- Venezuela's Maduro – Selling The Golden Goose
Venezuela is a naturally rich nation. It’s ranked seventh worldwide for biodiversity and has the world’s largest reserves of oil. This is a country that deserves, more than most, to thrive. However, as in all countries, it passes through economic cycles and, when on a downward curve, would-be leaders take the opportunity to claim that the “greedy rich” have sent the economy into a tailspin (which can sometimes be the case) and that the solution is to adopt a collectivist approach to governance.
In 1989, Venezuela was experiencing a downturn. Riots broke out, followed by two attempted coups in 1992. The following year, President Pérez was impeached for embezzlement of public funds and the red carpet of opportunity was rolled out for the charismatic former coup participant Hugo Chávez. He took office as president in 1998. A new constitution was drawn up in 1999 and, as in so many countries previously, the people enthusiastically welcomed the new collectivist regime.
“When people can vote on issues involving the transfer of wealth to themselves from others, the ballot box becomes a weapon with which the majority plunders the minority. That is the point of no return, the point where the doomsday mechanism begins to accelerate until the system self-destructs. The plundered grow weary of carrying the load and eventually join the plunderers. The productive base of the economy diminishes further until only the state remains.”
– G. Edward Griffin
As in all collectivist experiments, the new entitlements meted out to the population had to be funded somehow and, as is customary, those who create the wealth in Venezuela were required to pay for its distribution to those who were less productive.
In the beginning, this form of theft appears to work well and, not surprisingly, many of the supporters of Mister Chávez saw him as the messiah of the common man. Unfortunately, as is always the case, bleeding the wealth from those who create it makes it increasingly difficult for them to continue to expand the creation of it and, as the wealth continues to be drained, contraction eventually takes place, making the entire nation poorer in every way.
At some point the collectivist system begins to unravel and, as luck would have it, the unravelling for Venezuela coincided with the death of its cherished leader.
In 2013, former bus driver Nicolás Maduro was elected as his successor. Two months earlier, the currency had been devalued to combat increasing shortages of basic goods and Venezuela fell into recession within a year of Mister Maduro taking office. By 2016, he declared a state of national emergency and proceeded to institute a series of knee-jerk responses to increasing economic decline, which would, to some degree, appease the struggling populace, but which would, ultimately, exacerbate the problem.
As conditions have worsened, Mister Maduro’s “solutions” have become increasingly desperate. (Editor’s note: Jeff Thomas has provided commentary on Venezuela’s decline in several editions of International Man: “Watch the Movie,” Jan. 2014, “Venezuela, the Sequel,” Dec. 2016, and “A Chicken in Every Pot,” Dec. 2016.)
In so doing, he hasn’t exactly been creative. He has, instead, resorted to all the classic measures that have been used by collectivists before him. The unfortunate conundrum for a collectivist leader is that the real solution is a return to the free-market system and no leader is going to admit that his entire raison d'être has been based upon a false premise.
It’s important to note that, in any nation, the populace tends to believe that their leader’s efforts, however flawed they may have been, were intended to serve the people well. However, this is almost never the case. I’ve known many political leaders personally and can attest that, regardless of the nation they represent, their concern is almost entirely for their own personal welfare and advancement. In fact, those who are pathological in this pursuit are very often the most successful in rising to the top, by virtue of their heightened determination and obsession with self-aggrandizement.
And so, Mister Maduro has relied on ever-increasing price controls, capital controls, devaluation of the national currency, takeover of private sector industry, and governance by decree. Each of these measures, in every instance, served to send the Venezuelan economy spiraling further downward.
The result has been a decline in the creation of wealth, the cessation of production of many essential goods, the overtaking of factories by the military, a dramatic increase in crimes of desperation, the alienation of overseas business partners, purchasers, and vendors, and an inability to pay international debt.
This last failure has led to an ironic situation. Although the national currency is in a state of hyperinflation, Venezuela cannot pay for the shipments of new, higher-denomination bank notes it has ordered from printers overseas, as the inflated currency is not trusted by the printers.
At this point, if the leader of a country truly had any loyalty to his country or compassion for his people, he would most certainly have resigned, as he is clearly unfit to lead.
But this almost never occurs. Whether the leader is Josef Stalin, Juan Perón, or Fidel Castro, no matter how dire the conditions become for the populace, the leader steadfastly refuses to relinquish the reins. What occurs instead is that he maintains his own personal level of lavish lifestyle, circles the wagons, continues or expands upon the measures that have caused the destruction, and becomes more autocratic.
It’s important to understand that it’s highly unusual for the leader to capitulate at this point. Almost invariably he will opt for the country to go down in flames around him rather than relinquish power.
That being the case, we now observe that Mister Maduro, having run out of rabbits to pull out of the hat, has made the decision to sell the golden goose that was responsible for the creation of wealth in the first instance—oil.
Seventy percent of Petropiar is owned by the state-run Petróleos de Venezuela, and 30% by its overseas partner, Chevron. The government has now offered to sell a portion of its shares to the Russian Rosneft, along with a stake in the rights to extract oil from the premium-grade Orinoco Oil Belt. This, of course, is no less than a stab in the back for Chevron. (Rosneft faces sanctions from the US, which, of course, Chevron does not.)
