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Un incubo tormenta i nostri sogni...

Freedonia - 6 ore 4 min fa
Quando si ha a che fare con la guerra al contante, bisogna adottare le adeguate contromisure. Chi è lungimirante ci riesce. Chi è in grado di vedere la proverbiale scritta sul muro crea un bacino idoneo da cui attingere nei momenti di difficoltà. Questo bacino è eterogeneo e deve avere una diversificazione in base alle necessità del singolo investitore. Ci vuole esperienza per ottenere una diversificazione adatta alle proprie esigenze, poiché molti non sanno bene quello che vogliono dal loro bacino di risorse d'emergenza. Di conseguenza tardano a prendere provvedimenti e si lasciano soverchiare dagli eventi. Quindi finiscono come quei babbei che non se ne sono preoccupati affatto di prendere provvedimenti e si ritrovano a fare le file lungo i bancomat. Se volete fare la figura degli sciocchi, questo è quello che vi attende. Qualora doveste prendere provedimenti e c'è una fila dinanzi a voi che sta cercando di prendere gli stessi provvedimenti, questo significa che siete già in ritardo. "Il treno è passato". Guardate ad esempio come il prezzo di Bitcoin è salito in risposta ai controlli di capitali in Grecia. Gli attori di mercato hanno reagito quando era troppo tardi. Per mesi sapevano quali garanzie fornisse Bitcoin alla propria privacy e alla sicurezza dei propri risparmi, eppure hanno atteso così tanto prima di prendere provvedimenti. Sono stupidi? No. Non sanno semplicemente leggere la provarbiale scritta sul muro. Com'è possibile imparare a decifrarla? A questo proposito lo scorso giugno ho pubblicato un manuale che si prefigge il compito di colmare questa lacuna. Potete comprarlo su Lulu in formato .epub o su Scribd in formato .pdf. Come negli scacchi, dovete sempre farvi trovare un passo avanti al vostro avversario.
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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.



“Attività sospette”

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?

Ne dubitiamo.


[*] traduzione di Francesco Simoncelli: http://francescosimoncelli.blogspot.it/


Armi autonome: lettera aperta dai ricercatori di Intelligenza Artificiale

Luogocomune.net - 6 ore 36 min fa


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. [...]

Shotgun Intimidation

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

Remington military Model 870 12 Gauge Shotgun with ventilated metal hand guard and bayonet lug (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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!

A single 12 gauge shotgun shell while heavy can house a tremendous amount of impact zone coverage and potential energy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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.

M26 12-Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun System proves you can’t have too many guns on your gun! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

M26 12-Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun System proves you can’t have too many guns on your gun! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Once More, the Mysterious Wound

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

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.

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Iran Wants Business, Not Bombs

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

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.

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Concentration Camps in America Again?

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

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.

The Kagans

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

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.

Read the Whole Article

The Cure for Racial Dishonesty

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

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?

Can Donald Trump Win?

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

The American political class has failed the country, and should be fired. That is the clearest message from the summer surge of Bernie Sanders and the remarkable rise of Donald Trump.

Sanders’ candidacy can trace it roots back to the 19th-century populist party of Mary Elizabeth Lease who declaimed:

“Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master.”

”Raise less corn and more hell!” Mary admonished the farmers of Kansas.

William Jennings Bryan captured the Democratic nomination in 1896 by denouncing the gold standard beloved of the hard money men of his day: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

Sanders is in that tradition, if not in that league as an orator. His followers, largely white, $50,000-a-year folks with college degrees, call to mind more the followers of George McGovern than Jennings Bryan.

Yet the stagnation of workers’ wages as the billionaire boys club admits new members, and the hemorrhaging of U.S. jobs under trade deals done for the Davos-Doha crowd, has created a blazing issue of economic inequality that propels the Sanders campaign.

Between his issues and Trump’s there is overlap. Both denounce the trade deals that deindustrialized America and shipped millions of jobs off to Mexico, Asia and China. But Trump has connected to an even more powerful current.

That is the issue of uncontrolled and illegal immigration, the sense America’s borders are undefended, that untold millions of lawbreakers are in our country, and more are coming. While most come to work, they are taking American jobs and consuming tax dollars, and too many come to rob, rape, murder and make a living selling drugs.

Moreover, the politicians who have talked about this for decades are a pack of phonies who have done little to secure the border.

Trump boasts that he will get the job done, as he gets done all other jobs he has undertaken. And his poll ratings are one measure of how far out of touch the Republican establishment is with the Republican heartland.

When Trump ridicules his rivals as Lilliputians and mocks the celebrity media, the Republican base cheers and laughs with him.

He is boastful, brash, defiant, unapologetic, loves campaigning, and is putting on a great show with his Trump planes and 100-foot-long stretch limos. “Every man a king but no man wears a crown,” said Huey Long. “I’m gonna make America great again,” says Donald.

Compared to Trump, all the other candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, are boring. He makes politics entertaining, fun.

Trump also benefits from the perception that his rivals and the press want him out of the race and are desperately seizing upon any gaffe to drive him out. The piling on, the abandonment of Trump by the corporate elite, may have cost him a lot of money. But it also brought him support he would not otherwise have had.

For no group of Americans has been called more names than the base of the GOP. The attacks that caused the establishment to wash its hands of Trump as an embarrassment brought the base to his defense.

But can Trump win?

If his poll numbers hold, Trump will be there six months from now when the Sweet 16 is cut to the Final Four, and he will likely be in the finals. For if Trump is running at 18 or 20 percent nationally then, among Republicans, it is hard to see how two rivals beat him.

For Trump not to be in the hunt as the New Hampshire primary opens, his campaign will have to implode, as Gary Hart’s did in 1987, and Bill Clinton’s almost did in 1992.

Thus, in the next six months, Trump will have to commit some truly egregious blunder that costs him his present following. Or the dirt divers of the media and “oppo research” arms of the other campaigns will have to come up with some high-yield IEDs.

Presidential primaries are minefields for the incautious, and Trump is not a cautious man. And it is difficult to see how, in a two-man race against the favorite of the Republican establishment, he could win enough primaries, caucuses and delegates to capture 50 percent of the convention votes.

For almost all of the candidates who will have dropped out by then will have endorsed the last man standing against Trump. And should Trump be nominated, his candidacy would make Barry Goldwater look like the great uniter of the GOP.

Still, who expected Donald Trump to be in the catbird seat in the GOP nomination run before the first presidential debate? And even his TV antagonists cannot deny he has been great for ratings.

Got Arthritis?

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

JOINT PAIN or arthritis is the number one chronic illness in America. One person in 7 suffers from it.

Many people are use GLUCOSAMINE, CHONDROITINS and MSM to manage pain and to supply building materials for joint repair. While these are very helpful, particularly with osteoarthritis, I would like to mention some other natural remedies for arthritis.

DIET CHANGES can be as remarkable as any drug or supplement in eliminating joint pain and inflammation throughout the body. Eliminating foods that trigger inflammation in the body such as white flour, orange juice, coffee, dairy, red meat, white sugar, or nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers) can be very helpful. Most of the foods I mentioned create excess acid in the body which can create not only joint problems, but other problems as well. These include indigestion, allergies, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

A WHOLE BODY CLEANSE is an amazing tool to get rid of excess acid and stored toxins that overload the body – sometimes leading to joint pain. Try one and see if it helps. Note that if you don’t change your diet, the cleanse will not be able to eliminate ` than you are putting in on a daily basis – so give the body a chance to heal by changing your diet too.

OMEGA 3 OILS are anti-inflammatory and lubricating to all cells including the joints. A good high quality fish oil can be very helpful for arthritis.

DEVILS CLAW and YUCCA have both been used traditionally for arthritic and rheumatic conditions. They are anti-inflammatory and cleansing to the joints. The cleansing action is particularly useful in gouty arthritis.

CELADRIN is a fatty acid that acts as a lubricant, an immune system modulator and an anti-inflammatory. Celadrin resets the immune system such that it does not attack and tear down the joints. Several customers have switched to a glucosamine / celadrin formula with very favorable results.

HYALURONIC ACID is used to lubricate and preserve moisture in the joints and it helps get nutrients to cells that don’t possess a blood supply – like your joints. Hyaluronic acid is also great for aging skin and dry eyes. It is available topically, for internal use, and by injection, and it is an ingredient in several joint formulas.

NATURAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES, or COX-2 inhibitors, help calm inflammation and joint pain. Prescription drugs such as Celebrex and Vioxx are COX-2 inhibitors – with side effects typical of prescription drugs. Well known natural COX-2 inhibitors include ginger, rosemary, turmeric and boswellia. Zyflamend is a best selling combination with lots of research behind it, but the single herbs are good as well.

