Aug 20

Today’s News 20th August 2017

  • NASA Unveils Plan To Stop Yellowstone "Supervolcano" Eruption, There's Just One Catch

    A NASA plan to stop the Yellowstone supervolcano from erupting, could actually cause it to blow… triggering a nuclear winter that would wipe out humanity.

    As we have detailed recently, government officials have been closely monitoring the activity in the Yellowstone caldera.

    However, as SHTFplan.com's Mac Slavo details, scientists at NASA have now come up with an incredibly risky plan to save the United States from the super volcano.

    A NASA scientist has spoken out about the true threat of super volcanoes and the risky methods that could be used to prevent a devastating eruption. Lying beneath the tranquil and beautiful settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber, called a caldera. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at NASA, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization as we know it.

    Brian Wilcox, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense, shared a report on the natural hazard that hadn’t been seen outside of the agency until now. Following an article published by BBC about super volcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch with the media to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat Yellowstone poses, and what they hypothesize could possibly be done about it.

    “I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” explains Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology.  

     

    “I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”

    Yellowstone currently leaks about 60 to 70 percent of its heat into the atmosphere through stream water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks, while the rest of the heat builds up as magma and dissolves into volatile gasses. The heat and pressure will reach the threshold, meaning an explosion is inevitable. When NASA scientists considered the fact that a super volcano’s eruption would plunge the earth into a volcanic winter, destroying most sources of food, starvation would then become a real possibility.  Food reserves would only last about 74 days, according to the UN, after an eruption of a super volcano, like that under Yellowstone.  And they have devised a risky plan that could end up blowing up in their faces.  Literally.

    Wilcox hypothesized that if enough heat was removed, and the temperature of the super volcano dropped, it would never erupt. But he wants to see a 35% decrease in temperature, and how to achieve that, is incredibly risky. One possibility is to simply increase the amount of water in the supervolcano. As it turns to steam. the water would release the heat into the atmosphere, making global warming alarmists tremble.

    “Building a big aqueduct uphill into a mountainous region would be both costly and difficult, and people don’t want their water spent that way,” Wilcox says. “People are desperate for water all over the world and so a major infrastructure project, where the only way the water is used is to cool down a supervolcano, would be very controversial.”

    So, NASA came up with an alternative plan. They believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the super volcano and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46 billion, it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians (taxpayers) to make the investment.

    “Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox says. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”

    Of course, drilling into a super volcano comes with its own risks, like the eruption that scientists are desperate to prevent. Triggering an eruption by drilling would be disastrous.

    “The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says.

     

    “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.”

    The cooling of Yellowstone in this manner would also take tens of thousands of years, but it is a plan that scientists at NASA are considering for every super volcano on earth.

    “When people first considered the idea of defending the Earth from an asteroid impact, they reacted in a similar way to the supervolcano threat,” Wilcox says.

     

    “People thought, ‘As puny as we are, how can humans possibly prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth.’ Well, it turns out if you engineer something which pushes very slightly for a very long time, you can make the asteroid miss the Earth. So the problem turns out to be easier than people think. In both cases it requires the scientific community to invest brain power and you have to start early. But Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.

    So what would happen?

  • Gavekal On The Coming Clash Of Empires: Russia's Role As A Global Game-Changer

    Submitted by Charles and Louis-Vincent Gave of Gavekal Research

    Carthago Est Delenda

    Carthage must be destroyed”. Cato the elder would conclude his speeches in the Roman Senate with the admonition that salt should be spread on the ruins of Rome’s rival. Listening to the US media over these summer holidays from Grand Lake, Oklahoma, it is hard to escape the conclusion that most of the American media, and US congress, feels the same way about Russia. Which is odd given that the Cold War supposedly ended almost 30 years ago.

    But then again, a quick study of history shows that clashes between land and sea-based empires have been a fairly steady constant of Western civilization. Think of Athens versus Sparta, Greece versus Persia, Rome versus Carthage, England versus Napoleon, and more recently the US versus Germany and Japan (when World War II saw the US transform itself from a land-based empire to a sea-based empire in order to defeat Germany and Japan), and of course the more recent contest between the US and the Soviet Union.

    The maritime advantage

    Such fights have been staples of history books, from Plutarch to Toynbee. Victory has mostly belonged to the maritime empires as they tend to depend more on trade and typically promote more de-centralized structures; land-based empires by contrast usually repress individual freedoms and centralize power. Of course the maritime power does not always win; Cato the elder did after all get his wish posthumously.

    With this in mind, consider a mental map of the productive land masses in the world today. Very roughly put, the world currently has three important zones of production, with each accounting for about a third of world GDP.

    1. North and South America: This is a sort of island and is not reachable by land from the rest of the world. It constitutes the heart of what could be called the current “maritime” empire.
    2. Europe ex-Russia: This is an economic and technological power as large as the US but a military minnow. Its last two wars have been fought between the then dominant maritime power (the US), first against Germany, then the Soviet Union to gain the control of the so called “old continent”.
    3. A resurgent Asia: Here China is playing the role of the “land-based challenger” to the “maritime hegemon”.

    A visiting Martian who knew little about our global geopolitical make-up, except for the above history books, would likely conclude that a new version of the age-old drama is being set up. This time, however the contest would be between a China-dominated “land-based empire” and a US controlled “maritime power”, with Europe (and to a lesser extent Africa) as the likely “prize.”

    To have a chance in the fight, the continental empire would have to “keep” a massive land mass under its control. This would require building extensive lines of communication (rail, roads, telecoms, satellites…), linking its own land-mass to the other “productive” land masses, avoiding as much as possible the use of sea links to communicate with other nations. The land empire would need to develop an economy which would not need to trade through the seas.

    This is what is happening today and why we gave carte blanche to Tom Miller, leaving him free to roam through Central Asia and Eastern Europe over a couple of years and report on the capital that China was pouring to build such links (readers who have not done so should pick up a copy of Tom’s book, China’s Asian Dream, available at all good bookstores and of course, through our website).

    Now for China’s “dream of empire” to work, China would need to convince two important countries, and maybe three, to at least become “neutral”, instead of quasi-hostile, for these new communications lines to work. Those two countries are Russia and Germany. The 3rd is Saudi Arabia, which has an interesting hand to play.

    1. Russia

    Russia is the main land bridge between China and Europe. So logic says that the US should be very nice to Russia and seek to establish some kind of military alliance, if only to control the movement of people and goods between China and Europe, and from Europe to China. However, in its immense wisdom, the US Senate and the entire US diplomatic corps have decided that America’s interests are best served by imposing sanctions on Russia for crimes—not even proven at the time of writing—that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely commits inside countries that are nominally allies of the US!

    It seems that US policymakers have forgotten Lord Palmerston’s dictum that nations don’t have friends, just permanent interests. And instead of following policies to maximize its national interest, the US would rather cut off its nose to spite its face. The end result is that the US seems to be  working as hard as possible to make Russia join forces with China. But why would the US so consciously make an enemy out of Russia?

    A starting point is that it is a little odd that a country that cannot conceivably be invaded spends more on defense then the next ten nations combined (see chart overleaf). It is also odd that the US has been involved in wars, somewhere around the globe, with very few interruptions, ever since President Dwight Eisenhower warned his countrymen about the growing clout of the “US military industrial complex”.

    Of course, we fully realize that even mentioning the “US military industrial complex’ makes one sound like some kind of tin-potted, conspiracy-theorist prone loon. This is not our intention. But we do want to  highlight that, in order to justify a budget of US$622bn, soon heading to US$800bn, the US military industrial complex needs a bogey-man.

    Now the natural bogey-man should logically be China. After all, China is now sporting the second biggest military budget in the world (US$192bn in 2016), is rapidly expanding its global presence (Belt and Road, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund) and increasingly treats the South China Sea as a mare nostrum. Still, the past few months of broad US hysteria toward Russia make it fairly clear that US military interests would rather pick on Russia then China. Why so?

    The first, and most obvious explanation, is simply institutional inertia. After all, Russia was the main enemy between 1945 and 1991 and entire institutions were built (NATO, OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) with either the stated, or unstated, goal of containing Russia’s influence. Such government-led institutions usually turn around as easily as a cruise ship captained by Francesco Schettino.

    Predictable France

    There are historical precedents for this. Take France as an example: from Cardinal Richelieu onward, the sole purpose of French diplomacy was to destroy the Austro-Hungarian empire. This left successive French rulers blind to the rise of Prussia; at least until 1870 and the pummeling of Paris. Still, even after losing Alsace and Lorraine, France continued its anti-Habsburg crusade until 1919, and the final destruction of the Austrian empire with the 1919 Versailles treaty. This treaty left France vulnerable should the Russians and Germans ever ally (a key policy goal of the Habsburgs was to prevent such an alliance) or the Brits decide that they’d rather head home (which duly occurred in 1940 at Dunkirk and is perhaps happening again today).

    The bottom line is that the sheer force of institutional inertia means the “smartest people” are often incapable of adjusting to new realities. It happened in France, and it could easily be happening in the US today.

    A second explanation is that there exists tremendous resistance within the broader US community to making China a scapegoat. US corporations have huge interests in China and relatively limited exposure to Russia. Thus attempts to cast China in too bad a light are habitually met with concerted lobbying efforts (Lenin did say that the “Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”). As no-one in the US business community cares deeply about Russia, Moscow makes for a good, “compromise bogey man”?

    A third explanation is tied to a theme we have discussed in the past (see The Consequences of Trump’s Syrian Strike), namely the unfolding civil war in the Middle-East between Sunnis and Shias. On the Sunni side of the war sits Saudi Arabia. On the Shia side of the war is Iran. And behind Iran stands Russia, who would like nothing more than to see the Saudi regime implode. Indeed, a collapse of the House of Saud would be an immense boon for Russia. The price of oil would likely surge (which would be great for non-Arab producers like Russia) and Europe would find itself wholly dependent on Russia for its energy supplies, thereby giving Moscow more geopolitical clout than it has enjoyed in decades.

    At the same time, a collapse of the House of Saud would be terrible news for US, French and British arms suppliers (for whom the Middle-Eastern monarchies are big clients) and for all big oil companies which have huge contracts in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle-East to protect.

    This brings us to the current make-up of the US administration which, to say the least, is somewhat skewed towards military officers (military men and the merchants of death tend to get along) and oil-men. Is it too much of a stretch to think that an administration loaded with oil and military men would, almost by default, fight Saudi Arabia’s corner? Now this may be unfair. After all, it’s not as if the first trip of the current US president was to Saudi Arabia, or as if that trip yielded many lucrative deals for US weapons manufacturers, US oil companies, and US financiers, was it?

    Russia as a game-changer

    Whatever the reason for the current anti-Russia hysteria in the US, it is now clearly in Russia’s interest for it to play a very active role in the coming Chinese efforts to reduce the power of the dominant “maritime empire”. This means that Chinese and European products will be able to travel through Russia for the foreseeable future, so avoiding possible threats created by the US navy should Washington ever act to disrupt trade between the two economic centers.

    The reason that the US’s approach to Russia is so short-sighted is that Russia’s role in the coming clash between the two empires may go far beyond it facilitating communication and transport across its territory. Indeed, Russia (along with Qatar and Iran) could already be helping China break the monopoly that the US has on the payment of energy all over the world through the US dollar (see The Most Important Change  And Its Natural Hedge).

    For the past 100 years, the US dollar has been the world’s major reserve and trading currency. Needless to say, having the ability to settle one’s (rather large) trade and budget deficits in one’s own currency is a competitive advantage of huge proportions. Greater than its edge in finance, tertiary education, technology, biotech, weapons manufacturing and agricultural productivity, this “exorbitant privilege” may be the US’s single biggest comparative advantage.

    Now our starting point when looking at China is that the guys who run the show in Beijing are basically control freaks. After all, what else do you expect from career technocrats steeped in Marxist theory? So with that in mind, the question every investor should ask themselves is: why would control freaks yield control of their country’s exchange rate and interest rate structure? Why liberalize the bond and currency markets?

    For let’s face it, there are few prices as important to an economy as the exchange rate and the interest rate. So if the politburo is willing to gradually lose control over them, it must be because it hopes to gain something better on the other side. And the something better is to transform the renminbi into Asia’s deutschemark; the “natural” trading (and eventually reserve) currency for Asia and even wider emerging markets. In fact, internationalizing the renminbi is the lynchpin on which the whole “Belt and Road” empire rollout rests. If this part fails, then China’s imperial ambitions will most likely crumble over time (for one cannot have an empire on somebody else’s dime).

    The rise of the renminbi

    Which brings us to a key change in our global monetary system that has received scant attention, namely, the recent announcement by the Hong Kong exchange that investors will soon be able to buy and settle gold contracts in renminbi (see release). This initiative has the potential to be a game-changer for the architecture of our global monetary system.

    Imagine being Russia, Iran, Qatar, Venezuela, Sudan, Uzbekistan or any other country liable to fall foul of US foreign policy, and thus susceptible to having Washington use the dollar as a “soft weapon” (see BNP, Big Brother And The US Dollar). Then China comes along and says: “Rather than trading in dollars, which leaves us both exposed to US sanctions, and US banks’ willingness to fund our trade, let’s deal in renminbi. I can guarantee that ICBC will never pull the rug from under your feet”.

    If you are Russia, or Qatar (which have already signed renminbi deals for oil and natural gas), this may be an interesting proposition. However, the  question will quickly arise: “What will I do with my renminbi? Sure, I can buy goods in China, but I only need so much cheap clothing, tennis shoes, and plastic junk. What do I do with what is left over?”. And the answer to that question is that the US dollar remains the world’s reserve currency since the US offers the deepest and most liquid asset markets. From real estate (as shown by the Russia-Trump investigation), to equities, to bonds, there is no shortage of US assets that Americans will sell foreigners so that foreigners can park their hard earned dollars back into the US.

    This brings us back to China and the main constraint to the renminbi’s rise as a reserve currency. Simply put, foreign investors do not trust the Chinese government enough to park their excess reserves in Chinese assets. This lack of trust was crystallized by the decision in the summer of 2015 to “shut down” the equity markets for a while and stop trading in any stock that looked like it was heading south. That decision confirmed foreign investors’ apprehension about China and in their eyes set back renminbi internationalization by several years, if not decades.

    Until now, that is. For by creating a gold contract settled in renminbi, Russia may now sell oil to China for renminbi (already signed), then take whatever excess currency it earns to buy gold in Hong Kong. As a result, Russia does not have to buy Chinese assets or switch the proceeds into dollars (and so potentially fall under the thumb of the US Treasury). This new arrangement is good news for Russia, good news for China, good news for gold and horrible news for Saudi Arabia as it leaves the Middle-Eastern kingdom in between a rock and a hard place.

    2. Saudi Arabia

    The fact that China wants to buy oil with its own currency will increasingly present Saudi Arabia with a dilemma. It could acknowledge that China is now the world’s largest oil importer, and only major growth market, and accept renminbi payments for its oil. However, this would go down like a lead balloon in Washington where the US Treasury would (rightly) see this as a threat to the dollar’s hegemony. In such a  scenario, it is unlikely that the US would continue to approve modern weapon sales to Saudi and the embedded “protection” of the House of Saud that comes with them. And without this US protection, who knows  which way the Sunni-Shia civil war may tip (most likely in favor of the Iran-Russia axis).

    Unfortunately for Saudi Arabia, the alternative is hardly attractive. Getting boxed out of the Chinese market will increasingly mean having to dump excess oil inventories on the global stage, thereby ensuring a sustained low price for oil. But with its budget deficit stuck at about 16% of GDP, with half its population below 27 and needing jobs, and with reserves shrinking by around US$10bn a month, just maintaining the current status quo is not a long-term viable option.

    So which way will Saudi turn? Will Riyadh accept low oil prices forever and the associated costs on Saudi society? Or will it change horse and move to accept renminbi in order to ensure more access to the world’s largest oil importer, even at the risk of triggering Washington’s wrath? Investors who like to bet on form may wish to consider the second option. Indeed, King Ibn Saud (the current King Salman’s father) was once a loyal British client as the Brits had helped suppress the Wahhabi brotherhood, so cementing his power. Yet in 1936, Ibn Saud’s adviser Abdullah Philby (father of British traitor Kim Philby), persuaded the king to  switch his allegiance to the US, by offering Saudis exclusive oil concession to Chevron/Texaco rather than BP. This is why the Saudi oil company is called Aramco (the Arab-American oil company) rather than Arbroco.

    Could the House of Saud pull off the same stunt again? One indication may be who lines up as cornerstone investors in the coming Aramco IPO. If those end up as China Investment Corporation, Petrochina and the PRC’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, than perhaps Aramco will be on its way to becoming Archoco. And with that, the pricing of Saudi oil could shift from US dollars to renminbi.

    Incidentally, such a move would likely solve Saudi’s biggest macro hurdle; specifically, the defense of the Saudi Riyal peg to the US dollar. Indeed, with reserves shrinking so rapidly, the arrangement looks to be on a slow-moving death watch (admittedly, at the current pace of reserve depletion, Riyadh could hold out three years and possibly five). But should Saudi announce that Aramco (or Archoco!) will now accept renminbi for oil payments, the dollar would likely tank while oil prices would shoot up (as Saudi would have a willing buyer for its oil in China). A lower US dollar/ higher oil combination would, needless to say, make the Saudi peg that much easier to sustain.

    Lastly, if you were King Salman and thought that the long-term sustainability of the House of Saud depended on dumping the US and engaging China, what would you be doing right now? Would you be buying as many top-end US weapons as you possibly could, knowing that, in the future, such purchases may no longer be as easy as they are today? But let us now move to the third major player in this many-part drama, namely Germany, where the situation is even more complex.

    3. Germany

    Unencumbered by its own “heavy” history, Germany— being at heart a “continental” nation—would probably have joined the “continental alliance” and left the maritime alliance (which may explain why the “maritime alliance” tapped Angela Merkel’s phone; arguably a greater intrusion then anything the US has accused Russia of). After all, consider the advantages for Germany of joining the “land-based empire”:

    • Politically, Germany could finally develop its own diplomacy and stop taking orders from Washington.
    • Economically, German industry would have unlimited access to develop not only Russia but also all the populations north of the Himalayas set to join the modern world through the creation of the “New Silk Road”.
    • Geopolitically, let us first state the obvious: a Middle-East ruled by the Sunnis under the control of the US diplomacy has not been a resounding success. Worse yet, the incredible mistakes made by the last two US administrations across the Middle-East have led to a very old religious war (Sunnis vs. Shiites) again erupting. As we write, it seems that the Russians and Iranian allies are gradually succeeding in taking the control of the Middle East. Now the return to some form of peace (under a Russia/Iranian yoke) would offer new markets for German industry, provided Germany immediately allied itself with Russia and broke away from the American sanctions imposed by the US Senate. Failing that, Germany could lose a Middle-Eastern market which has historically been important for its exporters.
    • Domestically: A German-Russian alliance would crimp Turkey’s resurgence as Ankara would find itself isolated due to Iran and China being on its eastern borders and Russia on its northern frontiers. As a result, Turkey would most likely stop rattling Europe’s cage, which would be a boon for Merkel as Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has been a significant thorn in her side. In other words, Merkel would outsource her “Turkey problem” to Russia.
    • Energetically, a Russian-dominated Middle East would still provide gas from Russia and oil from the Middle-East. The implication is that Germany would no longer need to have its energy imports “protected” by the maritime empire’s fleet (Merkel’s short-sightedness on the energy front, from the end of coal, to the banning of nuclear power, has fitted in the category of being “worse than a crime, it is a mistake”).