Venezuela has also expropriated shares belonging to ConocoPhillips, for which it has not yet paid, at the same time as they’re negotiating with a Japanese investment bank to obtain further funding.
Each of the above has been undertaken in a desperate attempt to pay external debt, which, until the present, has allowed the Venezuelan economy to continue to function. It also allows for the emergency delivery of gasoline to keep Venezuela in motion. Although Venezuela has eighteen of its own refineries, they’ve also fallen victim to the economic crisis and without emergency gasoline supply from overseas, thousands of workers will be unable to report for work to keep what remains of the economy functioning.
And so Mister Maduro, in order to buy a bit more time in the presidential mansion, is selling the golden goose. For those who wonder why it’s so often the case that a nation that’s been knocked down economically rarely rises up again within the same generation, the answer is manifestly clear in Venezuela. Leaders on the way out tend to sell or destroy virtually all that’s of value within the country, eliminating the resources through which a recovery may be possible, even if the country then returns to a free-market system.
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The situation in Venezuela is extraordinarily toxic. But a similar pattern is playing out in major countries around the globe. For too long, careless governments have used shortsighted strategies to prop up major world economies and prolong their time in power. This can only go on for so long… In this urgent video, Doug Casey and his team reveal why an unprecedented global financial disaster is now inevitable—and what you can do to protect yourself. Click here to watch it now.
- Elites Are Orchestrating A Global Catastrophe: "There Are Many Things The President Does Not Know"
Following the money is always the key and crucial element to determining the “probable cause/modus operandi” regarding to globalist actions. Although there are many who believe that President Trump is the panacea to all our problems, even they may perhaps admit that there are forces other than the President that drive our country, as well as the world. The shadowy cabal of globalists, Bilderbergers, bankers, and other secretive organizations bent on a “union” of totalitarian control are almost too numerous to count.
There are many things the President does not know. This is intentional on the part of the moneyed interests that control the very fabric of our society. The interests are corporate, political, and religious: a three-level tier of control over all the facets of human society. Just as one individual person cannot “dominate” one of these sectors, the sectors themselves cannot dominate. They are forced into a symbiotic relationship rooted in commensalism, where each of these “parasites” benefits the other two.
The problem lies in the fact that these interests are elitists who believe in the forced imposition of their philosophies upon the masses. They also believe in “culling the herd,” and maintaining a servile population at minimum levels to carry out all menial labor and industrial production (the Deltas and Epsilons of Huxley’s Brave New World) as they direct. Patiently these elitists have been awaiting the day when their “1984” society is a reality, crafting and shaping it all along throughout the decades.
The numbers of humanity pose a problem, because they cannot effectively eradicate all necessary without a large-scale plague or a war, and after such an event, the planet itself might be unsustainable.
The key question for them: how to kill off about 6 to 6 ½ billion people without destroying the world?
The most efficient way would be with a limited nuclear war that destroyed enough key targets to minimize postwar effectiveness of the major powers, in a manner that does not irradiate most of the warring nations. The key to the entire equation is to take down the United States. The EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) is the weapon of choice. This would paralyze all the infrastructure, leading to (as so eloquently outlined in the book “One Second After”) mass die-offs and the reduction of populations to pre-industrial societies.
The shielded and stocked communities of the elite could just sit back and allow the populations to destroy themselves and whittle down the numbers. After a time (most likely already estimated and predetermined), mercenary forces of the elitists could emerge to mop up the remnant, enslaving and subjugating them completely.
The question isn’t whether this is in the works: it is. The elite have been following such plans as revealed in the Iron Mountain Report, and the moneyed interests have been crafting their plans long before House wrote Philip Dru, Administrator, as he and Wilson created the Federal Reserve and laid the roots for the cancer that is pervasive and underlying the thin veneer of our phony, Hallmark-Card society.
The numerous articles about the millionaires and billionaires forming “intentional communities” and compounds/complexes for the purpose of surviving an apocalyptic event/societal collapse are not inaccurate. The widespread reports of tunnel complexes, nonstop truck deliveries, and the diversion of taxpayer-funded government resources to secret locations throughout the United States are not inaccurate. Jesse Ventura was investigating many of these matters before the moneyed interests put a stop to his actions and he retired from the field without fanfare. Everyone who has exposed or threatened to expose them has either been marginalized or destroyed. Just as people search for the “one” hero, they are also easily manipulated to focus upon “one” villain, such as a Kim Jong-Un, or a Bashar al-Assad. Substitute the name “Emmanuel Goldstein” for either of them before the Two-Minutes Hate is conducted.
Fast forward to now. The bottom line is that when different factors come together “coincidentally” the probability for action by the elites and the point of no return is increased exponentially.
They haven’t ushered in their era yet; they will not until they’re certain they can pull it off, but they will eventually make a play for it.
These power-brokers will not commit themselves in the gamble unless they’re sure of a win. For this reason, it is important to monitor the hot spots for those convergent points to know when something is likely to occur: when the possibility exists, and the probability increases. One of those points of convergence is this week.
