Massachusetts financial analyst Harry Markopolos tries to alert financial regulators to Madoff's fraud, saying his alleged trading strategy could never yield such continuously positive returns. The US securities and exchange commission ignores his warning several more times over the next few years.

25 November 2008

Ruth Madoff withdraws $5.5m from a Madoff-linked brokerage firm. She withdraws another $10m on 10 December.

Early December 2008

Bernard Madoff tells a senior employee of his investment firm that clients had requested $7bn in redemptions, and he was having trouble coming up with the cash to fulfil the withdrawals.

Madoff tells his sons that the business was "all just one big lie" and "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme". He estimates the fraud to be $50bn. Prosecutors later allege that the combined balance on client statements was approximately $64.8bn.

11 December 2008

Madoff surrenders to authorities, saying "there is no innocent explanation". Madoff is freed on a $10m bond. Federal prosecutors eventually charge him with fraud, international money laundering, lying to federal securities regulators, and other counts.

12 December 2008

A federal judge freezes Madoff's assets.

15 December 2008

A federal judge appoints a trustee to find funds to restore to Madoff's victims, who number roughly 4,800 in the US and abroad.

17 December 2008

Madoff's wife surrenders her passport. He is confined to his luxurious $7m Manhattan apartment and ordered to wear an electronic tag after failing to find anyone outside his family willing to guarantee his $10m bail.

23 December 2008

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French hedge fund manager Thierry de la Villehuchet is found dead in an apparent suicide. His company Access International Advisers lost as much as $1.4bn of its clients' money in Madoff's scam.

5 January 2009

Prosecutors reveal Madoff distributed $1m worth of jewelry and personal possessions to friends and relatives. Prosecutors say he violated an order freezing his assets.

8 January 2009

Prosecutors reveal Madoff had $173m in signed cheques in his desk when he was arrested, which they argue show he sought to keep assets from fleeced investors. Prosecutors ask Judge Ronald Ellis to send Madoff to jail; Ellis declines.

12 January 2009

Madoff avoids jail when judge rules he can stay in his $7m apartment but must submit to mail searches.

15 January 2009

Financial services regulators say no evidence exists that Madoff ever traded a single share on behalf of his investment clients, in more than 40 years of examining his books.

12 March 2009

Madoff jailed after pleading guilty to all 11 charges against him.

14 March 2009

Madoff appeals for bail and reveals his wife's huge fortune.

16 March 2009

US authorities to seize $69m of assets held in Ruth Madoff's name, including a Manhattan penthouse and $17m bank account

18 March 2009

Madoff accountant, David Friehling, charged with fraud as prosecutors claim he helped deceive investors by rubber-stamping accounts for 17 years.

11 June 2009

Madoff fraud victim, William Foxton, 65, killed himself amid claims he was unable to face the shame of losing his family savings through the Ponzi scheme.

16 June 2009

More than 100 former clients who lost money in Madoff's Ponzi scheme outline the devastation wreaked on their lives in statements to the judge conducting the case.

29 June 2009

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Madoff sentenced to 150 years in prison. He said he has left "a legacy of shame", while victims applaud the maximum sentence.

29 July 2009

Madoff tells a lawyer that he was "amazed that he got away with it" for so long and thought several times when meeting SEC officials that "they got me".

2 April 2010

Actor John Malkovich seeks to recover $2.3m he lost in Madoff's firm.

25 November 2010

A trustee for Madoff's victims launches legal action against UBS for "enabling" the fraud. Goes on to sue JP Morgan and HSBC.

11 December 2010

Mark Madoff, Bernard's son, is found dead in his apartment on the second anniversary of his father's arrest.

16 February 2011

Madoff tells his biographer that banks knew he was committing fraud but chose not to do anything about it.

14 April 2021

Madoff dies.

Developing...

Tyler Durden Wed, 04/14/2021 - 09:31
Published:4/14/2021 8:34:58 AM
[Markets] Big Corporations Now Deploying Woke Ideology The Way Intelligence Agencies Do: As A Disguise Big Corporations Now Deploying Woke Ideology The Way Intelligence Agencies Do: As A Disguise

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com,

By draping itself in the finery of political activism, the corporatist class consolidates political power, corrupts democracy and distracts from its real functions...

Customers wait in line in an attempt to purchase limited-edition Air Jordan 1 'Light Smoke Grey' outside a Nike store on July 25, 2019, in Yichang, Hubei Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The British spy agency GCHQ is so aggressive, extreme and unconstrained by law or ethics that the NSA — not exactly world renowned for its restraint — often farms out spying activities too scandalous or illegal for the NSA to their eager British counterparts. There is, as the Snowden reporting demonstrated, virtually nothing too deceitful or invasive for the GCHQ. They spy on entire populations, deliberately disseminate fake news, exploit psychological research to control behavior and manipulate public perception, and destroy the reputations, including through the use of sex traps, of anyone deemed adversarial to the British government.

But they want you to know that they absolutely adore gay people. In fact, they love the cause of LGBT equality so very much that, beginning on May 17, 2015 — International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — they started draping their creepy, UFO-style headquarters in the colors of the rainbow flag. The prior year, in 2014, they had merely raised the rainbow flag in front of their headquarters, but in 2015, they announced, “we wanted to make a bold statement to show the nation we serve how strongly we believe in this.”

Official publication of the British surveillance agency GCHQ, May 17, 2015

Who could possibly be opposed to an institution that offers such noble gestures and works behind such a pretty facade? How bad could the GCHQ really be if they are so deeply committed to the rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people? Sure, maybe they go a little overboard with the spying sometimes, and maybe some of their surveillance and disinformation programs are a bit questionable, and they do not necessarily have the highest regard for law, privacy and truth. But we know that, deep down, these are fundamentally good people working within a fundamentally benign institution. Just look at their flamboyant support for this virtuous cause of social justice.

Similar agencies of deceit, militarism and imperialism now robustly use this same branding tactic. The CIA — in between military coups, domestic disinformation campaigns, planting false stories with their journalist-partners, and drone-assassinating U.S. citizens without due process — joyously celebrates Women’s Day, promotes what it calls The Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers (ANGLE) and hosts activities for Pride Month, and organizes events to commemorate Black History Month. The FBI does the same.

It’s so sweet that one is tempted to forget about, or at least be more understanding of, all the bombing campaigns and all the dictatorships they install and prop up that repress and kill the very people that they purport to honor and cherish. Like the GCHQ, how menacing can an intelligence agency be when it is so deeply and sincerely supportive of the rights of the people they routinely spy on, repress and kill?

Again, this does not make the CIA perfect — sure, they make some mistakes and engage in some actions that are worthy of criticism — but to combat real evil, you do not go protest at Langley. They are engaged in important work combating homophobia, racism and misogyny. Thus, real warriors against evil look not to them but instead go searching online for the Boogaloo Boys and boomers on Facebook who post Q-Anon and other problematic memes. That is where your focus should remain if you want to root out the real threats.

Large corporations have obviously witnessed the success of this tactic — to prettify the face of militarism and imperialism with the costumes of social justice — and are now weaponizing it for themselves. As a result, they are becoming increasingly aggressive in their involvement in partisan and highly politicized debates, always on the side of the same causes of social justice which entities of imperialism and militarism have so effectively co-opted.

Corporations have always sought to control the legislative process and executive branch, usually with much success. They purchase politicians and their power aides by hiring them as lobbyists and consultants when they leave government, and those bought-and-paid-for influence-peddlers then proceed to exploit their connections in Washington or state capitals to ensure that laws are written and regulations enforced (or not enforced) to benefit the corporations’ profit interests. These large corporations achieve the same goal by filling the campaign coffers of politicians from both parties. This is standard, age-old K Street sleaze that allows large corporations to control American democracy at the expense of those who cannot afford to buy this influence.

But they are now going far beyond clandestine corporatist control of the government for their own interests. They are now becoming increasingly powerful participants in highly polarizing and democratic debates. In the wake of the George Floyd killing last summer, it became virtually obligatory for every large corporation to proclaim support for the #BlackLivesMatter agenda even though many, if not most, had never previously evinced the slightest interest in questions of racial justice or policing.

One of the very few companies that refused to do so was the Silicon Valley-based cryptocurrency exchange platform called Coinbase — which announced that it would remain apolitical and not involve itself in partisan debates or causes of social justice unrelated to its core business mission. When announcing that policy of political neutrality, the company’s co-founder Brian Armstrong explained that “the reason is that while I think these efforts are well intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division.” That once-anodyne announcement — to stay out of politics as a corporate entity — produced instant backlash. And exactly two months after, the notoriously censorious and politicized “tech reporters” of The New York Times punished the company for its heresy of neutrality with a lengthy article depicting Coinbase as a bastion of racism and toxic bigotry (the company was also savaged by journalists because of its audacity to reveal and respond to the NYT’s allegations in advance of the paper’s decision to publish).

Post from Coinbase co-founder Brian Armstrong, Sept. 27, 2020; New York Times article on Coinbase, Nov. 27, 2020

Ever since, large corporations are diving into numerous other political debates with great vigor and force — provided that their views are in alignment with affluent liberal culture and prevailing social justice pieties (though, like NBA officials and stars, they confine themselves to easy domestic causes and scripted liberal platitudes while they steadfastly avoid commenting on any injustices that may implicate their business interests, such as debates over repression in China or Amazon’s abuse of its workers). The Wall Street Journal on Sunday reported that “dozens of chief executives and other senior leaders gathered on Zoom this weekend to plot what several said big businesses should do next about new voting laws under way in Texas and other states.” The campaign against these laws includes not just corporate giants but also the nation’s largest and richest corporate law firms.

Part of the motive may be self-serving strategy. With Democrats controlling both houses of Congress as well as the Executive Branch — all of the instruments that can legislate and regulate their businesses — they may be calculating that using their massive weight to serve the Democratic Party’s political agenda is wise. Doing so could curry favor with powerful lawmakers and regulators and result in rewards or, conversely, allow them to avoid punishment and recrimination for the crime of refusing to engage in activism. That motive at least partially explains why they have been so generous with their donations to Democratic candidates. “Wall Street is putting its money behind Democrat Barack Obama for president,” reported Reuters in 2008, while they did the same overwhelmingly in 2020 to support Biden over Trump (just as Democrats have increasingly become the party of affluent suburbanites, they are also increasingly supported by the wealthiest corporate and tech power centers).

The farcical nature of all of this is obvious. Just as it is laughable that the CIA and GCHQ care about social justice, feminism, and racial diversity as they bomb and subvert the rest of the world in ways that contradict all of those professed values, the idea that corporate giants who use sweatshops, slave labor, mass layoffs and abuse of their workforce care about any of these causes would make any rational person suffocate on the stench of their insincerity.

New York Times, Nov. 20, 2020

But whatever the motives, the dangers of growing corporate involvement in U.S. political debates are manifest. In its healthiest form, the way democracy would function is that citizens vote for the representatives they believe will best serve their interests, and those representatives then enact laws they believe their constituents favor. But when giant corporations use their unparalleled economic power to override that process — by forcing state and local governments to rescind or reject laws they would otherwise support due to fear of corporate punishment — then the system, by definition, far more resembles an oligarchy than a democracy. Rod Dreher, writing on Monday in The American Conservative, advanced arguments and concerns that were once the province of the left:

This is progressive oligarchy. Woke Capitalism is a threat to democracy. As I write about in Live Not By Lies, these same people are eventually going to eagerly collaborate with government to create the Social Credit System necessary to make this country controllable.

When is it going to occur to people on the Left that Big Business is doing all this because it knows that if it makes the right moves on cultural issues that matter to the Woke, it will be able to do whatever it wants to workers? It has never had to worry about Republicans. That may be changing soon, if we elect a crop of populists who know how to do more than tweet and make belligerent but empty speeches. I’d like to see Republicans like this get elected, and get active to remind Big Business of its proper place. . . .

Big Business is already quite powerful in our society. Do we really want a society in which Big Business reserves to itself the right to tell polities what their laws and policies are going to be, at the risk of punishing that polity economically if it resists? Does this sound like the kind of country you want to live in? If you are pro-choice, imagine that Big Business decided to threaten your state’s legislature with economic consequences if it doesn’t pass pro-life legislation. One expects the business lobby to engage itself on legislative questions pertaining to its own sphere, but beyond it? Big Business already has a lot of power over our lives — and now it wants more. The only force powerful enough to reign it in is the State. Whatever else you might say about the State, at least it is democratically accountable — unlike Big Business.

Residing beyond the dangers of even greater corporatist control over our lives and politics is the deceitful branding and distractions that this exploitation of social causes, by design, engender. If large corporations are crusading for voting rights, why would anyone regard them as a menace? The contrary is true: we should be grateful for their noble activism.

When it comes time to identify the root causes of social pathologies, we will look elsewhere. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the corporate class and the ways they abuse and eliminate labor, control government, and destroy the working and middle classes will be impossible to see, as we are all blinded by the glare of their virtuous Instagram posts about racial justice and their unified campaigns against voter suppression. In an instant of swooning over their benevolent devotion to social justice, we will forget what they actually exist to do. When we work to harness their power to support our own political causes, we forget about how out of control and menacing that power is, and what it is most often used for. And that is exactly the way they want it.

*  *  *

[Attention writers, Glenn's hiring]:

As I announced on social media earlier this morning, we are further expanding this Substack by creating a program to actively solicit and publish paid freelance contributions from interesting reporters and writers doing important work that would not fit within standard, conventional, dreary liberal media sectors. The initial success of this page has already enabled me to expand this platform by hiring copy editors, a research assistant and a new video team. I'll have more shortly on the expansion of the journalism we want to do here and the ways it can be supported, but as always, we are an exclusively reader-supported enterprise which relies on readers subscribing either for themselves or as gifts for others. The more we can grow, the more of an impact we can make with truly independent journalism.

Tyler Durden Tue, 04/13/2021 - 21:50
Published:4/13/2021 9:01:33 PM
[Left Column] ‘Sink into your grief’: How a ‘sustainability’ scientist confronts her ‘feelings of sadness’ over ‘climate change’

Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas new book, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World:  "She has struggled to address her feelings of sadness." ... Q: You write that your own approach has included learning to “sink into your grief.”

A: There are things that are changing beyond recognition right now from climate change, and that makes me really sad. And to me, grieving is an important part of the process of acknowledging that. It does draw from my experience of losing a dear friend to cancer, who died at 37. ... it shouldn’t take a terminal diagnosis for life on Earth to wake us up to the urgency of working for climate stability." ... 

“My dispassionate training,” the Lund University researcher writes, has “not prepared me for the increasingly frequent emotional crises of climate change,” or how to respond to students who come to her to share their own grief. ... I have pretty much stopped flying for work. It hasn’t meant I can’t be a productive researcher. I have collaborations and projects, but I try to focus on work that doesn’t require so much travel or is easier to reach by train. The only flight I haven’t yet given up is going back to the U.S. to see my family."

#

Flashback: Crying over ‘climate change’ – Tears, sobbing, & ‘climate grief’ is an actual thing for activists – Special Report

Published:4/13/2021 2:02:50 PM
[Markets] "As Boom As It Gets": Wall Street Has Forgotten All About Covid, Sees "Tantrum" As Biggest Risk "As Boom As It Gets": Wall Street Has Forgotten All About Covid, Sees "Tantrum" As Biggest Risk

It was exactly one month ago that Wall Street exhaled a sigh of relief, and according to the March BofA Fund Manager Survey, consensus among Wall Street's professionals was that Covid was unofficially "over"...

... and after a year of covid dominating the league tables as the "biggest tail risk", both inflation & taper tantrum were now viewed as bigger risks.

Perhaps in retrospect declaring victory over covid was premature in light of today's J&J vaccine halt, but in the meantime, a bulled up Wall Street has only gotten even more convinced that covid is one for the history books, but that the only risks left are not associated with an economic boom, not a recession, with the latest Fund Manager Survey revealing the following biggest tail risks: i) bond tantrum at 32%, ii) inflation at 27%, iii) higher taxes at 15% and COVID is at a lowly fourth place with 15% of the vote. Only "peak econ growth" was a lesser concern among Wall Street.

The remarkable change in sentiment away from a covid dread to one of overheating is seen best in the chart below laying out the evolution of the "biggest tail risk."

This theme of "overheating" fears is prevalent across the entire April Fund Manage Survey, which was taken from April 6 to 12 and polled 200 panelists managing $553BN. As BofA Chief Investment Strategist Michael Hartnett summarizes that April survey results, it is "uber-bullish" but no more so than in 1Q, to wit: 

macro & market optimism among global investors remains very high (taper tantrum, inflation, higher taxation seen as bigger risks than COVID-19, long stocks at 10-year high, long banks at 3-year high); FMS says low wage growth = Q2 bullish risk, disappointing tech/cyclical EPS = Q2 bearish risk.

Hartnett is correct that those who read last month's survey won't find many notable changes in sentiment, where euphoria, bullishness and optimism are overflowing, and sure enough past year expectations for “V”-shaped recovery have soared from 10% to 50% (vs down from 75% to 37% for “U” or “W”)...

.... global GDP/EPS/CPI optimism “as boom as it gets”...

... though EPS forecasts rolled over a bit, with 85% of FMS investors expecting global profits to improve over the next 12 months, down 4ppt MoM...

... with Biden's infrastructure package fully “priced-in” at $1.9TN

Looking at the all important interest rate picture, 6 out of 10 investors say short rate rise next 12 months, up 8% from March and the highest since Jan’19)...

... which may explain why inflation expectations remain at all time highs with 93% of investors expecting higher inflation in the next 12 months...

... leading to record, "massive consensus" of higher growth and higher inflation.

Looking at the market, there may have been a shift in sentiment vis-a-vis the biggest tail risk, but the most crowded trade remained  "long tech" for the 3rd month in a row....

And while few of the respondents found bitcoin to be the most crowded trade, unlike back in January when paradoxically Wall Street thought everyone was long bitcoin which is impossible since most professional investors can not invest in bitcoin directly - when asked if Bitcoin a bubble “yes” = 74%, said yes...

... while hilarious only 7% said equities are a bubble.

This is probably to goalseek the fact that a near record high 62% are net overweight equities (when they should be overweight bitcoin... but they can't so, well, envy).

While one can debate who is right or wrong, one thing is absolutely certain: with bitcoin now well above 100% YTD and massively outperforming stocks, we are convinced that every single survey respondent would rather be long bitcoin than stocks. But alas they are not.

So how are they invested? Well, in April, BofA founds that the FMS cash level rose to 4.1% (was 3.8% in Feb) with BofA's Bull & Bear Indicator down to 7.1 from 7.2...

... although few expect an imminent correction with the vast maority of respondents say >10% pullback in stocks needs 10-year Treasury yield >2.1%...

... while 2.3% and higher is where most believe that the 10-year Treasury yield at 2.3% makes bonds attractive relative to stocks.

Looking at what respondents say they are doing (which is usually vastly different from they are actually doing) BofA founds that investors rotated to tech, healthcare, REITs, out of EM & staples, with investors broadly positioned for boom via long equity, commodity, cyclical allocations (note bank OW and record expectation value beats growth); optimism on EM cut…investors now think S&P500 = best performing asset in 2021, no longer EM.

And while a record 53% still think that value will outperform growth...

... the love affair with small caps appears to be ending, with a net 24% of FMS investors now thinking small cap will outperform large cap in the next 12 months.

So amid this euphoric bullishness, BofA's own view is that "positioning is peaking" and the bank is "cautious on risk-asset returns." Hartnett says that bearish contrarians playing “peak EPS” should sell commodities, banks & tech...

... while bullish contrarians playing “peak yields” should buy EM, staples & utilities.

e

 

 

Tyler Durden Tue, 04/13/2021 - 14:00
Published:4/13/2021 1:02:42 PM
[Markets] How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points Into The Press How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points Into The Press

Authored by Alan Macleod via MintPressNews.com,

Investigative site Bellingcat is the toast of the popular press. In the past month alone, it has been described as "an intelligence agency for the people" (ABC Australia), a "transparent" and "innovative" (New Yorker) "independent news collective," "transforming investigative journalism" (Big Think), and an unequivocal "force for good" (South China Morning Post). Indeed, outside of a few alternative news sites, it is very hard to hear a negative word against Bellingcat, such is the gushing praise for the outlet founded in 2014.

This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a "spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline," presenting Western government narratives as independent research.

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins, PA Wire/Alamy

Citizen journalism staffed with spies and soldiers

An alarming number of Bellingcat’s staff and contributors come from highly suspect backgrounds. Senior Investigator Nick Waters, for example, spent three years as an officer in the British Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he furthered the British state’s objectives in the region. Shortly after leaving the service, he was hired by Bellingcat to provide supposedly bias-free investigations into the Middle East.

Former contributor Cameron Colquhoun’s past is even more suspect. Colquhoun spent a decade in a senior position in GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), where he ran cyber and Middle Eastern terror operations. The Scot specializes in Middle Eastern security and also holds a qualification from the US State Department. None of this, however, is disclosed by Bellingcat, which merely describes him as the managing director of a private intelligence company that "conduct[s] ethical investigations" for clients around the world — thus depriving readers of key information they need to make informed judgments on what they are reading.

There are plenty of former American spooks on Bellingcat’s roster as well. Former contributor Chris Biggers, who penned more than 60 articles for the site between 2014 and 2017, previously worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a combat support unit that works under the Department of Defense and the broader Intelligence Community. Biggers is now the director of an intelligence company headquartered in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington (close to other semi-private contractor groups like Booz Allen Hamilton), that boasts of having retired Army and Air Force generals on its board. Again, none of this is disclosed by Bellingcat, where Biggers’s bio states only that he is a "public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C."

For six years, Dan Kaszeta was a U.S. Secret Service agent specializing in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and for six more he worked as program manager for the White House Military Office. At Bellingcat, he would provide some of the intellectual ammunition for Western accusations about chemical weapons use in Syria and Russia’s alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Kaszeta is also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank funded by a host of Western governments as well as weapons contractors such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Its president is a British field marshal (the highest attainable military rank) and its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus. Its chairman is Lord Hague, the U.K.’s secretary of state between 2010 and 2015.

All of this matters if a group is presenting itself as independent when, in reality, their views align almost perfectly with the governments funding them. But yet again, Bellingcat fails to follow basic journalism ethics and inform readers of these glaring conflict of interests, describing Kaszeta as merely the managing director of a security company and someone with 27 years of experience in security and antiterrorism. This means that unless readers are willing to do a research project they will be none the wiser.

Other Bellingcat contributors have similar pasts. Nour Bakr previously worked for the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office while Karl Morand proudly served two separate tours in Iraq with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division.

Government and intelligence officials are the opposite of journalists. The former exist to promote the interests of power (often against those of the public) while the latter are supposed to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the people. That is why it is so inappropriate that Bellingcat has had so many former spooks on their books. It could be said that ex-officials who have renounced their past or blown the whistle, such as Daniel Ellsberg or John Kiriakou, have utility as journalists. But those who have simply made the transition into media without any change in positions usually serve only the powerful.

Who pays the piper?

Just as startling as its spooky staff is Bellingcat’s source of funding. In 2016 its founder, Eliot Higgins, dismissed the idea that his organization got money from the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Yet, by the next year, he openly admitted the thing he had laughed off for so long was, in fact, true (Bellingcat’s latest available financial report confirms that they continue to receive financial assistance from the NED). As many MintPress readers will know, the NED was explicitly set up by the Reagan administration as a front for the CIA’s regime-change operations. "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA," said the organization’s co-founder Allen Weinstein, proudly.

Higgins himself was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s quasi-official think tank, from 2016 to 2019. The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is a who’s who of state power, from war planners like Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell to retired generals such as James "Mad Dog" Mattis and H.R. McMaster. It also features no fewer than seven former CIA directors. How Higgins could possibly see taking a paid position at an organization like this while he was still the face of a supposedly open and independent intelligence collective as being at all consistent is unclear.

Bana Alabed, an outsoken anti-Assad child activist, promotes Bellingcat at an Atlantic Council event. Photo: Twitter

Other questionable sources of income include the Human Rights Foundation, an international organization set up by Venezuelan activist Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. Halvorssen is the son of a former government official accused of being a CIA informant and a gunrunner for the agency’s dirty wars in Central America in the 1980s and the cousin of convicted terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez in turn was a leader in a U.S.-backed coup in 2002 and a wave of political terror in 2014 that killed at least 43 people and caused an estimated $15 billion worth of property damage. A major figure on the right-wing of Venezuelan politics, Lopez told journalists that he wants the United States to formally rule the country once President Nicolas Maduro is overthrown. With the help of the Spanish government, Lopez escaped from jail and fled to Spain last year.

Imagine, for one second, the opposite scenario: an "independent" Russian investigative website staffed partially with ex-KGB officials, funded by the Kremlin, with most of their research focused on the nefarious deeds of the U.S., U.K. and NATO. Would anyone take it seriously? And yet Bellingcat is consistently presented in corporate media as a liberatory organization; the Information Age’s gift to the people.

The Bellingcat to journalism pipeline

The corporate press itself already has a disturbingly close relationship with the national security state, as does social media. In 2019, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in the British Army’s online psychological operations unit. Coming at a time when foreign interference in politics and society was the primary issue in U.S. politics, the story was, astoundingly, almost completely ignored in the mainstream press. Only one U.S. outlet of any note picked it up, and that journalist was forced out of the profession weeks later.

Increasingly, it seems, Bellingcat is serving as a training ground for those looking for a job in the West’s most prestigious media outlets. For instance, former Bellingcat contributor Brenna Smith — who was recently the subject of a media storm after she successfully pressured a number of online payment companies to stop allowing the crowdfunding of the Capitol Building insurrectionists — announced last month she would be leaving USA Today and joining The New York Times. There she will meet up with former Bellingcat senior investigator Christiaan Triebert, who joined the Times’ visual investigations team in 2019.

The Times, commonly thought of as the United States’ most influential media outlet, has also collaborated with Bellingcat writers for individual pieces before. In 2018, it commissioned Giancarlo Fiorella and Aliaume Leroy to publish an op-ed strongly insinuating that the Venezuelan state murdered Oscar Perez. After he stole a military helicopter and used it to bomb government buildings in downtown Caracas while trying to ignite a civil war, Perez became the darling of the Western press, being described as a "patriot" (The Guardian), a "rebel" (Miami Herald), an "action hero" (The Times of London), and a "liberator" (Task and Purpose).

Until 2020, Fiorella ran an opposition blog called "In Venezuela" despite living in Canada. Leroy is now a full-time producer and investigator for the U.K.-government network, the BBC.

Bad news from Bellingcat

What we are uncovering here is a network of military, state, think-tank and media units all working together, of which Bellingcat is a central fixture. This would be bad enough, but much of its own research is extremely poor. It strongly pushed the now increasingly discredited idea of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, attacking the members of the OPCW who came forward to expose the coverup and making some bizarre claims along the way. For years, Higgins and other members of the Bellingcat team also signal-boosted a Twitter account purporting to be an ISIS official, only for an investigation to expose the account as belonging to a young Indian troll in Bangalore. A leaked U.K. Foreign Office document lamented that "Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay."

Ultimately, however, the organization still provides utility as an attack dog for the West, publishing research that the media can cite, supposedly as "independent," rather than rely directly on intelligence officials, whose credibility with the public is automatically far lower.

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University and an expert in the connections between the deep state and the fourth estate, told MintPress that "the role of Bellingcat is to provide spurious legitimacy to U.S./NATO pretexts for war and conflict." In far more positive words, the CIA actually appears to agree with him.

"I don’t want to be too dramatic, but we love [Bellingcat]," said Marc Polymeropoulos, the agency’s former deputy chief of operations for Europe and Eurasia. "Whenever we had to talk to our liaison partners about it, instead of trying to have things cleared or worry about classification issues, you could just reference [Bellingcat’s] work." Polymeropoulos recently attempted to blame his headache problems on a heretofore unknown Russian microwave weapon, a claim that remarkably became an international scandal. "The greatest value of Bellingcat is that we can then go to the Russians and say 'there you go' [when they ask for evidence]," added former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman.

Bellingcat certainly seems to pay particular attention to the crimes of official enemies. As investigative journalist Matt Kennard noted, it has only published five stories on the United Kingdom, 17 on Saudi Arabia, 19 on the U.S. (most of which are about foreign interference in American society or far-right/QAnon cults). Yet it has 144 on Russia and 244 under its Syria tag.

In his new book "We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People," the outlet’s boss Higgins writes: "We have no agenda but we do have a credo: evidence exists and falsehoods exist, and people still care about the difference." Yet exploring the backgrounds of its journalists and its sources of funding quickly reveals this to be a badly spun piece of PR.

Bellingcat looks far more like a bunch of spooks masquerading as citizen journalists than a people-centered organization taking on power and lies wherever it sees them. Unfortunately, with many of its proteges travelling through the pipeline into influential media outlets, it seems that there might be quite a few masquerading as reporters as well.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/12/2021 - 22:20
Published:4/12/2021 9:26:01 PM
[Markets] March Deficit Blowout: US Spends 3.5x More Than It Brings In; YTD Deficit Is Biggest Ever March Deficit Blowout: US Spends 3.5x More Than It Brings In; YTD Deficit Is Biggest Ever

The covid crisis may be over (with nearly 60% of the population vaccinated, one would certainly hope it's over), but covid crisis spending is here to stay.

At 2pm, the Treasury released its latest Monthly Treasury Statement which showed that in March, the US budget deficit exploded once again, surging to $660BN, up five-fold from a tiny $119BN last March, driven by a 160% increase in government Outlays which soared to $927 billion - the third highest on record - from $355.7BN a year ago, and from $559.2BN in February.

The large spike is primarily due to the stimulus checks released to households after the passage of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act which totaled $339bn and included forgiveness of roughly $87bn in Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans in March. In total, the government spent $453bn on "income security" in March, with social security ($94BN), Commerce and Housing Credit ($81BN), Health ($71BN), National Defense ($70BN) and other spending far in the rearview mirror.

On the other side of the ledger, revenues rose 13% yoy to $268BN, owing to favorable base effects due to the pandemic. Still, as shown in the chart below, the number is woefully inadequate to (ever) catch up with the unprecedented spending, with March spending 3.5x more than receipts.

This can be seen on a chart showing YTD spending and outlays, with the government now spending ($3.41TN) precisely 100% more than it brings in ($1.704TN) in the current fiscal year.

Finally, on a year to date basis, the US deficit is now at $1.706 trillion after six month, compared to $743.453BN last year. While it is likely that government spending will slowdown now that the latest stimulus is in the books, it is just as likely that it will accelerate in the coming months if Biden's various infrastructure plans pass.

One thing is certain: the US will never again be able to fund itself using taxation alone, which is now to fund just 50% of the total US budget deficit.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/12/2021 - 14:50
Published:4/12/2021 1:53:37 PM
[Markets] Will Supremes Unleash Biden Red Flag Gun Raids? Will Supremes Unleash Biden Red Flag Gun Raids?

Authored by James Bovard via JimBovard.com,

A gun seizure case before the Supreme Court could open the flood-gates to warrantless searches...

President Joe Biden launched his first attack on the Second Amendment this week, making clear his intent to radically curtail Americans’ legal rights to own firearms. The White House boasted that Biden was nominating a “fierce” advocate of gun control, David Chipman, to be chief of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency. Chipman, a former ATF agent, is so dedicated to banning assault weapons that he brazenly lied last year about the 1993 federal assault at Waco, claiming that the Branch Davidians shot down two National Guard helicopters that were assaulting their home. Chipman, a Phillips Exeter Academy graduate who carries a concealed weapon himself, was an ATF case agent at the 1994 trial of the Branch Davidian survivors so he had no excuse for tossing out this anti-gun fairy tale.

Perhaps the biggest peril that Biden unveiled is his push for a national “red flag” law that would entitle the police to preemptively confiscate the guns of anyone who is accused of being a threat to himself or others. Red flag laws have been notorious for trampling due process and spurring unjustified police raids that have resulted in killing innocent gun owners. It is naïve to expect fair play on gun owners’ rights when the politicians driving such policy are openly seeking pretexts to disarm as many Americans as possible. Biden’s push for a red flag law could become far more perilous to constitutional rights if the Supreme Court upholds a potentially landmark gun seizure case that could gut the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless searches. The Court heard arguments in this case last month and a decision is expected by June.

In 2015, after an elderly couple had a heated argument, Edward Caniglia placed an unloaded revolver on the table and taunted his wife: “Why don’t you just shoot me and get me out of my misery?” His wife, Kim, was spooked and left to stay overnight in a hotel. When he didn’t answer a phone call the next morning, she called the police and asked them to check on him.

Police arrived and browbeat Edward Caniglia into getting get a psychiatric examination at a hospital. He agreed to do so only after police promised not to seize his handguns. The shrinks certified him as sane (at least by prevailing Rhode Island standards) and he returned home to learn the police had confiscated his guns. Both he and his wife requested the guns be returned. Police refused to do so until Caniglia, who had no history of violence or abusing firearms, filed a lawsuit. Caniglia also sued the city of Cranston and police officers for violating his constitutional rights.

At first glance, his case rested upon solid precedent. The Supreme Court ruled in 1980, “It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.”  In 1948, the Supreme Court declared that the sanctity of private homes is “too precious to entrust to the discretion of those whose job is the detection of crime and the arrest of criminals.” But the police and their supporters relied on a vast expansion of a 1973 Supreme Court decision that justified a warrantless “inventory search” of a rent-a-car to seek a police officer’s revolver in the trunk as part of the “community caretaking” exemption to the Fourth Amendment. A federal judge and a federal appeals court, ruling in favor of Rhode Island police, effectively concluded that a private home was “close enough for government work” to a rent-a-car to justify warrantless searches.

But what about that clarion call 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared, “Wherever a man may be, he is entitled to know that he will remain free from unreasonable searches and seizures.”  Not a problem, according to the first amicus brief that the Biden administration filed with the Supreme Court. According to the Biden administration, the only question in the Rhode Island case was whether the actions of police officers in the case were “objectively reasonable.” Constitutional rights were effectively moot because the Cranston cops were simply dealing with “an impending safety threat through a warrantless seizure of a potentially mentally unstable person and an entry into his residence for the limited purpose of removing firearms.” For the Biden legal team, “confiscating” became “removing” as smoothly as one of Falstaff’s minions turned “stealing” into “conveying.”

On the same side of the fight, Marc DeSisto, the lawyer representing the Cranston police officers, declared, “The Fourth Amendment has only one test and that is that searches and seizures shall not be unreasonable.” DeSisto was not required to take a literacy test and perhaps was unaware of the Fourth Amendment passage about Americans’ rights to “be secure… against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” DeSisto and the Biden administration presume that warrants are unnecessary, if not irrelevant, any time government officials assert that it is “reasonable” to enter someone’s house without a warrant “to ensure public health and safety.”  And who defines “reasonableness”? The same government officials who violate the Constitution. As Justice Stephen Breyer commented, “If you take a caretaker exception and read that into the word ‘reasonable,’ there’s no stopping. We don’t know how far we’ll go.”

Lawyer Shay Dvoretzky, who represented Caniglia before the Court, warned,

“Nearly every criminal violation has public safety implications, so dispensing with the warrant requirement whenever police can point to a health or safety motive would eviscerate the Fourth Amendment. Virtually any criminal situation can also be described in health or safety terms. For any situation involving drugs and alcohol, police could just say they were going into the home in order to make sure that the suspect was okay.”

As Justice Neil Gorsuch asked, “What does the government do that doesn’t involve health or safety?” Institute for Justice attorney Joshua Windham wrote, “A rule that allows police to burst into your home without a warrant whenever they feel they are acting as ‘community caretakers’ is a threat to everyone’s security.” A brief filed jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union, Cato Institute, and American Conservative Union Foundation warned that upholding the Rhode Island search could “give police free rein to enter the home without probable cause or a warrant” and would be “unwise, unmanageable, and unnecessary, and it opens the door to abusive police conduct.”

The Biden administration’s animosity to the Second Amendment has raised the stakes for the Rhode Island case. The Second Amendment Law Center, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, and Gun Owners of California warned the Supreme Court that

“the Fourth Amendment has no ‘gun’ exception… Expansion of the ‘community caretaking’ exception into the home will be used by police in jurisdictions with onerous or constitutionally-questionable firearm restrictions to turn every call to a house into a search for guns under the pretext of ‘helping’ those present.”

Anyone who doubts whether warrantless “community caretaking” could open an authoritarian Pandora’s box should read the transcript of the Supreme Court hearing. Lawyer DeSisto asserted that the caretaking doctrine would also authorize police raids to enforce mandatory COVID mask requirements if “they can see a lot of people gathered together that are not wearing masks.” Gov. Cuomo is again the bellwether here. In November, Cuomo denounced New York county sheriffs for acting like a “dictator” because they refused to forcibly enter private homes to enforce Cuomo’s mask mandate. Since the start of the Pandemic, Biden has whooped up masks as if they were a silver bullet to slap COVID-19 (regardless that tens of  millions of Americans have been infected with the virus since mask compliance reached over 80 percent in public places). Biden has already mandated wearing masks in National Parks and on federal property. How much further could he go if there is another surge of Covid cases?

Justice Sandra Sotomayor commented during the hearing, “When we permit police to search and seize without some standard, we run the risk of situations like this [Rhode Island case] repeating themselves.” But many antigun activists view the case as a model, not as a glitch in the legal system. Some court watchers expect a victory for the Biden position; Reuters headlined its report on the hearing, “With the elderly in mind, U.S. Supreme Court wary of limiting police in home entries.” Defenders of the Rhode Island gun seizure insist that government officials need discretion to forcibly protect people against themselves. But consider the experience of New Yorkers under the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo railroaded into law immediately after a 2012 school shooting in Connecticut. Cuomo declared: “People who have mental health issues should not have guns. They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people.” But tens of millions of Americans visit therapists each year, and “mental health issues” is vague enough for endless political mischief.

More than 85,000 New Yorkers lost their Second Amendment rights as a result of a “mental health” exclusion clause in the SAFE Act. As columnist Jacob Sullum observed, the “law effectively gives ‘mental health professionals’ the power to disarm people, and they do not even need a judge’s approval.” New York University law professor James Jacobs observed that, “based on as little as a single short emergency room interview,” an individual “need not even be notified that his or her name has been added to a database of persons whose firearms license must be revoked and whose firearms must be surrendered.” Medical professionals and others were already legally obliged to notify police if a patient “made a credible threat” of violence but the provision in the 2013 act was far more expansive.

If the Supreme Court approves “wellness check” warrantless gun raids, the Biden administration could invoke the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic Statistic Manual (DSM) category 313.81, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, to justify targeting outspoken opponents of the government. After the clash at the Capitol, Biden wasted no time denouncing the January 6 protestors as “domestic terrorists.” Press accounts of the arrests of the protestors breathlessly recounted how many firearms were found in their homes—regardless that those individuals did not tote their AR-15s, shotguns, and Glocks with them when they “unlawfully entered” that “Temple of Democracy,” the U.S. Capitol. Any such crackdown would have legions of cheerleaders in the mainstream media.

The Biden administration’s support for warrantless “community caretaking” police raids must be viewed in light of previous perverse legal innovations that unleashed tyranny. Going back to the 18th century, British and American judges recognized that “a man’s home is his castle.” But the drug war obliterated that notion with legal doctrines that should have been laughed out of court. Instead, the combined peril of narcotics and flush toilets nullified limits on police power. In a 1995 brief to the Supreme Court, Clinton’s Justice Department stressed that “various indoor plumbing facilities… did not exist” in early America when the “knock-and-announce” rule for searches of homes was adopted. In a 1997 brief to the Supreme Court, the Clinton administration declared that “it is ordinarily reasonable for police officers to dispense with a pre-entry knock and announcement.” The subsequent Supreme Court decision included a few quibbles but effectively sanctified no-knock raids whenever police claimed a “reasonable suspicion” that evidence might be destroyed. The New York Times noted in 2017 that no-knock warrants were routinely granted permitting “the most extreme force in pursuit of the smallest amounts of drugs, since a few grams are more quickly flushed than a few bales.” The Clinton “flush the Fourth” doctrine spurred an explosion of deadly no-knock raids across the nation. A New York Times investigation found that “at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.”

“Government as a damn rascal” was the unwritten premise of the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers saw enough depredations by British agents that they recognized the folly of vesting officialdom with absolute power. The Bill of Rights is full of prohibitions (“shall make no law”) precisely because the Founders did not trust politicians to be judge, jury, and executioners on their own “reasonableness.” Nothing that Biden or his appointees have said or done so far justifies exempting them from Thomas Jefferson’s 1799 admonition to “bind those we are obliged to trust with power…from mischief by the chains of the Constitutions.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/11/2021 - 23:30
Published:4/11/2021 10:48:39 PM
[Entertainment] John Naisbitt, futurist and best-selling author of ‘Megatrends,’ dies at 92 His forecasts of trends in business and society led to a series of best-selling books. Published:4/11/2021 10:47:38 AM
[Markets] Bari Weiss: What Should Be Done To Curb Big Tech? Bari Weiss: What Should Be Done To Curb Big Tech?

Authored by Bari Weiss via Common Sense with Bari Weiss,

Do your eyes gloss over when you see the words “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act”? Mine do.

Yet the subject of Big Tech’s might — Should Facebook have the power to ban a president? Should Amazon have the power to ban the sale of a controversial book? Should Twitter have the power to permanently bar a user over a single tweet? And if not, what should the government be doing about it? — is both fascinating and incredibly important.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas at the swearing-in ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett in October (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

I don’t think there is a group left in America who is happy about the power that companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google have arrogated to themselves. According to a recent poll from Vox and Data for Progress, 59% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans think Big Tech’s economic power is a problem. It’s hard to think of another issue with that kind of bipartisan consensus.

The nature of your anger, of course, depends on where you sit. (Twitter’s decision to ban Trump in January found 87% approval from Democrats and a mere 28% of Republicans in the same poll.) But the point is that this subject touches everyone. 

So why is so much of the writing about tech so confusing? One of the reasons it confuses, I think, is that the loudest “progressive” and “conservative” arguments are the opposite of what you’d imagine.

Progressives are supposed to be against corporate power. And yet on this subject, they are the ones pushing for more of it. They are enraged that these companies don’t crack down harder on “disinformation,” arguing that the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world put profit above principle when they allow groups like QAnon to run wild on their platforms. Sure, President Trump was banned, but only after he lost the election. Why didn’t it happen earlier? Private companies are not hamstrung by the First Amendment, so why do they hesitate to ban dangerous people whose online words lead to real-world violence?

Conservatives are supposed to be for small government and allergic to sweeping intervention. And yet some of the country’s most prominent Republicans find themselves arguing against free enterprise. The crux of their argument, pushed most passionately by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, goes like this: The law is handing Big Tech companies a ridiculous and unfair advantage. Section 230 grants companies like Twitter protection from the kind of legal liability that makes a traditional publisher, like a newspaper, vulnerable. Why should tech companies have that privilege, given that they obviously make editorial decisions? Fairness would begin with a repeal of Section 230.

I’m not a person typically accused of being indecisive. But about this issue I feel genuinely torn. 

One part of me says: Government should stay the hell away from private companies. Another part of me, maybe the more passionate part, argues back: Yeah, but Google seems much more like a public road than a private club. 

The case for the former — government, stay out — has been made powerfully by former Michigan congressman Justin Amash and the libertarians of Reason Magazine. Their argument is the classic one: the solution for bad speech is more speech, not censorship or regulation. If you want a sense of what it would look like to get the government involved in tech, well, just pay a visit to the DMV. Or watch Lily Tomlin’s classic SNL sketch about the phone company: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

But others, most notably NYU law professor Richard Epstein, have made a strong case for the latter. Epstein has argued that these internet behemoths need to be understood as public utilities or common carriers. Just as a railroad can’t refuse to transport a person because they believe the Earth is flat, or a phone company can’t drop a call if the person is talking about Pizzagate, neither should online monopolies have the power to do so. 

It’s a provocative and compelling argument that turns, of course, on whether these companies are, in fact, monopolistic. Those making it would point to some basic numbers. Among them: When Google’s Search engine accounts for 90% of market share can anyone convincingly argue that DuckDuckGo is a real competitor? If Amazon, which has an 80% market share in digital books, blocks the sale of your ebook, do you really have a plausible alternative method of distribution?

The Epstein argument seems to have gotten a powerful boost earlier this week from Justice Clarence Thomas. 

In President Joe Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, handed down on Monday, the Supreme Court tossed out a lower court ruling which held that, in blocking people on Twitter, President Trump violated their First Amendment rights. The case doesn’t matter: Trump’s no longer president, so the whole thing is moot. What matters is the concurrence written by Thomas, which laid out a roadmap for possible government regulation of companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. 

The thrust of Thomas’s argument:

Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.

And more:

It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information. A person always could choose to avoid the toll bridge or train and instead swim the Charles River or hike the Oregon Trail. But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.

It is worth reading the whole thing. Justice Thomas clearly wants to see a case on this. 

David Sacks, a venture capitalist with a consistently insightful Twitter account, thinks that would be a good thing, not least because the current consensus position among conservatives is misguided.

Republicans like Hawley and Ted Cruz are understandably angry about the status quo, but they’ve latched onto the wrong remedy, Sacks says. “Conservative demands to repeal 230 are basically a rage tweet. It wouldn’t stop Big Tech censorship, it would make it worse,” he told me in a conversation this week. “Ending Section 230 would only make companies like Facebook and Google censor more because more liability would make them even more risk-averse about the speech they allow on their platforms. In the meantime, it would also hurt small, innovative tech companies who would be vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits.”

The Epstein position, Sacks thinks, has it right. “Why try to incentivize good behavior by threatening to punish Big Tech? Just require it. That’s what the common carrier solution does.”

I think Sacks’s view of the big picture here is quite convincing:

“When speech got digitized, the town square got privatized and the First Amendment got euthanized. If you can’t speak online — or if your ability to speak online is controlled by a tiny handful of companies with no due process  — how do you really have a free speech right in this country any more?” he said. “Imposing a common carrier obligation on Big Tech would prevent these corporations from doing what they are doing now: discriminating on the basis of creed.”

As Sacks makes his case, I can hear the retort I’ve heard others make so many times: If you hate a platform so much, nothing’s stopping you from making a new one.

That argument feels flimsier than ever these days. When Trump got banned from Twitter, the argument was: So what? It’s Twitter. And Twitter is a private company. Jack Dorsey can boot whoever he wants. And anyway, Trump can go to Parler. 

But then Parler got kicked out of the Apple and Google app stores, so the argument became: well, you can still create a website. But then AWS stopped hosting Parler. As Sacks put it: “You shouldn’t have to build a new Internet to post a tweet.”

When Dr. Seuss’s estate discontinued six of his titles over apparent racism, that’s one thing. When eBay decided they would not allow the reselling of those titles? That’s something else. 

When 60 Minutes decides to selectively edit an interview with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, that’s one thing. But when YouTube decides to delete a video of the governor criticizing the various Covid-19 policies with physicians and scientists? That’s something else.

Big Tech companies insist that they are just removing “disinformation” and “hate speech” from their platforms, but as we’ve seen, these are terms with ever-evolving definitions. Tom Cotton’s June Op-Ed in The New York Times, for example, was literal violence according to more than 800 New York Times staffers. Never mind that Cotton’s argument was one at least 60% of Americans agreed with.

In the past few months, for example, Amazon updated its content guidelines by adding the following line: “We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech.” In October, the company barred Eli and Shelby Steele’s documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” (After public outcry, the company reversed the decision.) Ryan Anderson, a conservative author and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had his book about transgender issues banned from the online marketplace in March. As of today, it remains impossible to buy on Amazon.

Check out that film and that book. Controversial, perhaps. But do they strike you as anything within the realm of hateful?

Such politically motivated silencing has profound political consequences.

Think, for example, about the Hunter Biden laptop story. In the month before the 2020 presidential election, Twitter locked the New York Post, which broke the story, out of its own Twitter account for weeks and refused to let the paper back onto the platform until it deleted its tweets about its own reporting. Facebook suppressed the story on users’ newsfeeds. The story was, variously, a conspiracy theory, disinformation, misinformation, a Russian plot, or irresponsible because the documents were unverified. (Was the same standard applied to the Steele dossier?)

Fast forward to this week: The laptop story has since been mostly backed up. Jack Dorsey now says how he handled the Post story was a “total mistake.” But should he have the power to censor a story of political consequence, one that could shift the outcome of an election?

More to the point: When every single major tech company is making the exact same decision over who to deplatform and what to ban, doesn’t that seem like the behavior of a cartel? Why should a handful of billionaires have the power to decide that some Americans’ speech rights are more sacred than others?

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/11/2021 - 11:10
Published:4/11/2021 10:18:03 AM
[Markets] Joe Biden: America's Biggest Gun Salesman Joe Biden: America's Biggest Gun Salesman

Op-Ed by Roger L. Simon via The Epoch Times

With his new - most likely unconstitutional - executive orders regarding weapons, Joe Biden is cementing his place as America’s leading gun salesman...

President Joe Biden speaks during an event on gun control in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on April 8, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Gun sales have been wildly up all year. He just pushed them to a new level.

It’s almost as if he were marketing director for Smith & Wesson.

(As America’s president he might have made that clear to prevent people from running out to buy yet more Austrian-made Glocks when the locally-produced version is arguably as good.)

The hypocrisy of this doddering man who threatened to punch out Donald Trump is nothing short of monumental.