    Many people in Germany—business people and public servants such as ex -chancellor Gerhard Schroeder—understand the above and have lobbied for such an outcome. The recent trend of US prosecutors trying to export the supremacy of the US legal system over local ones, and imposing egregious fines on all and sundry (Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen) can only push German business leaders further down that path.

    Of course, as Frenchmen, we know that nothing good comes of:

    • Germany and Russia getting along like a house on fire.
    • Britain retreating back to its island.

    And we would suggest that President Emmanuel Macron is also keenly aware of this. Which explains he is so far the only Western leader to have gone out of his way to be nice to President Trump; aside from the Polish President of course (more on that later).

    Macron has bent over to accommodate Merkel. And let’s face it, his task is not easy. For as good as our president may be with the older ladies, he needs to convince Merkel to walk away from the above win-win and keep Germany committed to the greater European integration exercise, and Germany wedded to its role inside the broader “maritime empire”.

    Germany as the sole paymaster

    Now, to be fair, the German population has enthusiastically supported the European integration project, partly out of historical guilt (now abating as the share of the population alive in World War II fast shrinks) and partly because it has been a boon to German exporters. However, recent years have highlighted that the low hanging fruit of European integration has been harvested. And to stay afloat, the European project now needs Berlin to transfer 2%-6% of GDP to poorer, less productive, European Union countries (especially as the UK will soon stop paying into EU coffers). This is a hard sell, even for a politician as gifted as Macron. Soon, Germany may be the only meaningful contributor to French agricultural subsidies; and that is unlikely to go down well with the average Bavarian housewife.

    Which brings us to the only other Western leader who has publicly embraced the current incumbent of the White House, namely Polish president, Andreszj Duda. After all, History suggests that France should not be the only country worried about a German rapprochement with the new “land-based empire”. Most Eastern European countries, in particular Poland, have similar reactions to such a hook-up. In fact, threat of a German-Russian rapprochement may already be creating the birth of a new, Austro-Hungarian empire, aka the Visegrad Group alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

    Historically, the role of the Austrian empire was to protect Europe from the Turks and also to stop an alliance between Prussia and Russia. For the time being the Visegrad group is negotiating (rather unsuccessfully) with Berlin about how to handle thousands of “Turks” (at least migrants entering Europe through Turkey, whether those migrants come from North Africa, the Middle-East, Afghanistan, Bangladesh or elsewhere is almost irrelevant). This Eastern grouping may have to address, sooner than they think, a German-Russian rapprochement.

    Just as importantly, the re-emergence of the Austrian empire is incompatible with the “Europe as a Nation” project. In the world we are describing Poland, followed by Hungary and the Czech Republic, may be the next countries to leave the EU. Although in so doing, the Visegrad Group would almost guarantee the feared rapprochement between  Germany and Russia. Of course the Eastern European nations would only make such a move if they were militarily guaranteed by the US. And, by an amazing coincidence, this is exactly the promise that President Trump just delivered in Warsaw!

    For the “maritime empire”, a loss of Germany would have to be rapidly compensated by an increased presence in Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Lithuania and almost every country East of Berlin and West of Moscow. Of course, this is what France and England (the “maritime empires of the day”) did in the 1930s— with limited success.

    Conclusion

    History shows that maritime powers almost always have the upper hand in any clash; if only because moving goods by sea is cheaper, more efficient, easier to control, and often faster, than moving them by land. So there is little doubt that the US continues to have the advantage. Simple logic, suggests that goods should continue to be moved from Shanghai to Rotterdam by ship, rather than by rail.

    Unless, of course, a rising continental power wants to avoid the sea lanes controlled by its rival. Such a rival would have little choice but developing land routes; which of course is what China is doing. The fact that these land routes may not be as efficient as the US controlled sealanes is almost as irrelevant as the constant cost over-run of any major US defense projects. Both are necessary to achieve imperial status.

    As British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson highlighted in his mustread East And West, empires tend to expand naturally, not out of megalomania, but simple commercial interest: “The true explanation lies in the very nature of the trade route. Having gone to all expenses involved… the rule cannot be expected to leave the far terminus in the hands of another power.” And indeed, the power that controls the end points on the trading road, and the power that controls the road, is the power that makes the money. Clearly, this is what China is trying to achieve, but trying to do so without entering into open conflict with the United States; perhaps because China knows the poor track record of continental empires picking fights with the maritime power.

    Still, by focusing almost myopically on Russia, the US risks having its current massive head-start gradually eroded. And obvious signs of this erosion may occur in the coming years if and when the following happens:

    • Saudi Arabia adopts the renminbi for oil payments
    • Germany changes its stripes and cozies up to Russia and pretty much gives up on the whole European integration charade in order to follow its own naked self-interest.

    The latter two events may, of course, not happen. Still, a few years ago, we would have dismissed such talk as not even worthy of the craziest of conspiracy theories. Today, however, we are a lot less sure. And our concern is that either of the above events could end up having a dramatic impact on a number of asset classes and portfolios.

    And the possible catalyst for these changes is China’s effort to create a renminbi-based gold market in Hong Kong. For while the key change to our global financial infrastructure (namely oil payments occurring in renminbi) has yet to fully arrive, the ability to transform renminbi into gold, without having to bring the currency back into China (assuming Hong Kong is not “really” part of China as it has its own supreme court and independent justice system… just about!) is a likely game-changer.

    Clearly, China is erecting the financial architecture for the above to occur. This does not mean the initiative will be a success. China could easily be sitting on a dud. But still, we should give credit to Beijing’s policymakers for their sense of timing for has there ever been a better time to promote an alternative to the US dollar? If you are sitting in Russia, Qatar, Iran, or Venezuela and listening to the rhetoric coming out of Washington, would you feel that comfortable keeping your assets, and denominating your trade, in dollars? Or would you perhaps be looking for alternatives?

    This is what makes today’s US policy hard to understand. Just when China is starting to offer an alternative—an alternative that the US should be trying to bury—the US is moving to “weaponize” the dollar and pound other nations—even those as geo-strategically vital as Russia—for simple domestic political reasons. It all seems so short-sighted.

    * * *

    And so, if any of the above sounds even remotely plausible, then some investments may be today grotesquely mispriced, including:

    • SELL US, British and French defense stocks: we may be reaching peak “military industrial complex”. In the coming years, the main foreign clients of Western weapons, namely Middle-Eastern monarchies may either (i) implode or (ii) take their business to China/ Russia. Meanwhile, Western defense stocks are priced for an ever growing order book.
    • SELL French bonds and (non-Russian) Eastern European bonds: There is little value in these bond markets and should Germany ever decide to rotate away from further European integration, they would crash. At this point, these bond markets represent “return-free risk”.
    • BUY Russian bonds: Russian bonds may well be among the world’s cheapest, yielding almost 8% for a real yield of above 4%. This for a country with almost no external debt to speak of, huge amounts of (Chinese) capital about to pour in, and a by-now established position as the first supplier into the world’s fastest growing market for oil imports.
    • BUY Russian energy stocks: One of two things will happen. If Saudi Arabia continues to refuse renminbi payments, Russian energy companies will end up owning the Chinese market. Alternatively, if Saudi starts to accept renminbi payments for its oil, the US dollar will take another leg-down and energy prices will rebound (ensuring a rebound in oil stocks everywhere).
    • BUY Renminbi bonds: As China moves to create both oil and gold contracts denominated in renminbi, and as more Asian and global trade starts to be denominated in renminbi, it is hard to think that total returns on renminbi bonds will not surpass those of most Western currencies. The returns may come from falling interest rates (as a growing number of market participants are forced to keep renminbi deposits to fund trade), or rising exchange rates. Or, most likely, a combination of both. But today, very few investors, and even fewer large institutions own any renminbi bonds. In five years’ time, the situation may be very different and it may make sense to buy renminbi bonds before Saudi Arabia confirms the currency shift as by that point a lot of the gains will likely have been harvested.
    • BUY Gold and precious metal miners: In an initial phase, most countries and market participants will likely stay skeptical of China. As such, the demand for gold, as settlement for renminbi trade, will likely pick-up. At the very least, at current valuations, gold miners can be considered an option on market participants doing more in renminbi (to please China), yet exchanging their renminbi for gold (out of a lack of trust for the new continental empire).

  • Paul Craig Roberts Reminds America – "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    The liberal/progressive/left are enjoying their drunkfest of denunciation. I can’t say I have ever witnessed anything like it. These are the people who sat on their hands for 16 years while Washington destroyed in whole or part seven countries. Not being satisfied with this level of warmongering and crimes against humanity, Washington orchestrated a conflict situation with Russia. Americans elected a president who said he would defuse this dangerous conflict, and the liberal/progressive/left turned on him. In contrast, one person is killed after the hated Charlottesville protest event was over, and there is endless absurd outrage against the president of the US.

    Three New York Times presstitutes yesterday blamed the crisis on Trump, declaring him “increasingly isolated in a racial crisis of his own making.” Apparently, Trump is responsible for the crisis because he blamed both protest groups for the violence.

    But isn’t that what happened? Wasn’t there violence on both sides? That was the impression I got from the news reporting. I’m not surprised that Trump got the same impression. Indeed, many readers have sent emails that they received the same impression of mutual violence.

    So Trump is being damned for stating the truth.

    Let’s assume that the impression Trump and many others got from the news is wrong. That would make Trump guilty of arriving at a mistaken conclusion. Yet, he is accused of instigating and supporting Nazi violence. How is it possible to transform a mistake into evil intent? A mistaken impression gained from news reporting does not constitute a “defense of white nationalist protesters.” An assertion by the New York Times cannot turn the absence of intent into intent. What the Establishment is trying to do is to push Trump into the arms of white supremacists, which is where they want him.

    Clearly, there is no basis for this charge. It is a lie, an orchestration that is being used to delegitimize President Trump and those who elected him.

    The question is: who is behind this orchestration?

    The orchestration is causing people to run away from Trump or is being used as an excuse by them to further the plot to remove him from office.

    Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum headed by Stephen A. Schwarzman ran away, just as members of the Carter Center’s board deserted President Jimmy Carter when he criticized Israel for its apartheid policy toward the Palestinians. The New York Times says that the armed services chiefs are running away. And the entire Republican Party.

    The hypocrisy is stunning. For 16 years the armed services chiefs, the New York Times and the rest of the presstitute media, both political parties and the liberal/progressive/left have participated actively or passively in massive crimes against humanity. There are millions of dead, maimed, and displaced people. Yet one death in Charlottesville has produced a greater outpouring of protest.

    I don’t believe it is sincere. I don’t believe that people who are insensitive to the deaths of millions at the hands of their government can be so upset over the death of one person. Assume that Trump is responsible for the death of the woman. How much blood is it compared to the blood on the hands of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama? It seems clear enough that the outpouring of grief is an orchestration designed to deligitimize the president and the people who elected him. We are now experiencing at home what the Obama regime inflicted on Ukraine, with the support of course of the liberal/progressive/left just as John Wight said in CounterPunch.

    Just as the majority of the Maidan protesters had no idea they were being used, the same is the case for the majority of those protesting the false charge against Trump. For most of the liberal/progressive/left, the hatred of Trump and white nationalists that they are expressing is a reflexive result of the Identity Politics with which they are imbued.

    Any objective reading of the situation has to conclude that the hate with which Trump and the “deplorables” who elected him are being covered far exceeds in amount the hate expressed by the white nationalists.

    Members of the liberal/progressive/left are proclaiming that despicable people such as white nationalists should not be allowed to protest and should not be given a permit to protest. They forget that protest is a right.

    The US Supreme Court settled the issue 40 years ago in 1977 by overturning an Illinois court order that blocked an extremist protest in Skokie, a Jewish suburb of Chicago. The Supreme Court ruled that protest is not limited by the fact that some people will be offended or by the chance that there will be violent reactions. Otherwise, whatever faction happens to be in charge can suppress dissent by everyone else.

    For decades the liberal/progressive/left has invested heavily in driving people apart. Black studies, women’s studies, and Native American studies can easily cross into propaganda that generates hatred. As a man of peace said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    Charlottesville has given us a debauchery of denunciation that proves that we are a divided nation. Does a nation so divided really want to be in conflict with Russia and China and Iran? If the US is the institutionalization of White Supremacy as the liberal/progressive/left says, how can it be that Americans are simultaneously the “exceptional, indispensable people” with the right to bomb other peoples into the stone age?

    Obviously, there is a lot in this scenario that does not make sense.

    My readers on my website are people capable of independent thought. They understand that an explanation of something is not an excuse for it. My explanations are explanations. They might be wrong, but they are not apologies. I find it necessary to say this, because my columns are reposted on many other websites where some of the audience wants to hear only what they already believe and are always looking for someone to denounce. It is a great disability for the United States that only a limited number of its citizens are capable of independent thought. Perhaps this is a problem for every country, but it most certainly is a problem for the United States.

    The United States has another great disability, and that is that its intellectual class, or perhaps I should say its semi-intellectual class, has a large contingent of cowards who are too fearful to be truthful. Of course, considering the witchhunt mentality that Identity Politics has created, they have reasons to be fearful, but their cowardice leaves the burden of searching for and defending truth to a few.

    *  *  *

    Note: Virginia governor McAuliffe made false claims that were spread around the world by the presstitutes that the white nationalists had weapons caches and that the Virginia police were outgunned by the supremacists. Reason.com reports that the police have contradicted the moronic governor with the statement that no such weapons caches were found. 

  • Lord Rothschild: "Share Prices Are At Unprecedented Levels, This Is Not A Time To Add Risk"

    One year ago, the financial world was abuzz when the bond manager of what was once the world’s biggest bond fund had a dire prediction about how “all of this” will end (spoiler: not well).

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    Two months later, it was the turn of another financial icon – if from a vastly different legacy and pedigree – that of Rothschild Investment Trust Chairman himself, Lord Jacob Rothschild, who echoed Bill Gross with an unexpectedly gloomy warning in his 2016 half-year financial report, saying that central bankers are continuing “what is surely the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world. We are therefore in uncharted waters and it is impossible to predict the unintended consequences of very low interest rates, with some 30% of global government debt at negative yields, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale.

    His outlook was just as gloomy: “the geo-political situation has deteriorated with the UK having voted to leave the European Union, the presidential election in the US  in November is likely to be unusually fraught, while the situation in China remains opaque and the slowing down of economic growth will surely lead to problems. Conflict in the Middle East continues and is unlikely to be resolved for many years. We have already felt the consequences of this in France, Germany and the USA in terrorist attacks.”

    One year later, the scion of the most (in)famous name in all of finance, is back and in his latest letter to RIT Capital Partners investors,  Lord Jacob Rotschild has released what is perhaps his gloomiest outlook ever; here are the highlights:

    We do not believe this is an appropriate time to add to
    risk. Share prices have in many cases risen to
    unprecedented levels at a time when economic growth is
    by no means assured. The S&P is selling at 25 times
    trailing 12 months’ earnings, compared to a long-term
    average of 15
    , while the adjusted Shiller price earnings
    ratio, which averages profits over 10 years, is
    approximately 30 times.  

     

    The period of monetary
    accommodation may well be coming to an end.
    Geopolitical problems remain widespread and are proving
    increasingly difficult to resolve. We therefore retain a
    moderate exposure to equity markets and have
    diversified our asset allocation towards equity
    investments where value creation is driven by some
    identifiable catalyst or which are exposed to longer-term
    positive structural trends.

    Furthermore, Rothschild continued the shift away from US capital markets exposure announced one year ago, noting that “we have a particular interest in investments which will benefit from the impact of new technologies, and Far Eastern markets, influenced by the growing demand from Asian consumers.” What is surprising is how aggressively Rothschild has cut its allocation to US-denominated assets in just the past 6 months.

    Not surprisingly, RIT’s investment portfolio continues do quite well, and has now returned over 2,200% since inception

    Below is a snapshot of where every hedge fund wants to end up: the Rothschild investment portfolio.

    Finally, for all those wondering where the Rothschild family fortune is hiding, here is the answer.

  • Australia Cracks Down On Bitcoin Exchanges; Shrugs Off Banks' "Systemic" Money-Laundering Violations

    Australian Government Is Cracking Down On The Nonexistent Bitcoin Money-Laundering Epidemic

    Australia’s largest banks can’t seem to go six months without a new scandal. In April, regulators accused Commonwealth Bank, one of the country’s largest financial institutions, of “systemic” money laundering violations, sparking an investigation into the broader banking sector, and the promise of heavy-handing civil penalties.

    But instead of pursuing penalties that could lead to lasting reforms, Australia's regulators are cracking down on bitcoin, creating a new set of guidelines that will make it more difficult for customers to trade on local cryptocurrency exchanges by mandating needless anti-money laundering controls. They're prioritizing bitcoin over banks even though all relevant data suggest that organized criminal enterprises and terrorist groups overwhelmingly prefer to transact in cash.

    According to Bitcoin.com, Australia’s Coalition Government has introduced a bill that would regulate digital currency exchanges, introducing “reforms” that will “strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (Austrac).”  

    Here’s Bitcoin.com with more:

    "Among other proposals, the bill will “strengthen Austrac’s investigation and enforcement powers” as well as “close a regulatory gap by bringing digital currency exchange providers under the remit of Austrac,” the announcement reads, adding that:

     

    ‘The bill provides a net regulatory relief to industry of $36 million annually, with the digital currency exchange sector being regulated for the first time, while deregulating low-risk industries such as cash-in-transit, which is already subject to state and territory licensing requirements.’”

    As Bitcoin.com explains, Australia’s new AML rules resemble regulations adopted by Japan and China over the past 18 months. In China, the crackdown on intraday high frequency trading triggered a decline in trading volume that caused the country to surrender its position as the bitcoin market leader.

    “Earlier this year, following investigations by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), many Chinese bitcoin exchanges halted bitcoin withdrawals to extensively upgrade their systems for the purpose of AML and KYC compliance. Also the European Union has been discussing how to impose rules on bitcoin exchanges as part of its Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive.”

    Meanwhile, in what looks like an effort to compensate bitcoin traders for the overly stringent new regulations, Australia ended the double taxation treatment of bitcoin in July.

    To be sure, some of the country’s lawmakers have come out as vociferously pro-bitcoin. Two senators issued a proposal to make bitcoin an official currency in Australia, something they say would boost the country’s financial competitiveness. Indeed, this legal maneuver would bring Australia one step closer to recognizing bitcoin’s value as a reserve asset. Recently, a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin began building network of bitcoin miners with the aim of expanding the country’s hashing power to more than 30% of the network’s total. Any entity that controls more than 50% of the bitcoin network’s mining capabilities has de facto control of the network.

    Here’s a quick summary of what the bill will do, courtesy of Australia’s Ministry of Justice:

    Close a regulatory gap by bringing digital currency exchange providers under the remit of AUSTRAC:

    Strengthen AUSTRAC's investigation and enforcement powers.

    Increase police and customs officers' search and seizure powers at the border.

    Provide regulatory relief to industry through the deregulation of low-risk industry sectors.