HYDRANGEA is worth mentioning – it is an ingredient that helps break down abnormal calcification. It is also helpful with bone spurs (as is magnesium) and is worth a try if nothing else has worked.

There are many products that will help support JOINT HEALTH naturally. Sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find what will work best for you. Not all arthritis is the same, so when in doubt, ask for advice from someone who has knowledge of how the different products work.

 

The Old World Order Has Been Morally Defeated

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

There are times when a loud cry of “The emperor has no clothes!” can be most copacetic. And so, let me point out something quite simple, yet very important.

The old world order, to which we became accustomed over the course of the 1990s and the 2000s, its crises and its problems detailed in numerous authoritative publications on both sides of the Atlantic—it is no more. It is not out sick and it is not on vacation. It is deceased. It has passed on, gone to meet its maker, bought the farm, kicked the bucket and joined the crowd invisible. It is an ex-world order.

If we rewind back to the early 1980s, we can easily remember how the USSR was still running half of Europe and exerting major influence on a sizable chunk of the world. World socialist revolution was still sputtering along, with pro-Soviet regimes coming in to power here and there in different parts of the globe, the chorus of their leaders’ official pronouncements sounding more or less in unison. The leaders made their pilgrimages to Moscow as if it were Mecca, and they sent their promising young people there to learn how to do things the Soviet way. Soviet technology continued to make impressive advances: in the mid-1980s the Soviets launched into orbit a miracle of technology—the space station Mir, while Vega space probes were being dispatched to study Venus.

But alongside all of this business-as-usual the rules and principles according which the “red” half of the globe operated were already in an advanced state of decay, and a completely different system was starting to emerge both at the center and along the periphery. Seven years later the USSR collapsed and the world order was transformed, but many people simply couldn’t believe in the reality of this change. In the early 1990s many political scientists were self-assuredly claiming that what is happening is the realization of a clever Kremlin plan to modernize the Soviet system and that, after a quick rebranding, it will again start taking over the world. People like to talk about what they think they can understand, never mind whether it still exists.

And what do we see today? The realm that self-identifies itself as “The West” is still claiming to be leading economically, technologically, and to be dominant militarily, but it has suffered a moral defeat, and, strictly as a consequence of this moral defeat, a profound ideological defeat as well.

It’s simple.

1. How can they talk of the inviolability of private property while confiscating the savings of depositors in Cypriot banks?

2. How can they talk of safeguarding the territorial integrity of countries while destroying, in turn, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine?

3. How can they talk of free enterprise and then sign contracts to build ships but refuse to deliver them because of pressure from Washington, as happened with Mistral ships which Russia ordered from France?

4. How can they talk of democracy and then use naked threats against the premier of Greece—the birthplace of European democracy—forcing him to ignore the unprofitable results of the Greek national referendum?

5. How can they talk about fighting racism while in the US they are constantly shooting mass quantities of unarmed Negros, all the while forbidding people to call them Negros.

6. How can they accuse the Serbs of genocide while refusing to acknowledge what they did to supposedly “independent” Kosovo, which has been turned into a European criminal enclave specializing in the production and distribution of narcotics?

7. How can they claim to oppose extremism and terrorism while training, arming and financing ISIS and the Ukrainian Neo-nazis?

8. How can they talk about justice while the US maintains the largest prison population in the history of the world and has executed many people subsequently discovered to have been innocent?

9. How can they talk about freedom of religion after the US federal government exterminated the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and then imprisoned the survivors, even though the government’s allegations against the sect have subsequently been proven to be false?

10. How can they accuse others of corruption after the colossal financial embarrassment of 2008, in the run-up to which obvious financial bubbles that were ready to bust were assigned the highest ratings?

What has happened is the worst thing that could have possibly happened: in full view of the entire world, “Western values” have been demonstrated to be null and void.

If you think that these are just some specific examples of difficulties or mistakes that could potentially be overcome in some dim and foggy future, then you are wrong: this is all of the “Western values” worth mentioning, and they have all been invalidated by observation. Note the past tense: they already have been invalidated. Are there any “Western values” left intact? Oh yes, just one: the rights of sexual minorities. But it is not possible to maintain Western civilization on the strength of gay marriage alone.

Is it any wonder then that the rest of the world is trying to put as much distance between itself and the morally bankrupt “West” as it possibly can, as quickly as it can? China is working on developing its own model, Russia is striving for self-sufficiency and independence from Western imports and finance, and even Latin America, once considered the backyard of the US, is increasingly going its own separate way.

The ranks of the fools who are still buying the West’s story are shrinking, while the ranks of the rebels are growing. There is the truth-teller Edward Snowden, who was forced to flee to Moscow to avoid persecution back home. There are European parliamentarians who recently broke ranks and visited Crimea. There are French and German military men who are volunteering to defend Eastern Ukraine against Western attack. There are the many European businessmen who came to the Economics Forum in St. Petersburg to sign trade deals with Russia, never mind what their politicians think of that.

On the other side, the rapidly emerging new world order was recently on display in Ufa, capital of the majority-Moslem Republic of Bashkortostan in Southern Urals, Russian Federation. Leaders of more than half the world’s population came there to sign deals, integrate their economies, and coordinate security arrangements. India and Pakistan set their differences aside and walked in through the door at the same time; Iran is next. “The West” was not represented there.

Now that all Western values (other than the rights of sexual minorities) have been shown to be cynical exercises in hypocrisy, there is no path back. You see, it is a matter of reputation, and a reputation is something that one can lose exactly once. There is a path forward, but it is very frightening. There is the loss of control: Western institutions can no longer control the situation throughout much of the world, including, in due course, on their own territory. There is the abandonment of the Western narrative: Western pontificators, pundits and “thought leaders” will find that their talking points have been snatched away and will be reduced to either babbling apologetically or lapsing into embarrassed silence. Finally, there is the loss of identity: it is not possible, for the non-delusional, to identify with something (“The West”) that no longer exists.

But the most frightening thing of all is this: behind a morally bankrupt civilization there are morally bankrupt people—lots and lots of them. Their own children, who will be forced to make their way in the world—however it turns out to be—will be as disrespectful of them as they were of their own vaunted civilizational values.

[Credit to Dmitry Leikin, whose brief post at d3.ru served as the source and the inspiration for this piece.]

Reprinted with permission from Dmitry Orlov.

Don’t Wait Until You Have an Emergency

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 14 min fa

Some people use auto dealerships for repair and maintenance to their car, and there are certainly some advantages to doing that.  There are benefits to having technicians who only work on your brand vehicle make the repairs.  Dealerships often have the best diagnostic equipment, and they attract and retain some of the best technicians in the industry because of higher wages, benefits, and often better working conditions.  Many dealerships offer loan cars, which people seem to like.  However, all that comes at a price to the consumer, and many prefer to use a non-dealership shop.

So how can you find a good garage that won’t take advantage of you, and fix your car right the first time, on time?

Word of Mouth: You can get online and see ratings for independent repair shops, but often those are manipulated.  I prefer the good old-fashioned word of mouth method.  Ask friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers if they know a good place.  You’ll likely get some good ideas about places, and if someone has had a bad experience, you’ll probably get an earful and also find out where not to go.

Talk to Shop Manager/Owner: Once you get some suggestions, go speak to the owner or manager of the shop.  If they are customer-oriented, they won’t mind answering a few basic questions.  The time to do this is not when you need repairs, but before that.  Ask them what their hourly labor rate is, this will clue you into how they price versus other facilities.  Ask if they let you inspect any old parts that have to be replaced, and for sure ask how long they stand behind their repairs.  Ask to see their service shop, and look for cleanliness.  A cluttered, messy shop often signals sub-par repairs.  Lastly, ask if all their technicians are ASE Certified.  For me, this is critical.

Check for ASE Certified Mechanics: ASE stands for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which tests technician’s knowledge after they have worked in their field for two years minimally.  ASE tests specialized fields such as air conditioning, engine repair, tune-ups, brakes, diesel engines, and the list goes on and on.  The tests are not easy by any stretch; it takes studying and practical experience.  After a group of tests are completed, a technician can earn a Master classification, which they usually proudly wear on their uniform.  ASE Master technicians have to re-certify every five years.  If a technician goes to the time and trouble to become a Master, they are usually the highest paid, and most dedicated to their field.

Ask about Repair Estimates, Test Drives, Wrecker Services and Insurance:Other questions to ask a potential repair shop is if they offer estimates, and if those estimates include parts, labor, tax, etc.  There is nothing worse than an unpleasant surprise when your bill is presented.  Ask if they get your authorization in advance if the bill is going to be higher than you approved.  Find out if they routinely test drive a car after repairs to make sure everything is fixed.  Also ask if they have insurance to cover your car while it is in their possession.  Have a clear understanding of their hours of operation, and if they have a preferred wrecker service, should you need to have your car towed in after hours.