Any sentient being—not a slavish, ultra-conformist Democrat who no longer thinks for him or herself—has been alarmed at the escalating violence in our streets.

Murders are way up. Assaults are way up. Police protection way down.

This is all thanks to our Democrat friends many of whom seek to defund and/or handcuff the police, even, in some cases, after the latest group of self-described revolutionary maniacs has decided to torch their house.

But the president wants to disarm us. Hello, Germany 1938.

The measure of this hypocrisy can be seen in the treatment of those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6—many of whom are still incarcerated without bail, including those with no criminal record whatsoever, none of whom (nota bene) had guns of any sort, not even a Derringer tucked in a boot—compared with the treatment of Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

The latter, always thugs in the Antifa case and too often thugs in the BLM case, almost always get off and got off “Scot Free” after committing true acts of violence and mayhem that dwarf anything that happened in the Capitol.

We can easily mock the usual liberal virtue signaling about guns going on here, but one of Mr. Biden’s proposals is particularly alarming because superficially attractive to many.

He has directed the Department of Justice to publish model “red flag” legislation for the states. Those are laws that allow family members, police, and possibly others to ask a court to bar an individual from possessing firearms if he or she seems to be dangerous to themselves or others.

We might call this the “Stasi Law” because it encourages us to snitch on each other in the manner of East Germany under their Stasi, the most ruthless of all communist intelligence agencies before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

If you have seen the brilliant German film “The Lives of Others,” you know how it worked. (If you haven’t, download this movie now. It’s the most relevant political film made in the last twenty-five years.)

And speaking of the cinema, it used to be in the old Hollywood movies the snitch was considered an oily villain who got his just deserts. Unamerican, really. Nowadays, we’re headed in the opposite direction, not just in film, but in our society.

This “snitchery” is already here. I recently heard the story of some Tennessee people who were warned by their own parents not to visit them in Pennsylvania because the parents’ neighbor would report a Tennessee license plate in their driveway—such interstate fraternization being verboten (I assume we all know that German word from World War II flicks) in Pennsylvania because of COVID.

The possibilities for similar behavior with “red flag” legislation are endless—children ratting on their parents and so forth—just as are the ramifications from vaccination passports.

We live in a different world.

In case you want to buy Smith & Wesson stock, it trades on the NASDAQ as SWBI. It’s down today a touch. You know what they say—buy on the dip.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on Parler as @rogerlsimon.

 

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/10/2021 - 23:00
Published:4/10/2021 10:10:52 PM
[Markets] Conservative Filmmakers Start To Fight Back Conservative Filmmakers Start To Fight Back

Authored by Christian Toto via RealClearInvestigations,

A documentary film about an African American lawyer who rose from poverty and oppression in the Deep South to the highest court in the land would seem a natural for Black History Month. Yet, in February, at the very time its Prime Video service was featuring films highlighting black history makers, Amazon without explanation stopped offering digital streams of “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.” 

?

While the film was pulled despite having at one time reached No. 1 on Amazon’s documentary charts, the world’s largest online retailer continued to make available streams of less-popular documentaries, including a favorable one on Anita Hill, the former Thomas colleague who nearly derailed his Supreme Court confirmation.

Amazon initially refused to carry this film challenging the liberal narrative about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Mo., which helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement. 

That was frustrating to Michael Pack, writer-director of “Created Equal” and a documentary filmmaker for decades. But it was no surprise to him and the small but growing cadre of other conservative documentarians, who say they face obstacles because of their politics and are starting to fight back against the long odds of "cancel culture." Black conservative scholar Shelby Steele saw Amazon initially refuse to carry his documentary “What Killed Michael Brown?” last year because it challenged the liberal narrative about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement. Amazon, which relented after a public outcry, did not respond to a request for comment.

Justin Folk, director of “No Safe Spaces,” which focuses on college-based attacks on free speech and features prominent liberals including Dr. Cornel West and Van Jones, along with conservatives such as Dennis Prager, Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro, said he had a hard time finding a traditional distributor for his documentary because Hollywood saw the film as conservative.

“Despite having big names in our film, a big audience, and a very relevant topic, we were mostly ignored,” said Folk, who said his film, which eventually grossed $1.3 million, was rejected by the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. “In one case, a major distributor actually admitted to us that they think our film is a winner but they can’t get behind it because Dennis Prager is in it.”

Conservative filmmakers faced little discrimination in the past because there were so few of them. That started to change in 2012, when conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016: Obama’s America” became the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time ($33 million).

The years since have been a golden age for documentaries. Streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have created major distribution channels, matching content with massive, algorithmically targeted audiences. This, in turn, has led to explosive growth in filmmaking. Documentaries that in the past might never have seen the light of day -- since their economic viability would be tied to packing movie houses -- can flourish today, particularly lately with people more homebound due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Typically it was liberal activists, not conservative polemicists like D’Souza, who made documentaries. As Thom Powers, who runs America's largest documentary festival, DOC NYC, told CBS News, the best documentaries try to make a difference. “There have been films that have gotten people out of prison, like the 'Paradise Lost' series, or Errol Morris' 'Thin Blue Line.' 'Super Size Me' totally changed the conversation around fast food. 'Inconvenient Truth' totally changed the conversation around climate change. So all over the world, you can see documentaries having an effect.”

But the idea of “making a difference” has generally trended in one direction politically, illustrated lately by Barack and Michelle Obama's film production deal with Netflix, which has already yielded a best documentary Oscar. Virtually ignored is an underserved niche in the market. “More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in the November election,” the Hollywood Reporter noted in a March 11 story. “And, at the moment, there's little Hollywood content that directly appeals to them. That leaves a big opening for those willing to risk ostracization from the rest of the industry.”

Industry support is crucial because it helps in raising money, in earning film festival slots to persuade a distributor to get a film in front of an audience, and enticing journalistic outlets to cover and review it.

“If you’re on the left, there’s a whole infrastructure that enables you to make things very easily,” said D’Souza, who illustrated his point by citing what he calls the “charmed life” of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. Each new Moore film is considered a pop-culture moment. They are featured at the top festivals, where they often win prizes – to go along with his Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine.”

“He’s on the ‘Today’ show and ‘The View.’ … There’s a whole apparatus of publicity in place,” D’Souza added.

D’Souza has succeeded without enjoying such support. But he said the odds against conservatives have worsened in recent years because of suppression by both Big Tech and woke corporations. His 2020 film, “Trump Card,” scrapped its planned theatrical release for a video-on-demand slate due to COVID-19, but the hurdles didn’t stop there.

“The radioactive connection wasn’t me, but Trump,” D’Souza says. “Trump Card” hit video-on-demand services several weeks before the 2020 presidential election, by design. D’Souza says Amazon placed a large order of “Trump Card” DVDs, which his company met. But some Amazon customers were told the product was “out of stock” and wouldn’t be delivered until after Election Day.

“I’m not used to these kinds of obstacles,” he says. “I never thought of Amazon as a left-wing company.” He’s changed that view after seeing it take part in a concerted takedown of Twitter alternative Parler as well as it removing books such as “When Harry Became Sally,” which criticized elements of the trans movement.

“What Killed Michael Brown?,” produced by filmmaker Eli Steele in tandem with father Shelby, faced similar discrimination. Amazon initially rejected the handsomely mounted, jazz-filled work, saying it didn’t meet the streaming giant’s quality standards and that no appeal would be heard. That news brought attention from the Wall Street Journal editorial page and other media outlets, and Amazon quickly reversed course. Eli Steele says that opened his eyes to how much sway Amazon holds over the film marketplace.

“The numbers between Amazon and other platforms are not even comparable,” Steele says of its sizable audience reach. He says most film festivals “lack the backbone to show perspectives outside of their echo chambers,” but he doesn’t want ideological diversity to be forced into the current system.

“Anyone can start their own film festival and they program it however they wish,” he says. “So why not plan a prestigious film festival that crosses all sorts of lines and invites healthy dialogue and debate?”

The conservative film sub-genre is attracting some unlikely participants. Radio talk show host Larry Elder made a splash in 2020 with “Uncle Tom,” a documentary letting black conservatives like him share their views and discuss how they’re treated by select liberals. The title captures the latter sentiment.

Elder, a best-selling author and nationally syndicated talk show host, says right-leaning documentaries often turn to private sources, like affluent Republicans, to fund their work. His film got little attention outside of conservative outlets at a time when the media invested heavily in telling black stories by black creators. 

“It was ignored by the Hollywood ‘we want diversity’ community, including all the film reviewers of the major newspapers and trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter,” says Elder, who co-wrote, co-produced and appears in the film. “Uncle Tom” boasts only three official reviews at RottenTomatoes.com, and no critics'-average "Tomatometer" score, in contrast with a robust 96% “fresh” rating from users.

Neither The Hollywood Reporter nor Variety would comment on the matter.

Yet none of that stopped Elder’s documentary from turning a tidy profit. The film's virtual opening weekend last June grossed $400,000. Elder notes the film quickly recouped its costs and ended up earning multiples of its budget of some $450,000 including post-production. It helped that Elder has a hearty social media presence – 859,000 followers on Twitter alone -- along with a syndicated radio show to promote the project.

Its commercial success was also aided by the development of alternative distribution platforms, showing that markets can punish discrimination, and that discrimination may serve as the mother of innovation.

Initially, "Uncle Tom” was sold exclusively through a partnership with SalemNOW, part of the conservative media company that distributes Elder's radio show. Following that 70-day exclusive with SalemNOW, the film’s website (UncleTom.com) became the primary sales location, with additional platforms added over the ensuing few months, including iTunes, Amazon and, later, Amazon Prime.

Elder says his team unsuccessfully approached Netflix about carrying “Uncle Tom,” a platform that features a crush of original, left-leaning documentaries including “13th” and “Miss Americana,” a film that honored Taylor Swift’s progressive awakening.

The team behind the film didn’t submit it to most major film festivals, save for the boutique USA Film Festival in Dallas. The documentary’s conservative bent helped shape that decision, as did restrictions in place from the ongoing pandemic. 

RealClearInvestigations reached out to multiple documentary groups for comment on this story, including DOC NYC, the Southern Documentary Fund, the Center for Independent Documentary, Docs in Progress and the International Documentary Association. None responded to those queries. Neither did several major film festivals, including Sundance, Telluride, Slamdance and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Other conservative filmmakers are going outside traditional channels. SalemNOW began streaming Pack’s “Created Equal” on March 30 in response to Amazon’s decision to pull the film. (It's listed on Amazon as a DVD but often out of stock.) Christopher Rufo has used YouTube to distribute his short films, including “Chaos by the Bay: The Truth About Homelessness in San Francisco” and “Mob Rule in Seattle.”

“I can immediately inject it into the bloodstream of the national conversation,” Rufo said. But, he added, coming out as a right-leaning storyteller in the documentary field is “complete poison to your career.”

“People tell me, ‘You’re now conservative. I can’t even work with you,’” says Rufo, who adds documentary organizations that once collaborated with him suddenly stopped returning his calls. “It’s kind of shocking. … They can’t even process how anyone would have another opinion.”

Documentary producer Nadia Gill of Encompass Films noted the industry’s allegiance to identity politics in a recent column for Persuasion.com:

First-hand experience of a subject has always been considered helpful in documentary filmmaking. But this has traditionally been a genre in which creators are free to engage with material that lies far beyond the boundaries of their own lives. Now, during the entire process — from access to financing and distribution — the filmmaker’s identity is at least as closely scrutinized as that person’s filmmaking aptitude.

Gill, who describes her political philosophy as “center left,” says modern documentaries can be broken down into two categories – classic and commercial, the latter fueled in part by Netflix’s robust documentary lineup. The former, Gill says, isn’t just liberal in nature but “fringe left,” while the commercial market offers some room for right-of-center storytelling. Either way, conservative documentaries rarely grace the film festival circuit.

“The vast majority of submissions [to film festivals] are, in fact, going to be from the left perspective,” she says. “It would be good for our industry to hear those voices [from the right] … and have an honest conversation.”

That won’t happen unless more independent funders show up to support this brand of art. Left-of-center storytellers can lean on a variety sources, including the Ford Foundation (2017’s “Whose Streets?”) and the MacArthur Foundation (2010’s “How Democracy Works Now”) to finance their work, Gill says.

“Progressive institutions have set themselves up for years to make these films,” she says. So far, few non-left groups have copied that approach.

Amanda Milius agrees. “The donor class of the right has to start acting like the donor class of the left,” says Milius, director of the 2020 documentary "The Plot Against the President," based on the book of the same title by Lee Smith, a freelance contributor to RealClearInvestigations. “Put that money into issue-based culture … and creators that hold the same values you do. Make something that lives forever.”

“You’re probably gonna make your money back and more,” she adds, “plus, you’re investing in actual change of the culture.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/10/2021 - 21:00
Published:4/10/2021 8:10:48 PM
[Markets] "Lost Golden City" Rises From The Egyptian Sand "Lost Golden City" Rises From The Egyptian Sand

Archaeologists unearthed a 3,000-year-old city in Egypt known by some as the "lost golden city." The ancient city's actual name is called "The Rise of Aten," which is located in the desert outskirts of Luxor, a city on the east bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt.

"The Egyptian mission under Dr. Zahi Hawass found the city that was lost under the sands," the excavation team told CBS News. "The city is 3,000 years old, dates to the reign of Amenhotep III, and continued to be used by Tutankhamun and Ay."

Hawass said the discovery is one of the "largest" ancient cities ever found in Egypt that dates back to the golden age when pharaohs ruled the land. 

The excavation crew began operations in September 2020, between the temples of Ramses III and Amenhotep III near Luxor, and within weeks, they uncovered parts of the city. 

"Within weeks, to the team's great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions," he said. 

Amenhotep III, one of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, ruled between 1391 to 1353 BC.

"The discovery of this lost city is the second most important archaeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun," Betsy Brian, professor of Egyptology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, said.

Brian said the ancient city "gives us a glimpse into the ancient Egyptians' life" when Egypt was at its most prosperous. 

Following seven months of excavations, the team has uncovered multiple neighborhoods, and within, it has found a complete bakery with ovens and storage containers. The team also found administrative and residential districts. 

"What they unearthed was the site of a large city in good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life," Hawass said. 

CBS noted the team also found pottery vessels, jewelry, scarab beetle amulets, and bricks with the seal of Amenhotep III. 

The excavation team's next objective is to "uncover untouched tombs filled with treasure," said Hawass. 

Only further excavations will uncover what lead to the demise of the ancient city more than 3,000 years ago. 

Video: Inside "Lost" Egyptian City

You never know what the sands of Egypt will hide - apparently a lost city that may rewrite history books. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/10/2021 - 08:45
Published:4/10/2021 8:07:29 AM
[Big Tech] Shapes of things (30) (Scott Johnson) Our friend Roger Kimball wears hats including that of the publisher of Encounter Books. Roger writes us with this public service announcement: Amazon made headlines in February when they got into the censorship business. Without notice or warning, they summarily delisted Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, a thoughtful, deeply researched, and humane study that I published at Encounter Books some three years ago. But Published:4/9/2021 1:32:24 PM
[Laughter is the Best Medicine] Thoughts from the ammo line (Scott Johnson) Ammo Grrrll considers TRUTH IN ADVERTISING FOR POTENTATES’ NAMES. She writes: Evidently in the past, the “masses” had more intestinal fortitude and pitiless honesty than our current citizenries. They picked some doozies of monikers for their leaders, names that got into the history books. Some of them were either just descriptive or benign – Leif the Lucky, Eric the Red come to mind. Others were downright complimentary: Good Queen Bess, Published:4/9/2021 10:19:04 AM
[Markets] Supreme Court Could Greenlight Warrantless Gun Seizures Supreme Court Could Greenlight Warrantless Gun Seizures

Submitted by Sovereign Man Blueprint

What happened:

Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments in Caniglia v. Strum on whether police can enter a home without a warrant under a “community caretaking” exemption to the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. The case stems from a 2015 incident in Rhode Island in which police entered an innocent man’s home, without his permission, and confiscated his firearms.

Police had been called by Edward Caniglia’s wife, who claimed she feared her husband might be suicidal after they had an argument. Edward spoke calmly to police when they showed up, told them he would never kill himself, and displayed no reason to believe he may be suicidal. Police bullied him into visiting a psychiatric care facility, and lied that they would not confiscate his firearms while he was away. The facility immediately released Edward, because in their assessment, his mental health was fine.

Police then lied to Edward’s wife, saying her husband gave police permission to enter the home and remove his firearms, which they did.

After Edward sued, his firearms were returned. But the court ruled the police had acted properly in seizing the guns based on “community care.” Edward’s appeal made it to the Supreme Court.

At last week’s arguments in front of the Supreme Court, the Biden administration sent a representative of the United States to argue on the officers’ behalf. In other words, the Biden administration is in favor of a court decision which would allow police to enter homes and confiscate firearms without a warrant in the name of “community care.”

What this means:

Lawyers for the police officers argued that a precedent for the “community care” exemption to the Fourth Amendment, which applied only to impounded vehicles, should also apply to the home.  While other exceptions to the Fourth Amendment require an immediate emergency, this one does not. If the Supreme Court ultimately agrees, it would weaken the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, especially as it applies to firearms.

This would essentially force a “red flag law” on the entire country.

Red flag, or ERPO (Extreme Risk Protection Order) laws have been passed in 19 states (plus DC). They allow police to seize firearms from an innocent person, with the permission of a judge.

This is a “pre-crime”— the court decides, without the subject present, if their non-criminal behavior suggests they pose a threat to themselves or the community. But at least under red flag laws the cops need a judge to go along. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the police in Caniglia v. Strum, it means police across the country will have free reign to serve as judge and jury, to convict someone of a pre-crime.

What you can do about it:

It’s pretty ironic that the same people who want to restrict the ability to defend yourself claim that the police are all racist and cannot be trusted to keep communities safe.

The reality is that self defense is a personal responsibility.

Guns can absolutely be misused, and in some cases needlessly escalate situations.

But it’s hard to deny that firearms are sometimes an important part of a Plan B for self and home defense in a worst case scenario.

The following 19 states (plus DC) have some version of red-flag laws on the books— which again, means police could confiscate your firearms with a court order, even if you have never committed, or even been accused, of a crime.

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • District of Columbia

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Nevada

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

Oklahoma is the only state with an anti-red flag law. The law passed in May 2020 says the state, nor local governments, may enact a law that allow confiscating firearms from innocent people. No state agencies may accept funds to implement such a law either.

Here is a basic overview of gun ownership legality in a few common Plan B destinations.

Canada: It is legal to own firearms in Canada with training, a background check, and a permit. Canada issues different permits based on the type of firearms you wish to acquire. Shotguns and rifles commonly used for hunting are considered non-restricted, which is the easiest type of firearm license to acquire. These firearms do not have to be registered.

Handguns are considered restricted, and require a different permit, and registration of each individual firearm. To carry handguns outside the home, you must acquire another special permit based on your occupation, or an imminent danger to your life.

Mexico: It is legal for citizens and legal residents to own firearms in Mexico provided they are registered with the government and only kept in the home.

To carry a firearm outside the home, a special permit is required. You must prove an occupational or special need, and meet other requirements including previous military service. Other exceptions exist for certain farming, hunting or sporting reasons.

Panama: Legal residents and citizens of Panama can own firearms after obtaining a permit. Requirements include a psychiatric evaluation, to submit DNA, a background check, and a drug test in order to obtain the permit.

Firearms must already be registered with the government, or go through the registration process if it is imported, which includes ballistic “fingerprinting” of the firearm.

Keep in mind that states and countries have different standards for when you are allowed to use a firearm in self defense.

Of course guns should always be a last resort, to save your life or the life of a loved one. In those circumstances, when faced with the choice of death or having to prove self-defense in court, most people would choose the latter.

Again, there can be parts of a Plan B that you hope you will never have to use. But as the saying goes, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Tyler Durden Tue, 04/06/2021 - 20:25
Published:4/6/2021 7:43:13 PM
[Markets] This Just Might Be the Best U.S. Economy Ever Credit Suisse books $4.7 billion loss, Yellen pushes for a global minimum corporate tax rate, CDC decision on vaccinations sends shares of cruise operators higher, and other news to start your day. Published:4/6/2021 7:45:11 AM
[Markets] Supreme Court Justice Thomas Suggests Facebook, Twitter Could Be Regulated Like Utilities Supreme Court Justice Thomas Suggests Facebook, Twitter Could Be Regulated Like Utilities

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appeared to signal that Big Tech firms could be regulated after Facebook and Twitter suspended President Donald Trump earlier this year.

Thomas, considered a conservative on the high court, made the point during a 12-page submission as the Supreme Court issued an order that rejected a lawsuit over Trump’s blocking of certain Twitter users from commenting on his posts before his account was taken down. The Supreme Court said the lawsuit ultimately should be dismissed as Trump isn’t in office anymore and was blocked from using Twitter, coming after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against Trump.

“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties,” Thomas wrote Monday (pdf).

“We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

Thomas also noted there are arguments suggesting digital platforms such as Twitter or Facebook “are sufficiently akin to common carriers or places of accommodation to be regulated in this manner.”

Thomas made reference to the respective owners of Facebook and Google by name—Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin.

“Although both companies are public, one person controls Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), and just two control Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin),” he wrote.

Thomas agreed that Trump’s Twitter account did “resemble a constitutionally protected public forum” in certain aspects, he noted that “it seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” possibly referring to Twitter’s ban against Trump following the Jan. 6 incident.

“Any control Mr. Trump exercised over the account greatly paled in comparison to Twitter’s authority, dictated in its terms of service, to remove the account ‘at any time for any or no reason,’” he added.

“Twitter exercised its authority to do exactly that.”

Thomas then said that modern technology isn’t easily addressed by existing laws and regulations. But he warned that the Supreme Court may “soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

“The Second Circuit feared that then-President Trump cut off speech by using the features that Twitter made available to him,” Thomas said.

“But if the aim is to ensure that speech is not smothered, then the more glaring concern must perforce be the dominant digital platforms themselves. As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms. The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”

Thomas noted that Big Tech firms have a vast amount of power over the flow of information—even books. He said it does not matter that Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and others are not the only ways in which to distribute speech as long as their power to do so is unequaled.

“A person always could choose to avoid the toll bridge or train and instead swim the Charles River or hike the Oregon Trail,” he wrote. “But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.”

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/05/2021 - 20:20
Published:4/5/2021 7:37:57 PM
[Markets] Drone Whistleblower Case Will Be First Espionage Act Conviction Of Biden Presidency Drone Whistleblower Case Will Be First Espionage Act Conviction Of Biden Presidency

Authored by Brett Wilkins via via CommonDreams.org,

Press freedom, peace, and human rights advocates are rallying behind Daniel Hale, the former intelligence analyst who blew the whistle on the US government's drone assassination program, and who pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to violating the Espionage Act.

The Washington Post reports Hale, who was set to go on trial next week, pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the 1917 law that has been used to target whistleblowers including Julian AssangeJohn KiriakouChelsea ManningEdward SnowdenJeffrey SterlingReality Winner, and others. 

Daniel Hale

Hale was charged in 2019 during the Trump administration after he leaked classified information on the US government's targeted assassination program to a reporter, who according to court documents, matches the description of The Intercept founding editor Jeremy Scahill. He is the first person to face sentencing for an Espionage Act offense during the admnistration of President Joe Biden

As vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden contributed to the creation of whistleblower protections in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, while simultaneously serving in an administration that, while promising "a new era of open government," relentlessly targeted individuals who revealed US war crimes and other classified information

Kiriakou—a former CIA agent who under Obama was sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment for exposing US torture—told Kevin Gosztola that he is "dissappointed that Daniel Hale's case was continued in the Biden Justice Department."

"I had hopes that Biden's Justice Department appointee would recognize the public service that Daniel Hale provided when he revealed illegality and abuse in the drone program," said Kiriakou. 

Hale, who was an intelligence analyst for the US Air Force before moving on to the National Security Agency and then the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, "knowingly took highly classified documents and disclosed them without authorization, thereby violating his solemn obligations to our country," according to a statement from Raj Parekh, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

US Air Force image

According to Gosztola, Hale's whistleblowing led to the revelation by The Intercept that "nearly half of the people on the U.S. government's widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group," details on how the Obama administration approved targeted assassinations, and information about Bilal el-Berjawi, a Briton "who was stripped of his citizenship before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012." 

The Post reports that Hale admitted in court to writing an anonymous chapter in Scahill's 2016 book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Programwhich divulged information taken from top-secret documents about drone strike protocols, civilian casualties, and Pentagon officials' debate about the accuracy of intelligence.

"These documents detailed a secret, unaccountable process for targeting and killing people around the world, including US citizens, through drone strikes," Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Interceptsaid after Hale's indictment. "They are of vital public importance, and activity related to their disclosure is protected by the First Amendment."

Hale had initially centered his defense on First Amendment grounds, and his numerous defenders condemned his prosecution as a violation of press freedom and freedom of speech. His lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, issued a statement saying "the U.S. government's policy of punishing people who provide journalists with information in the public interest is a profound threat to free speech, free press, and a healthy democracy."

"Classified information is published in the press every day; in fact, the biggest leaker of classified information is the US government," wrote Radack. "However, the Espionage Act is used uniquely to punish those sources who give journalists information that embarrasses the government or exposes its lies."

"Every whistleblower jailed under the Espionage Act is a threat to the work of national security journalists and the sources they rely upon to hold the government accountable," she added. 

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CodePink, tweeted that it's "outrageous that drone whistleblower Daniel Hale will be going to prison for exposing the drone murders by the U.S. military. Why don't the murderers go to jail? Or the ones who ok the murders? Or the ones who make the killer drones and profit from murder?"

Hale's sentencing is scheduled for July 13. He faces up to 10 years behind bars. Kiriakou told Gosztola that he hopes the judge "recognizes the good in what Daniel Hale has done and gives him the lightest possible sentence."

Tyler Durden Sun, 04/04/2021 - 20:30
Published:4/4/2021 7:58:59 PM
[Markets] So MLB Is Fine With Games In Cuba & Training In China, But Georgia Has A Human-Rights Problem? So MLB Is Fine With Games In Cuba & Training In China, But Georgia Has A Human-Rights Problem?

Authored by Monica Showalter via AmericanThinker.com,

You could tell that the Major League Baseball (MLB) decision to pull its All-Star game out of Atlanta was a deeply unpopular one, based on the ambivalent reaction of far-left failed gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams. Here's the money quote from her Twitter statement:

After all, isn't she the one who pushed through most of the fraud-enabling laws on the books in Georgia which triggered the recent legislative action? The blacks-are-too-dumb-to-have-voter-ID idiotic notion, so by extension, nobody should have to show voter ID to vote, even though everyone needs to show ID to buy a beer at a MLB ball game, or buy a ticket to one? She needs to make up her mind.

So which is it? Not wanting to see families hurt, or being all-in for the boycott of Atlanta, which certainly should affect the city tax base? She wants to have it both ways, boycott but nobody hurt. That's because unlike MLB, she wants to win public office, and knows that screwing over black businesses, which will get it in the teeth with this MLB maneuver, is going to make her unpopular.

Here's the MLB statement:

Abrams' response is just the tip of the iceberg of the hypocrisy and contradictions seen from this MLB maneuver -- stiffing black-owned American small businesses just emerging from a pandemic to protest a U.S. law they are perfectly free to campaign for to change otherwise through elections, or else playing the ball game without politics and drawing a big audience. Which is it for them? And by the way, how many of their baseball players are American citizens?

Unlike Abrams, they chose, and chose poorly, because what they chose will probably have some consequences for the MLB organization, given its nuclear level of hypocrisy.

Here's another hypocrisy: Will MLB now move its All-Star game to Delaware, Joe Biden's home state, where, unlike Georgia now, there is no early voting at all? Will they stop advertising and selling merchandise in that state? Or New York, or New Jersey, which also don't have early voting as they now do in Georgia? These MLB virtue-signallers would be hypocrites if they didn't.

Here's the big one: MLB made a big deal about its move out of Georgia being a human rights issue, and them being all concerned about human rights, you see.

Can they explain for us why they recently held a ball game in brutal totalitarian military dictatorship of Cuba? A place Cuban ball players flee from to freedom, which in come cases includes MLB salaries made possible only by living in a free, democratic society that exists already? They aren't fleeing to a hellhole, which is what MLB is now claiming about Georgia.

Can they explain to us why they hold a training camp in China, home of the Uighur slave-labor laogai and the broken-treaty de-democratization of Hong Kong? You'd think an organization that concerned about voting rights that willing to disrupt its own business and make itself politically unpopular in Georgia in the interest of virtue-signalling on voting might just take an interest in voting and transparency practices over in communist China.

These things to them are fine, but Georgia is an affront to their delicate democratic sensibilities.

The hypocrisies pile up on top of the hypocrisies and the only people who suffer here are the little black-owned Atlanta businesses who otherwise would get an increased payday from all the knock-on traffic from the All-Star game. Big businesses, such as MLB, have always been happy to crush the little-guy upstart businesses, some of whom might grow into competitors. That, and the press releases with fawning media coverage, is all they end up doing as a means of feathering their nests. Leftists have always yelled about calling corporations persons, and in this case, they are right, corporations are not persons making personal decisions, they are a big 'it' whose decisions are always in the end about profits.

Their hypocrisy surrounding this maneuver to appease senile Joe Biden and all his leftist flying monkeys circling his his sorry corpus is an outrage. Maybe a full boycott from viewers, as President Trump, who always has his finger on the pulse of the people, is what it will take to get that message to this big 'it' which wants to have things all ways.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/03/2021 - 22:30
Published:4/3/2021 9:52:31 PM
[Markets] Manhattan Office Supply Skyrockets To Three Decade High  Manhattan Office Supply Skyrockets To Three Decade High 

Whether "working from home" is a temporary fad or a permanent "new normal" remains to be seen; what becomes more evident is the mounting supply glut of corporate space in Manhattan, according to Bloomberg, citing a new report from real estate firm Savills.

Savills said the amount of office space available in Manhattan is at a three-decade high. The report, released on Thursday, said the availability rate soared to 17.2% in the first quarter. The rise in the rate was primarily due to a massive surge in sublease space, which now stands at 22 million square feet, or 62% higher than 2019 levels. 

"Abundant short- and long-term options are driving price reductions," Savills noted. "Many owners are proposing historically aggressive rates, concessions, and flexibility to secure tenants amid so much competition."

Savills said rents fell for the fifth consecutive quarter to around $76.27 a square foot, down 9% from a year earlier. These cheaper rents are creating a massive opportunity for companies who want to enter the city. 

Desperate landlords were offering generous concessions for long-term leases at newly constructed buildings: "Average tenant improvement allowances jumped 16% and free rent surged 17% to an average of 13.5 months. The tenant-friendly market is expected to last for at least the next 12 to 18 months," Savills said.

The Manhattan office market continues to struggle more than one year after the pandemic hit, which has emptied Manhattan's skyscrapers. And since most employees are still working from home, just around 24.21% of workers in the New York metropolitan area were back at their desks as of this week. 

Even with the vaccine rollout now reaching 100 million Americans, companies are still opting for "hybrid" work as remote working dominates

In a past report, Jim Wenk, a vice chairman at Savills North America, said commercial real estate in the borough will have a "very choppy period for the foreseeable future."

recent survey from the Partnership for New York City found 66% of Manhattan's most prominent employers would allow employees to work under hybrid work arrangements, meaning they would Manhattan's most prominent employers. 

As more proof the work environment is rapidly changing, major magazine publisher Conde Nast (who owns brands such as ARS Technica, GQ, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, among other popular magazines) is a major anchor tenant in the new World Trade Center, recently skipped out on rent as it asked for rent discounts and a reduction in square footage.

Last month, JP Morgan was reportedly looking to sublet hundreds of thousands of square feet at 4 New York Plaza in the financial district and 5 Manhattan West in the Hudson Yards area. 

To make matters worse, Hudson Yards, a massive complex on Manhattan's Far West Side with condos, office space, and retailers built over an enormous railroad yard had investors panic because the company refused to open its books. The combination of work-at-home and folks moving to suburbs has left Hudson Yards and other places across the borough a 'ghost town.' 

This all suggests that the virus pandemic has brought years of technological change to the work model that has possibly made companies more productive and cut costs as employees work from home or adopt a hybrid work model. Without office workers returning to the borough, there can't be a robust recovery in the near term. 

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/02/2021 - 19:00
Published:4/2/2021 6:16:40 PM
[Recent Funding] Want to take a road trip with Kevin Costner? Investors are betting you might Woody Sears has long been interested in storytelling. After spending several years in sales after nabbing an MBA from Pepperdine — and following the debut in 2007 of the first iPhone — he founded a storytelling app called Zuuka that built up a library of narrated and illustrated kids’ books for the iPhone and iPad. […] Published:4/2/2021 4:47:36 PM
[] Marco Rubio, of All People, Blasts Delta and Coca-Cola for Attacking Georgia for Its Voter Law, While Continuing to Give the Concentration-Camp Operating Communist Chinese Regime They're in Bed With a Free Pass Apparently corporations are now taking their political cues exclusively from noted Lifelong Lover of Reading the First Page of a Book, LeBron James. He loves taking selfies of himself reading books. But strangely, always the first few pages. Never when... Published:4/1/2021 5:11:28 PM
[Markets] Our "Wealth": Cloud Castles In The Sky Our "Wealth": Cloud Castles In The Sky

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Buyers know there will always be a greater fool willing to pay more for an over-valued asset because the Fed has promised us it will always be the greater fool.

I realize nobody wants to hear that most of their "wealth" is nothing more than wispy Cloud Castles in the Sky that will dissipate in the faintest zephyr, but there it is: that which was conjured out of thin air will return to thin air.

I've assembled a few charts that reflect the illusion of financial wealth that has a death grip on the public psyche. Something for nothing is a powerful attractor, but it doesn't offer a narrative that the delusionally self-important demand: I earned this by working hard and being smart. Oh, right, yeah, sure. It had nothing to do with currency being created out of thin air and made available to insiders, financiers, banks, etc., or being able to leverage this new money into ever-larger bets, all guaranteed to be winning trades by the Federal Reserve. Nope, you're all stone-cold geniuses.

Back in reality, note that tangible assets--real as opposed to financial conjuring--are at historic lows relative to financial-bubble assets: tangible assets represent such a meager proportion of total assets that we might assume they could slip to zero without affecting our "wealth" much at all.

If we compare financial-bubble assets to the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a (flawed) measure of real-world activity, we find Cloud Castles in the Sky are worth over six times the nation's real-world economy. This reflects what happens to the valuations of Cloud Castles in the Sky when "money" is created out of thin air and then leveraged into fantastic, monstrous illusions of "wealth."

The next two charts illustrates the sole dynamic driving assets higher: the Fed is the greater fool. Assets are chasing their own tails higher, completely disconnected from the real world, a reality visible in the chart of IWM, the small-cap index. Examine the recent rocket launch higher and explain why this is completely disconnected from previous decades' valuations.

The answer is the Fed is the greater fool: since everyone knows the Fed will always save the day should valuations falter, buyers know there will always be a greater fool willing to pay more for an over-valued asset because the Fed has promised us it will always be the greater fool.

Take a look at the chart of M2 money stock, and please explain how this is just plain old normal healthy "capitalism" at work. 

After you've explained chasing your own tail, then explain who's getting all the Fed's free money for financiers. It isn't those working for a living, as evidenced by the chart of money velocity, which has plummeted into the Dead Money black hole from which there is no escape.

So by all means, lavish yourself with praise for constructing a Cloud Castle in the Sky of "wealth" with your hard work and genius, and keep chasing your own tail because the Fed has promised us it will always be the greater fool. What a pretty cloud, what a pretty fantasy.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.

*  *  *

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.

*  *  *

My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World (Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).]

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/01/2021 - 16:20
Published:4/1/2021 3:36:54 PM
[Entertainment] Four graphic novels that illuminate anti-Asian racism through personal experience From historic wars to the current climate, these books shine a light on inhumanity — and empathy. Published:4/1/2021 5:04:12 AM
[Markets] Washington's Hegemonic Ambitions Defy Multipolar Reality, Risking Catastrophic Conflict Washington's Hegemonic Ambitions Defy Multipolar Reality, Risking Catastrophic Conflict

Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The rapidly shifting international distribution of power creates problems that can only be resolved with real diplomacy. The great powers must recognize competing national interests, followed by efforts to reach compromises and find common solutions.

Over the past week the Biden administration has intensively reached out to Europe to revitalize the transatlantic alliance. In the following on-topic interview, Professor Glenn Diesen explains how the United States is opposed to the emerging reality of a multipolar world because of its winner-takes-all ideology. In doing so, Washington is predisposed to antagonize and militarize relations, primarily with Russia and China. The confrontational policy is aimed at driving a wedge between Europe on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The problem for Washington is that such a confrontational policy is unfeasible in a multipolar world. European allies are pressured to align with the U.S., but geoeconomic realities inevitably mean there is a practical limit to the American strategy. Using rhetoric about “values” and “human rights” is just a ploy to gain a false moral authority over rivals. The West’s unilateral use of sanctions is the corollary. But such a strategy is only further forging multipolar reality which is leading to weakness and self-isolation for the United States – and the European Union if the latter chooses to go down that futile route. Professor Diesen contends that without compromise and mutual respect among world powers, the ultimate risk could be catastrophic war. And he says the onus is on the United States and Europe to recognize competing national interests beyond their own, followed by efforts to reach compromises and find common solutions.

Glenn Diesen is a professor at University of South-Eastern Norway. He is also editor of ‘Russia in Global Affairs’ and is a contributing expert at the Valdai Discussion Club. His research focus is the geoeconomics of Greater Eurasia and the crisis of liberalism. He specializes in Russia’s approach to European and Eurasian integration, as well as West-China dynamics. He is the author of several books: ‘The Decay of Western Civilisation and Resurgence of Russia: Between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft’ (2018); ‘Russia’s Geoeconomic Strategy for a Greater Eurasia’ (2017); and ‘EU and NATO relations with Russia: After the collapse of the Soviet Union’ (2015).

His latest two books are ‘Russian Conservatism’ (January 2021, see this link); and ‘Great Power Politics in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (March 2021, see this link).

*  *  *

Interview

Question: The Biden administration is making strenuous efforts at rallying Europe and NATO to take a more adversarial position toward Russia and China: what are Washington’s geopolitical objectives?

Glenn Diesen: Biden’s “America is back” and Trump’s “Make America Great Again” both aim to reverse the relative decline of the United States in the international system. While Trump believed that providing collective goods to its allies as the cost of a hegemon was making the U.S. lose its competitiveness, Biden believes the U.S. must rally its allies against rising adversaries. The geopolitical objectives remain constant: preserving a dominant position for the U.S. in the international system.

The main challenge to U.S. leadership position is geoeconomic as its rivals are developing alternative technologies, strategic industries, transportation corridors and financial instruments. However, the U.S. has not been successful in converting the security dependence of allies into geoeconomic loyalty. This is evident as the European Union uses Chinese technologies and capital, and Germany is working with Russia to construct the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. There are strong incentives for the U.S. to militarize a geoeconomic rivalry as it strengthens solidarity and loyalty among allies. NATO is therefore a good instrument even though Russian tanks are not heading towards Warsaw and Chinese troops are not about to invade Paris.

Question: Will Washington succeed in pushing what appears to be a new Cold War drive?

Glenn Diesen: Washington is certainly worsening relations with both Moscow and Beijing, although it is not clear that they will get the Europeans to follow their lead. The Europeans share many of America’s concerns, although they do not wish to retreat under U.S. protection in a new U.S.-China bipolar system. The EU has defined its interest as pursuing “strategic autonomy” to develop “European sovereignty”. U.S. efforts to rally the Europeans against Russia and China rely on rhetoric over security challenges or human rights issues, although it is meant to translate into reducing economic connectivity with the two Eurasian giants. However, the interests of the Europeans and the U.S. diverge over China, and the Europeans are also growing more concerned over pushing Russia towards China.

Question: You’ve mentioned before how the United States’ goals are: a) to prevent Europe from partnering with Russia for energy trade; and b) to prevent Europe partnering with China for new technology, trade and investment. Is such a divisive U.S. aim possible to achieve in a multipolar, integrated global economy?

Glenn Diesen: U.S. policies aim to prevent the emergence of a multipolar order. In my opinion, this is a misguided objective as Washington must adjust to the changing international distribution of power. I have argued that the U.S. is confronted with a dilemma – it can either facilitate and shape a multipolar system where the U.S. is the “first among equals”, or it can aim to contain rising powers to extend its hegemonic position although then a multipolar system will emerge in direct opposition to the U.S. By containing the rise of both Russia and China, the U.S. encourages Moscow and Beijing to define their partnership often in opposition to the U.S.

The global economy is subsequently fragmenting. The geoeconomic dominance of the U.S. has rested on its leading technologies that buttress its strategic industries, control over the maritime corridors of the world, and control over the main development banks and the world’s trade/reserve currency. Russia and China have therefore developed a strategic partnership to develop their own technological ecosystems, new Eurasian transportation corridors by land and sea, and new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and de-dollarizing their trade. The U.S. will therefore discover that the effort to isolate China and Russia will result in the U.S. isolating itself.

Question: You’ve also mentioned that the United States may be trying a re-run of the Nixon-era policy from the 1970s of forcing a division between China and Russia. Is such a U.S. objective possible today?

Glenn Diesen: It seems highly unlikely. Nixon was able to split the Soviet Union and China by reaching out to the weaker part, China, based on mutual misgivings towards the power of the Soviet Union. The U.S. therefore accommodated the weaker adversary to balance the stronger adversary.

Today, the stronger adversary is China and the U.S. would therefore have to reach out to Russia. Beijing has no reason to turn against Moscow as Russia does not pose a threat to the Chinese, and Russia’s partnership is vital for China’s geoeconomic rise.

Much can be gained from reaching out to Moscow, although it will be very difficult, and Russia will not turn against China. The U.S. leading role in Europe is reliant on excluding Russia from the continent, and the anti-Russian sentiments in the U.S. make it impossible to find common ground. Also, it is hard to overstate the resentment in Moscow over relentless NATO expansionism towards its borders.

Future historians will likely recognize the historical blunder of not accommodating Russia in Europe. After the Cold War, Russia’s principal foreign policy objective was to be included in a Greater Europe. The remaining hopes for incremental integration with Europe ended in 2014, when the West supported the coup in Ukraine. Russia is now pursuing the Greater Eurasia Initiative and its leading partner toward that end is China.

Reaching out to Moscow will enable Russia to diversify its economic relations and avoid excessive reliance on China, although Russia will not join any partnership aimed against China.

Question: The Biden administration’s overtures for a stronger transatlantic alliance and a more unified NATO appear to be lapped up by various European leaders. For example at the NATO summit of foreign ministers in Brussels on March 23-24, the French top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian gushed about a renewed alliance under Biden, declaring that NATO had “rediscovered” itself. Why are European politicians seemingly so ready to appease Washington even when it is at the cost of undermining their own relations with Russia and China?

Glenn Diesen: The Europeans only developed unity after the Second World War under U.S. leadership. Europe has thus only existed as a cohesive sub-region within the larger transatlantic region. During the Cold War this partnership was directed towards balancing the Soviet Union, and after the Cold War the trans-Atlantic partnership enabled collective hegemony. The Europeans have prospered under U.S. leadership and been able to develop regional European autonomy.

The multipolar system challenges the foundation for the internal cohesion of both Europe and the trans-Atlantic region. On one hand, the Europeans want to align their policies with the U.S. to preserve solidarity within Europe and the West. On the other hand, the Europeans desire “strategic autonomy” as they recognize that U.S. and EU interests diverge in a multipolar world. Confronting Russia and China weakens the economic competitiveness of Europe and increases its dependence on the U.S.

Question: Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking during a visit to China this week, remarked that the European Union had unilaterally destroyed relations with Russia due to recent actions, presumably imposing sanctions. Would you agree that the EU has taken unprecedented harmful steps against Russia?

Glenn Diesen: Yes. The sanctions do not provide a solution, rather they undermine the possibility for a partnership to find common solutions. Sanctions are designed to force Russia to make unilateral concessions as opposed to finding mutually acceptable solutions through compromise.

It must be recognized that every conflict has two sides, yet Brussels tends to treat all conflicts as transgressions by Russia that must be punished and corrected by the EU. I often make the argument that Russia is largely a status-quo power in Europe that reacts to Western revisionism. Russia intervened in Crimea in response to the West’s support for the coup, and Russia intervened in Syria in response to Western efforts to topple the government. The problem behind these conflicts is that Russian security interests were never included, and the sanctions are a mere extension of this hegemonic mentality.

The sanctions are condemning Europe to reduced relevance in the multipolar world. A divided Europe creates systemic pressures for the EU to retreat under U.S. protection, and Russia must similarly diversify its economy away from Europe and instead align itself closer with China.

Question: Do you see any prospect of the European Union waking up to the realization that the bloc needs to repair relations with Russia, and China for that matter? Presumably that would require the EU asserting geopolitical independence from the United States, and the question is: has Europe’s political class got the will or even the imagination for this?

Glenn Diesen: How can relations be repaired? The source of all problems with Russia was the failure to reach a mutually acceptable post-Cold War settlement. Efforts to create a Europe-without-Russia inevitably became a Europe-against-Russia. Initially, Russian apprehensions could be ignored as Russia was weak and did not have anywhere else to go. This is no longer the case. The EU can either treat the underlying problem of excluding the largest state in Europe from Europe, or it can aim to treat the symptoms that include Russia’s pivot to the east – primarily China.

Both France and Germany have become more vocal about the folly of continuing to push Russia towards China. France has been more ambitious in terms of rethinking relations with Russia to resolve the underlying problems, while Germany has been more focused on treating the symptoms by maintaining economic connectivity with Russia.

What can the EU do? Suspending NATO expansion towards Russian borders or ending anti-Russian sanctions would undermine both EU and NATO solidarity as it is opposed by the U.S. and certain Central and Eastern European countries. The EU and the West were not designed for a multipolar world and so risk its internal cohesion no matter what is done.

The EU is not demonstrating any intentions of altering its subject-object relationship with Russia, and seeking solutions through mutual compromise. When the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell went to Moscow last month, the effort to improve relations with Russia was therefore limited to lecturing Russia about its domestic affairs and transgressions in international affairs, which, it was inferred, Russia should correct in order to earn the EU’s forgiveness and improve relations.

Question: Finally, are you concerned that deteriorating international tensions could lead to war?

Glenn Diesen: Yes, we should all be concerned. Tensions keep escalating and there are increasing conflicts that could spark a major war. A war could break out over Syria, Ukraine, the Black Sea, the Arctic, the South China Sea and other regions.

What makes all of these conflicts dangerous is that they are informed by a winner-takes-all logic. Wishful thinking or active push towards a collapse of Russia, China, the EU or the U.S. is also an indication of the winner-takes-all mentality. Under these conditions, the large powers are more prepared to accept greater risks at a time when the international system is transforming. The rhetoric of upholding liberal democratic values also has clear zero-sum undertones as it implies that Russia and China must accept the moral authority of the West and commit to unilateral concessions.

The rapidly shifting international distribution of power creates problems that can only be resolved with real diplomacy. The great powers must recognize competing national interests, followed by efforts to reach compromises and find common solutions.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/31/2021 - 23:40
Published:3/31/2021 11:03:35 PM
[Markets] Financial Capitalism: The Endgame Financial Capitalism: The Endgame

Via Renegade Inc.,

Surely the biggest human failure is not learning from failure...

In 2008, we had the opportunity, collectively, to reboot a broken financial system so it became fit for purpose.

But instead of reconfiguring finance to serve the real economy politicians and central bankers used quantitative easing to buy time which lulled the mainstream media into reporting that everything was back on track. Some people haven’t bought that story.

Marc Friederich and Matthias Weik are two economists who didn’t succumb to groupthink after the 2008 crash and now see financial capitalism’s end game.

*  *  *

Friedrich explained to Renegade Inc. that the authors’ intention is to help translate the complexity of a financial system by inverting it into a language that everybody understands. Having studied economics, and as children of the dot com bubble, the authors of four best-selling books in Germany, stress the important role sarcasm and dark humour play in their work in respect to making seemingly complex matters accessible to the wider public.

Terminology camouflage

According to Weik, the aim behind mainstream economists’ use of convoluted language is to create a camouflage in order to prevent them from having to explain what their terminology means. “It’s like the language of law spoken in secret phrases whose purpose is to garner public trust”, said Friedrich.

But what mainstream economists and politicians haven’t explained is the structural nature of a crisis that hasn’t been remedied since the 2008 crash. Instead, the metaphorical can has been kicked down the road.

We’re at the end game because it’s the final bubble. We’ve got the government bond bubble and there won’t be another bubble afterwards. It will burst because last time China and all the states rescued the world. They won’t save us anymore. We used cheap money like a drug. We just put more and more drugs into the system”, said Weik.

“Economists and politicians have learnt nothing in the last decade, rather they have merely bought time. The banks who created the last financial crisis continue to be the big winners”, says Friedrich. The losers are the working class and underclass who were encouraged to borrow recklessly. And yet it is these latter groups who the American and British press blame for the crisis.

According to Friedrich, the catalyst for the crisis was low-interest rates and too much cheap money. “They tried to solve it with even lower interest rates and much more money. The debts have doubled since 2008”, said the economist. In Friedrich’s view, the Fed, ECB and other central banks will try to print more money “like they always do.”

Friedrich continued:

We will definitely see negative interest rates….Since 2008 debts worldwide doubled for private people and for companies even three times more debts than 2008. So this is the final bubble. And the central banks create one bubble after the next one to keep the whole thing running. That’s it.”

