Female A-listers have long been the target of beach-lurking paparazzi, hoping to get a less than flattering bikini shot. So this week it made a change to see pictures of former England rugby player Ben Cohen emerging from the Miami surf this week under headlines that included,‘Beefy Ben shows off his portly physique’.
The 36-year-old Strictly Come Dancing star is currently on holiday in the Florida resort with fashion designers Julien Macdonald and Melissa Obadash. Before the pictures were published, Ben was boasting about his workouts with swimwear designer Melissa.
Presumably upon seeing the photographs of his new portlier frame he then tweeted.
Or maybe Ben is getting a ‘Boomer Belly’ – a term many used to describe the onset of mid-life spread that can creep up on men from their mid thirties onwards. ‘During your twenties men naturally have great adrenaline, testosterone and stamina,’ says trainer Matt Roberts, who trains David and Samantha Cameron (www.mattroberts.co.uk).
‘As a man approaches his forties certain things happen in the body like a slowing metabolism and reduced elasticity in the ligaments. All male body types are prone to this in later life. However, there are plenty of things men can do slow this process down. 40-year-olds like David Beckham are proof that if you keep your exercise consistent and varied, you don’t have to suddenly see yourself described as portly once passed a certain age.
Bubblevision’s Scott Wapner nearly split a neck vessel today denouncing the US stock market sell-off. It was completely unwarranted, he thundered, because China don’t have nothin’ to do with anything.
Why, insisted CNBC’s best dressed pom-pom boy, China’s stock market has never been correlated with its economy, and, anyhow, its economy doesn’t matter all that much to the S&P 500 because China accounts for only 14% of global GDP.
Besides that, China’s stock market is exactly like what Yogi Berra said about his favorite restaurant: It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore!
That is, according to the talking heads Chinese household’s don’t go to the bourses, either. Few of them own stock and equities account for only 20% of household wealth compared to upwards of 65% in the US.
So enough of the schwitzing about the red chip sideshow. Buy the dip!
Indeed, that’s exactly what the insentient robo-traders did at the close. After banging the 200DMA, they bid the S&P right back-up to Monday’s VWAP (volume weighted average price) in the final seconds, thereby filling-up their sell buckets to unload on tomorrow’s dip buyers. As Zero Hedge noted,
On the day, US equities staged their standard JPY ignited momo bounce off the 200DMA – running perfectly to VWAP in the S&P, before limping lower…and a mini algo meltup to VWAP at the close… all completely human!!
As for purportedly sentient humans, however, the better advice would be to flee the dip with all due haste. The truth is, China is not a sideshow; its the radioactive core of the entire global bubble.
Needless to day, the Wall Street shills and touts are so oblivious to this fundamental reality that they can not even see the obvious facts about China—-to say nothing of the macro-quick sand upon which the entire global economy is poised.
The meme of the day—–that China doesn’t have so many gamblers—-is hilarious. From stem to stern, China’s version of red capitalism has evolved into the greatest gambling den in history. The whole thing is a giant punt—from 60 million empty high rise apartments, to ghost cities and malls, to endless bridges, highways and airports to nowhere, to laying down more cement in three years than the US did during the entire 20th century.
But today’s Wall Street admonition to move along because there is nothing to see in the plunging red bourses really takes the cake. In fact, yesterday’s 8.5% plunge on the Shanghai market—–mostly in the last hour and in the face of $1 trillion of state buying power and several thousand paddy wagons thrown at sellers, malicious or otherwise—-is merely a foreshock; it’s a fateful warning about the global-scale financial temblors heading at the incorrigible army of dip buyers in New York, London and their farm teams elsewhere.
In the first place, upwards of 90 million households are in the Chinese stock market, most of them buried under margin debt. Among them, they hold exactly 258 million trading accounts and a significant fraction of these were opened in just the past year by Chinese pig farmers, bus drivers and banana vendors, among millions of quasi-literate others.
The country went nuts speculating in stocks just like it has in empty apartments, coal mines, expensive watches, Macau slot machines, fine wines, copper stockpiles, and almost anything else that can be bought and sold. So when the Beijing overlords go into full panic mode about the stock market plunge, they actually have a reason: There are more trading accounts in their red casinos than there are people in Japan, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, combined!.
Do they fear the wrath of the tens of million of newly affluent Chinese that they have lured into the stock market? Yes they do, and for good reason. Namely, if the stock market comes crashing back to earth—–then what is at stake is not merely several trillion in paper wealth, but the essential credibility of the regime itself.
After all, even in China’s fevered gambling halls the people would surely notice the $7 trillion elephant missing from the room, and wonder about its implications for the rest of the Beijing Ponzi. That is to say, at its June 13 peak the Shanghai index was trading at 70X the reported LTM earnings of its constituent companies. Were these nosebleed valuations to be re-rated to a merely bubbly 30X, the Shanghai index would plunge back to its level of one year ago, vaporizing the aforementioned $7 trillion in the process.
The truth is, the Chinese stock market is not even worth 30X because the entire Ponzi is unraveling. The Chinese economy is bloated with monumental malinvestments and stupendous excesses—–the likes of which have never previously been visited upon a modern industrial economy.
Accordingly, while it is impossible to gauge the magnitude and timing of the hard landing now imminent, one thing is certain. Namely, the virtual impossibility that an economy flushed with a helter-skelter debt expansion from $2 trillion to $28 trillion in just 14 years—-especially one that has no rule of contract law or even semblance of honest capital markets—- can avoid a thundering deflationary collapse.
Stated differently, profits have already nearly vanished in upstream sectors like coal, steel, aluminum and cement; are now eroding in shipbuilding, construction equipment, solar equipment, and other capital goods; and will soon be falling in overbuilt consumer industries, especially, automobiles, as well. Like Japan in the mid-1990s, China is heading for an era of profitless deflation as its credit binge comes to an end.
In short, China’s companies are not worth last July’s stock market valuation, let alone their current perilous perch. And that’s where the skunk in the woodpile comes in. The Beijing suzerains have shot their wad. They cannot afford to pump more fiat credit into the stock market, meaning that the only remaining recourse is to arrest the sellers as enemies of the state.
Needless to say, red capitalism is not the same as Mao’s red socialism. The latter held that power comes from the barrel of a gun, and if push-came-to-shove, full jails and energetic firing squads could enforce the regime. Indeed, even after Mao foolishly denuded the countryside of insect-eating birds and farm implements during the Great Leap Forward, the regime handily survived 40 million deaths from the resulting famines.
But since the time of Mr. Deng, the power of the Chinese communist party has come from the end of a printing press, and for all practical purposes the People’s Printing Press is out of business. That because China is now imperiled by massive capital flight.
During the last five quarters its external accounts have hemorrhaged upwards of $800 billion of private capital outflows. That staggering figure represents the the sum of its current account surpluses plus its drawdown of official reserve assets. Stated differently, had China’s $400 billion of current account surpluses been added to its reserves during that period, its reserve balance would total $4.5 trillion, not $3.7 trillion. The difference is a massive stampede of hot capital, as depicted in the chart below.
So here’s the thing. A regime that lives by the printing press is consigned to eventually dying by it. Accordingly, Beijing cannot open up the credit spigot again without further exacerbating its torrid capital flight.
So the only tool left to prop-up the red casinos is Beijing’s enormous fleet of paddy wagons. But with 258 million trading accounts in place, it is doubtful that even Beijing can arrest the sellers fast enough to forestall the stock market plunge still ahead.
As the communist oligarchs desperately hop from increasingly gimmicky stimulus ploys to the mailed fist of economic repression, one thing is quite predictable. Even its phony numbers machine will not much longer be able to hide the fact that the Chinese economy is grinding to a halt, and that the miracle of red capitalism was never remotely what Wall Street cracked it up to be.
Here’s the thing. Between the 2007 pre-crisis peak and 2014, the estimated world GDP expanded from $53 trillion to about $69 trillion. But fully 33% of that $17 trillion gain was directly accounted for by China; and far more than half of the total is actually attributable when the multiplier effect on resource suppliers like Australia, Brazil and Canada is accounted for, and when the pull effect on intermediate component suppliers like south Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Taiwan is added to the brew.
That’s not 14%. The collapse of red capitalism in China is exporting gale force deflation to the global economy, meaning that the already evident rollover of world trade is just beginning its descent.
So S&P profits are not immune, not by a longshot. One of these days, perhaps soon, even Scott Wapner will get the memo.
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.
I’m what people call a “contrarian” investor. I tend to buy assets that are out of favor with the chattering classes and the talking heads on television.
And I make it a point to sell when the “man in the street” starts giving me investment tips. That happened most recently in 2011, when over a glass of Malbec at a local watering hole, I overheard two other patrons talking about the “killing” they were about to make buying gold at $1,800 an ounce. I sold all but my core position the next day.
Since then, gold has had a tough time of it. It closed last week under $1,100 per ounce. The talking heads now predict $800 gold by the end of 2016.
I don’t agree, but I understand their logic. After all,
- The US dollar is on a tear. Many investors purchase gold to guard against dollar devaluation. But the US Dollar Index, a weighted average of the dollar’s value against a basket of currencies, stands near its highest level (reached in March) since 2003. In the last year alone, this index has soared over 15%.
- Digital currencies like Bitcoin are eating away at gold’s popularity. No, digital currencies aren’t backed by a commodity, but they’re not created out of thin air by a central bank either. And their ease of use and potential for anonymous financial transactions has reduced some of gold’s traditional allure.
- Chinese consumers are selling. While it’s not received much attention in the US, Chinese stocks have cratered, dropping 30% in the last month. This drop comes on the heels of a stunning 154% gain between June 2014 and June 2015. As is often the case in roaring bull markets, many first-time stock investors used money they couldn’t afford to lose, to invest. Some of them even borrowed money to make leveraged bets. Those that borrowed money must now repay their loans with whatever asset is easiest to liquidate. In many cases, that’s gold.
- Unprecedented appetite for high-risk investments.Who needs gold when you can get rich buying a startup company? While gold hit a 5½ year low last week, during the last quarter, venture capital (VC) companies invested the most money in high-risk startups since the heyday of the Internet boom in 2000. Back then, VC moguls were investing millions in questionable holdings such as WorldCom, Pets.com, and Baby Bob, all of which eventually declared bankruptcy. I suspect we’ll see a lot more bankruptcies when this VC frenzy ends as well.
Under the circumstances, it’s easy to see why the talking heads see only disaster ahead for gold. But I think they’re missing the point.
That’s because gold is the ultimate “anti-dollar” investment. Despite its current strength, the dollar priced in gold has lost more than 95% of its value in the last 100 years. During that period, gold prices have increased more than 50-fold in dollar terms – from an official price of $20.67/oz. in 1915 to nearly $1,100/oz. today.