    The crackdown comes amid another big week for bitcoin: The digital currency climbed 16.5% to new record highs at around $4400. This is the 5th weekly rise in a row (and BTC is up 86% since the fork).

    The full press release is available below:

    * * *
    The Coalition Government has today announced the first stage of reforms to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act and increase the powers of the Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

    The reforms implement the first phase of the recommendations of the Statutory Review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, following extensive consultation with industry and our national security agencies.

    These reforms appropriately balance the threat of organised crime and terrorism financing to the Australian community with ensuring excessive regulation doesn't hinder our financial sectors.

    The Bill provides net regulatory relief to industry of $36 million annually, with the digital currency exchange sector being regulated for the first time, while deregulating low-risk industries such as cash-in-transit, which is already subject to state and territory licensing requirements.

    The threat of serious financial crime is constantly evolving, as new technologies emerge and criminals seek to nefariously exploit them. These measures ensure there is nowhere for criminals to hide.

    Stopping the movement of money to criminals and terrorists is a vital part of our national security defences and we expect regulated businesses in Australia to comply with our comprehensive regime. AUSTRAC has a strong track record in ensuring our financial institutions comply with the law.

    The private sector is an essential partner in ensuring Australian businesses are not exploited by criminals, and I thank industry for their constructive engagement during the development of this Bill. Engagement with industry is the bedrock of our money-laundering and terrorism-financing deterrence.

    The AUSTRAC-hosted Fintel Alliance, launched by Minister Keenan in March 2017, is a world-first private-public partnership to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Through the Fintel Alliance, industry and government agencies co-design solutions that will transform the fight against terrorism financing and organised crime.
     

  • The Truth Will Not Be Googled

    Authored by Claire Connelly via RenegadeInc.com,

    Google has come under scrutiny by free-speech organisations for shutting down neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, seemingly too distracted to notice the tech giant has been waging a censorship campaign against news organisations that publish content which conflicts with the narrative of the Washington establishment, along with Facebook and Twitter on the grounds of ‘fake news’.

    While web-hosting services have been criticised for cancelling the registration of neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, progressive left-leaning sites are losing Google ranking and traffic because of a deliberate move to censor “fake” news by the internet search giant.

    New data released by World Socialist Websites (WSWS) revealed that sites such as Wikileaks, The Intercept, Electronic Frontiers Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Organisation, CounterPunch and many other organisations with the audacity to provide context about the activities of federal governments not reported in mainstream publications have experienced a significant drop in traffic after Google altered its algorithm.

    (WSWS is an online news and information service founded by the International Committee of the Fourth International, the leadership of the world socialist movement).

    Earlier this week, internet hosting provider, GoDaddy, announced it had cancelled US neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, for posting an attack on Heather Heyer, the protester who was murdered at the Klan rally in Charlottesville last week. Google and CloudFlare likewise cancelled its registration after the site tried to move its hosting over to their respective services.

    But while these hosting services are being congratulated by some – and condemned by others on free-speech grounds – for ensuring that those looking to commit violence have to work slightly harder to get access to their like-minded Nazi communities, those who own the means of transmission – namely Google, Facebook and Twitter – are still preventing the rest of us from accessing information that allows people to make sense of the world around us.

    Earlier this month, Google altered its algorithm – allegedly in an attempt to address the ‘fake news’ problem – and in doing so, a broad array of anti-establishment news organisations, whistleblower, civil-rights and anti-war websites were censored from its search listings. But most people were too distracted by the opinions of some low-level engineer on Google’s diversity hiring policies and its intolerance of conservative views in the workplace to take notice.

    The data released by WSWS shows that since Google altered its algorithm, Wikileaks experienced a 30% decline in traffic from Google searches. Democracy Now fell by 36%. Truthout dropped by 25%. Its own traffic dropped by 67% percent over the same period. Alternet saw a 63% decline in traffic. Media Matters saw a 36% drop in traffic. Counterpunch.org fell by 21%. The Intercept fell by 19%.

    In May, WSWS was ranked 5th in Google searches for the keyword ‘socialism’. Today the WSWS is nowhere to be found in the top 200 searches for the same keyword. In addition, Google blocked every one of WSW’s top 45 search terms.

    Aaron Kaufman, director of development at progressive news outlet, Common Dreams said that Google Search as a percentage of total traffic to the Common Dreams website has decreased nearly 50 percent since May.

    When human bias mistakes truth for bullshit

    In a blog post published on April 25th, Google’s chief search engineer, Ben Gomez framed the issue as a change to the tech giant’s technical procedures in response to “the phenomenon of fake news”.

    “The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of ‘fake news,’ where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information,” Gomez wrote.

     

    “While this problem is different from issues in the past, our goal remains the same—to provide people with access to relevant information from the most reliable sources available. And while we may not always get it right, we’re making good progress in tackling the problem. But in order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes in Search are needed.”

    Gomez revealed that Google had recruited more than 10,000 “evaluators” hired to judge the quality of various websites, “real people who assess the quality of Google’s search results—give us feedback on our experiments,” though the chief search engineer did not identify the “evaluators” or explain the criteria against which websites are judged.

    The ultimate irony: Google has seemingly allowed its evaluators to exercise their own biases when assessing the truth, accuracy and validity of these websites, and in doing so, are censoring essential information inconvenient to the narrative of the Washington establishment.

    Illustration by Rachael Bolton

    Corporate regulation and shadow-blocking

    Google is not the only player in this censorship game. Earlier last year, anti-establishment information services – Renegade Inc included – experienced a 20% drop in traffic to its Facebook pages, after the social-network altered its algorithm, again, allegedly in an attempt to crack down on ‘fake news’.

    And as some excellent reporting by Reveal News’ Aaron Sankin has demonstrated, Facebook’s moderator army is likewise using the social network’s reporting system to shut down dissenting voices, particularly activists, particularly activists of colour.

    Likewise, Twitter is allegedly shadow-blocking those of the left and right who it perceives to be tweeting content that sits outside of the mainstream. Renegade Inc has not been immune from this sidelining.

    While Twitter has formal mechanisms for trolls and those who post abusive content – in which case it will notify users they have been suspended and provide explanations as to why – shadow-blocking is a whole different ball game. ‘Shadow-blocking’ – or ‘shadow-banning’ – are terms used to describe a more informal mode of censorship whereby particular users will simply not show up when you search for their username. Certain tweets may disappear into the ether, and your content may only be visible to people who follow you but will not show up on any Twitter feed, even if after it is re-tweeted.

    Russell Bentley, a former American soldier fighting fascism in the Ukraine under the Donetsk People’s Republic – a self-declared, Russian backed separatist state – had his Twitter account shut down two days ago after a sustained campaign of targeted harassment and death threats (prohibited by Twitter’s terms of service) by pro-nazi propagandists.

    Most notably, Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic, recently fell victim to a shadow-ban by Twitter, allegedly for his views on Trump.

    So too was Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee who told Renegade Inc that for weeks his own Twitter username does not show up when he searched for it from other accounts. Likewise his tweets disappeared, and were not visible to those outside of his network.

    Meanwhile, those on the right claim their web traffic is also being restricted. Alt-right website Breitbart claimed both Google and Facebook had attempted to defund its site and those like it by altering Google Adsense and Facebook Audience Network.

    Corporate regulation means never having to explain yourself

    It is difficult to know whether these instances of censorship are a deliberate, or unintended side-effect of a fake-news crackdown because, unlike governments who have some semblance of an obligation to explain themselves, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are under no obligation to be transparent about their reasoning or methods, claiming intellectual property rights over proprietary information, (their algorithms).

    The result is a corporate regulation of the internet by companies with no obligation to explain how or why it changes its feeds or search listings.

    Dr Monique Mann, researcher at Queensland University of Technology’s Crime and Justice Research Centre, and Director of Australian Privacy Foundation told Renegade Inc that these issues of censorship relate to broader issues around bias in computer systems.

    “These decisions aren’t being made by formal enforcement bodies, or any kind of body with authorised legal powers,” she said.

     

    “This process is occurring by transnational companies and platforms, these tech giants are acting like big regulators.”

    Dr Mann says these instances of censorship by algorithm raises questions over trade secrets and proprietary rights.

    “These trade secrets and algorithms are how they operate,” she said. “But they introduce additional challenges and barriers to transparency and accountability of algorithms, themselves protected under international property law.”

    Hypothetically Google is applying a colour blind algorithm. Dr Mann says the question is over what happens when algorithms are built by “digital duopolies” to match societal expectations.

    “Google is deciding what is an acceptable story, and what is unacceptable, whose views and voices are preferenced, and whose are silenced,” she said.

     

    “There is no transparency and accountability. These companies are protected by very serious financial investments and fields of law.”

    Dr Monique Mann told Renegade Inc that there has been a suggestion that some tweets made by President Trump violate Twitter’s terms of service, because they contain hate-speech that targets certain groups and minority populations: particularly Muslims and the LGBTQI community given his recent attempt to enact a Muslim ban and deny health care to LGBTQI servicemen, women and those who identify as neither, or have them thrown out of the service altogether.

    “But are Twitter likely to block Trump for violating its terms of service?,” she asked. “These are all very loaded and difficult decisions around what constitutes hate speech vs political expression. These are very contested issues and I do not think there are any easy answers here.”

    A battle for the heart and soul of the web

    Dr Matthew Rimmer, Professor of IP and Innovation Law and Queensland University of Technology told Renegade Inc that how these companies manage information is becoming increasingly important.

    “Their duties and responsibilities are becoming quite significant,” he said. “There is a battle for the heart and soul of the internet in many ways.”

    Tim Berners Lee, (computer scientist and inventor of the World Wide Web), commented recently that the open system he helped create has come under threat from various corporate players who have enacted site blocking and surveillance. He said it is important to address the balance away from big IT companies and other corporations and national governments. He wants to recover the emancipatory potential of the internet and World Wide Web. There are some larger questions involved in terms of the future evolution of the regime.

    Dr Mann said that automation through algorithm is ‘falling into a trap’ that is not going to find us any easy answers.

    “These processes and the way they operate create a range of additional problems,” she said. “I don’t think technology in this situation is going to be the panacea for social issues.”

    Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

    It is worth mentioning here that nothing Renegade Inc publishes is anything close to ‘fake news’ and we take exception at being treated as such. Rather we, and other like-minded publications that sit outside of the mainstream, are committed to providing much needed context that you won’t find in the New York Times or Washington Post, for example, publications that are far too cozy with intelligence communities.

    You won’t find the Post or the Times reporting on the fact that the US and its allies are funding terror groups like ISIS, al-qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nor will you find them reporting on the American interests at play in Venezuela, or Syria, Iraq, Iran or Libya. Or how freedom is a concept that has been co-opted by right-wing ideology.

    Censoring access to sites like ours is what allows people to continue believing that America is fighting a war on terrorism, when in reality, it is funding, arming and training terrorist organisations to fight a proxy war on Middle East Socialism.

    You won’t find corporate media reporting on how the economy really works, or the countries, governments, companies and individuals involved in the financialisation of the economy, or the role of central banking in the Global Financial Crisis.

    Moreover, there would be no need for any of these services if establishment media could be trusted to provide readers with enough information, background and context to make rational decisions.

    But when you accept the claims of the intelligence community as lore, when you accept that market freedom is the same as actual freedom and not a tool used to trick people into accepting permanent financial insecurity, the entire narrative for understanding the world and how we came to find ourselves on the sidelines of history, powerless to the whims of the new economic order, becomes a fiction. The system that took 35-years to build has worked perfectly, according to the rules upon which it has been set, and now it is being defended. So long as sites like these continue to be censored, we will never know the real terms of our enslavement, or how we let it happen.

  • And The Best State To Grow Old In Is…

    Elder-care company Caring.com recently conducted a study to determine the best US states to grow old in. And the winner is…

    Utah.

    That's right: In addition to being one of the top 5 fiscally responsible states in the Union, the home of Mormonism is also the most friendly state for elderly Americans to grow old and retire in. Earlier this year, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University compiled a comprehensive study, based on a number of objective financial metrics, ranking the 50 US states according to their overall fiscal condition. Utah came in third behind Alaska and Florida.

    But Utah handily bested both those states on a ranking based on 13 categories including quality, cost, and availability of health care for seniors, as well as factors that speak to the state’s overall quality of life.

    Here’s a breakdown of the data, courtesy of Bloomberg:

    Best states:
    Utah/$2,950
    Iowa/$3,518
    South Carolina/$3,000
    Washington/$4,500
    Nebraska/$3,510

    Worst states:
    Wyoming/$3,995
    North Dakota/$3,340
    New York/$4,136
    Indiana/$3,528
    West Virginia/$3,263

    New York, one of the worst states for retirees, was singled out because of the extreme disparity between health-care cost and quality, as Bloomberg explains…

    “New York, No. 33 in the well-being ranking, was singled out by Caring.com for its extremes. The very high cost of the state’s health care doesn’t produce results close to commensurate with that spending, according to the report. While New York ranked 46th in cost (the lower the rank, the higher the cost), its life/health care quality rank was 34 (the lower the rank, the worse the quality). Massachusetts had a similar pattern; it ranked 49th in cost and 18th in quality. That’s reflective of a larger trend in the U.S.—high spending on health care isn’t translating into longer lives, as this interactive graphic demonstrates.”

    Washington State and California do a better job of translating higher costs to better-quality care…

    “Higher costs show more of a payoff in Washington state and California. Washington is 38th for cost and is the top state for quality of life and health care. California has a cost ranking of 36 and quality ranking of 3 (it’s tied with Oregon for quality).”

    According to Bloomberg, the lighter the color, the higher the overall ranking of the state as a place to grow old.

    The study was conducted by Caring.com, which ranked states on 13 categories, including quality, cost, and availability of health care for seniors. The study’s authors used a range of data sets, including Census data and proprietary data sets from AARP.

    “The ranking, which drew on data from the U.S. Census, the insurer Genworth, AARP, the Commonwealth Fund, and Gallup-Healthways, among others, also factored in 150,000 consumer reviews from Caring.com’s database of facilities and care providers for seniors. The availability, quality, and cost of care for the elderly got greater attention in the report than some of the common measures used in retirement destination rankings.”

    As Tim Sullivan, vice president at Caring.com, explains, the author’s decision to name the study “The Best States To Grow Old In” instead of “The Best States To Retire In” was meant to highlight an important distinction…

    “One reason we call this report the best states to grow old, versus best states to retire, is because it’s really important for people to plan out their 60s, 70s, and 80s with as much care as they plan their retirement in their 30s, 40s, and 50s,” said Tim Sullivan, vice president at Caring.com. “Your needs change as you age, and they are not always going to be driven by the sort of leisure or amenities or weather considerations that are what a lot of people think about retirement.”

    The report’s greatest utility, according to Bloomberg, is helping to spark a discussion about where millennials should plan on settling down for the long haul. Unfortunately, Utah is largely devoid of the amenities – like comprehensive public transportation and quality night life – that millennials covet. But affordable health care, low taxes and the state’s overall low cost of living make a compelling case for going without.

  • Ann Coulter Rips into Trump For Bannon Firing, Favoring 'Fake News Media' Over Conservative

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    Ann Coulter, the conservative firebrand who predicted Trump would win, much to the cackling laughter of the Bill Maher audience and panel, railed against Trump in an interview with Mark Simone.

    Sounding despondent and admittedly ‘depressed’ over the recent firing of Steve Bannon, Coulter lashed out at the President, saying ‘it’s not a good idea to let the media know to manipulate him as President.’ Coulter was referencing Trump’s defensive posture and annoyance that Bannon had been credited with Trump’s election win. Over the past half year, the media, including comedy outlets, had lampooned Trump and Bannon — painting Bannon as the true, yet sinister, mastermind behind Trump’s success.

    Coulter almost pined for the campaign era days of Trump, reflectively saying ‘finally, after 30 years, we’re gonna get a President not controlled by Goldman Sachs,’ making reference to the Goldman alumni stacking Trump’s cabinet.

    Coulter threw down the gauntlet to Trump, saying,  “if you really want to prove to us that Bannon had nothing to do with winning the nomination and then winning the Presidency, what you really want to do now is pedal to the metal on raising taxes on Wall Street (carried interest loophole), start deporting illegals, end NAFTA, bring the jobs back and build the wall.”

    Ann furthered, “and if he does all those things, okay, I’ll say ‘My gosh Mr. President you’re right. Steve Bannon had nothing to do with your success.'”

    The reason why she’s depressed over Bannon’s departure likely stems from the fact that all loyalists from inside the campaign, save Conway and Miller, have been purged from the White House.

    “People like us should be a little depressed today because there’s no one on the President’s side in the White House anymore. “

    She summed up Trump’s isolation succinctly, ‘it’s just you in the White House surrounded by the people you hired from Goldman Sachs. Don’t you want to have one guy in the White House on your side?’

    Ann then ripped Trump to shreds for calling out ‘fake news media’ and then giving them exclusive access to him, saying ‘he’s calling Maggie Haberman (NY Times) everyday.’

    “Why isn’t he giving all his interviews to Breitbart, Daily Caller? Why isn’t he directing his communications director, or press secretary, to call on the conservative media. No, the conservative media is totally dissed in the press briefing room.”

    In short…

    “He’s surrounded himself with the ruling class.” — Ann Coulter

    If it acts like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

  • Polish Minister Rages At Spanish Attacks: Europeans Must "Wake Up" To This "Clash Of Civilizations"

    Europe must "wake up," urges Poland initerior minister Mariusz Blaszczak, telling state TV that "we are dealing with a clash of civilazations," where Muslim enclaves form “support bases” for terrorists.

    The official, a member of the ruling rightwing Law and Justice Party (PiS), said he asked his country’s security services what they were doing to prevent similar incidents and noted that Poland is safe because “we do not have Muslim communities which are enclaves, which are a natural support base for Islamic terrorists.”

    A “possibility” to prevent terrorism is closing in Europe, according to the minister. As RT reports, Blaszczak also lashed out at the refugee resettling scheme in the EU, claiming it's “encouraging millions of people to come to Europe,” and that would effectively have tragic consequences.

    The blunt outburst comes a day after the deadly attack on a tourist area in Barcelona which left 13 people dead and more than 100 others injured.

    The politician voiced his anti-immigration stance earlier this year when he suggested that Muslim settlements in Western Europe started from small numbers with Brussels now trying to shift responsibility.

    Warsaw has been vehemently opposed to resettling migrants under a scheme advocated by Brussels and approved by the majority of European countries.

    Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, accused migrants in October 2015 of bringing cholera and dysentery as well as “all sorts of parasites and protozoa, which… while not dangerous in the organisms of these people, could be dangerous here.”

     

    The xenophobic remarks caused controversy inside the government. Marek Sawicki, agriculture minister with the Polish People’s Party, the junior member of the ruling coalition, said this was “a reference to old, dangerous and dishonest sentiments from the time of the [Second World] war,”according to Politico.

    Poland, along with Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia have firmly rejected the so-called refugee quotas, deepening East-West cracks in the 28-member bloc.

    With every new terrorist attack carried out by non-EU nationals, the European public and politicians are showing growing discontent and unease.

    Brussels has threatened legal action against the dissenting countries, filing a formal “infringement procedure” in June which could result in financial penalties imposed by the European Court of Justice.