And we all know the patient is dead but nobody is ready to unplug the life support. The aim is to keep the system alive for as long as possible.

Weik added:

“Over the past two years real estate prices exploded, the share prices exploded, lots of people earned a lot of money and a lot of people can’t afford living anymore.”

Spread of revolutions

In Weik’s view, the growing crisis, indicative of the widening divide between the rich and poor, will culminate in the spread of revolutions throughout Europe. As the authors make clear, the inability of the political establishment to find any solutions to the crisis of 2008, the phenomenon of Brexit, Trump and the other symptoms that led to the emergence of the far right across Europe and the world, all emanate from the lack of political will to deal with these things in 2006.

“The establishment are afraid of facing the consequences of a real change in the system”, argues Friedrich.

“The banks have betrayed all of us…. They manipulated interest rates, for example. Everybody who bought a house with credit was suffering. Then, the politician’s we elected bailed out the banks with our taxes. And we thought the politicians are here for us….The banks are still here. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, the European Central Bank — they’re all still here. Nothing happened. And then, since 2008, the people lost trust in the media as well.”

So it’s a historical loss of trust all over the place.

The authors argue that it’s not just the holy trinity — banks, politicians and media — who are to blame. They also point a finger at the public’s inability to take personal responsibility.

“Change always comes from the people. We are more than them. And if we’re not taking the step forward and change something nothing will change”

Friedrich also adds, “That’s why we say we the people have to create the change right now. The monetary system failed. It’s bankrupt. We have to change it. Let’s think about a new monetary system…. We have to create the change. And if not creating it there will be a lot of damage. That’s what we all have to face right now.”

Hijacked

Friedrich and Weik posit that big opportunities predicated on a system that prioritises people above profit could emerge from the chaos of the next crash. Aligned with Marx, the authors note how the productive capacities capitalism has engendered over the centuries has greatly benefited humanity while recognising that, over recent decades, capitalism has been hijacked by a form of cronyism — its extreme variant — neoliberalism:

“If you make a bad economical decision as a private person or as a business owner, that’s it, you’re out of business. But if you are a bank no problem at all….The United Kingdom sells bonds to finance the whole system. So who’s buying the bonds? The answer is hedge funds, insurance companies, banks and now, central banks.”

This kind of crony capitalism exists in what Friedrich acknowledges is a context in which politicians tell the public that they have got record employment and everybody’s better off. “But nobody tells them that more and more people are doing two or three jobs within low and stagnating wage sectors”, says Friedrich.

He continues:

“There is a problem in the monetary system. And if the currency collapses the people have to pay for it, not the government….In 2001 we established a currency monetary union in Europe with the euro. It was just not going to work. It’s madness to put strong economies like Germany with weak economies like Italy or Greece in one currency. For Germany the Euro is too cheap which is why the country is exporting so many goods and so they can’t even get into the market. It’s like it’s too expensive. Meanwhile, Germany is getting stronger while the weaker nations are getting weaker. This then opens the door for reactionary political leaders. And so the cycle continues.”

The Endgame

While in Argentina during the crisis in 2001, Friedrich first realized that in the event of an economic crisis and currency collapse, it’s the public who are forced to pay. The economist understood that there are only three possibilities to delete the debts in the system — inflation, devaluation of the currency and war. In each case, it’s the people who are forced to pay.

What are the likely consequences of the end game — the biggest bubble in human history?

According to Weik:

“The morning after the end game we can solve the crisis, if we are smart. …But if it is postponed, there will be an implosion of the markets globally on something like the scale of 1929, maybe even worse.

So we have to rethink how to restart the system from scratch...Otherwise there would be a big bang and then it’s getting really nasty and much more expensive.”

Friedrich proffers a slightly different perspective:

We need a new currency system — a new monetary fund. If the people don’t take control of the system, the alternative digital system could be like ‘1984’, it will be horrible. It’s why we have to get power back to the people. Solutions will likely be utilized through artificial intelligence controlled by people for the benefit of people. We explain this in our books and videos.”

Watch the full episode now:

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/30/2021 - 20:45
Published:3/30/2021 7:54:57 PM
[Entertainment] 10 books to read in April Haruki Murakami, Rachel Kushner and Helen Oyeyemi have new books this month. Published:3/30/2021 1:53:14 PM
[Markets] The Hazardous Detour On The Road To "Recovery" Few Foresee The Hazardous Detour On The Road To "Recovery" Few Foresee

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

As the level of Fed smack and crack needed to maintain the high increases, system fragility increases geometrically.

You know the plot point in the horror film where the highway is blocked and a detour sign directs the car full of naive teens off onto a rutted track into the wilderness? We're right there in the narrative of "the road to recovery": the highway that everyone expected would be smooth and wide open is about to be detoured into a rutted track that peters out in a wilderness without any lights or signage.

Oops--no cell coverage out here either. Is that the road over there? Guess not--we just careened into a canyon alive with the roar of a raging river. Our vehicle keeps sliding downhill, even with the brakes locked... this trip to "recovery" was supposed to be so quick and easy, and now there's no way out... what's that noise?

You know the rest: the naive, trusting teens are picked off one by one in the most horrific fashion. Substitute naive punters in the stock market and you have the script for what lies ahead.

The "recovery" has an unfortunate but all-too accurate connotation: recovery from addiction. The "recovery" we've been told is already accelerating at a wondrous pace does not include any treatment of the market's addiction to Federal Reserve free money for financiers; rather, the "recovery" is entirely dependent on a never-ending speedball of Fed smack and crack and a booster of Fed financial meth.

The addiction to Fed speedballs had already turned the entire financial sector into a casino of lunatic junkies who delusionally believe they're all geniuses. Beneath the illusory stability of the god-like Fed has our back, the addiction to free money has completely destabilized America's social, political and economic orders by boosting wealth and income inequality to unprecedented extremes.

While it's convenient to blame the carnage on the response to the Covid pandemic, the damage to the speedball-addicted financial system had already reached extremes before the pandemic: the addiction began decades ago, but like all addictions, the amount of stimulus needed to maintain the high keeps expanding, and eventually the need can't be met without toxic doses: then the junkie / addicted system collapses.

The ever-greater doses of Fed speedballs have unleashed both deflation (smack) and inflation (crack): real returns on ordinary savings have been crushed to zero (deflation of ordinary income), and as the cost of capital/credit have been dropped to near-zero, then the purchasing power of wages has deflated while the speculative gains of those who own assets have soared (asset inflation).

By lowering the cost of capital to zero, the Fed has generated fatally perverse incentives. With the cost of capital at zero, it makes sense to buy labor-saving technologies to replace costly labor-- labor that is costly to employers because of America's perverse sickcare system, which burdens employers with ever-higher costs.

Not only have the Fed's free-money speedballs made it essentially free for financiers to speculate in the stock market casino, the Fed has rigged the game and bailed out its cronies whenever their bets soured. This has fueled infinite moral hazard: Go ahead and gamble with free money from the Fed, and go ahead and leverage it up 10-to-1 because the Fed will bail you out if you lose, but if you win, the stupendous gains are yours to keep.

The problem with addiction is you're dependent on the high, no matter what the eventual consequences may be. Long-term consequences are ignored because all that matters to the addict is to get the next Fed speedball and throw it on the gambling table to keep the high going.

Our entire economy is now dependent on ever-expanding speculative gains. Should the casino winnings falter, our economy will crash, and given the primacy of money and consumption in our society and political system, the financial collapse of the Fed's casino lunacy will sweep those systems over the falls.

As the level of Fed smack and crack needed to maintain the high increases, system fragility increases geometrically. The irony of addiction is that when the crack/meth kicks in, the addict feels god-like, in control, invulnerable. This artificial confidence is entirely illusory, a deadly combination of delusion and hubris.

In this delusional state of supreme confidence, the addict loses touch with reality, i.e. the fatal consequences of the addiction. That's the detour we've taken in becoming addicted to the Fed's free-money speedballs. Now the rutted road has ended in a trackless wilderness. There is no way back and no way forward. The addict's addled confidence will push them into the ice-cold river, and as they're swept over the falls, the realization that it was all a drug-induced delusion will come too late to make a difference.

*  *  *

This essay was first published as a weekly Musings Report sent exclusively to subscribers and patrons at the $5/month ($54/year) and higher level. Thank you, patrons and subscribers, for supporting my work and this free blog. 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.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Tue, 03/30/2021 - 12:50
Published:3/30/2021 11:57:36 AM
[Middle Column] Morano’s ‘Green Fraud’ book dethrones Bill Gates ‘Climate Disaster’ book: ‘Green Fraud’ hits Number 1, 2 & 3 in Amazon’s ‘Environmental Policy’ – Pushes Bill Gates book to number 4

Order book here

Published:3/30/2021 10:52:59 AM
[NEWS & ANALYSIS] The Grinch Who Saved Culture: GOP Rep. Introduces Bill to Protect Children’s Books From Cancelation

As more and more books, toys and movies fall victim to the monster that is cancel culture, one GOP congressman is working to make a change.  Rep. John Joyce (R-PA) introduced the GRINCH Act, a bill that would deny federal funding and resources to any government agency trying to cancel or censor books, BizPacReview reports. […]

The post The Grinch Who Saved Culture: GOP Rep. Introduces Bill to Protect Children’s Books From Cancelation appeared first on Human Events.

Published:3/30/2021 8:59:36 AM
[Markets] Political Economy Versus Federal Fairy Tales Political Economy Versus Federal Fairy Tales

Authored by James Bovard via The American Institute for Economic Research,

"Build Back Better” is the motto for President Biden’s ambitious plans to remake much of the American economy and society. On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Biden will reveal his plans for trillions of dollars of new spending for infrastructure and other projects. His devotees in the national media will whoop up his proposals as the greatest thing since the New Deal, or at least since Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act a couple weeks ago.

Once Biden fires the starting gun, a deluge of experts will descend upon cable news shows to tout the vast benefits of the proposed “investment.” There will be a barrage of econometric formulas that irrefutably prove, via 10 or 15 shaky or squirrely assumptions, that vastly increasing federal spending will multiply prosperity across the land.  

Rather than deferring to mathematical formulas, I prefer old time political economy – i.e., analyses premised on the perfidy of politicians and the imbecility of bureaucracies. As a Washington journalist, I have investigated scores of federal programs that sounded great until they crashed and burned (okay, I did give some of them a push). Historical track records of government agencies are a better lodestar than the latest idealistic buncombe regardless of how many MSNBC hosts swoon. 

“Washington knows best” is the tacit premise for most of Biden’s initiatives. The Biden administration can trust federal agencies to shamelessly fabricate statistics to vindicate any new program, or at least cover up the initial damage. 

Biden is planning on expanding federal job training programs, a beloved federal panacea dating back to the Kennedy administration. In 2014, President Obama admitted that such programs rely on a “‘train and pray’ approach. We train them and we pray that they can get a job.” To hide its dismal record, the Labor Department “defined down success” by counting trainees as hired simply by confirming they had a job interview, by certifying as permanently employed any trainee who spent one day on a new job, and by claiming victory for teaching teenagers how to make change for a dollar. No wonder programs are notorious for leaving trainees worse off than if they had never signed up. 

Biden is stretching the definition of infrastructure to include new spending for early childhood education, seeking to offer free pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year-old American children. Will Biden’s speechwriters concoct a label as punchy as President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)?” But stretching government control over more years of childhood will turn out no better than Bush’s biggest domestic fraud. NCLB empowered the U.S. Education Department to punish local schools for not fulfilling arbitrary, often imaginary guidelines for “adequate yearly progress.” Almost half the states responded by “dumbing down” academic standards, lowering passing scores on tests to avoid harsh federal sanctions. Unfortunately, NCLB’s disasters have not deterred politicians from hustling further federal takeovers of schooling. 

As part of its climate change agenda, Biden issued an executive order on January 27 proclaiming “the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands by 2030.” Farmers and other landowners fear the feds may squeeze out private ownership of vast swaths of the nation’s heartland. Is there any reason to expect Biden’s Climate “Brain Trust” to be wiser than Franklin Roosevelt’s original Brain Trust which launched command-and-control farm policies that still vex America?

The sugar program, for instance, relies on import quotas and other interventions to drive U.S. sugar prices to double or triple the world price, costing consumers $3 billion a year. Since 1997, Washington’s sugar policy has zapped more than 120,000 U.S. jobs in food manufacturing. More than 10 jobs have been lost in manufacturing for every remaining sugar grower in the U.S. 

Peanuts take the prize for perpetual policy perversity. When the U.S. peanut program was launched in the 1930s, the federal government gave favored farmers licenses to grow peanuts and outlawed anyone else from entering the business. To maximize its controls, the USDA used aerial photography to determine if farmers planted a few more square feet than they were allotted. In 2002, Congress spent $4 billion to buy out the peanut license owners and end the program. Problem solved, right? Nope – congressmen still needed campaign contributions. In 2014, Congress created a new program that guaranteed payments far above market prices. The cost of peanut subsidies quickly approached a billion dollars a year, nearly equaling the farm value of all the peanuts grown in the U.S. Farmers dumped surplus peanuts on USDA, which dumped them on Haiti, sowing chaos in local markets. But that wasn’t a problem because Haitian peanut farmers can’t vote in U.S. elections (at least not yet).  

Among other pending marvels, Biden is planning to reform the Postal Service, an agency that has almost perfected statistical chicanery. In the 1980s, it boasted of 95% next-day delivery of first-class mail but the official tests measured only when letters moved from one post office to another, not when they were actually delivered. When the target for overnight first-class delivery was slashed to less than 50 miles in 1989, Postmaster General Anthony Frank promised that the new standards would “improve our ability to deliver local mail on time.” Sen. David Pryor (D-AR) groused, “This is like trying to fool the public by cutting the top off the flagpole when the flag is stuck halfway up.” In 2015, the Postal Service effectively eliminated overnight mail delivery even for local mail in much of the nation. With revised standards, “mail was considered on time if it took four to five days to arrive instead of three,” the Washington Post noted. The Postal Service has gotten away with cutbacks because it has a monopoly: it is a federal crime to provide better mail service than the government.

Biden administration policymakers can take solace knowing that federal agencies will shroud their abuses with statistical smokescreens. Transportation Security Administration agents, for instance, are sometimes derided as hopeless knuckleheads (cynics suggest that “TSA” actually stands for “Too Stupid for Arby’s”). Though TSA screeners dismally failed to detect most of the smuggled weapons and fake bombs in undercover tests, TSA in its early years issued triumphal press releases touting the number of knickknacks confiscated at airport checkpoints. TSA chief James Loy bragged that TSA screeners “have identified, intercepted, and therefore kept off aircraft more than 4.8 million dangerous items.” All the fingernail clippers, cigar cutters, frying pans, horseshoes, and small pointy objects TSA seized proved that the feds were protecting airline passengers better than ever. TSA doubled down by spending billions of dollars on Whole Body Scanners to take nude photos of travelers, after which TSA screeners’ failure rate on undercover tests rose to 95%. But presidents and members of Congress have been exempted from most of TSA’s indignities, so this particular federal gropefest continues. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx declared in 2015, “Defective agencies, like defective people, need the capacity for self-reflection and to make room for self-improvement.” But bureaucracies don’t learn from mistakes because they don’t pay for their failures. Government intervention is a cornucopia for politicians and bureaucrats regardless of what happens to purported beneficiaries.

Nor is there a detectable learning curve among the likely hallelujah chorus for Biden’s proposals. Philip Tetlock, a University of California research psychologist, noted “a perversely inverse relationship between indicators of good judgment and the qualities the media prizes in pundits.” Washington policy experts are akin to baseball commentators who never consider players’ batting averages and then are perennially shocked at all of the strikeouts. Rather than soiling their pristine minds with Inspector General and Government Accountability Office reports documenting the failure of similar prior programs, media cheerleaders will showcase the latest White House talking points. 

But Biden can still count on economists riding to the rescue with multipliers, right? Alas, if such multipliers were reliable, America would have reached financial Valhalla many boondoggles ago. Econometric formulas omit the “X factor” for government incompetence. Nobel laureate economist George Stigler noted in 1963 that, for the preceding century, “No economist deemed it necessary to document his belief that the State could effectively discharge the new duties he proposed to give it.” Things haven’t improved much since Stigler’s time. Swedish economist Niclas Berggren observed in 2011 that 95% of paternalist proposals “do not contain any analysis of the cognitive ability of [government] policymakers.” 

The more power a politician captures, the more flattery he hears, and the more deluded he usually becomes. In the same way that Biden feels entitled to deny media access to the most damning scenes of children in overcrowded refugee centers at the southern border, so he will demand that the media ignore the debacles spawned by his new programs. But at some point, there will be too many fiascos to suppress by a president shouting demands for “unity.” 

Nowadays, the federal government is controlling almost everything except itself. Instead of economic salvation, Biden offers standard D.C. issue “no-fault pseudo-benevolence.” How many more trillion dollars will America waste for another Beltway “triumph of hope over experience?”

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/29/2021 - 19:00
Published:3/29/2021 6:17:45 PM
[] Baltimore permanently abandons prosecuting many types of crime Published:3/29/2021 8:52:55 AM
[Markets] Erdoganistan: The New Islamic Superpower? Erdoganistan: The New Islamic Superpower?

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

"It was a very special day, July 24 [2020]," said France's leading expert on Islam, Gilles Kepel.

"It was pilgrimage time to Mecca and, due to the pandemic, no one was there! It was the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, the origin of modern Turkey within its current borders. Erdogan was about to twist the arm of the secular Ataturk, who had turned the old Hagia Sophia basilica into a museum that he had donated 'to humanity'. Erdogan... turned it back into a mosque".

This was the moment, remarked Kepel – who just published a new book, "Le Prophète et la Pandémie" ["The Prophet and the Pandemic"] -- that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the new leader of the umma, or global Islamic community. "Erdogan is trying to appear as the champion of Islam, just like Ayatollah Khomenei in 1989".

Both Khomeini and Erdogan seem to have been committed to erasing secularism and ties with Western culture from their respective countries; to heading a battle against Saudi Arabia for supremacy of the Islamic world and to re-Islamizing their societies. Veiled women, for instance was rarely seen in Tehran before Khomeini, and Erdogan reintroduced it into Turkish society.

The Iranian mullahs were also able to impose on the international arena the use of the word "Islamophobia", but now it is Turkey that is leading the ideological persecution of the "Islamophobes". Under the auspices of Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN just celebrated the "International Day against Islamophobia" and Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself strongly denounced an "epidemic of Islamophobia". Erdogan was promoting his global campaign of victimization by "Islamophobia", while in fact it is the critics of extremist Islam who are in danger and frequently killed.

This grotesque and shameful conference was organized by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an entity made up of 56 mainly Muslim countries, plus "Palestine". In the OIC, states such as Pakistan punish "blasphemy" with death; Saudi Arabia flogs and jails liberal bloggers such as Raif Badawi, and Turkey fills its jails with writers and journalists, to mention just a few of members.

On that July 24, in 2020,, Erdogan challenged Europe and the West by re-appropriating what had been, for a thousand years, the largest church in Eastern Christianity. The lack of response on the part of the West most likely convinced him that the moment was right. No one paid attention or countered the act.

Unlike Iran and Saudi Arabia, Turkey is a democracy. It is in talks with the European Union about its possible membership; it is pampered in Washington; it is the second-largest army in NATO, and stands as Asia's gateway to Europe.

The Financial Times (FT) has dedicated a series of analyses to Erdogan's grand plan for hegemony. In Africa, for the past 15 years, for instance, the Turkish president has spearheaded a mega-relaunch of his alliances. Since 2009, Turkey has increased the number of embassies there from 12 to 42. Erdogan has even been a frequent visitor, making trips to more than 20 capitals. The government has set itself the goal over the next few years of doubling Turkey's trade volume with Africa to $50 billion, about a third of its current trade with the European Union.

Turkey has also chosen the Balkans as a battlefield -- "the region," according to the FT, "is symbolically very important, since much of it was ruled by Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire". Then, there is Europe:

"Several European countries have voiced concern over activity by Turkey's intelligence service on their soil and the use of state-trained Turkish imams to spy on the diaspora".

Erdogan's goal in Europe seems to be to use the Turkish diaspora as a political instrument of pressure on states (in particular Germany, France, Austria, Belgium and Holland) and as the base for his hegemony.

In the Caucasus, Turkey supported Azerbaijan's war against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh presumably to create a Turkic-Islamic corridor between Azerbaijan, Turkey and other Muslim countries. Erdogan also apparently makes use of mercenaries. The Indian media reported a contingent sent to Kashmir to support Pakistan. Turkey has also previously used "Sadat" mercenaries against the Armenians, as well as in the Libyan and Syrian civil wars.

In the latest issue of the Reveue des deux mondes, the French philosopher Michel Onfray remarked that there is a clash of civilizations and that Erdogan now leads the Islamist side. "It began in 1989 with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie," he wrote.

"No Western country reacted except with words – as if they thought a verbal spell might work! With the beheading of Professor Samuel Paty it is this Judeo-Christianity that is being attacked -- in Armenia, Islam is attacking the oldest Christianity in Europe .... Europe is afraid of Erdogan and his ability to cause damage. This Tamerlane in the making threatens, insults, attacks, [and] supports those who threaten us, insult us and attack us".

That, Onfray continues, was the meaning of the Turkish aggression against Karabakh:

"Armenia is being attacked by Azeris and Muslim Turks who want its total disappearance. It is the result of a war of civilizations. What is happening in this country, which is the cradle of Christian civilization, is what awaits us here, in the tomb of the Judeo-Christian civilization itself. The battle lost in Armenia is the first of a war waged in the West against the Judeo-Christian civilization".

Erdogan has not even tried to hide his ideological vision. "The crescent and star embellish the skies of Karabakh now thanks to the efforts of our Azerbaijani brothers and sisters", the Turkish president proclaimed after the war. "The Azerbaijani flag flies proudly over Nagorno-Karabakh as a symbol of our martyrs' valor".

One of Erdogan's advisors, the retired Turkish general Adnan Tanriverdi, who founded the mercenary agency "Sadat", articulated the vision of a unified Islamic superpower. His Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center called it "Asrica", the union of Africa and Asia, 61 countries whose capital is Istanbul and under the aegis of this "Erdoganistan". They include 12 countries of the Middle East, namely Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan and Yemen; eight in Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan; four in the Near East, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan; three in Southeast Asia, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia; six in North Africa, namely Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia; six in East Africa, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Comoros, Mozambique, Somalia and Sudan; ten in northwestern Africa and South America, ie Western Sahara, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guyana and Suriname; eight in South West Africa, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Togo; and four in Europe, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Turkey evidently wants to be a great neo-Ottoman Emipire and the only one capable of leading the Muslim world. The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque seems to have been intended as a watershed in Islamic history that heralds the establishment of a powerful league of Muslim nations to face the West under the Turkish leadership.

Three seas surround Turkey: the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. Turkey recently launched a large naval exercise. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that 82 warships, 17 naval aviation craft, amphibious forces, air force units and special operations teams engaged in exercises that ended on March 8.

"Blue Homeland" -- Mavi Vatan in Turkish -- is the geopolitical concept that marks Erdogan's agenda for the coming years. Conceived by nationalist Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, it is the "diplomacy of drills and warships" that pursues "the return of Turkey to the sea, the union between Anatolia and the eastern Mediterranean". The goal is clear: to control the sea, to control energy resources and to impose its influence. Erdogan announced that it will no longer be called "Aegean", but the "sea of ??islands".

Ankara is on a collision course with Greece and Cyprus over who has the right to exploit the eastern Mediterranean's oil and gas deposits. "They will understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military power to tear up immoral maps and imposed documents," Erdogan said.

Turkey has problems with Cyprus, which, unlike the Turks, belongs to the European Union but not to NATO. Turkey, which invaded the island in 1974, remains the only country to recognize Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus as a state. The Republic of Cyprus, which is majority-Greek Cypriot, wants to make deals with foreign energy companies, while Turkey, to the island's north, wants economic rights in the waters that Cyprus considers its own.

While the new sultan extends his influence to Syria, Libya and the Caucasus, he also extends it within the Mediterranean. For pacifist Europe, that sea only exists when it comes to bringing in migrants.

President Erdogan, in an official visit to Paris on January 5, 2018, proceeded to launch this provocative phrase to the leaders of the French Council for Muslim worship: "The Muslims of France are under my protection". Those were the first lines of an inquiry by the France's Journal du Dimanche. Several reports sent to the Elysée Palace by the Directorate General for Internal Security (DGSI), which the newspaper was able to consult, reveal the scope, forms and objectives of a "real infiltration strategy" through networks managed by the Turkish embassy and the Turkish spy agency, the MIT. "They act mainly within the Turkish immigrant population, but also through Muslim organizations and also recently in local political life, through the support given to elected officials".

"These actions have different objectives," commented the journalist Mohamed Sifaoui.

"First, to improve the image of the Turkish regime in the diaspora and in French society. Then, to defend Erdogan's image at all costs. And finally, of course, the spread of an Islamist vision of Islam".

Sifaoui cites as an example the latest charter wanted by French President Emmanuel Macron, the charter of principles present in the law that strengthens "republican principles," and is currently being examined by Parliament:

"It was not signed by the two Turkish federations, at the request of Ankara, because it is a charter that recalls the fundamental principles important for the Republic and which the Turkish regime clearly opposes... What the Turkish regime is doing is using its diaspora as a Trojan horse."

The Brookings Institution wrote in 2019:

"According to the [French] ministry of interior, 151 imams have been sent by Turkey (which has undertaken a spate of religious outreach to Muslims across Europe over the past decade)..."

Just as Turkey controls 400 mosques out of 2,500 in France. It is Ahmet Ogras, apparently close to Erdogan, who for two years occupied the symbolic position of president of the French Council for Muslim Worship -- as Turkish voters in France are generally more pro-Erdogan than in Turkey. During the presidential elections of 2014, Erdogan won 66% of the votes cast by Turkish citizens in France, compared to only 51.79% in Turkey. First- and second-generation Turkish immigrants in France continue to watch Turkish television, which is extremely submissive to Erdogan's power. In French public schools, 180 teachers, directly appointed by Ankara, are responsible for teaching the Turkish language.

These efforts make up the great project of conquest by Erdogan the Islamizer.

Erdogan recently withdrew Turkey from an international treaty on preventing violence against women. With this decision, it seems that the president is determined to increase impunity around murder of women and "honor killings", which common in Turkey.

In Erdogan's Turkey, school textbooks have been rewritten to refer to Jews and Christians as gavur, "infidels," according to a new study published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se). Earlier Turkish textbooks referred to the members of the two religions as the "peoples of the Book". "School books have been used as a weapon in Erdogan's attempts to Islamise Turkish society and to trace back to a nostalgic era of Turkish domination," wrote IMPACT-se's CEO, Marcus Sheff.

These are some of the findings of the study: Jihad was introduced in textbooks and transformed into the "new normal", with martyrdom in battle glorified. Ethno-nationalist religious goals of neo-Ottomanism and pan-Turkism are taught. Therefore, Islam is described as a political issue, with science and technology used to further its goals. There is an emphasis on concepts such as "Turkish world domination" and "Turkish or Ottoman ideal of world order". According to the curriculum, the "Turkish basin" extends from the Adriatic Sea to Central Asia. The curriculum adopts an anti-American stance, and shows sympathy for the motives of ISIS and al-Qaeda. Turkey takes anti-Armenian and pro-Azerbaijani positions. The identity and cultural needs of the Kurdish minority continue to be largely neglected. The pogroms of 1955 against the Greek community in Istanbul are ignored.

At schools, during the term of Erdogan, maps showing Turkish power have appeared. Reference is made to the "Turkish heritage from the Adriatic Sea to the Great Wall of China": "Turkish cultural artifacts can be seen in a vast region, starting with the countries of Central and East Asia, such as China and Mongolia, and extends to Herzegovina and Hungary..."

"We are a large family of 300 million people from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China," Erdogan said in a speech from Moldova.

Europe, the US, NATO and the Free World might start worrying. Erdogan seems aiming to be the new Islamist wolf in sheep's clothing.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/29/2021 - 02:00
Published:3/29/2021 1:17:51 AM
[Markets] In Quest Of A Multipolar Economic World Order In Quest Of A Multipolar Economic World Order

Professor Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar discuss the emerging economic world order which they define not so much as a conflict between nations, but a rivalry between two competing models of the economy.

The finance capital driven model of the West with a domination of the FIRE sector, versus the mixed economy model represented by China and Russia which seeks to rein in rent seeking, combined with public banking and state funded infrastructure to support market compliant industrial development.

In Professor Hudson’s view, this model was advocated by classical economists, from Mill, Ricardo, to Henry George; and is largely responsible for the West’s past successes.

Transcript via The Saker (emphasis ours)

Ibrahima: [00:00:00] Good morning or good evening, depending on where you are located and welcome to the Henry George School. My name is Ibrahima Drame and I’m the director of education. It’s a great honor to have you with us today for another joint webinar co-organized with the International Union for Land Value Taxation with two great thinkers, Professor Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar to discuss the emerging economic world order.

I ‘d like to, thank Michael and Pepe for accepting to share their ideas with us my friend Alanna Hartzok co-founder of Earth Rights Institute, who will be moderating the session this morning. So, before I hand it over to Alana, I’d like to ask all attendees to keep muted until we open the Q&A session. And of course, in the meantime, you are free to use the chat and, please do so responsibly. So, Alanna, please go ahead and introduce our speakers.

Alanna: [00:00:55] Yes. Happy to do so I’m also an administrator for the International Union for Land Value Taxation, and we are on the web@theiu.org. I’m so delighted to have Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar join us once again for “In Quest of a Multipolar World Order”.

Michael Hudson is an American economist and professor of economics at the university of Missouri, Kansas City and a researcher at the Levi Economics Institute at Bard college. He’s a former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, commentator, and journalist.

He’s also teaching at the University for Sustainability in Hong Kong. Michael was the author of J is for Junk Economics, Killing the Host, The Bubble and Beyond, Super Imperialism: the Economic Strategy of American Empire. And he has a new edition of that coming up now. Also, Trade Development and Foreign Debt ,and The Myth of Aid, and others.

Those books have been translated into Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish, and Russian, and they are very popular in China right now, I might add.

Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is a correspondent editor at large at Asia times and columnist for Consortium News and Strategic Culture, Moscow. He has extensively covered Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East Pepe is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War, Red Zone Blues: a Snap of Bagdad during the Surge. He was contributing editor to the Empire and the Crescent. His last two books are Empire of Chaos and The Raging Twenties: Great Power Rivalry Meets Techno Feudalism. Pepe is also associated with the Paris based European Academy of geopolitics.

He does have a new book out, The Raging Twenties, which is a collection of his excellent essays and articles for the several publications, for which he writes. So, when he’s not on the road and covering the New Silk Road, he is living in Sao Paulo, Paris, and most recently in Bangkok. So welcome both of you.

I must say that, for the chat, if you have questions, viewers, listeners, please ask your questions in the chat. And then we will ask them at the end of the conversation between Pepe and Michael. Thank you. Go right ahead.

*  *  *

Pepe Escobar: [00:03:38] Michael you want to start?

Michael Hudson: [00:03:41] Oh no, I don’t know what to talk about.

Pepe Escobar: [00:03:44] Come on now you should start. OK, why don’t you start with your last revised chapter for Super Imperialism.

Michael Hudson: [00:03:51] All right. 50 years ago, I wrote Super Imperialism about how America dominates the world financially, and gets a free ride.

I wrote it, right after America went off gold in 1971, when the Vietnam war – which was responsible for the entire balance-of-payments deficit – forced the country to go off gold. And everybody at that time worried the dollar was going to go down. There’d be hyperinflation. But what happened was something entirely different.

Once there was no gold to settle U.S. balance-of-payments deficits, America strong armed its allies to invest in US Treasury bonds, because central banks don’t buy companies. They don’t buy raw materials. All they could buy is other government bonds. So, all of a sudden, the only thing that other people could buy with all the dollars coming in were US Treasury securities. The securities they bought essentially were to finance yet more war making and the balance-of-payments deficit from war and the 800 military bases America has around the world.

The largest customer – I think we discussed this before – was the Defense Department and the CIA. They looked at it as a how-to-do-it book. That was 50 years ago. What I’ve done is not only re-edit the book and add more information that’s come out, but I’ve summarized how the last 50 years has transformed the world. It’s a new kind of imperialism. There was still a view, 50 years ago, that imperialism was purely economic, in the sense that there’s still a rivalry, for instance, between America and China, or America and Europe and other countries. But I think the world has changed so much in the last 50 years that what we have now is not really so much a conflict between America and China, or America and Russia, but between a financialized economy, run by financial planners allocating resources and government spending and money creation, and an economy run by governments democratic or less democratic, but certainly a mixed economy.

Everything that made industrial capitalism rich, everything that made America so strong on the 19th century, through its protective tariffs, through its public infrastructure investment all the way down through world war two and the aftermath, was that we had a mixed economy in America. Europe also had a mixed economy, and in fact, every economy since Babylon has had a mixed economy.

But in America you’ve had something entirely different since 1980. Something that was not foreseen by anybody, because it seemed to be so disruptive: namely, the financial sector saying, “We need liberty – for ourselves, from government.” By “liberty” they meant taking planning and subsidy, economic and tax policy, out of the hands of government and put into the hands of Wall Street. The result was libertarianism as a “free market.” In the form of a centralized economy that is concentrated in the hands of the financial centers – Wall Street, the City of London, the Paris Bourse. What you’re having today is an attempt by the financial sector to take on the role that the landlord class had in Europe, from feudal times through the 19th century. It’s a kind of resurgence of feudalism.

If you look at the last 200 years of economic theory from Adam Smith and Marx, onward, everybody expected a mixed economy to become more and more productive, and to free itself from the landlords – and also to free itself from banking. The expectation was to make land a public utility, the tax base, and to make finance basically something public. Government would decide who gets the funding. hus, the idea of finance in the public sector was going to be pretty much what it is in China: You create a bank credit in order to finance capital investment in factories. It means the production of machinery, agricultural modernization, transport infrastructure of high-speed trains, ports and all of that.

But in the United States and England, you have finance becoming something completely different. Banks don’t lend money to build factories. They don’t create money to make means of production. They make money to take over existing assets. Some 80% of bank loans are mortgage loans to transfer the ownership of real estate.

But of course, that’s what created a middle class in the United States. The middle class was able to buy its own housing. It didn’t have to pay rent to landlords or absentee owners, or to warlords and their descendants as in England and Europe. They could buy their own homes. What nobody realized is that if you borrowed the money to take a mortgage, there’s still an economic rental value. Most of it is no longer paid to the landlords. It’s paid to the banks. And so in America and Europe, the banks now play the role that landlords played a hundred years ago.

Just as landlords are trying to do everything they could through the House of Lords in England and the upper houses of government in Europe, they’re trying to block any kind of democratic government. The fight really is against government that would do anything that is not controlled by the 1%, and by the banks. Essentially, the merger between Finance, Insurance and Real Estate – the FIRE sector. So, you have a relapse of capitalism in the West back into feudalism, but feudalism with a financialized twist much more than in medieval times.

The fight against China, the fear of China is that you can’t do to China what you did to Russia. America would love for there to be a Yeltsin figure in China to say, let’s just give all of the railroads that we’ve built, the high-speed rail, let’s give all the factories to individuals and let them run everything. Then Americans will lend them the money or buy them out and thus control them financially. China’s not letting that happen. And Russia stopped that from happening. The fury in the West is that the American financial system is unable to take over foreign resources and foreign agriculture. It is left only with military means of grabbing them, as you are seeing in the Near East, and you’re seeing in Ukraine right now.

Pepe Escobar: [00:10:40] Well, as an introduction, Michael that was perfect, because now, now we have the overall framework, especially geo-economic and historically, at least for the past 70 years. Let’s put it this way.

I have a series of questions for you. I was saving one of these for the end, but I think I should start really the Metallica way. Let’s go heavy metal for a start, right? So considering what you describe as a new kind of imperialism, and the fact that this sort of extended free lunch cannot apply anymore because of sovereigns around the world, especially Russia in China. I tried to formulate the idea that there are only three real sovereign powers on the planet, apart from the hegemon: Russia, China and Iran. These three, which happened to be the main hub and the main focus of not only of the New Silk Road but of the Eurasia integration process, are actively working for some sort of change of the rules that predominated for the past 70 years.

So my first question to you would be, do you see any realistic possibility of a Bretton Woods 2.0, which would imply the end of dollar hegemony as we know it? These petrodollar recyclings, on and on and on, with the very important presence of that oily hacienda in Saudi Arabia. And do you think this is possible considering that president Putin himself only a few days ago reiterated once again that the US is no longer agreement-capable. That destroys already the possibility of the emergence of the new rules of the game, but do you think this is still realistically possible?

Michael Hudson: [00:12:47] I certainly do not see any repetition of a Bretton Woods because as I described in Super Imperialism, Bretton Woods was designed to make American control over Britain over Europe total. Bretton Woods was a US-centered system to prevent England from maintaining its empire. That was okay. It also was to prevent France from maintaining its empire, and for America to take over the Sterling Area. The World Bank was to prevent other countries from becoming independent and feeding themselves, to make sure that they supported plantation agriculture, not land reform. The one single fight of the World Bank was to prevent land reform and to make sure that America and other foreign investors would take over the agriculture of these countries.

Very often people think of capitalism, certainly in the sense that Marx described in Volume One, as being limited to the exploitation of wage labor by employers. But capitalism also is an appropriation of the land rent, the agricultural rent, the natural-resource rent, the oil and mineral rent. The idea of Bretton Woods was to make sure that other countries could not impose capital controls to prevent American finance coming in and appropriating their resources. The aim was to make the loans to governments so that they would not create their own money to promote their own social development, but would have to borrow from the World Bank and the IMF. That essentially meant borrowing from the Pentagon and the State Department in U S dollars. They would dollarize their economies and the economic surplus would all be sucked abroad. The economic rents from oil, agriculture and mining would all be sucked into the United States.

That kind of Bretton Woods cannot be done again. Since Bretton Woods was an idea of centralizing the world’s economic surplus in a single country, the United States, no, that can never be done again.

What is happening? You mentioned the world of a free lunch That’s was the theme of my Super Imperialism: When America issues dollars, and these end up in central banks, what can these banks do with them? All they really can do is lend them back to the United States Government. So America got a financial free lunch. It can spend and spend on its military, or bump up corporate takeovers of other countries. The dollars have gone out, but foreign countries can’t cash them in for gold. They have nothing to cash them into. All they can do is finance the U S budget deficit by buying more and more Treasury IOUs. These are the liabilities side of the balance sheet of foreign military bases and related operations.

What’s is ironic now is what has happened in the last few years in the fight against Russia and China. America has killed the free lunch. It said, okay, now we’re going to have sanctions against Russia and China. We’re going to grab whatever money you have in foreign banks, like we grabbed Venezuela’s money. We’re going to excommunicate you from the SWIFT bank clearing system. So, you can’t use banking. We’re going to put sanctions against banks that deal with you.

So Russia and China have seen that they can’t deal with dollars anymore, because the United States just unilaterally rejected their use by any country that does not follow its military and financial diplomacy. If countries do have dollars as reserves and lend them back to the United States, it’s going to spend them on building more military bases around Russia and China, to make them waste their money on military defense spending. So, America itself has ended the free lunch, by the way in which it’s fighting against China and Russia.

And now Russia and China, as you pointed out, are de-dollarizing. They’re trading in each other’s currency. They’re doing the opposite of what Bretton Woods tried to create. They’re inspiring monetary independence from the United States. Bretton Woods sponsors dependence on the United States, a centralized system dependent ultimately on Wall Street financial planners. What China and Russia are trying to create is an economy that’s not run by the financial sector, but run by, industrial and economic engineering principles.

At issue is what kind of an economy we need in order to raise living standards and, wages and self-sufficiency and preserve the environment. What is needed for the ideal world that we want? Well, for starters you’re going to need a lot of infrastructure. In America and Britain, infrastructure has been privatized. It has to make a profit. And railroads or electric utilities, as you’ve just seen in Texas, are natural monopolies. For 5,000 years, infrastructure in Europe, the Near East and Asia was kept in the public domain. If you give it to private owners, they’ll charge a monopoly rent.

China’s idea is to provide the educational system freely, and let everybody try to get an education. In America, to get an education you have to go into debt for between $50,000 and $200,000. Most of whatever you make is going to be paid the creditor. But in China, if you give free education, the money that students earn will be spent into the economy, buying the goods and services that they produce. So the economy will be expanding, not shrinking, not being sucked up into the banks that are financing the education. The same avoidance of privatized financialized or monopolized rent-seeking applies to the railroads, and also to healthcare.

If you provide healthcare freely then employers do not have to pay for it. In the United States, if companies and their employees have to pay for healthcare, this means that employees have to be paid a much higher wage in order to afford the healthcare. They also have to be paid more in order to afford the privatized transportation that gets them work, or auto loans in order to drive to work. Such costs are free or at least subsidized in other countries. Their governments can create their own credit. But in the United States and Europe, governments feel that they have to borrow from the wealthy and pay interest. China’s government doesn’t need to borrow from a wealthy bondholding class. It can simply print the money. That’s Modern Monetary Theory. As Donald Trump has explained in the United States, we can print whatever we want. Dick Cheney said that deficits don’t matter, because we can just print what we need to invade Iraq or bomb Libya. And of course, Stephanie Kelton and my other colleagues in MMT at Kansas City for many years have been saying that.

The banks fear this because they see that Modern Monetary Theory no longer gives them control. They want the rich One Percent to be able to have a choke point on the economy, so that that people cannot survive without borrowing and paying interest. They want to control the choke points to extract economic rent. So you have the West turning into a rent-extractive economy, a rent-seeking economy. The ideal of Russia, China, and other countries is that not only of Mar, but also of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and even Ricardo in the sense that the aim of classical economics was to free economies from economic rent. The American economy is all about extracting rent through the real estate sector, the financial sector, the health insurance sector, monopolies and the infrastructure sector.

The US economy has been Thatcherized and Reaganized. The result is a fight of rentier economic systems against China and Russia. So it’s not simply a fight between who makes the best computer chips and the best iPhones. It’s over whether we are going to have a fallback of civilization back into feudalism, back into control by a narrow class at the top of the economy – the 1% – or are we going to have democratic industrialization? That used to be called socialism, but it also was called capitalism. Industrial capitalism was evolving toward socialism. It was socialized medicine, socialized infrastructure, socialized schooling. So, the fight against socialism is also a fight against what made industrial capitalism so successful in the United States and Germany.

What you’re seeing now is a fight for what direction civilization will follow. You can’t have a Bretton Woods for a single worldwide organization, because the United States would never join what it can’t control. The United States accuses a country trying to make its labor force prosperous, educated and healthy instead of sick with shorter lifespans of being communist or socialist. That means independent of the U.S. financialized “Free World” austerity economics.

Pepe Escobar: [00:21:40] Well, you put it very starkly. The opposition between two completely different systems, what the Chinese are proposing, including, from productive capitalism to trade and investment all across Eurasia and beyond, including Africa and parts of Latin America as well. Recognizing the rentier obsession of the 0.01% that controls the U S financial system, in terms of facts on the ground: Are we going slowly but surely and ominously toward an absolute divorce of a system based on rentier ultra-financialization, which is the American system, not productive capitalism at all?

I was going through a small list of what the U S exports. It’s not long, as you know. Agricultural products, always privileging US farmers. Hollywood? We are all hostages of Hollywood all over the world. Pop culture? That’s not the pop culture that used to be absolutely impregnable and omniscient during the sixties, the seventies, during the Madonna, Michael Jackson era and in the eighties? Infotech? And that’s where a big bet comes in. This is maybe the most important American export at the moment, because American big tech controls social networks all over the planet.

Big pharma? Now we see the power of big pharma with the whole COVID operations, right? But Boeing prefers to invest in financial engineering instead of building decent products. Right? So, in terms of being a major superpower, the hyper power, that’s not much. Obviously, buyers all over the world already noticed that. So, what is China proposing in terms of the New Silk Road? It is a foreign policy strategy, a trade investment and sustainable development strategy applied not only to the whole of Eurasia, but beyond Eurasia to grow a great deal of the global South. That’s why we have global South partners to the New Silk Road. 130 and counting as we speak. Right?

So, the dichotomy could not be clearer. What will the 0.0 0.1% do? They don’t have anything seductive to sell. To all those nations in the global South to start with; the new version of the non-aligned movement, the countries that are already part of New Silk Road projects. We could see this by the end of last year when the China European union agreement was more or less sealed. It’s probably going to be sealed in 2021 for good.

At the same time, we had the Regional, Economic and Comprehensive Partnership at the ASEAN 10, my neighbors here, the Association of South East Asian Nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. So, when you have the China -EU deal, and when you have R C E P, you have China as the number one trade partner on the planet, no competition whatsoever.

Every one of these players wants to do business with China. They’re privileging doing business with China to doing business with US, especially with a country that once again, according to President Putin is non-agreement-capable. So, Michael, what is your key economic view of the next steps? Are we going toward the divorce of the American financialization system and the Eurasia-and-beyond integration system?

Michael Hudson: [00:25:51] Well, you you’ve made the whole point clear. There is a basic incompatibility between a rentier society controlled by the finance and real estate interests – and military interests – and an industrial democracy. For industry in England and Europe in the 19th century, the fight for democratic reform was to increase the role of the House of Commons against the House of Lords in England and other lower housse in Europe was a fight to get labor on the side of industry to get rid of the landlord class. And it was expected that once you had capitalism free of the landlord class, free of something that wasn’t really industrial capitalism at all (it was a carry-over from feudalism), you wouldn’t have this overhead of the idle 1%, only consuming resources and going to war.

World War I changed all that. Already in the late 19th century the landlords and the banks fought back. They fought back largely through the Austrian School of individualism and the English marginalists, and they euphemized it as free markets. That slogan meant giving power to the monopolists, to the oppressors, to violence. A free market was where armies can come in, take over your country, impose a client dictatorship like Pinochet in Chile or the neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Americans call that a free market. The Free World was a world centrally planned by the American military and finance. So, it’s Orwellian double-think. The dynamic of this world is shrinking because it’s polarizing. You’ve seen with the COVID pandemic in the United States, the economy has polarized much more sharply between the 1%, the 10% and the rest of the economy.

Well, as opposed to that, you have economies that are not run by a rentier class, and that do not have a banking class and landlord class controlling the economy. The kind of arrangement that you had in Germany in the late 19th century: government, industry and labor coordinated. The question was how to provide the financing for industry so that banks can provide not only industrial capital formation, but public funding to build infrastructure and uplift the population.

China is doing just what made America rich in the 19th century, and what made Germany rich. It’s the same logic of industrial engineering. This plan is based on economic expansion, environmental preservation and economic balance instead of concentration, so this is going to be a growing economy. So, you’re having a growing economy outside of the United States and a shrinking economy in the States and its satellites in Europe.

Europe had a choice: Either it could shrink and be an American satellite economy, or it could join the growth. Europe has decided unanimously to forego growth and become a set of client oligarchies and kleptocracies. It is willing to let its financial sector take over just as in America. That’s a “free market,” because I’m told by American officials that they can just buy the European politicians, they’re bribable. Being up for sale is what a free political market means. That’s why when President Putin says that America and Europe are not agreement-capable, it means they’re just in it for the money. There’s no ideology there. There is no idea of overall social benefit. The system is based on how to get rich, and you can get rich by being bribed. That’s why you go into politics. As you can tell in America with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling saying that politics can be personally financed.

So, you’re having two incompatible systems. They’re on different trajectories. If you have a system that is shrinking like the West and growing in the East, you have resentment. People who obtain their wealth in crooked ways, or without working, by inheritance or by crime, by exploitation, they will fight like anything to keep that. People who actually create wealth – labor and capital – they’re not willing to fight. They just want to be creative. So you have a destructive military force in the West, and basically a productive economic growth force in Eurasia. The clash now is occurring largely in Ukraine. You’re having the United States back the neo-Nazis.

Pepe Escobar: [00:30:40] The old Nazi movement!

Michael Hudson: [00:30:41] Yes. It’s the same swastika carrying group that threatened Russia in World War II. This is like waving a red flag before a bull. Putin continues to remind the Russians of what happened with the 22 million that died, in World War II. He said that Russia was not going to let it happen again.

You can be certain that Russia is not going to be sucked into invading Ukraine. The United States has its military advisors that the Vineyard of the Saker has a very good report on. America’s trying to needle Russia into fighting back against the terrorist groups, but Russia has no desire at all to do that. There’s nothing that Russia has to gain by taking it over. It’s essentially a bankrupt country.

The United States is trying to provoke a response so that it can accuse Russia of attacking the West. The result will probably be that Russia will simply provide arms to the Eastern Ukrainians to fight back the invasion. You’re going to have a wasteland in Western Ukraine and Poland. This wasteland may be the new buffer state between Europe and Russia. Already you have maybe 10% of Ukrainians having moved to Russia and the East, the other 10% are now plumbers in England and Europe. They’re in flight, and they’re beginning to look like Latvia and other neoliberalized countries. If you want to see their future, look at Latvia, Estonia and Greece. That’s the American plan. Essentially, an emigration of skilled labor, a sharp reduction of living standards, a 20% decline in population. Although it may appear to have more income, all this income and GDP is essentially interest collection and rents paid to the FIRE sector – as if these payments were for “real product.”