It’s also telling to observe that central banks, the folks who simply create dollars or euros out of thin air, are net buyers of gold. Indeed, as a group, the world’s central banks are buying more gold than they have in more than a half a century.
Obviously, central banks aren’t listening to the talking heads. But why are they buying gold? The only plausible reason is to hedge against a decline in value of the other assets they hold, primarily US dollars. Indeed, fully 60% of disclosed central bank reserves consist of US dollar holdings.
Central bankers understand that if the dollar takes a hit, the value of their reserves will fall sharply, unless they also hold assets that will appreciate as the dollar falls. That’s exactly what gold has done for more than a century. Indeed, gold has a 5,000-year track record as the ultimate asset to hold against debasement of a nation’s currency.
Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear how much gold central banks are buying. For instance, China announced two weeks ago that its official gold holdings now come to 1,658 tons. That’s only a fraction of what many analysts thought they had stockpiled. The small size of China’s hoard gave the talking heads yet another reason to recommend selling gold.
Yet, the Chinese might have lied about this statistic to depress the gold market further. After all, if you have a long-term strategy of accumulating a particular asset, the last thing you want to do is telegraph your intentions to others. They’ll just bid up its price, forcing you to pay more.
China is the world’s largest gold producer, mining more than 2,000 tons of gold since 2009. It’s imported at least another 4,000 tons of gold as well in this period. Chinese consumers no doubt purchased some of that gold, but I suspect a big chunk of it is sitting in the vaults of the People’s Bank of China. I think China has a lot more than 1,658 tons stockpiled.
Sure, gold could go lower. In any financial crisis, for instance, debtors must liquidate their assets to pay creditors. Since gold is a highly liquid asset, it’s easy for debtors to sell it to raise cash.
Still, gold is the cornerstone of my own portfolio. As the anti-dollar, when the dollar finally corrects – and it will – gold prices will recover, and the dollar will resume its 100-year plunge in value.
And that’s far from the only reason to buy gold. Unlike bank accounts, governments can’t “bail in” gold. If your gold is held securely in allocated form, it has far more intrinsic safety than a bank account deposit, a money market holding, or a promise to pay issued by any government.
There couldn’t be a better time to start buying gold – especially if you don’t already own some – than now.
Reprinted with permission from Nestmann.com.
- “I own Krugerrands” says legendary Jim Grant
- He is “very bullish indeed” on gold
- Gold is “investment in financial and monetary disorder” – says Grant
- It thrives in current environment – “uncertainty, turbulence and disorder”
- “One of the most radical periods of monetary experimentation in the annals of money”
- “Gold…is now the conjunction of price, value and sentiment”
- Reminds owners of gold that the original reasons for buying gold have not gone away
- Believes Fed will raise rates despite deflationary environment
- Explains detrimental effect of excessive debt on an economy
- Grant light-heartedly destroys Jason Zweig’s “pet rock” gold jibe
Jim Grant, publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer says that gold is “an investment in financial and monetary disorder.” He believes that today we are experiencing “uncertainty, turbulence and disorder”.
When asked how he liked to own gold he said he owned physical, generic, non-numismatic coins – specifically mentioning South African Gold Krugerrands and also mining shares.
Krugerrands are one of the cheapest and most cost effective ways to buy gold with very low premiums. Clients in Ireland, the UK, the U.S. and internationally are currently buying Krugerrands at extremely low premiums of just 2.5%. They remain some of the most popular bullion coins in the market due to their durability (harder 22-carat gold coin), recognisability, portability and liquidity throughout the world.
“You look around the world and you see exchange rates are properly disorderly, when you look around the world of lending and borrowing — we are in a regime of price control by another name, so-called zero percent rates and quantitative easing by the world central banks”.
He adds, “We are in one of the most radical periods of monetary experimentation in the annals of money”, with a “low probability” of a favourable outcome.
Given the disorder he sees in the world due to monetary experimentation and the very low gold price Grant says,
“You want to have exposure to the reciprocal asset of the paper assets that are the most popular – so gold, to me, is now the conjunction of price, value and sentiment, and I am very bullish indeed.”
He describes the recent fall in prices as “terrifically vexing but a wonderful opportunity” and reminds owners of gold that the reasons for owning gold have not gone away. He emphasises that gold thrives in periods of turbulence and disorder and uncertainty adding “I think we have all three of these things.”
On interest rates Grant believes that the Fed – having talked interest rate rises for so long – must soon take action to maintain “institutional pride”. However, it may be economically counterproductive given the deflationary forces still extant.
“The Fed feels it must act just for institutional pride; but, money supply growth is dwindling, the turnover rate of money likewise, the only thing that is dynamic in the world of money and credit is the issuance of more and more dubiously sourced debt, and more and more lenient terms”.
Grant takes a light hearted pop at Jason Zweig’s theory that gold is simply a “pet rock”. He jokes that gold can make people say ridiculous things they may soon regret – pointing out that Zweig had written a piece “within two weeks of the top of the bullion price” in 2011 extolling the virtues of gold mining stocks.
During the course of the interview he also explains how excessive debt can be detrimental to an economy.
“What debt does is two things: it pulls forward consumption and pushes back evidence of business failure”.
Debt allows us to spend more on what we want today at the expense of what we need in the future. Businesses which should fail are kept alive by easy credit leading to a backlog of bankruptcies and more loan defaults in the future.
While optimists in general, we share Jim Grant’s pessimism with regards to the health of the global monetary and economic system. and the usefulness of gold as to protect one’s wealth in the current environment.
We also believe that physical bars and coins including Krugerrands, should form the bedrock of any gold investment strategy. We offer delivery and storage of Krugerrands at the most competitive prices, in the safest vaults in the safest jurisdictions in the world.
Reprinted with permission from GoldCore.
Jacob has worked on the front lines of hotels for more than a decade, starting as a lowly valet in New Orleans and ultimately landing at a front desk in New York City. He’s also the author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality and a man with some hospitality secrets to spill.
1. HOTELS ARE RAKING IT IN.
The fact that a hotel could fail to be profitable astounds me. Why? The average cost to turn over a room, to keep it operational per day, is between $30 and $40. If you’re paying less than $30 dollars a night at a hotel/motel, I’d wager the cost to flip that room runs close to $5. Which makes me want to take a shower. At home. That $40 turnover cost includes cleaning supplies, electricity, and hourly wages for housekeepers, minibar attendants, front desk agents, and all other employees needed to operate a room as well as the cost of laundering the sheets. Everything. Compare that with an average room rate, and you can see why it’s a profitable business.
2. STAYING FOR JUST ONE NIGHT? YOU MIGHT GET “WALKED.”
The term “walking a guest” sends shivers down any manager’s spine. Since the average no-show rate is 10 percent daily, hotels will overbook whenever possible. The sales and reservations departments are encouraged to book the property to 110 percent capacity, in the hopes that with cancellations and no-shows they will fill every room. What happens when the numbers game doesn’t play in the hotel’s favor? Someone gets walked. The hotel will now pay for the entire night’s room and tax (plus one phone call—how cute is that?) at another comparable hotel in the area.
A guest is more likely to get walked if:1. He booked using Expedia, hence he has a deeply discounted rate and is less important.2. He never stayed here before and may never visit the city again.3. He’s a one-nighter.4. And this one is so much more important than all the others: He is acting like a jerk.
3. SMART COMPLAINERS WIN.
Though most complaints should be delivered to the front desk directly, in person or on the phone, keep in mind that most issues will not have been caused by the front desk at all. So briefly outline your problem, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask whom you should speak with to have the problem solved. “Should I speak to a manager about this?” “Should I speak to housekeeping about this?” Those are wonderful and beautiful questions to ask. Most of the time, the front desk will be able to solve the problem immediately or at least act as proxy.
Want to make sure that the agent doesn’t nod, say “certainly,” and not do a damn thing? Get his or her name. Nothing tightens up an employee’s throat like being directly identified. You don’t have to threaten him or her either, just a nice casual “Thanks for your help. I’ll stop by later to make sure everything has been taken care of. Tommy, right?” Whatever you asked me to do I am doing it. (Will screaming get you what you want? Well, probably. But it’s not nearly as effective.)
4. THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO CASE A PILLOW.
To put on a pillowcase, the housekeepers throw a solid karate chop right down the middle of the pillow and then shove it in, folded like a bun. This method is preferred to the civilian method of tucking it under your chin and pulling up the pillowcase like a pair of pants because these ladies have no interest in letting 50 pillows a day come into contact with their faces.
5. ENJOY YOUR LEMONY FRESH GLASSES.
You know what cleans the hell out of a mirror, and I’m talking no streaks? Windex? No. Furniture polish. Spray on a thick white base, rub it in, and you’ll be face-to-face with a spotless, streak-free mirror. However, I am not recommending you take this tip and apply it in your own home. Though using furniture polish is quick and effective, over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub.
The housekeepers kept this move behind closed doors along with another dirty secret I didn’t discover until I walked in on ladies with Pledge in one hand and a minibar glass in the other. Keeping those glasses clean-looking was also part of the job. So the next time you put a little tap water into the glass and wonder why it has a pleasant lemon aftertaste, it’s because you just took a shot of Pledge.
Revisionism, according to Harry Elmer Barnes, is bringing history into accord with the facts. Why would history and factual evidence be at odds? Because governments, per Orwell, falsify the past to keep the population subservient. If people really knew what governments had done they would want less of it than they have.
How much less is the question Lew Rockwell addresses in his book, Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto, released in May, 2014. As the title makes clear, Rockwell argues for the complete elimination of the State.
Many people otherwise favoring unfettered freedom will qualify their position with an inevitable “but” — “but we need government to provide physical security and dispute resolution, the most critical services of all.”
If the free market is the “arena of voluntary interactions between individuals” that has proven so fruitful over the past 250 years, why does it need a coercive monopoly — the State — providing its most critical services? Monopolies, he reminds us, are characterized by higher prices and poorer service. Furthermore, the State, because it lacks the profit and loss test for allocating resources, “has no idea what to produce, in what quantities, in what location, using what methods.” Given the importance of physical security and dispute resolution why do we assign its provision to such a thoroughly flawed institution?
Morally, the state fails in every way we consider moral, Rockwell points out. Instead of acquiring revenue through voluntary trade it steals from us and calls it taxation; it not only steals it tells us it’s our duty to comply if we want a civilized society. If this sounds fishy we better get with it because this is the only way we can keep barbarians outside the gates and criminals from breaking into our homes. Instead of attempting to provide for the general public, the state greases the squeaky wheels that lobby for special favors in exchange for votes or campaign contributions.
To paraphrase Major General Smedley Butler, the State is a racket, the oldest and easily the most profitable, and surely the most vicious.