The North Koreans are supposed to test another nuclear device on or about the 25th of this month. “Coincidentally,” that EMP “drill” named Operation Gotham Shield is supposed to run through April 25th, and possibly a little longer. Coincidentally, there was a power outage in three different U.S. cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City on Thursday. Coincidentally, Russian bomber and intelligence-gathering aircraft have been flying test runs along the coast of Alaska, for four days straight with the U.S. and even Canada scrambling fighters to intercept. Coincidentally, the Russians claim to have electronic devices with an EMP-type effect, already used against the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer with Tomahawk missiles back in November of 2014. Coincidentally, the U.S. naval armada is set to arrive in the waters off the Korean coast on April 26th… right in line with the EMP drill “Operation Gotham Shield.”
All these factors point toward a false flag. If the opportunity to pull such a false flag off arises, they will seize upon it. Trolls without number try to disparage this concept… the “nothing has happened yet, therefore nothing will happen” crowd. The ones who are so certain that all of this is just “fear porn” or a “sham” of some kind…don’t pay their nonproductive and perhaps remunerated redundancies any mind. The whole point is to be aware of what is going on and try to survive it.
Be that “10th man” as outlined in the film World War Z, and consider what the herd has been conditioned not to consider, and it might improve your chances to survive what is coming: what the elites have planned and will trigger with a False Flag.
“No matter how improbable it may seem, the tenth man has to start thinking with the assumption that the other nine are wrong.”
- Baby Boomers Borrowed $100BN In Student Loans For Their Children And Now Defaults Are Soaring
America’s snowflake millennials aren’t used to being told ‘no’, especially by their parents. Perhaps that’s why, as we pointed out a few days ago, more millennials than ever are now living at home with mom and roughly one quarter of them don’t even both to enroll in classes and/or find a job (see “A Quarter Of Millennials Living At Home Neither Work Nor Study“). But, when it comes to racking up massive student loans for their lazy, millennial, snowflakes, we suspect a healthy portion of about 3.5 million Baby Boomers are wishing they had a do-over to do just that.
Unfortunately, rather than making some difficult decisions about affordability and/or forcing their kids to pay for their own education, Baby Boomers have incurred nearly $100 billion in student loans so that little Johnny and/or Susie could get that Anthro degree they always wanted.
In fact, as the Wall Street Journal notes today, so-called “Parent Plus Loans” have soared over the past 15 years as parents have increasingly found it impossible to cover college tuition costs.
Parent Plus, created by Congress in 1980, allows parents to borrow to cover tuition and living expenses—often after their children borrow the maximum in undergraduate federal loans, capped by law at $5,500 a year for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors. There is no limit to how much parents can borrow. Supporters say the program ensures students can go to schools of their choice.
When it comes to federally subsidized student loans the underwriting standards put even the no-income, no-doc mortgages of 2005 to shame. Just take the case of Sherry McPherson as an example. Per the WSJ, McPherson was able to secure $100,000 in student loans for her son and herself to attend a trade school despite “her shaky credit and unemployment.” Adding insult to injury, for taxpayers at least, McPherson has already refinanced her loans into one of Obama’s “income-driven plans” which “sets her payments at zero while she is unemployed.”
Sherry McPherson took out Parent Plus debt in 2006 so her son could enroll in a seven-month certificate program at a Seattle for-profit school that teaches commercial diving. She was an unemployed single mother with thousands of dollars in credit-card debt, a car loan and a subprime credit score. She had just retired from the Army after suffering an injury in Iraq.
The school, the Divers Institute of Technology, told Ms. McPherson she needed to borrow nearly $16,000 to cover remaining tuition after her son maxed out on undergraduate federal loans, she recalls.
Ms. McPherson, now 50, remembers telling the school’s financial-aid administrator she wouldn’t be approved because of her shaky credit and unemployment.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Look, all we need is your Social Security number,’ ” recalls Ms. McPherson. “They approved me in three minutes.”
She hasn’t worked since, partly because she attended college and graduate school herself. Her Parent Plus balance has more than doubled. Combined with her own student loans, she now owes more than $100,000 to the federal government.
Ms. McPherson has refinanced into an income-driven plan, which sets her payments at zero while she is unemployed.
And while it may sound outrageous, McPherson’s story is hardly an anomaly with over 40% of student loans originated in 2009 – 2013 going to subprime borrowers, more than double the subprime mix of the mortgage market in 2005.
Now, just as these parents are entering their retirement years, a record number of them are having their Social Security and pension payments garnished to pay for student loans that they never had a prayer of being able to afford. In fact, as of September 2015, more than 330,000 people, or 11% of borrowers, had gone at least a year without making a payment on a Parent Plus loan and over 40,000 of them were having their income garnished by the federal government.
The number of Americans who had wages, tax refunds or Social Security checks reduced because of unpaid student debt increased 71% between September 2010 and September 2015, according to the GAO. About 41,000 Parent Plus borrowers were among one million student-loan recipients who had checks garnished in the 2015 fiscal year. The government garnished the Social Security checks of 173,000 borrowers from student-loan programs in 2015, up from 36,000 in 2002.