All the American GDP growth is essentially payment to the banks, to the landlords and the monopolists. The population and employees are not sharing in the GDP growth. It’s concentrated at the top. High finance is like the Roman Empire: “They make a desert, and call it growth.”

Rome was a predatory economy held by military force that ultimately collapsed, and America is on the same trajectory as Rome. And its managers know this. I have spoken to American policymakers and they say, “We’re going to be dead by then. It doesn’t matter if the West loses. I’m going to get rich. I’m going to buy a, farm in New Zealand and make a big bomb shelter there and live underground,” like a cave dweller. The financial time frame, the predatory rentier timeframe, is short-term. The Eurasian time frame is long-term. So you’ve got the short term burning what wealth it has, as opposed to the longer term building it up.

What you can see in the COVID bill that President Biden just got passed in the Senate. They call it a stimulus bill, but if you’re starving, if you haven’t been able to pay your rent, if you’re six months behind in your rent and you get enough money to pay the landlord, at least one month back rent, that’s not a stimulus, that’s survival. And it’s a one-time payment. This kind of “stimulus” checks that America’s sending out are sent out every month in Germany and parts of Europe. The whole idea in Europe is, “Okay, you have a pandemic, you have business interrupted. We’re going to proclaim a pause: You don’t pay the rent, but the landlords are not going to pay the banks. And the banks are not going to be in arrears. We’re just going to have a pause so that when it’s all over and cure people, we’ll go back to normal.” Well, China and Russia are already pretty much there and where you are, in Thailand, already back to normal.

They don’t have an abnormal thing, but America has pushed anybody who’s renting or who’s bought a house on mortgage credit, or who has credit-card debt or personal debt or automobile debt – they’re way behind. These stimulus checks are just being used to pay the banks and the landlords not to not to buy more goods and services. All they’re trying to do is to get out of the hole that they’ve been dug into in the last 12 months. That’s not a stimulus. That’s a partial, desperation payment.

This problem never existed, in other civilizations. You have the whole tradition of the ancient Near East. That’s what my book “… and Forgive them their Debts” is all about. The whole idea is that when there is an economic interruption, you don’t leave people in debt. You wipe out the arrears that have mounted up. You simply wipe out the tax arrears, the rent arrears and other payment arrears.

So once the crisis is over, you can start from a normal position again. But there’s no normalization in America. You’re starting from a position, even more behind financially than when you went in. The foreign economies of China and Russia don’t have a backlog of arrears as a deficit. So, the West is beginning with 99% of its population deeper into debt to the 1%. That polarization between the 1% and the 99% doesn’t exist in China. And in Russia, Putin is trying to minimize it, given the legacy of the kleptocracy that the neoliberals put in. He’s still trying to deal with that, but you really have a difference in economic systems and the direction in which these systems are moving.

Pepe Escobar: [00:36:27] I’m really glad that you brought up Ukraine, Michael, because US foreign policy – even, before Trump, and now with the new Biden-Harris administration – basically boils down to sanctions, sanctions, sanctions – as we know, provocations, which is what they’re doing to Greece and certainly in Syria. They already did that with bombing a few days ago.

In the case of Ukraine and Donbass, it’s absolutely crazy, because NATO so-called strategists, when you talk to them in Brussels, they know very well that each state or whatever they weaponize and financialize to profit Kiev to mount some sort of offensive against the Donbass. Even if they would have like 300,000 soldiers, like 30,000 in Donbass. If the Russians see that this is going to get really heavy, if they intervene directly with their bombing, with their super missiles, they can finish this story in one day. And if they want, they could finish the whole story, including invading Ukraine in three days, like they did in 2008 with Georgia, and still keep the provocations loosely acted on by people from inside the Pentagon. So we have sanctions, we have nonstop provocations, and we have also a sort of fifth column, elements inside or at the top of government. I would love to have your personal analysis on the role of super Mario “Goldman-Sachs” Draghi, now in Italy, which is something I had been discussing with my Italian friends. There’s more or less a consensus among very well informed, independent Italian analysts that Draghi may be the perfect Trojan horse to accelerate the destruction of the Italian state. That will accelerate the globalist project of the European union, which is absolutely non-state centric. That is also part of the great reset. So, if you could briefly talk to us about the role of Super Mario at the moment.

Michael Hudson: [00:38:55] Well, Italy is a very good example to look at. When you have a country that needs infrastructure and public, social democratic spending, you need a government to create the credit. But when Americans – and specifically the University of Chicago free-market lobbyists – created the Eurozone financial system, their premise was that governments should not create money. Only banks should be allowed to do that, for the benefit of their stock and bond holders. So, no European governments can run a budget deficit large enough to cope with the coronavirus or with the problems that have been plaguing Italy for a decade. They can’t create their money to revive employment, to revive infrastructure or to revive the economy.

The European central bank only lends to other central banks. It’s created trillions of euros just to buy stocks and bonds, not to spend into the economy, not to hire labor, not to build infrastructure, but just to save the holders of the stocks and bonds from losing money from falling asset prices. That makes 1% or 5% of the population richer. So in practice, the function of the European Central Bank is to create money only for the purpose of saving the wealthiest 5% from losses on their stocks and bonds.

The cost of this limitation is to impoverish the economy and to basically make it looking like Greece, which was a dress rehearsal for how the Eurozone was going to reduce Europe to debt dependency. Under feudalism, everybody had to have access to the land by becoming a serf. Well now you’re in debt peonage, modern, finance capitalism’s version of serfdom.

So, Italy says, “We’re going to need government spending. We’re going to need to do in our way what China’s doing in its way, and what Russia is doing in its way. We’re going to have some kind of government program. We can’t just let the economy be impoverished simply because the University of Chicago has designed a plan for Europe to prevent the Euro from being a rival to the dollar. If there’s no European Central Bank to pump euros into the world economy, then only dollars will be left for central bank reserves.

The United States doesn’t ever want a rival. It wants satellites. That’s what it’s basically turned Europe into. I don’t see any response outside of Italy for an attempt to say they can’t be a part of this system and so should withdraw from the Eurozone. When I was in Greece years ago, we all thought it might join with Italy, Portugal and Ireland and say that the system wasn’t working. But everybody else said no, no, the Americans will just simply get us out of office one way or another. And in Italy, of course, if you look at what happened after World War II, the great threat was Italian communism. You had the Americans essentially say, “Well, we know the answer to communism. It’s fascism,” and you saw them buying politicians. They did every dirty trick in the book in order to fight any left wing group in Italy, just as they did in Yugoslavia, and just as they did in Greece. They wiped out the partisans, all the leading anti-Nazi groups from Greece to Italy to elsewhere. All of a sudden, they were all either assassinated or moved out of office – and replaced by the very people that America had been fighting against during World War II.

Well, now Italy is finally coming to terms with this and trying to fight back. You’re having what’s happening there, between Northern Italy and Southern Italy, the same splits as in other countries.

Pepe Escobar: [00:42:53] Yeah. Well, I’m going to bring up, perhaps an even more extreme case now Michael, which is the case of Brazil, which at the moment is in the middle of an absolutely out of this world mix of telenovela and Kabuki theater that even for most Brazilians, is absolutely incomprehensible, because it’s like a fragmentation bomb exploding over and over again, a Groundhog Day of fragmentation bombs.

In fact, it’s completely crazy. Lula is back in the picture as well. We still don’t know how the guys who run the show, the Brazilian military, are going to deal with him. I bring up this case because it’s happened in the past 48 hours. It has convulsed Brazil completely, and large parts of Latin America, because it is a telenovela with one cliffhanger after another, sometimes in a matter of minutes. But it encompasses all the basic themes of what really interests the 0.01%, which we can identify as a class war against labor, which is the system in Brazil since the coup against Dilma. A war against mixed economies, economic sovereignty, which is something that the masters of the universe of the 0.01% cannot wage against Russia in China. But that was very successfully waged against Brazil and implemented in Brazil. In fact, in a matter of two years they completely devastated the country in every possible sense, industrially, sociologically, you name it…

And of course, because the main objective is something that you keep stressing over and over again: unipolar rentier dominance. So, Brazil, I would say is the extreme case not only in the global South, but in planetary terms. Let’s say, the last frontier of the rentier economy is when you manage to capture a country that was slowly emerging as a leader in the global South, an economic leader. Don’t forget that a few years ago Brazil was the sixth largest economy in the world, and on the way to become the fifth. Now it’s the 12th, falling down nonstop and controlled by a mafia. That includes, not by accident, a Chicago boy Pinochetista minister Paulo Guedes, who is implementing in the 21st century something that was implemented in Chile in the seventies and in the eighties. They were successful. Apparently, at least so far, Brazil is so disorganized as a nation, so shattered so fragmented and atomized as a nation that basically it depends on the re-emergence of a single political leader

In this case it is Lula, to try to rebuild the nation from scratch. Even in a position where he cannot control the game, he can interfere in the game, which is what happened 24 hours ago when he gave a larger-than-life press conference, mixed with a re-presentation of himself as a statesman. He said, look, the whole thing is shattered, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. But still, he cannot confront the real masters of the universe that have allowed this to happen in the first place.

So just to give an example to many of you who are not familiar with some details of the Brazilian case, it involves directly the Obama-Biden scheme or the Obama-Biden larger operation. When Biden was vice president in 2013, in May he visited Brazil for three days and he met with president Dilma. They discussed very touchy subjects, including the most important one: the absolutely enormous, pre-salt oil reserves. Obviously, the Americans wanted to be part of the whole thing, not by accident. You know what happened one week later: the start of the Brazilian color revolution, and this thing kept rolling and rolling and rolling.

We got to the coup against Dilma in 2016, we got to the carwash operation landing Lula in jail. And we got to the election of Bolsanaro. And now we are in a place where even if the military control the whole process, even Bolsanaro is becoming bad for business. But will he become bad for the rentier class business, for the 0.01% in the US that has all the connections in their new, large neo-colony in the tropics, which has enormous strategic value, not to mention unforeseen wealth resources? So, this is an extreme case, and I know that you follow Brazil relatively closely. So, your geo-economic and geopolitical input on the running telenovela I think would be priceless for all of us.

Michael Hudson: [00:48:50] Well, this problem goes back 60 years. In 1965 João Goulart, the former president of Brazil, came to New York and we met with each other. He explained to me how the U.S.-backed military got rid of him in 1964 because he wasn’t representing the banking class. He said that they built Brasilia, just in order to be apart from the big industrial cities and their constituencies. They wanted to prevent industry and the democracy and the population from controlling the government.

So, they built Brasilia. He said, “Maybe they’ll use it as an atom bomb site. It certainly doesn’t have economic value.” Well, fast forward, in 1982, after Mexico defaulted on its foreign debt in 1972, nobody would invest in Latin America. And by 1990, Brazil was paying 45% interest per year to borrow the dollars to be able to finance its deficit, which is mainly flight capital by the wealthy. Well, I think I’d mentioned before here, I was hired by Scudder Stevens and Clark to create the first Sovereign Debt bond fund. Brazil and also Argentina were paying 45%. Just imagine that. That’s a fortune every year. No American would buy it, no European would buy it. Who bought it? The Brazilians and the Argentineans bought it. They’re the government, they’re the central bankers. They’re the president’s family. They’re the 1% – the only people that would hold Brazil’s dollar debt. So when Brazil pays its foreign Yankee Dollar debt, it’s paying its own 1% who are holding it offshore, for instance in the Dutch West Indies where the fund was located for tax-avoidance purposes. They pretend to be American imperialists, but actually are local imperialists.

Toward the end of Lula’s rule the Brazilian Council of Economic Advisors brought Jamie Galbraith, Randy Wray and me down for a discussion. They were worried because Lula, in order to get elected, had to meet with the banks and agree to give them what they wanted. The banks told him “We can see that you have the power to be elected. We don’t want to have to fight you in dirty ways. We will let you be elected, but you’re going to have to support the policies, certainly the financial policies that we want.” Lula made a kind of a devil’s agreement with them because he didn’t want to be killed, and they were willing to do some good things.

So, he was sort of a Bernie Sanders type character. Okay, you have to go along with a really bad system in order to get something good done, because Brazil really needs something good done. Well, the fact is that the financial groups couldn’t take even the little bit he did, because one of the characteristics of financial wealth is to be addictive. It’s not like diminishing marginal utility. If you give more food to an employee or to a worker at the end of the meal, you’re satiated, you don’t want much more. If you give enough money, they buy a few luxuries and then, okay, they save it. But if you give more money to a billionaire they want even more, and they grow even more desperate. It’s like a cocaine addict. The Brazilian ruling class wanted it so desperately that they framed up and controlled the utterly corrupt judiciary. The judiciary in Brazil is almost as corrupt as it is in New York city

Pepe Escobar: More, even more.

Michael Hudson: They frame them up and they want totalitarian control. And that is what a free market is: Totalitarian control by the financial class. It’s freedom for the financial class to do what they want to the rest of the economy. That’s libertarianism. It’s a free market, it’s Austrian economics. It’s the right wing’s fight against government. It’s a fight against any government strong enough to resist the financial and real estate interests. Brazil is merely the most devastating example of this, because it takes such a racial turn there. Brazilians want to make a fortune tearing down the Amazon, cutting up the Amazon, selling the lumber to China, turning the Amazon into soya production to sell to China. But for that, you have to exterminate the indigenous population that wants to use the land to feed itself. So you see the kind of race war and ethnic war that you have, not to mention the war against the blacks in the Brazilian slums that Lula tried so much to overcome.

So you have a resumption of the ethnic war there. On Wall Street I had discussions with money managers back in 1990. They saw it as a lnog=term burden, and wondered whether that’s going to be a model for what’s happening in the United States with the ethnic war here.

Essentially, it’s a tragedy what’s happening in Brazil, but it’s pretty much what happened in Chile under Pinochet, which is why they have the Pinochetista and the Chicago boys that you mentioned.

Pepe Escobar: [00:54:07] Absolutely. Coming back to China, Michael, what we had a few days ago, they are still discussing it. It goes on until the 15th of March, the approval of the five-year plan, which is not actually the five-year plan. It’s actually three five-year plans in one, because they are already planning for 2035, which is something absolutely unimaginable anywhere in the West. Right? So, it’s a different strategy: productive investment, expansion of social welfare and solidifying it with technological improvements. I would say by 2025, China would be very close to the same infotech level of the US, which is part of the Made in China 2025 policy, which is fantastic. They stopped talking about it, but they are still implementing the technological drive in all those standard areas that they had codified a few years ago. And I found this notion particularly fascinating, because it is on one sense socialism with some Confucianist elements, but it’s also very Daoist. The dual development strategy, which is an inversion and expansion of domestic investment and consumption, balancing all the time with projects across Eurasia. Not only affiliated with the Belt and Road, with the New Silk Road, but all other projects as well. So, when you have a leadership that is capable of planning with this scope, amplitude, breadth and reach, compare that to the money managers in the West, whose planning goes not even quarterly in many cases, but just for 24 hours.

So our dichotomy between rentier capitalism, financialization, industrial capitalism or whatever we want to call it, and state planning with the view of social benefit, is even starker. I’m not saying that the Chinese system can be exported to the rest of the world, but I’m sure that all across the global South people are looking at Chinese policies, how they are planning long-term, how they are always fine tuning, and what they develop and discuss.

For instance, this week there were over 3000 recommendations coming from different counties and villages and regions and local leaders, et cetera. Some of them are incorporated into the five-year plan as well. So this, as you said in the beginning, is a frontal shock of two systems. Sooner or later we’re going to have the bulk of the global South, including nations that nowadays are still American vassals or satrapies or puppets or poodles. They’re going to see which way the wind was blowing. Right?

Michael Hudson: [00:57:27] Why can’t the Chinese system be exported to the West? That’s a good question. Let’s suppose how would you make American industry able to follow the same productive path that China did. Well, for one thing, the biggest element in workers budget today is housing: 40%. There was one way to get rid of the high housing prices that essentially are whatever a bank will lend. The banks lend essentially the economic rent. There’s a very simple way to keep housing prices down: Tax the land rent. Use the tax system not to tax labor, because that increases the cost of labor, and not tax industrial capital, but tax the land, the real estate and the banks.

Well, suppose you were to lower the price of housing in America from 40% to 10% like China. This is the big element in the cost-structure difference. Well, if people only had to pay 10% of their income for housing, then all the banks would go under, because 80% of the bank loans are mortgage loans.

The function of housing in a financialized economy is to force new buyers and renters into debt to the banks, so that the banks end up with all of the lend rent that the landlord class used to get. That’s their business plan. This is what’s preventing America from being like China.

What if America would try to develop a high-speed railroad like China? Well, then you need the right of way. You’d need to you have to have the railroads go in a straight line. As we’ve mentioned before, they need a right of way, which it doesn’t have because that would conflict with private property and most of the right of way is a very expensive real estate. So, you can’t have high-speed rail in the United States, like in China.

Suppose you would have a low-cost public education. well then, you get rid of the whole means of siphoning off labor’s income to pay for education loans. Suppose you had public healthcare, and prevent Americans from getting sick like they do in, China and Thailand, where, where you are. In that case the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t be able to make their interest and dividend payments. So, you could not have America adopt a China-type industrial program without what would be really a revolution against the legacy of monopoly of a private banking, of finance and all the fortunes that have been built up financially in the last 40 years, since 1980.

Pepe Escobar: [01:00:22] So, what’s going to happen in the short to mid-term in the US, Michael? We are seeing the corrosion of the whole system, not only externally in terms of foreign policy and the end of the free lunch, but internally with those 17 million plus deplorables being literally canceled from public debate, from the impoverishment of the middle classes, with over 50 million people in America, which are becoming literally poor. Obviously the American dream ended a few decades ago, but now that it’s not even a glimpse that there could be a renewal of the American dream. So we have a larva of civil war situation degrading on a daily basis. What’s the end game? What exactly does Wall Street, the American ruling class, the guys who have lunches at the Harvard club – what do they ultimately want?

Michael Hudson: [01:01:31] Well, what you call a disaster for the economy is a Bonanza for the 1%. This is a victory for finance. You look at it as a collapse of industrial capitalism. I look at it as the victory of rentier finance capitalism. You’re having probably 10 million Americans that are going to be thrown out of their apartments and their homes in June, when the moratorium on rents and mortgages ends. You’re going to have a vast increase in the homeless population. That will probably represent an increase in people who use the subways. Where else are they going to live? A large number of private capital firms have been created in the last year of wealth accumulation. They’re looking forward to great opportunities to pick up real estate at bargain prices, for the commercial real estate that’s broke, and all the buildings and restaurants that have to be sold because they can’t meet their mortgage payments or rents, all the houses that are going under. Private capital can come in and do what was done after the Obama evictions.

Private capital can do what Blackstone did. It can buy them out for pennies on the dollar. So they’re looking at their own 20-year plan. Their 20-year plan is to grab everything!

Pepe Escobar: [01:02:51] What’s going to happen with the surplus population Michael, we’re talking about tens of millions of people. It reminds me of those, the projection of those World Bank projections in the early 1980s, when the World Bank projected that the global economy could actually work with only 20% of the global population implying that 80% of the global population was expendable. Are we watching this happening in the West in the next few months and years?

Michael Hudson: [01:03:22] It’s being compressed into a very short time frame. I heard this from the Club of Rome back in the 1970s when I was with the United Nations UNITAR. Their idea was that the world had too much population and needed to cut it back. It was a giant austerity plan. That was what really spurred Liberation Theology. The Catholic Church saw that cutting the population meant vast birth control. At a Chase Manhattan meeting I talked to the former head of the World Bank, John McCloy, who was also the chairman of Chase Manhattan. I asked him what he thought about Robert McNamara and his population control. And he said, “He just wants to stuff it up women. He doesn’t care if they get sick.” McCloy added, “He’s not a Wall Street boy.” I could see that he was appalled by it, but I wouldn’t use his words for the record, because he used little more vulgar language for just where McNamara was trying to stuff up the population control.

Liberation theology was backed by the Catholic church advocating land reform to feed the population if we’re not going to cut it back. Well, of course the result was that America defined a free market as being when its Special Forces go in and shoot the nuns after raping them. They killed liberation theologists. They killed indigenous leaders. They recognized that you can’t have a free market Chicago-style without being able to kill everybody who disagrees with you and who thinks that the market is for the people, not for the 1%. In my talks with the Catholic Church, I mean, it’s sort of hilarious given my background, which is not exactly religious. But I was working very closely with them at that time, because they were the only ones with an economic plan for how you can avoid this population collapse. The wealthy elite only need a few people. This was before mechanization, already in the 1970s. So, there was this idea that there were too many poor people that don’t make enough money for the rich people. We’ve got to get rid of them.

Many liberals supported them. Bob Heilbroner at the New School criticized me for working with some Liberation Theologists. It was the Catholic Church that published my first book, and articles. So, what you’re seeing today is an almost cosmic inversion of everything that people wanted until about the last century. Every country wanted more population. The idea was that population was the source of an army. It was a workforce to produce more goods and services. But now in the West, a population is who you want to get rid of. All you need is an economy that only has a few people and the rich. China, Russia, and Asia want to use the population and essentially, how to enrich the population so we can all have a world of prosperity and leisure.

Pepe Escobar: [01:06:12] Absolutely. I’m glad that you brought up Russia and China, because they are not on board. They diplomatically made it very clear that they are not on board for the great reset. Herr Schwab’s absolutely ominous idea and concept, which is supported by the IMF, by the World Bank, by Prince Charles, by big multinational corporations, et cetera. It’s very crazy, because eugenicist ideas are at the heart of the great reset. We’re not only talking about that strange character, Bill Gates; it goes much deeper than that. It’s eugenicist ideas in terms of culling of population by all means necessary. So, we are back to the same scenario that you were discussing decades ago.

Alanna: [01:07:06] Michael, when you said importantly that we could get the cost of housing down from 40% of income in the United States, can you give more detail on what people can do?

Michael Hudson: [01:07:22] The problem is what we can do without a revolution. In the United States you have Ms. Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress having a new voting law that tries to prevent any third party from being developed in the United States. So there can only be one party, the duopoly between the Republicans and the Democrats. You can’t have a Green Party. That’s being essentially ruled out. You can’t have any political alternative and you cannot have a parliamentary system like you have in Europe’s representative voting. The only choice you have is what flavor of oligarchy you want. You can have a Republican white oligarchy, or a mixed identity politics Democratic party, but none of this identity can have to deal with wage-earners, debtors or renters. So there’s very little, that they can do. If you need housing, you don’t have an alternative. You rent or go into debt to a bank to outbid other people who are trying buy the house, and the house is worth however much a bank will lend.

The Federal Reserve has flooded the economy with such low-interest credit that banks are able to lend more and more against housing. There’s been a huge increase in mortgage refinancing here. People have been able to get through the pandemic by borrowing more money against houses whose market value is rising, because banks are lending so much more debt to equity. So, what people think is making them rich is the housing that’s going up in price. Well, it’s actually the debt that has been going up. They think that they’ve been getting rich, but they’ve been more and more having to go into debt as a condition to get housing, just as they have to go into debt as a condition for getting an education and getting a job, or to get a car to drive to the job, or just to break even and feed themselves.

So unless people have an idea that there is an alternative, they’re not going to be able to create a political movement to create one. And in the United States, if you study economics you’re only taught University of Chicago neoliberal mainstream economics. There’s no more history of economic thought, so you don’t read Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill or Marx. There’s no economic history. So, you don’t know what’s the fight against feudalism was all about. You don’t have an idea that there’s an alternative. As Margaret Thatcher said, There Is No Alternative.

Well, of course there’s an alternative, but if people don’t know that there’s an alternative, they’re going to fall for this line, that there’s no alternative to the “free market” controlled by the 1% – freedom only for the 1% and debt peonage for the 99%. Unless they know that, I don’t have much hope that the people here can do very much at all.

Alanna: [01:10:26] So Michael, what about one city that it’s desperate that could be educated, that there is an alternative with clarity about a land value tax system and a public bank. For instance, the city of Baltimore that desperately needs a new economy. Can you give us some hope that we could focus on a city level and begin building a template for how cities and like Sao Paulo where Pepe is born from the cities that desperately need change? Michael, can you give us some sort of template?

We know the federal government is hopeless for us now for we, the people. Texas is having a vote to form the Republic of Texas to secede to have a beginning conversation. There are other growing secessionist movements in the United States. Could we imagine that there could be an implosion away from centralized control to the us to a regional and city level. Michael, give us some hope.

Michael Hudson: [01:11:30] I can’t give you hope. I am all in favor of public banking and I’m on Ellen Brown’s board of directors for her group. However, supposing you had a public bank in Baltimore and the public bank said, we want to provide credit for Baltimore people to be able to afford homes. They would still have to out create enough credit and enough debt to outbid what commercial banks are lending other people that want to buy houses there. So, you can’t have an Island of efficiency and public banking in a system that basically is still financialized. The problem is systemic.

It goes to the courts. You talk about seceding. Then of course it’s possible. And people in Texas were talking about seceding in the 1840s when it was largely a German population. There were more publishers publishing German language books in Texas than there were English language books. But now, I think the way Texans think, if they were to succeed it is not going to be along the lines of public banking that you want . It would be a private bank owned by the oil companies that calls itself, a public bank. We’re in a world of Orwellian rhetoric.

What can the Americans do? They already have voted. We have democracy, they’ve voted for what they wanted to do. What did they vote for? They want shorter lifespans, lower wages, less education and less public services. Their choice is to get these things by a Democrat or by a Republican. But that’s the only choice they have. Other countries have a choice to emigrate, as the Ukrainians and the Greeks and Latvians have done. But I have no idea where Americans can emigrate to.

Alanna: [01:13:21] Perhaps they could emigrate to some of Bill Gates, who now owns more agricultural land. He’s a top agricultural landowner in the United States. So, there are plenty of vacant lots all over our cities. What about some direct land-rights movements? Michael, what about depositing the land rent in Baltimore in a public bank and generating a local based economy?

Michael Hudson: [01:13:45] I think that’s unlikely as long as the city is controlled by the landlord interests. Almost all cities are controlled by the landlord interest. This is what Thorstein Veblen wrote about in Absentee Ownership in 1923. As long as you have the system that already was pretty clear a century ago, it doesn’t help to build up a few vacant lots and say, okay, we’re not going to tax that, because pretty soon you’re going to have people selling out the vacant lots and they will be gentrified.

A hundred years ago you had communities that were founded by followers of Henry George. They had the idea that, just that you have, we’re going to collect the land rent. They’ve all now become bourgeois, gentrified yuppie communities.

It’s a fight of economic systems. It’s a systemic fight. You can’t fix it at the margin. The problem goes deep to the core.

Alanna: [01:14:40] Well, the city of Allentown, Pennsylvania voted in land rent to shift largely to land rent. That was a vote. Can the people not vote in an economic democracy once they have the understanding of how to do so. And the landlord population is after all the majority. The minority is that landlord ownership. Can we not have the majority vote in a land rent system?

Michael Hudson: [01:15:05] Good question. If you said, okay, we are now going to tax all of the land rent, the problem is that as of right now, most land rent is pledged to the banks as mortgage interest. The banks have lent money against the rent-of-location – the fact that some houses and some properties and homes are in a better location than others, near parks and schools. Suppose that all of a sudden the owners would have to pay the full land tax that you and Henry George’s followers want. How are they going to pay the banks? Are they going to pay the land rent on top of the mortgage interest, or are they going to default?

The reality is you would have massive defaults and foreclosures by the banks taking over the properties of families and cities that had collected the land rent for themselves. You can’t have the same rent paid to two different parties. You have the land rent either paid to the government or paid to the banks. If you pay it to the government, then you’ll take it away from the banks. And the banks will use American law to say that this is appropriation of property without compensation. You really would need a new constitution, and that would need a revolution. A revolution is a step function, a discontinuity. You cannot have a continuity to make a rational economic system pasted on to an irrational economic system at the margin. You have to have a revolution.

Alanna: [01:16:33] The template needs to be for a nonviolent revolution based on the Jubilee principles that you teach so well Michael, of debt cancellation and restore the land for the people.

Michael Hudson: [01:16:46] You may be non-violent. But the bankers and the landlords are not. One group will be non-violent and the other will be violent. Who’s going to win?

Alanna: [01:16:56] That’s where getting the military to understand the new system comes in.

Michael Hudson: [01:17:01] Well it’s true that much of the military did defect to Russia’s Communists in October 1917. But I’m not sure today’s military is like that. They’ll have special advisors, Blackwater or whatever that group was in Afghanistan. We don’t have as much military as we have the advisers that we’ve hired, or we’ll just bring our foreign legion in. We’ll bring ISIS and they’ll fight for the landlords.

Alanna: [01:17:31] Well, it’s the same thing globally. It’s the same thing of what this discussion is Pepe and Michael about “in quest of a multipolar world” the hegemon up against up against three rivals as Pepe points out Iran, China and Russia, trying to be sovereign. We are again at a violent point.

Michael Hudson: [01:17:56] Yep, absolutely.

Pepe Escobar: [01:17:58] Yep. I think people want to ask a few questions. So, before we move to the questions, I selected one particular sentence, which more or less encapsulates where we are at the moment geopolitically. I don’t know if you agree with me. So I’m, throwing this fragmentation bomb out. Zbig Brzezinski in the famous, The Grand Chessboard published in 1997. I think this sentence is more or less the definition of the empire of chaos in the modern era until now. So, what was Zbig saying? The three grand imperatives of Imperial geostrategy are:

To prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals. So a security dependence among vassals – so far, basically Germany and Japan, which are the key hubs in the Rimland and to control the heartland and isolate the Heartland. If America could control two key hubs in the Rimland they will get the job done, which is more or less what happened for decades, right?

Continuing with Zbig. Tributaries, pliant and protected. Then we can go all the way from Latin America to the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, right? And to keep the barbarians from coming together. So when he wrote that in 1997, he meant the barbarians, obviously Eurasia, like the old rear Asia of the golden horde invading Kiev in the 13th century. But he meant essentially Russia and China. So, what do we have now? We have the three sovereigns getting together. Iran Russia and China. We have a strategic partnership between peer competitors, Russia and China, which was a Brzezinski and his acolytes’, supreme nightmare. The Americans need to prevent the emergence of a peer competitor in Eurasia.

Now they have a strategic partnership. So now, what that means is that Pax Americana in a nutshell is completely unraveling. That’s when we reached the possibility of a sort of Samson option by the 0.001%. They are little by little being expelled from Eurasia. So, this could create the conditions for an absolutely demented Dr. Strangelove kind of adventure, which even some generals in the US are already saying they are. These people are completely nuts. They are talking about the possibility of a nuclear war without advising the population of the United States and the rest of the world that the next war is going to be the last. So, this is where we are at the moment, I would say an incandescent crossroads, all of our history. And even if we look in real-politic terms some of the possibilities are beyond the ominous, right?

Michael Hudson: [01:21:21] Well, if you’re China or Russia, I think you’re saying that there was a kind of inversion of the direction of barbarism of the Golden Horde. Today, Europe is the barbarian trying to break into the Eurasian core. Think of what Brzezinski said about how the barbarians can prevent their own allies from working together in Europe. I think your point is quite right. If it’s an atomic war, and it will wipe out the world. As you know, I worked with Herman Kahn for many years. He said that there are going to be some survivors. I think that in Russia the other day President Putin said if there’s any missile of any kind coming in, it’s assumed to be atomic. And they’re going to retaliate in kind.

I can imagine Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden getting together and saying, “Look, I know that you’re trying to provoke us. We are going to respond militarily, but let’s not fight against each other. We have 20 atom bombs. We’ll take out England and London, Manchester and Frankfurt, but not Berlin because that’s East German; but Munich, Stuttgart, and certainly Brussels and Paris just to show you what can be done. You can try to use your defense to stop it, but let’s agree we’ll only knock out each other’s proxies. We won’t go to war with each other.”

I can imagine the Americans saying, “Well, that’s fine. No more Europe. So now we will be the leaders. We won’t have Europe to contend with anymore. We will just have ourselves. This will sort of stabilize things for the next 50 years. Europe will be devastated, and we can help rebuild it like we did after World War II. And this time, we’ll lock in our control even more. Russia and China can go their own way. And then, in 50 years, we’ll see whether there’s any kind of relation that we can have.”

I can see them making a deal like that. The Americans want war. The people that Biden has appointed have an emotional hatred of Russia. I’ve spoken to government people who are close to the Democratic Party, and they’ve told me that there’s a pathological emotional desire for war with Russia, largely stemming from the fact that the Tzars were anti-Semitic and there’s still the hatred about their ancestors: “Look what they did to my great-grandfather.” And so they’re willing to back the Nazis, back the anti-Semites in Ukraine. They’re willing to back today’s anti-Semites all over the world as long as they’re getting back at this emotional focus on a kind of post 19th-century economy.

I’ve met these people. Their emotion is one of hatred and anger. You can look at their face and see what they’ve become. This is really dangerous. They are crazy. And Putin is quite right. America has got its power by breaking contracts. It broke all of the contracts with the native Americans to take their land. It’s broken the Iranian contract. It broke most recently the Ukrainian Minsk agreement, and the JCP before. So what’s the point of making an agreement with any Americans, if they’re going to say, “Okay, now that we’ve got a compromise. You’ve given me and we’ve given. Now, let’s take that as a beginning point. We’re going to break that old agreement and we’re going to ask you for yet more.” They call that salami tactics. Slicing and slicing and slicing. So, I can see that essentially America telling Ukrainians, “Let’s you and Russia fight – to the last Ukrainian.”

And I think it would be Western Ukrainians, the people who used to be part of Poland.

Pepe Escobar: [01:25:00] And we, we call it, Bandera Land. Perfect. Okay.

Questions and Answers

Alanna: [01:25:06] Now David Spangler once said that the “role of the prophet is to preach the doom, to wake people up”. And that we’re certainly preaching, showing the doom right now. And the role of the priest is to show the new way, the new direction. So do we want to have another half hour or so for this? Can Pepe and Michael stay on because we do have some questions from those who’ve been listening. I see Ed Dodson’s hand is up, and then Tom Rossman, and then I’ll be looking at the chat questions.

Ed are you able to talk with us now and ask your question?

Ed Dodson: [01:25:46] Okay. As I’m listening to you, Michael, and not to you Pepe so much, but Michael’s gloom and doom, I keep thinking that the one opportunity the people of the world have is to go back to Proudhon and the whole concept of mutualism to create societies within societies. With all the positive components that have been raised, public banking and labor organizations, I just wonder. I know you have a relationship with Richard Wolf, Michael, in your conversations with him, he’s so positive about the socialism attached to the cooperative movement and places like Mondragon are these avenues. And Pepe you might want to comment on this, about countries other than the Western democracies. Is this an opportunity for people to come together under a common philosophy, a set of principles that would operate independent of the nation-state?

Michael Hudson: [01:26:57] There are many areas where a mutualism works. Farmer’s markets, distributors and small factories like in Mondragon. However, how are you going to have a mutual oil company? That’s very capital intensive. How will you have mutualism in a high-speed railway transport system? How will you have mutualism in building a system of foreign ports? Like what China’s doing with the belt and road extension.

Mutualism is very good when labor is the main element of all this. But once you have a strong capital element, and where it’s very capital intensive with not much labor, it’s very hard to see where the mutualism is. Suppose an oil company 10 oil producers making $10 million a year in profit. Are they going to just give each other a million dollars each? What about the rest of the economy? One mutual group can be cut off from another. In fact, when I went through the Basque country (I was brought over by the labor unions) some of the unions were complaining that Mondragon doesn’t want labor unions.

Yes, it’s a cooperative, but they don’t want a labor union. So, mutualism can only work as a particular sector of the economy. It can’t be the economy. Proudhon wrote a lot about compound interest. He said that debt is going to grow so large that it can’t be repaid. You’ll have to be able to deal with that. So you can’t really have a mutual banking based on compound interest and everybody getting deeper and deeper into debt. Proudhon-style also wanted to tax the land and Marx wrote a long discussion explaining why a Proudhon mutualism wouldn’t work. In The Poverty of Philosophy, a response to Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty, he pointed out what was progressive and predominant to a point, became unprogressive after a point.

Alanna: [01:28:49] Okay, thank you, Michael. I want to read this from Carl Sanchez in the chat. He says that the purpose of the federal government is to form a more perfect union. Do you think it’s possible to rally the reds and blues into a coalition of purples to reassert those government goals?

Michael Hudson: [01:29:17] Well, you already have them together we already have a purple. You have the blue Wall Street and the red oil industry and mining industry. You have both kinds of the rentier 1% all together in one happy purple rentier duopoly controlling the political system.

Alanna: [01:29:34] Well then, relevant to the impossible task. Walter wants to know what’s the new HR 1 law, Michael that you mentioned that prevents or will prevent third parties.

Michael Hudson: [01:29:43] I think it’s 700 pages. so I can’t go through the whole thing. But there’s a lot of discussion in today’s Internet about it. If you look at Naked Capitalism, the site run by Yves Smith, she has a citation of articles that explain why it’s aimed to prevent the green party or any other kind of reform party. The idea is to prevent any alternative to the hardline democratic pro-Wall Street, pro-pharmaceutical industry. Essentially you’re going to have Obamanomics with a sledgehammer, particularly against the Black and Hispanic populations.

Tom Rossman: [01:30:29] Great. Thanks Alanna. So your comments about the war reminded me of an Albert Einstein quote. He said, I do not know with what weapons world war three will be fought but world war four will be fought with sticks and stones. So, it kind of reminded me of that. And so, my question is you know, based on the fact that, you know, it’s pretty, pretty well established that narratives really drive people’s economic behavior.

What is the type of narrative that can kind of shift the Overton window in the direction that we all seem to want to go? And if there isn’t a narrative that could shift the Overton window, is the only alternative then revolution – potentially violent revolution.

Michael Hudson: [01:31:11] Well, my narrative is about how civilization has developed. I published the first volume of “… and Forgive them their Debts” to show how civilization took off, and narrates how the idea was to create resilience in an economy – how you would wipe out the debt, you would wipe out of the debt bondage, you’d restore free liberty to the people. That worked for thousands of years.

I’m just finishing now the second volume, The Collapse of Antiquity. That’s about how Greece and Rome, and hence subsequent Western civilization, made a complete break from the Near East. They didn’t cancel the debts. Western civilization was oligarchic from the beginning. There never was really a democracy here except for a very short revolution in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, catalyzed by the “tyrants.” What you think of as democracy, the rule by the people overthrowing the oligarchy, was called tyranny in Greece. In Rome it was called “seeking kingship,” because what did kings were able to do. Kings kept the oligarchs in place, just as the tyrants redistributed the land and cancelled the debts in Corinth and other Greek cities, and finally Solon did that in an Athens after Sparta did it . So if you see that our civilization doesn’t have to be this way, that Western civilization has taken a wrong turn – and it’s a rentier turn that earlier civilizations didn’t have – then you can see there is an alternative. And once you see there is an alternative, you have a narrative that can show the kind of future.

Well, Marx had one kind of alternative like that worked in the late 19th century. The classical economists had an alternative leading into Marxism. I’m now publishing my long lecture series in China on The Fight for Civilization: Rentier Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. I’m trying to show what is positive in China system and still needs to be done. There are plenty of alternatives, but the fact is that the West – as Pepe and I’ve described – are set on fighting against an alternative that would make other people prosperous. They fought against the Soviet Union in the Cold War. You have the ruling classes in America and Europe wanting to concentrate all the wealth in their own hand. They’re against the whole wave of democratic reform that the 19th century was all for. The 19th century was for a land tax. It was for public banking. It was all public infrastructure to lower the cost of doing business. This was taught in the business schools in America. But all that has been expurgated from economic history and from the history of social thought – into the memory hole, as George Orwell would say. So, you have to let people know that there’s been a whole suppressed history, not only of civilization but as recently as the 19th century concerning where civilization was going. There has been a counter-revolution. In America you have people saying anything that promotes democracy, anything that’s antiwar is a propaganda for Russia, because who’s trying to avoid war Russia. So, if you believe what Alanna believes and you want a peaceful world, then you’re pro-Putin.

Alanna: [01:34:33] David Lee has a question for Pepe. He says, what do you think are the possibilities that Lula can (A) be allowed to win an election in Brazil, and (B) return Brazil to the BRICS?

Pepe Escobar: [01:34:50] Wow. Assuming he would run and win an election, the first things he will do of course, is to get the back to BRICS. That is what Lula would do in terms of policy, because he believes in it. And because he was one of the main drivers of the BRICS union, but because Putin and (as I get from our connections in Moscow, in Beijing, they are dying for it to happen. Obviously, their ministry of foreign affairs cannot express this in public, especially the Chinese, because the Chinese are very reactive and very cautious in terms of emitting their opinions on internal policy, even if they’re their allies.

I’m trying to get some feedback from Russian analysts in the next few days about what happened in Brazil in this past few days, and to see how the Kremlin and the ministry of foreign affairs view the possibility of Lula being back in the game. But the most important thing is whether he will be allowed to be back in the game. Considering the Kabuki telenovela configuration moment that’s a major if. This would only happen if there is a deal cut in the shadows. Lula is very good at cutting deals. He’s a master negotiator, probably in terms of an international statesman, he’s the number one master negotiator in the world for the past two decades. But this is very, very complicated because it involves the military, who run the show in Brazil. It involves the Brazilian ruling class the 0. I would say the 0.00001% in Brazil. You have no idea in terms of an absolutely rapacious, ignorant, arrogant, and absolutely disgusting ruling class. I had the displeasure to meet these people when I still lived in Brazil years ago. So, if they think that Lula might be good for business, which means their own exploitation business, rentier business inside Brazil, allied and as subordinates to the masters of the universe in New York and the beltway, they would allow it.

But then, Lula will have to convince more than just these people. He’ll have to convince the military and he’ll have to convince the market – you know, this entity that rules Brazil and is reaping all the benefits of the destruction of Brazil. And the fourth component is the media. In Brazil that means the Globo network, which plays a role that in the US would be equivalent to all the major US networks, plus CNN, Fox and all that, but concentrated in only one media and buyer. This is very complicated because they have the same interest of the Brazilian ruling class. They have the same interests of the military, and they have their own monopolistic interests in terms of controlling the flow of public information to the mass of Brazilians. But now at least there is a counter movement, which is via social networks and the internet.

So they have been losing ground, but still, if you look at the 8:00 PM newscast in Brazil, every night people who are in the middle of the Amazon or in the deserts, in the Northeast, they are tuning to Globo and they get their news from Globo Open TV, not paid cable. So if Lula wins, wow, this is titanic. If he’s able to navigate all of these interests and prove to them that he is good for their business, this means that you have to make a lot of concessions, just like Michael explained to us in the beginning. He had to make concessions when he was first elected . And even with that, he managed to turn a little bit of the game around in Brazil, in terms of bringing 30 million people out of poverty. In terms of having a more decent minimum wage, you name it, and basic income for a lot of people in the middle of nowhere. So to have this back under negotiation, it is going to be much harder than it was in the early two thousands, right before Shock and Awe, by the way. It’s, crazy to remember that the first Lula government came to power two months before Shock and Awe, which we’re going to have the anniversary next week,. So, it’s complex. It’s extremely complicated to explain this to an international audience. The complexity of the game in Brazil is absolutely mind boggling. And the absolute majority of the Brazilians have no clue what’s going on because it’s one fragmentation bomb after another, like a semiotic free for all. It’s completely crazy, but if there’s only one person that could pull that off, that would be Lula.

Alanna: [01:40:10] Well praise be Lula. This is a question and a rather long comment that will draw out more on this “in quest of a multipolar world”, and it’s for both of you to respond because he mentioned both of you. This is from Zach for Pepe. What, what do you believe is the future of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization? Will it become stronger and work a closer Alliance between its member States, sort of like NATO, or it will keep being a loose association? And then, where is India going to orient to? He’s also curious about the Bretton Woods and how it was established, was it the brainchild and one or two economists, like Keynes? Was It designed by a genius? How are we going to relate to this Bretton Woods? Are we going to be able to break free? Are Russia and China clearly going to break free?

Michael Hudson: [01:41:08] That’s what the talk is about you know. I think the first discussion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Western media was an op-ed I did for the Financial Times of London. Nobody was mentioning it.

The idea was that it was only marginal, it’s going to go away. There was always a sense of denial in the West that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization could develop a different economic philosophy of development. And that’s what we’re really talking about. It’s not simply an organization of people wanting to help each other. It’s the way they’re trying to help each other. It’s a mode of development. It’s the idea that any rent-yielding resource – banking, land, natural resources and natural infrastructure monopolies – should be in the public domain to provided basic needs to everybody freely. That essentially means that the private sector won’t have to pay for services that should be available to everybody, at the minimum cost. If you privatize them as in the West, they’re going to be provided at a financialized maximum cost, including interest rates, dividends management fees, corporate manipulation for capital gains, and stock and bond buyback programs. It’s a whole different economic philosophy.

Well, there is no need for China or Russia or Iran to go to war to do this. They’re doing it. They can do it quite simply. They don’t need a revolution to do it, because they don’t have a vested interest fighting against them and killing them if they do it. If the West wants to resist this, and all the West can do is number one, kill its own leaders who want to do something like this. If they have a Latin American leader, if you have Venezuela trying to use this oil wealth for the public good, then you isolate and attack Venezuela. If you have a Honduran president who wants to distribute the land, you have a coup d’ etat and give it to the drug dealers to run. They’ll be pro-American. If you have anyone in the West who tries to do something productive, you marginalize them and prevent them. And if there’s a threat of China and Russia and Iran growing, then you try to do what Americans did to Russia in the 1920s. You will fight it militarily you at their borders, you fund color revolutions, so that they have to dissipate the wealth that they create in military overhead to match the military overhead of the United States. The dream today is to make Ukraine Russia’s Afghanistan.

Pepe Escobar: [01:43:53] Yeah, absolutely.

Michael Hudson: [01:43:55] Yeah. The difference is what gives China and Russia the advantage. Defense is only 10% as expensive as offense. America needs a huge offense, and it needs huge corruption. To be offensive, America has to corrupt European politics, corrupt the labor union, the corrupt the whole educational system, corrupt the media into junk media and junk economics.

And it has to have enormous profits for the military-industrial complex. That is America’s version of industrial capitalism. All China and Russia have to do is develop high-speed missiles, the defensive missiles to stop it. So they’re not being bled. It’s not going to be Russia’s Afghanistan. It’s America’s Afghanistan all over again.

Pepe Escobar: [01:44:47] I was just the one to compliment one minute what Michael said and answering the question as well, in terms of the importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It has changed so much in the past few years. I remember years ago, I used to mention the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to people in Brussels, the European Union or European commission. They were saying, “No way. It’s not important. It’s ridiculous. It’s a talk shop, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Years ago, in fact in the early 2000s, it was essentially Russia, China and four of the central Asian states against terrorism, against separatism. And then, little by little, they started to evolve. Now it’s also a trade and investment cooperation organization. I went to some of the round tables of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, for instance, in the St Petersburg Economic Forum. There’s always a meeting of the SCO and it’s absolutely fascinating. You have Russians, Chinese and a lot of central Asians (not a single one Westerner) discussing trade deals. They are not only discussing terrorism, but also discussing the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan allied with the Taliban, that kind of things. They are discussing business. And now it’s even more important, because now with the expansion you have Russia, China, the Central Asians, and India and Pakistan as well. And sooner or later, not only as observers, but as full members, you’re going to have Turkey and Iran.

So, this means every single major player in the Eurasian arc, in the heartland in fact, is part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. To give a practical example, the solution for Afghanistan is being debated by them for years now. The Russian solution for Afghanistan was discussed with China and the other central Asians, especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which are neighbors of Afghanistan.

They want an SCO-brokered Asian solution for the Afghan problem. So what the Americans are proposing –or the American plan B’s, or C’s with the same Zalmay Khalilzad – they know this thing’s never going to work. And they have a direct conversation with Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is an associate member of the SCO as well. So it makes total sense. We see them all converging. You have the original economic union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Belt and Road initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – everybody’s converging and following more or less the same path. Later, you’re going to have a total integration of these organizations working for a common purpose in terms of security, of course, but also especially in terms of business.

Michael Hudson: [01:47:57] So the question is, why are other people not discussing what you and I are discussing? Why are people only talking about this on the web? Nothing in The New York Times or other mainstream media.

Pepe Escobar: [01:48:06] Nothing Michael. You will never read something like this in the Washington Post or The New York Times. They don’t even know what the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is.

Alanna: [01:48:19] Well, there’s more questions and comments coming in on chat, and we’re not going to be able to handle now, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll just copy and paste what everybody’s asked, and we’ll have another session with all the questions may be a good idea.

Pepe Escobar: Fantastic I think that’s a very good idea Alanna.

Alanna: Okay, great and thank you both, this has been sponsored by the Henry George School of Social Science. Please go to their website. They’re doing a lot of online courses on land rents and the land rent problem. The International Union for Land Value Taxation, iu.org. Please also sign up for our newsletter and connect with people around the world. We’re looking for socializing the land rents.

We’re now starting a conversation with the public banking Institute with a focus on Baltimore, which is why I had those questions. So again, I’m going to copy everything from chat. And then we’ll talk about having a session that will start in with the questions. I think has been a great overview.

We know we’re at a dangerous point. We know that we, the people, have got to get it together and provide a really clear direction now to the world. We are the people who are really thinking and concerned and, in many ways, privileged. I think we’re going to need to get to the military and get to those kinds of power people, and get them to think in terms of who are they protecting?