Just like when buying a car, building a relationship with your garage is critical, it will make the difference between an unpleasant experience and a good experience.  If you use a dealership, get to know your service advisor and go to the same one each visit.  This will save you a lot of time, and you will feel better about your service experience.

Reprinted from Car Pro.

Male Circumcision

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 15 min fa

While flipping through the WestJet TV lineup on a recent cross-country flight, I reluctantly settled for a popular daytime talk-show (my other options included Days of Our Lives and re-runs of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo), which saw a panel of 4 diversely opinionated women duking it out to see who could make their co-host seem like the bigger idiot. Sigh.

Interestingly, however, the subject they were debating that day happened to be male circumcision, a surprising topic for daytime TV.

Two of the female hosts in particular were taking the stage with polarizing views on the matter. One host saw the medical procedure as a hygienic practice that lowered the risk of disease while the other saw it as an archaic and highly irrelevant surgery.

In the end, the audience was left undecided. I, however, was left with an ignited curiosity about a medical procedure that I had never really taken time to question.

I was impressed by the research the anti-circumcision host had prepared for her debate, and it got me thinking intently about the ethics behind the globally rooted practice.

How Did Circumcision Come To Be Globally Recognized?

Ancient Medieval era circumcision Italy.Source: Wikimedia

While the true origins of circumcision are largely obscured, the procedure undoubtedly has ancient roots, as documented in findings from several ethnic groups, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Sub-equatorial Africa.

It has been proposed that the procedure began for a number of reasons, including serving as a rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood or as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility or fertility. It could also have been started as a means of reducing sexual pleasure, marking those of higher social status, aiding hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, or even humiliating enemies and slaves by symbolic castration.

By the 1890s, it became a popular technique to prevent, or cure, masturbatory insanity.

Clitoridectomies (removal of the clitoris) were also performed for the same reason, and were widely practiced in the US until 1925. This of course was until someone recognized the absurdity of such an invasive and irrelevant medical procedure.

Yet even still, male circumcision continued onwards unto further generations of men.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that globally one-third of males aged 15 years and over are circumcised, with almost 70% of those being Muslims.

To Cut Or Not To Cut

Surprisingly, even though circumcision is still performed by most surgeons today, many leading medical institutions show no favour towards the procedure.

Take the New England Journal of Medicine, for example:

Failure to provide adequate control of pain amounts to substandard and unethical medical practice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on circumcision:

Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.  (AAP 1999)

The British Medical Association:

[P]arental preference alone is not sufficient justification for performing a surgical procedure on a child. (BMA 2006)

Even the Canadian Paediatric Society has reservations about circumcision:

Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.  (CPS 1996)

Perhaps the reason most medical institutions show no favor towards circumcision has something to do with one of medicine’s first code of ethics, “First, do no harm.”

Removing a normal, healthy body part and causing unnecessary pain is in fact doing harm.

Pardon my rudeness, but the common rebuttal that states “the pain only lasts for a minute” is both incorrect and inhumane.

We know that a baby has nerve endings in their genitals at birth, therefore surgically cutting a newborn’s penis undoubtedly causes extreme pain for the baby. Even if it were only for a ‘minute’ (which it’s not), such an argument also implies it is okay to inflict unnecessary pain on an infant, even if only temporarily.

Furthermore, circumcision without anesthesia is inconsistent with ethical guidelines that prohibit performing surgical procedures on live beings without anesthesia.

Money, Autonomy, and Misguided Parental Decisions

In her article, “Circumcision Ethics and Economics,” author Darcia Narvaez states that her anti-circumcision stance comes down to money, autonomy, and parental intentions.

For one, Narvaez explains how much money we actually waste on the procedure.

Medicaid spends $198 million each year on routine infant circumcision in the 33 states that still pay for it, a procedure its own guidelines consider to be medically unnecessary. Private insurance programs are reimbursing an additional $677 million, raising prices for us all (Craig 2006.)  In addition to the cost of circumcision itself, correcting its complications are said to double the cost, bringing the total bill to $1.75 billion each year. Is this what we should be spending money on during a recession and at a time when healthcare costs are skyrocketing?

Complications indeed, not to mention the average 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths(9.01/100,000) which occur annually in the United States.

Secondly, Narvaez points out that everyone has a right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, and that the only person qualified to make the medical decision is “the owner of the penis, as he is the one going to have to live with the results, not his parents.”

Another valid point brought up by Narvaez comes down to the fact that parents’ “aesthetic preferences are not valid reasons for circumcision.”

While all of her points speak truth in some regard, there are arguments for circumcision that should also be looked at.

Risk of Disease?

The most common arguments for circumcision comes down to hygiene and risk of disease. Increased risk of spreading and contracting HPV, cervical cancer, and HIV are the big ones most commonly mentioned.

However, when one actually takes the time to look at the studies which suggest this correlation, it’s extremely easy to see how weak that correlation is (fortunately).

A 2002 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine studied men in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and found that circumcision was correlated with a decreased risk of penile HPV infection (this correlation is corroborated by a 2009 study in African men), but that there was not a significant correlation between circumcision and incidence of cervical cancer.

When they restricted their dataset to women with only one sexual partner, there was an increased risk of cervical cancer in women whose partners were uncircumcised only if their partner was already considered at high risk for contracting HPV (as determined by age at first intercourse, number of sexual partners, and sex with prostitutes). So, in men who already engage in risky sexual behavior, circumcision does offer an advantage for protecting their partners from cervical cancer.

Yes, circumcision reduces the mucosal surface area, thereby potentially minimizing the interface for abrasion and transmission of viruses, but again, this is a weak reason for surgical intervention.

Women also have many crevices and folds in their genitals, yet we don’t automatically assume to surgically remove their labia for hygienic purposes.

It’s called showering.

Facing Reality

Routine infant circumcision is a 90-year aberration among hundreds of thousands of years of our time here as homo-sapiens.

Furthermore, manmade traditions have never been the basis for scientific principles, so why have we chosen to hold on to such an archaic way of thinking with regards to circumcision?

Thankfully, these traditions are on their way out soon, with only 30% of American boys circumcised in 2009. It seems that more and more parents are seeing through the silly traditions of our past while looking to create a more reasonable future for us all.

Perhaps one day we will look back at a list of all the strange things we once accepted as normal and laugh, with circumcision topping the list of these absurdities.

What are your thoughts on male circumcision? Share with us in the comment section below!

Reprinted with permission from Collective Evolution.

New Injectable Cholesterol Drug

Lew Rockwell Institute - 10 ore 15 min fa

It’s a cardiologist’s dream come true.  A newly approved $1200/monthly-injectable drug that dramatically reduces circulating cholesterol levels may become the first $100-200 billion medicine. 

That would dwarf the record $9 billion annual sales for Lipitor, the statin cholesterol-lowering drug that was the best selling drug of all time until its patent recently expired.  And to add value to the equation, this newly FDA-approved drug may be the first cholesterol-lowering medication to actually save lives, but for different reasons than advertised. 

I say this because statin cholesterol-lowering drugs prevented non-mortal heart attacks, not drop-dead heart attacks that are mostly caused by electrical storms within the heart, not cholesterol buildup within coronary arteries that feed the heart with oxygen.

The newly approved medicine will fill cardiologist’s offices for monthly or bi-monthly injections.   [FDA.gov July 24,2015] Injections eliminate compliance problems with patient who forget to take their pills. 

Initially patients with familial high cholesterol (620,000 in U.S.) or other uncontrolled high cholesterol (1 million in U.S.) or who are intolerant to statin cholesterol-lowering drugs (3.5 million) will be candidates for this new class of drugs.  Another 15 million Americans may be placed on this drug that have a history of coronary artery disease.   [Health Affairs Blog Feb 17, 2015]

If these 18.5 million patients are evenly divided by the nation’s 23,000 cardiologists, that would amount to 804 patients per month or 40 patients a work day flooding into cardiologists offices for injections.  Even with a physician’s procedural fee of just $100/per injection that comes to $80,400/month new income, or nearly $1 million year per cardiologist!  A survey of 50 cardiologists indicates they are ready to incorporate PCSK9s into their practice regimens and make a killing billing health insurance. [Medical Marketing & Media March 25, 2014]

Dollars and mis-sense over PCSK9 inhibitors

This new class of drugs that dramatically reduces LDL cholesterol is likely to add another $100-200 billion to the nation’s $4 trillion/year health care bill.  