Yet we are indoctrinated to view the State from an early age as a positive force, thanks to its control of the educational system. We are encouraged “to consider the State’s predation morally acceptable, and the world of voluntary exchange morally suspect.”
But even if one agrees that the State is an unwanted invader in our lives, does it necessarily follow that it should be eliminated? Isn’t it instead a strong candidate for reform? Rockwell says reform is futile.
Governments have no interest in staying limited, when they can expand their power and wealth by instead increasing their scope.
The next time you find yourself insisting that we need to keep government limited, ask yourself why it never, ever stays that way. Might you be chasing a unicorn?
What about “the people”? Can’t they be trusted to keep government limited? The answer to that question is all around you.
The State’s wars
If war is the health of the state, then the U.S. state has achieved a remarkable degree of well-being. As Rockwell argues, the State’s health does not produce a corresponding degree of health in Americans or people in other countries it is allegedly trying to help. Quite the opposite.
In demonstrating the State’s disregard for actual human beings, he cites the 60 Minutes interview in 1996 with then UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, with her infamous remark about the deaths of half a million Iraqi children being “worth” the price of UN economic sanctions. That Albright did not dispute the statistic has been taken by sanctions opponents that it was legitimate. At the time, the US-led sanctions were an attempt to compel Iraq “to disclose and eliminate any weapons of mass destruction.”
Estimates of the number of Iraqi deaths during the first four years of the Iraq War range from 151,000 to over one million, with Rockwell emphasizing the latter figure. These are only estimates because the U.S. did not think it worthwhile to track Iraqi (or Afghan) deaths. In the frank words of U.S. General Tommy Franks, “we don’t do body counts.”
Whichever figures are closer to the truth, the so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom resulted in Operation Iraqi Death and Destruction.
Rockwell attributes American indifference to Iraqi suffering to “this mysterious thing called nationalism.”
[It] makes an ideological religion of the nation’s wars. We are god-like liberators. They are devil-like terrorists. No amount of data or contrary information seems to make a dent in this irreligious faith. So it is in every country and in all times. Here is the intellectual blindness that war generates.
And the blindness is ideological, not technological. We are the good guys. “Every nation believes that about itself, but freedom is well served by the few who dare to think critically.”
Something at the heart of American culture leads us to believe that everyone in the world would be pleased to be ruled by us. We seem to have great difficulty in sympathizing with the victims of US foreign policy. In addition, the whole of modern life seems to teach us that force is the answer to all problems. This is the basis of all domestic policy as recommended by both right and left. The Iraq War is nothing but an extension of this model. (My emphasis)
Rockwell goes on to examine other wars in our history, particularly the Civil War and World War II, and shows that the government was not fighting to defend the freedom of Americans. In the first case, Lincoln, as he threatened to do in his first inaugural, invaded the South to force it to collect a high federal tariff, which was an attempt to force southerners to subsidize northern manufacturers. World War II was the capstone of two previous government disasters, World War I and the Great Depression, and it took government treachery to get the Japanese to strike the first blow and change Americans’ attitude about entering the fray.
Wars against Americans
The government doesn’t limit itself to wars against other states. The War on Drugs is manifestly a war on American civilians that “needlessly puts thousands of people in jail and discriminates against blacks, for a completely illegitimate purpose.”
Almost everybody today realizes that Prohibition was a failure: the attempt to regulate alcohol consumption didn’t work and brought crime and civil liberties violations in its wake. . . But if most people reject the Prohibition Amendment as an undue restriction on personal freedom, shouldn’t they reject the war on drugs as well?
It’s not just astronomically high incarceration rates that this war has produced. Quoting Laurence Vance, he writes:
The war on drugs has destroyed financial privacy. Deposit more than $10,000 in a bank account and you are a suspected drug trafficker. … The war on drugs has provided the rationale for militarizing local police departments. … The war on drugs has resulted in outrageous behavior by police in their quest to arrest drug dealers. … The war on drugs has eviscerated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The State’s monopoly of legal coercion can be invaluable for groups that want to impose their agenda on the rest of us. As the agenda produces legislation and more bureaucracy, government expands, which is another way of saying more of our liberties disappear.
Environmentalism, the call for tyranny
The environmentalist movement regards humans as the number one threat to the survival of the planet, and today “it holds the moral high ground.” Nature is pure and man a blight. The great evil is capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. If you’re burdened with a terminally-ill disease, suggests an EarthFirst! Journal article, “Don’t go out with a whimper; go out with a bang! Undertake an eco-kamikaze mission.” Don’t jump off a bridge — blow it up.
Yet there’s no denying we have environmental problems. Rockwell returns to the free market for a solution:
The answer is to privatize and deregulate everything, from trash pickup to landfills. That way, everyone pays an appropriate part of the costs. . . . The choice is always the same: put consumers in charge through private property and a free price system, or create a fiasco through government.
But some problems are global in scope, say the environmentalists, and only a world government can solve them. How are we going to keep the air clean and the water potable without forcing people to radically change their behavior?
In economics, if something is not owned but used by many, it is called the “tragedy of the commons,” a term popularized by Garret Hardin. The problem, to quote Aristotle, is “that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.”
Robert P. Murphy in his Mises Academy Energy Economics course explains the problem with an example of overfishing. Government owns lakes and won’t allow people to fish there without rules. And the rules are many: Boat size, net size, size of the fish that can be caught, etc. If it took a laissez-faire approach instead, people would come in and clean out the lake with huge boats and sophisticated fishing equipment. Government thus imposes rules to make fishing less efficient.
But if the lake were privatized, the owner would have an incentive to act economically responsible. He would charge an appropriate price rather than cripple the efficiency of his customers.
As Rockwell tells us,
[If] people had property rights in the streams and rivers running through their land, they could prevent pollution just as they prevent trash-dumping in their front yard. And if fishermen and homeowners held property rights in the coasts and adjacent waters, they could prevent pollution and properly allocate fishing rights.
The State’s Creature
He next turns his attention to the engine of State growth: the central bank, which in the U.S. is the Federal Reserve System.
The literature on the Fed would fill an ocean, but it’s essential character is easy to describe: It has monopoly control of the nation’s money supply, which today consists of paper bills and digits in bank accounts. The power to create money at will allows it to guarantee the solvency of the biggest banks and serve as the federal government’s ATM machine.
If you remember only one thing about the Fed, allow me to suggest that you never forget it is a creature of government. It is not a free market entity. Parts of it are privately owned but without the State none of it would exist.
It is said the Fed is a necessary appendage to make the free market run smoothly, without the Panics that once plagued it. It is in fact the second-worst thing to happen to free markets, with the number one villain being the State itself.
Panics were the market’s disincentive for the perennial banking practice of fractional reserve banking. With fractional reserve banking the banker says to its depositors: Your money is safely in our care anytime you want it. When enough depositors sense that this may not be true, they line up at the bank demanding their money, which the bank cannot provide.
In pre-Fed days the government would allow favored banks to turn depositors away. One would think the bank would be charged with embezzlement, which is defined as “the fraudulent appropriation of funds or property entrusted to one’s care but actually owned by someone else.” Not so. English courts circumvented this problem by declaring the money deposited with the banker is really his, not the depositor’s, and American courts have done the same. See here for historical details.
Without the State banks that practiced fractional reserve banking would be far more cautious with their depositors’ money, at the very least.
Today, the central bank is ready to print money at a moment’s notice to support irresponsible banks. The central bank is also ready to print money to support the state’s military adventures and welfare schemes. It’s a nice racket for those at the top of the food chain, but not for the rest of us.
Rockwell is careful to point out the distinction between hard times created by central bank meddling and hard times that arise for other reasons, such as war or natural disasters. The latter may not be avoidable but the former certainly are. Drawing on Mises’s circulation credit theory, he explains how, when the central bank artificially lowers interest rates, entrepreneurs are fooled into believing long-term projects are sustainable when in fact the resources don’t exist for completing them.
The public has not made available [through increased savings] the additional means of production necessary to make the array of long-term production projects profitable. The boom will therefore be abortive, and the bust becomes inevitable.
It was this “misdirection of resources into unsustainable projects” that led to the Crash in 1929. This is crucial to understand, Rockwell points out, because the prevailing economic approach was (and still is) to consult various aggregate measures for the health of the economy, particularly wholesale prices. By this measure all seemed well. As Rothbard explains in America’s Great Depression,
the stability of wholesale prices in the 1920s was the result of monetary inflation offset by increased productivity, which lowered costs of production and increased the supply of goods. But this “offset” was onlystatistical; it did not eliminate the boom–bust cycle, it only obscured it. The economists who emphasized the importance of a stable price level were thus especially deceived . . . [pp. 169-170]
Economist Irving Fisher was one of those deceived, Rockwell notes, and was completely blindsided by the Crash. Rockwell:
In the 1920s as now, fashionable opinion could see no major crisis coming. Then as now, the public was assured that the experts at the Fed were smoothing out economic fluctuations and deserved credit for bringing about unprecedented prosperity. And then as now, when the bust came, the free market took the blame for what the Federal Reserve had caused.
The century of the Fed has been a century of depression, recession, inflation, financial bubbles, and unsound banking, and its legacy is the precipice on which our economy now precariously rests.
And I wish to add, the century of the Fed has been a century of war.
What we are today
At this point Rockwell identifies the social and economic system we have today, and it isn’t one most people would find comforting: Fascism. Nevertheless, the shoe fits.
Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police State as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive State the unlimited master of society.
Of all the cartels the federal reserve is the most powerful by far, since it has monopoly control of the money supply. Cartels derive their power from the coercive monopoly of the State. In his pathbreaking book, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916, Gabriel Kolko explains that cartels and regulations began with the desire of big business to protect their turf and profits from upstart competition. Voluntary arrangements within industries weren’t working so businessmen turned to government for help.
When bankers partnered with government to establish the Fed it wasn’t long before money itself (gold) was banished domestically (1933) then later altogether (1971).
The money we have today is a loaded deck, and the dealer is the Fed.
Rockwell cites the year 1985 as the year in which “it became more common than not for a household to have two incomes rather than one.” Women were entering the workforce to keep family incomes stable. Why was this necessary? Fed inflation and an outpouring of new regulations were jacking up the cost of living. Median family incomes today are only slightly better than they were in the Nixon era.
So should we seek reforms, tweak the system here and there? Emphatically not, says Rockwell.
The problem is more fundamental. It is the quality of the money. It is the very existence of 10,000 regulatory agencies. It is the whole assumption that you have to pay the State for the privilege to work. It is the presumption that the government must manage every aspect of the capitalist economic order. In short, it is the total State that is the problem, and the suffering and decline will continue so long as the total State exists.
Someone might reasonably claim that the Founding Fathers’ ideal of limited government is the solution, the so-called night watchman view of the State. While this would be a vast improvement over what we have, there is no way to prevent the watchman from becoming a tyrant. No one is watching the watchman or curbing his power. Besides, the Founding Fathers were not strict libertarians. American fascism got its start at the Constitutional Convention and has expanded ever since.