What are they protecting? What side are they going to be on? Because clearly, we do need a nonviolent revolution, we’re at a dangerous point. So, thank you, Michael Hudson and Pepe Escobar. Thank you so very much all the best of both of you forever.

Pepe Escobar: [01:49:56] Thank you, Michael. Thanks a lot. Thanks everybody.

Ibrahima: [01:49:59] Thank you all very much. And we hope to see you again.

Pepe Escobar: [01:50:04] Absolutely.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/28/2021 - 23:50
Published:3/28/2021 11:18:51 PM
[Markets] Alternatives To Censorship: Interview With Matt Stoller By Matt Taibbi Alternatives To Censorship: Interview With Matt Stoller By Matt Taibbi

Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News,

Led by Chairman Frank Pallone, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday held a five-hour interrogation of Silicon Valley CEOs entitled, “Disinformation Nation: Social Media's Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation.”

As Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday, the hearing was at once agonizingly boring and frightening to speech advocates, filled with scenes of members of Congress demanding that monopolist companies engage in draconian crackdowns.

Again, as Greenwald pointed out, one of the craziest exchanges involved Texas Democrat Lizzie Fletcher:

Fletcher brought up the State Department’s maintenance of a list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. She praised the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, saying that “by all accounts, your platforms do a better job with terrorist organizations, where that post is automatically removed with keywords or phrases and those are designated by the state department.”

Then she went further, chiding the firms for not doing the same domestically. asking, “Would a federal standard for defining a domestic terror organization similar to [Foreign Terrorist Organizations] help your platforms better track and remove harmful content?”

At another point, Fletcher noted that material from the January 6th protests had been taken down (for TK interviews of several of the videographers affected, click here) and said, “I think we can all understand some of the reasons for this.” Then she complained about a lack of transparency, asking the members, “Will you commit to sharing the removed content with Congress?” so that they can continue their “investigation” of the incident.

Questions like Fletcher’s suggest Congress wants to create a multi-tiered informational system, one in which “data transparency” means sharing content with Congress but not the public.

Worse, they’re seeking systems of “responsible” curation that might mean private companies like Google enforcing government-created lists of bannable domestic organizations, which is pretty much the opposite of what the First Amendment intended.

Under the system favored by Fletcher and others, these monopolistic firms would target speakers as well as speech, a major departure from our current legal framework, which focuses on speech connected to provable harm.

As detailed in an earlier article about NEC appointee Timothy Wu, these solutions presuppose that the media landscape will remain highly concentrated, the power of these firms just deployed in a direction more to the liking of House members like Fletcher, Pallone, Minnesota’s Angie Craig, and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Senators like Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Remember this quote from Markey: “The issue isn’t that the companies before us today are taking too many posts down. The issue is that they’re leaving too many dangerous posts up.”

These ideas are infected by the same fundamental reasoning error that drove the Hill’s previous drive for tech censorship in the Russian misinformation panic. Do countries like Russia (and Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, China, Venezuela, and others) promote division, misinformation, and the dreaded “societal discord” in the United State? Sure. Of course.

But the sum total of the divisive efforts of those other countries makes up at most a tiny fraction of the divisive content we ourselves produce in the United States, as an intentional component of our commercial media system, which uses advanced analytics and engagement strategies to get us upset with each other.

As Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project puts it, describing how companies like Facebook make money:

It's like if you were in a bar and there was a guy in the corner that was constantly egging people onto getting into fights, and he got paid whenever somebody got into a fight? That's the business model here.

As Stoller points out in a recent interview with Useful Idiots, the calls for Silicon Valley to crack down on “misinformation” and “extremism” is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of how these firms make money. Even as a cynical or draconian method for clamping down on speech, getting Facebook or Google to eliminate lists of taboo speakers wouldn’t work, because it wouldn’t change the core function of these companies: selling ads through surveillance-based herding of users into silos of sensational content.

These utility-like firms take in data from everything you do on the Web, whether you’re on their sites or not, and use that information to create a methodology that allows a vendor to buy the most effective possible ad, in the cheapest possible location. If Joe Schmo Motors wants to sell you a car, it can either pay premium prices to advertise in a place like Car and Driver, or it can go to Facebook and Google, who will match that car dealership to a list of men aged 55 and up who looked at an ad for a car in the last week, and target them at some other, cheaper site.

In this system, bogus news “content” has the same role as porn or cat videos — it’s a cheap method of sucking in a predictable group of users and keeping them engaged long enough to see an ad. The salient issue with conspiracy theories or content that inspires “societal discord” isn’t that they achieve a political end, it’s that they’re effective as attention-grabbing devices.

The companies’ use of these ad methods undermines factuality and journalism in multiple ways. One, as Stoller points out, is that the firms are literally “stealing” from legitimate news organizations. “What Google and Facebook are doing is they're getting the proprietary subscriber and reader information from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and then they're advertising to them on other properties.”

As he points out, if a company did this through physical means — breaking into offices, taking subscriber lists, and targeting the names for ads — “We would all be like, ‘Wow! That's outrageous. That's crazy. That's stealing.’” But it’s what they do.

Secondly, the companies’ model depends upon keeping attention siloed. If users are regularly exposed to different points of view, if they develop healthy habits for weighing fact versus fiction, they will be tougher targets for engagement.

So the system of push notifications and surveillance-inspired news feeds stresses feeding users content that’s in the middle of the middle of their historical areas of interest: the more efficient the firms are in delivering content that aligns with your opinions, the better their chance at keeping you engaged.

Rope people in, show them ads in spaces that in a vacuum are cheap but which Facebook or Google can sell at a premium because of the intel they have, and you can turn anything from QAnon to Pizzagate into cash machines.

After the January 6th riots, Stoller’s organization wrote a piece called, “How To Prevent the Next Social Media-Driven Attack On Democracy—and Avoid a Big Tech Censorship Regime” that said:

While the world is a better place without Donald Trump’s Twitter feed or Facebook page inciting his followers to violently overturn an election, keeping him or other arbitrarily chosen malignant actors off these platforms doesn’t change the incentive for Facebook or other social networks to continue pumping misinformation into users’ feeds to continue profiting off of ads.

In other words, until you deal with the underlying profit model, no amount of censoring will change a thing. Pallone hinted that he understood this a little on Thursday, when he asked Zuckerberg if it were true, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year, that in an analysis done in Germany, researchers found that “Facebook’s own engagement tools were tied to a significant rise in membership in extremist organizations.” But most of the questions went in the other direction.

“The question isn't whether Alex Jones should have a platform,” Stoller explains. “The question is, should YouTube have recommended Alex Jones 15 billion times through its algorithms so that YouTube could make money selling ads?”

Below is an excerpted transcript from the Stoller interview at Useful Idiots, part of which is already up here. When the full video is released, I’ll update and include it.

Stoller is one of the leading experts on tech monopolies. He wrote the Simon and Schuster book, Goliath: The Hundred Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, and is a former policy advisor to the Senate Budget Committee. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fast Company, Foreign Policy, the Guardian, Vice, The American Conservative, and the Baffler, among others. Excerpts from his responses to questions from myself and Katie Halper are below, edited for clarity:

Matt Taibbi: There's a debate going on within the Democratic Party-aligned activist world about approaches to dealing with problems in the speech world. Could you summarize?

Matt Stoller: There are two sides. One bunch of people has been saying, “Hey, these firms are really powerful…” This is the anti-monopoly wing. Google and Facebook, let’s break them up, regulate them. They're really powerful and big, and that's scary. So, without getting in too deep, there's the Antitrust subcommittee, that's been saying, “Hey, these firms are really powerful, and they're picking and choosing winners.” Usually, they talk about small businesses, but the issue with speech is the same thing.

Then there’s another side, which is, I think, noisier and has more of the MSNBC/CNN vibe. This is the disinformation/misinformation world. This is the Russiagate people, the “We don't like that Trump can speak” type of people. What their argument is, effectively, is that firms haven't sufficiently curated their platforms to present what they think is a legitimate form of public debate. They're thinking, “Well, we need to figure out how to get them to filter differently, and organize discourse differently.”

Ideologically, they just accept the dominance of these firms, and they're just saying, “What's the best way for these firms to organize discourse?”

Taibbi: By conceding the inevitability of these firms, they’re making that concession, but saying they want to direct that power in a direction that they'd like better.

Stoller: That's right. I mean, there's a lot of different reasons for that. Some of them are neoliberal. A lot of the law professors are like, “Oh, this is just the way of technology, and this is more efficient.” Therefore, the question is, “How do you manage these large platforms?” They're just inevitable.

Then there are people who are actually socialists who think, “Well, the internet killed newspapers. The internet does all of these things. Also, there's a bunch of them that never liked commercial press in the first place. A lot of well-meaning people were like, “We never liked advertising models to begin with. We think everything should be like the BBC.”

So, those are the two groups that accept the inevitability thesis. It's really deep-rooted in political philosophy. It's not just a simple disagreement. Then there are people like us who are like, “No, no. Actually, technology is deployed according to law and regulation, and this specific regulatory model that we have, the business structures of these firms, the way they make money from advertising, those are specific policy choices, and we can make different ones if we want.”

Katie Halper: When you say socialist, some may identify as socialists, but that there's a general group of people who just believe, “We oppose hate speech and White supremacy,” and so we have to make these companies that are evil, and give them moral authority and a content moderation authority, which is an inherent contradiction/wishful thinking/inconsistent paradox.

In other words, you're saying leftists, right? Leftist, not liberals, not neo-liberals, not even liberals, but people who are really would identify as left.

Stoller: Yes. There's a part of the socialist world that's like, “What we really want is egalitarianism in the form of a giant HR compliance department that tells everyone to be tolerant.” Right? Then there are most people who are like, “No. I just don't like wall street and I want people to be equal and everyone should have a little bit over something,” and they both call themselves socialists.

Taibbi: You and the American Economic Liberties Project have said, there's a reason why taking Trump off Twitter isn't going to fix the problem, because you're not fixing those incentives. Can you talk about what those incentives are, and why they cause the problems?

Stoller: Google and Facebook, they sell ads, right? They collect lots of information on you and they sell ads and ads are valuable for two reasons. One, you're looking at them. Two, if they know who you are and they know information about you, then they can make the ad more valuable. A random ad space isn't worth very much, if you're showing it to some undefined person. An ad space you're showing to a 55-year-old man who's thinking of buying a luxury car, somebody will pay a lot for that ad space, if you know who that person is and you know that that person has actually been browsing luxury car websites and reading the Wall Street Journal about how best to liquidate their portfolio or something to buy a luxury item.

Google and Facebook want to sell that advertising particularly on their properties, where they get to keep 100% of the profits. If Google sells an ad on YouTube, they get to keep the money. Facebook sells an ad on Instagram or Facebook, they get to keep the money. So, their goal is to keep you using their sites and to collect information on you.

Taibbi: What methods do they use to keep you on the sites?

Stoller: They have all sorts of psychological tricks. Engagement is the way that they talk about it, but it's like if you go and you look for something on YouTube, they're going to send you something that's a little bit more extreme. It's not necessarily just political. It's like if you're a vegetarian, they'll say, or if you look at stuff that's like, “Here's how to become a vegetarian,” they'll say, “Well, about becoming a vegan?” If you look at stuff that suggests you’re a little bit scared of whether this vaccine will work, if you search for, “I would want to find safety data on this vaccine,” eventually, they'll move you to like serious anti-vax world.

So, the question that we have to ask is whether you should block crazy people from saying things, or do something else… Like Alex Jones, for example, is crazy person or an entertainer, he says things that I don't particularly like or agree with. The question, though, isn't whether Alex Jones should have a platform. We've always allowed people to go to the corner of the street and say whatever they want or to write pamphlets or whatever.

The question is, should YouTube have recommended Alex Jones 15 billion times through its algorithms so that YouTube could make money selling ads? That's a different question than censorship.

Taibbi: Conversely they’re not recommending other material that might discourage you from believing Alex Jones.

Stoller: Right. The other thing is, it's not just that they want to create more inventory so they can sell ads. It's also the kinds of ads that they're selling. So, you can sell an ad based on trust. The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal — I hate using them as examples — they have an audience and people. They built that audience by investing in content, and then they sell ads to that audience, and the advertiser knows where that advertising is going and it's based on trust.

The alternative model which we have now is simply based on clickbait. It's just, “Generate as many impressions as possible, and then sell those impressions wherever the person is on the web.” That creates a kind of journalism, which is designed to get clicks or not even journalism. It's just you're creating content just to get engagement and not actually to build trust.

So, what this business model does, we call it surveillance advertising, but it's an infrastructure player, a communications player manipulating you so that they could put content, engage content in front of you. What that does is it incentivizes a low trust form of content production. It both kills trusted content producers, a.k.a. local newspapers, because you no longer need to be able to put advertising in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or whatever. You can just geotarget those people through Google and Facebook. You can get some Eastern European to falsify stories and people will click on that.

So, it kills legitimate newspapers and it creates an incentive for low trust content, fraudulent content, defamatory content, whatever it is that will keep people engaged and is often fraudulent. It hits really local newspapers and niche newspapers the most, so Black-owned newspapers and also newspapers having to do with hobbies. The actual issue is more about niche audiences themselves, and the kind of low-trust content that we're encouraging with our policy framework, versus what we used to do, which we would encourage higher trust forms of content.

Taibbi: How would you fix this problem, from a regulatory perspective?

Stoller: The House Antitrust Subcommittee had a report where they recommended what we call regulated competition. That would say, “Okay. You break up these platforms in ways that wouldn't interfere with the efficiency of that particular network system.” So, Google and YouTube don't need to be in the same company, you could separate them out.

There are ways that you'd have to handle the search engine. You couldn't split Facebook into five Facebooks, because then you wouldn't necessarily be able to talk to your friends and family, but you could separate Instagram and Facebook easily. You could force interoperability and then split up Facebook if you want to do that. So, you could separate those things out and then ban surveillance advertising for a starter.

Taibbi: What would that do to content if you ban surveillance advertising? ANd how would that work?

Stoller: It would force advertisers to go back to advertising to audiences. So, they would no longer be able to track you as an individual and say, “We know this is what you're interested in.” They would go to what's called contextual advertising, and they would say, “Okay. If you're on a site that has to do with tennis, then we'll advertise tennis rackets on that site because we assume that that people are interested in tennis rackets.”

That's called contextual advertising, versus the current system: you read an article about tennis in a tennis magazine and the platforms say, “Oh, that's expensive to buy an ad there, so we'll track you around the web and when you're on Candy Crush, we'll show you a tennis racket ad.” That's the surveillance advertising model we have. That pulls all the power to Google and Facebook who are doing all the tracking, versus the contextual ad where the power is actually with the tennis racket site that has the relationship with the people interested in tennis.

Taibbi: So, the idea would be you would create a sort of a firewall between the utilitarian functions of a site like Facebook or Google, that provide a service where either you're searching for something or you're communicating with somebody, and they wouldn't be allowed to take that data from that utility-like function to sell you an ad?

Stoller: That's right. Germany is hearing a court case saying that you can't combine advertising from Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and then third parties to create a super profile of someone and show them ads. They were saying that's an antitrust violation. There's a court hearing on that, but, more broadly, that's what you have to do.

Ultimately, what we would want is we would want to have subscription-based communication networks paying for services. This is something that's worked for thousands of years. I give you something in value, you give me money. It's an honest way of doing business. If I don't value it enough to give you money, then I won't get it.

If people are like, “Oh, I don't want to pay for Facebook, or I don't want to pay for YouTube,” or whatever it is, that makes no sense. You're already paying. You're either paying with a Friday night you spend surfing YouTube, where they sell a bunch of ads and you give up your Friday night — or you pay with money, and it's an honest transaction, and it's in the long run, a lot cheaper and more honest method of payment.

For more of this interview, check out UsefulIdiots.Substack.Com in the next days. For Stoller’s writings on the subject, see here.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/28/2021 - 17:30
Published:3/28/2021 4:49:31 PM
[Markets] Elite Philanthropy Mainly Self-Serving Elite Philanthropy Mainly Self-Serving

Authored by Zipporah Osei via The Academic Times (emphasis ours),

Philanthropy among the elite class in the United States and the United Kingdom does more to create goodwill for the super-wealthy than to alleviate social ills for the poor, according to a new meta-analysis. 

High-end philanthropy might not be shaking up the social order (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A group of U.K. researchers reviewed 263 journal articles, books and studies on elite philanthropy to better understand the role it plays in this new age of inequality. In the United States, the wealth gap between richest and poorer families has more than doubled since the 1980s, and in the United Kingdom, the incomes of the richest fifth are 12 times as much as the incomes of the poorest fifth. 

The researchers' paper, published in a special issue of the International Journal of Management Reviews, lays out how on the whole, the elite class mainly donates to causes that provide themselves with some type of benefit. The researchers defined "elite philanthropy" as "the preserve of wealthy individuals and close family members" who became rich through entrepreneurship, either by starting a new business or expanding an inherited one. These individuals generally have extensive local, national and international business networks, the researchers said, and occupy positions with the "field of power," a social space at the top of society that allows them to impact policy and practice.

Until recently, philanthropy hadn't been taken seriously as part of mainstream management and organizational research, but Newcastle University professor Charles Harvey said it's important that academia moves in this direction as many of the wealthiest philanthropists have entrepreneurial backgrounds.

"In the last decade, we've seen tech and finance money finding its way into philanthropic funding led by people like Bill Gates and Christopher Hohn," said Harvey, one of the paper's authors. "But entrepreneurship has enabled philanthropy for centuries so it's important to understand how the philanthropic sector supports the economic sector."

Many people mistakenly view elite philanthropy as a benign force for good rather than an avenue for the super-wealthy to translate economic capital into social and cultural capital, according to the researchers. Elite philanthropy, the study argues, is transactional, as there are also material benefits in addition to the cultural capital. In 2017, the United States increased the proportion of income that can be deducted from 50% to 60%, which directly benefits the elite; and in the United Kingdom, efforts to reduce philanthropic tax relief fell through in 2012 after pushback from wealthy philanthropists. 

Households in the top 0.1% reduced the share of their income they donated by half from 1980 to 1990 after changes to the tax code reduced the amount of money they could deduct from charitable contributions, according to a study published in Cambridge University Press. That trend continued in future decades: In 2018, the 20 richest Americans donated $8.7 billion to charity, which is just .8% of their net worth as a group.

Where wealthy elites donate their money is shaped by where they can have the most influence on a local, national and international level, researchers said; maintaining their "field of power," which allows them to use their business ties to influence the political sphere, is also a motivating factor in their philanthropy. For example, one study of 194 elite philanthropists in the United States found that 104 of them actively worked to sway public policy by funding research and advocacy organizations.

Because elite philanthropy affords a higher degree of influence to a select group of people, it's important to examine its benefits and pitfalls more thoroughly, the researchers argue. While investments in philanthropy are beneficial to society at large, the current state of investments has only a moderate redistributive effect between the rich and the poor. Most of the money has not only been kept within developed countries but also within elite circles, rather than going to causes that impact a larger share of the world's population such as disease prevention in developing nations. 

Universities and colleges such as Harvard and Oxford, which already boast large endowments, are by far the largest beneficiaries of elite philanthropy. Money is also shared to arts and culture organizations and environmental causes, but in most fields accounts for only a small portion of nonprofit organizations' income. In this way, wealthy people's charity serves to support institutions that have directly benefited them, all while giving them the goodwill to influence other sectors of society, according to Harvey. 

The researchers present four types of elite philanthropy that are distinguished by a focus in either developed or developing countries. Institutionally supportive philanthropy supports organizations and causes in developed countries, while developmental philanthropy focuses on developing nations. These two are more customary forms of philanthropy. The other two types take a newer, more entrepreneurial approach: Market-oriented philanthropy uses market-reinforced solutions to help developed nations; and transformational philanthropy seeks to invest in solutions that will not only combat social problems but also create wealth in developing countries. 

Someone practicing customary philanthropy might donate a large sum of money to a nonprofit focused on eliminating child hunger, while an example of entrepreneurial philanthropy would be Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg investing $24 million in a startup that trains and recruits software developers in Africa. 

Contrary to popular belief, though, donations and investments in developing countries make up only a small proportion of elite philanthropy, and investments like these have only become more popular in the last decade or so, according to Harvey.

"As the differentials between the rich and poor get wider, you might expect the rich to give more as a percentage of income but the opposite is true. It's really just a few percentage points, a small amount relative to the amount of wealth that these people hold as a class," Harvey said. "That's not to say that there aren't some super generous people within that class, but the class as a whole is not generous."

Internationally, the biggest givers are actually governments. Between 2013 and 2015, governments of developed nations provided $462 billion in overseas aid while philanthropists contributed $24 billion, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The research isn't intended to dissuade wealthy philanthropists from donating or to make the argument that no good comes from the investments they do make, said Mairi Maclean, a professor at the University of Bath. 

"Individually there are some very impressive people helping important causes," she said, recalling conversations she's had with philanthropists who work on prison reform and disease prevention, among other causes. "But we're looking at this systematically and on that level, a lot of improvements can be made."

The study "Elite philanthropy in the United States and United Kingdom in the new age of inequalities," published Feb. 21 in the International Journal of Management Reviews, was authored by Mairi Maclean, University of Bath; Charles Harvey and Ruomei Yang, Newcastle University; and Frank Mueller, Durham University.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/28/2021 - 16:30
Published:3/28/2021 3:46:09 PM
[Markets] The Tale Wags The Dog As News Becomes Propaganda The Tale Wags The Dog As News Becomes Propaganda

Authored by J. Peder Zane via RealClearPolitics.com,

It all seemed so simple. I thought the Trump/Russia hoax would finally force my liberal friends to demand a reckoning from their trusted news sources. As the Mueller Report made clear, the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR and so many others had egregiously and unequivocally misled them for years about the biggest political story since Watergate.

If their favorite outlets could be so wrong about that, shouldn’t they bring a healthy skepticism to the coverage of other issues, from police shootings and “systemic racism” to the threat of “domestic terrorism,” GOP “voter suppression” efforts or President Biden’s trouble navigating stairs?

When I asked a True Believer about all this last week – a man whose scriptures are the New York Times, the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker magazine – my friend told me I should stop watching Fox News.

After I pressed him gently on Russiagate, he told me that Trump had indeed colluded with Putin but that Mueller pulled his punches because he’s a Republican.

That’s when I decided to turn the talk to baseball.

It is always useful to try to identify and untangle the array of psychological, political, and economic factors that have led millions of otherwise reasonable and informed people to suspend their critical faculties.

But exploring complexity can also shroud this simple truth: For whatever reason, the progressive intelligentsia has decided to deny facts that impinge on the view of reality it seeks to advance. It has created a vast information ecosystem – one that extends beyond traditional news outlets to include magazines ranging from Harper’s Bazaar to Teen Vogue, late night comedy shows, academic and scholarly journals, Netflix and Amazon Prime, and on and on – that echoes and re-enforces its agenda.

For those who still manage to see that the emperor has no clothes, Twitter mobs, cancel culture and other censorious tools are deployed to shame and silence apostates.

The left’s intentional substitution of propaganda for facts has turned the national discourse into a blizzard of BS.

The latest example occurred last week when the deranged sex addict who murdered eight people at three Atlanta massage parlors was portrayed as an anti-Asian white supremacist.

This was false, but because it fit the preferred narrative, facts didn’t matter to President Biden or progressive news outlets.

The brazenness of their lies would take your breath away if we weren’t becoming so inured to them through their ubiquity.

For the moment, at least, progressives are unchained, unrepentant and uninterested in conversation.

They are also in charge.

This is the simple truth.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/27/2021 - 19:30
Published:3/27/2021 6:37:14 PM
[Markets] Taibbi: The Death Of Humor Taibbi: The Death Of Humor

Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News,

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo won the condemnation of the whole world again, with the cover pictured above. Reactions ranged from “abhorrent” to “hateful” to “wrong on every level,” with many offering versions of the now-mandatory observation that the magazine is not only bad now, but “has always been disgusting.”

This cover is probably an 8 or 9 on the offensiveness scale, and I laughed. It goes after everyone: Queen Elizabeth, depicted as a more deranged version of Derek Chauvin (the stubby leg hairs are a nice touch); Meghan Markle, the princess living in incomparable luxury whose victimhood has become a global pop-culture fixation; and, most of all, the inevitable chorus of outraged commentators who’ll insist they “enjoy good satire as much as the next person” but just can’t abide this particular effort that “goes too far,” it being just a coincidence that none of these people have laughed since grade school and don’t miss it.

Review of Killer Cartoons, edited by David Wallis, and White, by Bret Easton Ellis

Six years ago, after terrorists killed 10 people at Hebdo’s Paris offices in a brutal gun attack, the paper’s writers, editors, and cartoonists were initially celebrated worldwide as martyrs to the cause of free speech and democratic values. In France alone on January 11, 2015, over 3 million people marched in a show of solidarity with the victims, who’d been killed for drawing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad. Protesters also marched in defiance of those who would shoot people for drawing cartoons, especially since this particular group of killers also fatally shot four people at a kosher supermarket in an anti-Semitic attack. For about five minutes, Je Suis Charlie was a rallying cry around the world.

In an early preview of the West’s growing sympathy for eliminating heretics, cracks quickly appeared in the post-massacre defense of Charlie Hebdo. Pope Francis said that if someone “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch.” Bill Donohoe, head of the American Catholic League, wrote, “Muslims are right to be angry,” and said of Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, “Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.” New York Times columnist and noted humor expert David Brooks wrote an essay, “I Am Not Charlie Hebdo,” arguing that although “it’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech,” these French miscreants should be excluded from polite society, and consigned to the “kids’ table,” along with Bill Maher and Ann Coulter.

Humor is dying all over, for obvious reasons. All comedy is subversive and authoritarianism is the fashion. Comics exist to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously, and we live in an age when people believe they have a constitutional right to be taken seriously, even if — especially if — they’re idiots, repeating thoughts they only just heard for the first time minutes ago. Because humor deflates stupid ideas, humorists are denounced in all cultures that worship stupid ideas, like Spain under the Inquisition, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or today’s United States.

During the Trump era, there was a steep decline of jokes overall, but mockery of a president who’d say things like, “My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart” rose to unprecedented levels. It was not only okay to laugh at Trump, it was mandatory, and the more tasteless the imagery, the better: Trump gay with Putin, Trump gay with the Klan, Trump with micropenis, Trump’s face as mosaic of 500 dicks, Trump as a blind man led by a seeing-eye dog who has the face of Benjamin Netanyahu and a Star of David hanging off his collar, Trump with a pen up his ass, Trump with tiny penis again. Pundits guffawed even more when someone threatened to sue artist Illma Gore for her “Trump’s tiny weiner” pastel, displayed at the Maddox Gallery in London. "It is my art and I stand by it,” Gore said. “Plus anyone who is afraid of a fictional penis is not scary to me.”

People cheered, because of course: anyone who even threatens to hire a lawyer to denounce a drawing has already lost. Cartoonists in this sense had no better friend than Trump, who constantly tried to block unfriendly renderings, including a Nick Anderson cartoon showing him and his followers drinking bleach as a Covid-19 cure (the Trump campaign reportedly called Anderson’s drawing of MAGA hats a trademark infringement). A lot of the anti-Trump cartoons were neither creative nor funny — if “He’s gay and has a little dick!” is the best you can do with that politician, you probably need a new line of work — and were only rescued by Trump’s preposterous efforts to defend his dignity. You can’t police a person’s private instinct to laugh, and there’s nothing funnier than watching someone try, especially if that person is already a sort-of billionaire and the president.

For all that, most of the jokes of the Trump era fell flat, precisely because they were obligatory. Modern humorists are allowed to laugh at bad people: racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists, Trump, anyone but themselves or the audience. There were artists who made great humor out of Trump. “Mr. Garrison snorts amyl nitrate while raping Trump to death” stood out, while Anthony Atamaniuk’s impersonations worked because he genuinely tried to connect with the Trump in all of us, asking, “Where’s the Trump part of my psyche?” But most Trump humor was just DNC talking points in sketch form, about as funny as WWII caricatures of Tojo or Hitler.

Saturday Night Live even commemorated the release of the Mueller report and the death of the collusion theory not by making fun of themselves, or the thousands of pundits, politicians, and other public figures who spent three years insisting it was true, but by doing yet another “Shirtless Putin” skit, with mournful Putin declaring, “I am still powerful guy, even if Trump doesn’t work for me!” I defy anyone to watch this and declare it was written by a comedian, and not someone like David Brock, or an Adam Schiff intern:

Humorists once made their livings airing out society’s forbidden thoughts, back when it was understood that a) we all had them and b) the things we suppressed and made us the most anxious also tended to be the things that made us laugh the most. Which brings us to Killed Cartoons: Casualties From the War on Free Expression.

Editor David Wallis put Killed Cartoons together in 2007, not long after the controversy involving the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005. Wallis noted that American coverage of the controversy assiduously avoided showing the offending cartoons — I noted the same thing after the Hebdo massacre — which Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Doug Marlette insisted was tantamount to acquiescing to mob rule. This instinct is now ingrained in American journalism. On an almost daily basis, a public figure is forced to confess to various crimes against political orthodoxy, but readers are seldom told what exactly they’ve done, only that it was bad. Jay Leno is the latest to offer the Groveling Public Confession for what the New York Times only called “years of anti-Asian jokes,” without telling us what they were.

The confession was set in motion by a profile of actor and producer Gabrielle Union in Variety, in which she recounted an exchange between Leno and Simon Cowell in the offices of America’s Got Talent:

While filming a commercial interstitial in the “AGT” offices, she says the former “Tonight Show” host made a crack about a painting of Cowell and his dogs, saying the animals looked like food items at a Korean restaurant. The joke was widely perceived as perpetuating stereotypes about Asian people eating dog meat.

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) compiled “nine documented jokes” between 2002 and 2012 Leno made about Koreans or Chinese eating dog meat. (Koreans and Chinese do eat dog meat — there are even dog meat festivals — but whatever).

Rejected jokes weren’t hard to find even in the early 2000s because, Wallis wrote, editors “suppress compelling illustrations, editorial cartoons, and political comics out of fear — fear of angering advertisers, the publisher’s golf partners, the publisher’s wife, the local dogcatcher or the president of the United States, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, homophobes, gays, pro-choice advocates and antiabortion protesters alike, Catholics, Jews, and midwestern grannies…”

Even back in the 1990s and early 2000s, the “respectable” press often nixed cartoons precisely because they were funny. A genuine laugh to editors was a sign of trouble. Wallis tells of a cartoonist named J.P. Trostle from the Chapel Hill Herald, who in October 2001 tried to sell a cartoon in advance of a local Halloween Street party. “Unwise Halloween Costumes,” was the headline, above a picture of a boy trick-or-treating as a box of anthrax, and a couple at a keg party dressed as the Twin Towers (the man had a beanie hat with a dangling airplane). Wallis describes how Trostle showed sketches to editors and reporters hoping to build support. “The first thing they did was laugh at it,” he said. “The second thing they did was [say], ‘We are never going to run this.’”

It was the same thing when Bob Englehardt tried to test the statute of limitations on Holocaust humor. “Schindler’s Other List” was just a piece of paper with the words Eggs, Milk, Coffee, Bread on it — obviously funny, but killed by the Hartford Courant in 1993. There are many other stories involving ideas that were just a little too much like laughing at real things for newspaper editors even a generation ago, like Christ carrying an electric chair up a hill, the Pope ascending to heaven in a plexiglass-covered chariot, or another Pope (Popes are funny) holding a staff in the shape of a coat hanger.

Killed Cartoons is a history of a time when editors and cartoonists alike were trying to toe the line between what people found funny in private, and what was considered acceptable fodder for public ridicule. We’re way past that now, when we’re not supposed to have unwholesome thoughts either in public or in private. In fact, the whole concept of private thoughts has become infamous. Why does anyone need private opinions, in a society where the right opinions on every question are known, and should be safe to say publicly?


“A cultural low point of 2015,” wrote Bret Easton Ellis in White, “was the effort by at least two hundred members of PEN America, a leading literary organization to which most writers belong, to not present the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris with a newly established Freedom of Expression Courage Award.”

Ellis, whose 2019 book attracted even more public disgust than Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover, went on to blast the writers who decided honoring Hebdo would be “valorizing selectively offensive material.” The award was ultimately given, because there were more PEN members who believed the magazine deserved the award, but, Ellis wrote:

There were still two hundred who were offended and felt Charlie Hebdo went “too far” in its satire, which suggested there was a limited number of targets that humorists and satirists were allowed to pursue.

It made sense that Ellis would be upset about Americans disowning Charlie Hebdo. He’s famous for producing maybe the last unashamedly tasteless work of satire to win critical acclaim in this country. American Psycho was successful in part because so many of the people who found it so entertaining didn’t realize they were being stabbed or chainsawed in its pages. That book was about what happens when a society governed by openly insane values requires its citizens to wear a mask of normalcy. The deeper you try to bury the contradictions, the worse the sickness gets, and the book argued we were very sick already by the late eighties and early nineties.

In White, Ellis describes the Wall Street bros he tried to study for American Psycho. They were straight white dudes who traveled in packs and probably grew up bullying anyone who was different using words like “faggot,” but now, as the cadet-corps leaders of “youthful ‘80s Reagan-era excess,” they appropriated “the standard hallmarks of gay male culture” rather than talk about who they really were:

During my initial research I’d been frustrated by their evasions about what exactly they did for the companies where they worked — information I felt was necessary, but finally realized really wasn’t. I was surprised instead by their desire to show off their crazy materialistic lifestyles: the hip, outrageously priced restaurants they could get reservations at, the cool Hamptons summer rentals and, especially, their expensive haircuts and tanning regimens and gym memberships and grooming routines.

American Psycho was a book that many people loved, so long as they were certain it described someone else, a monster. In fact, what made the humor work, and elevated it above a compendium of snide put-downs of Wall Street jerks, was that it described an inner monologue familiar to most of us.

In a country that worshipped the Nike image of the fit, informed, socially-concerned go-getter, but really judged us by our skill in crushing neighbors as capitalist competitors and fleecing the public as dupes — without question, Pierce and Pierce would eventually have been a leading marketer of mortgage-backed securities — the book’s serial killer hero Patrick Bateman was an utterly typical exemplar of the American species. The realization of his ordinariness, of society’s lack of interest or surprise at his murderous inner life, was central to the protagonist’s horrific punchline epiphany.

Ellis talks about how things in this country haven’t changed since American Psycho, but are “more exaggerated, more accepted.” Would the more heavily-surveilled America we live in now “prevent [Bateman] from getting away with the murders he at least tells the reader he’s committed…?” He’d at least have to work harder at his disguise. Would he “haunt social media as a troll using fake avatars… have a Twitter account bragging about his accomplishments”? Ellis notes that “during Patrick’s 80’s reign, he still had the ability to hide, a possibility that simply doesn’t exist in our fully exhibitionist society.”

In American Psycho, Bateman is a monster in private, and everything else is mask, from his spearmint facial scrub to his fake tan to his interminable conversations about business card fonts and rehearsed opinions on everything from feeding the homeless and achieving world peace.

In 2021, we’re all mask, and it shines through in White that what drives Ellis batty is that modern Americans not only believe the phony opinions they get from memorizing the latest sacred texts of the Times bestseller list (a fashion obsession no different from the Zegna suits worshipped by the American Psycho bros), but require that everyone else believe them too.

The penalties for deviance were once mostly self-imposed, by people who feared losing a little social status — “I want to fit in,” Bateman explained — but any person who wants to earn a living now must recite The Pieties, or else. Even someone like James Gunn, director of The Guardians of the Galaxy, someone who made over a billion dollars for his employers, could be fired for tweeting jokes like “Three Men and a Baby They Had Sex With #unromantic movies” and “The Hardy Boys and The Mystery of What It Feels Like When Uncle Bernie Fists Me #SadChildrensBooks.” Gunn’s idea for an alternate ending to The Giving Tree — “the tree grows back and gives the kid a blowjob” — seemed funny to me until I learned that a serious movement was really underway to “rethink” the book.

Author Shel Silverstein mainly just hated happy endings, but now stands accused of having created a model for abusive relationships in the story of a tree that keeps giving apples to a kid, who keeps taking them. “You don’t have to give until it hurts” chided one New York Times columnist, to child readers and, I guess, trees.

In a genuinely comic development, Gunn was re-hired, mainly because his initial firing was the result of a conservative prank. Right-wing provocateurs like Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec correctly guessed Hollywood could be conned into firing even a major rainmaker over nonsense. When Gunn was rehabilitated, the press cast him as a martyr to the cause of anti-Trumpism, targeted by right-wing fiends who “combed through Gunn’s social media history after Gunn’s criticism of President Donald Trump.” Meanwhile, one of the film’s stars, Chris Pratt, is still fighting off his own controversy, which literally started with a joke — which Hollywood Chris should be fired, a Tweeter asked — and morphed into a serious “backlash” in which Forbes explained that Pratt’s decision to not attend a virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden “has led to the belief that Pratt is secretly a Trump supporter.”

White came out two years ago, in April of 2019, and was reviewed savagely. Critics from Vox to NPR to the Guardian agreed White was the work of a bitter has-been sexist and misogynist whose “rambling mess of cultural commentary and self-aggrandizement” might never have been published if, Bookforum’s Andrea Long Chu suggested, “Ellis’s millennial boyfriend had simply shown the famous man how to use the mute feature on Twitter.” Virtually every review was a Mad Libs exercise in rearranging words like old, whiny, rich, petty, aggrieved, and boring (reviewers universally agreed the book was boring).

Every review focused on the politics of the book, describing as a tirade against cancel culture, left censorship, “snowflakes,” and “hysterics” who can’t take criticism. Ellis’s invocation of the term “Generation Wuss” to describe millennials, who do not come off well either in the book or in the interviews he gave after its release, figures in almost every review by younger writers, who of course gave back in kind. In a format that’s by now standard when criticizing almost any brand of transgressing celebrity, from Pratt to Ellen DeGeneres to Kirstie Alley, reviewers made a point of reminding us that not only is Ellis terrible now, but that on some level he’s always been terrible, even when we thought he was good. Bookforum even managed to wing J.D. Salinger in the crossfire.

“Like The Catcher in the Rye before it and Fight Club after it,” the site wrote, “American Psycho is a book designed to convince comfortable white men that they are, in fact, ‘outsiders and monsters and freaks.’” (That the book was about the opposite — a world where “no one can tell anyone else apart” and even ax-murdering Patrick Bateman ultimately learns he’s just a face in the crowd — is irrelevant). The strongest sentiment in all the reviews was a desire that Ellis just shut the fuck up. “One longs to tell him what the Rolling Stones told Trump: Please stop,” wrote Chu. NPR got more to the point. “Most of us carry around an invisible rosary of resentments to fiddle with in petty moments,” wrote Annalisa Quinn. “Most of us also know to keep these grudges private.”

The actual dictum isn’t just to keep unwelcome thoughts private, but to not have them at all. But people can’t control what they find funny. In Killed Cartoons, an African-American cartoonist describes bringing a cartoon depicting him sharing a giant bag of crack with prostitutes to an editor. “Why do you have to say that?” the editor asked. What’s the message? “It’s funny!” he replied. “It’s a giant bag of crack!” The panel ended up rejected, for fear of offending the paper’s “large white liberal readership.”

The new movement thinks it’s stamping out harmful jokes about disadvantaged groups, but truly cruel or bigoted material tends not to win real laughs. There are exceptions — people thought Eddie Murphy’s “faggots will kick your ass” jokes were funny once — but what people mostly laugh at are things that are true, which is the problem with telling people you can’t think or laugh about funny things even in private. People will either go mad, or else they’ll start laughing at you, which is why we’re already seeing something I never thought I would in my lifetime — the humor business drifting into the arms of conservatives. Humor is about saying the unsayable, and most of the comics who insist on still doing it are either denounced as reactionaries, like Charlie Hebdo or Joe Rogan or even Dave Chappelle, or else they were openly conservative to begin with. The Babylon Bee is marketed as something from one of my childhood nightmares (“Your trusted source for Christian news satire”), and the fact that it’s now exponentially more likely to be funny than Stephen Colbert feels like a sign of the End-Times.

In White, Ellis writes about the seemingly inexplicable appeal of Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, writing that his stunned disgust as he “staggered amiably through a bad sitcom” was what attracted audiences, because “not giving a fuck about what the public thinks about you or your personal life is actually what matters most… the public will respond to you because you’re free and that’s exactly what they all desire.” People are attracted to humorists for the same reason; they’re saying what we can’t. If there’s no room for such people anymore, we’re in a lot of trouble. People can only go without laughing for so long.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/27/2021 - 15:30
Published:3/27/2021 2:39:48 PM
[Markets] There's A Serious Flaw To The Team Powell-Yellen Inflation Scheme There's A Serious Flaw To The Team Powell-Yellen Inflation Scheme

Authored by MN Gordon via EconomicPrism.com,

If you’re a wage earner, retiree, or a lowly saver, your wealth is in imminent danger.

A lifetime of schlepping and saving could be rapidly vaporized over the next several years.  In fact, the forces towards this end have already been set in motion.

Indeed, there are many forces at work.  But at the moment, the force above all forces is the extreme levels of money printing being jointly carried out by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury.

Fed Chairman Jay Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have linked arms to crank up the printing presses in tandem.

This is what’s driving markets to price things – from copper to digital NFT art – in strange and shocking ways.  But what’s behind the money printing?

Surely it’s more than progressive politics – under the guise of virus recovery – run amok.

Where to begin?

The U.S. national debt is a good place to start.  And the U.S. national debt is now over $28 trillion.  Is that a big number?

As far as we can tell, $28 trillion is a really big number…even in the year 2021.  How do we know it’s a big number, aside from counting the twelve zeros that fall after the 28?

We know $28 trillion is a big number based on our everyday experience using dollars to buy goods and services.  You can still buy a lot of stuff with $28 trillion.  In truth, $28 trillion is so big it’s hard to comprehend.

Nonetheless, $28 trillion is not as big a number today as it was in 1950.  Back then, the relative bigness of $28 trillion was much larger.  It was unfathomable.

Crime of the Century

The points is, with paper dollars as legal tender the bigness of $28 trillion is relative.  Moreover, with policies of mass dollar debasement in effect, tomorrow’s bigness of $28 trillion will be much different than today’s.

What if $28 trillion isn’t such a big number after all?

What if, through sleight of hand, $28 trillion could be made less big?

What if the relative bigness of $28 trillion could be dropped an order of magnitude so that it had a commensurate value of $2.8 trillion?

A national debt that’s on relative par with $2.8 trillion would be much more convenient for the goons in Washington.  It would finagle the U.S. national debt to GDP ratio from over 130 percent to a relative 13 percent.

This may sound crazy.  But it has been done before…

One of the unspoken objectives of the Fed’s monetary policy is to inflate the debt away.  Powell won’t explicitly say this.  He doesn’t have too.  His actions tell you everything you need to know.

But what you may not know is that dollar debasement, as a matter of fiscal and monetary policy, bailed out the U.S. government in the 20th century.  Powell and Yellen are endeavoring to pull off this crime of the century once again.

If you recall, in 1946, at the conclusion of WWII, the U.S. national debt to GDP ratio was 118 percent.  Yet by 1981 the debt to GDP ratio had declined to just 31 percent.  It has been rising ever since.

Vigorous economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s had a hand in growing the economy out of debt.  But more important was the role of dollar debasement.  Check this out…

The Bureau of Labor Statics own Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation calculator shows that $1.00 in January 1946 had the same buying power as $5.16 in December 1981.  Similarly, it took $1.00 in December 1981 to buy what $0.19 could buy in January 1946.

Thus, over this 35 year period, the dollar lost 81 percent.  Four fifths of its value was inflated away by the Fed and the Treasury.  That’s downright criminal.

There’s a Serious Flaw to the Team Powell-Yellen Inflation Scheme

As you can see, dollar debasement policies inflated a significant part of the national debt away.  However, achieving this feat was remarkably destructive.

To halt the flight of gold from American soil, the U.S. government closed the gold window at the Treasury in 1971.  This implicit default ended the Bretton Woods agreement.  The Treasury stiffed America’s trading partners unconditionally.

“The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem,” remarked Treasury Secretary John Connally to his astonished European counterparts at the G-10 Rome meetings in late 1971.

After Nixon removed the discipline of gold from the world monetary system the money supply could be inflated without limits.  For American consumers, this quickly translated into raging price inflation.  Things got ugly quick.

By 1980, the CPI was at 13.5 percent and the yield on the 30 Year Treasury hit 15 percent.  Fed Chairman Paul Volcker had to jack the federal funds rate up over 20 percent to keep prices from coming completely uncorked.  The price of gold spiked from $35 per ounce to over $800.

Volcker’s efforts may have temporarily salvaged the dollar.  But they didn’t solve the debt problem.  Instead they laid a faulty foundation for an even larger debt edifice to be erected upon.

This brings us to the present state of awfulness.  Another implicit default is needed to reckon the Treasury’s books.

Aside from the fraud, chicanery, balderdash, and Montreal Screwjob of it all, there’s a serious flaw to the Team Powell-Yellen inflation scheme…

How can dollar debasement policies aimed at inflating away the debt ever succeed when it’s these very policies that induce the massive growth of debt in the first place?

And this, folks, is precisely why we’re doomed.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/27/2021 - 12:40
Published:3/27/2021 12:07:51 PM
[Markets] Do We Really Think A Band-Aid Will Heal A Tumor? Do We Really Think A Band-Aid Will Heal A Tumor?

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Borrowing a quarter of the nation's entire economic output every year to prop up an ineffective, corrupt status quo is putting a Band-Aid over a tumor.

If we misdiagnose the disease, our treatment won't work. We're all familiar with medical misdiagnoses, which lead to procedures and prescriptions that can't possibly fix the patient's illness because the source has been missed or misinterpreted.

Medical diagnoses are often tricky, as many general symptoms can arise from a variety of sources.

Social and economic ills can also be tricky to diagnose, and the diagnosis is hindered by political polarization and sacrosanct orthodoxies which make it difficult to have a rational discussion in public about many difficult issues.

If we can't even discuss a problem, then that creates another problem, because problems that can't be discussed openly cannot be solved.

There's also a human tendency to choose the diagnosis with the easiest-at-hand solution. This allows us to quickly apply an approved solution and then declare the problem solved.

The current flood of financial stimulus is an example of this misdiagnosis and application of an easy solution which fails to address the underlying disorder.

The conventional diagnosis of the post-pandemic economy is that the only problem is people don't have enough money, and so giving them money to spend will cure the financial damage the pandemic inflicted. (Never mind that the economy was rolling over in 2019 long before the pandemic, which served as a catalyst in a sick, unstable status quo.)

Creating $1.9 trillion out of thin air and distributing it is painless: who doesn't like free money? But is a scarcity of cash the source of America's economic malaise?

The general view is that pumping free money into the economy will automatically increase employment, launch new businesses, increase profits and tax revenues, etc.

Yet as I discussed in my blog post on the velocity of money, Our Dead Money Economy, as the money supply expands in a parabolic fashion, the frequency that all this new money is changing hands (money velocity) is in a free-fall to historic lows.

Simply put, much of this money is either being saved ("hoarded" to economists who want us all to spend every dime of it), applied to debts outstanding (back rent, credit cards, etc.) or sent overseas for imported goods.

There is no guarantee that all this stimulus will generate the jobs, new enterprises, profits and tax revenues that are anticipated.

Distributing stimulus money and expecting this solution to fix America's economic malaise is akin to applying a Band-Aid over a tumor. It may well hide the problem but it cannot heal the disorder or save the patient.

My current work focuses on three dynamics that define any human civilization: the distribution of resources, capital and agency. Resources are straightforward--food, energy, shelter, etc.-- and capital is financial (money), tangible (tools, ownership of land and enterprises, etc.) and intangible (social and human capital). Capital productively invested produces income.

Agency is control of one's life and having a say in community/public decisions and having some control and power over one's circumstances.

When these three are distributed asymmetrically, where the majority of the resources, capital and power are distributed to an elite, the society and economy are imbalanced and prone to stagnation and eventual discord.

The statistics are unequivocal: income-wealth inequality in the U.S. continues reaching new heights. This is reflected in asymmetric access to healthcare and other resources, asymmetric ownership of income-producing capital and limited agency. ( Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018)

The bottom 90% of the U.S. economy has been decapitalizeddebt has been substituted for capital. Capital only flows into the increasingly centralized top tier, which owns and profits from the rising tide of debt that's been keeping the bottom 90% afloat for the past 20 years.

As I've often observed here, globalization and financialization have richly rewarded the top 0.1% and the top 5% technocrat class that serves the New Nobility's interests. Everyone else has been been reduced to a powerless peasantry of debt-serfs who rely on lotteries and playing the stock market casino or hoping their mortgaged house on the Left or Right coasts doubles in value, even as the entire value proposition for living in a congested urban sprawl vanishes.

America has no plan to reverse this destructive tide of Neofeudal Pillage. Our leadership's "plan" is benign neglect: just send a monthly stimulus of bread and circuses (the technocrat term is Universal Basic Income UBI) to all the disempowered, decapitalized households so they can stay out of trouble and not hinder the New Nobility's pillaging of America and the planet.

The bottom 90% of American households receive a mere 3% of capital-generated income. That 3% might as well be 1% or 0.1%--it's inconsequential.

As for agency: Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University are the authors of the study "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens."

Professor Gilens gave this brief summary of their conclusions:

"I'd say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups -- of economic elites and of organized interests." (Source: Foreign Affairs, January 2021, Monopoly Versus Democracy)

That is as definitive as soaring income-wealth inequality. Both are inherently destabilizing.