Statin drugs have been the mainstay of modern cardiology since Mevacor gained FDA approval in 1987. Lipitor only reduces the risk for a non-mortal heart attack from 3.3% to 2.0% (in hard numbers only a 1.3% reduction).  [Knowledge of Health Aug 15, 2012]  Statin drugs avert 1 non-mortal heart attack among 200 healthy users and 1 out of 70 high-risk individuals over a 5-year period.   [Business Week Jan 16, 2008]

The problem is with cholesterol-lowering medications is that only a few patients will actually experience a heart attack.  The risk of a heart attack at age 40 is 4 in 10,000 over a 10-year period; over age 60, 37 in 10,000.  Over that time span you are three times more likely to die of another cause.  [Know Your Chances]

A long-term (23-year) study of 10,059 males age 40-65 years in Israel found survival was 87% among men with the highest total cholesterol (over 241) versus 93% among men with the lowest total cholesterol (below 176).  Mortality from all causes only rose significantly when cholesterol was above 240.  Cholesterol was less predictive of death from heart disease than smoking or high blood pressure.  [Arteriosclerosis Aug 1990] So cholesterol phobia has been overhyped. 

Will PCSK9 inhibitors raise or lower the cost of healthcare?

Regardless of the scientific and political battles surrounding cholesterol-lowering drugs, the public health burden associated with coronary heart disease remains enormous with approximately 525,000 people predicted to have a new heart attack (2013) and ~$125.4 million living with coronary heart disease and 1,346,000 million hospitalized for disease of the coronary arteries. [Journal American Heart Association Dec 3, 2014]

A 2010 CBS News report claims a severe heart attack now costs $1 million, a less severe heart attack about $760,000, or about $38,000-$50,000 a month if amortized.  [CBS NEWS April 23, 2010] The Heart Foundation reports the direct and indirect costs of heart disease total more than $320 billion each year.  [The Heart Foundation

It would seem to be financially irresponsible to over-utilize one drug that would add $100 billion to $200 billion a year to the nation’s healthcare bill for the potential benefit of an estimated 3.5 million to 18.5 million patients, to prevent 12,950 – 68,450 heart attacks, which would respectively amount to $7,722,007 to $2,921,840 per heart attack prevented.  So the new drugs will cost more than the heart attack itself.   This new class of drugs is destined to add to the cost of healthcare, not save healthcare dollars. 

What pharmacy benefits manager in his right mind is going to pay $2.9 to $7.7 million per patient to prevent a heart attack that only costs $760,000 to $1,000,000?

Unflattering facts about CSK9 inhibitors

Some eyebrow-raising facts about OCSK9 inhibitors need to be shared here:

First, a review of the scientific literature shows that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs actually raise PCSK9 levels.  [Diabetes Obesity Metabolism July 17, 2015]  This suggests a giant long-standing misdirection by modern medicine.

Second, already a PCSK9 inhibitor has been withdrawn from FDA application because of a “clinical development.” [Expert Opinion Investigative Drugs Aug 2015; Twitter July 23, 2015]

Why has the FDA granted early approval of PCSK9 inhibitors, while most human clinical studies are not scheduled to be reported till 2018?

A likely reason is for early approval is that preliminary data indicate PCSK9 inhibitors appear to reduce mortality.  [MedPage Today April 27, 2015]  The drug companies may have urged the FDA to approve their injectable medications based upon preliminary data, which gets the product on the market and makes it tough to withdraw should more conclusive data reveal a vanishing reduction in mortality.

Why PCSK9 inhibitors may save lives this time

The new class of LDL-lowering cholesterol drugs differ from statin drugs which interfere with the natural production of cholesterol in the liver.  This new class of drugs, called PCSK9 inhibitors, prevent the recirculation of LDL cholesterol and thus achieve unprecedented and striking reduction of LDL cholesterol of 50% to 70%!  [Journal American College Cardiology Jun 23, 2015]

Statin drugs were toxic to the liver and bring on a list of side effects that includes cataracts, diabetes, muscle aches and brain fog.

PCSK9 inhibitors are proposed as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) reducers.  However, there is more to this story.  A bit of scientific sleight of hand is underway.

PCSK9 inhibitors also lower another fraction of cholesterol called lipoprotein(a).  PCSK9 inhibitors lower LDL cholesterol by about 50% and up to 73% when combined with statin drugs or another drug (ezetimibe: trade name Zetia) that blocks the absorption of cholesterol from the diet. 

About a third of the subjects given PCSK9 inhibitors achieve LDL-C levels less than 25 milligrams per deciliter of blood.  Some subjects are expected to reach nearly un-measurable LDL levels. 

However, when blood lipid researchers refer to LDL cholesterol they are remiss in not mentioning lipoprotein(a), another important fraction of cholesterol is a part of that LDL measurement.  In fact, as LDL levels are driven down further lipoprotein(a) comprises more of LDL. 

Maybe 1.5 billion people on earth have lipoprotein(a) levels above 50.  Lipoprotein(a) is found in advanced and unstable plaques within coronary arteries.  It could be said that PCSK9 inhibitors are more lipoprotein(a) inhibitors than LDL reducers. 

A recent published paper says PCSK9 inhibitors may lead to the overestimation of LDL reduction while overlooking the importance of lipoprotein(a) in coronary heart disease mortality.  The authors of this paper say: “it is likely that individuals with elevated lipoprotein(a) will achieve low LDL in which the LDL will mostly reflect lipoprotein(a)…. The currently available methods of LDL determination used in clinical trials do not provide a true measurement of LDL.  Confounding this measurement is the contribution of lipoprotein(a).”   

Depending upon LDL level, lipoprotein(a) may comprise somewhere between 20-100% of the measured LDL fraction.  [Current Opinion Lipidology June 2015]

Another recently published paper confirms that PCSK9 inhibitors reduce LDL cholesterol that correlates with a decline in lipoprotein(a).  [Journal American College Cardiology 2014]

Linus Pauling returns

Modern cardiology has good reason to hide lipoprotein(a)’s contribution to mortal heart disease.  For it was Nobel Prize winning Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath, two investigators who published papers about the importance of lipoprotein(a) in heart disease in the 1990s. 

Pauling and Rath noted that lipoprotein(a) is more prevalent in the blood circulation of animals that do not naturally synthesize vitamin C such as  guinea pigs and that lipoprotein(a) becomes a sticky bandage that takes the place of vitamin C within the walls of damaged coronary arteries and then induces blood platelets to accumulate and create a blood clot.  That blockage is what results in a heart attack.

Animals that do secrete vitamin C naturally do not develop this form of heart attack.  Humans are in the same predicament as guinea pigs as Homo sapiens lost ability to synthesize vitamin C in the liver many generations ago due to a gene mutation that eliminated a key enzyme (gulonolactone oxidase) that converts blood sugar to ascorbate (vitamin C).  [Proceedings National Academy Science Dec 1990; Proceedings National Academy Science, August 1990] 

Dr. Pauling wrote a book entitled Vitamin C & The Common Cold in 1970 and retrospective analysis finds the public consumption of vitamin C rose by 300% upon publication of that book which correlated with a sudden decline in death rates for coronary heart disease.  (Linus Pauling Institute] 

Lipoprotein(a) more predictive of death than cholesterol

There has been a resurgence of interest in lipoprotein(a) as scientific reports now indicate it is “the strongest genetic risk factor for coronary artery disease.” [Journal Internal Medicine Jan 2013]  In 2008 researchers said lipoprotein(a) represents a risk factor in adults that is “very high, considerably higher than blood pressure, blood serum cholesterol and C-reactive protein.”  [Archives Internal Medicine March 24, 2008] 

Lipoprotein(a) levels above 30 milligrams per deciliter of blood represent an elevated risk for coronary artery disease.  [European Heart Journal Nov 2013]  Another report says lipoprotein(a) levels above 21 are associated with coronary artery disease.  [Heart Views Jan 2013]  Yet another study claims a lipoprotein(a) level exceeding 20 mg/deciliter is associated with a more than 600% increase risk for cardiovascular mortality.  [Diabetes Care April 2005]  About 30% of Caucasians and 60-70% of African Americans have lipoprotein(a) levels above 25 mg/deciliter. 

It is well documented that injury to internal walls of arteries are milder in areas that have higher levels of vitamin C.  [Canadian Medical Association JournalApril 1, 1955]  However, supplemental vitamin C does not reduce circulating levels of lipoprotein(a).  Vitamin C simply prevents lipoprotein(a) from taking vitamin C’s place within artery walls.  A more expansive explanation is available to read. [Knowledge of Health]

There may be other non-pharmacological ways to reduce PCSKP9 levels.  One documented method is to activate the Sirtuin1 survival gene. [European Heart Journal Jan 1, 2015]  Resveratrol, a red wine molecule widely available in dietary supplements, is a profound Sirtuin1 activator.  [Nature Sept 11, 2003]  Resveratrol works to promote the natural elimination of cholesterol.  [European Journal Pharmacology Jan 2013; Atherosclerosis Dec 2009]

Unlike statin drugs that largely prevented non-mortal heart attacks, PCSK9 inhibitors may save lives this time, but not by their advertised method of LDL cholesterol reduction but rather by a decline in circulating levels of lipoprotein(a).  