Well, you might say, even if the statist, fascist tradition goes very far back in American history, can’t people reverse it? Can’t we return to limited government, as the Constitution mandates?
This solution can’t work. It suffers from a fatal flaw. The Constitution creates a government that is the judge of its own powers.
Nor will focusing on democracy limit the State. If democracy is understood as majority rule, what safeguards will we have to protect minorities? What safeguards exist to prevent the majority from “eating the seed corn” or from doing anything at all?
How does a stateless society work?
If we have eliminated all varieties of State rule, we are left without a state. How then do we live without one?
Simply put, we rely on the free market for everything, though “we can’t specify in advance exactly how the free market will work.” But we know on a fundamental level what we need. We need rights. We need the right to acquire and own property. And we need to “accept a common law code that spells out these rights.”
We also have the right to self-defense. But as most people can’t do that for themselves we need an agency that will provide it for us. We also need some means of settling disputes.
We don’t want a monopoly securing our rights because States have not only failed to do the job, they have violated our rights at every turn.
The anarcho-capitalist solution follows from the nature of a voluntary society: “People would purchase protection and judicial services on the market, just like other goods.”
That simple? That simple.
Rockwell quotes Rothbard for details:
Most likely, [protection and judicial] services would be sold on an advance subscription basis, with premiums paid regularly and services to be supplied on call. . . It seems likely, also, that supplies of police and judicial service would be provided by insurance companies, because it would be to their direct advantage to reduce the amount of crime as much as possible.
The checks and balances in the stateless society consist precisely in the free market, i.e., the existence of freely competitive police and judicial agencies that could quickly be mobilized to put down any outlaw agency. . .
Did someone mention foreign policy? Rockwell has an answer:
There is no danger of an aggressive or imperialist foreign policy, because there is no foreign policy. Each protection agency is confined to protecting its clients. Agencies, or allied groups of agencies, would defend against an organized invasion.
There is much more to Lew Rockwell’s argument than I have presented here, and I encourage readers with unanswered “buts” to see what he has to say.
Overall, Rockwell presents his case in typical Rockwellian fashion, which is concise, lively prose that pulls no punches:
We are in the stage of late fascism. The grandeur is gone, and all we are left with is a gun pointed at our heads.
Nor does he go it alone. He calls on experts such as Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Hans-Herman Hoppe, Tom DiLorenzo, John Flynn, Lysander Spooner, Albert Jay Nock, Robert Higgs, Glenn Greenwald, and even opens with a quote from Thomas Paine.
Perhaps an abbreviated version of this book would be enticing to those looking for a brief introduction to a market-only society. Though his book is not long, it does take the reader through details that an introductory work could safely omit.
Lew Rockwell deserves high praise for a work I consider a must-read not just for libertarians, but for any person looking for answers in a world where wars and economic crises have become the norm.
Reprinted with permission from Barbarous Relic.
A former White House official says the United States cannot stand independent countries, such as Russia and Iran, because they are a threat to Washington’s unilateral actions.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Sunday.
He was commenting on a statement by the head of the US Special Operations Command, General Joseph Votel, who said on Friday that Russia “could pose an existential threat” to the United States.
“Let me clarify what the word or the term existential threat means,” Roberts said.
“When a general says this as a public statement, it tells the American people that Russia is a threat to the very existence of the United States, and it causes them to think that Russia may attack the United States with nuclear weapons, or maybe preparing to do that.
“So it creates a fear that Washington can use [it] for its agenda. We’re going to talk about what that agenda is. But what does it mean to Washington to say that Russia is a threat to its existence?
“What it means to Washington is that Russia has an independent foreign policy.
“We have reached the point in the United States that the drive for hegemony over the world – the importance for Washington of remaining the uni-power – that drive is now so strong that a country that has an independent foreign policy is regarded as an enemy, or a threat.
“What they mean is that it’s a threat to Washington’s unilateral action. They don’t mean it’s a threat to the existence of a country in the sense that the American people understand that word.”
Dr. Roberts said that “what we have is a situation where countries with independent foreign policy, that’s countries that do not always accommodate Washington; they are now regarded as enemy countries.
“So that’s one of the meanings of these statements, that Russia is a threat.
“The other meaning is that in the United States the military security complex has a budget from taxpayers, from public funds – a budget of one trillion dollars. I believe that is about two and a half times the size of the Iranian gross domestic product… just for the military security complex.
“So these are very large firms entirely dependent on public appropriations, that’s where their revenues come from.”
Dr. Roberts said if you have a budget of one trillion dollars, “you have to have a reason, especially when Americans themselves are having hard times, that’s the people who are paying the taxes.”
He added that a lot of these have “lost houses, on the verge of losing them. The young people have student debts they can’t pay, they can’t get jobs. A lot of people are having trouble of paying their medical insurance, even with some of the subsidies that ObamaCare provides.
“So they look at this trillion dollars, and say what is this for. We need this money spent differently. So, the military security complex is making sure that fear takes the place of this hope by Americans to get some of that money to help them with their problems. So Russia then has become the bogeyman.
“This is also what has been going on with Iran. Washington has always known that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. They always knew that. But the trouble with Iran is that it has an independent foreign policy.
“It, for example, supported Hezbollah. Iran did not comply with Washington’s goals in the Middle East. And that’s the reason for the sanctions.
“It was to try to force Iran to do what Washington wanted. It had nothing to do with the nuclear energy program, that was the cover.
“Washington can’t go and tell the American people, ‘Look, Iran won’t do what we want them to do so we are putting sanctions on them, we may go into war with them, we may bomb them, because they don’t do what we wanted them do. ”
“They can’t tell the people that. They say, ‘Oh, be scared, the Iranians, they are going to make nuclear weapons. We have to stop them.’ And then the people say, ‘OK, all right, we have to do something.’ That’s what they are doing with Russia.
“There are two reasons that they have shifted from the [so-called] Islamic State, and Iran, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the Taliban, all of that, they have shifted to Russia, because Russia is a much more credible threat. It’s a huge country. A lot of Americans believe it’s communist.”
“So, it’s a more believable threat. It’s hard to say that Iran is an ‘existential threat’ to the United States. But if tell them that it’s Russia, they say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s probably the case. It’s the needed enemy. It justifies the massive spending programs that go into the military security complex, and all the power associated with that,” Dr. Roberts stated.
“And also Washington is using this pressure to put sanctions on Russia, like they did on Iran. They are pressing the Europeans break off their economic and political relations with Russia, because of two reasons.
“1) the Europeans are too dependent on Russian energy, and that Washington will lose control of Europe because of its dependence on the Russian energy.
“And the other reason that they are putting all this pressure is Russia is able to constrain the American unilateralism.
“Russia was able to stop Obama’s planned invasion of Syria, and it was Russia who found the diplomatic solution to Iran, that Washington was going to use to bomb Iran.
“So what Russia has proven [is] that it can frustrate Washington, it can step in and block the American foreign policy initiative and force some different actions on the Americans. And Washington can’t simply stand that.
“The whole notion is we have to cut Russia down to size in some was so they accommodate us instead of blocking us. So that’s what it is all about,” Dr. Roberts concluded.
Reprinted from Press TV.
“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation
Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.
The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”
Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.
Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.
Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.
Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.
If there is any lesson to be learned from these “routine” traffic stops, it is that drivers should beware.
At a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct, “we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.
According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, or about 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”
As Sandra Bland learned the hard way, the reason for a traffic stop no longer matters. Bland, who was pulled over for allegedly failing to use her turn signal, was arrested after refusing to comply with the police officer’s order to extinguish her cigarette and exit her vehicle. The encounter escalated, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with his taser. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell.
“You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asked as she got out of her car, after having been yelled at and threatened repeatedly. Had she only known, drivers have been pulled over for far less. Indeed, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.
This approach to traffic stops (what I would call “blank check policing,” in which the police get to call all of the shots) has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.
Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, troll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.
Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. More recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.
Unfortunately for drivers, not only have traffic stops become potentially deadly encounters, they have also turned into a profitable form of highway robbery for the police departments involved.
As The Washington Post reports, “traffic stops for minor infractions such as speeding or equipment violations are increasingly used as a pretext for officers to seize cash from drivers.” Relying on federal and state asset forfeiture laws, police set up “stings” on public roads that enable them to stop drivers for a variety of so-called “suspicious” behavior, search their vehicles and seize anything of value that could be suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Since 2001, police have seized $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.
“In case after case,” notes The Washington Post, “highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script. Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed ‘indicators’ of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.”
If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be. Never before have “we the people” been so seemingly defenseless in the face of police misconduct, lacking advocates in the courts and in the legislatures.
So how do you survive a police encounter with your life and wallet intact?
The courts have already given police the green light to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons. In an 8-1 ruling in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that police officers can pull someone over based on a “reasonable” but mistaken belief about the law.
Of course, what’s reasonable to agents of the police state may be completely unreasonable to the populace. Nevertheless, the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat: we must pull over.
However, it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical. Survival is the key.
Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.
However, as Bland learned the hard way, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. “Faced with an authority figure unwilling to de-escalate the situation, Bland refused to be bullied or intimidated,” writes Boston Globe contributor Renee Graham. “She understood her rights, but for African-Americans in encounters with police, the appalling price for asserting even the most basic rights can be their lives.”
So if you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance when it comes to interactions with police.
One police officer advised that if you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly, comply anyhow and contest it in court later. Similarly, black parents, advising their kids on how to deal with police, tell them to just obey the officer’s orders. “The goal,” as one parent pointed out, “is to stay alive.”
It seems that “comply or die” has become the new maxim for the American police state.
Then again, not even compliance is a guarantee of safety anymore. “Police are specialists in violence,” warns Kristian Williams, who has written extensively on the phenomenon of police militarization and brutality. “They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”
In other words, in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this mindset that any challenge to police authority is a threat that needs to be “neutralized” is a dangerous one that is part of a greater nationwide trend that sets the police beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, when police officers are allowed to operate under the assumption that their word is law and that there is no room for any form of disagreement or even question, that serves to chill the First Amendment’s assurances of free speech, free assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops you.
Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?
Clearly, the language of freedom is no longer the common tongue spoken by the citizenry and their government. With the government having shifted into a language of force, “we the people” have been reduced to suspects in a surveillance state, criminals in a police state, and enemy combatants in a military empire.
The headline above is certainly not the one that the Fukushima troubleshooters in Tokyo wanted to read. Nevertheless, the photos of the ‘mutant daisies’ shown below, which were taken at a location 65 miles from the nuclear disaster site, do not lie. Both TEPCO and the Japanese government now have a new crisis to deal with.