Meanwhile, central bankers, monopolists and the politicos whose campaigns are funded by monopolists are all frantically trying to convince us their Band-Aid will heal the metastasizing tumor consuming America. And if it doesn't, well, it was inevitable that the central banks would boost the wealth of the top 0.1% and leave the bottom 90% spiraling into the abyss; we really can't stop "technology" (heh) or "capitalism" (heh-heh). Consider this excerpt from the article:

"...high-tech monopolists (pursue) a strategy of encouraging people to see immense inequality as a tragic but unavoidable consequence of capitalism and technological change. But as Lynn shows, one of the main differences between then and now is that, compared to today, fewer Americans accepted such rationalizations during the Gilded Age. Today, Americans tend to see grotesque accumulations of wealth and power as normal. Back then, a critical mass of Americans refused to do so, and they waged a decades-long fight for a fair and democratic society."

Distributing "free money" (much of which goes to favored industries and cartels) is a Band-Aid over the metastasizing tumor of perversely imbalanced distributions of resources, capital and agency/power.

If America cannot bear to discuss these realities (and structural solutions-- yes, there are solutions) openly, they will unravel the social, economic and political orders in a non-linear Cultural Revolution with a highly uncertain outcome.

Borrowing a quarter of the nation's entire economic output every year to prop up an ineffective, corrupt status quo is putting a Band-Aid over a tumor.

*  *  *

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.

*  *  *

My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World (Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/27/2021 - 10:30
Published:3/27/2021 9:36:01 AM
[Columnists] The Pro-Biden Press Corps Is Deeply Embarrassing

President Joe Biden’s first formal press conference is in the books, and it was deeply embarrassing to anyone who thinks the media’s job is to... Read More

The post The Pro-Biden Press Corps Is Deeply Embarrassing appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:3/26/2021 4:57:32 PM
[Entertainment] Beverly Cleary, beloved author who chronicled schoolyard scrapes and feisty kids, dies at 104 Her best-selling children’s books included “Henry Huggins” and “Ramona the Pest.” Published:3/26/2021 4:27:58 PM
[Markets] US Intelligence Community Increasingly Involving Itself In Domestic Politics: Greenwald US Intelligence Community Increasingly Involving Itself In Domestic Politics: Greenwald

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com

Then-Vice President Joseph Biden (L) with former Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta (R) at CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A report declassified last Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security is raising serious concerns about the possibly illegal involvement by the intelligence community in U.S. domestic political affairs.

Entitled “Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021,” the March 1 Report from the Director of National Intelligence states that it was prepared “in consultation with the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security—and was drafted by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).”

Its primary point is this: “The IC [intelligence community] assesses that domestic violent extremists (DVEs) who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.” While asserting that “the most lethal” of these threats is posed by “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) and militia violent extremists (MVEs),” it makes clear that its target encompasses a wide range of groups from the left (Antifa, animal rights and environmental activists, pro-choice extremists and anarchists: “those who oppose capitalism and all forms of globalization”) to the right (sovereign citizen movements, anti-abortion activists and those deemed motivated by racial or ethnic hatreds).

The U.S. security state apparatus regards the agenda of “domestic violent extremists” as “derived from anti-government or anti-authority sentiment,” which includes “opposition to perceived economic, racial or social hierarchies.” In sum, to the Department of Homeland Security, an “extremist” is anyone who opposes the current prevailing ruling class and system for distributing power. Anyone they believe is prepared to use violence, intimidation or coercion in pursuit of these causes then becomes a “domestic violent extremist,” subject to a vast array of surveillance, monitoring and other forms of legal restrictions:

Department of Homeland Security report, Mar.1, 2021

It goes without saying that violence of any kind — including that which is politically motivated — is a serious crime under U.S. law, and it is the proper role of the U.S. Government to investigate and prevent it. But there are real and important legal and institutional limits on the authority of the intelligence community to involve itself in domestic law enforcement, or other forms of domestic political activity, that seem threatened here, if not outright violated.

In particular, the Report’s acknowledgement that it was compiled by institutions including “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)” has alarmed numerous members of the House Intelligence Committee. On Thursday, all ten minority members of that Committee wrote a previously unreported letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines “to raise serious concerns about the production of this document by the Intelligence Community (IC) and to seek clarification of the facts related to its production.”

Among the issues raised was that the DHS Report was not subject to the standard rigors of an intelligence community finding, yet continually makes sweeping claims that it prefixes with the authoritative phrase “the IC assesses.” The Committee members found this “to be misleading,” adding: we “urge you to clarify which elements in the IC concurred with this judgement and the intelligence basis, if any, for that concurrence.” In other words, Haines claims that these dubious assertions about various threats faced by Americans are the findings of the intelligence community when that is not true: just like the originally false claim widely spread by the media that “all seventeen intelligence agencies” endorsed the 2016 election findings about Russian interference when, in fact, it was only a few which had done so. Haines’ claims have support only from a few agencies as well.

But the more substantive danger is the role played by the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the domestic politics of the U.S., all in the name of fighting “domestic terrorism” (similar dangers were previously created by the Bush and Obama administrations in the name of fighting “international terrorism”). As the committee members’ letter details:

The Intelligence Committee members, citing the fact that the intelligence community is “subject to longstanding prohibitions against domestic activities,” then demanded answers to a series of questions based on this substantive concern:

Involvement of the intelligence community in the domestic activities of U.S. citizens is one of the most dangerous breaches of civil liberties and democratic order the U.S. Government can perpetrate. It was after World War II when the CIA, the NSA and other security state agencies that wield immense and unlimited powers in the dark were created in the name of fighting the Cold War. Legal and institutional prohibitions on wielding that massive machinery against the American public were central to the always-dubious claim that this security behemoth that operates completely in the dark was compatible with democracy. As the ACLU noted, “in its 1947 charter, the CIA was prohibited from spying against Americans, in part because President Truman was afraid that the agency would engage in political abuse.”

Since then, Truman’s fear has been realized over and over. Some of the worst post-WW2 civil liberties abuses have been the result of breaches by the CIA and other agencies of this prohibition. As the ACLU documents, the CIA in the 1960s was caught infiltrating and manipulating numerous domestic political activist groups. Under the auspices of the War on Terror, entire new bureaucracies (such as the Department of Homeland Security) and new legal regimes (such as the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act) were designed to erode these long-standing limitations by dramatically increasing surveillance powers aimed at U.S. citizens. And by design, the infiltration of these security state agencies in U.S. domestic politics has dramatically escalated.

As the first War on Terror was escalating, The Washington Post — under the headline “CIA Is Expanding Domestic Operations” — reported in October, 2002, that “The Central Intelligence Agency is expanding its domestic presence, placing agents with nearly all of the FBI's 56 terrorism task forces in U.S. cities.” The Post added that in the name of that War on Terror:

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III recently described the new arrangement as his answer to MI5, Britain's internal security service. Unlike the CIA, MI5 is empowered to collect intelligence within Britain and to act to disrupt domestic threats to British national security. "It goes some distance to accomplishing what the MI5 does," Mueller told a House-Senate intelligence panel last week in describing the new CIA role in the FBI task forces.

In the years following, two NSA whistleblowers — William Binney and Edward Snowden — both cited their horror over the turning of the surveillance machinery against American citizens as the reason for their decision to denounce their agency. One of the aspects that most disturbed me about the Russiagate conspiracy theory from the start was that it was created and disseminated by the CIA and related agencies with the intent, first, to alter the outcome of the 2016 election, and then to undermine the elected president with whom they were at war. Shortly before Trump’s inauguration, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) went on The Rachel Maddow Show to warn — or more accurately: threaten — Trump that the CIA would destroy his presidency if he continued to criticize or otherwise oppose them:

It is encouraging to see Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee starting to express serious concerns over the dangers of intelligence community involvement in domestic politics. That is underscored by their approving citation to the mild mid-1970s reforms of the intelligence community ushered in by the Senate’s Church Committee, once primarily a liberal cause. Indeed, many of the same House Republicans who wrote this important letter to the DNI have in the past supported laws that allow greater involvement of the CIA, NSA and other agencies in activities on U.S. soil — including the Patriot Act.

The head of the Church Committee, Sen. Frank Church (D-ID), made clear in his iconic quote on Meet the Press in 1975 that those reforms were primarily motivated by fears that the U.S. Government would one day turn its vast intelligence powers onto the American people, rendering core civil liberties an illusion:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. (...) We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left: such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

(That quote from Sen. Church was the first one that appeared in my 2014 book on the NSA reporting I did with Edward Snowden, and the title of that book, No Place to Hide, was a nod toward Church’s chilling warning, now come true).

As I have been repeatedly noting over the last two months, the Biden administration, along with leading Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), have been stating explicitly that one of their top priorities is the adoption of new laws designed to import the Bush/Cheney/Obama War on Terror onto U.S. soil for domestic purposes. As recently as February 14, The Washington Post — under the headline: “The agency founded because of 9/11 is shifting to face the threat of domestic terrorism” — noted that Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is now demanding that homeland security resources be re-directed toward domestic extremists, and “lawmakers of both parties spoke favorably of new legislation to specifically address domestic terrorism.”

Nobody from the Biden administration or Congressional members demanding enactment of Schiff’s proposed new “domestic terrorism” law can identify any activities that are not now criminal that they believe ought to be. Unless it is to permit intelligence agencies to start policing constitutionally protected speech and associational activities among U.S. citizens, why are any new laws needed? Unless it is to empower them to escalate their already-aggressive use of War on Terror tactics against U.S. citizens, what do they want security state agencies to be able to do on U.S. soil that they cannot now do?

But just as the fear of international terrorism was constantly inflated to place such questions off limits when it came to the War on Terror, and just as critics of the excesses of the first War on Terror were constantly accused of downplaying the threat of Islamic extremism if not harboring outright sympathy for it, the same tactics are being used now. Anyone raising civil liberties concerns about what is being done in the name of combating “domestic extremism” is vilified as ignoring and even supporting such domestic extremism.

No matter: there are few dangers more acute than the weaponization of these security state instruments against U.S. citizens for political ends. The DNI should provide full, complete and truthful answers to the important questions posed by these Intelligence Committee members, and should do so promptly. The evidence of growing incursions by the intelligence community in U.S. domestic politics is already strong and ample, and further incursions would be both dangerous and illegal.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/24/2021 - 17:40
Published:3/24/2021 4:43:47 PM
[Middle Column] Climate activists pressure Amazon to drop ‘liar’ Morano’s book ‘Green Fraud’ – Amazon ‘profits off of climate denial books’ while it ‘claims to want to be a climate savior’

DailyKos: "Longtime fossil fool Marc Morano has a “new” book out about how “the Green New Deal is even worse than you think.” ($24.99 on Amazon) ...If you’re wondering who on Earth would publish a career liar’s book of regurgitated old blog posts, may we introduce reliable conservative propaganda producer Regnery publishing." ...

"Given that Amazon claims to want to be a climate savior, how does it justify selling books like this, and soso many others, that very intentionally work against a goal of climate action?

You can either be a climate champion, or you can sell and profit off of climate denial books like Morano’s, that 'recycle scientifically unfounded claims that are then amplified by the conservative movement, media, and political elites.'”

#

Flashback 2018: Morano’s Facebook video goes viral with over 10.2 million views – Prompts effort to ban ‘climate deniers’ & attack Zuckerberg

Published:3/24/2021 1:43:02 PM
[Middle Column] ‘Degrowth’ movement going mainstream: COVID lockdowns inspire ‘shrinking the economy’ to save planet! -Economic growth ‘is itself the problem’

Marc Morano comments: My new book Green Fraud devotes an entire chapter to how climate activists praise COVID lockdowns and are seeking climate lockdowns and "planned recessions' and Degrowth to fight global warming. 

#

 

Axios: "The global economy shrank by an estimated 4.3% in 2020, according to data from the World Bank. That contraction was due both to the direct pain of the pandemic and the effects of social distancing measures, but it also led to a roughly 6% reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions — the biggest annual drop since WWII. However accidental, 2020 represented perhaps the best example we've ever experienced of degrowthism in action."

"For degrowthers, simply cleaning up the global economy by switching from fossil fuels to zero-carbon sources of energy isn't enough. Economic growth — the goal of essentially every government everywhere — is itself the problem.
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg...chastised delegates at a UN climate summit in 2019: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
The movement now has its own dedicated academic journals, associations and conferences."

 

Published:3/24/2021 8:10:29 AM
[Entertainment] Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian author, physician and feminist activist, dies at 89 She campaigned against female genital mutilation and wrote more than 50 novels, plays, story collections and nonfiction books. Published:3/23/2021 5:06:22 PM
[Markets] The Tell: The new S&P 500 bull market is about to enter its second year. Now what? The S&P 500 index on Tuesday books its best 12-months on record since the benchmark began being published in 1957, following its bear-market plunge a year ago.
Published:3/23/2021 4:36:19 PM
[] EXCLUSIVE: Cigna Responds to Claims That It Excludes White Men in the Hiring Process Published:3/23/2021 12:08:46 PM
[Markets] It's All Just Displacement: Freddie deBoer It's All Just Displacement: Freddie deBoer

This illuminating piece on modern journalism by Freddie deBoer comes highly recommended by the likes of Glenn Greenwald, Michael Tracey, Bari Weiss and others. You can subscribe to Freddie's substack column here.

Authored by Freddie deBoer via Substack

Displacement - Displacement is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient. A classic example of the defense is displaced aggression.? If a person is angry but cannot direct their anger toward the source without consequences, they might "take out" their anger on a person or thing that poses less of a risk.

Media Twitter does not hate Substack because it’s pretending to be a platform when it’s a publisher; they don’t hate it because it’s filled with anti-woke white guys; they don’t hate it because of harassment or any such thing. I don’t think they really hate it at all. Substack is a small and ultimately not-very-relevant outpost in a vastly larger industry; they may not like it but it’s not important enough for them to hate it. What do they hate? They hate where their industry is and they hate where they are within their industry. But that’s a big problem that they don’t feel like they can solve. If you feel you can’t get mad at the industry that’s impoverishing you, it’s much easier to get mad at the people who you feel are unjustly succeeding in that industry. Trying to cancel Glenn Greenwald (again) because he criticizes the media harshly? Trying to tarnish Substack’s reputation so that cool, paid-up writer types leave it and the bad types like me get kicked off? That they can maybe do. Confronting their industry’s future with open eyes? Too scary, especially for people who were raised to see success as their birthright and have suddenly found that their degrees and their witheringly dry one-liners do not help them when the rent comes due.

Things are bad, folks:

Life in the “content” industry already sucks. A small handful of people make bank while the vast majority hustle relentlessly just to hold on to the meager pay they already receive. There are staff writers at big-name publications who produce thousands of words every week and who make less than $40,000 a year for their trouble. There are permanent employees of highly prestigious newspapers and magazines who don’t receive health insurance. Venues close all the time. Mourning another huge round of layoffs is a regular bonding experience for people in the industry. Writers have to constantly job hop just to try and grind out an extra $1,500 a year, making their whole lives permanent job interviews where they can’t risk offending their potential bosses and peers. Many of them dream of selling that book to save themselves financially, not seeming to understand that book advances have fallen 40% in 10 years - median figure now $6,080 - and that the odds of actually making back even that meager advance are slim, meaning most authors are making less than minimum wage from their books when you do the math. They have to tweet constantly for the good of their careers, or so they believe, which amounts to hundreds of hours of unpaid work a year. Their publications increasingly strong arm them into churning out pathetic pop-culture ephemera like listicles about the outfits on Wandavision. They live in fear of being the one to lose out when the next layoffs come and the game of media musical chairs spins up once again. They have to pretend to like ghouls like Ezra Klein and Jonah Peretti and make believe that there’s such a thing as “the Daily Beast reputation for excellence.”

I have always felt bad for them, despite our differences, because of these conditions. And they have a right to be angry. But they don’t have much in the way of self-awareness about where their anger really lies. A newsletter company hosting Bari Weiss is why you can’t pay your student loans? You sure?

They’ll tell you about the terrible conditions in their industry themselves, when they’re feeling honest. So what are they really mad about? That I’m making a really-just-decent guaranteed wage for just one year? Or that this decent wage is the kind of money many of them dream of making despite the fact that, in their minds, they’ve done everything right and played by all the rules? Is their anger really about a half-dozen guys whose writing you have to actively seek out to see? (If you click the button and put in your email address, you’ll get these newsletters. If you don’t, you won’t. So if you’re a media type who hates my writing, consider just… not clicking that button.) Or do they need someplace to put the rage and resentment that grows inside them as they realize, no, it’s not getting better, this is all I get?

It’s true that I have, in a very limited way, achieved the new American dream: getting a little bit of VC cash. I’m sorry. But it’s much much less than one half of what Felix Salmon was making in 2017 and again, it’s only for one year.

You think the writers complaining in that piece I linked to at the top wanted to be here, at this place in their career, after all those years of hustling? You think decades into their media career, the writers who decamped to Substack said to themselves “you know, I’d really like to be in my 40s and having to hope that enough people will pitch in $5 a month so I can pay my mortgage”? No. But the industry didn’t give them what they felt they deserved either. So they displace and project. They can hate Jesse Singal, but Jesse Singal isn’t where this burning anger is coming from. Neither am I. They’re so angry because they bought into a notoriously savage industry at the nadir of its labor conditions and were surprised to find that they’re drifting into middle age without anything resembling financial security. I feel for them as I feel for all people living economically precarious lives, but getting rid of Substack or any of its writers will not do anything to fix their industry or their jobs. They wanted more and they got less and it hurts. This isn’t what they dreamed. That’s what this is really about.

What makes this niche platform worthy of a week-long media meltdown? They’ll suggest that this is about the political impact of Substack. What political impact? The combined influence of the writers they’re attacking is small. The combined audience of the writers they’re attacking is small. The combined wages of the writers they’re attacking is small. Substack is a tiny company that 99% of Americans have never heard of. The conservative media is immense and well-funded and more equipped to survive economic downturns than the progressive media. And that world is filled with people who actually, openly believe the terrible things we’re falsely accused of believing. They’re the ones endangering vulnerable groups. They come into the homes of a huge swath of the country and spread hateful propaganda. Why on earth would you invest 5 minutes of your anger on me, when Breitbart exists? What rational sense does that make?

My own deal here is not mysterious. It’s just based on a fact that the blue checks on Twitter have never wanted to accept. I got offered money to write here for the same reason I got offered to write for The New York Times and Harper’s and The Washington Post and The LA Times, the same reason I’ve gotten a half-dozen invitations to pitch since I started here a few weeks ago, the same reason a literary agent sought me out and asked me to write a book, the same reason I sold that book for a decent advance: because I pull traffic. Though I am a social outcast from professional opinion writing, I have a better freelance publishing history than many, many of my critics who are paid-up, obedient members of the media social scene. Why? Because the editors who hired me thought I was a great guy? No. Because I pull traffic. I always have. That’s why you’re reading this on Substack right now.

I’ve been given opportunities because I’ve proved profitable to media businesses and like all businesses media businesses only care about profit. The important question for my critics should thus be why I’ve been successful in the ideas market when I represent the rejection of many of their values. Since the line between professional and personal relationships has completely collapsed in the industry, media people think that any professional success must represent an endorsement of the writer as a person. (The question they ask about me is often “how did a guy nobody likes get published everywhere,” betraying the assumption that being well-liked should be the only criterion for getting published.) But popularity has nothing to do with me consistently getting work in the industry. I turn writing into clicks and clicks into cash. That’s not complicated.

Nor is it complicated how I’ve generated a public reputation. It never seems to occur to them that constantly having Twitter meltdowns about me raised my profile in ways I never could have accomplished without their help. You think Substack would have even heard of me if I only did what I spend most of my writing time doing, producing long ruminative essays about education policy or obscure books or the psychic wounds of 21st century culture? If you’re mad that I’m getting economic opportunity now, why did you play my game over and over again for the past 12 years1?

I have no idea if I’ll stay at Substack after this year. If the money is still good, I probably will. If it’s not, I probably won’t. If the Twitter hive succeeds in getting a purge going that gets me kicked off the platform, that’s cool too. I’ll just do other things. Whether I am allowed to serve out the length of my contract with Substack will have absolutely no impact on the integrity of the news industry or its finances. So, again: who are you really mad at? Me? What do I have to do with your broken industry? Why are you constantly tweeting about Substack and not the private equity creeps who are destroying your livelihood?

A really important lesson to learn, in life, is this: your enemies are more honest about you than your friends ever will be. I’ve been telling the blue checks for over a decade that their industry was existentially fucked, that the all-advertising model was broken, that Google and Facebook would inevitably hoover up all the profit, that there are too many affluent kids fresh out of college just looking for a foothold in New York who’ll work for next to nothing and in doing so driving down the wages of everyone else, that their mockery of early subscription programs like Times Select was creating a disastrous industry expectation that asking your readers directly for money was embarrassing. Trump is gone and the news business is cratering. Michael Tracey didn’t make that happen. None of this anger will heal what’s wrong. If you get all of the people you don’t like fired from Substack tomorrow, what will change? How will your life improve? Greenwald will spend more time with his hottie husband and his beloved kids and his 6,000 dogs in his beautiful home in Rio. Glenn will be fine. How do we do the real work of getting you job security and a decent wage?

Who’s your real enemy? Me? Matt Taibbi? Or your boss, your employer, your industry, your economy, your country? Think it over, really. I have much, much more sympathy for the average writer or journalist than people would think. It’s an important profession and many of them individually, when you peel them off from the pack, are lovely people. I hope all of them get financial stability, including the ones who constantly scream about me online. (Even Noah Blatarsky.) I want media to be healthier than it is, financially and otherwise. I want media workers to have higher pay and better benefits and more job security and powerful unions. In part because if they did they’d be more independent and media desperately needs more independence.

But how do things get better in that way? Only through real self-criticism (which Twitter makes impossible) and by asking hard questions. Questions like one that has not been credibly confronted a single time in this entire media meltdown: why are so many people subscribing to Substacks? What is the traditional media not providing that they’re seeking elsewhere? Why have half a million people signed up as paying subscribers of various Substack newsletters, if the establishment media is providing the diversity of viewpoints that is an absolute market requirement in a country with a vast diversity of opinions? You can try to make an adult determination about that question, to better understand what media is missing, or you can read this and write some shitty joke tweet while your industry burns to the ground around you. It’s your call.

Substack might fold tomorrow, but someone would else sell independent media; there’s a market. Substack might kick me and the rest of the unclean off of their platforms tomorrow, but other critics of social justice politics would pop up here; there’s a market. Establishment media’s takeover by this strange brand of academic identity politics might grow even more powerful, if that’s even possible, but dissenters will find a place to sell alternative opinion; there’s a market. What there might not be much of a market for anymore is, well, you - college educated, urban, upwardly striving if not economically improving, woke, ironic, and selling that wokeness and that irony as your only product. Because you flooded the market. Everyone in your entire industry is selling the exact same thing, tired sarcastic jokes and bleating righteousness about injustices they don’t suffer under themselves, and it’s not good in basic economic terms if you’re selling the same thing as everyone else. You add that on to structural problems within your business model and your utter subservience to a Silicon Valley that increasingly hates you, well…. I get why you’re mad. And I get that you don’t like me. But I’m not what you’re mad about. Not really.

In the span of a decade or so, essentially all professional media not explicitly branded as conservative has been taken over by a school of politics that emerged from humanities departments at elite universities and began colonizing the college educated through social media. Those politics are obscure, they are confusing, they are socially and culturally extreme, they are expressed in a bizarre vocabulary, they are deeply alienating to many, and they are very unpopular by any definition. The vast majority of the country is not woke, including the vast majority of women and people of color. How could it possibly be healthy for the entire media industry to be captured by any single niche political movement, let alone one that nobody likes? Why does no one in media seem willing to have an honest, uncomfortable conversation about the near-total takeover of their industry by a fringe ideology?

And the bizarre assumption of almost everyone in media seems to have been that they could adopt this brand of extreme niche politics, in mass, as an industry, and treat those politics as a crusade that trumps every other journalistic value, with no professional or economic consequences. They seem to have thought that Americans were just going to swallow it; they seem to have thought they could paint most of the country as vicious bigots and that their audiences would just come along for the ride. They haven’t. In fact Republicans are making great hay of the collapse of the media into pure unapologetic advocacy journalism. Some people are turning to alternative media to find options that are neither reactionary ideologues or self-righteous woke yelling. Can you blame them? Substack didn’t create this dynamic, and neither did I. The exact same media people who are so angry about Substack did, when they abandoned any pretense to serving the entire country and decided that their only job was to advance a political cause that most ordinary people, of any gender or race, find alienating and wrong. So maybe try and look at where your problems actually come from. They’re not going away.

Now steel yourselves, media people, take a shot of something strong, look yourself in the eye in the mirror, summon you most honest self, and tell me: am I wrong?

* * *

This is an aside, but here’s the stats from the median post on this blog so far in terms of total views:

And here’s the post I wrote to deliberately enflame the anger of media Twitter, prompting a lot of people to say “there goes Freddie again, he’s crazy, he’s embarrassing himself,” etc:

I suspect the people who keep doing me this favor have understood this dynamic for a long time, but ignoring me (which hurts my interests) gets you 0 likes and retweets from peers and having a fit about me (which helps my interests) gets you many.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 21:00
Published:3/22/2021 8:00:48 PM
[Markets] Propaganda Watch: Dr Fauci Children's Book On The Way Propaganda Watch: Dr Fauci Children's Book On The Way

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

CNN weirdo Brian Stelter announced with Glee Sunday that Dr Anthony Fauci is the subject of a new children’s book titled  “Dr. Fauci: How A Boy From Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor,” prompting many to immediately label it a propaganda campaign.

Stelter claimed that the book, written by Kate Messner and published by Simon & Schuster, “tells you something about media,” appearing to take credit for the thing.

In a follow up written article, Stelter described Fauci as being “immortalized” in the book, with Messner noting “I’m really hopeful that curious kids who read this book — those we’re counting on to solve tomorrow’s scientific challenges — will see themselves in the pages of Dr. Fauci’s story and set their goals just as high.”

Fauci, who has repeatedly flip flopped and lied about the use of masks and admitted that there is no science behind lockdowns, has been ever present on CNN and every other pro-lockdown news bilge station for the past year.

The book was reportedly written with Fauci’s input and consultation.

The book publisher’s website states “Before he was Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci was a curious boy in Brooklyn, delivering prescriptions from his father’s pharmacy on his blue Schwinn bicycle.”

It continues, “His father and immigrant grandfather taught Anthony to ask questions, consider all the data, and never give up - and Anthony’s ability to stay curious and to communicate with people would serve him his entire life.”

Many took to social media to express their opinions...

And finally...

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 19:40
Published:3/22/2021 7:00:18 PM
[Markets] China's Useful Elitists: Westerners Exploited For Beijing's Domestic Image China's Useful Elitists: Westerners Exploited For Beijing's Domestic Image

Submitted by Richard Bernstein for RealClear Investigations,

Early in February, the BBC broadcast interviews with several Uighur women who graphically described the horrific treatment they'd received while detained in one of the concentration camps where China has reportedly locked up a million or more ethnic Muslims for “vocational training” and “deradicalization.”

China's response was swift and predictable. It accused the BBC of passing along “fake news” about Xinjiang, the COVID epidemic and other matters. The BBC, China's authorities said, had “seriously violated” regulations that news broadcasts be “truthful and fair.” Chinese newspapers also dutifully passed on an accusation against the network from a British journalist and academic named John Ross. Ross claims that the BBC is largely controlled by the British intelligence service MI5, which, according to Ross, directly “vets” all members of the broadcaster's staff.

John Ross, British academic: China approvingly noted his claim that the BBC was controlled by British intelligence

The Chinese press cited a tweet in which Ross said that “coordination of the BBC with military intelligence,” had come “from a special office inside BBC headquarters.”

China often turns to foreign “experts” such as Ross to supply credibility for its persistent complaint that the Western media is “anti-China” and in cahoots with foreign governments, especially the United States. Ross is one of several foreigners, generally attached to Chinese universities or research institutes, who have emerged as apologists for Beijing, especially as it has come under intensifying criticism for its human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and its ever tighter control of opinion across the country. 

There are other commentators on China with views more moderate and nuanced than those of Ross, and who publish books as well as articles in Western and Chinese publications. These commentators would be unlikely to attack a reputable news organization like the BBC or to justify banning it from broadcasting to China.

But both types of foreign experts often echo the arguments made by China's state-controlled media, especially their constant claim that China's one-party state is a brilliantly successful alternative to Western-style liberal democracy, which, according to the Chinese media and some foreign commentators alike, is abjectly failing.

The outsiders mentioned in this article either declined comment or could not be reached.

These Western sympathizers reflect an old phenomenon of outside elites finding much to like in authoritarian systems -- communist, fascist or even Nazi -- while downplaying or ignoring their faults. In the 1930s, perhaps the most famous “Friend of China,” left-leaning American journalist Edgar Snow, influenced generations of Americans through his book “Red Star Over China” to view the rising Mao Zedong as a benignly progressive figure rather than a ruthless dictator.

None of today's friends of China has anything like the fame and prominence of Snow, or others – such as the writers Agnes Smedley and Freda Utley – who had access to the Chinese Communists when they were still seeking power in the 1930s and 1940s. But more recent outsiders perform some of the same role, lending a foreign imprimatur to the Chinese government, by providing quotes and sometimes essays to such state-controlled English-language publications as Global Times or the China Daily, which are then mentioned approvingly in the Chinese press.

Mario Cavolo, an American identified as a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing -- which, according to its website, promotes “Chinese wisdom for the world” -- offers a broad defense of China’s governing system. “More and more foreigners living in China are openly stating that they have more true freedom in today's China than they do in today's U.S. or European countries,” Cavolo told the Global Times in January.

He has called reports on the Uighur concentration camps “the political hoax of the decade” and claims the BBC has “degenerated into a factory of fake news on China.”

“Who are the lying scum in power sowing hate with their lies toward China?” he asks in one Twitter post. “I'll never give an inch to the reprehensible anti-China crowd.” 

A few weeks ago, Global Times broadcast an interview with a French writer, Maxime Vivas, who also described reports of genocide in Xinjiang as “fake news.”

“I want to demonstrate that the Uighur 'genocide' claim is a lie,” Vivas said, asserting that he made two state-sponsored trips to Xinjiang in 2016 and 2018. “I revealed the individuals who are the enthusiasts of the lies and their links with the C.I.A.” It's hard to measure how much influence these modern Friends of China have had on international public opinion. Unlike earlier figures such as Snow, their views must compete with many independent sources of information on China -- including most of the mainstream media and human rights organizations -- that present a very different, far darker portrait of the country.

But China’s influence operations are far more robust than they were in the 1930s and ’40s. Quoting and publishing such writers is just one of a host of devices China uses to shape foreign opinion, an effort that  has been stepped up since Xi Jinping, the country's paramount leader, became secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012. These include its Confucius Institutes at foreign universities, its own state-run broadcasting companies aimed at foreign audiences, its efforts to deflect attention from its human rights violations at the United Nations, the China Global Television Network, a state-run television news network available on cable in many countries, and even its use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media that are, ironically, banned in China itself.

Research institutes, often affiliated with Chinese universities, represent a relatively new instrument of China’s public opinion-influencing arsenal. On their face, such organizations seem similar to genuinely independent non-governmental think tanks in the West. But as a report last year by the National Endowment for Democracy put it, they actually “lend authoritarians an artificial legitimacy” and are “essential tools for propaganda.”

Among these institutes are the Center for China and Globalization, where Cavolo is a senior fellow. Ross is listed as a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, which describes itself as “new style think tank with Chinese characteristics” and maintains a global network of fellows, issues reports, and holds conferences on China's economy, its “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects, and other topics.

The place provided to a small group of foreigners is especially striking now, given that Beijing has not only shut down the BBC but expelled all but a handful of the reporters covering China for independent publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, even as it has long blocked most of the Chinese-language websites of these publications. The only non-Chinese commentators that residents of China hear about are those like Ross, Vivas, and Cavolo, not well-known in their own countries despite their profiles in China.

It's easy to dismiss some of these “friends of China” as propagandists, but the more nuanced pro-China commentators make some arguments that are taken seriously by other experts on that nation. Still, they too tend to support the main line in the Chinese press – namely that while China's situation is extremely bright, the West is in a state of “deepening political decay.”

Daniel A. Bell: Downplays the nation’s rampant corruption and nepotism against its achievements

Perhaps the most prominent is the Canadian-born, Oxford-trained scholar Daniel A. Bell, dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University and chair of a fellowship program at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University, financed by the American billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman. Bell argues in “The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy” (2016, Princeton University Press) that China's governing system is superior to that of the West in several important ways. Downplaying the nation’s rampant corruption and nepotism, he asserts that leaders and administrators selected by their demonstrated record of achievement, rather than by elections, have helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty more effectively than Western-style liberal democracy would have done.

Bell has tempered his enthusiasm for the Chinese model at times with mildly expressed suggestions for change. In an op-ed in the New York Times a few years ago, he was critical of China for its suppression of free speech, though he also expressed a sort of guarded optimism that “things will loosen up eventually.”

So far, things haven't loosened up at all, even as Bell has continued to portray China in a far more favorable light than most Western experts. 

“In my view, the deepest problem is that Western societies prioritize freedom and privacy over social harmony,” Bell said in an interview published by Global Times. “One of the weaknesses of electoral democracies is that it's often easier to get more voter support by demonizing opponents and inventing enemies rather than reflecting on one's own responsibility for problems and trying to solve problems in an efficient way.”

Bell's ideas gain credibility because China is an economic success story. Its ability to realize huge infrastructure projects, for example, stands in sharp contrast to the political paralysis and partisan discord afflicting the United States. But whether China's success is due to its dictatorial one-party state or in spite of it is debatable, as is his description of China as a “harmonious society” governed by people of Confucian virtuousness.

“New Cold War Will Not Stop US Decline” was the headline of an article last August by Martin Jacques, a British leftist, former editor at Marxism Today, the journal of the British Communist Party, whose main argument was that the United States is fomenting conflict with China in a desperate attempt to maintain is fading global hegemony.

But, Jacques, a senior fellow at another Chinese think tank, the China Institute at Fudan University, predicts that this will fail because “China already holds the upper hand in key respects and, more importantly, is very much on the rise, in contrast to a U.S. in decline.”  

Many things can be said about views like Jacques', Bell's, and a few others, most conspicuously that they tread very lightly on China's gross human rights abuses, if they mention them at all. Bell, for example, contends that China is “more harmonious than large democratic countries such as India and the United States.” 

But is that true? Columbia University China specialist Andrew Nathan has written a critique of Bell, saying, “China is one of the most conflict-ridden societies on the planet.” According to Nathan, Bell is good at describing the mechanics of China's “meritocratic” system of government, but he simultaneously exaggerates its benefits and success and the faults of democracies.

 “‘The China Model’  is a mix of the empirical and the imaginary,” Nathan has written. “Bell compares the meritocratic system's potential rather than the actual performance, with the actual performance of liberal democracies.”

When actual performance is taken into account, Nathan argues, China's leaders seem no more virtuous or capable than democratically elected ones, or else China would not be suffering from a range of problems. These include devastating environmental degradation, deep unhappiness and unrest among its ethnic minorities, not to mention among residents of Hong Kong, as well as widespread corruption, nepotism, and the failure to create any system of accountability that could guard against the abuse of power by its self-selecting, non-elected leaders. A truly “harmonious society” would not be one that forces “re-education” on its ethnic minorities, or locks up the losers of struggles for power, or devotes enormous resources to technology aimed at keeping tabs of its own people.

Nor would a truly “harmonious society” accord senior fellow status to foreigners who praise it while rigorously barring the views of commentators with critical views.

“The Chinese government is surely not a two-party democracy, and yet we can see that China is now the largest, safe, stable and successful society and country on the planet,” Cavolo wrote in an op-ed published in Global Times recently.   

Is it? Earlier this year, Teng Biao, a former lawyer from China, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post calling on Western countries to boycott the Winter Olympics scheduled for China in 2022. Teng was arrested on the streets by plainclothes Beijing police, imprisoned and tortured for two months after he called attention to Chinese human rights abuses in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, the last time China hosted the Summer Games. He now lives in exile in the United States.

In his op-ed, Teng listed China's more recent human rights violations, from its crackdown in Hong Kong, the mass incarceration of Uighurs, its pervasive surveillance and censorship of its own citizens, its shutting down of non-governmental organizations, closing of churches, mosques, and Tibetan temples – all part of the tightening of control under Xi Jinping.

It's a safe bet that, while the “friends of China” are given free rein to praise the Chinese government, Teng Biao's contrary views will receive no attention at all.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 18:20
Published:3/22/2021 5:29:32 PM
[] Washington Post reports on books and programs to start the 'social justice for toddlers' conversation early Published:3/22/2021 4:29:18 PM
[Markets] We Don't Need The Great Reset, We Need The Great Rebalancing We Don't Need The Great Reset, We Need The Great Rebalancing

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Perhaps we have collectively "lost our mind." Perhaps what we need is not a new technology but a new way of living that uses existing technologies to echo "old ways" that worked rather well on much lower energy consumption.

The Great Reset is much in the news--the proposed top-down plan for combating climate change designed by the global elites, who then as now will be jetting around in private aircraft while dictating exactly how the rest of us will reduce our carbon footprints.

My CLIME proposal takes a much different approach: change the way money is created and people are paid to create a new incentive structure that lets people and communities decide how best to reduce energy consumption and waste and address scarcities. (CLIME is described in my books A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All and A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet.)

Charlie Munger (head of Berkshire Hathaway) famously said: "Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome." That's how humans operate: we respond to the incentives presented, even if they destroy the planet.

How do we instantiate incentives? With rewards: money, power, status, recognition, praise.

How do we instantiate disincentives? With punishment: imprisonment, fines, closure of businesses, social shunning.

Being social animals, humans are hard-wired to value status, recognition and praise. But first we must have a livelihood and some way to feed, clothe and house ourselves. So we must first have access to the essential resources needed for life, what I call the FEW resources (food, energy and water).

There are many other resources we need to access, of course--minerals, building materials, and so on--but the point here is our access to these resources can be direct (you grow your own food) or indirect (you earn money which you use to buy food).

So money is the key incentive structure, as money is the means to access essential resources.

How you create money determines the outcome: if you create money at the top of the wealth-power pyramid and distribute it to those at the top, the outcome is a destabilizing asymmetry in the distribution of money and thus resources. There is no other possible outcome.

Secondly, how you reward people with money determines the outcome: in the present system, we reward people for creating monopolies and destroying the planet if that maximizes profits, we reward people for expanding the power of authoritarian states and we reward people for wasting resources, designing planned obsolescence into everything so the economy is nothing but a conveyor belt of stuff going through consumers to the landfill: the Landfill Economy.

With these incentives, rewards and process for creating money, the only possible result is a doomed, dysfunctional status quo, what we have now. I've laid all this out in greater detail in my books:

Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform

Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege

As I always say: If you don't change the way money is created and people are paid, you change nothing. (I explain the dynamics of money and work in my book Money and Work Unchained.)

This is why The Great Reset is a fraud: it doesn't change the incentives via how money is created and people are paid, so it changes nothing. All it does is further consolidate wealth and power at the top of the wealth-power pyramid.

Relying on The Authoritarian Savior State is also doomed, for reasons I explain in my books Pathfinding Our Destiny and Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.)

What we need is The Great Rebalancing, a rebalancing of the planet's resources and human needs.

My proposed CLIME system instantiates the incentives and mechanisms needed to rewire the global economy.

CLIME is the Community Labor Integrated Money Economy. In CLIME, money is created solely to pay people for performing useful work in their community. The only way money can be created in CLIME is to pay people for work the community deems useful and that meets the CLIME standards, which are simple:

1. The primary goal is not to maximize profit by whatever means are available. (Profit and a return on capital remain incentives, but they're no longer the only incentives.) The goal is to use the least amount of energy and resources to perform the needed work / fill essential scarcities.

2. Every manufactured item must be 95% recyclable or reusable by design, and the cost of this recycling / reuse is in the initial price.

Consider photovoltaic (solar) panels as an example of what the current system incentivizes. The current generation of panels is not recyclable at scale--and neither are the lithium-ion batteries that store the PV electricity. PV panels and lithium-ion batteries are just more toxic "stuff" going to the landfill in our infinite-growth Landfill Economy.

"The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated that the world had 250,000 metric tons of solar panel waste that year; and by 2050, the amount could reach 78 million metric tons." Source

The same is true of thousands of enormous fiberglass wind turbine blades--impossible to recycle or reuse, they're being buried in giant landfills.

It's difficult for many people to imagine a world in which the incentives are to consume as little energy and resources as possible and waste as little as possible, but money and the economy are human constructs: they can be changed at will.

Change the way money is created and people are paid, and you change the incentive structure and thus the outcome.

We are so accustomed to staggering waste that we cannot imagine how we could manage without burning 90 million barrels of oil a day (and vast quantities of natural gas and coal).

What never ceases to amaze me is how many people seem to have forgotten that great civilizations and cities flourished without fossil fuels. The capital of the wondrous Tang Dynasty in China (near present-day Xian) contained upwards of 1 million people circa 700-900 A.D., and was a complex entrepot of trade and treasure from distant lands.

The great Thai capital of Ayuttaya also had nearly a million residents in the 1600s and early 1700s before it was sacked and burned by the Burmese army; Westerners had carved out their own small quarters in the sprawling city.

Neither Imperial Rome nor the Song Dynasty's capital, Hangzhou (circa 1100-1275 AD) consumed much hydrocarbon energy.

For more on what daily life was like in Hangzhou, find a copy of the marvelous 1964 book Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276.

Paris and the other great cities of Europe thrived in the same timeframe (1600s and 1700s) with (by today's standards) extremely modest use of fossil fuels.

Those who expect a decline in energy availability to immediately lead to civilization-ending chaos overlook how similar life was in 1906 San Francisco, when hydrocarbons generated (by today's standards) modest amounts of power and biofuel transportation (i.e. horses) were the common form of drayage.

The machinery of that era was terribly inefficient. With current technologies, very modest amounts of energy could power a very rich lifestyle if we measure lifestyle not by wasteful consumption but by having enough food to eat, useful work to do, mobility and access to various entertainments.

Consider this 8-minute film of Market Street in downtown San Francisco shot a few days before the catastrophic earthquake and fire of 1906. A trip down Market Street before the fire (Library of Congress)

Yes, there are plenty of jalopies (autos) careening through the traffic, but note the wealth of transport options. An endless string of cable cars moves up and down Market Street (that they are cable cars is evidenced by the cable trough running between the rails). To the right, a procession of horse-drawn carts and wagons head down toward the Bay--the 1906 equivalent of today's diesel trucks.

Toward the end of the film, as the trolley approaches the Ferry Building, you can see a small horse-drawn trolley entering Market Street (the rear sign identifies it as a "Montgomery Street" trolley.)

Electric trolleys (note the overhead arm to the conducting wire) crossed the street numerous times. You will also see many people on foot--still a reliable mode of transport, as well as bicyclists and an occasional rider on horseback.

On several occasions, people are almost struck by cars; pedestrians, as in Developing World countries today, had to keep their wits about them. Those unfortunate enough to be struck very likely did not sue the city or the owner of the vehicle; if you couldn't manage crossing the street competently, then it was assumed you knew better than to try.

There are no street lights or even police guiding traffic. This is very much like the semi-chaotic traffic which is commonplace outside the First World.

To the First World resident accustomed to being told what to do and ordered about at all times, this seems like madness. But notice how it all works quite well without a huge costly structure to organize and control conformity. Indeed, it is a truism of city-street traffic control that people drive more cautiously and thus more safely when there are limited or no traffic controls.

Our present culture cannot grasp the potential of energy devolution. When I heard James Howard Kunstler speak a few years ago, he observed that many people approached him expecting a pat on the back for buying a Prius. Jim noted that these souls did not yet "get it"--the automobile-centric and suburban, auto-dependent economy and culture was the problem, and the Peak-Lithium auto is no different from the Peak-Oil vehicle. (Manufacturing the Peak-Lithium auto consumes even more oil than manufacturing the Peak-Oil vehicle.)

From a very basic point of view, the more decentralized options that are available, the better; just as monoculture crops lead to disease and crop failures, so mono-systems lead to extreme vulnerabilities.

The "modern" (infinite growth, maximize profits) impulse is to "fix" the vulnerabilities created by mono-systems with more costly and complex "fixes." Then as these "fixes" trigger more unforeseen consequences, another round of ever-more complex and costly engineering is applied to "fix" the "fix."

This is how systems become so high-energy, high cost and complex that the returns of further investments become ever more marginal, and the system eventually collapses under its own weight.

The idea that a great city could depend largely on human power, animal power, water/wind-based transport and energy-efficient transport strikes those inculcated with the "infinite growth" religion/mindset as "primitive."

But if we were able to go back in time and ask the well-fed, well-dressed, well-educated (and oh-so-busy) passersby on the streets in 1906 if they were living a "primitive," "deprived" life in a "chaotic" city, they would very likely have reckoned that you had lost your mind.

Perhaps we have collectively "lost our mind." Perhaps what we need is not a new technology but a new way of living that uses existing technologies to echo "old ways" that worked rather well on much lower energy densities and much lower energy consumption. (As for relying on A.I. to save the day and perform miracles, I dismantle this fantasy in my book Will You Be Richer or Poorer? Profit, Power and A.I.)

The Great Rebalancing need not be painful. We simply need new incentive structures that change the outcome from waste, fraud, fatal asymmetries and fatal synergies to paying and rewarding people for doing more with less--much less, and only creating money to pay those doing more with less.

*  *  *

This essay was first published as a weekly Musings Report sent exclusively to subscribers and patrons at the $5/month ($54/year) and higher level. Thank you, patrons and subscribers, for supporting my work and this free blog.

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.

*  *  *

My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World (Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 16:20
Published:3/22/2021 3:28:53 PM
[Entertainment] Let’s talk about wonderful Indian science-fiction and fantasy novels Here’s hoping more books like “The Calcutta Chromosome” and “Machinehood” will reach a wider audience. Published:3/22/2021 10:57:48 AM
[Markets] The End Of America? The End Of America?

Authored by Naomi Wolf via The American Institute for Economic Research,

In 2008, I wrote a book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. I warned, based on my study of closing democracies in 20th century history, that America needed to beware of a slide toward totalitarianism.

I warned that would-be tyrants, whether they are on the left or the right, always use a map to close down democracies, and that they always take the same ten steps. Whether it’s “Invoke a Terrifying Internal and External Threat,” “Create a Thug Caste,” “Target the Press,” or the final step, “Suspend the Rule of Law,” these steps are always recognizable; and they always work to crush democracies and establish tyrannies. At that time, the “global threat” of terrorism was the specter that powers invoked in order to attack our freedoms.

The book was widely read and discussed, both at the time of its publication and for the last 12 years. Periodically over the last decade, people would ask me when and if we had reached “Step Ten.”

We – my brave publisher, Chelsea Green, and I — are releasing the first and last chapters of The End of America now, in 2021, for free, and I am calling the sequel to this book, which I am now writing, Step Ten – because as of March of last year, we have indeed, I am so sad to say, arrived at and begun to inhabit Step Ten of the ten steps to fascism.

Though in 2008, I did not explicitly foresee that a medical pandemic would be the vehicle for moving the entire globe into Step Ten, I have at various points warned of the dangers of medical crises as vehicles that tyranny can exploit to justify suppressions of civil rights. Today, a much-hyped medical crisis has taken on the role of being used as a pretext to strip us all of core freedoms, that fears of terrorism did not ultimately achieve.

In 2015, I cautioned that infectious diseases could be used as a justification for ushering in a suppression of liberties, always under the guise of emergency measures. In 2019, a book of mine, Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, showed how terrible infectious disease epidemics such as cholera and typhus had been exploited in the 19th century by the British state, in order to crush freedoms and invade people’s privacy; I wrote about how the first anti-vaccination movements arose among British parents in the Victorian period. That book was initially cancelled, and its message of warning has been continually assailed. 

But that book too was prescient. In early March of 2020, of course, a global pandemic was announced: Covid-19.

In the immediate wake of the announcement and narrativization of that pandemic, most of the elements of a locked-in 360 degree totalitarianism have been put into place, in most of the countries of the West, including in what had been robust democracies. It all happened very quickly and comprehensively.

In the United States we now have:

  1. Emergency measures in many states, which suspend due process of law. This is the hallmark of a police state. Covid-19 is invoked as the reason for the introduction of emergency law – but there is no endpoint for lifting these emergency laws.

  2. The closures of schools, which break the social contract with the next generation.

  3. Bills being passed for “vaccine passports,” which bypass the Fourth Amendment to the constitution by allowing the government and Big Tech companies to intrude on medical privacy and to create a comprehensive digital surveillance state. 

  4. Forced closures of businesses. By intervening directly in the economy and allowing certain businesses to flourish (Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target) at the expense of small businesses, Main Street shops, restaurants, and sole proprietor businesses in general, the State has merged government and corporations in a way that is characteristic of Italian fascism, or of modern Chinese communism. (Indeed the fact that tech stocks rose by 27% in one quarter of the pandemic shows one driver of this war against human freedoms and human society: every minute human beings spend in a classroom, at the pub or restaurant, or in a church or synagogue, is time that tech companies lose money by being unable to harvest that data. Covid policies driven by “Covid-19 Response” – tech companies – ensure that humans are not allowed to connect except via digital platforms. The reason is profit as well as social control). 