Of course, it’s not just parents that are defaulting on student loans. Roughly eight million Americans owing $137 billion are at least 360 days delinquent on federal student loans, nearly the number of homeowners who lost their homes because of the housing crisis.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration recognized that the Parent Plus loan program was saddling 1,000s of people with loans they could never repay back in 2011 and took steps to curb lending to “high-risk” individuals. Then, Cheryl Smith of the United Negro College Fund apparently reminded Obama that making financial decisions based purely on financial metrics is racist, so he promptly reversed his own rules.
The program checks only a borrower’s past five years of credit for major blemishes such as bankruptcy or foreclosure, and the past two years for delinquency on debts of more than $2,085. Consumer counselors are hearing from borrowers who make as little as minimum wage but borrowed tens of thousands of dollars and now can’t repay.
Obama administration officials, worried Parent Plus was heaping debt on high-risk borrowers, put in place tighter restrictions in 2011. But after schools argued stiffer underwriting would prevent many students from covering tuition, thus reducing college access for minorities and poor students, the administration rolled back the new rules.
“Without this program, our fear is that many of these families would be getting private loans at less-favorable terms or less-favorable repayment options,” or they wouldn’t be able to cover tuition at all, says Cheryl Smith, head of government affairs for the United Negro College Fund.
Of course, we suspect the Obama administration decided it was better to seek taxpayer forgiveness than permission as James Kvaal, Obama’s top education advisor and a man who undoubtedly was part of the decision to loosen lending standards admits: “At some point, we’re going to have to realize that a bunch of loans that have been made are not going to be repaid.”
- Cherokee Nation Files Lawsuit Against Big Pharma Over Opioid Epidemic
Late last week, lawyers representing the Cherokee Nation filed a lawsuit against major pharmaceutical companies, claiming they have pumped dangerous painkillers into Native American communities in Oklahoma. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the court filing and reported that the companies are accused of breaking laws by “failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market.”
Specifically, the suit claims the corporations “turned a blind eye to the problem of opioid diversion and profited from the sale of prescription opioids to the citizens of the Cherokee Nation in quantities that far exceeded the number of prescriptions that could reasonably have been used for legitimate medical purposes.” With the markets bursting with pain pills, the drugs quickly found their way onto the black market. Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation posit that the companies bear some of the responsibility for that “opioid diversion.”
The claim the opioid crisis has caused the Cherokee Nation to incur “increased spending on law enforcement, medical facilities, drug treatment centers and foster and adoption programs,” the Post reported.
Attorneys hope that by filing the suits in tribal court, they will be able to gain quicker access to records that could show distinct negligence on the part of major drug companies. The suit names McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, which together control 85% of prescription drug distribution in the United States. Walgreen’s and CVS are also included in the suit.
In late 2016, an investigative piece by the West Virginia Gazette reported that the same three companies “supplied more than half of all pain pills statewide” while West Virginia was in the throes of a massive opioid crisis. In one county, AmerisouceBergen went from distributing 292,000 pills to 1.2 million pills in a single year. In a statement, Amerisource passed the blame, saying doctors and pharmacists — not the companies — were to blame.
In reference to the Cherokee Nation lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen issued a statement similar to their West Virginia defense, claiming “the issue of opioid abuse is a complex one that spans the full healthcare spectrum, including manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, prescribers, pharmacists and regulatory and enforcement agencies.” However, Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree didn’t seem to echo the drug companies’ sentiments. He claimed the corporations’ “main goal is profit, and this scourge has cost lives and the Cherokee Nation millions.” The West Virginia Gazette article reported that the CEOs of the three major companies have collectively been paid $450 million in the past four years.
Like the lawsuit leveled against the companies in West Virginia, the Cherokee lawsuit charges the companies, commonly referred to as “the big three,” with pursuing “unfair and deceptive practices.”
“These defendants really had the ability to limit the number of deaths and the level of addiction if they just followed the law,” said Richard Fields, a lawyer for the Cherokees.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2015, the companies pumped enough drugs into the Cherokee Nation to provide “every adult and child with 955 5mg pills.” In West Virginia, that number was 433.
And the companies have put their earnings to good use, filling the pockets of politicians they hope might be sympathetic to their causes. The Center for Responsive Politics showed that AmerisourceBergen gave $20k to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and over $10k to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — both of whom have loud voices in Washington DC.
The Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit is unlikely to be the last filed against the “big three,” as the opioid crisis sweeping the nation shows no signs of slowing down. A fact sheet published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states that “heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled [from 2010 to 2013].”
Principal chief of the Cherokees, Bill John Baker, said, “[T]ribal nations have survived disease, removal from our homelands, termination and other adversities, and still we prospered. However, I fear the opioid epidemic is emerging as the next great challenge of our modern era.”
The lawyers filing cases against the companies are hoping the multi-billion dollar corporations will start taking responsibility for the drugs they sell.
- "Don't Open It" – 9 Mexican States On Alert After Radioactive Material Stolen
In light of the recent spate of emergency drills and nuclear attack
preparedness plans across the United States, it seemed notable that an unknown amount of stolen radioactive material has prompted the head of national emergency services to issue an alert today in nine Mexican states.
A vehicle carrying mobile industrial radiography equipment filled with Iridium-192 was stolen in the city of Tlaquepaque in the state of Jalisco, and as Reuters reports, the alert and search for the stolen material covers the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan San Luis Potosi, Durango and Zacatecas, according to a post on Luis Felipe Puente’s Twitter account.