The obvious comes to mind.  Big Pharma doesn’t want the public to know that their $1200/month injectable drug could be replaced by a $10/month supply of vitamin C.  A head-to-head study comparing vitamin C to PCSK9 inhibitors is not likely to ever happen.  However, if your insurance plan doesn’t pay for PCSK9 inhibitors there is always vitamin C.  That is, if you can overcome your fears and your cardiologist who will predictably say everything that has been shared with you in this article is unproven.

The Curse Of The Euro: Money Corrupted, Democracy Busted

Deep Politics Monitor - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 11:03
From David Stockman • July 18, 2015 The preposterous Gong Show in Brussels over the weekend was the financial “Ben Tre” moment for the Euro and ECB. That is, it was the moment when the Germans—–imitating the American military on that ghastly morning in February 1968——set fire to the Eurozone in order to save it. Some day history will judge good riddance……..but that get’s ahead of the story.

Giocatori d'azzardo privilegiati — I veri sciocchi che stanno alimentando la bolla

Freedonia - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 10:03

Ricordo a tutti i lettori che è in vendita il mio libro "L'Economia E' un Gioco da Ragazzi". Manoscritto incentrato sulla diffusione delle idee della Scuola Austriaca attraverso spiegazioni e analisi semplificate e dirette. Una presentazione adatta ad un vasto pubblico, a dimostrazione che per capire l'economia non è necessario un gergo tecnico ma solo logica e buon senso. Il libro è disponibile sia su Lulu.com sia su Scribd.

__________________________________________


di David Stockman


Il mese scorso le società statunitensi hanno annunciato programmi di riacquisto d'azioni proprie per l'ammontare di $141 miliardi e nuove operazioni di Fusioni & Acquisizioni per l'ammontare di $243 miliardi. Entrambe le cifre sono da record, e secondo lo zombie-box rapprsentano l'ennesima prova del fatto che gli amministratori delegati sono rialzisti nei confronti delle loro aziende e delle prospettive economiche.

Eppure a me queste notizie fanno venire in mente uno sciame di falene che brulica intorno ad una lampadina. Nel suo ottimo post di ieri, Wolf Richter ci ha mostrato un grafico molto interessante sulle Fusioni & Acquisizioni avvenute sin dall'inizio del secolo.

Allo stesso modo, il tasso dei riacquisti d'azioni proprie per il 2015 è ad un passo dal raggiungere i $1,200 miliardi, frantumando il record del 2007 di $863 miliardi. Sì, in effetti, c'è molto entusiasmo rialzista ai piani alti, con gli annunci settimanali letteralmente fuori controllo.




Questo grafico dovrebbe essere preso come prova del fatto che gli amministratori delegati, ossessionati dalle stock option, non hanno il minimo senso della tempistica. Come ha anche osservato Goldman:

Mostrando una scarsa tempistica di mercato, i riacquisti hanno raggiunto il picco nel 2007 (34% del denaro speso) e sono scesi nel 2009 (13%).
Giusto. Ovviamente non c'è voluto molto per dimenticare la lezione del 2009. Le aziende sono sul punto d'impegnare il 28% del loro flusso di cassa operativo nella bolgia dei riacquisti; e ricordate che questo grafico di Goldman si basa sul flusso di cassa operativo lordo, al netto delle spese in conto capitale o di qualsiasi altro investimento futuro.




Ma c'è molto di più. Il fatto è che, a causa della falsificazione dei prezzi del mercato finanziario da parte delle banche centrali, la tentazione dei piani alti di farsi travolgere dalla mania dei riacquisti — soprattutto con denaro preso in prestito — è decisamente onnipresente; il debito è follemente a buon mercato e le manomissioni di Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen hanno reso i mercati azionari il sogno di tutti i giocatori d'azzardo.

Di conseguenza il riacquisto delle azioni proprie in un mercato sempre crescente, vuol dire che non c'è mai un momento di pausa. Cioè, i dirigenti non sono mai costretti a chiedersi il motivo per cui i flussi di cassa vengono sperperati, e i bilanci compromessi, per finanziare acquisti di azioni a, diciamo, il 125% del prezzo di oggi.

Questo è il vero male delle manomissioni della FED. Consentono agli scommettitori di Wall Street e ai robo-trader di mantenere il mercato in una perenne salita, anestetizzando i piani alti contro qualsiasi timore di perdere i guadagni inattesi scaturiti da prezzi delle azioni gonfiati.

Sono 75 mesi ormai che non accade una cosa del genere — un arco di tempo che supera di gran lunga la memoria istituzionale dei dirigenti ai piani alti.




La potenza di questo incentivo perverso non dev'essere sottovalutata. Come ha documentato Jeff Snider, negli ultimi 30 mesi le società dell'S&P 500 con i programmi di riacquisto più aggressivi hanno fatto registrare un aumento del 70% dei loro titoli azionari. Ciò rappresenta il 50% dell'indice nel suo complesso e il 30% dell'intero paniere di titoli NYSE.




Qui sta l'essenza del nostro attuale malessere economico. Nel suo tentativo maldestro di rendere il debito a buon mercato e, quindi, di stimolare investimenti, posti di lavoro e crescita, la FED sta disabilitando uno degli ingredienti più importanti della prosperità capitalistica. Vale a dire, la leadership delle imprese.

In effetti, gli stampatori folli presso l'Eccles Building hanno infettato i piani alti con una dipendenza letale dal gioco d'azzardo nel mercato azionario. In tutti i suoi molteplici aspetti — Fusioni & Acquisizioni, riacquisti d'azioni proprie, scissioni, cartolarizzazioni di asset, rifinanziamenti del debito — l'ingegneria finanziaria aziendale di oggi è solo una delle tante forme di gioco d'azzardo nel mercato azionario. Ed è proprio questo quello che preoccupa i piani alti.

Non c'è da meravigliarsi, quindi, se l'investimento netto reale è crollato e rimane nel seminterrato delle tendenze storiche. E qui non stiamo parlando dei numeri mensili degli investimenti lordi delle imprese, di cui i commentatori nello zombie-box amano chiacchierare quando il numero è buono e accampano scuse quando delude. Anche su questa base, l'investimento lordo delle imprese nel corso degli ultimi 7 anni è stato in media solo dello 0.9% annuo — ben lontano dai tassi storici del 3-4%.

Ma questo tiepido trend di crescita omette di sottolineare una cosa fondamentale: sebbene l'economia americana stia barcollando in avanti, si sta denudando del suo stock di capitale. Quindi ciò che conta è la quantità d'investimento per sostituire i beni produttivi consumati nella produzione corrente, come misurato dagli ammortamenti. L'investimento netto era di $525 miliardi nel 2000 — poco prima che la spesa delle imprese scendesse durante la bolla tecnologica nel 2001-2002.

Nonostante il taglio dei tassi d'interesse da parte di Greenspan durante i 30 mesi dopo il dicembre 2000 (dal 6.5% all'1.0%), gli investimenti netti in beni aziendali produttivi si ripresero solo modestamente, raggiungendo un picco di $475 miliardi nel 2007. La folle stampa monetaria di Greenspan non ha affatto potenziato gli investimenti delle imprese; ha innescato una baldoria intorno ai prestiti ipotecari e una monumentale bolla immobiliare che ha messo in ginocchio l'economia americana alla fine del 2008.

Durante il deliquio risultante, come mostrato di seguito, l'investimento netto reale è affondato a $91 miliardi durante la Grande Recessione. Solo una volta (1975) negli ultimi 42 anni l'investimento netto reale è stato così basso.

Quindi le chiacchiere successive degli economisti di Wall Street e dei media finanziari sulla presunta "ripresa" della spesa in conto capitale, sono solo l'ennesimo esempio di numeri astorici e senza senso che piacciono tanto agli amanti delle bolle finanziarie. La ripresa degli investimenti lordi è stata decisamente scadente, il che significa che nel 2013 l'investimento netto aziendale reale aveva raggiunto solo i $337 miliardi — il 36% inferiore al picco all'inizio del secolo.

Inoltre, il 2013 ha rappresentato il picco di questo ciclo. Da allora sia i flussi di cassa organici sia i finanziamenti incrementali, sono stati riciclati in manovre d'ingegneria finanziaria. Di conseguenza ritengo che l'investimento netto aziendale abbia raggiunto un picco di circa $350 miliardi nel 2014, soprattutto perché le spese lorde in conto capitale sono aumentate solo di poco (6%) rispetto al capitale consumato nella produzione.