  5. Restrictions on assembly. Some states such as California are fining people for seeing their friends in their homes, and making it unlawful for kids to have playdates with their friends. Massachusetts restricted gatherings of more than ten people at a time, forcing synagogues and churches to stay closed, in spite of a Supreme Court ruling against states forcing churches to close. Parks, playgrounds and beaches have been closed off. In countries such as Britain, people are fined for leaving their homes for more than an hour’s exercise a day.

  6. Forced face coverings. In Massachusetts, people are fined if they are not wearing masks outdoors – even children as young as five are forced to do so by law. Again this mandate has not been undergirded by peer-reviewed studies showing medical necessity; and there is no endpoint proffered for these extraordinary violations of personal freedom.

  7. Suppression of free speech. Big Tech companies are censoring critics of Covid policy and vaccine policy, as well as censoring views that are on the right hand of the political spectrum. “Incitement,” a word that has a long history in the 20th century for closing down free speech, has been weaponized by the left to shut down First Amendment freedoms of expression. In other forms of censorship and management of speech and public debate, tycoons such as Bill Gates have been funding major news outlets, with millions of dollars directed to “Covid education.” As a result, dissenting voices are marginalized and shamed, or even threatened with legal action or job losses. 

  8. Science has been hijacked in the interests of “biofascism.” By heavily funding scientific commentators such as Dr Fauci in the United States, Imperial College and SAGE in the UK, and Dr Christian Drosten in Germany, a dominant set of policies and pronouncements about Covid that benefit a small group of bad actors – notably tech and pharmaceutical interests, acting in concert with governments – have had secured credentialled supporters. But when other scientists or institutions seek debate or transparency, they are threatened with job loss or reputationally attacked, as in the case of Dr Simon Goddeke of the Netherlands, who was told to keep quiet by his university, when he challenged the flawed Covid PCR test protocols. 

  9. Data have been hijacked to serve the interests of this biofascism. This manipulation of truth, which I foreshadowed in The End of America, is typical of the Soviet censors. Covid platforms such as Covid19tracking and John Hopkins University, funded by technocrats such as Michael Bloomberg, serve unverifiable Covid data that directly affect the stock markets. Again, while this un-American merger of corporate interests and public policy is reminiscent of Italian Fascism, the twist provided by digital data presentation and its relationship to the stock market is very much of the 21st century. 

  10. Attacks on religious minorities. The orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, and Christian churches in California, have been singled out for punishment if they do not follow Covid rules – a targeting of religion that is characteristic of Communist policies on the left, especially in China. 

  11. Policies that weaken bonds between human beings and weaken the family have been introduced and policed. This is the most serious development of all.

The new biofascism in the West, very much driven by Big Tech leaders, and soon to be exploited by our enemies geopolitically, is a war against free human beings and against the qualities that make us human. 

Masks break human beings’ ability to bond face-to-face and enjoy human contact, smiles and jokes. Masks turn down the effectiveness of human “technology,” by making it hard for us to “read” each other and to pick up social cues. Forbidding assembly keeps us from forming human alliances against these monstrous interests. Forbidding human assembly also prevents new cultures, new heroes and new business models from arising. We are all stuck with the Rolodex and the ideas we had in March of 2020.

Forcing kids to distance at school and wear masks ensures a generation of Americans who don’t know HOW to form human alliances, and who don’t trust their own human instincts. Those are counterrevolutionary training techniques.

Driving all learning onto (already prepared) distance learning platforms ensures that kids do not know how to behave in human space, space not mediated by technology. 

Many Covid policies seem designed to ensure that humans will have no “analog” space yet or “analog” culture left – no way to feel comfortable simply gathering in a room, touching one another as friends or allies, or joining together.

Lastly, driving all human interaction onto Zoom is not only a way to harvest all of our tech, business secrets and IP – it is a way to ensure that intimacy and connection in the future will be done online and that human face-to-face contact will be killed off. 

Why is this? Why develop policies that punish, encumber and restrict human contact in analog (unsurveilled, unmediated) spaces?

Because human contact is the great revolutionary force when it comes to human freedom and resistance to this form of comprehensive biofascism – the biofascism represented by the New Normal – the medico-fascist Step Ten. 

Now let me recap from the year 2008, and read you my intro to The End of America, as well as the warning at the close of that book. 

Its message has never, sadly, been more timely. This time, threats to freedom justified by terrorism then, have reclothed themselves in the trappings of a medical pandemic.

But this time we do not just face a war on freedom. This time we face a war on human beings, and on all that makes us human. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 06:30
Published:3/22/2021 6:01:40 AM
[Big Tech] Shapes of things (28) (Scott Johnson) In parts 18, 20, and 27 of this series we noted Amazon’s suppression of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, by Ryan Anderson. Anderson is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the founding?editor of?Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey. Anderson’s book was published by Encounter Books under the leadership of publisher Roger Kimball. Roger took up Published:3/22/2021 5:28:36 AM
[Markets] COMEXposed: How The Hateful-8 Kill Free Market Price Discovery COMEXposed: How The Hateful-8 Kill Free Market Price Discovery

Authored by Matthew Piepenburg via GoldSwitzerland.com,

We certainly live in interesting times. Yet be you bear or bull, left or right, optimist, cynic or pessimist, one would be hard pressed to pretend that anything is, well, normal.

The Controversially Insane

Many are questioning why a virus with a death rate of less than .4% has shut down the global economy for a year and counting.

Despite extremely legitimate moments of silence for those who died with (or of) COVID, others are questioning policy makers who ignored protecting the most at risk profiles while remaining largely silent for the self-inflicted death for the rest of Main Street economies shut-down across the world.

As millions of Americans await a check from Uncle Sam to the tune of $1400, some are wondering why SEC-sanctioned liars and tweet-happy front runners like Elon Musk and other C-suite tech giants are amassing fortunes.

Incidentally, that $1400 check is ¼ the cost of the dress worn by Meghan Markle in her recent attempt to convince Oprah and the rest of the world to sympathize with her unique struggles while more than 50% of U.S. children are living in welfare-assisted homes.

Again, is this normal?

It certainly is “interesting.”

Central banks, printing trillions per year to buy otherwise unwanted sovereign IOU’s are keeping bonds so over-supported and over-valued that the bulk of the nominal and real yields on government debt are negative—something never seen in 5000 years of recorded market history.

Meanwhile, more than 20% of US corporate bonds are literally zombiesi.e. dead men walking on new debt to pay interest on old debt with no chance of ever repaying principal as the vast majority of US corporate credits (well over 65%) are either levered loans or just one eyelash above junk status.

Slowly rising yields, still openly repressed by central bank intervention, are now being telegraphed to the world as a sign of “economic growth” by Wall Street Pinocchio’s paid to sell hope rather than facts.

At the same time, the media now has the masses convinced that a magical vaccine will solve everything, despite reams of Congressionally-ignored evidence that the specific antibodies within these vaccines attack non-specific antibodies so critical to our immune systems for later illnesses.

In sum, when it comes to central bank accommodation, lock-down measures, yield manipulations or rapid-fire vaccines, it’s at least plausible to wonder if certain policy cures are indeed worse than the global diseases.

That said, I’m certainly no virologist nor an expert on Oprah’s ratings or Elon’s Twitter account, so these are just rants and questions rather than dispositive conclusions, but I am, like so many of you, starting to question the “interesting” world around me.

The Openly Insane

What is less open for debate, however, is the otherwise obvious yet media-ignored disaster otherwise known as the global financial system and the distortions (i.e. lies) that govern them, as evidenced, for example, in the comical CPI measure of inflation.

The very fact that markets reached all-time highs while global economies, GDP’s, employment rates and social conditions reached new lows in the backdrop of a world-wide shutdown, for example, ought to have everyone, including those who know nothing about free market capitalism, scratching their heads.

The Death of Free Markets

This is because there is no such thing as free market capitalism in a world where central banks, eight key commercial banks, and one or two global “institutions” (hint: IMF and World Bank) have effectively and completely taken over, as well as distorted, almost every aspect of the natural supply & demand forces to which we and Adam Smith once swooned.

In case you think such statements are meant to create drama rather then perspective, let’s consider objective facts rather than controversial adjectives and nouns.

It would (and has) taken hundreds of pages to delineate the myriad ways in which fiscal and monetary policy from global law-makers and bankers have hijacked, distorted and then destroyed free market price discovery and natural, true capitalism.

Rather than break such a word count here, let us briefly examine just one corner of this twisted world order and illustrate how rigged the current playing field otherwise known as free-market capitalism and free market “price discovery” truly is.

In short, let’s draw back the curtains to that corrupted stage otherwise known as the COMEX futures market for precious metals and see for ourselves.

Buckle up.

The COMEX Futures Market –Making the Complex (and Rotten) Simple

For many, the COMEX future’s market is a very scary, mysterious and almost foreign universe.

And yes, it’s also complex in all its trading paper, players, strategies and layers—too complex, indeed, to fully unpack here.

At its most basic level, however, the COMEX futures market is a place where paper contracts representing actual hard assets (from soybeans to gold) are traded.

In a normal world, for example, a contract to buy a bundle of grain at a fixed price can be traded on the COMEX market to ensure fixed (i.e. contractual) pricing against market price swings.

Once such a contract (be it for grains, metal, or pork-bellies) nears its expiration date, the holder of the contract can either take delivery of the contracted-for commodity, or rollover (i.e. extend) that contract for a longer period, thereby delaying actual delivery.

Pretty simple, right?

From Simple to Manipulated

Such simplicity, however, gets more complex when that same exchange (thanks to creative young bucks like Leo Melamed and Alan Greenspan) allows those simple contracts to be traded with leverage, anywhere from 100:1 to even 300:1.

In short: Far more contracts than the actual assets within them.

The simplicity gets even more complicated when participants are allowed to go long AND short those contracts via the use of admittedly complex derivative instruments.

Finally, the simplicity gets fully distorted, and complex, when a small minority of extremely deep-pocked participants control the vast majority of the buying and selling of those contracts, and hence their pricing.

In short, the COMEX futures market is not a simple place for the buying and selling of paper contracts, but rather a highly corrupted place for the manipulation, leverage and manipulation of those paper contracts and hence the pricing of the assets they represent.

Worthless Paper…

But paper, as we know, is ordinarily just a flimsy thing. Paper is also where we get to hold and touch fiat currencies, which like most paper products, are not terribly valuable. As Voltaire famously said: “All paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value—zero.”

Yet this ever-weakening paper money, ever since Nixon robbed it of its gold-backing in 1971, is what makes the ever-mad financial world go ever-round in this new, ever-“interesting” era.

Central banks, and broke nations, therefore need to make otherwise weak paper appear valuable, and will do all kinds of complex market gymnastics to keep the illusion that paper is actual wealth.

Toward this end, it is therefore very, very, very important for those powerful players to make true stores of wealth—i.e. gold and silver—look far less valuable than what the natural market would otherwise dictate.

In short, key market manipulators (described below) like to use paper products to make gold and silver products look less sexy, for if gold and silver where to be priced according to genuine supply and demand forces, then the entire (and embarrassingly broken) paper scheme of global fiat currencies and markets would fall like a house of cheap (paper) cards.

Hard to believe?

Let me show you.

Gold & Silver’s Fictional “Paper” Price

Take my two favorite, misunderstood, yet historically-confirmed stores of genuine rather than paper (or even crypto) value: Gold & silver.

Popular demand for these assets is in fact massive, which means their price power should be openly and equally so.

After all, true, free-market capitalism rewards those assets which enjoy high demand but relatively low supply, right? That, after all, is Econ 101.

Let’s look, then, at the example of rising demand for silver in 2021 as measured by ETF flows:

And let’s do the same for flows into gold ETF’s, just to make the natural demand visually clear:

With such rising demand for ETF gold and silver (allegedly backed by actual physical gold and silver held by the custodians of these funds), shouldn’t gold and silver prices therefore be skyrocketing in the paper markets that represent them?

Well, as alluded above, paper is a funny thing, and for the policy makers (i.e. central banks, major commercial –or “bullion”—banks and all dollar dependent politicians) who are deeply threatened by rising gold and silver prices, paper can be easily manipulated, which means so can the price of gold and silver.

How the Hateful-8 Kill Free Market Price Discovery

And to make this obvious, objective and undeniable as opposed to just theoretical or dramatic, let’s see how the big players, rather than the natural supply and demand forces, artificially, legally and yet dishonestly fix the gold and silver prices, and thus mock any vestige of respect for that bygone ghost otherwise known as free market price action.

Specifically, let’s see how just eight major commercial banks are able to overpower the natural price power of thousands of other contract buyers on the COMEX futures market to artificially suppress the natural pricing of these two precious metals.

Believe it or not, nearly every contract (and I’m talking thousands of them) for gold and silver in the COMEX futures market trade net long—meaning they are buyers. That should make their prices quite high.

Yet all it takes to defeat the demand power (and rising price) of those contracts and metals is for just  four to eight of the largest traders (mainly bullion banks) in the futures market to perpetually short (i.e. bet against) those other contracts to keep their prices suppressed.

Hard to believe? Then see for yourself:

In sum, what we see in the COMEX futures markets are eight players essentially betting against the rest of the world in order to control the price of precious metals. 

Alas, this tiny handful of eight (the “Hateful-8”?) are and were short more than 50% of the entire futures market, and by going this deep and this short they literally (and artificially) control the paper price of precious metals, for without such intervention, the price of gold and silver would literally be skyrocketing.

Do you now see how terrified the big boys are of rising gold and silver? Recently, they were 112% short silver to the tune of over 412 million ounces.

Of course, we already know what they are afraid of: Rising gold and silver would be the ultimate and absolute confirmation of the otherwise open failure of unlimited money printing and fiat currencies in a post-Nixon world.

How Long Can Natural Price Forces be Repressed?

But the next question is equally obvious: How long can this scam/manipulation continue?

That is, if four to eight big boys are colluding to the tunes of billions and billions and billions of dollars in short contracts on the COMEX, how long can this game continue without a wrench in their plans?

Key to the survival of this open scam and price suppression (in play since 1973) is to keep the short contracts on these precious metals perpetually rolling over rather than expiring, for if the contracts were to ever expire, an actual physical delivery of the underlying metals would be legally required.

But that would immediately spell party over for the Hateful-8 as well as the COMEX itself.

That’s because these same big boys would default on actual delivery for the simple reason that they don’t actually own enough gold and silver to honor their levered contracts. Not even close.

That is also why the current cost spread on the COMEX for rolling over (rather than delivering) these contracts in gold and silver are so cheap—in fact, almost free.

In simple terms, these market manipulators (or the COMEX itself) wouldn’t survive without such manipulation and perpetual contract roll-overs.

Alternatively, if they couldn’t make actual delivery of the metals (and they can’t), the Hateful-8 would be forced to cover their own COMEX shorts and go net long once gold and silver prices climbed (i.e. “squeezed” them) beyond their control.

This short-covering would cause the price of precious metals to skyrocket.

But even the big boy’s pockets aren’t deep enough to ever afford going net long to cover their own sins and shorts—this would require trillions, not billions.

Not even a bailout from Exchange Stabilization Fund could help these TBTF (Too Big to Fail) bullion banks at that point.

In short, this small handful of big boys shorting the gold and silver contracts on the COMMEX are playing with gasoline and matches.

All of the big boys, that is, but one…

Enter JP Morgan—No Honor Among Thieves

When JP Morgan inherited the post-08 books of that other headline failure, Bear Sterns, this included 30,000 to 40,000 short contract positions in gold and silver.

For all the reasons (and risks) stated above, JP Morgan knew it was dangerous to be net short gold and silver (because as metal custodians for other funds, Morgan knows better than anyone that there simply isn’t enough physical gold and silver to meet the delivery demands of the grossly levered contracts traded on that over-levered COMEX).

Stated otherwise, Morgan needed to dump (and cover) those shorts (by going long) at just the right moment, i.e. when prices were low.

Thus, after spoofing the market in early 2020, Morgan artificially manipulated the prices down before going net long to cover their shorts last March.

As of now, JP Morgan has closed its short positions and is market neutral rather than net short gold and silver.

In fact, they are stacking their physical gold and silver bars in London warehouses as I type this, controlling over 1B ounces of Silver and over 25M ounces of gold.

Why?

Very simple, they plan to front run the inevitable gold and silver bull market of which we’ve been writing for years.

And as for the COMEX futures market in paper gold? Well, its days are numbered and the fallout from its failure will be more than “interesting,” but nothing less than a disaster.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/22/2021 - 05:00
Published:3/22/2021 4:30:52 AM
[Opinion] How Three Women Sought to Sway Americans Away From Socialism

By Kerry McDonald -

In 1943, as collectivist policies were ascendant, an extraordinary thing happened. Three women published three books that year that would jolt Americans from their socialist stupor and remind them of the fundamental American values of individual liberty, limited government, free-market capitalism, and entrepreneurship. This Women’s History Month is an ideal time to reflect on how …

How Three Women Sought to Sway Americans Away From Socialism is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:3/22/2021 12:54:37 AM
[Markets] China: What To Do About It? China: What To Do About It?

By Gordon G. Chang, via The Gatestone Institute,

What does China really want?

Well, China really wants to rule planet Earth. It also wants to possess and rule the near portions of the solar system. No, I am not exaggerating. No nation in history has been this ambitious.

With regard to our planet, Xi Jinping wants the world to reject the current Westphalian international system, in place since 1648. In its place, he wants China's imperial-era system, where Chinese emperors believed they not only had the right to rule tianxia, all under heaven, but also the heavens compelled them to do so.

Xi has been grabbing territory from his neighbors. In just the past few months, the Chinese have been encroaching on India's Sikkim as well as Nepalese territory.

With regard to Nepal, let us talk about how China actually moves against its neighbors. In January, Beijing's propagandists, as they have in the past, bragged about how Chinese scientists were able to come up with the exact measurement of a mountain in Nepal. Not in China, in Nepal.

Now, the Chinese, and only the Chinese, call this feature Mount Qomolangma. The rest of the world, all of us, know it as Mount Everest.

What is China doing by bragging about its measurement? It is establishing the basis for a territorial claim to this mountain, which happens to be close to China. They are eventually going to say, "Well, look, we named the place, we measured it, therefore, it's ours."

This is subtle, but that is the way Beijing has been working. Of course, sometimes Beijing is not so indirect. We have also seen in recent months China's encroachments into India's Ladakh, high in the Himalayas, and its killing of Indian soldiers.

Chinese planes have regularly been flying through Taiwan's air defense identification zone. China's armed ships have been intruding into Japanese waters in the East China Sea around those uninhabited islets, the Senkakus. Beijing has been trying to take territory from its neighbors. It is acting especially provocatively. We have got to be concerned.

Amendments to China's National Defense Law, effective the beginning of this year, take sweeping powers from the State Council, which leads China's civilian government, and give them to the Communist Party's Central Military Commission. These powers include the power to mobilize all of society for war.

Moreover, Xi Jinping himself in January told the troops of the People's Liberation Army that they must be prepared for conflict "at any second." Beijing could well start history's next great conflict.

Many people will tell you that China is just bluffing, but we know from history that countries that continually talk about war, that continually bluff about it, usually manage to start them. This is the situation in which we find ourselves.

On the topic of controlling the solar system, China will land a rover, its rover, on Mars in either May or June. Mere exploration for the good of humanity? China's officials have been talking about the moon and Mars as if they are sovereign Chinese territory -- part of the People's Republic.

They look at near heavenly bodies the same way they do the South China Sea, something that should be theirs. This means that if they get there, China believes it has the right to exclude other nations.

Everything they do, whether it is seemingly innocuous, such as measuring a mountain or putting a rover on Mars, is a means of claiming sovereignty, of enlarging the People's Republic.

Now, of course, there are, in addition to these acts, China's militant, hostile, belligerent actions. We see these all the time.

We all have heard about China's behavior, but today let's focus on three things that China is doing relating to genetics.

  • First, China is collecting the world's DNA.

  • Second, China is genetically engineering the Chinese to become a superhuman race, in other words, eugenics.

  • Third, Chinese researchers are working on pathogens, new pathogens, artificial ones, to create the world's next pandemic.

First, China is gobbling up the world's DNA. So far, it has amassed the world's largest collection of DNA profiles of humans. It claims about 80 million of them. Of course, it wants more. We need to be concerned about the way China is doing this.

Chinese hackers, for instance, are going after insurance and healthcare companies to get DNA profiles. We saw this in January 2015, when we learned that China had hacked Anthem, America's second-largest insurance company. It got health information on 80 million Americans who were either insured or Anthem employees.

Beijing is building this massive database also with its Phase 3 trials for its two vaccines, especially in Africa, both north and south of the Sahara. Think of Morocco as well as Nigeria.

China is also getting DNA by buying American businesses. For instance, China's BGI Group, the world's largest genomic sequencing company, collected the largest group of DNA profiles of Americans when it purchased Complete Genomics in 2013. In January, China's Harbin Pharmaceutical Group passed its last hurdle in purchasing GNC, which has health information of Americans as well.

Another way China is collecting DNA is by offering low-cost genetic sequencing services to ancestry companies and also to research laboratories and others. In 2019, there were 23 Chinese or Chinese-linked companies that were accredited in the US to provide DNA sequencing services.

We know, of course, that China has had a number of research partnerships and other ventures with American institutions, such as Johns Hopkins.

If you want to find the largest collection of genetic information of Americans, you do not go to America. You go to Beijing.

The story here is that we allowed the Chinese to plunder our society for data.

The second point, eugenics, is downright frightening because biological research in China is heading in very distressing directions.

Bing Su, a geneticist at the state-run Kunming Institute of Virology, recently engaged in a number of experiments putting human genes into monkeys, including the MCPH1 gene relating to brain development. That means these monkeys will have intelligence closer to humans than to lower primates.

Bing Su is not stopping there. His next experiments are going to be taking the SRGAP2C gene, which relates to human intelligence, and the FOXP2 gene, which permits language development, and also putting them into monkeys. It is as if nobody in China has seen the "Planet of the Apes.".

In China, there is an unrestrained ambition to experiment in weird ways. For instance, if you want to know what happens when you mix pig and monkey DNA, well, just ask the Chinese. They have been involved in other similar experiments as well.

This whole subject was brought to the attention of the American public by John Ratcliffe, then director of National Intelligence, when he wrote that China was trying to grow super-soldiers. Ratcliffe mentioned that China is already conducting experiments on people in the People's Liberation Army to enhance their abilities, to create, as he called it, "biologically enhanced capabilities."

The Communist Party is also experimenting with humans other than soldiers. It was, for instance, a Chinese researcher who was the first, and so far only, person to use gene-editing tools on human embryos to create live births.

A Chinese professor, He Jiankui, in Shenzhen in southern China, actually used CRISPR, a gene-editing tool, to remove the CCR5 gene to create live births of twins in late 2018.

He said he did this because he wanted to make the twins resistant to HIV, but there are also suggestions he was enhancing the intelligence of the twins. This, of course, evokes the eugenics experiments of the Third Reich to create a "master race."

He is not the only person to experiment on human embryos. We are seeing similar experiments across the Chinese research community. Chinese geneticists are now trying to use the CRISPR tool to fundamentally alter humans.

The Chinese regime does not have ethics or morality. It is not restrained by law. It does not have a sense of restraint. The regime is trying to create the perfect communist. China has the ability and the will to do this, which means that the world has got to prevent this experimentation.

As for the third topic, pathogens, a little background might help. China uses its doctrine of Comprehensive National Power, CNP, which they got from the Soviet Union. It is an empirical tool to rate the strength of countries. China is relentlessly seeking the Number One CNP ranking.

China can become number one in two ways. It can enhance its own CNP ranking by becoming stronger, or it can decrease the CNP rankings of other countries. That's where pathogens come in. This notion of decreasing CNP of others meant that China had no inhibitions about spreading the coronavirus around the world.

We don't know whether the pathogen causing COVID-19 naturally jumped from animals to humans, a zoonotic transfer, or whether it was cooked up in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That has yet to be determined.

We do know one thing. We know that China's leader, Xi Jinping, took steps deliberately to spread the pathogen beyond China's borders. He did that primarily in two ways. First of all, he lied about the contagiousness of the disease. He knew it was highly transmissible human-to-human. He told the world it was not.

Then he leaned on countries to not impose travel restrictions and quarantines on arrivals from China while he was locking down Wuhan and other portions of China, which meant he thought that these travel restrictions and quarantines were effective in preventing the spread of disease. This means, of course, that he thought he was spreading disease by forcing other countries to take arrivals from China. That shows malicious intent.

Now, China's ranking of CNP will increase dramatically, of course, if the next disease leaves the Chinese alone and sickens only foreigners. This is where some particularly distressing information has come to light.

China's State Council which, as mentioned, is the civilian government, in May 2019 imposed new rules preventing the transfer of DNA profiles of Chinese out of the country. At the same time, Chinese officials started enforcing existing rules and the new rule more effectively.

That points to a sinister intention, but we do not really have to speculate because China's National Defense University, in its 2017 edition of The Science of Military Strategy, actually talked about a new form of biological warfare of "specific ethnic genetic attacks."

Bill Gertz of The Washington Times recently quoted an unnamed American official, who said China was working on germ weapons capable of attacking only specific groups. Now, China denies it has the doctrine of "unrestricted warfare." That term comes from a 1999 book by two Chinese Air Force colonels: Unrestricted Warfare: China's Master Plan to Destroy America by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui.

The spreading of the coronavirus is indeed an application of unrestricted warfare. Many analysts have said that biological warfare does not work. I can understand why they say that, but unfortunately we have just seen a disease kill about 2.4 million people as well as hobble societies across the world. [Editor's note: The toll, since this talk was given, has increased to 2.7 million].

COVID-19 is the ultimate proof that biological weapons work. If Chinese scientists actually succeed in developing viruses that attack only foreigners, China could end up as the only viable society in the world. This is communist China's weapon against the world and against the United States as well.

About two decades ago, Chi Haotian, then China's defense minister, reportedly gave a secret speech about how China should use germ weapons to exterminate Americans so that the Chinese could then inhabit North America. "Living space." You have heard this concept, "Lebensraum," before.

Also, in October of last year, Dr. Li Yi, a Chinese sociologist, returned to the extermination theme, this time in public. "We are driving America to its death," Dr. Li approvingly said at a forum.

Before the Chinese actually succeed in exterminating Americans, we should start thinking about what we can do to block China.

I'm now going to give you my to-do list. Many of the items may sound pedestrian, but remember that American policy towards China had been devoid of common sense for decades, especially during the Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

These presidents maintained policies that were the opposite of common sense. I'm afraid it looks as if that is where Biden is heading to. His administration right now is engaged in a top-to-bottom review of China policy, which will probably be finished sometime in April. We do not know how it will turn out.

Yet we know what Biden has done in his first month as president. He has issued a slew of executive orders dismantling protections the Trump administration built against a militant China.

Some of Biden's actions have been merely questionable, but some of them have been downright inexcusable and indefensible. For instance, on January 20 -- just hours after taking the oath of office -- Biden issued an executive order that repealed President Trump's executive order of May 1st, 2020, preventing grid operators in the US from buying Chinese equipment.

This means China is now free to sell sabotaged equipment to the US. This is not just a theoretical concern.

Every administration looks at the China policies of its predecessors. I'm not saying Biden shouldn't do that. What he should do is leave President Trump's protections in place while he engages in that review because he should not leave the United States vulnerable in the interim.

China's Communist Party, of course, has not been shy in attacking the United States. We should not be defenseless in the interim.

Moreover, whatever one thinks of Biden's executive orders, he has ordered big giveaways to China and gotten nothing in return. In other words, his giveaways have been unilateral, a unilateral taking down of America's protections.

There are a few things that we should be doing now to protect ourselves against China's genetic initiatives.

Here goes:

The first thing we should do is require everyone that maintains a computer network in the US, whether they are private or whether they are government, to harden them against espionage. The Chinese are villains, but we have allowed them to be villainous by leaving our networks undefended.

I am angry at the Chinese for stealing our stuff, but I'm much more angry at a series of presidents who decided to do nothing or do nothing effective. Let us impose a cost on China for stealing US intellectual property. That means we have got to go well beyond the Section 301 tariffs that President Trump imposed in 2018 for the theft of our IP.

Then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, in his December 3, 2021 Wall Street Journal op-ed, put the figure of China's theft at about $500 billion a year. This means the costs we impose are going to have to be greater than that amount if we are going to deter China.

Second, we should simply prevent China from buying any American company that possesses DNA profiles of Americans or is involved in biotechnology or genetic research. That's just common sense.

Third, we should prohibit any Chinese or Chinese-linked company from providing sequencing services for the DNA of Americans.

Fourth, we should end all research partnerships with Chinese institutions.

Fifth, we should withdraw from the biological weapons convention. China is almost certainly violating it at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other locations. The convention has no inspections regime. That means this is a unilateral obligation on our part.

Sixth, we should get out - again - of the World Health Organization. The WHO was complicit in Xi Jinping's spread of the disease. The WHO didn't make a mistake. It absolutely knew what it was doing.

Senior doctors at the WHO knew that the coronavirus was highly transmissible, yet on two occasions, January 9th and January 14th, 2020, the political leadership of WHO spread China's false proposition that the disease was not transmissible. I think the WHO is unreformable.

Seventh, we should impose costs on China for spreading COVID-19. Recently, we passed that grim milestone of more than 500,000 deaths. This pathogen is not finished with us yet. We have to impose these costs on China to convince Xi Jinping that he cannot spread the next disease beyond his borders.

The next virus, as mentioned, could leave the Chinese alone and sicken everyone else. It could be a civilization-killer, which means that China could be the only viable society left on earth.

When I talk about Xi Jinping believing that he should rule the entire world, people say, "Oh, that's ludicrous," or, "It's impossible."

No, it's not ludicrous. It's not impossible if China is the only functioning society on this planet.

We are far stronger than China. We can defend ourselves.

The Chinese unrelentingly attack us, and we do not have the political will to defend ourselves.

Let me end with one question. What are our children going to think when they realize that we had the means to protect them but chose not to do so?

*  *  *

Question: You mentioned that the CCP is collecting DNA. What are they utilizing this knowledge for?

Chang: There are two things. First of all, they want to be a leader in biotechnology. We know this because biotech was one of the 10 original areas in Xi Jinping's Made in China 2025 initiative, announced in 2015. That initiative is designed to make China both self-sufficient and a world leader in the enumerated areas.

The second thing is, as mentioned, they want to build a biological weapons capability. They have got a dual purpose here -- to lead biotech and, second, to be able to kill everybody else on the planet.

Question: What would you tell these American businesses who are eager to open up on China?

Chang: Business is business. Business will always want to make money. It will go anywhere, do anything. We have seen this, of course, with regard to China, but we also saw it in the run-up to World War II. IBM, for instance, was providing census-tabulating machines so that the Third Reich could count Jews.

They were doing this even after war in Europe started with the bombing of London. We know how bad and how free of morals business can be.

This is really up to the President of the United States to use his powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977 or the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 because he can prohibit businesses from going to China. He can prohibit investment into China's markets. He can do all of the things we need as a society to do.

I know this sounds drastic to many people, but China uses all its points of contact with the United States to undermine us. Right now, the FBI and local law enforcement are just overwhelmed by what China is doing.

We do not have the capability to keep up. Until we can get a handle on this, the president, I believe, has the constitutional responsibility to end these contacts with China, business and otherwise. Yes, it is drastic, but our republic is at stake.

We know, for instance, that China does not really believe in capitalism. People say -- Bill Gates has said this a number of times -- that China is more capitalist than the United States. If we look at what China has been doing with regard to Jack Ma and others, we can see that no, they are not capitalists. They want to use capitalists to further their objectives, but they are not capitalists themselves. Until we come to that fundamental understanding, we are at risk.

Question: What are your thoughts about China hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022?

Chang: The International Olympic Committee should move the games to a country not tainted with crimes against humanity and other atrocities. Plus, there's something else the IOC must do. It must ban China's teams from athletic competition.

If we go back to 1963, the IOC banned the teams from South Africa because a large portion of the South African population was not permitted to participate in sport. That was because of apartheid.

We have the same situation in China today where Uyghurs, Tibetans, and others are not permitted to participate in sport. The IOC, I believe, has an obligation to ban China's teams until the regime stops committing those crimes against humanity, until others can participate in sport just as well as the majority Han athletes can.

If the IOC does not do both these things, move the games and ban China's teams from competition, we should boycott the 2022 games. I do not like the boycott idea because this punishes athletes, but ultimately, we have to do this if the IOC doesn't make the two moves.

Question: What is the state of play today between Iran and China, especially given that the Iran deal is apparently back on with the US?

Chang: About eight months ago, we learned Tehran and Beijing signed a 25-year, $400 billion strategic partnership deal. That, of course, would cover business relations. Also, it is military-linked. A lot of analysts correctly say that this strategic partnership will not end up being as robust as it now appears. Nevertheless, Beijing's support of Iran will be crucial.

Indeed, what Iran has been doing in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, almost certainly has Beijing's blessing, because Tehran knows China has its back—and will back it with money.

China, of course, has made sure that its nuclear weapons technology has found its way to the mullahs. It has done that a number of different ways, one of them through the A. Q. Khan black market network run by Pakistan and since rolled up by the United States. It was not rolled up before Pakistan was able to send enrichment technology to the Iranians.

Also, China has facilitated North Korea's sale of ballistic missiles and ballistic missile technology to Iran, which gives Iran the ability to deliver nuclear weapons.

You put all that together and it shows that the relationship between Beijing and Tehran is sinister, and it will continue to grow over time because Iran, right now, needs a backer and it has found it in Beijing.

Question: We are all frightened, of course, of China's strengths. What do you see as their weaknesses? Is it their internal oppression? What is happening in Hong Kong?

Chang: China is making great progress in imposing its system on Hong Kong. It did that with the June 30 imposition of the National Security Law, which has given Beijing the ability to do whatever it wants in the territory, including extraditing people to be prosecuted in China. As people have said, the National Security Law is the end of law in Hong Kong. That's about right.

Beijing's most recent initiatives, if reports are correct, will be to further restrict those people who can sit on the Election Committee, which is composed of 1,200 people who choose the chief executive, the top political officer. Beijing is also going to add, according to rumors, 20 members to the 70-seat Legislative Council.

As the war correspondent Michael Yon says, what we witnessed in Hong Kong in 2019 especially, was not a protest movement but an insurgency. Yon points out insurgencies rarely die out. They can disappear for a time. They can go into tactical retreat, but they almost always come back.

That is essentially what exists in Hong Kong right now. This is going to be a long-term struggle. It is not going to be easy, but we need to have the President of the United States impose costs on China for what it's doing in Hong Kong. President Trump started imposing costs but did not do enough.

I hope that Biden, who ran on a campaign of trying to help the people of Hong Kong, will do so.

With regard to the broader question of China's weaknesses, it is really a matter of overstretch. Paul Kennedy, the Yale professor, talked about this. It is a good way, a framework, of looking at it because China does not have the money to accomplish all its objectives.

Beijing spends an enormous amount of its resources on repressing the Chinese people. The government has been moving back to totalitarian controls with its social credit system, surveillance cameras, and Great Firewall. All of this is not cheap.

Also, the Belt and Road Initiative, which is to connect the world to China, means China is putting a lot of money into infrastructure that the private sector has not wanted to build. Indeed, a number of countries are not paying back China on their loans, which is a drain, certainly, on the Chinese treasury. Yes, China ends up owning infrastructure and assets, but the cost to it is exceedingly high.

This overcommitment is also evident in China's rapid expansion of its military, for a purpose that makes people in Asia realize the aggressiveness of China's regime.

We can see that Beijing does not really have the resources to accomplish all these outsized ambitions.

Right now, the Chinese economy may be growing, but it did not grow at the 2.3 percent that Beijing announced for 2020. It is probably just a smidgen over zero, if it is zero. We are seeing a lot of weakness in the Chinese economy, especially in the consumption area, which is a bad sign for Beijing.

Ultimately, it is a question of how productive their economy can be. It really cannot be that productive as Xi Jinping goes back to more of a state-dominated system, where state enterprises have a greater role in the economy. They are the least productive part of that economy. The private sector is far more important and far more productive, but it now being deemphasized.

We are approaching a point where -- this will be critical -- where Biden will have to decide whether to run to the rescue of China's regime. We know that Nixon in 1972, George H.W. Bush in 1989, and Bill Clinton in 1999 rescued Chinese communism. I hope Biden does not do that a fourth time.

Question: How do you think China will now be acting towards Taiwan?

Chang: China is especially aggressive with its aerial maneuvers. They have been doing two things. They have been flying through Taiwan's air defense identification zone, AZID, as mentioned.

An ADIZ includes international airspace, so China has every right to fly through it. Flying through another country's air defense identification zone is nonetheless considered to be hostile. China's been doing that regularly.

The other thing that China has been doing in the air is flying on Taiwan's side of the median line. The median line runs straight down the middle of the Taiwan Strait. For decades, there has been an understanding between Beijing and Taipei that Taiwan's planes stay to the east of that line and Beijing's planes stay to the west.

Over the last six months or so, Beijing has been violating that commitment and has been flying on Taiwan's side of the line.

The reason why all this is important to us is that on January 23 there was a very large incursion into Taiwan's air defense zone by nuclear-capable H-6K bombers.

Those bombers then, as part of this incursion, flew a simulated attack against our Theodore Roosevelt strike group, also in the South China Sea at the time. This is extremely dangerous.

Most people believe that China is not going to invade Taiwan. I agree, with one possible exception I'll talk about later. Generally, it is not going to invade Taiwan because it does not have the capability to do so.

All of this bluffing, however, does have consequences. China has been engaging in these hostile air maneuvers. One of these maneuvers could go wrong. A plane could hit the deck. That could create a dynamic that ends up in a conflict.

That that almost occurred on April 1st, 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet clipped our US Navy EP-3, an unarmed reconnaissance plane.

The Bush administration avoided conflict by offering to pay China a ransom, by allowing China to strip the plane, by allowing China to keep our aviators in custody, which was, in my mind, the most disgraceful incident in recent US diplomatic history. This is a stain that George W. Bush will never be able to erase, but put that aside for a moment.

I did say there was one exception where China might actually engage in aggression against Taiwan. Some of Taiwan's islands are only two miles off China's coast, Kinmen and Matsu.

China could grab one of those islands and then say to the world, "What are you going to do about it?" That is a real possibility. That is what I worry about, but I do not worry about an invasion of the main island of Taiwan. So far, we have been able to deter them.

The question is whether the Biden administration will act. So far, Biden has been really good on Taiwan. He has been better on Taiwan than anything else with regard to China. At least there is a little bit of comfort here. Nonetheless, this is something that could change day by day and change in a way that leads to the next great war.

Question: What do you think, in order, are the most serious, what would be your most urgent messages to the new US administration on China?

Chang: China has done so many awful things that it is really hard to put them in order.

The most important thing that Biden needs to understand is that China's regime is not legitimate. We have to understand the fundamental nature of China's challenge. Last year, China engaged in a series of acts of war against the US.

They were actively trying to foment violence on American streets, which is more than just subversion. They fomented violence this year in connection with the Capital Hill riots of January 6th. Both before and after that, they were openly urging Americans to engage in acts of insurrection.

I do not see how you can have a dialogue with a country like that. The first indication is that the Biden team -- and they have talked about this in public -- they say, "We will impose costs on China for those things which are unacceptable, we will criticize them on others, and we will cooperate where there are common interests."

I don't think we can do that because I do not see that we have common interests with a country that's trying to overthrow our government. My message is understand the fundamental nature, the hostility, and the maliciousness of China, and remember one other thing.

That is, China deliberately released the disease that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. That alone means there can be no cooperation with China.

Question: If indeed China is working with Iran, how do we warn Israel where every second biotech company start-up looks to a China exit?

Chang: This is a broader question of US relations with Jerusalem. So far, American presidents have been pretty tolerant of Israeli links with China. I generally believe that the United States -- and this is not just Israel -- we need to say this to France, to Germany, to everybody else, that this is a zero-sum game.

You either work with the US or we do not consider you to be our friend. I think Israel would choose the right side. I'm not so sure about some of the other countries I mentioned. The point is this is something American presidents have not communicated to our friends, allies, and partners, how we feel about China.

I say we should no longer support China's Communist regime. We consider it to be an enemy, and we will act to protect ourselves in an appropriate fashion. Remember, in May 2019 People's Daily ran a piece that declared a "people's war" on the US. That is all Biden needs to know.

Question: "What do they want all that DNA for?"

Chang: The more DNA you have, the better you will be able to develop, for instance, biotechnology products. The more DNA you have, the easier it will be to figure out how to create the next penicillin or whatever. The more DNA you have, the better you are able and the faster you are able to come out with drugs. Then, of course, there is their biological weapons program: the more DNA they have, the better they can figure out how to create a pathogen that attacks us and leaves them alone. The more you have, the more you can do.

Question: You mentioned that China saying that the US was not a legitimate state. Could you amplify on that a little bit more?

Chang: China is committing atrocities. Forget about what it is doing to its own people, the Han. It is committing atrocities in what it calls Xinjiang, what it considers to be the northwest part of its country and what the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others consider to be East Turkestan, conquered by Mao in 1950.

China's regime has not only been running concentration camps where they have held somewhere between 1.1 and 3.3 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others, but it has also institutionalized slavery, offering labor to both domestic and foreign companies, -- and not just in Xinjiang, but across China, as Uyghurs are being transported in cattle cars to provide labor in factories that look like concentration camps.

The regime has institutionalized rape, with Han Chinese officials in Uyghur homes, where the male has been sent off to a concentration camp. This is the BBC story of about a few weeks ago, plus other reporting, which is absolutely horrific. Rape is used as a policy of the government to subdue the Uyghurs.

There has been the violation of Uyghur girls, minors. There has been forced organ harvesting, in all probability. That is the tribunal led by Geoffrey Nice in London. They have put children into basically jails. Because the parents get sent off to "re-education" camps, the children are put into "orphanages" that look like prisons. The list goes on and on.

We know the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and others are dying in these facilities. The only thing that separates the People's Republic of China from the Third Reich is that China has not gone to mass exterminations -- yet.

Its acts meet the definition of "genocide" in the Genocide Convention of 1948. If Biden needs another message, this is not just a policy choice for him. We are a party to that Genocide Convention, which requires signatories to "prevent and punish" acts of genocide.

Yes, China is committing genocide. Secretary of State Pompeo issued that formal determination on January 19th of this year. Candidate Biden, during the campaign in August of last year, said the Chinese were committing genocide. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his confirmation hearings, said China was committing genocide. China's regime is committing genocide. We have an obligation to do something about it.

Question: It appears we are dealing -- or not dealing with -- a Chinese Communist Party that is promoting "a superior race" and "a superior government," which has, as you say, horrible echoes of the 1930s. How would you suggest the Biden administration deal with it?

Chang: I would force every US company off Chinese soil. I'd force every Chinese company in the US, every Chinese bank, to leave. I would close every Chinese consulate. There are four remaining consulates. I would strip the embassy staff in Washington down to the ambassador, his family, his secretary, and maybe a few personal guards.

I would close all the Confucius Institutes on our college campuses. I would toss out every Confucius Classroom in our secondary schools. [Editor's note: China is rebranding Confucius Institutes "to avoid scrutiny."]

The list goes on. I would cut all these contacts with China. As mentioned, they are overwhelming us right now. We cannot deal with it. Until we can deal with it, as a practical matter, we need to cut these contacts.

China is committing atrocities. We should have nothing to do with it. It's not a legitimate state. It's a danger to humanity. China is a threat to humanity.

We have got to recognize the threat. We have got to defend our society. We have an obligation, if not to ourselves, to our children.

Question: Another important question: Does the popular DNA testing company 23andMe, where you send in a sample of your DNA for information on your ancestry, have any connection to China?

Chang: This is really murky, but China has tried to compromise 23andMe, to get a bigger ownership interest in it. I believe, but I am not positive, that some of the 23andMe sequencing is done by Chinese-linked companies. There is that link there.

The 23andMe chief executive mentioned recently about China's attempts to take over her company, and that she successfully resisted.

Question: A final question. Xi has said that he wants all tariffs lifted to repair the relations with the US. What would you advise the US do?

Chang: I would increase those additional tariffs, which are at 10% or 25% percent, to 1000% or 5000%. I would prevent China from selling stuff to us. Even if you put aside all the things we talked about, just if you look at this as a trade matter, those Section 301 tariffs were put in place to stop China's theft of US intellectual property.

Whatever figure you take, whether it is $125 billion at the low end or $600 billion at the high end, China is stealing our intellectual property. Obviously, what we have been doing so far has not been sufficient to stop them. We cannot do what China wants.

Wang Yi, the foreign minister, a couple weeks ago -- and this is a continuation of things that Chinese officials have said for several months – he is saying, "Look, you have to get rid of the tariffs, you have got to do X, you have got to do Y, and you have got to Z in order to create a favorable relationship." In other words, we have to make a lot of unilateral concessions and then China will think about reciprocating.

Of course, they never will reciprocate. My sense is if you look at this as just a tariff matter, our tariffs should go to the sky. In other words, no trade until China stops stealing our tech and know-how and IP. When China stops stealing, then we can talk about reducing tariffs.

You have asked, "What should Biden do?" One of the things Secretary Pompeo said that really unnerved the Chinese was talking about in-person diplomacy, talking to the Chinese people directly.

He also mentioned this at his Nixon Center speech in July of last year. Biden needs to do the same thing. Not every solution is military. As a matter of fact, our solutions with China are not military. They really start with talking to the Chinese people.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/21/2021 - 23:30
Published:3/21/2021 10:55:28 PM
[Middle Column] Book ‘wins big’: Joe Bastardi reviews Morano’s ‘Green Fraud’: ‘Exposes the phoniness of a Green New Deal’ – The Godfather of climate skepticism makes you a book you can’t refuse’

Order your copy today! Book officially released March 23, 2021: 

The Godfather of climate skepticism makes you a book you can’t refuse 1The Godfather of climate skepticism makes you a book you can’t refuse 4

Joe Bastardi: "Marc's Book has me overjoyed at its writing and release, it exposes the phoniness (fraud) of a Green new deal, which is neither geared toward Green and is nothing but a raw deal. ... Marc obviously is the man. Marc is a policy animal who knows and understands enough about climate and weather to put this together. The book not only wins, it wins big. ...There are over 90 pages of Notes, a must when we have a media that won’t look at anything. The natural counter to Deception is referenced fact." ...

"There are over 300 pages chock full of the information you need to know. The references themselves are worth reading over, so you can see what the Godfather has been doing to make this a book you can not refuse. Look at that chapter list. My brief review can not do justice to the volume of information Marc has come up with. You will always have it there for you, ready to reference if called upon to explain the truth on this matter."

Published:3/21/2021 1:21:47 PM
[Markets] Dan Bongino To Fill Rush Limbaugh's Airtime In Major Markets Dan Bongino To Fill Rush Limbaugh's Airtime In Major Markets

Conservative pundit Dan Bongino will take over the late Rush Limbaugh's coveted three-hour airtime slot across several major markets, according to Cumulus Media Inc's Westwood One.

Following Limbaugh's death last month, most stations have been filling the void by playing reruns of old episodes. Limbaugh, the most listened to radio host in the United States, reached over 20 million monthly listeners across over 650 affiliates, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and NYPD officer who has his own popular podcast, has become a rising star in conservative media. He will fill the three-hour slot in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, while most other stations will continue to air old tapes of the show.

Mr. Bongino lost three Congressional races—two in Maryland and one in Florida—running as a Republican, but his success in punditry has exploded. A vocal supporter of conservative candidates who once declared, “my entire life right now is about owning the libs,” his views often echo Mr. Limbaugh’s. He is also a man of many media: He has written several bestselling books, appeared regularly on Fox News, and commands a Facebook page with more than four million highly engaged followers.

The move by Westwood One, which syndicated Mr. Limbaugh’s show across about 30 stations, signals that the revered and controversial host’s void may be filled piecemeal, instead of by a single successor. The radio network didn’t specify exactly how many stations Mr. Bongino’s show would appear on. Already some individual markets have chosen local hosts to take over the airwaves. -Wall Street Journal

In other markets, different hosts such as right-wing Evangelical commentator Erick Erickson has taken over Limbaugh's slot, while Jacksonville's WOKV has given the slot to radio host Mark Kaye. In Baltimore, radio and podcast host Derek Hunter has taken over the slot.

While iHeartMedia admits that "No one can replace Rush Limbaugh," the company's Premiere Networks have continued to air a hybrid of Rush reruns on topics currently being discussed, using guest hosts in between clips. So far it's attracted roughly 75% to 80% of Rush's regular audience, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/18/2021 - 22:00
Published:3/18/2021 9:09:16 PM
[Markets] Daniel Ellsberg Talks About Whistleblowing, The Pervasiveness Of Official Lies, And The Dangers Of The Espionage Act Daniel Ellsberg Talks About Whistleblowing, The Pervasiveness Of Official Lies, And The Dangers Of The Espionage Act

Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News,

“On Tuesday morning, August 4th, 1964,” writes Daniel Ellsberg in Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, “a courier came in my out office with an urgent cable for my boss. He had been running.”

A former Marine with a PhD from Harvard in Decision Theory, Ellsberg had joined the Pentagon as special assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, who himself was perhaps the closest advisor to Secretary Robert McNamara. Ellsberg, in other words, was the right hand of the right hand, of the man who would become known as the chief architect of the Vietnam War.