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Aug 19

Today’s News 19th August 2017

  • Pat Buchanan Asks "In This Second American Civil War – Whose Side Are You On?"

    Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Townhall.com,

    "They had found a leader, Robert E. Lee — and what a leader! … No military leader since Napoleon has aroused such enthusiastic devotion among troops as did Lee when he reviewed them on his horse Traveller."

    So wrote Samuel Eliot Morison in his magisterial "The Oxford History of the American People" in 1965.

    First in his class at West Point, hero of the Mexican War, Lee was the man to whom President Lincoln turned to lead his army. But when Virginia seceded, Lee would not lift up his sword against his own people, and chose to defend his home state rather than wage war upon her.

    This veneration of Lee, wrote Richard Weaver, "appears in the saying attributed to a Confederate soldier, 'The rest of us may have … descended from monkeys, but it took a God to make Marse Robert.'"

    Growing up after World War II, this was accepted history.

    Yet, on the militant left today, the name Lee evokes raw hatred and howls of "racist and traitor." A clamor has arisen to have all statues of him and all Confederate soldiers and statesmen pulled down from their pedestals and put in museums or tossed onto trash piles.

    What has changed since 1965?

    It is not history. There have been no great new discoveries about Lee.

    What has changed is America herself. She is not the same country. We have passed through a great social, cultural and moral revolution that has left us irretrievably divided on separate shores.

    And the politicians are in panic.

    Two years ago, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the giant statues of Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson on Richmond's Monument Avenue "parts of our heritage."

     

    After Charlottesville, New York-born-and-bred McAuliffe, entertaining higher ambitions, went full scalawag, demanding the statues be pulled down as "flashpoints for hatred, division, and violence."

    Who hates the statues, Terry? Who's going to cause the violence?

    Answer: The Democratic left whom Terry must now appease.

    McAuliffe is echoed by Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate in November to succeed McAuliffe. GOP nominee Ed Gillespie wants Monument Avenue left alone.

    The election is the place to decide this, but the left will not wait.

    In Durham, North Carolina, our Taliban smashed the statue of a Confederate soldier. Near the entrance of Duke University Chapel, a statue of Lee has been defaced, the nose broken off.

    Wednesday at dawn, Baltimore carried out a cultural cleansing by taking down statues of Lee and Maryland Chief Justice Roger Taney who wrote the Dred Scott decision and opposed Lincoln's suspension of the right of habeas corpus.

    Like ISIS, which smashed the storied ruins of Palmyra, and the al-Qaida rebels who ravaged the fabled Saharan city of Timbuktu, the new barbarism has come to America. This is going to become a blazing issue, not only between but within the parties.

    For there are 10 Confederates in Statuary Hall in the Capitol, among them Lee, Georgia's Alexander Stephens, vice president to Jefferson Davis, and Davis himself. The Black Caucus wants them gone.

    Mount Rushmore-sized carvings of Lee, Jackson and Davis are on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Are they to be blasted off?

    There are countless universities, colleges and high schools like Washington & Lee named for Confederate statesmen and soldiers. Across the Potomac from D.C. are Jefferson Davis Highway and Leesburg Pike to Leesburg itself, 25 miles north. Are all highways, streets, towns and counties named for Confederates to be renamed? What about Fort Bragg?

    On every Civil War battlefield, there are monuments to the Southern fallen. Gettysburg has hundreds of memorials, statues and markers. But if, as the left insists we accept, the Confederates were traitors trying to tear America apart to preserve an evil system, upon what ground do Democrats stand to resist the radical left's demands?

    What do we do with those battlefields where Confederates were victorious: Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville?

    "Where does this all end?" President Trump asked.

    It doesn't.

    Not until America's histories and biographies are burned and new texts written to Nazify Lee, Jackson, Davis and all the rest, will a newly indoctrinated generation of Americans accede to this demand to tear down and destroy what their fathers cherished.

    And once all the Confederates are gone, one must begin with the explorers, and then the slave owners like Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison, who seceded from slave-free Britain. White supremacists all.

    Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Calhoun must swiftly follow.

    Then there are all those segregationists. From 1865 to 1965, virtually all of the great Southern senators were white supremacists.

    In the first half of the 20th century, Woodrow Wilson and FDR carried all 11 states of a rigidly segregationist South all six times they ran, and FDR rewarded Dixie by putting a Klansman on the Supreme Court.

    While easy for Republicans to wash their hands of such odious elements as Nazis in Charlottesville, will they take up the defense of the monuments and statues that have defined our history, or capitulate to the icon-smashers?

    In this Second American Civil War, whose side are you on?

  • Only In Cali: New Bill Would Imprison Healthcare Workers For Using Incorrect Pronouns With Patients

    California has a well-earned its reputation for introducing wacky legislation. Jerry Brown’s bill specifically written to regulate cow farts is a personal favorite of ours.  For those who missed it the first time around, here is a brief recap of our post entitled “Only In California – Governor Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Regulate Cow Flatulence“:

    In yet another attack on California businesses, yesterday Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill (SB 1383) that requires the state to cut methane emissions from dairy cows and other animals by 40% by 2030.

     

    According to a statement from Western United Dairymen CEO, Anja Raudabaugh, California’s Air Resources Board wants to regulate animal methane emissions even though it admits there is no known method for achieving the the type of reduction sought by SB 1383.

     

    “The California Air Resources Board wants to regulate cow emissions, even though its Short-Lived Climate Pollutant (SLCP) reduction strategy acknowledges that there’s no known way to achieve this reduction.

     

    Among other things, compliance with the bill will likely require California dairies to install “methane digesters” that convert the organic matter in manure into methane that can then be converted to energy for on-farm or off-farm consumption.  The problem, of course, is that methane digesters are expensive and with California producing 20% of the country’s milk we suspect that means that California has just passed another massive “food tax” on the country.

    But a new bill penned by Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, dubbed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights (or SB-219 if you’re into the whole brevity thing), takes wacky California legislation to a whole new level.  Among other things, the bill makes it illegal for employees of any “long-term care facility” to “willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.”

    This bill would enact the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Long-Term Care Facility Resident’s Bill of Rights. Among other things, the bill would make it unlawful, except as specified, for any long-term care facility to take specified actions wholly or partially on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status, including, among others, willfully and repeatedly failing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns, or denying admission to a long-term care facility, transferring or refusing to transfer a resident within a facility or to another facility, or discharging or evicting a resident from a facility.

    Wiener

     

    Meanwhile, here are couple of other actions that will now be considered a crime for healthcare workers in California:

    (2) Deny a request by residents to share a room.

     

    (3) Where rooms are assigned by gender, assigning, reassigning, or refusing to assign a room to a transgender resident other than in accordance with the transgender resident’s gender identity, unless at the transgender resident’s request.

     

    (4) Prohibit a resident from using, or harass a resident who seeks to use or does use, a restroom available to other persons of the same gender identity, regardless of whether the resident is making a gender transition or appears to be gender-nonconforming. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, requiring a resident to show identity documents in order to gain entrance to a restroom available to other persons of the same gender identity.

     

    (5) Willfully and repeatedly fail to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns after being clearly informed of the preferred name or pronouns.

     

    (6) Deny a resident the right to wear or be dressed in clothing, accessories, or cosmetics that are permitted for any other resident.

     

    (7) Restrict a resident’s right to associate with other residents or with visitors, including the right to consensual sexual relations, unless the restriction is uniformly applied to all residents in a nondiscriminatory manner. This section does not preclude a facility from banning or restricting sexual relations, as long as the ban or restriction is applied uniformly and in a nondiscriminatory manner.

    So what is the punishment for failing to observe someone’s preferred pronouns?  Oh, just a year in prison and a $1,000 fine, according to CBN

    Just to clarify, ‘choosing’ your own gender and imprisoning people for failing to observe that ‘choice’ is wholly consistent with ‘science’ but Republicans are ‘science deniers’ for having the audacity to even question inconsistencies in climate change data….got it.

     

    Here is the full text of SB-219:

  • Dilbert's Scott Adams Explains "How To Know You're In A Mass Hysteria Bubble"

    Authored by Scott Adams via Dilbert blog,

    History is full of examples of Mass Hysterias. They happen fairly often. The cool thing about mass hysterias is that you don’t know when you are in one. But sometimes the people who are not experiencing the mass hysteria can recognize when others are experiencing one, if they know what to look for.

    I’ll teach you what to look for.

    A mass hysteria happens when the public gets a wrong idea about something that has strong emotional content and it triggers cognitive dissonance that is often supported by confirmation bias. In other words, people spontaneously hallucinate a whole new (and usually crazy-sounding) reality and believe they see plenty of evidence for it. The Salem Witch Trials are the best-known example of mass hysteria. The McMartin Pre-School case and the Tulip Bulb hysteria are others. The dotcom bubble probably qualifies. We might soon learn that the Russian Collusion story was mass hysteria in hindsight. The curious lack of solid evidence for Russian collusion is a red flag. But we’ll see how that plays out.

    The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

    If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.

    But if you are not experiencing mass hysteria, you might be totally confused by the actions of the people who are. They appear to be irrational, but in ways that are hard to define. You can’t tell if they are stupid, unscrupulous, ignorant, mentally ill, emotionally unstable or what. It just looks frickin’ crazy.

    The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play.

    If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble.

     

    If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

    Here are some signs of mass hysteria. This is my own take on it, but I welcome you to fact-check it with experts on mass hysteria.

    1. The trigger event for cognitive dissonance

    On November 8th of 2016, half the country learned that everything they believed to be both true and obvious turned out to be wrong. The people who thought Trump had no chance of winning were under the impression they were smart people who understood their country, and politics, and how things work in general. When Trump won, they learned they were wrong. They were so very wrong that they reflexively (because this is how all brains work) rewrote the scripts they were seeing in their minds until it all made sense again. The wrong-about-everything crowd decided that the only way their world made sense, with their egos intact, is that either the Russians helped Trump win or there are far more racists in the country than they imagined, and he is their king. Those were the seeds of the two mass hysterias we witness today.

    Trump supporters experienced no trigger event for cognitive dissonance when Trump won. Their worldview was confirmed by observed events.

    2. The Ridiculousness of it 

    One sign of a good mass hysteria is that it sounds bonkers to anyone who is not experiencing it. Imagine your neighbor telling you he thinks the other neighbor is a witch. Or imagine someone saying the local daycare provider is a satanic temple in disguise. Or imagine someone telling you tulip bulbs are more valuable than gold. Crazy stuff.

    Compare that to the idea that our president is a Russian puppet. Or that the country accidentally elected a racist who thinks the KKK and Nazis are “fine people.” Crazy stuff.

    If you think those examples don’t sound crazy – regardless of the reality – you are probably inside the mass hysteria bubble.

    3. The Confirmation Bias

    If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, you probably interpreted President Trump’s initial statement on Charlottesville – which was politically imperfect to say the least – as proof-positive he is a damned racist.

    If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble you might have noticed that President Trump never campaigned to be our moral leader. He presented himself as – in his own words “no angel” – with a set of skills he offered to use in the public’s interest. He was big on law and order, and equal justice under the law. But he never offered moral leadership. Voters elected him with that knowledge. Evidently, Republicans don’t depend on politicians for moral leadership. That’s probably a good call.

    When the horror in Charlottesville shocked the country, citizens instinctively looked to their president for moral leadership. The president instead provided a generic law and order statement. Under pressure, he later named specific groups and disavowed the racists. He was clearly uncomfortable being our moral lighthouse. That’s probably why he never described his moral leadership as an asset when running for office. We observe that he has never been shy about any other skill he brings to the job, so it probably isn’t an accident when he avoids mentioning any ambitions for moral leadership. If he wanted us to know he would provide that service, I think he would have mentioned it by now.

    If you already believed President Trump is a racist, his weak statement about Charlottesville seems like confirmation. But if you believe he never offered moral leadership, only equal treatment under the law, that’s what you saw instead. And you made up your own mind about the morality. 

    The tricky part here is that any interpretation of what happened could be confirmation bias. But ask yourself which one of these versions sounds less crazy:

    1. A sitting president, who is a branding expert, thought it would be a good idea to go easy on murderous Nazis as a way to improve his popularity.

     

    or…

     

    2. The country elected a racist leader who is winking to the KKK and White Supremacists that they have a free pass to start a race war now.

     

    or…

     

    3. A mentally unstable racist clown with conman skills (mostly just lying) eviscerated the Republican primary field and won the presidency. He keeps doing crazy, impulsive racist stuff. But for some reason, the economy is going well, jobs are looking good, North Korea blinked, ISIS is on the ropes, and the Supreme Court got a qualified judge. It was mostly luck.

     

    or…

     

    4. The guy who didn’t offer to be your moral leader didn’t offer any moral leadership, just law and order, applied equally. His critics cleverly and predictably framed it as being soft on Nazis.

    One of those narratives is less crazy-sounding than the others. That doesn’t mean the less-crazy one has to be true. But normal stuff happens far more often than crazy stuff. And critics will frame normal stuff as crazy whenever they get a chance.

    4. The Oversized Reaction

    It would be hard to overreact to a Nazi murder, or to racists marching in the streets with torches. That stuff demands a strong reaction. But if a Republican agrees with you that Nazis are the worst, and you threaten to punch that Republican for not agreeing with you exactly the right way, that might be an oversized reaction. 

    5. The Insult without supporting argument

    When people have actual reasons for disagreeing with you, they offer those reasons without hesitation. Strangers on social media will cheerfully check your facts, your logic, and your assumptions. But when you start seeing ad hominem attacks that offer no reasons at all, that might be a sign that people in the mass hysteria bubble don’t understand what is wrong with your point of view except that it sounds more sensible than their own. 

    For the past two days I have been disavowing Nazis on Twitter. The most common response from the people who agree with me is that my comic strip sucks and I am ugly.

    *  *  *

    The mass hysteria signals I described here are not settled science, or anything like it. This is only my take on the topic, based on personal observation and years of experience with hypnosis and other forms of persuasion.

    I present this filter on the situation as the first step in dissolving the mass hysteria. It isn’t enough, but more persuasion is coming.

    If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service.

     

    If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator.

    How do I look to you?

    *  *  *

    Adams wrote a book about how to persuade yourself to success. Based on reader comments, it is working. His upcoming book, Win Bigly, tells you how to persuade others. (For good.) That comes out October 31st.

  • The Real Story Behind Goldman's Q2 Trading Loss: How A $100M Gas Bet Went Awry

    Goldman Sachs FICC-trading income was an unexpectedly ugly blemish on what was already a poor Q2 earnings report. And while the FDIC-backed hedge fund initially blamed the decline on lower trading revenues, lack of volatility and depressed client activity…

    … there was more to the story. The Wall Street Journal has uncovered what really happened: A $100 million bet on regional natural-gas prices gone awry after production problems at a local pipeline sent prices soaring, decimating Goldman’s short position.

    “Goldman wagered that gas prices in the Marcellus Shale in Ohio and Pennsylvania would rise with the construction of new pipelines to carry gas out of the region, said people familiar with the matter. Instead, prices there fell sharply in May and June as a key pipeline ran into problems.”

    More specifically…

    “Goldman’s key miscalculation last quarter was betting that natural-gas prices in the Marcellus Shale would rise relative to the national benchmark price in Louisiana known as the Henry Hub, the people familiar with the matter said.”

    The quarter was the worst ever for the bank’s commodities unit, which, as WSJ notes, has been one of the firm’s most consistent profit centers, and a training ground for many of its top executives, including Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein. The trading loss “extended a broader slump at a company once known as Wall Street’s savviest gambler.”

    Goldman shares fell 2.6% on the day of the report, which analysts largely attributed to the miss in trading revenues, despite a stronger-than-expected bottom-line profit.

    The investment bank has held on to its commodities-trading business even as most other American banks exited following the financial crisis. It is currently the seventh-largest market maker for natural gas in North America, larger than some energy giants like Exxon Mobil. According to WSJ, trading oil, metals and other physical commodities is increasingly dominated by smaller firms like Glencore PLC and Gunvor Group Ltd. that don’t face as much government regulation.

    “The loss highlights the trade-offs Goldman made in sticking with the risky commodities-trading business, even as other large banks retreated following the financial crisis. Goldman is the seventh-biggest marketer of natural gas in North America, up from 13th in 2011, according to Natural Gas Intelligence—bigger than U.S. energy giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. It has been the only U.S. bank in the top 20 since 2013, when J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. left the business.”

    WSJ explains that Goldman’s position would've produced a profit if a pipeline being built to carry natural gas out of the Midwest had been completed on time. Instead, it faced multiple delays after a series of fluid spills and the accidental bulldozing of a historic Ohio home.

    “Essentially, it was a bet on the timely completion of pipelines under construction to ferry a glut of gas out of the region.

     

    But one of those pipelines ran into trouble this spring: the 713-mile Rover, which would transport gas from the Marcellus to the Midwest and beyond.

     

    Its developer, Energy Transfer Partners, in February bulldozed a historic Ohio home without notifying regulators, and scrambled to finish clearing trees before the roosting season for a protected bat species. In May, federal regulators barred Energy Transfer from drilling on some segments of the route after a series of fluid spills.

     

    The first leg of the pipeline, which had been set to come online in July, isn’t expected until at least September. Energy Transfer said it has “been working efficiently and nonstop to remediate” problems and expects to have the entire pipeline operational in January.”

    In all likelihood, part of Goldman’s short position was accumulated to offset the risk-management needs of the bank’s clients, WSJ reported. Goldman’s counterparties, the drillers operating in the Marcellus shale, reported strong gains in their derivatives books.

    “Goldman was in part likely catering to gas producers in the region that wanted to lock in steadier revenue through swaps and other contracts. Many Marcellus drillers reported big gains in the value of their derivatives portfolios in the second quarter—meaning their trading partners lost money in that period, at least on paper.”

    Of course, the bank’s executives would have you believe the loss was solely the result of Goldman fulfilling its duty to help its clients manage risk, and that the bank’s trades didn’t violate the Volcker Rule (a ban on proprietary trading that was part of Dodd-Frank). As WSJ notes, whether or not a trade violates the Volcker rule depends on who initiated it, how long the bank held the position, and myriad other factors.

    But with President Trump in the White House and with future Fed Chairman Gary Cohn's only nemesis getting the boot earlier today, soon Goldman will be empowered to take much more trading risks with the explicit blessings of 1600 Pennsylvania.

  • 'Art Of The Deal' Co-Author Slams "Racist" Trump, Says "Endgame Is On, Amazed If He Survives Til Year-End""

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    Tony Schwartz, the man who co-authored Art of the Deal with Donald Trump in 1987, now says that the President will likely resign before the end of the year.

    In a series of Tweets earlier this week Schwartz showed his disdain for the President and echoed the sentiments of top Democrats who have claimed that Trump will either be impeached or voluntarily step away from the Presidency:

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    There seems to be a renewed interest from Democrats who are actively working on articles of impeachment that could lead to the President’s removal from office. And though such a move would require a majority vote in the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate, it appears that many Congressional Republicans are now publicly speaking out against the President, suggesting that such a measure could have legs.

    Coupled with an”independent” investigation targeting the President as well as members of his administration and former business partners, it is becoming ever more likely that, as Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robery Kiyosaki recently noted, they are going to find something.

    While author Tony Schwartz has an obvious beef to pick with the President and may simply be pandering to the liberal left, the pressure being put on Trump could force him to resign in order to avoid impeachment and/or criminal charges, whether real or imagined.