— Luis Felipe Puente (@LUISFELIPE_P) April 24, 2017
Puente encouraged people with information about the stolen material to report it but added: “don’t open it.”
Somewhat shockingly, theft of radioactive material in Mexico is a somewhat of a common occurrence. Last year a container of radioactive substance used for industrial X-rays was also taken along with a car. Similar occurrences also happened in April 2015 and in July 2014. In December 2013, thieves – apparently unaware of the contents of their heist – stole a vehicle containing medical equipment with highly radioactive cobalt-60, a material that could be used to produce a “dirty bomb,” according to the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
- Bernie To Introduce $15 Federal Minimum Wage Legislation On Wednesday
We all knew it was coming and now it has finally been confirmed that the Senate’s favorite Socialist will introduce legislation later this week calling for a $15 federal minimum wage. The pending release of the bill was confirmed earlier today by Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson. Apparently co-sponsored by fellow liberals, Senator Murray, Keith Ellison, Bobby Scott and Raul Grijalva, the bill will call for a $15 federal minimum wage to be fully implemented by 2024.
Bernie Sanders, Sen. Murray, Keith Ellison, Bobby Scott, Raul Grijalva et al will unveil bill Wednesday to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2024
— Josh Eidelson (@josheidelson) April 24, 2017
For those silly ‘math’ people out there, that’s a mere 107% increase in minimum wage over just a few short years, which we suspect will at least slightly outpace inflation over the same period.
As our readers are undoubtedly aware, Bernie has long been an advocate of the $15 “living wage.” The Daily Caller provided some background on the other sponsors’ efforts to meddle in labor markets.
Murray has pushed for a federal minimum wage increase in the past, introducing the “Raise the Wage Act” in April 2015. The legislation called for the federal minimum wage to be increased from $7.25 to $12 an hour by 2020. The bill never made it far in the Republican-controlled Congress, but Murray has remained a leader in efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.
Ellison lost narrowly to Perez in the DNC chairperson race and remains a favorite among liberal activists. The progressive Minnesota-Democrat is a favorite among unions, and has been a strong advocate for the Fight for Fifteen movement.
Grijalva, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) with Ellison, was a part of efforts by the CPC to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the summer of 2015. Shortly after Murray’s efforts, the CPC introduced the “Pay Workers a Living Wage Act” in July 2015.
Scott joined Murray in sponsoring efforts to get the minimum wage to $12 per hour in 2015, arguing (at the time) that a $12 minimum wage was much more politically feasible at the time.
We’ve written extensively about the unintended consequences of higher minimum wages, namely the pink slips that seem to come shortly after their implementation. So rather than rehash all of the stats, for those interested, here are a few of our favorite articles on the topic:
- Something “Unexpected” Happened When Seattle Raised The Minimum Wage
- Harvard ‘Shock’ Study: Each $1 Minimum Wage Hike Causes 4-10% Increase In Restaurant Failures
- State Minimum Wage Hikes Already Passed Into Law Expected To Cost 2.6 Million Jobs, New Study Finds
- Dear Bernie, Meet the “Big Mac ATM” That Will Replace All Of Your $15 Per Hour Fast Food Workers
Of course, given that Democrats don’t control a single branch of the federal government at the moment, and the socialist party has never controlled a single branch to the best of our recollection, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess that Bernie’s bill won’t get passed anytime in the immediate future. That said, at least he’s one step closer to getting a bunch of fast food workers fired, and we’re sure they really appreciate all his hard work.
- Government Shutdown Averted? Trump Punts On Border Wall, Will Wait Until September
In what may the flip-flop that resonates the most among his core voter base, Trump said that contrary to recent reports that the White House demands funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border be part of the spending bill – which has become a wildcard whether the government is shut on Friday night or not – Trump said on Monday that he is “open to waiting until later this year” to secure funding for said wall, a flop that would clear the way for Congress to strike a deal to avoid a government shutdown on Saturday, the WSJ reported.
On funding the border wall, Trump said he could get it this week or the administration could come back to it in September.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) April 24, 2017
As recently as Monday morning, top administration officials had indicated the president wanted to include money to begin building a wall along the Southern border in the bill needed this week to keep the government running after its current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, which is also the president’s 100th day in office.
However, during a reception with conservative media at the White House on Monday night, when Trump also unveiled the 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, the president addressed the issue and indicated his willingness to wait and “flexibility” whether the wall is funded in this spending bill or one that will be needed in late September.
Trump punting on the issue of wall funding will remove one of the last remaining hurdles facing congressional Democrats and Republicans hammering out the five-month bill they must pass this week to avoid a partial government shutdown.
And with the debate over the border wall effectively over for the time being, lawmakers should now be able to come to an agreement on the spending bill relatively quickly. Both Democrats and Republicans had signaled they were willing to increase money for the military and for broader border security before administration officials last week indicated that Mr. Trump would press for money to begin building the wall.
While there had been little appetite among Republicans on Capitol Hill to demand funding now for the border wall specifically, rather than offer a general boost for tighter border security, the big winners will be Democrats, whose votes will be needed to pass the spending legislation in the Senate; they had made it clear they would oppose a spending bill that included money to start building the border wall.