Ellsberg’s first day on August 4th, 1964 proved to be a historic one. His boss McNaughton was down the hall with McNamara, so the panting courier handed Ellsberg the note and left. He opened it and found it was from Captain John J. Herrick, the commodore of a two-destroyer flotilla in the Gulf of Tonkin, off North Vietnam in the South China sea. Officially, the United States was not yet engaged in full-fledged military operations in Indochina.

Daniel Ellsberg: “We could be East Germany in weeks, in a month. Huge concentration camps and so forth…”

Herrick said he was under attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats, and had opened fire in return. He was 60 miles from the coast, in international waters. The sonar operators on the Destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy, Maddox said, each heard torpedoes in the water. Ten minutes later, the courier returned with a new note. “Am under continuous torpedo attack,” he wrote, about an encounter that was taking place in total darkness.

For some time after, cables came in quick succession, as Ellsberg guessed Herrick was dictating from the bridge in between trying to maneuver his ships. “Torpedoes missed. Another fired at us,” read one. “Four torpedoes in water,” read a second. “Five torpedoes in water… Have successfully avoided at least six torpedoes…” According to Herrick, at least one attacking boat had been sunk. The action went on for two long hours, before suddenly the stream of messages cut short.

“Then, suddenly, an hour later,” Ellberg wrote, “a message arrived that took back, not quite all of it, but enough to put the rest of it in question.” The courier came in running again, handing him a cable with the highest clearance and urgency [emphasis mine]:

Review of action makes any reported contacts and torpedoes fired appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonar men may have accounted for many reports. No actual visual sightings by Maddox. Suggest complete evaluation before any further action taken…

It was a little after 2 p.m., Washington time. Ellsberg was dumbfounded by the latest communications. “In my mind, these messages erased the impact of the two-hour-long live drama that we had been following. This new information was a cold bath.”

Herrick later sent another cable: “Details of action present a confusing picture, although certain original ambush bona fide.” Ellsberg was now unsure of how Herrick was so sure, given that he hadn’t seen anything and was acknowledging, among other things, that one sonar man was hearing his own ship’s propeller. “It seemed almost certain there had been no attack,” Ellsberg wrote, certain the proper course was to wait to see what actually happened before acting.

Things didn’t go that way. Senior military officials scrambled to put together an immediate retaliatory airstrike. President Lyndon Johnson was so anxious not only to strike back, but to brief the public about doing it, that he asked the Pentagon’s permission to go on TV with details before the planes even reached Vietnam.

LBJ was on the air by 11:37 p.m. that night, telling the American people that “hostile vessels attacking two U.S. destroyers with torpedoes” constituted “open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America.” McNamara gave subsequent pressers in which he described “unprovoked” attacks of U.S. vessels on “routine patrols” in “international waters.” They described the evidence for Vietnamese aggression as “unequivocal.”

By the end of Ellsberg’s first day, he knew every single one of these claims was a lie. The two destroyers were on a special mission, penetrating deep into North Vietnamese waters and engaging in sabotage raids. In top-secret testimony to congress in the two days after the August 4th incident, McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk told congressional leaders the U.S. had nothing to do with the raids, which were entirely South Vietnamese operations.

Ellsberg soon learned this was a lie, too, that the personnel on the ships had been chosen by the CIA and that the operations were run jointly by the agency and the Navy. “Each of these assertions,” Ellsberg would later write, “was false.” You can still go back and look to see how these lies were reported with complete credulity and never corrected:

Ellsberg became famous years later for shepherding to the public a wealth of secret documents about the ugly history of failure, brutality, and ignorance in the Vietnam War, collectively known as the Pentagon Papers. He is America’s most famous whistleblower, a figure who single-handedly triggered a major constitutional crisis when the government of Richard Nixon tried to block publication of his material.

However, Ellsberg has remained an important figure in American culture and politics precisely because so little has changed since the events of the fifties, sixties, and seventies he described in such vivid detail.

In the Useful Idiots interview below, Ellsberg points out the similarities between Vietnam and our current policies in various countries around the world. He says our leaders are worried about “regime change in Washington,” which they believe would occur if they left other countries’ oil in the ground, or “stopped killing Afghans.”

More than anything, however, Ellsberg is an expert on the role of secrecy in American life. Both in his books and in his interview with Useful Idiots, he describes military and executive branch officials who don’t even figure “truth” as a variable in their calculations, since it’s irrelevant to what they tell the world.

He arrived in Washington believing the commonly held notion that nothing in the capital stays secret for long. Soon he learned that it’s actually quite easy to keep secrets. Ellsberg described a vicious cycle, in which leaders lie pervasively, then learn to have so much contempt for the public that swallows those lies, that they feel justified in lying more.

“My awareness of how easily Congress, the public, and journalists were fooled and misled contributed to a lack of respect for them,” he wrote. “That, in turn, made it easier to accept practices of deception,” and “their resulting ignorance made it all the more obvious that they must leave these problems to us.”

Ellsberg is adamant that our military and intelligence services don’t learn from even the bloodiest failures. However, when asked in the Useful Idiots if they’d at least learned something in a negative sense — like how to deal with whistleblowers and shut off pictures of war deaths — he concurred, explaining that he himself had been used as propaganda.

“It is now accepted that somebody can be a good whistleblower, and that’s Daniel Ellsberg,” he says, “in contrast with Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden. The appreciation that I’ve been getting since 2010, I can date very simply to the need to denigrate Chelsea Manning.”

He went on to describe a New Yorker piece written by Malcolm Gladwell that ripped Ed Snowden in comparison to him, Ellsberg, among other things quoting an analyst who wondered if Snowden “may have been the dupe of a foreign-intelligence service.” Ellsberg wrote a letter to the New Yorker calling the contrast ridiculous, and, he tells us, “They never published it.”

Overall, Ellsberg’s takes on nuclear safety, the implications of the use of the Espionage Act in the Julian Assange case, and continued misuse of secrecy and hyper-aggressive foreign policy in places like Afghanistan and Syria, still resonate. The most powerful part of his interview regarded the power of the secret state in modern America.

“They know where we are, they know our names, they know from our iPhones if we're on our way to the grocery store or not,” he said. “We could be East Germany in weeks. In a month.”

The last portion of the Useful Idiots episode:

Excerpt from the interview:

Matt Taibbi: What you saw in Vietnam is similar to what people saw in Iraq, and then Afghanistan. What's the mentality that continues to think that these same kinds of policies will work, and why can't they get out of that mentality?

Ellsberg: You have to ask, who is it who actually bears the cost of these and who doesn't? Any of these wars were not bad for the people making weapons, and it's not only them. It's the banks that finance them and it's the congresspeople who benefit, as I keep saying, from the donations and the jobs and so forth. They did fine…

Are we actually going to get out of Afghanistan? It's scheduled, by Trump of all people, for May. Okay, that's very close. Is that going to happen? Let's see. Certainly not for sure… If we don't get out now, there is no reason why it will look different two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. We'll still be killing Afghans and losing very few Americans, because it's all in the air and some special forces going to unarmed villages and whatnot. So very few American casualties, air power, a lot of things. The American public can live with that for a long time. They have lived for 20 years with that. Could be another 20 years.

Katie Halper: Can you talk about the role of the media in America’s aggressive foreign policy?

Ellsberg: With the Gulf of Tonkin, the Times did not say, "Here's what we said at the time." The Times did not go back and say, "Here's who lied to us. Here's how we were lied to. Here's how gullible we were. Here's the pattern of deception." No, that would blame themselves. They didn't need that, so they didn't do it…

In short, I think nations and institutions, we talk about why don't they learn, learning is not what they do, because learning involves seeing prior errors that you haven't met. Errors are an occasion for blame, for losing jobs, for being criticized, and they don't do that.

Matt Taibbi: Well, sometimes they learn in a negative way though, don't they? Do you ever think that the way they dealt with Snowden, and to a lesser extent Julian Assange and some other whistleblowers, was about making sure that there was never going to be a Daniel Ellsberg again who would live on and be a hero in the public consciousness?

Ellsberg: I misspoke when I say they don't do any learning… Definitely, they do learn.

Katie Halper: They don't become more moral, though.

Ellsberg: It's not as though they learn how to meet human values or improve human welfare in the world. That's not what they're into… But in terms of how can we get away with it better, they do learn….

They've learned to wield the Espionage Act, to criminalize whistleblowing much more than before. You said they didn't want any more Ellsbergs. Well, obviously, they did get Chelsea Manning, they did get Snowden. Chelsea was 39 years after the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers did have an effect, as you say, on people's understanding of the war. It didn't end the war, but it did affect people's attitudes. And really, it kept us out of more Vietnams for a couple of decades…

The NSA did not do surveillance on American citizens without a warrant for about 25 years or so after, so that was a change. But then 9/11 comes along, and it’s Constitution be damned. Since then, this is 20 years ago, we've had total surveillance of everybody, totally unconstitutionally.

It's created a situation where we're not a police state, but we could be a police state almost from one day to the next, if they act on all the information they have now about people who give them any trouble or people who protest. They know where we are, they know our names, they know from our iPhones if we're on our way to the grocery store or not. But they haven't acted on that to put people in camps yet. They could do it.

We could be East Germany in weeks, in a month. Huge concentration camps and so forth.

Matt Taibbi: Why aren’t more journalists worried about the use of the Espionage Act in the Julian Assange case?

Ellsberg: Because they have never been tried before. This is a first, so they thought they were immune… I've been saying for 40 years now, 50 years, I've been saying to journalists and judges, the wording of that law applies to you as well as your sources…

It is now accepted that somebody can be a good whistleblower, and that's Daniel Ellsberg, in contrast to Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden. The appreciation I've been getting since 2010, I can date very simply to the need to denigrate Chelsea Manning… This contrast is used all the time. So I'm appreciated in order to say, "Ah, but there were bad whistleblowers like Snowden or Assange." And a lot of people do that.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/17/2021 - 23:40
Published:3/17/2021 10:59:10 PM
[Markets] Would St. Patrick Be Allowed To Celebrate St. Patrick's Day? Would St. Patrick Be Allowed To Celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Authored by Bryan Preston via PJMedia.com,

Did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish?

He also wasn’t, technically, a saint. He wasn’t officially canonized because he lived and died before the Catholic Church had laid out the system for doing that.

This isn’t an episode of the insufferable Adam Ruins Everything. He does, by the way. Don’t watch that show.

I’m not here to ruin anything, just to unpack some things. Let’s just assume he’s a saint, as he deserves it.

Patrick was born (maybe given the name Maewyn) in 5th-century Britain. Or maybe Scotland or Wales.

Anyway, he’s not Irish, and not even Patrick. Let’s say he’s British just for the sake of the story.

He first goes to Ireland not by choice, but by force.

Some Irish capture Maewyn and whisk him away as a slave.

That disrupts current woke and New York Times narratives by many centuries.

The British slave Maewyn in Ireland dreams of running away, as would most if not all forced laborers, and also grows deeply in his Christian faith.

Eventually, he does escape. He also nearly starves to death and suffers a second brief spell as a slave. But he gets back home, where he’s reunited with his family. By some accounts, he goes to France to study for a while. Maybe he’s finding himself. Whatever he’s doing, France is in the opposite direction from Ireland.

Most people would’ve been content to never set foot in Ireland again. Who would blame him? But he wasn’t most people.

His faith deepens and he obtains some education. He has a dream in which someone called Victorius hands him a letter suggesting he go back to Ireland, and during the dream, he hears Irish voices calling to him.

After some understandable hesitation — he’d been a slave there, and because Ireland was still pagan Christians faced the possibility of martyrdom there still — he decides to heed the call and go. It’s a brave call. He’s now a British Christian missionary in pagan Ireland, where apparently there were snakes at the time. He changes his name from Maewyn to Patrick, which seems to have been a good idea. You never hear the name “Maewyn” now but Patricks are everywhere.

Patrick is responsible for Ireland’s conversion to Christianity and he contributes to the world’s literature with a couple of books. He’s a saint because of the missionary work, and the Irish accept him as one of their own ever since. He’s pretty much Ireland’s mascot, even credited for driving all the snakes out of the entire country. We could use that skillset in Texas.

Patrick’s is an uplifting story, full of peril, joy, doubt, fear, faith, accomplishment, forgiveness, and redemption. It’s a very human story. Patrick overcame a lot and changed the world.

But in the woke world of the 21st century, none of that matters.

Patrick’s good works don’t matter, his enslavement doesn’t matter, none of that matters. Being human is no longer allowed and accomplishments no longer count. The good you did will not live after you, but the bad, well, that will be used to topple your statue if you ever get one.

What matters is that he’s British, or at least not Irish, and St. Patrick’s Day is Irish to the bone. It’s an Irish cultural tradition, albeit celebrated mostly in America.

For a British man to celebrate an Irish religious and cultural holiday — isn’t that cultural appropriation?

You see why we should just treat the woke-a-trons who yammer about cultural appropriation for the scolding, narrow-minded, maniacal, script-citing, killjoys they are?

Much beer will be drunk for the non-Irish non-saint whose name wasn’t Patrick’s special day. Some of that beer will be green in St. Patrick’s honor.

Beer isn’t Irish. Archeologists have found evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt. The pharaohs and their brewmasters supposedly perfected it as the drink of the gods. Many Irish and non-Irish will unwittingly culturally appropriate the pharaohs and Patrick together on American streets in cities with names like Los Angeles, Tucson, and Gun Barrel City.

I’m not Irish but I’ll probably celebrate St. Patrick’s Day heartily with some corned beef, and maybe some sushi too. I’ll wash it all down with a green margarita.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/17/2021 - 16:20
Published:3/17/2021 3:26:04 PM
[Markets] Rabo: Will This Look Like The 2013 Taper Tantrum... Or The 1994 Bond Massacre Rabo: Will This Look Like The 2013 Taper Tantrum... Or The 1994 Bond Massacre

By Michael Every of Rabobank

The Fed-dy Bears' Picnic

“If you go down in the bonds today; You're sure of a big surprise

If you go down in the bonds today; You'd better go in disguise!

For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain

Because today's the day the Fed-dy Bears have their picnic

Picnic time for Fed-dy Bears; The little Fed-dy Bears are having a lovely time today

Watch them, catch them unawares; And see them picnic on their holiday

See them gaily gad about; They love to play and shout; They never have any cares

At 6 o'clock this trading fad-dy; Will put its books to bed; Because they're tired little Fed-dy Bears

Every Fed-dy Bear who's been good is sure of a treat today

There's lots of marvellous things to tweet and wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees where *everyone* sees; They'll hide and seek as long as they please

'Cause that's the way the Fed-dy Bears have their picnic”

We have a long wait ahead of us for a critical Fed meeting and one has to kill the time as productively as one can: I apologize for nothing. Yes, we can focus on weak US retail sales and industrial production data yesterday, which is bond bullish; we can focus on the risk-off North Korea leader’s sister stating "We take this opportunity to warn the new US administration trying hard to give off gun powder smell in our land” (which was not about flatulence); or the latest suggestion that US officials will bring up Hong Kong and Taiwan when they meet Chinese officials in Alaska tomorrow, which is hardly risk on. You can even mention that Germany seems to have the same negotiating tactic with the US over Nordstream2 as North Korea does with its nukes: just keep building and expect the Americans to eventually live with it.

But the long and the short of it is that it’s all about the Fed, and if they display any sign at all of shifting the dot plot towards rate hikes from as early as 2023. That’s especially true given the possibility this will be a period following not just the USD1.9 trillion stimulus package, but a USD2.0-2.5 trillion infrastructure bill too – in which case one would suppose the underlying pressure for higher rates would be strong…if things still work the way the textbook says they are supposed to re: liquidity > investment > wages > inflation. Which they clearly don’t right now.

One of the big headlines is that following a UK court loss, Uber are reclassifying their 70,000 British drivers as workers rather than self-employed capitalists en route to global transport domination. This entitles them to benefits, which would be a pay rise in kind. Is this the harbinger of labour winning vs. capital? Consider that Uber are claiming this only covers time spent driving, so waiting around for a fare doesn’t count towards pay: does that sound like a strongly-unionised working environment? As the grandson of a cabbie, it sounds like being a taxi-driver. (Uber will potentially have issues with VAT payments due to the government: but that’s another story.)  

Back to the Fed. As I’ve already noted recently, it would be odd if they tried to flag inflation concerns given the Treasury are arguing these are “small” and “manageable”: surely they won’t want to show any policy disconnect? As such, and like the RBA just did, the risks appear that most members still won’t flag rate hikes by 2023 despite the recent upturn on overall data, on the US vaccination effort, in commodity prices, and in fiscal stimulus.

In which case, while short end bond yields would of course stay low, the risks are also that long yields react further to all this “running hot”. So, yes, it could be picnic time for Fed-dy bears. Could this look like the 2013 Taper Tantrum, where US 10s jumped 136bp (to 3.06%)? Could it even look like the 1994 Bond Massacre, where US 10s leaped 245bp trough to peak (to 8.05%)? However, before one gets ‘Uber-excited’, the fact that one peak was 8.05% and another was 3.06% shows you just what happened to the US structurally in the two decades in-between. It’s going to take a lot of US infrastructural changes, in many senses of the term, to get us back towards anything close to 2013 US yield levels, let alone 1994.

Nonetheless, in the meantime the rest of the world has followed that general yield collapse and new-normal path, and hence even a moderate move higher in yields could be painful – and not just to bonds. Yes, there are US stocks to worry about. But also note the headline ‘China braces for “turmoil in financial markets” following new US stimulus’. Of course, it’s not the only one. Key EM are now having to actively think about raising rates despite still being in the throes of the Covid epidemic. The higher US bond yields go, the more capital could flow back to the US and USD. That’s one form of turmoil – and very 2013.

Yet even if the Fed does not provide a picnic for bond bears today, via some form of curve action to match the dot plot, we still get turmoil anyway. How well are EM (and DM) set up for a much weaker USD (and yet higher commodity prices), for example?

It was to be expected, if deeply ironic, that Chinese officials oppose a US fiscal deficit of over 15% of GDP; the promise of massive infrastructure spending; all backed by a pliant central bank; with aims of social stability; and suggestions of protectionism to lock this liquidity in; and hopes the currency moves lower. Takes one to know one? But rather than accept the expected flood of hot capital inflows --pushing up CNY, blowing bubbles, and seeing jobs exported along with manufacturing-- suggestions are they will encourage more capital to flow straight back out again. In which case, it’s more of a Fed-dy bulls picnic globally. But somebody is going to end up with an over-valued currency, hitting exports, and assets, hitting financial stability.  

There are many other ways this can play out too, depending in large part on how the US reacts – but all of them suggest the risk of significant market and geopolitical volatility, to which today could well be a key milestone.

But that’s enough for now. I am a tired little Fed-dy bear, and today will likely be no picnic.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/17/2021 - 10:44
Published:3/17/2021 9:54:29 AM
[Entertainment] Washington Post hardcover bestsellers A snapshot of popular books. Published:3/17/2021 7:54:23 AM
[Media] Journalists Abandon Crucial ‘Accountability’ Projects in the Post-Trump Era

America's journalists sacrificed so much during the Trump administration. What the Royal Air Force was to the Battle of Britain, our media establishment was to the Battle for America's Soul. You can read all about it in one of the many bestselling books about how dangerous it was to be a journalist during the last four years.

The post Journalists Abandon Crucial ‘Accountability’ Projects in the Post-Trump Era appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:3/16/2021 4:20:12 PM
[Security] House Duo Target 3 Books of ‘Poison’ on Navy’s Reading List for Sailors

Two members of Congress are asking the Navy to pull three books promoting identity politics and wokeness from its official reading list.  The books teach... Read More

The post House Duo Target 3 Books of ‘Poison’ on Navy’s Reading List for Sailors appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:3/16/2021 4:20:12 PM
[] WATCH: Teacher Rips Woke School District for 'Racist Insanity' Published:3/15/2021 3:18:04 PM
[World] [Eugene Volokh] Monday Media Have any books, movies, or TV shows you can recommend? Published:3/15/2021 6:40:48 AM
[Markets] Greenwald: The Leading Activists For Online Censorship Are Corporate Journalists Greenwald: The Leading Activists For Online Censorship Are Corporate Journalists

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via Substack,

There are not many Congressional committees regularly engaged in substantive and serious work — most are performative — but the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law is an exception. Led by its chairman Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and ranking member Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), it is, with a few exceptions, composed of lawmakers whose knowledge of tech monopolies and anti-trust law is impressive.

In October, the Committee, after a sixteen-month investigation, produced one of those most comprehensive and informative reports by any government body anywhere in the world about the multi-pronged threats to democracy posed by four Silicon Valley monopolies: Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The 450-page report also proposed sweeping solutions, including ways to break up these companies and/or constrain them from controlling our political discourse and political life. That report merits much greater attention and consideration than it has thus far received.

The Subcommittee held a hearing on Friday and I was invited to testify along with Microsoft President Brad Smith; President of the News Guild-Communications Workers of America Jonathan Schleuss, the Outkick’s Clay Travis, CEO of the Graham Media Group Emily Barr, and CEO of the News Media Alliance David Chavern. The ostensible purpose the hearing was a narrow one: to consider a bill that would vest media outlets with an exemption from anti-trust laws to collectively bargain with tech companies such as Facebook and Google so that they can obtain a greater share of the ad revenue. The representatives of the news industry and Microsoft who testified were naturally in favor of this bill (they have been heavily lobbying for it) because it would benefit them commercially in numerous way (the Microsoft President maintained the conceit that the Bill-Gates-founded company was engaging in self-sacrifice for the good of Democracy by supporting the bill but the reality is the Bing search engine owners are in favor of anything that weakens Google).

While I share the ostensible motive behind the bill — to stem the serious crisis of bankruptcies and closings of local news outlets — I do not believe that this bill will end up doing that, particularly because it empowers the largest media outlets such as The New York Times and MSNBC to dominate the process and because it does not even acknowledge, let alone address, the broader problems plaguing the news industry, including collapsing trust by the public (a bill that limited this anti-trust exemption to small local news outlets so as to allow them to bargain collectively with tech companies in their own interest would seem to me to serve the claimed purpose much better than one which empowers media giants to form a negotiating cartel).

But the broader context for the bill is the one most interesting and the one on which I focused in my opening statement and testimony: namely, the relationship between social media and tech giants on the one hand, and the news media industry on the other. Contrary to the popular narrative propagated by news outlets — in which they are cast as the victims of the supremely powerful Silicon Valley giants — that narrative is sometimes (not always, but sometimes) the opposite of reality: much if not most Silicon Valley censorship of political speech emanates from pressure campaigns led by corporate media outlets and their journalists, demanding that more and more of their competitors and ideological adversaries be silenced. Big media, in other words, is coopting the power of Big Tech for their own purposes.

My written opening testimony, which is on the Committee’s site, is also printed below. The video of the full hearing can be seen here. Here is the video of my opening five-minute statement:

My full written statement, which focused on the key role played by corporate news outlets in agitating for online censorship against their competitors and ideological adversaries and the threat that poses to democracy, is printed below:

Opening Statement of Glenn Greenwald

March 12, 2021

Before the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. 

I am a constitutional lawyer, a journalist, and the author of six books on civil liberties, media and politics. After graduating New York University School of Law in 1994, I worked as a constitutional and media law litigator for more than a decade, first at the firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and then at a firm I co-founded in 1997. During my work as a lawyer, I represented numerous clients in First Amendment free speech and press freedom cases, including individuals with highly controversial views who were targeted for punishment by state and non-state actors alike, as well as media outlets subjected to repressive state limitations on their rights of expression and reporting. 

Since 2005, I have worked primarily as a journalist and author, reporting extensively on civil liberties debates, assaults on free speech and a free press, the value of a free and open internet, the implications of growing Silicon Valley monopolistic power, and the complex relationship between corporate media outlets and social media companies. That reporting has received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting. In 2013, I co-founded the online news outlet The Intercept, and in 2016 co-founded its Brazilian branch, The Intercept Brazil

Over the last several years, my journalistic interest in and concern about the dangers of Silicon Valley’s monopoly power has greatly intensified -- particularly as wielded by Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The dangers posed by their growing power manifest in multiple ways. But I am principally alarmed by the repressive effect on free discourse, a free press, and a free internet, all culminating in increasingly intrusive effects on the flow of information and ideas and an increasingly intolerable strain on a healthy democracy.

Three specific incidents over the last four months represent a serious escalation in the willingness of tech monopolies to intrude into and exert control over our domestic politics through censorship and other forms of information manipulation: 

1. In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, The New York Post, the nation’s oldest newspaper, broke a major story based on documents and emails obtained from the laptop of Hunter Biden, son of the front-running presidential candidate Joe Biden. Those documents shed substantial light not only on the efforts of Hunter and other family members of President Biden to trade on his name and their influence on him for lucrative business deals around the world, but also raised serious questions about the extent to which President Biden himself was aware of and involved in those efforts.

But Americans were barred from discussing that reporting on Twitter, and were actively impeded from reading about it by Facebook. 

That is because Twitter imposed a full ban on its users’ ability to link to the story: not just on their public Twitter pages but even in private Twitter chats. Twitter even locked the account of The New York Post, preventing the newspaper from using that platform for almost two weeks unless they agreed to voluntarily delete any references to their reporting about the Hunter Biden materials (the paper, rightfully, refused).

Facebook’s censorship of this reporting was more subtle and therefore more insidious: a life-long Democratic Party operative who is now a Facebook official, Andy Stone, announced (on Twitter) that Facebook would be “reducing [the article’s] distribution on our platform” pending a review “by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners.” In other words, Facebook tinkered with its algorithms to prevent the dissemination of this reporting about a long-time politician who was leading the political party for which this Facebook official spent years working (See The Intercept, “Facebook and Twitter Cross a Far More Dangerous Line Than What They Censor,” Oct. 15, 2020).

This “fact-check” promised by Facebook never came. That is likely because it was not the New York Post’s reporting which turned out to be false but rather the claims made by these two social media giants to justify its suppression. The censorship justification was that the documents on which the reporting was based constituted either “hacked materials” and/or “Russian disinformation.” 

Neither of those claims is true. Even the FBI has acknowledged that there is no evidence whatsoever of any involvement by the Russian government in the procurement of that laptop, and not even the Biden family, to this very day, has claimed that a single word contained in the published documents is fabricated or otherwise inauthentic. Ample evidence -- including the testimony of others involved in the original creation and circulation of those documents -- demonstrates that they were fully genuine.

This means that two of the largest and most powerful Silicon Valley giants suppressed crucial information about a leading presidential candidate -- the one which employees at their companies overwhelmingly supported -- shortly before voting commenced. While Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for this banning and acknowledged that it may have been wrong, Facebook has never done so. 

While we will never know whether this censorship altered the outcome of the election, it is clear that this was one of the most direct acts of information repression about an American presidential election in decades. That was possible only because of the vast power wielded by these platforms over our political discourse and our political lives.

2. In the wake of the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Facebook, Google, Twitter and numerous other Silicon Valley giants united to remove the democratically elected sitting President of the United States from their platforms.

While many defenders of this corporate censorship tried to minimize it by claiming the President could still be heard by giving speeches and holding press conferences, several leading news outlets followed suit by announcing that they would not carry his speeches live and would only allow to be heard the excerpts they deemed to be safe and responsible.

In response, numerous world leaders -- including several who had clashed in the past with President Trump -- expressed grave concerns about the dangers posed to democracy by the ability of tech monopolies to effectively remove even democratically elected leaders from the internet.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued through her spokesperson that “it is problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended,” adding that “the right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance.” Attempts to regulate speech, the Chancellor said, “can be interfered with, but by law and within the framework defined by the legislature -- not according to a corporate decision.”

The European Union’s Commissioner for Internal Markets Thierry Breton warned: “The fact that a CEO can pull the plug on POTUS’s loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing.” Commissioner Breton noted that this collective Silicon Valley ban “is not only confirmation of the power of these platforms, but it also displays deep weaknesses in the way our society is organized in the digital space.” (CNBC, “Germany’s Merkel hits out at Twitter over ‘problematic’ Trump ban,” Jan. 21, 2021).

The Health Secretary for the United Kingdom, Matt Hanckock, sounded similar alarms. Speaking to the BBC, he said “‘tech giants are ‘taking editorial decisions’ that raise a ‘very big question’ about how social media is regulated,” adding: “That’s clear because they’re choosing who should and shouldn’t have a voice on their platform” (CNBC, “Trump’s social media bans are raising new questions on tech regulation,” Jan. 11, 2021). 

Objections to Silicon Valley’s removal of President Trump from their platforms were even more severe from officials with the government of French President Emmanuel Macron. The French Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune pronounced himself “shocked” by the news of President Trump’s banning, arguing: “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO.” And France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said: “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms,” calling big tech “one of the threats” to democracy (Bloomberg News, “Germany and France Oppose Trump’s Twitter Exile,” Jan. 11, 2021).

Perhaps the most fervent and eloquent warnings about the dangers posed by this episode came from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In a press conference held the day after the announcement, he said:

It’s a bad omen that private companies decide to silence, to censor. That is an attack on freedom. Let’s not be creating a world government with the power to control social networks, a world media power. And also a censorship court, like the Holy Inquisition, but in order to shape public opinion. This is really serious.

The Associated Press further quoted President López Obrador as asking: “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?.” And AP confirmed that “ Mexico’s president vowed to lead an international effort to combat what he considers censorship by social media companies that have blocked or suspended the accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump,” and is “reaching out to other governments to form a common front on the issue” (Associated Press, “Mexican President Mounts Campaign Against Social Media Bans,” Jan. 14, 2021).

Please listen to the Mexican President's warnings about Silicon Valley censorship when asked about the Trump ban. Following the center-right Chancellor Merkel, the leftist AMLO said they were becoming “a world media power" anointing themselves "judges of the Holy Inquisition": pic.twitter.com/5cL5vqq3Ug

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 11, 2021

These world leaders are expressing the same grave concern: that Silicon Valley giants wield power that is, in many instances, greater than that of any sovereign nation-state. But unlike the governments which govern those countries, tech monopolies apply these powers arbitrarily, without checks and without transparency. When doing so, they threaten not only American democracy but democracies around the world.

3. Critics of Silicon Valley power over political discourse for years have heard the same refrain: if you don’t like how they are moderating content and policing discourse, you can go start your own social media platform that is more permissive. Leaving aside the centuries-old recognition that it is impossible, by definition, to effectively compete with monopolies, we now have an incident vividly proving how inadequate that alternative is. 

Several individuals who primarily identify as libertarians heard this argument from Silicon Valley’s defenders and took it seriously. They set out to create a social media competitor to Twitter and Facebook -- one which would provide far broader free expression rights for users and, more importantly, would offer greater privacy protections than other Silicon Valley giants by refusing to track those users and commoditize them for advertisers. They called it Parler, and in early January, 2021, it was the single most-downloaded app in the Apple Play Store. This success story seemed to be a vindication for the claim that it was possible to create competitors to existing social media monopolies.

But now, a mere two months after it ascended to the top of the charts, Parler barely exists. That is because several members of Congress with the largest and most influential social media platforms demanded that Apple and Google remove Parler from their stores and ban any further downloading of the app, and further demanded that Amazon, the dominant provider of web hosting services, cease hosting the site. Within forty-eight hours, those three Silicon Valley monopolies complied with those demands, rendering Parler inoperable and effectively removing it from the internet (See “How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler,” Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 12, 2021).

The justification of this collective banning was that Parler had hosted numerous advocates of and participants in the January 6 Capitol riot. But even if that were a justification for removing an entire platform from the internet, subsequent reporting demonstrated that far more planning and advocacy of that riot was done on other platforms, including Facebook, Google-owned YouTube, Instagram and Twitter (See The Washington Post, “Facebook’s Sandberg deflected blame for Capitol riot, but new evidence shows how platform played role,“ Jan. 13, 2021; Forbes, “Sheryl Sandberg Downplayed Facebook’s Role In The Capitol Hill Siege—Justice Department Files Tell A Very Different Story,” Feb. 7, 2021).

Whatever else one might want to say about the destruction of Parler, it was a stark illustration of how these Silicon Valley giants could obliterate even a highly successful competitor overnight, with little effort, by uniting to do so. And it laid bare how inadequate is the claim that Silicon Valley’s monopolies can be challenged through competition.

How Congress sets out to address Silicon Valley’s immense and undemocratic power is a complicated question, posing complex challenges. The proposal to vest media companies with an antitrust exemption in order to allow them to negotiate as a consortium or cartel seeks to rectify a real and serious problem -- the vacuuming up of advertising revenue by Google and Facebook at the expense of the journalistic outlets which create the news content being monetized -- but empowering large media companies could easily end up creating more problems than it solves.

That is particularly so given that it is often media companies that are the cause of Silicon Valley censorship of and interference in political speech of the kind outlined above. When these social media companies were first created and in the years after, they wanted to avoid being in the business of content moderation and political censorship. This was an obligation foisted upon them, often by the most powerful media outlets using their large platforms to shame these companies and their executives for failing to censor robustly enough. 

Sometimes this pressure was politically motivated -- demanding the banning of people whose ideologies sharply differs from those who own and control these media outlets -- but more often it was motivated by competitive objectives: a desire to prevent others from creating independent platforms and thus diluting the monopolistic stranglehold that corporate media outlets exert over our political discourse. Further empowering this already-powerful media industry -- which has demonstrated it will use its force to silence competitors under the guise of “quality control” -- runs the real risk of transferring the abusive monopoly power from Silicon Valley to corporate media companies or, even worse, encouraging some sort of de facto merger in which these two industries pool their power to the mutual benefit of each.

This Subcommittee produced one of the most impressive and comprehensive reports last October detailing the dangers of the classic monopoly power wielded by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. That report set forth numerous legislative and regulatory solutions to comply with the law and a consensus of economic and political science experts about the need to break up monopolies wherever they arise. 

Until that is done, none of these problems can be addressed in ways other than the most superficial, piecemeal and marginal. Virtually every concern that Americans across the political spectrum express about the dangers of Silicon Valley power emanates from the fact that they have been permitted to flout antitrust laws and acquire monopoly power. None of those problems -- including their ability to police and control our political discourse and the flow of information -- can be addressed until that core problem is resolved. 

What is most striking is that while Silicon Valley censorship of online speech and interference in political discourse is recognized as a grave menace to a healthy democracy around the democratic world, it is often dismissed in the U.S. — especially by journalists — as some sort of trivial “culture war” question when they are not actively cheering and even demanding more of it. Even more bizarre is that opposition to oligarchical censorship and monopoly power is often depicted by the liberal-left as a right-wing cause, largely because they perceive (inaccurately) that such oligarchical discourse policing will operate in their favor.

Whatever labels one wants to apply to it, it should not require much work to recognize that vesting this magnitude of power in the hands of unaccountable billionaires, who operate outside the democratic process yet are highly influenced by public media-led pressure campaigns, is unsustainable.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/14/2021 - 19:00
Published:3/14/2021 6:16:01 PM
[Big Tech] Shapes of things (27) (Scott Johnson) In earlier installments of this series we noted Amazon’s suppression of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, by Ryan Anderson. Anderson is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the founding?editor of?Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey. Anderson’s book was published by Encounter Books under the leadership of publisher Roger Kimball. Roger now takes up the story Published:3/14/2021 10:08:04 AM
[Markets] Here's How 30 Preppers Have Adapted And What They Foresee Happening Next Here's How 30 Preppers Have Adapted And What They Foresee Happening Next

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

There’s a lot more crazy and a lot less money than usual, and as I’ve written before, the face of prepping has changed. It’s a lot more difficult (and expensive) to go out and stockpile as we did a few years ago, and the event we’ve faced has been a slow-burning SHTF event that has slowly and insidiously taken away financial security from hundreds of thousands of Americans.

I wondered how others have changed the way they prep to adapt to these times so I asked the folks in our Me-We group if they’ve changed how they prep and if so, what changes they’ve made. If you are interested in joining the group, go here, answer four questions, and be sure to change your profile picture from the Me-We basic images. We don’t care what you change them too, we’re just trying to avoid “bot” traffic from prowling through our group.

Here’s how readers have changed the way they prep.

With some of the comments, I’ve added a comment or a link in italics for more information.

Eileen:

I am working on doing even more with even less. I was laid off at the beginning of Covid. Hubby’s paycheck is down a bit. We have been watching the cost of regularly used items skyrocket, yet again. Teaching myself to grow more long term food items this year. At this point, Daisy, just not giving up feels like prepping, even if it’s just to get up tomorrow and try again.

Here’s an article on how to keep going when things feel hopeless.  ~ D

Lynn:

We are getting ready to move. I am using my food preps to see what we really need and what has been hard to use up. Mostly pertaining to food and household essentials. Saving the money to buy fresh preps after the move. We moved a year ago and I had a huge stockpile that had to be moved twice in two months. I think it is better to use it up than move it and then replace it with fresh food and water.

This is a great way to rotate your stock and always have fresher products available. Just pay attention to the things that are in shortage or difficult to acquire. You may not want to go through that supply just yet. ~ D

Jeff:

I have been building up at least a year’s supply of essential items like laundry detergent, shampoo, hand soap, toothpaste, etc. I will be using the stimulus check to add to my freeze-dried food inventory (mostly protein) since I have 1k lbs of dry food stored away. I don’t know if hyperinflation, war, or another pandemic may hit but if it does the goal is to be able to go at least a year without leaving the house.

This is a fantastic goal!

Tami:

After the Texas snowstorm, I’m prepping mainly for life without electricity. I’ve lived off the grid before but had stopped so I’m going back to it. I also realized my need for more stored water .

Here’s an article about preparing for longer-term power outages. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to prepping or if you simply need to make sure you have the things you need. ~ D

Christina:

Prepping mainly for economic upheaval. We kicked up food storage (have a working pantry) January 2020, but it wasn’t an issue to grocery shop in my area, so I slacked off a bit. August of 2020, we put together 6 months of food (again a working pantry I use and replenish), paying off debts, saving money, buying silver, ammo, guns, etc. Anything that will aid us as food and fuel prices goes up or our income goes down. So far, our income has increased since last year, but you never know. I’ll add my pantry includes HH / personal items too.

Stocking up on things other than food is really important. Here’s a list of non-food stockpile items that may inspire you to add to your own supplies. ~ D

Vicki:

We are prepping for civil unrest and skyrocketing inflation. I’ve been watching the groceries I normally buy going up a lot. We are planning to grow more veggies and put in some more fruit trees. We are also making sure we have extras of the tools we use, and enough supplies to fix things(tools, machinery, plumbing, electrical, etc.) that might break. Lumber has also gone up a huge amount, so we are buying extra of that too.

Having spare parts for tools and essential equipment is a vital and often overlooked prep. ~ D

Diane: Everything I can think of from food to security.

Keeping your preps balanced and not focusing too specifically on just one aspect is advised. Toby talks about the vital balance in this article. ~ D

Max:

Building out networks and relationships. Human terrain not “stuff”.

Here’s advice on building community even during a pandemic and be sure to check out Selco’s on-demand webinar about community building. ~ D

Susan:

I think hyperinflation and the possible dollar collapse is more possible now than ever. I am adding canned and dried food stocks to my preps especially items that are predicted to become exorbitantly expensive like corn and coffee. I am also eagerly watching my garden waiting for it to thaw out. Most of the snow and ice is gone except in the woods.

Here are some things you can do right now to get ready for garden season and here’s some advice on how to start planning your garden. ~ D

Sheri:

I’m turning more of my yard into vegetable/herb gardens and will preserve most of the produce. Adding to non-perishables when I see a good sale. Learning basic survival and self-sufficiency skills. Moving toward a simpler lifestyle, so living without modern conveniences will be less of a shock.

This is precisely why my preps are low-tech. ~ D

Stacy:

Survived Texas without blaming the governor or president for leaving me in the cold. We need more stored water. Had enough but saw that I needed more for cleaning. Need larger pots. Fed 7 people easy as my house was only one with gas cooktop. Need cookware to feed 20…and preps to make my own soup kitchen. Need back up potty! Do I have 100 candles? More lamp oil. The little tealight under flowerpot did help to make room cozier. Store for this. A way to wash clothes. A way to take warm shower and wash hair. Prepare a menu, recipes, and storage for meals on the stove top. Prep to share with family. (I live on 20 member family compound.) A way to charge phone. Size c batteries to listen to CDs….more CDs. Hootch. OTC

Awesome learning experience. I can definitely help with instructions for this off-grid kitty litter potty for humans. ~ D

Ezra:

We are working on paying off debts (Dave Ramsey) and materials for life without electricity. We lost power for 4 days during the winter storm here in Texas

Here are a couple of articles you may find helpful regarding debt (one is directly from Dave’s strategies) and here’s an ebook about dealing with power outages. ~ D

Lynn:

We are focusing on our garden this year. Our goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible in regard to produce. I want to save seeds from the garden for the future. We aren’t growing grains, wheat, and oats, though. That is a future project.

Here’s our favorite source for seeds – you can also get a free garden planner at that link and it is a small, family-run business. ~ D

Rob:

The money hasn’t changed for me in the Great White North. I’ve realized, though, that prepping for an event like an EMP is trying to play apocalypse lottery; better to consider the consequences of whatever it is you worry about and prepare for those. It stops you from making assumptions. (Makes an ass of U and umptions). I.e. instead of prepping for an EMP, I’m prepping for a collapse of communication and transportation of goods like food, no matter the cause. I’m expanding my EMP-proof storage still but I’m more prepared to handle, say, a food shortage whereas before my food plans only involved getting out of the city and joining a full farm.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom to what you said there. A lot of folks hyperfocus on just one thing when in fact most disasters are an entire series of bad things. Some useful links might be this one about making a Faraday cage, this one about a communications collapse, and this one about the strain on our transportation system for goods.

Bestsmall country:

Hi Daisy, I’ve been watching everything since early 2018, and the most striking thing is the correlation between Q and the Bible!! I did most of my prepping back then. Long-life food, seeds (I learned how to grow veg). All done under the radar, especially Crypto and PMs. Skills will be the REAL asset. I’m hoping a local viewer of my channel will ‘kidnap’ me because the idiots that wouldn’t listen will be banging on my door

OpSec is more important than ever! Here’s an article that might help others who are thinking like you about doing things under the radar. ~ D

Kamay:

Not much change, if any. Been prepping for the collapse of society, food shortages, and the possibility of a grid failure. We try to do all farming, gardening, preservations without the use of electricity and fancy gadgets. We recycle, upcycle, make do and live outside the box.

Simplicity is key! I like your style :). ~ D

Letia:

I need to get ready for a garden! Strawberries will come back, and I’ll start canning again. I need to check my jars. I have some cases but need to check in case folks are back to normalcy or still canning. I need to practice shooting! I need to work on security with more cameras and change the button lock on my back door. ??

DEFINITELY practice shooting. It’s a perishable skill. Here’s an article about creating a safe room at a reasonable price that might be helpful for the security aspect. ~ D

Kris:

Taking care of my animals and plans to raise more meat chickens – so more to feed. Buying feed in bulk and pricing out different feed options, etc.

Have you checked out the fodder method? I took a class on it when I lived in California, but did not set up my own system because we were moving. Here’s a really good article about it. The guy I took the course from had chickens strictly on fodder and free-range. ~ D

Roxanne:

We’re pretty much preparing for our retirement. Then we’ll be on a much lower income. We’ve paid off all our debt except what we use on our credit cards which we pay off every month. We’ve sold off a lot of things which we didn’t need to get rid of the debt. We’re thinking we could be looking at another depression or some other economic troubles. I’ve been trying to grow different vegetables to learn how to do it well. I also have been dehydrating what I can and vacuum sealing them in large mason jars. I plan to learn to pressure can this year so I can take advantage of any sales at the stores on meats and vegetables which don’t grow here.

Here’s an easy how-to for pressure canning, and if you happen to have a glass top stove, some pressure canning options that will work for you.

Heather:

We of the Down Under are keenly aware that we no longer matter with your particular ruling family’s politics. China is now a far more serious threat in the Pacific area. We also no longer refine fuel here, much of it comes from Singapore. We are prepping for blockade/ interruption to supply lines as this would pretty much cripple the country. We have gardens, fruit trees, and are stocking up a bit more on canned goods. We aren’t allowed to store more than a couple of jerry cans of fuel. Also, I have been sure to keep medical checkups and dental checkups very up-to-date for the family as you never know when these things just won’t be available.

You bring up an excellent point with regard to medical and dental care. During the past year of Covid restrictions many people saw health issues getting far worse because they were unable to seek preventative care, or even take care of conditions that arose.  Handling these things while we an is vital. ~ D

Shannon:

I prep for hyperinflation, power grid issues, (due to natural disasters), and civil unrest. I live in the PNW, so we’ve had our share of rioting, unrest, and fluke weather. Prepping food, supplies to deal with no electricity, trying to learn how to cope without electricity. We sold property in Ca. and moved up here and bought property with land.

With the changes you’ve made, you are most likely looking for some suggestions on becoming more self-reliant with the land and new resources you have available. Check out the self-reliance manifesto here. (Some links are no longer working – we’re striving to keep up!) ~ D

Kate:

We’re planning to buy a house/property in the next few years, so we’ve been saving wherever possible. Luckily the covid didn’t affect our income. Cutting back on trips to town. Waiting for the garden to dry out and also waiting for my seeds to arrive. Going to grow mostly for cellar storage this year….potatoes, squashes, carrots, turnips, etc. Jar lids are really hard to find here on Vancouver Island…hopefully, by the fall, I’ll be able to can sauce and V8. Keeping up with buying hard copy books on natural medicine, crafts, foraging.

I’ve really lucked out and gotten some used books on those topics at yardsales. I once spent $100 at a yardsale buying every book the person was selling because her deceased relative had been into food preservation and herbalism. Talk about a motherlode. Another potential goldmine for you is Thriftbooks, which has millions of used books for sale. If you are new to root cellaring, this article may be helpful. ~ D

K:

I’ve spent the last year really focusing on smaller potential SHTF situations (a week to a month type). I feel like I’m in decent shape as far as that goes. Now my focus is more long-term. I want to get sustainable food production set up and keep hounding my kids about the likely change to digital currency in the next few years along with a rise in inflation. I have preached for years that our reliance on food from outside of our areas is going to be a problem in the future. That’s my focus now.

A couple of articles on two topics you mentioned are this one about how our everyday lives would change in a cashless society and this one about why preppers need to localize their food sources. ~ D

James:

Economic misfortune, (job loss, economy downturns) civil unrest, power grid/natural disasters. I am set for two years monetarily, approximately 6 months for comestibles, and a decent self-defense set up although still working on hardening the house. I am also to a lesser extent prepared to bug out home if things really go to s**t, however as I am currently OCONUS I am probably screwed on that part.

That definitely makes things difficult. I think what I would focus on in your shoes is making certain that your family members are able to hang in there for a period of time while waiting for you to make it home. You don’t want them to be in a situation where only you know how to do something important. Redundancies are essential. ~ D

Rita:

We have concentrated more on being self-contained and self-sufficient. We source our needs locally as much as possible. A LOT quieter about accomplishments and acquisitions. For the most part, we no longer have strong public opinions about much of anything. We are becoming more internalized and grey. As we get older, the fighting spirit is still there, but reality says to stock up and shut up. We see civil unrest, and difficult times, if not out and out economic collapse and civil war. The USA is a powder keg right now and some dumba** is going to light the match

Surviving this crazy time does have a lot to do with keeping your thoughts more private. And sometimes the fight you win is the one you don’t participate in. ~ D

Valerie:

Economic collapse is my greatest concern. We are planting a larger garden and stocking up on nonperishable food. I plan to can more this year. In fact, today I scored a lightly used All American 910 canner at the goodwill. $5.99. Scratch that off my bucket list!

Oh my gosh, what a SCORE!!!!!! I’m sure a lot of us reading that are positively green with envy. And the good thing about the All American is there are no parts or gaskets that might need to be replaced. ~ D

Rosemary:

I can’t shake the feeling that we will have a grid-down situation in the near future, so getting prepped for that has been my top priority. Next is food shortages and hyperinflation. Bigger garden & more canning is on my list for this season. I wanted to buy heating mats & lights too this year but didn’t have the extra funds, so I am trying Winter Sowing in gallon water & milk jugs. I have 20+ jugs done so far with lots more to do. Fingers crossed it’s a success!

I’ll be really interested to hear how your Winter Sowing goes! Please keep us posted. Here’s a link to my book on Amazon, Be Ready for Anything. It goes into a lot of detail about long-term power outages in both summer and winter. ~ D

Martha:

Although my area doesn’t normally see really low temps, it does get cold in the winter, and after seeing what happened in Texas, I’m adding a portable heater (either propane or kerosene) to my list of supplies  ASAP.  Just wish AC was as easy to prep for if the grid goes down.  Looking at doing solar with battery backup to keep fridge, freezer running too, and even 1 window ac unit to keep the house at least bearable when it 115 in the summer.

Wow, that sure sounds like some miserable weather to lose power in. Here’s an article about handling hot weather power outages, an article about how to calculate how much power you need to be able to generate, and the off-grid heater I recommend. ~ D

Laura:

In light of the recent hacking into MULTIPLE national security systems, I think the grid down is the biggest threat. Financial collapse would be second after that. I’m using some of the stimulus funds to buy larger ticket items. A respirator/gas mask is next on my list. Additionally, I bought heating pads and fluorescent lights for seed planting this year-going well. Also just bought five 55-gallon water barrels that need washing