    The war to take out Trump’s closest lieutenants has been raging since before he was even sworn in and will continue until the goals of The Deep State have been accomplished.

    As Brandon Smith of Alt Market has warned, Donald Trump may well be first used as a scapegoat by the elite in order to usher in the next phase of crisis and a reorganization of the global order:

    I have been warning since long before the election that Trump’s presidency would be the perfect vehicle for central banks and international financiers to divert blame for the economic crisis that would inevitably explode once the Fed moved firmly into interest rate hikes. Every indication since my initial prediction shows that this is the case.

     

    The media was building the foundation of the narrative from the moment Trump won the election. Bloomberg was quick to publish its rather hilariously skewed propaganda on the matter, asserting that Trump was lucky to inherit an economy in ascendance and recovery because of the fiscal ingenuity of Barack Obama. This is of course utter nonsense.

     

    Obama and the Fed have created a zombie economy rotting from the inside out, nothing more. But, as Bloomberg noted rightly, any downturn within the system will indeed be blamed on the Trump administration.

     

    Fortune Magazine, adding to the narrative, outlined the view that the initial stock rally surrounding Trump’s election win was merely setting the stage for a surprise market crash.

     

    I continue to go one further than the mainstream media and say that the Trump administration is a giant cement shoe designed (deliberately) to drag conservatives and conservative principles down into the abyss as we are blamed by association for the financial calamity that will occur on Trump’s watch.

    If Smith is correct, and all signs seem to be pointing to such a scenario, Trump will blamed for what will likely be the most epic financial collapse in world history. Once those goals are accomplished, a push to remove him from office may become reality.

  • "Almost Cataclysmic": Barclays Reveals Which Restaurants Are Most Exposed To Collapsing Malls

    We’ve spent a lot of time this year discussing the complete collapse of mall-based retailers, a collapse which has resulted in more store closures in Q1 2017 than all of 2016 and will likely claim more victims by the end of this year than any year since the great recession nearly a decade ago.  Here are a couple of recent examples:

    But those mall-based apparel companies aren’t the only ones suffering the dire consequences of collapsing mall traffic.  For years, the casual dining space has become more and more saturated with new concepts resulting in thinner and thinner margins for the restaurant industry.  Now, with foot traffic in malls collapsing these same restaurants are about to experience the brutal realization that declining traffic, massive fixed costs, rising minimum wages and razor thin margins aren’t a great combo. 

    Thankfully, Barclays’ restaurant team, led by Jeffrey Bernstein, has identified which publicly-traded restaurants are about to get screwed the most.  Here’s a summary:

    Of the large publicly-traded casual dining chains, Cheesecake Factory ‘wins’ the ‘most screwed’ award with 93% of their locations heavily dependent on mall traffic.

     

    Meanwhile, proving they went full mall-tard (something you should never do, btw), CAKE’s second largest casual dining concept, Grand Lux, is also over 90% dependent on mall traffic. 

     

    Here are more details from Barclays:

    Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) operates 90%+ of their stores in a location we define as mall dependent. To be fair, CAKE is often viewed as a destination, with its own separate entrance, and therefore less mall-dependent. And most are in ‘A’ malls which house high-end retailers that draw a more affluent consumer. But the consumer shift to on-line shopping is less about affluence, and more about a change in behavior.

     

    BJ’s Restaurants (BJRI) & Olive Garden (DRI) are the only other portfolio leading casual diners with an outsized percentage of stores mall dependent, at ~60% & ~50%, resp. With that said, we are Underweight BJRI & Overweight DRI. Importantly, this analysis is just one component of a mosaic when formulating our ratings. BJRI is expanding from regional to national, and competes within a very competitive varied menu segment, both of which pose challenges. Olive Garden is already a strong national brand, and the only one competing within the Italian segment, while offering a strong value platform.

     

    As for the remaining casual diners, all operate 25-40% of their stores mall dependent. These include the three steak chains, Outback (BLMN), Texas Roadhouse (TXRH) and LongHorn (DRI), all at 30-40%. We are Overweight all three. Steak concepts are more special occasion, and therefore less mall-reliant, with resilience demonstrated by a positive comp for all in 1H17. Otherwise, Buffalo Wild (BWLD) is also Overweight. While comps have eased and wing prices are elevated, the brand is introducing a new c-suite, has three new activist board members, & potential for large refranchising / cost cutting. Lastly, Chili’s (EAT) also competes within a very competitive varied menu segment, and is viewed as over-stored, and is now looking to redefine a ‘very clear identity’.

    Finally, here is a list of states that should probably start preparing for higher restaurant layoffs in the near future…yes, we’re looking at you and your $15 minimum wage California.

  • 'Inconvenient' Fact: Morgan Stanley Says Electric Cars Create More CO2 Than They Save

    For all the funds out there looking to fill their portfolio with “environmentally conscious” companies working diligently to avert an inevitable global warming catastrophe that will result in the extinction of the human race, we guess in lieu of their actual fiduciary duties to simply make money for their investors, Morgan Stanley has compiled a list of how you can get the most ‘environmental healing’ per dollar invested. 

    As MarketWatch points out, it’s not terribly surprising that of the 39 publicly-traded stocks analyzed, the solar and wind generation companies landed at the very top of Morgan Stanley’s environmentally friendly the list

    Morgan Stanley identified 39 stocks that generate at least half their revenue “from the provision of solutions to climate change,” something it said was a central component of investing to make a difference, as opposed to just a making a buck.

     

    “In our view, impact investing needs to begin with companies whose products and services have a notable positive environmental or social impact,” wrote Jessica Alsford, an equity strategist at the investment bank.

     

    Not surprisingly, alternative-energy companies ranked the highest in terms of their positive impact, and the “top five climate-change impact stocks” were all manufacturers of solar and wind energy: Canadian Solar, China High Speed Transmission, GCL-Poly, Daqo New Energy, and Jinko Solar.

    Tesla

     

    What is surprising, however, is that publicly traded electric car manufacturers, darlings of the environmentally-conscious Left, were actually found to generate more CO2 than they save.  As a stark reminder to our left-leaning political elites who created these companies with massive taxpayer funded subsidies, Morgan Stanley points out that while Teslas don’t burn gasoline they do have to be charged using electricity generated by coal and other fossil fuels.

    This is where Tesla, along with China’s Guoxuan High-Tech fall short.

     

    “Whilst the electric vehicles and lithium batteries manufactured by these two companies do indeed help to reduce direct CO2 emissions from vehicles, electricity is needed to power them,” Morgan Stanley wrote. “And with their primary markets still largely weighted towards fossil-fuel power (72% in the U.S. and 75% in China) the CO2 emissions from this electricity generation are still material.”

     

    In other words, “the carbon emissions generated by the electricity required for electric vehicles are greater than those saved by cutting out direct vehicle emissions.”

     

    Morgan Stanley calculated that an investment of $1 million in Canadian Solar results in nearly 15,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide being saved every year. For Tesla, such an investment adds nearly one-third of a metric ton of CO2.

    Ironically, as we recently pointed out, Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) credits (a nicer way of saying taxpayer funded corporate welfare) is pretty much the only ‘product’ that Tesla seems to make money selling and is the only reason they managed to ‘beat’ earnings in Q2.

    I’m referring to zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, credits. California and several other states require that a certain proportion of the vehicles sold by an automaker emit no greenhouse gases. These cars earn the automaker credits, and if they don’t have enough to meet their quota, they can buy extra ones from someone who does. As Tesla only makes vehicles that run on batteries and emit nothing, it usually has a surplus for sale.

     

    The profit margin on these is very high, perhaps 95 percent. The implied $95 million of profit equates to about 58 cents a share. Tesla reported a loss of $1.33 per share this week — beating the consensus forecast by 55 cents.

     

    This isn’t the only time ZEV credits have played a big role for Tesla. Looking back to early 2013, selling credits has given Tesla’s earnings extra oomph in many quarters, likely taking them above consensus forecasts in some (on an implied basis, assuming that 95 percent margin):

     

    Of course, Q2 wasn’t the first time that ZEV credits played a huge role in padding Tesla’s cash flow…

     

    Ponder that for a moment…as taxpayers we’re actually subsidizing a product (and an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire) that is bad for the environment…

  • Retired Green Beret Warns "A Domestic Destabilization Is Underway"

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via SHTFplan.com,

    Under the guise of “political correctness,” cities (such as Baltimore, MD) are removing their Confederate monuments one-by-one and under cover of darkness.

    Here, as reported by CBS News:

    “The Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson monument at Wyman Park Dell was removed with a crowd watching.  The Robert B. Taney monument in Mt. Vernon also came down.  Crews are on the site of the confederate Women’s monument at University Parkway to take that one down.  This comes just days after the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution Monday calling for the immediate deconstruction of these monuments.”

    There it is!  Straight out of the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, as with the character he played, Benjamin Martin: “An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king.”

    Where’s the vote by the people in the city?  Oh, just that the elected officials, mind you, can make such a decision…by their vote, a tyranny in itself.  At the bare minimum, it should have been put to a vote.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that most of these cities, city councils, and their state legislatures are being run by a pack of liberals.  The “paradigm shift” is in full mode: “Democracy in America” did not mention the tyranny of the minority In this case, a minority viewpoint, fueled by Marxists and liberals is attempting to subvert First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and begin a policy of redaction to support their revisionist history.

    We are right around the corner from a Civil War. 

    The Left is fueling and funding tensions in order to exacerbate them and cause a revolution.  In the middle of this, the President is being blamed and threatened with impeachment.  The root of it is this: the attempt to destabilize the country and cause anarchy.  Black Americans are being used as the vehicle for the destabilization…a vehicle by the oligarchs, such as Soros.  Now with Charlottesville being trumpeted up and down the country, Obama weighs in “with the most popular Tweet ever.”

    I wrote that Barack Hussein Obama II would be back: he will be a most useful catalyst for what is to come.  It was also reported that Hillary Clinton is weighing in on attacking the President, but not with words: with dollars.  Fellowship of the Minds ran a piece that cites the Washington Times.  Here’s an excerpt:

    “Joe Schoffstall reports for The Washington Free Beacon, August 14, 2017, that Hillary has donated $800,000 from her campaign funds to Onward Together — a new political action group that she formed three months ago in May which will fund a number of established “resistance” groups that counter President Trump with direct action and protests.

     

    According to its mission statement, Onward Together is dedicated to “encouraging people to organize, get involved, and run for office” and advancing “progressive values and work to build a brighter future for generations to come.”

     

    Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that on May 1, 2017, Hillary’s presidential campaign committee Hillary for America contributed $800,000 to Onward Together. In addition, Hillary also funded other “resistance” groups that have “impressed” her, including Swing Left, Run for Something, Emerge America, and Indivisible.”

    Once again, her money and power is wielded to “influence” the way things are.  She is not acting alone, nor of her own initiative.  Read Shadow Party to find the guy pulling her strings.  (Hint: his real name is Georgy Schwarz!)

    By removing the Confederate memorials and markers, a part of American history is effectively being relegated to oblivion.  It is all part of redaction and revision.  The Marxists and Globalists have been relentless in their quest to rewrite American history and demonize whites in general…trying to create a cowed, demure, subservient class of guilt-ridden subjects…to destroy the United States from within.  To destroy the “warrior mentality” of the citizen-soldier of America’s citizenry…that is the objective.  A complete orchiotomy and neutering: nothing less.

    Unless the United States falls, the New World Order/Global Governance cannot exist.  This is the goal: enmesh it in a war (initiated by a foreign nation and/or orchestrated by the U.S.), and destroy it domestically from within “Top down, bottom up,” to quote Van Jones, is their objective.  Their playbook is Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” and the battle lines are being drawn more decisively by the day.  There will come a time when everyone will have to pick a side, and after it begins, the United States may look a lot different than it does now.

  • "The Entire Dynamic Has Changed" Far-Right Groups Becoming Increasingly Visible On Campus

    The “Unite the Right” rally at the University of Virginia last week was only the beginning…

    As far-right groups find fertile ground for recruiting on campus, campuses are bracing for a flood of speaking events and demonstrations organized by white nationalist groups, according to the Associated Press, as many schools have determined that they can't, or at least shouldn't, expel members of hate groups on campus. Leaders of these groups say they will no longer limit their efforts to social media or to flyers posted around campus, but intend to hold public demonstrations to bring the movement “into the sun.”

    "It seems like what might have been a little in the shadows has come into full sun, and now it's out there and exposed for everyone to see," said Sue Riseling, a former police chief at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

    As the AP reports, the young men who participated in Saturday’s rally marched through the Univeristy of Virginia’s campus holding torches and chanting racist slogans. Then the next morning some of them suited up with helmets and shields and clashed with counter-protesters, until 20-year-old James Alex Fields drove his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 26. The shift toward white nationalist and other far-right groups operating more openly began last year, when racist flyers popped up on college campuses at an unprecedented rate, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The group counted 161 white supremacist "flyering incidents" on 110 college campuses between September and June.

    Nicholas Fuentes

    These incidents will likely only become more common as leaders of pro-white groups say it’s a cheap and easy way to gin up media coverage.

    “Matthew Heimbach, the 26-year-old leader of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, admits that dropping leaflets on campuses is a cheap way to generate media coverage.

     

    As a student at Towson University in Maryland, Heimbach made headlines for forming a "White Student Union" and scrawling messages like "white pride" in chalk on campus sidewalks. His college years are behind him, but Heimbach still views colleges as promising venues to expand his group's ranks. College students are running four of his group's chapters, he said.

     

    "The entire dynamic has changed," Heimbach said. ‘I used to be the youngest person at white nationalist meetings by 20 or 30 years.’”

    Many colleges are learning first hand that while they can condemn the violence during last weekend’s rally, expelling students because of their membership in a pro-white group would be something of a violation.  

    Scores of schools publicly denounced the violence in Virginia this week, including some that learned they enroll students who attended the "Unite the Right" rally.

     

    The University of Nevada, Reno, said it stands against bigotry and racism but concluded there's "no constitutional or legal reason" to expel Peter Cvjetanovic, a 20-year-old student and school employee who attended the rally, as an online petition demanded.

     

    Other schools, including Washington State University, condemned the rally but didn't specifically address their students who attended it.

    Campus leaders say they walk a fine line when trying to combat messages from hate groups. Many strive to protect speech even if it's offensive but also recognize hate speech can make students feel unsafe. Some schools have sought to counter extremist messages with town halls and events promoting diversity. Others try to avoid drawing attention to hate speech.

    And some schools are simply refusing to dwell on the issue when hate groups spread leaflets around campus, arguing that’s what the extremists want them to do.

    “After flyers promoting white supremacy were posted at Purdue University last school year, Purdue President Mitch Daniels refused to dwell on the incident.

     

    "This is a transparent effort to bait people into overreacting, thereby giving a small fringe group attention it does not deserve, and that we decline to do," Daniels said in a statement at the time.”

    Nicholas Fuentes, a student who attended the “Unite the Right” rally, said he’d like to transfer to the University of Auburn from Boston University because he believes it will be more tolerant of his right-wing beliefs. “I'm ready to return to my base, return to my roots, to rally the troops and see what I can do down there," Fuentes said in an interview this week.”

    *  *  *

    Universities can continue to ban events by conservative speakers who they fear might incite violence, but the message is clear: conservative students will be protected from expulsion at most college campuses, but when it comes to the wrath of their Antifa-loving peers, well, that’s a different question entirely.

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Aug 18

Today’s News 18th August 2017

  • The Death Of A Nation

    Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Every living nation needs symbols. They tell us who we are as one people, in what we believe, and on what basis we organize our common life.

    This fact seems to be very clear to the current leadership in Russia, particularly to President Vladimir Putin, in restoring and reunifying a country rent by three generations of Red and White enmity to achieve a national synthesis. With regard to things spiritual, this meant first of all the world-historic reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church, between the Moscow Patriarchate and the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. It also meant the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior dynamited by the communists 1931, not coincidentally the recent target for desecration by degenerates hailed by western «democracy» advocates.

    Civic and military symbols matter as well. After 1991 there were those who wanted landmarks of the communist era to be ruthlessly expunged the way the Bolsheviks had themselves sought (in Solzhenitsyn’s description) to rub off the age-old face of Russia and to replace it with a new, ersatz Soviet image. Instead, wisdom prevailed. The national anthem adopted in 2001 retains the Soviet melody but with new lyrics (written by Sergey Mikhalkov, who with Gabriel El-Registan had penned the original lyrics in 1944!) – Lenin and Stalin are out, God is in. The old capital is again Saint Petersburg, but the surrounding district still bears the name Leningrad. The red star marks Russia’s military aircraft and vehicles, while the blue Saint Andrew’s cross flies over the fleet. The red stars likewise are still atop the Kremlin towers while the Smolensk icon of Christ once again graces the Savior Gate. The red banner that was hoisted triumphantly on the Reichstag in 1945 is carried on Victory Day. The remains of exiled White commanders like Anton Denikin and Vladimir Kappel were repatriated and reburied at home with honor.

    I may be wrong, but I would like to think that perhaps Russia took a lesson from what until recently had been the American example. In his Second Inaugural Address in March 1865, as the «brothers’ war« was drawing to a close, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the need to «bind up the nation’s wounds». In striving to do so, nothing was more important than our honoring the heroes of both the Blue and the Gray, perhaps most poignantly demonstrated decades later in the veterans’ reunions at Gettysburg. «Unconditional Surrender» Grant and «Marse Bobby» Lee, «Uncle Billy» Sherman and «Stonewall» Jackson, naval legends David «Damn the torpedoes» Farragut and Raphael «Nelson of the Confederacy» Semmes, cavalrymen «Fightin’ Phil» Sheridan and J.E.B. Stuart, and many, many others – these names belong to all of us. As Americans.

    To say this is not to avoid the centrality of slavery in the southerners’ attempted secession or to address the constitutional question of whether they were legally entitled to do so. (Maybe California will have better luck heading for the exit. ¡Adios, amigos!) Nor does it sugarcoat white southerners’ perception of Reconstruction as a hostile, armed occupation or of the institution of Jim Crow racial segregation after federal troops were withdrawn and the Democratic Party assumed power. But the fact is that the mythos of North-South reconciliation in a reunited American nation was a foundation of our becoming an economic giant by the late 19th century, a world power at the beginning of the 20th (at the expense of the decrepit Spanish empire, with the celebrated military participation of former Confederates), and a dominant power after two victorious world wars.

    That America may soon be gone with the wind. The violence at Charlottesville, the pulling down of a Confederate memorial by a mob in Durham, the removal of four monuments from Baltimore (which has one of America’s highest homicide rates) under the cowardly cloak of night, and calls for getting rid of many more are simultaneously the death throes of the old America built on one national concept and the birth pangs of a new, borderless, multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious, multisexual, ahistorical, fake «America» now aborning in violence and lawlessness.

    He who says A must say B. When one accepts demonization of part of our history and placing those who defend it beyond the pale of legitimate discourse, one should hardly be surprised when the arrogant fury of the victors is unleashed. That takes two forms: the nihilist street thugs of «Antifa» and «Black Lives Matter», and the authorities (both governmental and media, a/k/a the Swamp) who confer on them immunity for violent, criminal behavior. The former are the shock troops of the latter.