To be sure, Schumer was delighted:
“It’s good for the country that President Trump is taking the wall off the table in these negotiations,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in a statement Monday night. Earlier Monday, Mr. Schumer had said the wall was a “nonstarter” for Democrats. “Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues,” he said.
Democratic votes will be needed, because Republicans hold just 52 seats in the Senate, where spending bills need 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles. House GOP leaders will also likely have to rely on some Democratic help, since some conservative Republicans are expected to oppose it.
Republicans will also be content: many members of the GOP had indicated they would be satisfied with a spending bill that included money for means of strengthening security along the border other than a wall. “Border security’s the main issue—whether that includes a wall or technology, drones, or repairing what we have,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.) said Monday evening. Ms. Capito said she wasn’t interested in risking a shutdown over the border wall.
“I’m not going to risk a shutdown over anything,” she said.
Other Republicans echoed that their top priority was making sure they crafted a spending bill that could clear both chambers before the government runs out of money. “I wouldn’t mind funding the wall, but it’s a question of what we can do up here, what’s doable,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Indeed, it seems that almost everyone is a winner except those Americans who actually believed Trump would “build that wall” as he promised on virtually every stop of his campaign tour.
Well, there is hope: he may still do it in late September. However, since the tensions between Democrats, Republicans and Trump will be the same, if not worse then making an agreement even more unlikely, please don’t hold your breath.
- The Geopolitics Of Nuclear Weapons Explained (In 3 Simple Maps)
Nuclear bombs have a strange quality: They are a type of weapon that countries spend enormous sums of money to develop but don’t actually intend to use. While chemical weapons have been frequently used in war, no country has detonated a nuclear bomb since the end of World War II.
Nuclear weapons are in their own category. Their efficacy comes from their ability to deter aggression, as the potential for massive devastation forces countries to rethink moves that threaten an adversary’s essential national security interests. States, therefore, are unlikely to use nuclear weapons against one another. However, the risk of a nuclear attack would increase if they were to fall into the hands of non-state actors that follow a different set of calculations that don’t necessarily take into account the defense of a predefined territory.
Nine countries currently have nuclear weapons with an assortment of delivery systems. The following graphics outline which countries possess or have possessed nuclear weapons, as well as some states capable of producing them. They also show how these weapons have reshaped the constraints that countries face in their geopolitical calculations.
Current Nuclear Powers
This map highlights three aspects of the global nuclear arsenal.
The first is a distinction between deployed and reserve weapons. Deployed nuclear weapons are already attached to a delivery system and ready to use. Warheads in reserve still require this final attachment step before they can be delivered.
The second aspect is the three delivery systems that comprise the nuclear “triad”: land-based missiles (usually ballistic missiles but sometimes also cruise missiles), submarine-launched missiles (SLBMs), and weapons carried by aircraft (usually bombers but sometimes air-to-surface cruise missiles loaded on fighters or fighter-bombers). Land-based ballistic missiles—especially intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)—provide long-range strike capability within a short period. SLBMs have retaliation capabilities in the event that a country’s land-based ballistic missile arsenal is destroyed in a first strike. Warheads on aircraft are more flexible, since bombers can be recalled after a strike has been ordered, but they are slower to reach their target than missiles (except in the case where bombers are already in flight and their target is nearby). Each nuclear country has a different mix of delivery capabilities, but only the United States and Russia are known to definitively possess a full triad, while China and India are suspected to have it.
The third aspect is the large portion of global nuclear arms held by the United States and Russia. Currently, the US has approximately 4,480 warheads, and Russia has 4,500. These figures include both strategic warheads (which are meant to strike sites located far from any hypothetical battlefield) and nonstrategic, or tactical, warheads (which are intended to be used near a battlefield, and as a result, are usually less powerful). The size of these arsenals, however, pales in comparison to each country’s peak inventory during the Cold War: The US had 31,255 in 1967, and the Soviet Union had 40,159 in 1986.
Throughout the Cold War, the doctrine of mutually assured destruction required a sufficiently large force that would allow for a massive retaliation even if a first strike eliminated a large portion of a country’s nuclear arsenal. Additionally, during most of the Cold War, delivery systems were not particularly accurate, which required that nuclear weapons have very large yields to reliably strike a target that might be located miles away from the point of detonation (many hydrogen bombs were in the several megaton range). As the accuracy of delivery systems improved, fewer nuclear warheads were required to maintain a credible deterrence threat, leading to a decline in both countries’ arsenals.
Nuclear weapons fundamentally alter the relations between countries because each country is forced to think more pointedly about its adversaries’ security imperatives. Developing a strong understanding of those imperatives is critical to avoiding a nuclear retaliation. While several “hot” wars and other tense moments occurred during the Cold War, none escalated to a direct confrontation between the Soviet Union and the US.
For a more recent example, consider the case of North Korea, which has received a lot of attention in the last week due to a recent missile test and the expectation of another nuclear test. It is a poor country whose nuclear program has allowed it to punch above its weight internationally and force superpowers to approach it with great caution. North Korea’s deterrent capability would be eliminated the moment it uses a nuclear weapon, which would be akin to committing certain suicide. While many fear the irrationality of North Korea’s leadership, Geopolitical Futures’ current understanding of the regime is that it has persisted for decades throughout the Cold War and after the fall of the Soviet Union because it is able to make cautious calculations and has continued to choose not to inflict destruction on itself.