Detto in altro modo, nel 2000 gli investimenti netti delle imprese sono stati pari al 4.2% del PIL. E poi sono scesi al 3.2% del PIL nel corso del picco successivo nel 2007; e ora (2014) sono pari a solo il 2.0% del PIL — il livello più basso per un periodo di non recessione nel corso dell'ultimo mezzo secolo.

Inutile dire che il crollo pluriennale degli investimenti netti reali non è dovuto ad un mancato accesso ai capitali. Infatti, le imprese degli Stati Uniti hanno goduto di una vera e propria baldoria di emissioni obbligazionarie sin dalla metà degli anni '90, situazione accelerata ad ogni nuovo ciclo economico.

Dopo il 1995 ci sono voluti 7 anni per generare $4,000 miliardi in emissioni d'obbligazioni societarie; dopo il 2002 ce ne sono voluti 5; e soli 3 dal 2011.




In breve, la drastica repressione finanziaria della FED ha generato tra gli investitori una corsa disperata per rendimenti decenti, tanto che ormai è sparita la funzione tradizionale del mercato obbligazionario.

Vale a dire, i bond manager, gli investitori istituzionali e i fondi comuni affamati di rendimenti, non cavano un ragno dal buco dalle emissioni obbligazionarie. Al contrario, con mercati finanziari relativamente onesti sotto William McChesney Martin (1953-1970) e Paul Volcker (1979-1987), nessuno avrebbe mai preso in considerazione l'emissione di obbligazioni allo scopo di riacquistare azioni o finanziare Fusioni & Acquisizioni. Gli affaristi esuberanti e i costruttori degli imperi aziendali di quei tempi sereni, dovevano usare azioni gonfiate per finanziare le loro acquisizioni dubbie — una forma d'aumento di capitale che metteva a rischio gli azionisti piuttosto che i bilanci delle aziende.

Non più. Le aziende non solo stanno raccogliendo enormi quantità di debito per finanziare l'ingegneria finanziaria, ma stanno anche abbandonando l'uso delle azioni come valuta. E anche questo è parte del gioco d'azzardo alimentato dalla FED.

Perché dovreste diluire la vostra base di azioni e i pagamenti delle stock option, quando esiste una disponibilità illimitata di debito inferiore al 2% per le società d'investimento e inferiore al 3-4% per i crediti spazzatura?

Come documentato nel grafico qui sotto, non vorreste farlo. Proprio mentre le Fusioni & Acquisizioni sono salite ad un tasso annuale di $1,400 miliardi, la quota di offerte finanziate con le azioni è scesa ad appena il 20% rispetto al 50% prima della fine del secolo.




Ma anche questo non cattura la piena portata dell'impatto pernicioso della FED sui piani alti. Una volta la paura di un declassamento delle obbligazioni costituiva una sorta di cintura di castità finanziaria per gli amministratori delegati, i quali sono diventati troppo affezionati alle emissioni di debito per finanziare i loro sogni.

Ma le cose non stanno più così. La corsa disperata per rendimenti decenti e una perenne repressione finanziaria da parte della banca centrale, hanno favorito un'eruzione di emissioni nel cosiddetto mercato obbligazionario ad alto rendimento. Considerando che ci sono voluti 7 anni per raccogliere $550 miliardi nel mercato del debito ad alto rendimento tra il 1996 e il 2002, quasi il doppio di tale ammontare — $975 miliardi — è stato emesso negli ultimi tre anni.




Ma aspettate, come hanno detto in TV la scorsa notte, c'è di più e c'è di peggio. I dati sopra riportati non includono il cugino dei titoli spazzatura — cioè, i prestiti senior a leva. Una quota enorme di questi debiti va a finanziare i progetti dell'ingegneria finanziaria.

Ancora una volta, questo è l'ennesimo depistaggio da parte degli imbonitori. Il loro hobby è quello di ripetere come la velocità di fuga sia ormai un fenomeno reale, perché il livello dei prestiti commerciali e industriali si è ripreso pienamente e ora ammonta a quasi $1,700 miliardi, o il 20% al di sopra del suo picco pre-crisi.

Purtroppo stanno leggendo dai libri di testo keynesiani dei loro nonni. A quei tempi la ripresa era accompagnata da prestiti bancari crescenti per finanziare il capitale circolante e dagli asset a rendita fissa. Ma l'andamento ciclico sin dalla fine del secolo, come illustrato di seguito, ci mostra l'espansione della bolla finanziaria gonfiata dalla banca centrale, oltre agli schemi dell'ingegneria finanziaria che l'accompagnano, e non l'espansione delle capacità delle imprese di produrre beni e servizi.

Infatti, sin dal 2000 i prestiti commerciali e industriali hanno rappresentato la crescita del mercato dei prestiti a leva, non l'offerta tradizionale di credito alle aziende.




Inutile dire che i commentatori keynesiani amanti dei numeri, non riescono a vedere oltre il loro naso. Ciò che interpretano come prova di fiducia rialzista ai piani alti, in realtà è la prova di una profonda deformazione che sta inceppando i motori della crescita capitalista e della prosperità economica.

Vale a dire, la base di capitale proprio delle aziende americane viene sistematicamente erosa dall'ingegneria finanziaria dei piani alti. Mentre lo scopo fondamentale dei mercati azionari è quello di raccogliere capitali per finanziare la crescita, la produttività e l'innovazione, quello che è accaduto fin dall'epoca Greenspan è stato esattamento l'opposto.

Negli ultimi 27 anni sono stati liquidati più di $5,000 miliardi di patrimonio netto. Cioè, l'ingegneria finanziaria — soprattutto i riacquisti d'azioni proprie e le Fusioni & Acquisizioni — ha eroso più capitale proprio di tutte le IPO e le offerte azionarie secondarie messe insieme. Infatti, i mercati azionari sono stati trasformati in bische clandestine che servono solo a mantenere alti i prezzi delle azioni esistenti sul mercato secondario.




Allo stesso tempo, queste stesse politiche di repressione finanziaria delle banche centrali hanno innescato una baldoria nelle emissioni di titoli di debito — più di $9,000 miliardi. Quindi il settore delle imprese ha raccolto un bel mucchio di capitale netto, ma l'ha pompato tutto nella sezione patrimoniale delle cedole fisse.




Questa trasformazione pluriventennale delle imprese statunitensi in muli carichi di debito, non si sarebbe mai potuta verificare in un libero mercato. Invece questa è la politica statale in tutto il suo splendore, e non in senso buono.

Non c'è da meravigliarsi, quindi, se abbiamo visto tre bolle nel mercato azionario negli ultimi 20 anni. Il pesante intervento della FED e la distruzione di un price discovery onesto nei mercati finanziari, hanno sostanzialmente trasformato i piani alti delle aziende americane in una gigantesca bisca clandestina traboccante ingegneria finanziaria.

Così facendo, hanno sottratto massicce risorse di capitale e flussi di cassa aziendali da investimenti produttivi nei mercati secondari. Poi gli speculatori più abili e gli hedge fund hanno catturato guadagni monumentali grazie alla loro capacità di surfare sull'onda infinita delle azioni dei piani alti.

Ma queste sono rendite immeritate. Non c'è da meravigliarsi se la crescita economica reale di Main Street stia morendo e se l'1% a Wall Street si crogiola nei propri miliardi.

Questa è la cruda verità. Nel suo sequestro arrogante e illegittimo di tutto il potere finanziario, la FED ha trasformato i piani alti aziendali d'America in una gigantesca bolla. Sono questi i veri sciocchi che alimentano le bolle finanziarie.


[*] traduzione di Francesco Simoncelli: http://francescosimoncelli.blogspot.it/


Perché robot e software non conquisteranno il mondo

Von Mises Italia - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 08:00

REALITY CHECK

C’è un certo timore causato dall’idea che nei prossimi 30 anni l’automatizzazione produrrà disoccupazione di massa: i computer faranno il lavoro di centinaia di milioni di lavoratori, lasciando senza impiego questi eserciti di licenziati.

Ci viene detto che il governo federale dovrà inserirli in qualche programma di welfare; in caso contrario, moriranno di fame; non saranno in grado di competere con i robot e i software.

Sono curioso: chi pagherà le tasse per questo? I robot?

No, no, no: bisogna tassare i ricchi.

Sono curioso: come faranno ad essere ricchi se non c’è nessuno che può permettersi di acquistare i loro prodotti?

LA BATTUTA DI REUTHER

Oltre 60 anni fa un mio amico mi parlò del seguente scambio.