    They’ve been at it for months, well before Charlottesville, across the country, with nary a peep from the party that supposedly has uniform control over the federal government. Our First Amendment rights as Americans end where a black-clad masked thug chooses to put his (or her or indeterminate «gender») fist or club. To paraphrase U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney in Dred Scott, loyalists of the old America have no rights which the partisans of the new one are bound to respect. Where’s the Justice Department probe of civil rights violations by this organized, directed brutality? (Or maybe there will be one, including looking into George Soros’s connection. If not, what’s the point of having RICO?)

    To be sure, the spectacle of genuine racists on display in Charlottesville provided the perfect pretext for these people, but they’re not the cause. Far from forestalling the violent, revolutionary abolition of the historic America (definitively described by Pat Buchanan) by inciting some kind of white backlash – perhaps in the form of a race war as some of them despicably hope – the «Unite the Right» organizers at Charlottesville have accelerated the revolution. It’s a revolution that dovetails with the anti-constitutional «RussiaGate» coup in progress against President Trump, who is the last hope for preserving the historic American nation. If he is removed (is he the only one, even in his own Administration, fighting back?) and the nice respectable anti-Trump Republican party is restored, they’ll gladly join hands with their Democratic and media Swamp buddies in dragging what remains of America down.

    If anyone is tempted to think that the new America will be more peaceful in world affairs, think again. It’s no coincidence that the same forces that want to bring Trump down and also redefine our country’s identity coincide almost entirely with those who want America aggressively to impose «our values« – meaning their values – on the globe. As I put it almost 20 years ago in a somewhat different context, this fake «America» is the vanguard of Rainbow Fascism, at home and abroad.

    No doubt the same terrible sense of foreboding, even worse, must have occurred to Russians in 1920, when they saw their country bloodily sacrificed on the altar of a crazed, internationalist ideology. Somehow, after paying an unimaginable price in war and repression, they emerged three quarters of a century later still remembering how (as the late General Aleksandr Lebed put it) «to feel like Russians again».

    If we fail to avoid the impending long night, will we Americans be so lucky?

  • How Can We Learn From The Past If We Erase History?

    Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

    Removing monuments from the Civil War to erase history is a mistake.

    This won’t be a popular opinion, and I’m okay with that. Because for now, we still have freedom of speech.

    While I can understand why some people would strongly disagree, I’d like to respectfully offer a different perspective. My opinion that those monuments should be left alone isn’t because I support the horrible things that have been done in our history. It’s exactly the opposite.

    Every country’s history has a dark spot in it. More than one, if we’re being honest. But the fact that we aren’t still mired in those dark places means that we have made strides toward becoming better. Erasing history, though, is a dangerous path because it means that the truth becomes something malleable that has been created instead of recorded.

    Rewriting history is positively Orwellian, and a terribly dangerous path.

    After President Trump won the election, his opponents began snapping up copies of 1984 so quickly that Amazon sold out of the classic. At that point, I was hopeful that it meant people would find some common ground.

    Amazon has sold out of copies of George Orwell’s authoritarian classic, 1984, and they won’t have more until Feb. 2nd. The book was the number one bestseller on Tuesday and Wednesday. The publishing company, Penguin, is rushing more copies to print.

     

    This surge in sales came after Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway used the creepy term “alternative facts” to explain away some misleading statements in White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s statement to the press. (source)

    Alas, my hope was short lived.

    All sorts of breathless articles were penned, comparing President Trump to Big Brother. (This one, for example.) But then, something else happened. And it isn’t good.

    1984 has become an instruction manual.

    Despite the initial furor, now it seems like these folks have decided to instead use 1984 as a how-to manual. As you watch people destroying monuments of Southern Civil War generals, renaming streets, and planning to deface the side of a mountain with their faces on it, let this chilling quote ring in your ears.

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” (George Orwell, 1984)

    Without our history, good or bad, who are we? If we don’t remember where we came from, how can we hope to continuously improve? If we can’t learn from the mistakes of the past, and if the truth is “created” by the vocal minority, then how does the truth even exist anymore?

    History teaches us important lessons.

    We’ve all heard that quote, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” So what happens when we completely erase it?

    When my daughter and I took a road trip to explore American history last year, we stopped and visited many of these historic markers that are now pending demolition. We discussed the hypocrisy of a man who was responsible for resounding words of freedom in the US Constitution keeping hundreds of slaves. Her curiosity was piqued by the old homesteads. Her heart was saddened by walking into old slave quarters and seeing the shocking difference of their cramped quarters to the huge mansions beside them. Nothing you can read about in a book could possibly compare to walking through those doors and seeing the real thing.

    We looked up information about General Lee and General Jackson. We learned of the famous battles where thousands of Americans from the North and the South died. When in California, we visited Manzanar, the site of an internment camp for Americans of Japanese heritage. She learned so much about our country’s ugly past and about how our ideals as a nation were changed for the better.

    We also spent a lot of time at various civil rights monuments, in particular, the Harriet Tubman Museum and the Underground Railroad Byway. (My daughter has been fascinated by Tubman since she read her biography in third grade.) After seeing the old plantations and the slave quarters, Tubman’s heroism was suddenly writ large. Would her heroic acts have made so great an impression if my daughter hadn’t learned the backstory? Heroism doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    Erasing the negative part of history doesn’t make it go away Sanitizing the facts doesn’t mean that they never happened. It just means no one can learn from them.

    Our very language is being rewritten.

    Everything has now become so politically correct that most of us have no idea what to say in certain situations, lest we be chastised as horrible bigots. The schools are systematically brainwashing children and the indoctrination is completed in our colleges and universities.

    “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” (George Orwell, 1984)

    By manipulating language, opinions are manipulated, as is a sense of right and wrong.

    Newspeak is real.

    “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

     

    By 2050, earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron – they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ‘freedom is slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” (George Orwell, 1984)

    How can anyone not see this is happening right before our very eyes.

    It isn’t Donald Trump who is bringing in an Orwellian future. It’s the rabid politically-correct thought police.

    Where will it end?

    It isn’t likely to end with the removal of icons related to the Civil War. Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2016 suggests that all memories of Trump, Washington, and Jefferson should also be erased.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Good, bad, and ugly, this is part of our national story. Tearing down everything that was related to the sordid parts doesn’t mean that they never happened.

    I strongly denounce these groups who are filled with hatred for their fellow Americans.

    While I believe these historic monuments should not be destroyed, I certainly could never align myself with the neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the Alt-Right people who are protecting them, because they’re doing so out of hatred and a misplaced sense of glory. Nor would I ever align myself with the Antifa, the most ironic group ever in existence that proclaims to be against fascism but noisily and brutally stifles the First Amendment rights of those with whom they disagree.

    These groups all represent what is worst about our country. Violence, vandalism, hatred, and terror are wrong, no matter who is perpetrating those acts.

    In any argument, it’s always the loudest people who get heard, but that doesn’t mean they speak for everyone. We must be careful not to over-generalize when it comes to these groups.

    The Alt-Right and the neo-Nazis cannot be confused with every conservative Republican out there any more than the Alt-Left and the Antifa can be confused with every liberal Democrat. All of these labels are divisive and painting everyone with a broad brush is a lazy generalization. But this isn’t what the media is telling us. Instead, the mainstream media is pouring gasoline on this fire on a daily basis and they’re polarizing our country even more.

    Most of us are decent human beings who have no argument with our fellow Americans. We have a lot more in common than this noisy minority and if we could respectfully find those points of agreement, we could, perhaps, find peace amongst our neighbors once again.

    I only hope that we haven’t gone so far down this road that there’s no way back.

  • "He's A Greedy Little Man" And A "Snake" – Transcripts Of Shkreli Jury Hearings Emerge

    Martin Shkreli’s lawyers reportedly had to interview more than 250 prospective jurors before agreeing on 12. At the time, media reports hinted at some of the funnier reasons given by prospective jurors to get out of serving (one individual said he was biased against Shkreli because he had “disrespected the Wu Tang Clan"). Ultimately, the jury found the former hedge fund manager and pharmaceutical company CEO guilty on three out of eight counts of fraud.

    Now, Harper’s Magazine has published transcripts from the Voir Dire hearings. The transcripts offer insight into how the trial of "the most hated man in America" came together. In most cases, the prospective juror offers some version of "he's terrible" and is promptly excused.

    When asked if he was aware of the defendant, one juror said yes and “I hate him,” before calling Shkreli “a greedy little man.”

    “The court: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror Number 1.

     

    Juror no. 1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.

     

    Benjamin Brafman: I’m sorry.

     

    Juror no. 1: I think he’s a greedy little man.

     

    The court: Jurors are obligated to decide the case based only on the evidence. Do you agree?

     

    Juror no. 1: I don’t know if I could. I wouldn’t want me on this jury.

     

    The court: Juror Number 1 is excused. Juror Number 18.”

    One guy said he felt biased against Shkreli as soon as he saw his face.

    “Juror no. 40: I’m taking prescription medication. I would be upset if it went up by a thousand percent. I saw the testimony on TV to Congress and I saw his face on the news last night. By the time I came in and sat down and he turned around, I felt immediately I was biased.

     

    The court: Sir, we are going to excuse you. Juror Number 47, please come up.”

    Another juror equated Shkreli with Bernie Madoff who, let’s remember, stole $70 billion from his clients.

    “Juror no. 47: He’s the most hated man in America. In my opinion, he equates with Bernie Madoff with the drugs for pregnant women going from $15 to $750. My parents are in their eighties. They’re struggling to pay for their medication. My mother was telling me yesterday how my father’s cancer drug is $9,000 a month.

     

    The court: The case is going to come before you on evidence that you must consider fairly and with an open mind.

     

    Juror no. 47: I would find that difficult.

     

    The court: And that’s based on your parents’ experience with medication?

     

    Juror no. 47: It’s based on people working very hard for their money. He defrauded his company and his investors, and that’s not right.

     

    The court: Ma’am, we’re going to excuse you. Juror Number 52, how are you?”

    One guy said he didn’t know who Shkreli was, but after taking one look at him said he looks like a "snake."

    “Juror no. 52: When I walked in here today I looked at him, and in my head, that’s a snake — not knowing who he was. I just walked in and looked right at him and that’s a snake.

     

    Brafman: So much for the presumption of innocence.

     

    The court: We will excuse Juror Number 52. Juror Number 67?”

    One prospective juror said he’d “never be able to forget” how Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim.

    "Juror no. 67: The fact that he raised the price of that AIDS medication, like, such an amount of money disgusts me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that. Who does that, puts profit and self-interest ahead of anything else? So it’s not a far stretch that he could do what he’s accused of.

     

    The court: Please go to the jury room and tell them you have been excused. Juror Number 70.”

    One person described Shkreli as “the face of corporate greed in America," and that he'd need to be convinced of his innocence because he assumes Shkreli is guilty.

    “Juror no. 77: From everything I’ve seen on the news, everything I’ve read, I believe the defendant is the face of corporate greed in America.

     

    Brafman: We would object.

     

    Juror no. 77: You’d have to convince me he was innocent rather than guilty.

     

    The court: I will excuse this juror. Hello, Juror Number 125.”

    Juror number 144 said Shkreli “looks like a dick.”

    “Juror no. 144: I heard through the news of how the defendant changed the price of a pill by up-selling it. I heard he bought an album from the Wu-Tang Clan for a million dollars.

     

    The court: The question is, have you heard anything that would affect your ability to decide this case with an open mind. Can you do that?

     

    Juror no. 144: I don’t think I can because he kind of looks like a dick.

     

    The court: You are Juror Number 144 and we will excuse you. Come forward, Juror Number 155.”

    One juror said he couldn’t understand whether Shkreli was stupid, or just greedy.

    “Juror no. 28: I don’t like this person at all. I just can’t understand why he would be so stupid as to take an antibiotic which H.I.V. people need and jack it up five thousand percent. I would honestly, like, seriously like to go over there.

     

    The court: Sir, thank you.

     

    Juror no. 28: Is he stupid or greedy? I can’t understand.

     

    The court: We will excuse you. Juror 41, are you coming up?”

    Shkreli is totally guilty, another juror said…and he disrespected the Wu Tang Clan.

    “Juror no. 59: Your Honor, totally he is guilty and in no way can I let him slide out of anything because…

     

    The court: All right. We are going to excuse you, sir.

     

    Juror no. 59: And he disrespected the Wu-Tang Clan.”

    While no date has been set, Shkreli is expected to be sentenced by federal judge Kiya Matsumoto some time during the coming months. Though Shkreli said on one of his post-trial livestreams that he expects to only serve a few months, possibly under house arrest. But legal experts believe that the sentencing is when Shkreli’s past demons will come back to haunt him in the form of a lengthy stay in federal prison. He could also be on the hook for millions of dollars in fines. After all, Shkreli has mocked not only the Brooklyn prosecutors who tried him, but members of Congress. It wouldn’t exactly look like a prosecutorial victory if they just let him walk away.
     

  • Privatize The Public Monuments

    Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

    When I was a student at the University of Colorado, I regularly walked by the Dalton Trumbo memorial fountain which was named after the communist Stalin-sympathizing novelist and screenwriter. 

    Once upon a time, the fountain had been simply known as "the fountain," but around 25 years ago, it was unnecessarily renamed after a controversial person. 

    The reason for the renaming was the same as with any memorial or monument designed to honor a person or idea — to create an emotional connection and familiarity with the person or idea connected to the place; to communicate a certain view of history. 

    The renaming of the fountain followed an earlier renaming controversy. One of the University's dorms, Nichols Hall, was named after a participant in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre. Even in its own time, the massacre had been denounced, earning condemnation from Indian fighters like Kit Carson. Not surprisingly, the dorm that bore Nichols's name was eventually renamed "Cheyenne Arapahoe" in honor of the Indian tribes whose members Nichols had helped attack.

    As with the Trumbo fountain, the dorm's name was changed in order to send subtle messages — messages about what is valued, what is good, and what is bad. 

    There's nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. The problem only arises when we begin to use taxpayer funded facilities and institutions to carry out these attempts at education. 

    Thus, in a sense, when approaching the problem of government monuments and memorials, we  encounter the same problem we have with public schools. Whose values are going to be pushed, preserved, and exalted? And, who's going to be forced to pay for it? 

    Ideology Changes Over Time 

    This problem is further complicated by the fact that these views change over time.

    Over time, the "good guys" can change as majority views shift, as new groups take over the machinery of government institutions, and as ideologies change. 

    In 1961, when Nichols Hall was named, few people apparently cared much about the Sand Creek Massacre. 25 years later, however, views had changed considerably among both students and administrators. 

    For a very obvious illustration of how these changes takes place, we need look no further than the schools. 

    In the early days of public schooling — an institution founded by Christian nationalists to push their message — students were forced to read the King James Bible. Catholics were forced to pay taxes so schools could instruct students on how awful and dangerous Catholicism was. Immigrant families from Southern and Eastern Europe were forced to pay for schools that instructed their children on the inferiority of their non-Anglo ethnic groups.

    A century later, things have changed considerably. Today, Anglo-Saxons are taught to hate themselves, and while Catholics are still despised (but for different reasons), they now are joined in their pariah status by most other Christian groups as well. Italians and Eastern Europeans who were once treated in public schools as subhuman are now reviled as members of the white oppressor class

    Similar changes have taken place in art and in public monuments and memorials. 

    Public Memorials Serve the Same Function as Public Schools 

    But the principle remains the same, whether we're talking about public schools or public monuments: we're using public funds and facilities to "educate" the public about what's good and what's not. 

    This has long been known by both the people who first erected today's aging monuments, and by the people who now want to tear them down. The leftist who support scrapping certain monuments actively seek to change public monuments and memorials to back up their own worldview because they recognize that it can make a difference in the public imagination. They're fine with forcing the taxpayers to support their own worldview, of course, and actively seek to use public lands, public spaces, public roads, and public buildings to subsidize their efforts. They already succeeded in doing this with public schools decades ago. 

    The Answer: Privatize the Monuments

    In a way, the combined effect of public memorials, monuments, streets, and buildings function to turn public spaces into a type of large open-air social studies class, reinforcing some views, while ignoring others. 

    Libertarians have long noted the problem of public education: it's impossible to teach history in a value-neutral way, and thus public schools are likely to teach values that support the state and its agendas. Even some conservatives have finally caught on. 

    To combat this problem, those who object to these elements within public schooling support homeschooling, private schooling, and private-sector alternatives that diminish the role of public institutions. 

    Governmental public spaces offer the same problem as public schools. 

    In both cases the answer is the same: minimize the role of government institutions in shaping public ideology, public attitudes, and the public's view of history. 

    Rather than using publicly funded thoroughfares, parks, and buildings as a means of reinforcing public "education" and "shared history" as we do now, these government facilities should be stripped down to their most basic functions. Providing office space for administrative offices, providing streets for transport, and providing parks for recreation. (The last thing we need is a history lesson from the semi-illiterates on a typical city council.)

    Some might argue that all these properties and facilities should be privatized themselves. That's fair enough, but as long as we're forced to live with these facilities, we need not also use them to "honor" politicians or whatever persons the current ruling class happens to find worthy of praise. 

    The nostalgia lobby will react with horror to this proposition. "Why, you can't do that!" they'll complain. "We'll be robbed of our heritage and history." Even assuming these people could precisely define exactly who "we" is they still need to explain why public property is necessary to preserve this alleged heritage. 

    After all, by this way of thinking, the preservation of one's culture and heritage relies on a subsidy from the taxpayers, and a nod of assent from government agencies. 

    Preserving and Promoting Culture Through Private Action 

    Once upon a time, however, people who actually valued their heritage did not sit around begging the government to protect it for them. Many were willing to actually take action and spend their own money on preserving the heritage that many now rather unconvincingly claim is so important to them.

    A good example of the key role of private property in cases such as this can be seen in the work of the Catholic Church in the US — which has never enjoyed majority support from the population or from government institutions. If Catholics were to get their symbols and memorials in front of the public, they were going to have to build them on private property, and that's exactly what they did.

    In Denver, for example, the Catholics of the early 20th century knew (correctly) that no public park or government building was going to erect any Catholic-themed art or memorials on their property. So, the Catholics proceeded to erect an enormous cathedral on a hilltop one block from the state capitol. The new cathedral was highly visible and provided easy access to religious ceremonies for the few Catholic politicians and officials who worked at the capitol. It provided meeting space. It contained stained-glass art created by German masters. Moreover, the new building served as a huge symbolic middle finger to the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan which was growing in importance in Denver at the time.

    So, did Church officials sit around whining about how there was no crucifix on the front lawn of the State Capitol? Did they demand that the taxpayers pay to maintain a central town plaza featuring a statue of Saint Peter? Some probably did. Those who made a difference, though, took action and acquired real estate in prominent places throughout the city. They put universities on that land, and cemeteries, and convents, and friaries, and schools, and even some memorials and statues. Today, next to the cathedral, on a busy street corner, is a large statue of a Catholic pope: John Paul II. It's on private property. It's seen by thousands every day. 

    5755374557_271075ae66_z.jpg

    Source. 

    And why should the self-appointed protectors of American "traditional" values think they deserve anything different? Indeed, we'd all have been saved a lot of trouble if the organizations that demanded statues of Confederate generals everywhere had put them on private land instead of in public parks. We'd all be better off if the private owners of the Stone Mountain monument hadn't sold it to the State of Georgia because they were too cheap to maintain it themselves. 