Former Nuclear States
Note: While Iran appears to have discontinued its nuclear program in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we chose to include it in the third map to discuss the geopolitical ramifications of an Iranian nuclear breakout.
Several countries had nuclear weapons or weapons programs that were subsequently abandoned. Three factors contributed to these forfeitures: changes in geopolitical circumstances that decreased the need for nuclear deterrence, pressure from a major power that provided a guarantee under its own nuclear umbrella, and outside intervention that resulted in destruction of the weapons programs.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all inherited nuclear weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Belarus was left in possession of 81 warheads and an assortment of nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Kazakhstan had 1,410 nuclear-tipped missiles. Ukraine was left with 1,900 strategic warheads and between 2,650 and 4,200 nonstrategic nuclear weapons, making it the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. All three countries signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and returned the weapons to Russia by the mid-1990s to be dismantled.
South Africa is the only country that independently developed its nuclear weapons and subsequently forfeited them. The pro-apartheid government pursued nuclear energy and weapons development from the 1960s to the ’80s, eventually producing six nuclear weapons. In 1989, the program was stopped as apartheid came to an end and the government of F.W. de Klerk handed power over to the African National Congress. The weapons and associated facilities were dismantled, and South Africa signed the NPT in 1991.
Two developments influenced South Africa’s decision. A 1988 agreement between Cuba, Angola, and the US resulted in the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops that had been stationed in Angola during the Cold War and supported by the Soviet Union. The risk of Soviet intervention posed by these troops in the ’70s was one of the main reasons South Africa developed nuclear capability in the first place. Second, South Africa weighed the costs and benefits of joining the NPT and realized that improved relations with the world more than offset the decreasing deterrent utility from the bomb since the Cuban forces had been withdrawn and the Soviet Union no longer posed a threat.
Argentina and Brazil are two of the seven other countries that abandoned their nuclear programs before acquiring nuclear weapons. They both secretly pursued nuclear weapons capability beginning in the late ’60s to early ’70s. By the early ’90s, both countries had given up their weapons programs and signed the NPT.
South Korea and Taiwan had secret nuclear programs in the ’70s that were discovered by international intelligence. Both programs were subsequently disbanded—South Korea’s in 1975 when it signed the NPT, and Taiwan’s in 1988 as a result of diplomatic pressure from the US.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Libya all had active nuclear weapons programs. Iraq’s nuclear program was forcibly dismantled after the Gulf War, and Libya voluntarily gave up its secret nuclear program in 2003 under the direction of Moammar Gadhafi. Syria’s nuclear ambitions never progressed as far as those of its neighbors, but it is believed to have possessed enriched uranium and built a research reactor with the aid of North Korea. In 2007, Israeli airstrikes took out Syria’s reactor, suspending the nuclear program indefinitely.
When a country does not currently have nuclear weapons but has a peaceful nuclear program that could be used to produce nuclear weapons, it is said to be in a state of “nuclear latency.” To build a nuclear weapon, a country must have technical knowledge and capabilities, access to materials, and a well-developed industrial sector. Of the 31 countries that possess nuclear power plants, we have identified five important countries for which the acquisition of nuclear weapons would radically impact relations with both their regional neighbors and global powers. These countries have both the technological and economic resources to develop nuclear weapons and are likely to play pivotal roles in major geopolitical events within the next decade.
Iran’s nuclear ambitions led to intense negotiations with the West. In 2015, the negotiations resulted in the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which saw Iran shelve its nuclear program for a set period of time in exchange for benefits including sanctions relief. However, if Iran were to continue enriching uranium in secret and develop a nuclear weapon despite the JCPOA, it would alter the balance of power in the region. Iran would have a new, asymmetric power relative to its Sunni rivals and force Israel to reconsider strategies that incorporate pre-emptive strikes.
Japan has large stockpiles of plutonium from civilian uses and already possesses uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. Estimates of Japan’s breakout time range from six months to several years. Japan’s alliance with the United States has thus far deterred it from developing nuclear weapons because it knows it can rely on the US for defense. However, North Korea’s progress in its nuclear program could drive Japan to reconsider. A nuclear Japan would threaten China’s desired hegemony in the region and force it to proceed with greater caution in its actions in the South China and East China seas.
South Korea and Taiwan have advanced civilian nuclear programs and technical knowledge that could be redirected into a weapons program. They also have the need to defend against regional threats. As North Korea appears to move closer to possessing a deliverable nuclear warhead, the South Korean government has debated acquiring a nuclear weapon. Taiwan is in a similar position. Its sovereignty is threatened by mainland China, which possesses nuclear weapons. Taiwan could consider developing a nuclear weapon to discourage Chinese aspirations to fully reclaim the island. South Korea and Taiwan are concerned about escalation, however, so instead choose to rely on the nuclear guarantee provided by their alliance with the US.
On the other side of the world is Germany. Germany is a highly industrialized state with civilian nuclear capabilities. It is currently protected under the NATO nuclear umbrella by the US and the European nuclear powers (France and the United Kingdom). It also is bound by international treaty not to pursue weapons development. However, it is not inconceivable that Germany would consider developing nuclear weapons to deter Russian aggression if it questioned America’s commitment.