“‘The images, posted in May by Twitter user @san_kaido of Nasushiobara City, located about 65 miles from the disaster site, show common daisies that appear to have been affected by radiation exposure, oddly fused together like Siamese twins, reports the Weather Channel.’” 
Still, there are very few who are aware, after more than four years since the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe which occurred in 2011, that three separate meltdowns actually took place. Consequently, there are various vectors of dissemination of nuclear radiation which continue to ooze from the disaster site. Not only is contaminated water continually released into the Pacific Ocean, but the groundwater around Fukushima has also been adversely affected.
Because of the geological formation that the Fukushima Power Plant was constructed upon, there are opportunities for wastewater to enter the water table. Once this occurs, the contaminated water will move through natural conduits made up of myriad fissures, cracks, and crevices in the surrounding geological formations. Ultimately, this radioactive water can make its way to a great distance many miles from the nuclear plant.
There is also speculation about the hydrological cycle recirculating ionizing radiation during 2011.
Because of the nuclear explosion at Fukushima in March of 2011, the airborne radioactivity became vulnerable to being rained back down to the ground, as well as carried to different parts of Japan via the changing wind patterns. Given that wind and rain will always deliver their invisible contents on the land below, it is easy to understand how the vegetation becomes susceptible to such radioactive assaults.
“‘The right one grew up, split into 2 stems to have 2 flowers connected each other, having 4 stems of flower tied beltlike,’ according to Fukushima Diary. ‘The left one has 4 stems grew up to be tied to each other and it had the ring-shaped flower. The atmospheric dose is 0.5 μSv/h at 1m above the ground.’” Mutant Daisy Near Fukushima
Flowers and other foliage are particularly delicate and sensitive to damaging effects of radionuclides. Because of their fragility, flowers are much more apt to express genetic mutations which have occurred after exposure to gene-altering radiation. The above photo captures the profound alteration in genetics which necessarily precedes such dramatic examples of deformed daisy flowers.
My husband and I decided that we wanted to do something special with our family for summer and started saving money right after Christmas was over. We scrimped and saved and were able to come up with the money for a small vacation, plus a little extra that we put away in our emergency fund. When our vacation day finally arrived, we packed our bags and got on the road. At the last minute, my husband ran into Wal-Mart to grab some last minute items. As I sat in the car waiting for my husband to come out, I noticed the car running erratically and the temperature gauge started fluctuating. We decided not to chance it and headed home and switched cars. When we got back from our vacation, we took the car into the shop and they estimated it was going to cost us $1,800. As shocking as that figure was, we prepared for life going awry and had an emergency fund just for that reason. If we hadn’t of been saving money, we would have been in a world of hurt.
Out of the Blue Emergencies Can Be Costly
With a majority of our population living paycheck to paycheck, one minor emergency could send them into major debt. Having an emergency fund is your own personal safety net and a common sense approach to dealing with life’s unexpected issues. Minor emergencies such as job loss, car repairs, medical expenses and home fixes come out of the blue and can be costly if you aren’t prepared.
Keep in mind that an emergency fund is different from your savings account. Of course, both take a lot of restraint and sacrifice to build up; but the underlying reason to use an emergency fund is strictly for … you guessed it, emergencies.
Start Modestly and Gradually Build It Up
The goal for our emergency fund is to carry us for six months of job loss and we set aside a small percentage of our monthly budget to slowly grow this fund. After we pay our monthly expenses and bills, we normally break up twenty-five percent of our remaining income down in the following manner:
15% – savings/retirement
7% – emergency fund
3% – movies and family activities
As with all budgets, sometimes this figure fluctuates, so if we are able to put more or less in our emergency fund and savings, we have to adjust. But we try and always put something in. That said, what works for my family may not work for yours. Many financial experts suggest saving up to ten percent of your monthly budget to really get ahead in your emergency fund. Check out the steps below to get some ideas on how to build your family’s emergency fund.
Build Your Financial Freedom With These Easy Steps
1. Get out of debt. Your primary goal is to have financial freedom. Paying off your debt is the best way to free up extra money. After all, who wants to be paying interest on something you purchased two years ago? Organize and list you debts from the smallest to the largest and start paying the smallest debts first. Once the small debts are paid off, move on to the next largest debts on this list and snowball the payments. Essentially, you are creating a snowball effect with your payments and freeing up additional money in your budget for other uses – like an emergency fund.
2. Have a monetary goal set. Starting small and building upon your initial investments for your emergency fund is an easy way to start and not get overwhelmed. (i.e., I want to have an emergency fund to pay for car repairs). Some people start with saving $1,000 and many can find this amount hiding in their budgets. Once you reach your goal, move on to another one. Read more below on how to slash the budget.
It never fails. Every time I write anything about taxes I get long, rambling e-mails from tax trolls who scour the Internet looking for articles about taxes so they can contact the writers and impress them with their knowledge of the tax code.
These tax trolls usually call themselves “non-taxpayers.” They say things like: paying taxes is voluntary, the Sixteenth Amendment was not properly ratified, most Americans aren’t required to pay income tax, many Americans have gotten refunds of all the money withheld from their paychecks, and the income tax is a classical liberal tax on federal employments, offices, and privileges. Sometimes they boast that they haven’t paid taxes for 10, 15, or 20 years and the IRS hasn’t done anything about it.
Let’s review the libertarian view of taxes.
The libertarian view of taxes is not that taxes should be fair, adequate, sufficient, constitutional, uniform, flat, simple, efficient, apportioned equally, or low.
The libertarian view of taxes is not that the tax code should help the poor, benefit the middle class, and be business friendly.
The libertarian view of taxes is not that taxes should not be used for social engineering purposes and income redistribution schemes.
The libertarian view of taxes is not that the tax code should not have loopholes so that everyone pays their “fair share.”
The libertarian view of taxes is simply that taxes should not exist in the first place. There should be no tax code because taxation is theft and violates the non-aggression principle.
The libertarian view of taxes is that tax increases of any kind, tax reform that is revenue neutral, tax base broadening, tax replacement of one tax with another, and tax shifting from one group of taxpayers to another are not in the least bit desirable.
The libertarian view of taxes is that the lower the taxes the better and the greater number of deductions, credits, exemptions, and loopholes the better.
This is all much ado about nothing, says the “non-taxpayer.” Libertarians miss the point on the income tax because they are not enlightened like “non-taxpayers” are. Libertarians don’t have a proper understand of the tax code.
These “non-taxpayer” tax trolls misunderstand why libertarians pay taxes. But so do liberals and conservatives. Some might reason that, on a philosophical level, if taxation is government theft, then why do libertarians pay taxes? And on a practical level, unless someone makes a lot of money, the chances of an IRS audit are low. So why do libertarians bother to pay taxes?
There are some important reasons why libertarians pay taxes. But before looking at them, perhaps it would be beneficial to look at reasons why libertarians don’t pay taxes; that is, erroneous reasons why libertarians pay taxes.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe it is just what Americans do.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they are confused about the tax code.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe the government is entitled to them for services provided.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand that the U.S. income tax cannot tax earnings from the common, ordinary occupations of life.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe paying taxes is the right thing to do.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe taxes in the United States are lower than they are in other countries.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe the Sixteenth Amendment was properly ratified.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe taxes are the price we pay for civilization.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe taxes are a necessary evil.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe the tax code requires them to.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they aren’t aware that most Americans aren’t legally required to pay income tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand the tax code.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because millions of Americans are dependent on government handouts.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they are not educated tax scholars.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe the Constitution gives the government the power to tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t know how to read the tax code.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they think it is patriotic.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand that the federal government has no constitutional power to tax the wages of ordinary Americans.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they think the government needs the money.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t believe the income tax is part of the contract involved with acceptance of a government privilege.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t know the history of the income tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they never noticed in the withholding statute in Subchapter C of the tax code that the only people subject to withholding are government employees.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they are not enlightened about the income tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe the constitutional functions of government should be funded.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t realize what an excise tax is.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they would feel guilty if they didn’t and other Americans did.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand from Title 26, Subtitle A, that most Americans aren’t engaged in engaged in ordinary occupations liable for the income tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand the difference between a privilege and a right.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand the difference between direct and indirect taxes.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they have misinterpreted the Supreme Court tax cases.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t realize that paying taxes is voluntary.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t read the tax code with the understanding of the history of the tax.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe they have engaged in an excise taxable activity.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they don’t understand that the income tax is a classical liberal tax on federal employments, offices, and privileges.
Libertarians don’t pay taxes because they believe “non taxpayers” are screwballs.
Why, then, do libertarians pay taxes?
Libertarians pay taxes so they don’t end up in a cage like Irwin Schiff.
Libertarians pay taxes so their property doesn’t get seized by the IRS.
Libertarians pay taxes so the IRS doesn’t garnish their wages.
Libertarians pay taxes so they are not ruined financially by the IRS.
Libertarians pay taxes so they don’t get killed by an IRS agent for resisting arrest.
Libertarians pay taxes for the same reason you would hand over your wallet to someone who pointed a gun in your face and said: “Give me your money or else.”
The Constitution, the Sixteenth Amendment, Supreme Court decisions, tax court rulings, and the tax code have nothing to do with it.
As readers of WhoWhatWhy know, our site has been one of the very fewcontinuing to explore the fiery death two years ago of investigative journalist Michael Hastings, whose car left a straight segment of a Los Angeles street at a high speed, jumped the meridian, hit a tree, and blew up.
Our original report described anomalies of the crash and surrounding events that suggest cutting-edge foul play—that an external hacker could have taken control of Hastings’s car in order to kill him. If this sounds too futuristic, a series of recent technical revelations has proven that “car hacking” is entirely possible. The latest just appeared this week.
Hackers, seeking to demonstrate the vulnerability of automobiles to remote attacks, were able to largely take over the Jeep Cherokee driven by a writer for the tech magazine Wired:
Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.
They were able to make his car decelerate suddenly, causing the writer to “narrowly avert death” at the hands of a semi-trailer coming up behind him.
In an earlier demonstration, they had been able to do similar things with other vehicles:
In the summer of 2013, I drove a Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius around a South Bend, Indiana, parking lot while they sat in the backseat with their laptops, cackling as they disabled my brakes, honked the horn, jerked the seat belt, and commandeered the steering wheel.
All of this is increasingly drawing the attention—and action— of the authorities. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday seeking to establish federal standards for security and privacy of drivers in today’s computer-laden cars.
What we do not hear is any discussion about whether the risk has gone beyond the realm of possibility…to a reality.
di Bill Bonner
Un incubo turba il nostro sonno.
Sognamo quello che diventeranno gli Stati Uniti quando le autorità cancelleranno quasi tre millenni di progresso monetario mettendoci i piedi in testa.