    In the past, had the purveyors of publicly-funded culture instead taken a principled and successful stand against using public lands and funds to push a certain view of history, no one would have to now waste his time sitting through city council meetings where politicians decide who deserves a statue, and who is to be thrown in the dustbin of history. Were we to quit using public parks as showcases for public indoctrination, we wouldn't have to worry about the Church of Satan erecting a monument in the "free speech area" of a public park — as they recently did near Minneapolis. 

    The next time someone wants a statue of some politician, artist, or intellectual — whether they be communists, Confederates, or satanists — they ought to be told to buy a nice little plot of land somewhere — perhaps along a busy street or next to an important street corner in town — and put their statue there. 

  • "It Is A Battle Between Data And Theory" – Fed PhDs Second-Guess Inflation Model After 5 Years Of Failure

    Federal Reserve officials are finally waking up to the fact that there’s something wrong with their inflation models. It only took them five years.

    As Bloomberg points out, the minutes from the Fed’s July policy meeting, released yesterday, included a debate about whether the models that help the central bank set its inflation target are no longer functioning properly.

    “Federal Reserve officials are looking under the hood of their most basic inflation models and starting to ask if something is wrong.

     

    Minutes from the July 25-26 Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed a revealing debate over why the economy isn’t producing more inflation in a time of easy financial conditions, tight labor markets and solid economic growth.

     

    The central bank has missed its 2 percent price goal for most of the past five years. Still, a majority of FOMC participants favor further rate increases. The July minutes showed an intensifying debate over whether that is the right policy response.”

    Some economists worry that if the Fed begins to publicly question their methods, it could ruin what little credibility the central bank has left.

    “These minutes to me were troubling,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “They don’t have their confidence in their policy decisions; and they don’t have confidence that they can provide the right kind of guidance.”

    Of course, Fed officials did everything in their power to communicate that these questions were being raised by a small minority on the FOMC, and didn’t represent anything resembling an official opinion.

    “In several passages, the minutes asserted that “most” officials were sticking with a forecast that higher inflation would eventually show up. However, the debate over resource slack models and whether standard data sources were telling them the whole story also showed convictions about their forecast are fraying.”

    As Bloomberg explains, prices have been resistant to any upward movement even as the US unemployment rate has fell to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent in July. The U.S. consumer price index rose 1.7 percent for the 12 months ending July, while the PCE price index, the Fed’s preferred measure, which is tied to consumption, rose 1.4 percent in June. Another gauge calculated by the Dallas Fed, which trims index outliers to highlight the underlying price trend, rose 1.7 percent for the 12 months ending June. That was the same as May, which was down from 1.74 percent in April.

    A few officials pointed out what many investors have believed for years: That the Fed's inflation forecasting model is totally useless.

    “The minutes said “a few” officials described resource slack models as “not particularly useful” while “most” thought the framework was valid.

     

    Members also questioned whether there’s another theory that might better explain the inertia in prices.

     

    The committee also pondered a number of theories as to why inflation wasn’t responding to tightening labor resources, such as “the possibility that slack may be better measured by labor market indicators other than unemployment.”

    One notable economist described it as “a battle between data and theory.”

    “It is a battle between data and theory,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America Corp. in New York.

    But it almost doesn’t matter that the Fed’s vaunted inflation models no longer make any sense, because, the Fed is going to keep hiking no matter what now that the risks have struck the “appropriate balance” – at least that’s what one member of the leadership (probably Chairwoman Yellen) believes.   

    “The minutes also included an unusual signal that someone – possibly a member of the committee’s leadership – saw additional rate increases as striking the “appropriate balance” on policy goals, dedicating two sentences to the views of “one participant.”

     

    “That seems like an awful lot of air time as well as a very definitive answer coming from a mere ‘one participant’ – unless that single person happened to be someone really important – like, I don’t know, maybe the Chair?,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities in New York, wrote in a note to clients, referring to Janet Yellen.”

    Maybe in whatever model they concoct to replace this one, the Fed should include a metric probably more relevant today than economists realize: The amount of time Americans’ spend on Instagram per day.
     

  • "Let's Blow Up Mount Rushmore" Says Vice

    We may have hit peak media crazy here. A prominent online news publication says, “Let's blow up Mt. Rushmore.” No, this is not al-Qaeda's "Inspire" magazine or the Islamic State's "Dabiq" propaganda publication – it's Brooklyn based Vice News.

    On the same day a barbaric terror attack takes place in Barcelona, resulting in 13 deaths and 100 people injured, the popular liberal news org known for its edgy investigative approach and stylistic "cooler than thou" appeal to millennials tweeted out an article which advocates for blowing up Mount Rushmore. 

    Vice initially titled the article, authored by Vice Senior Editor Wilbert L. Cooper, as follows:

    After fierce online push back on a day there was a literal terror attack unfolding across the Atlantic, Vice hastily deleted the tweet and changed the article title to the toned down, Let's Get Rid of Mt. Rushmore – this time with an editor's note at the bottom of the page attempting to explain the change: 

    Editor's note: The headline and URL of this story have been updated. We do not condone violence in any shape or form, and the use of "blow up" in the original headline as a rhetorical device was misguided and insensitive. We apologize for the error.

    Rhetorical device? The content of the article still supports destroying America's most celebrated and iconic historic monument dedicated to American presidents. The author literally states he is "onboard" should there ever be "a serious push to blow up Rushmore":

    With the president of the United States basically justifying neo-Nazism, it seems unthinkable that we will ever see a day when there is a serious push to blow up Rushmore and other monuments like it. But if that moment ever arrives, I suspect I'd be onboard.

    Cooper further (not so) eloquently calls for leveling the whole place, and presumably all monuments devoted to past US "cults of personality" (as he calls them):

    Demystifying the historical figures of the past, pulling them off the great mountain top back down to Earth where they shat, farted, spit, pissed, fucked, raped, murdered, died, and rotted seems like important business for this country. As long as we allow those men to be cults of personality who exist beyond reproach, we're never going to be able to see them for all of their good and all of their evil. 

    Disturbingly, the call for leveling such monuments is contained in the conclusion of an article with repeat references equating President Trump with neo-Nazis:

    Trump and his white supremacist cohorts believe the reverence some Americans have for these statues is simply respect for history, and that tearing them down is tantamount to ripping pages out of a textbook.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Ironically, the article does acknowledge the truthfulness of Trump's recent words that we are headed towards a dangerously iconoclastic slippery slope set to end in the demolishing of American history. But the Vice article at the outset essentially says… yes! Let's do just that:

    Donald Trump says removing confederate statues is a slippery slope that could get out of control. Maybe he's right—would that be such a bad thing?

    And if a private citizen said "let's blow up Mount Rushmore" and published an article which seriously explored destroying the site – an article which was clearly "pro" dynamiting the monument? It doesn't take much imagination to know who would come knocking if this were anything but a $5.7 billion news organization.

  • Krieger Warns "Nazi Fears & 'Hate Speech' Hysteria Are Being Amplified To Attack Civil Liberties"

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    It doesn’t take courage to denounce Nazism. Moreover, it appears many of the people incessantly proclaiming how anti-Nazi they are, happen to be the same folks who have the most to answer for when it comes to all sorts of transgressions against the world over the past couple of decades.

    That said, I’ll give my my quick two cents on the Nazi, white supremacist hysteria currently being amplified by the corporate media.

    The general proclivity to obsess about how one’s group, whether it be a nation, political tribe, or race/religion is superior to all others represents such a immature and unconscious way of seeing the world, it’s really is hard for me to believe so many people still see reality through such a lens. This type of thinking tends to attract very insecure people. People who cannot look at themselves individually and be proud of the person they see. As such, they scurry around looking for a group with an established superiority myth which they can then latch themselves onto in order to feel better about themselves.

    The good news when it comes to Nazism/white supremacy, at least here in the U.S., is that most people appear to be at least conscious enough not to fall for the most basic and primal type of tribalism — i.e., finding a race-based superiority cult attractive. In contrast, the more nuanced superiority cults, such as those based on mindless nationalism or political identity, are far more entrenched here at home, and present a much greater danger to our future.

    Before some of you lose it, I wrote “mindless” nationalism for a reason. I think it’s completely normal and healthy for everyone to love and appreciate their own national/regional culture, this is not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the hordes of mindless automatons who simply fly the American flag and constantly profess their super-sized patriotism, while being completely unaware of the multitude of evil and anti-American actions being done both at home and abroad in their names. It doesn’t seem to matter to these type that their government is acting in total opposition to the Constitution they ostensibly claim to uphold. These people might be less shallow than an self-professed Nazi, but they are far more dangerous to decent, ethical Americans at home, and billions of innocent people abroad. Political party tribalists represent a similar threat, as I’ve discussed on many occasions.

    To summarize, Nazism has become almost as discredited as slavery within the minds of most humans. Meaning, it’s such a patently grotesque, childish and unconscious ideology, it can and will only attract very small pockets of people. In fact, given the rampant corruption, wealth inequality and societal decay we’re experiencing in these United States, I’m somewhat encouraged that the movement is as small and insignificant as it is. Of course, I could be wrong about all of this (we’ll have to see how things unfold if the empire collapses chaotically), but that’s how I see it at the moment. Should that ever change, of course I will fight Nazism, or anything similar with all my energy. In contrast, I think other forms of mindless tribalism, political and nationalistic, are far more likely to cause major disasters in the years ahead.

    If I’m right about what I wrote above, why is the corporate media acting so hysterically in response to this small collection of hateful misfits? Let me share a few tweets I wrote yesterday to start the conversations.

     

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    You can probably tell where I’m going with this. Namely, a lot of really terrible people are trying to reinvent themselves by hyping up the Nazi threat. I’ve discussed this dangerous phenomenon in recent posts, but it’s important enough to keep hammering home. The examples are pretty much everywhere you look. Here’s a particularly shameless example I came across earlier today:

     

    Sarah’s not exaggerating. Here’s the exact quote Madeline Albright made on 60 Minutes:

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

     

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.

     

    60 Minutes (5/12/96)

    Lesson number one. Don’t let terrible people get away with moral preening about some relatively insignificant Nazi threat when these are the very same people who have run this country and much of the world into the toilet bowl.

    Lesson number two. Don’t allow authoritarians to manipulate your emotions about white supremacy (or any other threat for that matter) as an excuse to take away cherished civil liberties. These types have been selling us on giving away our rights since 9/11, and they continue to use any threat they can to take away those that remain. Free speech is the holy grail for tyrants, and anyone who suggests we give up speech to protect ourselves presents a threat to us all. I came across two examples of this today in the normal course of my reading.

    First, an attorney who works for UCLA named K-Sue Park, wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times titled, The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech. It’s one of the most incoherent, authoritarian pieces I’ve read in a while and, although a painful read, you should definitely check it out. It doesn’t take much logic to recognize that her call for the government to decide which speech is acceptable and which is not, is actually far more dangerous to society than a few hundred Nazis getting together in Virginia, irrespective of the terrible loss of life.

    Another example of this authoritarian impulse was penned by Leonid Bershidsky in his Bloomberg article, Facebook and Twitter Are Too Big to Allow Fake Users. To be fair, this article was written before the Charlottesville attack, so I would not characterize him as using the attack to push this narrative, but it’s a wildly dangerous view nonetheless. He writes:

    Social networks should be obliged to ban anonymous accounts. If they refuse to do so voluntarily, government regulators should force the issue.

    This is a completely unhinged response to the problems of “trolling, fake news and cyberbullying,” which he identifies. It’s the equivalent of taking a nuclear bomb to a knife fight. As someone who spends a great deal of time on Twitter, I can tell you that some of the most insightful and humorous accounts I follow are anonymous. This makes total sense because most people have jobs, and people with jobs can be easily fired or ostracized. Not because they’re writing pro-Nazi tweets, but because everything is essentially political these days, and if your boss happens to be a member of a different political tribe, it could affect your career. Did we already forget what happened to James Damore?

    If social media companies suddenly banned anonymous accounts, the entire internet and discourse on it would instantly become 90% less interesting, creative and dynamic. Much of the promise of the web would be crippled by such a policy, and humanity would be far worse off for it.

    Such a policy would crush political speech online, and limit it largely to those who create political content professionally. I could see why people in power would want to do this, but I can’t grasp how anyone else could be so naive to support such a agenda.

    As Patrick Chovanec (who lived and worked in China), so insightfully tweeted:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Ultimately, we need to recognize that fear is our biggest enemy. The corporate media tries to keep us in a constant state of fear, because it’s in a state of fear where we are most vulnerable and hence easily manipulated. Don’t succumb to fear. Stand strong, be courageous and don’t every give up liberties because some pundit tells you it’s what you need to do to fight whatever enemy they happen to be hyping at the moment.

    Finally, let’s finish with a classic clip from the late Bill Hicks, who I consider to be an American prophet. He said it much better than I ever could.

  • Millennials Are Using Financing To Pay For $450 Blenders

    Low wages, mounting student debt and rising rents in the trendy urban centers where millennials prefer to live leave young people with little to spend on luxuries like an iPhone, or tickets to Fyre Festival pt. II. So, since millennials can’t seem to buy anything outright, payment companies are partnering with businesses to offer financing options for goods that, in the past, would’ve gone straight on the credit card, according to MarketWatch.

    With interest rates ranging from 0% to 30%, compared with the average rate of 17% on credit cards, millennials are increasingly financing purchases from airplane tickets to luxury bedsheets with loans from payment companies like PayPal and Affirm. Indeed, millennials' seeming inability to pay for anything outright has caused revolving debt in the US to balloon past $1 trillion.

    Millennials want luxury sheets, Peloton exercise bikes and music festival tickets, but they don’t always have enough cash or a desire to put them on a credit card. So they are turning to an even more expensive method of payment: financing. In recent years, payment companies including PayPal, Affirm and Bread have created installment plans for retailers that give consumers the option to finance the weirdest purchases over time.”

    PayPal works with retailers to offer financing to consumers, who typically use it to pay for a range of goods, from guitars to luxury handbags. If borrowers don’t pay down their balance within an agreed-upon timeframe, they could see interest rates on the purchase rise as high as 20% APR.

    “PayPal offers two types of credit, both as part of a program called PayPal Credit. One option is to wait six months without paying anything, and no interest on purchases over $99 from select retailers. The other option is an installment payment plan called Easy Payments: Consumers pay interest at an APR of 19.99% if they don’t first pay off their balance within the term they select.

     

    Before shoppers are approved for either product, PayPal does a hard credit inquiry, which can result in a few points docked from consumers’ scores, temporarily. But once approved, PayPal doesn’t need to do a second one for future products. Consumers finance luxury handbags, guitars from Dave’s Guitars, pots and pans from Sur La Table and blenders from Vitamix, said Dana Warren, PayPal’s senior director of merchant distribution for PayPal Credit.”

    Holly Hacker, Vitamix’s director of direct sales and customer experience, told MarketWatch that if you can’t afford one of their blenders, don’t buy one. But would young single people buy a nearly $500 blender if they couldn't finance it?

    “Vitamix blenders start at $450, an easier purchase for higher-income households, but “out of range” for some who are younger, said Holly Hacker, Vitamix’s director of direct sales and customer experience.

     

    Shoppers have also financed items including Cartier bracelets, worth $5,000 to $6,000 and Chanel wallets, worth about $1,700 to $1,900 from Linda’s Stuff, a luxury consignment website run by Linda Lightman, the company’s founder and CEO.”

    Of course, personal-finance experts say consumers should avoid financing “discretionary” purchases like the examples mentioned above.

    “However, personal-finance experts typically warn against making purchases, even on a financing plan, that consumers can’t afford. “You want to avoid financing these types of discretionary purchases,” said Nick Clements, the co-founder of personal-finance company MagnifyMoney, who previously worked in the credit-card industry. “If you’re looking for a way to finance discretionary purchases, look at your budget and ask yourself the hard question: Why.’”

    Affirm, another financing company, says the most common type of purchase they help finance is travel, followed by home wares and apparel. That fits with millennials' penchant for valuing experiences like travel over physical goods. And what happens when a consumer doesn’t pay? Affirm takes a writeoff and sells the debt to a collections agency, then disqualifies the borrower from their service. With millennials showing.

    Most millennials came of age during a period when interest rates were at rock bottom. But now that interest rates are slowly moving higher, will young people stop relying on debt to fund everyday purchases? Or will they slowly see their balances creep higher as they find it increasingly difficult to pay down what they owe, causing aggregate debt levels to soar?
     

  • Caught On Tape: Spanish Police Kill Five Suicide Bombers In Separate Terrorist Plot

    Update: The police force for Spain’s Catalonia region says its troopers shot and killed four suspects and wounded a fifth in a resort town south of Barcelona to “respond to a terrorist attack.” The regional police said in a tweet that they are investigating whether the Cambrils suspects were wearing explosive vests. Its officers planned to carry out several controlled explosions. The force says it is working on the theory that the Cambrils suspects were linked to the Barcelona attack, as well as to a Wednesday night explosion in the town of Alcanar in which one person was killed.

    Subsequently, the police said the fifth suspect shot in the resort town of Cambrils has died and six civilians have been injured. Police earlier Friday morning had said four suspects had been killed in the town south of Barcelona during a police operation to “respond to a terrorist attack.”

    * * *

    Spanish police have shot and killed four people while carrying out an operation in response to what was reportedly another terrorist attack in a town south of Barcelon .

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    The regional police for the Catalonia region said on Twitter early on Friday that officers are in Cambrils, a seaside resort town about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Barcelona, where they are dealing with a “possible terror attack.”

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    Videos capturing the shooting and the immediate aftermath were distributed on twitter:

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    The military operation was announced around midnight local time, when the Catalonia emergency service tweeted: “IF YOU’RE NOW IN £Cambrils avoid going out. Stay home, stay safe. Police operation ongoing.”

    The service urged people in the town not to go out on the streets.

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    As AP reports citing Spain’s RTVE, regional police troopers killed four people and injured another seven. The broadcaster added that the police suspected they were planning an attack in Cambrils just hours after a van swerved onto a pedestrian promenade in Barcelona, killing 13.

    It also adds that according to police sources, “the terrorists carried explosives attached to the body.” The broadcaster said the suspects tried to carry out a similar attack to the one in Barcelona.

    Which begs the question: has Spain become the focal point of another suicide bombing terrorist cell?

    Developing.

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Aug 17

Today’s News 17th August 2017

  • Tucker Carlson Obliterates Bill Kristol, Says He's 'Glued to Social Media Like a Slot Machine Junkie in Reno.'

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

    Last night Bill Kristol called out Tucker Carlson for discussing the very real issue of removing monuments of all American forefathers who once owned slaves, saying that Tucker was attempting to rationalize slavery and then later suggested he’d rationalize anti-semitism.

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    If you watched the segment, all Tucker did was pose a very serious question, which I duplicated here that drew the ire of several residents.

    Should we remove the monuments of anyone who once owned slaves?

    Tucker responded last night, calling out Kristol for being ‘glued to social media like a slot machine junkie in Reno. He added that he had once worked for Kristol for 5 years and ‘a generally smart guy’ and a good boss, who was humane and intelligent.

    Tucker then asked, ‘what happened?’