Every country has a red line, past which its security imperatives will be threatened and it will be compelled to respond with force. Without a sufficient deterrent, potential adversaries incur less risk when they test where exactly that line is. Introducing nuclear weapons into these calculations, however, forces the aggressor to proceed with caution because the risk of massive retaliation is great. This is a difficult balance to strike when the addition of nuclear weapons by one party is itself the act that breaches the security imperatives of the other.
The world’s eyes are now set on North Korea for this reason: The United States is in the process of deciding whether recent developments in North Korea’s nuclear program have crossed this boundary and, if they have, what force constitutes an appropriate response. Though the US is not directly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear weapons (based on the current understanding of its ballistic missile technology), the safety of its allies would be jeopardized by a North Korean bomb. British and French fears that the US would not make good on its nuclear guarantee led to proliferation in Europe. Similarly, if the US’s Asian allies question the credibility of its guarantee, the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region will grow.
- Canadians Get "A Little Mad" As Refugees Continue To Flood In From U.S.
Just over a month ago we highlighted the comments of one recently deported Mexican nationalist who told Reuters that illegally immigrating to the U.S. was over, courtesy of the Trump administration, and that it was “Canada’s turn” to welcome the world’s immigrants with open arms.
“For those without documents, I think (the United States) is over. Now it’s Canada’s turn.”
And, with each passing month, new immigration stats from Canada seem to indicate that Reuters’ young border-hopper was a very prescient fellow indeed. According to stats highlighted by the Financial Times today, “land border asylum claims” in Canada continue to skyrocket with Quebec crossings up nearly 3x YoY and crossings into Ontario surging as well.
Meanwhile, the FT insists that the following propagandastory from a man named Abdi, a Somalian refugee who fled the U.S. out of fear of Trump, is typical of what’s driving the illegal and dangerous migrations north.
“Every time you see the TV, Trump is still talking about deportation, every time,” Abdi says, lounging on a steel-framed bed at a Salvation Army hostel in a gritty stretch of Winnipeg, the capital of Canada’s Manitoba province, where he has slept since sneaking across the border in March. “It scares me, it scares my friends, it scares everybody who is an immigrant living in the US.”
As they gaze out of the window on to central Canada’s prairies, he and two other Somali men recount their journey. Abdi says that if he returns to Somalia, the fragile east African state ravaged by decades of civil war, he would be killed, which is why he slogged through waist-deep snow and -30C temperatures to get to Canada.
“My country for me is fire . . . you see the fire, you run away. So I can’t return . . . but when you see [Trump] talking like that, you don’t feel free either,” he says.
Of course, one day after Trump signed his first immigration executive order back in January (see “Trump Signs Executive Orders To Keep “Radical Islamic Terrorists” From Entering US, Rebuild US Military“), Canada’s ‘progressive’ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent the following tweet as an apparent jab at the new U.S. administration.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
And while ‘open borders’ sound super nice in a political speech, the practical reality is that the majority of Canadians, just like Americans, don’t approve of unfettered illegal border crossings that place a massive financial burden on taxpayers and are often accompanied by a surge in crime (see “Half Of Canadians Want Illegal Immigrants Deported“).
Within Canada’s political arena, the issue is becoming hugely divisive, with many of the same debates and sentiments that have been so prevalent in the US. For Mr Trudeau, openness to refugees is a core conviction — part of the progressive image that his father, Pierre Trudeau, who led Canada for 15 years, is credited with shaping. Roland Paris, a former adviser to the younger Mr Trudeau, whose cabinet includes turban-wearing Sikhs and Muslims, says he is “unlikely to back down on this”.
But Canadians are ambivalent about this type of irregular — some say illegal — migration. A recent poll by Reuters showed almost half of Canadians want these asylum seekers to be deported.
Some opposition Conservative politicians have promised to deploy the military to close the border. With Mr Trudeau’s approval ratings at a low of 48 per cent, they sense an opportunity. While Canada has not been shaken by populist tremors in the same way as France or the US, anti-immigrant sentiments are moving into mainstream politics.
Meanwhile, conservatives in Canada, taking a cue from the recent U.S. elections no doubt, have ratcheted up their nationalist rhetoric, with politicians threatening to enlist the army to fortify their border.
“There are significant portions of the population that have expressed discomfort with these arrivals,” admits Mr Paris. “The [Conservative candidates] see this as a potential issue to run with.”
In Emerson, opinion is divided. Some residents spoke of plans to assimilate the Somali families permanently in a town where there is little unemployment and farmers are often in need of help. “We have the space in Canada. It’s not like Europe where you have people on top of each other,” says Mr Janzen, the mayor.
But there is also tension in the town of 678 people. “Canada can’t take care of the whole world and it seems lately like that’s the way it is,” says Wayne Turton, who owns a car repair shop in Emerson. “It makes you a little cranky . . . it makes us a little mad.”
First it was just Trump supporters, but now it’s looking increasingly likely that France and Canada are also filled with a bunch of racist people intent upon protecting their ‘arbitrary’ borders.
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