Ecco Peter Bofinger, economista keynesiano tedesco, sulla rivista Der Spiegel:
Con le possibilità tecniche di oggi, monete e banconote sono un anacronismo. Hanno reso i pagamenti incredibilmente difficili, con gente che spreca tempo alla cassa mentre aspetta che la persona davanti riesca a trovare la giusta quantità di spiccioli nelle proprie tasche, e che il cassiere poi dia indietro il resto giusto (piuttosto che prendere la giusta carta di credito, completare la transazione e attendere la verifica).
Ma il tempo supplementare non è il più grande vantaggio dell'eliminazione del contante. Prosciuga i mercati dal lavoro nero e dal traffico di droga. Quasi un terzo del contante in euro è costituito da banconote da €500. Nessuno ne ha bisogno per fare shopping; le usano i tipi loschi per le loro attività. [Inoltre] sarebbe più facile per le banche centrali imporre le loro politiche monetarie. In questo momento non possono spingere i tassi d'interesse sensibilmente sotto lo zero, perché i risparmiatori accumulerebbero denaro. Se non c'è denaro, il limite dello zero viene eliminato.
Un Ritorno alla Preistoria
Sì, caro lettore, sembra proprio che stiamo tornando indietro nei secoli, a quei tempi bui e sudici della preistoria. Allora il "denaro" non era stato ancora inventato. Utilizzando sistemi di credito rudimentali e il baratto, si commerciava solo con persone che si conoscevano – e su scala limitata. Il capitalismo era impossibile. Il progresso era irraggiungibile. La ricchezza non poteva essere accumulata.
Poi in India, intorno al VI secolo a.C., arrivarono le monete d'argento – denaro reale. Non c'era bisogno di conoscere la persona con cui si facevano scambi. Non si conosceva la sua famiglia, o le sue motivazioni, oppure il suo bilancio.
E non c'era bisogno di tenere traccia di chi dovesse cosa e a chi. Si regolavano semplicemente i conti – in denaro metallico. Questo ha reso possibile il commercio e l'industria moderna.
Questa nuova ricchezza ha anche fornito alle persone un nuovo tipo di libertà. Potevano viaggiare – e pagare per vitto e alloggio con questo nuovo denaro. Potevano investire... e utilizzare questa nuova ricchezza privata per creare ancora più ricchezza.
Potevano anche aumentare gli eserciti... costruire fortificazioni... e sfidare il potere delle classi dirigenti.
Ma ora gli stati stanno cercando di abolire il denaro contante.
Gli economisti vogliono addirittura vietarlo. Ci sono già limiti all'utilizzo dei contanti in molti paesi. In Francia, per esempio, a settembre entrerà in vigore una legge che limiterà i pagamenti in contanti a €1,000 ($1,115). E negli Stati Uniti avere una grande quantità di denaro è già considerata "attività sospetta", oggetto di confisca senza un giusto processo. Proprio così: grazie alle leggi sulla confisca, i federali possono prendere la vostra proprietà senza dovervi incriminare formalmente. Come ha riportato il Washington Post l'anno scorso, la polizia ha portato a termine 61,998 sequestri di denaro contante – per un totale di $2.5 miliardi sin dal 9/11 – senza mandati di perquisizione o rinvii a giudizio.
Perché i federali vogliono eliminare i contanti? Non è ovvio? Vogliono controllare voi e il vostro denaro. Dove l'avete preso? Lo vorranno sapere. Che cosa intendete farci? Vorranno avere voce in capitolo. Potreste usarlo per qualcosa di "losco"?
Accidenti, potreste addirittura sostenere i "terroristi"... evadere le tasse... o comprare un pacchetto di sigarette.
Le possibilità sono troppe per poterle ignorare e gli argomenti sono troppo convincenti per essere fermati. Zero Hedge riassume i "pro":
• Migliorare la base imponibile, poiché la maggior parte/tutte le transazioni potrebbero essere rintracciate dallo stato;
• Limitare sostanzialmente l'economia "parallela", in particolare le attività illecite;
• Forzare le persone a convertire i loro risparmi in consumi e/o investimenti, stimolando così il PIL e l'occupazione.
La Frusta dei Federali
Gli argomenti sono vuoti... ma probabilmente convincenti. E per la prima volta nella storia, i governanti avranno un modo per controllare le persone, bloccando i loro soldi. La moneta elettronica, gestita attraverso un sistema bancario controllato dallo stato, permette ai federali di metterci dove vogliono – con sbarre nelle nostre gabbie e fruste sulle nostre schiene. Tutte le transazioni potrebbero essere soggette ad approvazione e ogni persona saprebbe che i federali potrebbero frustarla in qualsiasi momento.
Sotto la dittatura militare argentina, "scomparvero" circa 13,000 persone. Cioè, vennero prelevate dagli squadroni della morte dello stato, interrogate, assassinate e poi gettate nei fiumi dagli aerei.
È più facile – e più umano – boccare i loro soldi, no? Con la tecnologia moderna di riconoscimento facciale, i federali potrebbero identificare quasi chiunque in qualsiasi ambiente – in un bar, in un incontro pubblico, o ad un bancomat. Poi, con un paio di colpi su una tastiera, i conti potrebbero essere congelati... o confiscati. Il povero cittadino "scomparirebbe" in pochi secondi – incapace di partecipare alla vita pubblica e costretto a rovistare nei bidoni dell'immondizia per rimanere in vita.
Chi avrebbe il coraggio di aiutarlo? Chi avrebbe il coraggio di sostenerlo? Chi avrebbe il coraggio di alzare la voce contro questo nuovo sistema diabolico? Anche loro, verrebbero contrassegnati come indesiderati... e scomparirebbero.
Riuscite ad immaginare un candidato politico che scopre improvvisamente che i suoi sostenitori non hanno più soldi? Riuscite ad immaginare una gola profonda che improvvisamente non ha più niente da dire?
Un Avvertimento dall'Argentina
Stiamo dando i numeri? Ci stiamo preoccupando per nulla?
In Argentina, a seguito di un colpo di stato nel 1976, la giunta militare si occupò dapprima dei rivoluzionari di sinistra – che potevano rappresentare una qualche minaccia per la nazione. Poi, in quella che divenne nota come la "Guerra Sporca", i bersagli cambiarono – studenti, avversari politici, intellettuali, sindacalisti e chiunque fosse sgradito alla giunta. Questo periodo di terrore finì nel 1983, dopo che i generali invasero incautamente le isole Falkland e proclamarono la sovranità argentina su un territorio britannico.
È abbastanza facile condurre in guerra le persone normali – non importa quanto sia idiota il pretesto. Come avevano sperato, gli argentini sostennero i loro soldati. Ma gli inglesi, guidati dalla "Lady di Ferro" Margaret Thatcher, non ricoprirono il ruolo che si aspettavano i generali. Invece di negoziare un accordo, inviarono una task force nel sud dell'Atlantico, tra cui un sottomarino nucleare, due portaerei, 42 aerei da combattimento, una brigata di commandos Royal Marine e una brigata di fanteria. In poche settimane i sommergibilisti inglesi avevano affondato l'incrociatore argentino della seconda guerra mondiale: il Generale Belgrano... mentre i Royal Marines, i soldati della quinta brigata di fanteria e la RAF spazzarono via le truppe argentine mal preparate e mal equipaggiate.
Questa fu un'umiliazione davvero grande per gli argentini. La Union Jack riconquistò le Falkland, la giunta militare venne buttata fuori a calci e le sparizioni finirono.
Gli americani sono più intelligenti degli argentini? I loro uomini politici sono più onesti e più fedeli dello stato di diritto? Il potere corrompe di meno nell'emisfero settentrionale rispetto a quello meridionale?
[*] traduzione di Francesco Simoncelli: http://francescosimoncelli.blogspot.it/
Un folto gruppo di ricercatori, scienziati e personaggi noti - fra cui Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk e Steve Wozniak - ha pubblicato una lettera contro lo sviluppo delle cosiddette "armi autonome", ovvero tutte quelle armi che utilizzano l'intelligenza artificiale, e sono quindi in grado di agire al di fuori del controllo umano.
Questa è la traduzione della lettera:
Le armi autonome selezionano e affrontano il loro bersaglio senza un intervento umano. Queste armi possono includere, ad esempio, quadri-cotteri armati in grado di identificare ed eliminare le persone in base ad alcuni criteri predefiniti, mentre non includono i missili cruise o i droni pilotati a distanza, per i quali sono sempre gli umani a prendere la decisione di sparare.
La tecnologia dell' Intelligenza Artificiale ha raggiunto un livello tale da permettere di realizzare di questi sistemi - in termini pratici, se non legali - entro pochi anni e non decenni. La sfida è enorme, visto che le armi autonome sono state definite la terza rivoluzione nel mondo della guerra, dopo la polvere da sparo e le armi atomiche. [...]
When you are up to your ass in alligators it’s tough to remember you came to drain the swamp…
Many so-called experts say the effective range for 12 gauge combat shotguns with buckshot is only 20 yards!
That’s just wrong. The 12 gauge is a very serious fight stopper even out to much longer ranges when using buckshot.Slugs are incredibly effective and lethal but as with with rifles the require precise aiming and also go much further where buckshot doesn’t and that is why we prefer buckshot which we will exclusively discuss here.
Before we go further remember and understand that any projectile that you launch and which hits property or innocent people has your bank account and possibly your rear attached to it.So launching lead hither and dither regardless of firearm or situation is not a real smart business plan. That said, let’s go.
Certainly for urban survival the 12 gauge with buckshot is probably the best gun for most folks, maybe even for skilled rifle shooters. First, shotgun intimidation is off the charts, the shruwunk–shruwunk pump shotgun sound means trouble for anyone hearing it and if you are looking at the wrong end of the gun the muzzle looks like a 55 gallon oil drum! You may not even have to shoot to get rid of an attacker or intruder and that is a very good thing.
Then there is the incredible single shot devastating power of the gun at close in range. The typical 23/4-inch 12-gauge round launches about 438 grains of lead at 1,150- 1,350 feet per second. And in the excitement of a gun fight you won’t feel the recoil or maybe even hear the shot.
Sure you may miss with some of the pellets, but consider the comparison with handgun or rifle misses in a gun fight (and why are you in this self-defense mess to begin with?). Handgun and rifle rounds go far further and remain more deadly too. And in reality show shoot outs between cops and bad guys, 20-shots fired at ten feet and they all miss!
One 12 gauge 00 buckshot round develops over 1,500 pounds of potential energy. Number 4 buck delivers about 1,800 pounds of potential muzzle energy. This assuming all the buckshot hits, but just a few will also do nicely, thank you.
At even half the energy and if only half the buckshot hits, the 12 gauge still delivers massive damage and each ball creates its own wound hole. Consider that more holes means more bleeding, more pain and more damage and that typically helps to end gun fights quicker.