     Walter Reuther era in visita presso lo stabilimento Ford di Cleveland.

   Un funzionario della compagnia indicò con orgoglio alcune nuove macchine a controllo automatico e chiese a Reuther: “Come si possono raccogliere quote sindacali da questi cosi?”

     Reuther rispose: “Come farete a far comprare loro le Ford?”

Reuther lo disse veramente.

Il mio amico era un democratico e un liberal. Suo padre era membro di un sindacato, lavorava alla catena di montaggio per la produzione di pneumatici.

In quel momento pensai che il commento di Reuther fosse abbastanza buono come risposta rapida, ma ritenevo non fosse applicabile alla situazione descritta nella storiella. Sono ancora convinto della mia posizione: niente impone ad un lavoratore di acquistare i prodotti di una particolare fabbrica. Ci sono artigiani altamente qualificati che sanno come lavorare diamanti raffinati, pur non potendoseli permettere.

IL VALORE DELLA VOSTRA PRODUZIONE

L’economia di libero mercato ci insegna che il valore del contributo di un lavoratore al processo di produzione complessivo sarà pagato in base a tale valore. Il motivo è chiaro: la concorrenza. I datori di lavoro non vogliono che un concorrente sia in grado di trarre profitto dalla produzione dei loro dipendenti, allettandoli con un salario un po’ più alto; infatti, è costantemente presente un processo paragonabile ad una grande asta di mercato. Gli uomini d’affari non vogliono che i loro concorrenti ottengano vantaggi permanenti, soprattutto se questi vantaggi possono essere sottratti loro pagando semplicemente un po’ di più per quelle risorse che garantiscono suddetto vantaggio. Questo è ciò che costituisce la concorrenza.

Il commento di Reuther è valido per quanto riguarda la domanda dei clienti. È possibile che un’azienda che produce automobili licenzi decine di migliaia di persone, perché i robot possono fare il loro lavoro in modo più efficiente; l’azienda quindi acquista robot, alcuni dei quali possono essere stati realizzati principalmente da altri robot, e così fino in fondo alla catena di produzione.

La domanda di Reuther è ancora valida: come fanno gli uomini d’affari a vendere la produzione totale dei loro robot ad altri robot? I robot non consumano; non sono sul mercato alla ricerca di migliori opportunità.

Mentre ci muoviamo verso un mondo in cui i robot, i programmi per computer e altri sostituti del lavoro umano verranno utilizzati nella produzione di beni e servizi, non sfuggiremo al problema del valore economico. L’economia moderna insegna che il valore viene imputato dai clienti e dai loro agenti, non dalle macchine. Inoltre, dopo l’imputazione del valore, l’individuo in questione deve essere disposto e capace di sostenere l’acquisto. Il valore imputato che non è legato alla capacità delle persone di fare acquisti è irrilevante per il mercato competitivo, rappresentando semplicemente sogni ad occhi aperti.

Il punto di Reuther, nel complesso, è corretto: qualcuno deve acquistare la produzione delle fabbriche. I proprietari delle fabbriche non allocheranno capitale e lavoro per la produzione di beni e servizi per i quali non c’è domanda. Questo è un altro modo per dire che non destineranno denaro per acquistare software e robot a meno che non ritengano che il risultato finale sarà costituito da acquisti fatti da esseri umani.

I super ricchi, o l’1%, controllano una percentuale enorme di capitali del mondo. Se controllino oltre il 50% della ricchezza del mondo (capitale), non lo so. La legge di Pareto dice di sì: il 20% del 20% del 20% (lo 0.8%) controlla l’80% dell’80% dell’80% (il 51%), tuttavia il capitale è utilizzato per produrre qualcosa di valore. Il valore di questo capitale è in definitiva valore imputato da tutti i clienti che acquistano la produzione ottenibile con tale capitale. Se i clienti cessano di acquistarne la produzione, allora il capitale inizierà a perdere valore; se persisteranno, il valore tenderà a zero.

Gli imprenditori sono costantemente alla ricerca di modi per acquistare capitale e ottenerne un maggiore tasso di rendimento. Pertanto, queste menti brillanti sono costantemente alla ricerca del modo di soddisfare le esigenze dei clienti, che in ultima istanza devono avere i soldi per comprare la produzione. Ciò significa che tali clienti devono essere sufficientemente produttivi al fine di poter effettivamente concludere gli acquisti.

MICRO-DECISIONI E MACRO-RISULTATI

Coloro che affermano che ci sarà una massiccia disoccupazione perché robot e programmi informatici sostituiranno gli esseri umani nel processo lavorativo, stanno dicendo che le micro-decisioni di tutti questi ricchi imprenditori porteranno ad una situazione in cui gli imprenditori si ritroveranno in possesso di capitale che non varrà sostanzialmente nulla: pochi acquirenti per la loro produzione. Questa è una vecchia tesi impiegata contro gli imprenditori capitalisti per almeno due secoli, secondo la quale le micro-decisioni di quei capitalisti orientati al futuro, persone con particolari talenti in grado di prevedere le entrate future, porteranno ad una situazione in cui loro e i loro concorrenti andranno in bancarotta. I robot non compreranno la produzione delle loro imprese; essendo uno strumento per aumentare la produzione, alla fine porteranno alla distruzione dell’economia moderna: i robot saranno utilizzati per aumentare la produzione, ma non ci sarà un numero sufficiente di individui con un reddito tale da poter acquistare la loro produzione.

Sciocchi robot.

Ciò non è mai accaduto nella storia del mondo, e non credo che accadrà mai. Se gli imprenditori vedono che il loro reddito sta calando perché gli esseri umani non stanno comprando più la produzione delle loro imprese, cesseranno di allocare capitale in quelle linee di produzione sulle quali si rileva un basso tasso di rendimento sugli investimenti. I capitalisti non sono sciocchi: non compreranno robot e programmi software per produrre beni e servizi per i quali non esiste un mercato.

Così, Reuther aveva ragione sui robot che non potevano acquistare Ford, non cogliendo però una rilevante a differenza, invece, nella decisione della Ford di sostituire i lavoratori con le macchine. Probabilmente i robot non erano abbastanza affidabili nel 1954, ma sono migliorati nel tempo. I giapponesi li hanno acquistati e anche le aziende automobilistiche americane: non avrebbero lasciato che i giapponesi si ritrovassero per le mani un vantaggio competitivo permanente.

Il sistema capitalista è provvisto al suo interno di un processo di auto-regolazione,  chiamato sistema profitti/perdite. Se l’attuazione di piani che si basano su robot e programmi informatici portano a perdite, perché gli individui non hanno mezzi economici sufficienti per comprare la loro produzione, allora robot e programmi informatici smetteranno di essere acquistati. Lungo tutta la catena di comando nel sistema di produzione del capitale, i messaggi raggiungeranno le orecchie dei manager: “Fermatevi!”

Il sistema capitalista non aumenterà ciecamente la produzione che non è richiesta dai clienti. Questa è la bellezza del sistema profitti/perdite capitalista. I segnali d’allarme vengono inviati ai capitalisti quando i profitti calano; quando i clienti non compreranno più la produzione, le perdite cattureranno l’attenzione degli imprenditori, interrompendo la produzione di quegli elementi per i quali non c’è domanda.

IL PROBLEMA DI REUTHER

Reuther era di fronte ad un problema reale negli anni ’50. Il numero di persone coinvolte nella produzione di automobili calò costantemente nel tempo, passando da circa 370,000 nel 1950 a 270,000 nel 1990, fino a 150,000 nel 2010. I robot stanno sostituendo gli individui sulla linea di produzione, ma il volume delle vendite di automobili è continuato ad aumentare. Milioni di persone che prima non potevano permettersi una nuova auto, ora possono acquistarla. Questo è un grande vantaggio per quelle persone che acquistano auto usate: coloro che intendono acquistare una nuova auto sono disposte a vendere le loro auto usate, e gli acquirenti più poveri ne traggono profitto. Sono stato a lungo uno di loro, visto che non compro auto nuove.

La decisione della gestione Ford di sostituire i lavoratori con i robot era saggia. Potrebbe esserci voluto mezzo secolo affinché giungesse a buon fine, ma ha raggiunto proficuamente il suo scopo. I lavoratori rimanenti sono stati pagati molto più del salario minimo: Lavorando fianco a fianco con i robot, e con i software, il valore della loro produzione è aumentata, venendo pagati di conseguenza. Non ci sono più molte persone coinvolte nella produzione automobilistica rispetto al 1954. Stanno facendo qualcos’altro per vivere.