We recommend the following three buckshot rounds for your consideration in the 23/4-inch standard velocity round. First is number 4 buckshot. Number 4 delivers twenty-seven .22 caliber balls per shot. Then we skip numbers up to the 00. Reason being the other buckshot loads are scarce and costly if you can ever find them and some are now no longer made. Double “O” buckshot delivers nine .32 caliber balls and with 000 the numbers are eight fat .35 caliber balls.
The larger diameter lead balls carry more energy and greater penetration per ball. But the smaller number 4 delivers a whole lot of .22 caliber lead at .22 caliber long rifle velocities for nearly guaranteed hits if you do your part. We feel that for most folks number four buck is probably the best for guaranteed hits and a hit with one .22 diameter ball is better than a miss with a 20mm cannon round!
However, 00 and 000 buckshot is incredibly lethal and the shot spread is about the same as number four. Regardless of your choice in just one shot you can launch a bunch of lethal lead in a fraction of a second.
Riot type or self-defense shotguns are all pretty much 5 to 8-round capacity with 18-to 20-inch barrels.Whatever you choose whether a Winchester, Ithaca, Remington, Savage orMossberg or smaller brands, they all spray lead pretty much the same, the functioning can be different though. Pick your favorite with the bells and whistles you wish and pay the price.
From most any 181/2 -inch riot type barrel you can print several hits on a typical office sized chair (or similar sized target) at 100 yards. Seriously, go give it a try, we did and the next time we do this kind of testing we plan to get the (new) office manager out of the chair first. Generally, longer barreled sporting type shotguns will deliver a bit more velocity and tighter groups further out.
Yes, the missed balls can be legally problematic but then again how many rounds can you put on a 100 yard target on command from the ready position from an AR in one or two seconds? And remember, those rifle, carbine and pistol misses go far further with greater penetration than shotgun buckshot.
For fun we fired out to 200 yards and while the shot spread was about 10 feet wide that means lots of empty air. But then again you really would not want to be there when the just launched lead storm arrives at about 350 miles-per-hour and take a chance on getting a lucky random hit.
So don’t get sold short. While the AK and ARs are great guns for the apocalypse or whatever your favorite worry might be, the 12-gauge is serious firepower in a very economical firearm that is easy to use. It is an instantaneously close in fight stopper and at most urban distances a gun you will get hits especially when under time pressure.
And of course it is an excellent general survival gun using bird shot and 12 gauge ammunition of one type or another is available (currently) almost everywhere.The major drawback of the 12 gauge as many can point out is the ammunition is heavy and bulky, and while true, just one shot will put a lot of lead in the air.
I think back to my Greek childhood and longing for the once coziest and most romantic of cities overwhelms me. Actually it’s too painful to think back, all the blood spilled during the Communist uprising, the beautiful neoclassical buildings destroyed by greed and lack of talent, the impeccable manners of the people that showed respect for the elderly, the church, and the nation. They all went with the wind, that horrible sirocco from the south that has been used as an excuse for crimes of passion committed under its influence. This ache for a lost past is nothing new. Elsewhere and memory are most vivid in one’s mind, as is loss and the innocence of childhood. Mind you, the distilling process of memory can play tricks and is also extremely selective. The extreme poverty, the beggars, the sick without medical insurance—all these I’ve tucked away, just like the extreme poverty of the miners in Yorkshire during the turn of the last century did not dampen the spirits of house parties in stately homes of the region.
Holding the world at a remove should not become a permanent state of mind. In my case, Greece has become such a mess, removing its past helps. The biggest irony is the anger of the present bunch, brought up as hardcore Marxists while sustained by EU funds, and employed in worthless jobs invented for them by an omnipotent state. This bunch who are angry and at the helm right now bring Philoctetes to mind. Philoctetes was hardly mentioned in Homer, yet Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles wrote tragedies about him. There are incomplete accounts of the plays by the two former, and only Sophocles’ drama, which presents Philoctetes in exile and does not have a typical tragic end—it actually almost ends in comedy—supplies us with what resembles our modern Greek politicians.
In brief, the demigod Heracles has himself burned on Mount Oeta after being poisoned by Deianeira’s dress, and persuades Philoctetes to light the pyre. He rewards him by bequeathing him the bow given to him by Apollo, one that never misses its mark. Philoctetes joins the Greek leaders in the Trojan War, but is left behind on the island of Limnos suffering from a snakebite that makes him stink like hell. The Greeks go on without him and get bogged down for 10 years, while losing their greatest hero-warrior, Achilles. (Believe it or not, I knew about the smelly one at a very early age, as my great-uncle—prime minister, chief justice of the Supreme Court, and a great classicist in both German and Greek—had told me about him in the context of being clean in order to get along.)
The mysterious wound never heals. In the meantime, the Greeks kidnap the soothsayer of the Trojans, who predicts they can never win until they have sent for Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus, and brought over Philoctetes and his bow. In one play, the wily Odysseus is dispatched to bring the stinky one and his bow to Troy, and ends up stealing it. In another drama, Odysseus is not recognized by the sick man in Limnos, but presents himself as yet another Greek warrior who had been wronged by the Greeks. The moral theme in both dramas is like the theme of the wrath of Achilles, the conflict between the passions of the individual and the demands of duty to the common cause.
Editor’s Note: Below, longtime Middle East correspondent Charles Glass offers his droll, insightful and entertaining personal take on the much-debated threat presented by Iran. He sees every indication that the country is much more interested in business than in war. (To read an excerpt from Charles Glass’s book Syria Burning, please go here.)
There are two Irans. One wants bombs. One wants business. Business Iran, for the moment, is on top. The big bomb goes on ice, and American and European trade comes back. After all, it’s only business. In Iran, even senior clergy are businessmen and have the millions to prove it. Iranians have at least ten reasons to go along with the agreement. They are:
ONE. Iran’s accord with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) will end the sanctions imposed in 2006 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737. The sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy, and pressure to end them is widespread.. A friend of mine, who grows pistachios, a major export, wrote to me recently: “I think if you look at Iran’s development in the last few years, it looks very much like its economic and business interests have surpassed its obsession to prove to the world that it is capable of working on nuclear weapons. Doubt digit inflation and unemployment and low levels of production and inadequate investment have forced [Ayatollah] Khamenei to reevaluate his priorities. The election of a pro-western president [Hassan Rouhani] shows that the country needs to open up to the world and attract foreign investment. A healthier economy will provide a happier population and greater power and respect in the long run.” The farmer represents growing sentiment in Iran that opening the economy to world trade can help prise the country from the clergy’s iron grip.
TWO. Despite the shouts of “Death to America” in the increasingly unenthusiastic demonstrations periodically orchestrated by the government, Iranians love Americans. They are about the only people on earth who do. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, whose people have hated Americans at least since America invaded them. Or South America, where countries over the last dozen years have repeatedly defied Yankee domination. Or the Arab world, where Americans are more likely to be kidnapped than invited home for coffee. Why do Iranians love Americans? For one thing, most have not seen any real Americans since 1979. Young people don’t remember the thousands of American military advisors with diplomatic immunity and the intelligence agents who guided the Iranian secret police, the much-hated SAVAK, in suppressing dissent. On my visits to Iran before the revolution, animosity towards Americans was ubiquitous. Since the revolution, Iranians have lavished hospitality on me because I was American. Of course, when thousands of American tourists descend on the country that could change; tourists of any kind wear out their welcome fairly quickly.
THREE. American businesses and Iran have already jumped into bed, like a couple who can’t wait for the wedding night. With sanctions still in place, dozens of trade delegations have flown to Tehran. The Iranian oil minister invited seven major US oil companies to return to Iran two years ago, and an oil delegation turned up in Tehran last May. A month earlier, Iran welcomed twenty-two American entrepreneurs, investors and consultants, and the Iranian hosts impressed the visitors with their openness and expertise. In July, the “Iran-EU Conference on Trade and Investment” met in Vienna, where hundreds of business people from all over Europe showed up to stake a claim to the Iranian market. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is discussing ways to sell iPhones and open Apple Stores in Iran. Boeing is ready to supply spare parts for the commercial airliners the Shah of Iran bought before he was deposed in 1979. If Congress approves, Boeing might begin selling airplanes as well. When an Iranian friend was complaining about conditions in her country, I joked, “At least, you don’t have McDonald’s.” She replied, “But we want McDonald’s. It’s terrible, but it would mean we are normal.”
FOUR. Iranians are already among the most modern–and youthful– people in the world. The
UN reports that sixty per cent of Iran’s 76 million people are under the age of thirty. It is not unusual to see young men and women holding hands in Tehran’s Jamshid Park or sipping espresso in the cafés of Tehran’s many shopping malls.The level of education is higher than in most western countries. Ninety-eight per cent of the youth are literate. A friend of mine from Iran put her daughters in school in London, where they immediately went to the top of the class and excelled in science. The slogans that motivated a previous generation to overthrow the Shah in 1979 mean less to today’s youth than finding decent jobs and houses.
Last week, Retired General Wesley Clark, who was NATO commander during the US bombing of Serbia, proposed that “disloyal Americans” be sent to internment camps for the “duration of the conflict.” Discussing the recent military base shootings in Chattanooga, TN, in which five US service members were killed, Clark recalled the internment of American citizens during World War II who were merely suspected of having Nazi sympathies. He said: “back then we didn’t say ‘that was freedom of speech,’ we put him in a camp.”
He called for the government to identify people most likely to be radicalized so we can “cut this off at the beginning.” That sounds like “pre-crime”!
Gen. Clark ran for president in 2004 and it’s probably a good thing he didn’t win considering what seems to be his disregard for the Constitution. Unfortunately in the current presidential race Donald Trump even one-upped Clark, stating recently that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor and should be treated like one, implying that the government should kill him.
These statements and others like them most likely reflect the frustration felt in Washington over a 15 year war on terror where there has been no victory and where we actually seem worse off than when we started. The real problem is they will argue and bicker over changing tactics but their interventionist strategy remains the same.
Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, who was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, told al-Jazeera this week that US drones create more terrorists than they kill. He said: “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”
Still Washington pursues the same strategy while expecting different results.
It is probably almost inevitable that the warhawks will turn their anger inward, toward Americans who are sick of the endless and costly wars. The US loss of the Vietnam war is still blamed by many on the protesters at home rather than on the foolishness of the war based on a lie in the first place.
Let’s hope these threats from Clark and Trump are not a trial balloon leading to a clampdown on our liberties. There are a few reasons we should be concerned. Last week the US House passed a bill that would allow the Secretary of State to unilaterally cancel an American citizen’s passport if he determines that person has “aided” or “abetted” a terrorist organization. And as of this writing, the Senate is debating a highway funding bill that would allow the Secretary of State to cancel the passport of any American who owes too much money to the IRS.