Quando i robot non sono più redditizi, poiché vi è un numero insufficiente di percettori di redditi che acquistano la loro produzione, gli imprenditori tagliano l’acquisto di robot e software. Non ci stiamo dirigendo verso un mondo in cui i robot e i programmi informatici svolgeranno la maggior parte dei lavori: saranno impiegati in molti settori, consentendo così al lavoro umano di occuparsi di una produzione più preziosa.

Il lavoro umano è la più versatile di tutte le risorse economiche, potendo muoversi rapidamente in risposta alle migliori opportunità. Tutti gli agricoltori che negli ultimi 200 anni hanno lasciato le fattorie, e i cui figli hanno lasciato le aziende agricole, non hanno patito la fame. Hanno svolto un lavoro più attraente, e lo hanno fatto per un tasso di rendimento migliore rispetto a quello nelle fattorie: all’aumentare dell’efficienza nell’agricoltura, sempre più persone hanno potuto permettersi l’acquisto di cibo a basso costo. Questa è stata la risposta alla preghiera di Gesù: “Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano”. Non dovremmo lamentarci oggi, 200 anni dopo, perché l’aumento della produttività nell’agricoltura ha permesso all’Occidente di sostituire al pane molti altri prodotti economici. È stato il trionfo del capitalismo che ci ha permesso di trasformare quella preghiera in una formalità — a favore di quelle cose che noi apprezziamo molto più del pane, poiché i suoi costi oggi sono molto bassi.

CONCLUSIONE

Le persone non servono i robot, sono questi ultimi che servono le persone. Le persone imputano valore economico, non i robot. Ludwig von Mises ha scritto un libro, L’Azione Umana. Nessuno scriverà un libro di economia intitolato L’Azione dei Robot. Sebbene qualcuno possa provarci, nessun robot lo leggerà.

The post Perché robot e software non conquisteranno il mondo appeared first on Ludwig von Mises Italia.

They’re All Government Motors Now

Lew Rockwell Institute - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 06:01

GM gets ribbed a lot (and rightly so) for being “government motors” … having accepted (no, demanded) enormous sums of taxpayer money in order to avoid bankruptcy. The bailouts were the corporate equivalent of EBT (which conservatives somewhat oddly or at least, inconsistently, dislike . . . their ire apparently reserved for needy and greedy humans rather than needy and greedy corporations).

Anyhow, the plain fact is they’re all government motors now.

Every car company is a subsidiary of Uncle.

Either they are on the dole, or they are on the payroll. Does it really matter (to us, the people who pay the freight) which? The bottom line is they have their hands in our pockets. Or rather, they have appealed – successfully – to Uncle, who has his hands in our pockets. And, of course, a gun to our heads – implied, at least.

Actual, when necessary.

What’s happened is that the car companies decided about 20 years ago to work with the government rather than for their customers – on the theory that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Instead of fighting mandates tooth and nail – government bureaucrats decreeing the features and equipment your next new car will have (and which you will pay for)  – the car companies came to the realization it was less hassle (and more profitable) to embrace the mandates. Even to the extent of anticipating the next one.

To assist the government in thinking up new things to charge people for.

For example, back-up cameras. These will no longer be optional after model year 2017. If you want to buy a 2018 model, you will have no choice about buying the camera.

For “safety,” of course.

And de facto, this is already the case.

It is hard to find a 2015 model car or truck that doesn’t have a back-up camera as part of its suit of standard equipment. Often, it is “bundled” with features you might actually find useful or desirable – like an upgraded audio system or GPS.

Rather than wait for the mandate to kick in, the car companies went all-in early.

Not because buyers were clamoring for the cameras. But because the cameras add $$$ to their bottom line – and not just to the purchase price of a new car, but also to the cost of repairing the car. It’s inevitable that, at some point, either the camera itself (which is located outside the vehicle, usually built into the bumper or trunk/decklid and so exposed to the elements) will crap out. Or the LCD display inside the car (typically either built into the center stack or the rearview mirror) will develop a fritz. And because these cameras will be part of the federally mandated suit of “safety” equipment, it is a legal requirement that the system be maintained in operational condition on your dime. Else the car fails the mandatory (in many states) “safety” checks one must submit to every year in order to renew the registration.

Ka-ching!

In the past, the car companies would have fought this force-feeding on the theory (now severely anachronistic in Mussolini-ized America) that customers weren’t clamoring for it.. Or at least, let’s offer it and see whether they’re freely willing to buy it. If they are – great. Sell it to ’em. But if not, drop it.

That was the approach taken with air bags – initially.

But when people did not buy them willingly, the government decided this was unacceptable – and ordered them to buy.

This occurred in the ’90s and marked a turning point, a sea-change attitude shift. The car companies realized (perhaps accepted is the better word) that, like it or not, government had become their “demographic” –  the car industry term for the object of their efforts, the audience they build cars for.

The reason today’s cars are so bleakly homogenous is a function of this. They are all designed to fit within a certain template – the big one being “crashworthiness” requirements but there are other templates, too. These templates are dictated by the government but nowadays, they are full-hug embraced by the car companies, too. For example, their engineers and “product planners” work directly with government bureaucrats to develop, implement and anticipate crash test requirements. This effectively dictates vehicle design – including the overall shape – of new cars generally. Irrespective of brand. Because everyone’s got to comply with the same standards. There is no possibility – legally – of a “rogue” car company going its own way and designing something along the lines of a 1959 Cadillac (or a ’69 VW Bug) because such a car would not fit the template.

Whether it appealed to buyers being an irrelevance.

Read the Whole Article

Houston’s LGBT Bathroom Ordinance

Lew Rockwell Institute - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 06:01

The Texas Supreme Court dealt Houston’s contentious LGBT ordinance a major blow Friday.

The court ruled that the city of Houston must repeal or allow a vote on the Equal Rights Ordinance, an ordinance that qualified for the ballot but was kept off by Houston’s mayor, who sparked outrage when she tried to subpoena sermons and communications of local pastors.

The Equal Rights Ordinance banned businesses that serve the public from discriminating against gay or transgender people.

Conservative activists say that the ordinances can be used to allow men who identify as women to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa for women who identify as men.

After the ordinance was passed in May of 2014, conservative activists fought to get a repeal vote on the issue, but the mayor and other city officials refused to allow the repeal vote, saying the activists did not obtain enough signatures.

The court disagreed, and told the city to either repeal the measure or allow the city to vote on the repeal. Houston has until Aug. 24 to decide.

“The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored,”reads the court’s opinion.

It’s important to note that the court did not rule against anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBT people in general, only that the city was obligated to allow the measure to be put up for a vote or repealed outright.

Several large Texas cities, including Dallas and Austin, have some form of anti-discrimination protection in place for LGBT people.

Read the Whole Article

The War on Extremism

Lew Rockwell Institute - Lun, 27/07/2015 - 06:01

hat tips: Nafeez Ahmed and Tony Gosling

On July 20, 2015, UK Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a major speech to justify ongoing wars on “extremism.” Supporting corporate media analyses are here, here, here, here; with some honesty from George Monbiot, with a 1-minute corporate media cry for more military armed attacks “on this evil”:

Cameron’s speech promotes the UK “Extremist Bill” that bans all media (such as you’re reading now), and sends police to close any organization dictated by government as “extremist” (honest analyses by Glenn Greenwald and via Washington’s Blog). UK Home Secretary Theresa May spins Orwellian for government dictatorial power to criminalize “extremism” in a 12-minute BBC interview.

Please notice this is clear advocacy of literal dictatorship for government dictating/saying what is and is not “extremism” and “promotes values”:

What corporate media won’t address are these Emperor’s New Clothes facts of the wars the UK, US, and Israel wage on “extremism” that absolutely prove Cameron, Obama, Bush, and other war-mongers are extreme War Criminals:

Governments have been vicious killers over the last 100 years, using Orwellian “self-defense” rhetoric to cover offensive and illegal Wars of Aggression. The US has started 201 foreign armed attacks since WW2, causing the world’s peoples to conclude in polling that the US is indeed #1 as the most threatening nation to world peace. The US-started armed attacks have killed ~30 million and counting; 90% of these deaths are innocent children, the elderly and working civilian women and men. US armed attacks have war-murdered more than Hitler’s Nazis, and continue a long history of lie-began US Wars of Aggression. Indeed, this history of lie-began wars of empire by the .01% class are powerfully documented from Roman historians.

The most decorated US Marine general in his day warned all Americans of this fact of lie-started wars, and W. Bush’s Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, chided Pulitzer-winning journalist, Ron Suskind, that government will continue with such actions to “create our own reality” no matter what anyone else might say.

Cameron and other former imperialist colonial nations support a .01% extremist doctrine that includes more criminal policies:

I could go on to literally ~100 areas of crucial concern.

Read the Whole Article

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