Canceling a passport means removing the right to travel, which is a kind of virtual internment camp. The person would find his movements restricted, either being prevented from leaving or entering the United States. Neither of these measures involves any due process or possibility of appeal, and the government’s evidence supporting the action can be kept secret.
We should demand an end to these foolish wars that even the experts admit are making matters worse. Of course we need a strong defense, but we should not provoke the hatred of others through drones, bombs, or pushing regime change overseas. And we must protect our civil liberties here at home from government elites who increasingly view us as the enemy.
If the neoconservatives have their way again, U.S. ground troops will reoccupy Iraq, the U.S. military will take out Syria’s secular government (likely helping Al Qaeda and the Islamic State take over), and the U.S. Congress will not only kill the Iran nuclear deal but follow that with a massive increase in military spending.
Like spraying lighter fluid on a roaring barbecue, the neocons also want a military escalation in Ukraine to burn the ethnic Russians out of the east, and the neocons dream of spreading the blaze to Moscow with the goal of forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin. In other words, more and more fires of Imperial “regime change” abroad even as the last embers of the American Republic die at home.
Much of this “strategy” is personified by a single Washington power couple: arch-neocon Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and an early advocate of the Iraq War, and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who engineered last year’s coup in Ukraine that started a nasty civil war and created a confrontation between nuclear-armed United States and Russia.
Kagan, who cut his teeth as a propaganda specialist in support of the Reagan administration’s brutal Central American policies in the 1980s, is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist to The Washington Post’s neocon-dominated opinion pages.
On Friday, Kagan’s column baited the Republican Party to do more than just object to President Barack Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal. Kagan called for an all-out commitment to neoconservative goals, including military escalations in the Middle East, belligerence toward Russia and casting aside fiscal discipline in favor of funneling tens of billions of new dollars to the Pentagon.
Kagan also showed how the neocons’ world view remains the conventional wisdom of Official Washington despite their disastrous Iraq War. The neocon narrative gets repeated over and over in the mainstream media no matter how delusional it is.
For instance, a sane person might trace the origins of the bloodthirsty Islamic State back to President George W. Bush’s neocon-inspired Iraq War when this hyper-violent Sunni movement began as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” blowing up Shiite mosques and instigating sectarian bloodshed. It later expanded into Syria where Sunni militants were seeking the ouster of a secular regime led by Alawites, a Shiite offshoot. Though changing its name to the Islamic State, the movement continued with its trademark brutality.
But Kagan doesn’t acknowledge that he and his fellow neocons bear any responsibility for this head-chopping phenomenon. In his neocon narrative, the Islamic State gets blamed on Iran and Syria, even though those governments are leading much of the resistance to the Islamic State and its former colleagues in Al Qaeda, which in Syria backs a separate terrorist organization, the Nusra Front.
But here is how Kagan explains the situation to the Smart People of Official Washington: “Critics of the recent nuclear deal struck between Iran and the United States are entirely right to point out the serious challenge that will now be posed by the Islamic republic. It is an aspiring hegemon in an important region of the world.
“It is deeply engaged in a region-wide war that encompasses Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf States and the Palestinian territories. It subsidizes the murderous but collapsing regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and therefore bears primary responsibility for the growing strength of the Islamic State and other radical jihadist forces in that country and in neighboring Iraq, where it is simultaneously expanding its influence and inflaming sectarian violence.”
The Real Hegemon
While ranting about “Iranian hegemony,” Kagan called for direct military intervention by the world’s true hegemonic power, the United States. He wants the U.S. military to weigh in against Iran on the side of two far more militarily advanced regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose combined weapons spending dwarfs Iran’s and includes – with Israel – a sophisticated nuclear arsenal.
Yet reality has never had much relationship to neocon ideology. Kagan continued: “Any serious strategy aimed at resisting Iranian hegemony has also required confronting Iran on the several fronts of the Middle East battlefield. In Syria, it has required a determined policy to remove Assad by force, using U.S. air power to provide cover for civilians and create a safe zone for Syrians willing to fight.
“In Iraq, it has required using American forces to push back and destroy the forces of the Islamic State so that we would not have to rely, de facto, on Iranian power to do the job. Overall, it has required a greater U.S. military commitment to the region, a reversal of both the perceived and the real withdrawal of American power.
“And therefore it has required a reversal of the downward trend in U.S. defense spending, especially the undoing of the sequestration of defense funds, which has made it harder for the military even to think about addressing these challenges, should it be called upon to do so. So the question for Republicans who are rightly warning of the danger posed by Iran is: What have they done to make it possible for the United States to begin to have any strategy for responding?”
In Kagan’s call for war and more war, we’re seeing, again, the consequence of failing to hold neocons accountable after they pushed the country into the illegal and catastrophic Iraq War by selling lies about weapons of mass destruction and telling tales about how easy it would be.
Instead of facing a purge that should have followed the Iraq calamity, the neocons consolidated their power, holding onto key jobs in U.S. foreign policy, ensconcing themselves in influential think tanks, and remaining the go-to experts for mainstream media coverage. Being wrong about Iraq has almost become a badge of honor in the upside-down world of Official Washington.
But we need to unpack the truckload of sophistry that Kagan is peddling. First, it is simply crazy to talk about “Iranian hegemony.” That was part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric before the U.S. Congress on March 3 about Iran “gobbling up” nations – and it has now become a neocon-driven litany, but it is no more real just because it gets repeated endlessly.
For instance, take the Iraq case. It has a Shiite-led government not because Iran invaded Iraq, but because the United States did. After the U.S. military ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States stood up a new government dominated by Shiites who, in turn, sought friendly relations with their co-religionists in Iran, which is entirely understandable and represents no aggression by Iran. Then, after the Islamic State’s dramatic military gains across Iraq last summer, the Iraqi government turned to Iran for military assistance, also no surprise.
Back to Iraq
However, leaving aside Kagan’s delusional hyperbole about Iran, look at what he’s proposing. He wants to return a sizable U.S. occupation force to Iraq, apparently caring little about the U.S. soldiers who were rotated multiple times into the war zone where almost 4,500 died (along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis). Having promoted Iraq War I and having paid no price, Kagan now wants to give us Iraq War II.
But that’s not enough. Kagan wants the U.S. military to intervene to make sure the secular government of Syria is overthrown, even though the almost certain winners would be Sunni extremists from the Islamic State or Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Such a victory could lead to genocides against Syria’s Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities. At that point, there would be tremendous pressure for a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of Syria, too.
That may be why Kagan wants to throw tens of billions of dollar more into the military-industrial complex, although the true price tag for Kagan’s new wars would likely run into the trillions of dollars. Yet, Kagan still isn’t satisfied. He wants even more military spending to confront “growing Chinese power, an aggressive Russia and an increasingly hegemonic Iran.”
In his conclusion, Kagan mocks the Republicans for not backing up their tough talk: “So, yes, by all means, rail about the [Iran] deal. We all look forward to the hours of floor speeches and campaign speeches that lie ahead. But it will be hard to take Republican criticisms seriously unless they start doing the things that are in their power to do to begin to address the challenge.”
While it’s true that Kagan is now “just” a neocon ideologue – albeit one with important platforms to present his views – his wife Assistant Secretary of State Nuland shares his foreign policy views and even edits many of his articles. As she told The New York Times last year, “nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Obama’s True Foreign Policy ‘Weakness.’”]
But Nuland is a foreign policy force of her own, considered by some in Washington to be the up-and-coming “star” at the State Department. By organizing the “regime change” in Ukraine – with the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 – Nuland also earned her spurs as an accomplished neocon.
Nuland has even outdone her husband, who may get “credit” for the Iraq War and the resulting chaos, but Nuland did him one better, instigating Cold War II and reviving hostilities between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States. After all, that’s where the really big money will go – toward modernizing nuclear arsenals and ordering top-of-the-line strategic weaponry.
There have been several notable cases of racial fakery. Years ago, then-law professor Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren falsely claimed that her great-grandfather was Cherokee Indian. A diversity-starved Harvard University jumped at the opportunity to hire her. She was so good at the racial fakery that a 1997 Fordham Law Review article lauded now-Sen. Warren as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color.”
Racial fakery for private gain has been going on for decades. In 1990, there was a highly publicized case of outright racial lying. Two white men, twins Philip and Paul Malone, took the Boston Fire Department test. They failed. It turned out that the Boston Fire Department was under a consent decree mandating racial preferences, back then euphemistically called affirmative action but today called diversity. The Malone brothers retook the test, this time identifying themselves as black. Again their scores weren’t high enough to be hired as whites, but they qualified under the lower standards for blacks and were hired. They worked for 10 years, until their racial fakery was discovered during a promotion proceeding. They were fired.
Then there’s Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother of “The Mindy Project” actress Mindy Kaling. He pretended to be black to successfully gain admission to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine but later dropped out.
Recently, there was the case of Rachel A. Dolezal, who told everyone that she was a member of my race, even though both of her parents are white. She profited immensely from racial fakery. She became president of the Spokane, Washington, office of the NAACP and became an instructor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. To top that off, she gained membership on Spokane’s police oversight commission, where she examined police policies on race.
We must combat racial fakery. We can learn from South Africa. During its apartheid era, it, too, had a racial spoils system. The government combated racial fakery by enacting the Population Registration Act of 1950, which racially classified the country’s entire population.
The act laid down race definitions so as to thwart people, mostly “Coloureds,” from taking privileges set aside for whites. For example, it defined a white person as one who “is in appearance obviously white — and not generally accepted as Coloured — or who is generally accepted as White — and is not obviously Non-White.”
Despite South Africa’s careful attempts to define race, there was racial manipulation. A person charged with doing something prohibited for a native or Coloured might claim he had some white blood. The Population Registration Act ensured justice whereby a person aggrieved by a racial determination could appeal to a tribunal, known as the Race Classification Appeal Board. The act also provided that a third party could bring a complaint as to a person’s racial classification. It provided for heavy penalties for frivolous objections to another’s racial classification.
The Population Registration Act fortified both the Immorality Act of 1927, which prohibited sexual relations between Europeans and Africans, and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act of 1949, which banned marriage between Europeans and Africans. I wouldn’t support the adoption of either one of those acts. But I do think that we need to adopt some of the features of South Africa’s Population Registration Act. Why?
If Americans are going to have laws that mandate special privileges in college admission and employment, we must prevent racial fakery. We cannot permit a white or Asian person to take an opportunity that by law belongs to a black person. There should be DNA criteria to accurately determine one’s race. Years ago in our country, “one drop” of Negro blood made it impossible for one to be white. With today’s technological advances, we could be more precise.
Racial classification is not without other benefits. Suppose one wants to marry and at the same time keep his bloodline pure. Say he’s a black man. Shouldn’t he be protected from a racial imposter like Rachel Dolezal?