    ‘Hysteria has supplanted rational debate, where the purpose of political argument is to no longer explain your beliefs, but to highlight what a morally upstanding person you are, what a virtuous guy you are, usually by contrast of your opponent, who is by definition, evil. It’s childish, obviously — but for many people it’s pretty tempting. Even 64 year old men with Harvard degrees fall for it, apparently.

    Tucker believes, ‘part of the problem is also the medium.’ He criticized the fact that Bill no longer thinks things through like he used to, when he was the editor at The Weekly Standard.

    ‘Now he just goes on Twitter and he stays on Twitter, all day, every day — dashing off little thoughts and impressions, scoring tiny little points against strangers in cyberspace — keeping obsessive track of his likes and retweets. At an age where he could be spending his time with his grandchildren, Kristol is glued to social media like a slot machine junkie in Reno.’

    Watch.

     

  • China-India Conflict Is Far More Dangerous Than US-North Korea One

    Authored by Adam Garrie via OrientalReview.org,

    While the international media remains concerned to the point of being fixated on the US-DPRK (North Korea) stand-off, in terms of sheer firepower, the much more pressing stand-off between China and India holds the potential to be far more destructive.

    Indian Nuclear Weapons

    While the best intelligence about North Korea’s weapons delivery capabilities indicates that North Korea is in possession of intermediate range ballistic missile systems which are incapable of hitting the US mainland, India’s intermediate range systems are not only more advanced but due to India’s proximity with China, these missiles could easily strike targets within China.

    Of course, China has a vastly more equipped army and nuclear capacity, but any war between China and India that would involve the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles would be a world-changing event.

    While many have focused on the possibility of a short land-based border war, similar to that which the two countries fought in 1962, due to the rapid advance of both the Chinese and Indian militaries in the decades since 1962, there is every possibility that such a war could escalate quickly.

    The Modi Factor

    Much is said in the western mainstream media about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un being unpredictable and flippant. This information is largely based on self-fulfilling propaganda rather than actual knowledge of Kim Jong-Un’s thought process and leadership.

    While little is actually known about Kim Jong-Un’s long term strategic thinking, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s modus operandi is all too clear.

    Modi’s political programme has resulted in economic stagnation, worsening relations with its two most important neighbours, China and Pakistan and increasing incidents of violence, discrimination and intimidation against India’s large Muslim minority.

    With these major failures looming large (however much they are dismissed or rationalised by the ruling BJP), Modi has resorted to an entrenched militant nationalism which has resulted in galvanising the most extreme elements of Modi’s Hindutva base domestically while provoking China by placing Indian troops in territory China claims as its sovereign soil.

    Against this background it could be fair to surmise that India’s leadership is less stable than that of North Korea, even when accounting for the differences in India’s size, wealth and global reach vis-à-vis North Korea.

    If US leaders have been well known to provoke wars to get a poor domestic political performance or a scandal out of the headlines, one should not surmise that Modi will behave any differently. The fact that a conflict with China whether a military conflict, the ensuring trade conflict for which India is virtually entirely responsible or a combination of both, is manifestly to India’s detriment, seems to be lost on a leadership which is obsessed with short term propaganda victories rather than genuine economic and diplomatic progress.

    Actual versus Perceived Chinese Interests

    China’s concerns about Indian violations of its sovereignty and moreover with the anti-cooperative attitude that Modi’s government has taken, is a very serious matter for China. China has repeatedly warned that its patience is being tested and that China will not ultimately hesitate to militarily defend itself, even while stating that war is not China’s preferred option.

    By contrast, China’s interest in both North and South Korea is one of stability and more importantly, one of peace. China, like Russia, does not want to see the Korean war reignite on its borders. This is why China has taken an even hand on the North Korean issue, one that has surprised those who overestimate China’s relationship with the DPRK, one which throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, was less important than Pyongyang’s relationship with the Soviet Union.

    North Korea is on occasion a source of a Chinese headache, but it is the United States which has a lingering geo-strategic ambition to unite Korea under the auspices of a pro-American government. China by contrast would be happy with the status-quo minus weapons tests and military drills on both sides of the 38th parallel.

    In respect of India however, China has a deeply specific set of interests which are summarised as follows:

    1. No threats made to China’s territorial integrity
    2. A resentment towards dealing with an Indian government that from the Chinese perspective is needlessly hostile
    3. A long term goal of cooperation with India in respect of One Belt—One Road
    4. A more intrinsic desire not to see India fall too deeply into the US rather than what Chinese media calls the ‘Asian’ sphere of influence.

    Modi would appear to understand China’s perspective which is perversely why his government is doing precisely the opposite of what China wants. India currently has soldiers on Chinese territory in the disputed Doklam/Donglang region. India is attempting to shut China out of Indian markets in such a manner that seeks to paint India as a competitor to China rather than a country whose economic potential is complimentary to that of China. In an all-out trade war with China, India will lose, the only question remains how badly. Thus far Modi’s attitude does not bode well for an honourable second place.

    Finally, India’s recent purchase of American weapons that are vastly overpriced via-a-vis their Russia or Chinese equitant is an example of Modi being penny wise and pound foolish. Modi’s relationship with the United States is one where Modi is squandering Indian treasure in order to make an expensive point. Donald Trump himself joked at a press conference with Modi that the American side will try and get the final price higher before India commits to a final sale of weapons.

    Conclusion:

    India would stand to benefit greatly from doing what Pakistan has been going for years, namely understanding that the old alignments of the Cold War, including the idea of being non-aligned means something very different in 2017 than it did in 1970. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan’s historically good relations with Russia and its refusal to follow US ally Saudi Arabia into an unnecessary conflict with Qatar and by extrapolation with Iran, demonstrates a far-sighted geo-strategic maturity that will ultimately benefit Pakistan greatly.

    India has every ability to do with China what Pakistan has done with Russia while not losing its old Cold War friend. Until India realises this, it is fair to say that the flash-points of conflict between Beijing and New Deli are far more worrying and could be far more damaging in the long term than the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, frightening though it may at times sound.

  • The Costs Of Ignoring Russia

    Authored by Dmitri Simes via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Current mutual hostility threatens an explosive confrontation

    Improving the dangerously unstable U.S.-Russia relationship will be very difficult, but it is important for U.S. national security. Current mutual hostility threatens an explosive confrontation that could destroy American (and Russian) civilization as we know it. Short of that, Russia can do much more than it is today to damage U.S. interests and values without taking extreme risks. Accordingly, the United States should explore normalizing its interaction with Russia. Washington should do so without illusions, and from a position of strength.

    Today, America and Russia are adversaries with different approaches to key international issues, different systems of government and, in many respects, different values. Each confronts domestic obstacles to efforts to establish better relations. These obstacles are particularly challenging in the United States, where Congress, the mainstream media and much of the American public view Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a vicious enemy akin to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, if not Hitler’s Germany. Unlike China, Russia has only limited economic interaction with America—and therefore few Americans see a practical positive side to contacts with Russia.

    President Putin has much greater latitude in shaping his country’s foreign policy, including exploring a new beginning with Washington. Yet in a period of economic difficulty before Russia’s 2018 presidential election, Putin is loath to appear weak under foreign pressure.

    At the same time, Washington and Moscow continually calculate how their relationship affects their close partners. Thus, for example, Russia cannot disregard how China and Iran might react if they perceive Russia as accommodating the United States on North Korea, Syria or other issues—especially if Moscow’s flexibility compromises their interests.

    Yet failing to arrest the downward spiral in U.S.-Russia relations poses real dangers. The most dramatic, if least likely, is a direct military confrontation leading to uncontrollable escalation and potentially a global catastrophe. Many dismiss this risk, arguing that neither the United States nor Russia wants to commit suicide and would show restraint; however, the same assumption that the other side would pull back at the last moment contributed to World War I. The truth is that no one knows what might happen if U.S. and Russian warplanes started shooting at each another or if American cruise missiles hit Russian bases in Syria. Russia could retaliate asymmetrically, perhaps in eastern Ukraine, and fighting could escalate and spread in ways that trigger NATO’s Article Five guarantees. While the Obama administration may have considered nuclear weapons so terrible as to have little practical utility, Russian military doctrine explicitly describes tactical nuclear weapons as a viable option if Russia is under serious attack. Where would that lead?

    Setting aside nuclear apocalypse, forswearing diplomacy with Moscow because it legitimizes an unsavory government and rewards bad behavior could prompt Russian officials to conclude that they have little left to lose and must weaken and confront what they would view as an unremittingly hostile America. Interfering in the 2016 election could pale by comparison to serious and sustained attacks on infrastructure, financial systems and other foundations of American society, all of which are highly vulnerable to cyberattack. Devastating U.S. retaliation would do little to help millions of affected Americans or to reassure those who escaped harm the first time. There is, likewise, a difference between failing to help the United States prevent proliferation in North Korea or elsewhere, as is the case today, and working actively to assist Pyongyang and other American foes to develop these capabilities. Moscow could arm and support Hezbollah, Hamas and the Taliban too. If Russian leaders feel pushed into a corner, they could even consider a deal with ISIS or others whom they oppose today.

    Finally, Russia could double down on its emerging alignment with China. Russia and China maintain strong mutual suspicions, and China is a much stronger country by most measures. Although both are interested in normal relations with the United States, and would be reluctant to go too far in ways that could lead to a serious conflict, they are fearful of and, indeed, irritated with Washington. They are drawing closer economically and militarily, and are increasingly coordinating their foreign policies. Moscow and Beijing are concerned over American-led encirclement and, specifically, expanding U.S. antimissile systems that threaten their retaliatory capabilities. At a minimum, the worse the U.S.-Russia relationship, the more a rising China can count on Russian support in any disagreement with the United States. Emboldening China in this fashion cannot be in the U.S. national interest.

    To avoid these costs, any responsible U.S. government should want to normalize the relationship with Moscow. The objective should not be to become allies or friends, neither of which is possible or advisable. Instead, Washington should seek a narrow dialogue to avoid an unintended military confrontation, manage differences more effectively and, at times, work together where interests and priorities overlap.

    Pursuing such an approach requires a clear explanation of the U.S. national interests at stake that Congress and the public can understand. It will also require sustained and disciplined attention from the president and a concerted effort to appoint and retain officials both committed to this approach and capable of executing it. Good chemistry between the two presidents is important, but it should be a tool, rather than a basis, of American policy.

    The obstacles to seeking a new approach to Russia are so numerous and momentous that many may feel that even trying is not a good use of President Trump’s time, energy and limited political capital. Yet if it goes badly wrong, the U.S.-Russia relationship could end in nuclear conflict. It would be a travesty for America to do so much to avoid an imaginary mushroom cloud in Iraq and then to ignore far greater looming dangers in a collapsing relationship with Russia.

    The first and most important task for any U.S. administration is to protect the survival and security of the American people. That is why no responsible administration could refuse to pursue a more stable relationship with Russia. It is why every new administration since the end of the Cold War has tried to do just that. No matter how futile these efforts may seem, the United States cannot afford to dismiss diplomacy with Moscow out of hand. Failing to try risks fueling a highly destructive self-fulfilling prophecy that could undermine U.S. national security, as well as America’s foreign-policy objectives around the globe.

  • Which College Offers The "Best Bang" For Your Tuition Buck?

    Is making the investment in a college education still worth it? How much debt can you expect to have after you graduate, and how much money will you make in your career?

    As HowMuch.net details, Nitrocollege.com crunched the numbers from the top twenty public and top twenty private schools in the country and created a visualization to find out. The data was extracted from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. News & World Report

    We ranked each school according to the median salary someone can expect to earn ten years after enrolling. We then looked at the median student debt graduates typically carry. Focusing on median debt and median earnings makes a lot of sense – half of all students fall above these numbers, and half fall below. We then color-coded each school in a floating bar chart, making the private schools blue and the public schools yellow.

    Several things immediately jump out of this visualization.

    First off, private schools dominate the top half of the list while public schools by and large fall to the bottom. Graduates from private universities simply earn more money, which suggests that attending a private school pays off in the long run.

    Source: HowMuch.net

    Top Five Universities by Median Salary 10 Years after Enrollment

    • Harvard – $95,500
    • MIT – $89,200
    • Stanford – $86,000
    • University of Pennsylvania – $$79,700
    • Princeton – $77,900

    Something else stands out about our visualization: Harvard students take on significantly less debt compared to their peers from Ohio State. Nobody thinks Harvard is cheaper than Ohio State, right? More to the point, Harvard grads make more than twice as much money. From a financial perspective, it is by far and away the best school. In fact, the 11 universities with the lowest debt loads are all private. This suggests that many students come from wealthy families who can afford to pay the tuition without taking out loans. Perhaps this also affects their career outcomes.

    Consider another way to look at the data. Suppose you want to find the best bang for your buck – you want the highest earning potential with the lowest possible debt, but you also want to avoid paying private school tuition. Where should you go?

    The University of California, Berkeley offers the best opportunity. Graduates have the highest earning potential of all public schools at $60,800 with the lowest debt burden of $14,200.

    There’s a lot that goes into picking the right school. You have to decide how much debt you are comfortable carrying, and ask yourself if the future earning potential is worth it. The most important factor you should consider, however, is how much you are willing to pay for the life-defining experiences that come with a college degree.

  • Korean War Part II: Why It's Probably Going To Happen

    Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

    Though a lot of people in my line of work (alternative economic and geopolitical analysis) tend to be accused of "doom mongering," I have to say personally I am not a big believer in "doom." At least, not in the way that the accusation insinuates. I don't believe in apocalypse, Armageddon or the end of the world, nor do I even believe, according to the evidence, that a global nuclear conflict is upon us. In fact, it annoys me that so many people seem desperate to imagine those conclusions whenever a crisis event takes shape.

    I think the concept of "apocalypse" is rather lazy – unless we are talking about a fantastical movie scenario, like a meteor the size of Kentucky or Michelle Obama's Adam's apple hurtling towards the Earth. Human civilization is more likely to change in the face of crisis rather than end completely.

    I do believe in massive sea-changes in societies and political dynamics. I believe in the fall of nations and empires. I believe in this because I have seen it perpetually through history. What I see constant evidence of is that many of these sea changes are engineered by establishment elitists in government and finance. What I see is evidence of organized psychopathy and an agenda for total centralization of power. When I stumble upon the potential for economic disaster or war, I always ask myself "what is the narrative being sold to the public, what truth is it distracting us from and who REALLY benefits from the calamity."

    The saying "all wars are banker wars" is not an unfair generalization — it is a safe bet.

    First, let's clear up some misconceptions about public attitudes towards the North Korean situation.

    According to "polls" (I'll remind readers my ample distrust of polls), a majority of Americans now actually support U.S. troop deployment to North Korea, but only on the condition that North Korea attacks first.

    I want you to remember that exception – North Korea must attack first. It will be important for later in this analysis.

    Despite a wide assumption that the mainstream media is beating the war drums on this issue, I find it is in most cases doing the opposite. The mainstream media has instead been going out of its way to downplay any chance that the current inflamed rhetoric on both sides of the Pacific is anything other than bluster that will end with a whimper rather than bomb blasts. This is one of the reasons why I think war is imminent; the media is a notorious contrarian indicator. Whatever they predict is usually the opposite of what comes true (just look at Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, for starters).  Another generalization that is a sure bet is that the mainstream media usually lies, or at the very least, they are mostly wrong.

    That said, if we are to believe the latest polls, unfortunately, one thing is clear: The American people, on both sides of the political spectrum, are becoming more galvanized around supporting a potential conflict with North Korea. For the establishment, war is a winning sell, at least for now.

    Of course, I am aware that we have heard all this before. Back in 2013 tensions were relatively high with North Korea just like they are today. North Korea threatened a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. back then, too, and in the end it was all hot air. However, besides wider public support than ever before in terms of troop deployment to North Korea, something else is very different from 2013. Primarily, China's stance on the issue of regime change.

    In the past, China has been consistent in supporting UN sanctions against North Korea's nuclear program while remaining immovable on war and regime change in the region. In 2013, it was clear that China was hostile to the notion of a U.S. invasion.

    In 2017, though, something has changed. China's deep ties to the global banking establishment, their open statements on their affection for the IMF, and their recent induction as the flagship nation for the IMF's Special Drawing Rights system make it clear that they are working for the globalist agenda, not against it. This is not necessarily a new thing behind the curtain; China has done the bidding of globalist institutions for decades. Today though, the relationship is displayed far more publicly.

    In 2015, it was China, not the U.S., that sounded the alarm over North Korea's nuclear program, indicating that Pyongyang might have technology well beyond American estimates. It was this warning that triggered the slow buildup to today's fear over a fully capable intercontinental ballistic missile package in the hands of North Korea. It seems obvious to me that China plays the role of North Korea's friend as long as it serves the interests of the globalist agenda, and then China turns on North Korea when the narrative calls for a shift in the script. It is China that opens and closes the door to war with North Korea; a China that is very cooperative with the IMF and the push towards total globalization.

    In 2013, China presented the narrative of stalwart opposition to U.S. invasion. In 2017, China has left the door wide open.

    Both alternative and mainstream media outlets latched onto recent statements made by Beijing proclaiming that China "would not allow regime change in North Korea." What many of them forgot to mention or buried in their own articles, though, was that this was NOT China's entire statement. China also asserted that they would REMAIN NEUTRAL if North Korea attacked first. I cannot find any previous instance in the past when China has made such a statement; a statement that amounts to a note of permission.

    Both the American public and the Chinese government have given support for regime change in North Korea given the stipulation that there is an attack on the U.S. or U.S. interests and allies. So, I ask you, what is most likely to happen here?

    Much of the world and most importantly the U.S. is on the verge of a new phase of severe economic decline according to all fundamental data trends. The U.S. is set to enter into yet another debate on the debt ceiling issue with many on the conservative side demanding that Trump and Republicans not roll over this time. And, as I discussed in my article 'Geopolitical Tensions Are Designed To Distract The Public From Economic Decline', a North Korean conflict stands as the best possible distraction.

    How does the establishment rationalize a contested debt ceiling increase while also diverting blame away from themselves on the continued decline in U.S. and global fiscal data? War! Not necessarily a "world war" as so many are quick to imagine, but a regional war; a quagmire war that will put the final nail in the U.S. debt coffin and act as the perfect scapegoat for the inevitable implosion of the current stock market bubble. The international banks have much to gain and little to lose in a war scenario with North Korea.

    I predict that there will be an attack blamed on North Korea. Either North Korea will be prodded into a violent reaction, or, a false flag event will be engineered and tied to Pyongyang. Remember, for the first time ever, China has essentially backed off of its opposition to invasion of North Korea as long as North Korea "attacks preemptively." Why? Why didn't they make this exception back in 2013? Because now the international banks want a distraction and China is giving them the opening they require.

    Will this war culminate in global nuclear conflagration? No. The establishment has spent decades and untold trillions building it's biometric control grids and staging the new global monetary framework under the SDR system. They are not going to vaporize all of this in an instant through a nuclear exchange. What they will do, though, is launch regional wars and also economic wars. Those people expecting apocalypse in the Hollywood sense are going to find something different, but in my opinion much worse — a steady but slower decline into economic ruin and global centralization.

    Eventually, China and the U.S. will enter hostilities, but these hostilities will lean more towards the financial than the kinetic. The establishment cabal works in stages, not in absolute events. Another Korean war would be a disaster for America, just not in the way many people think.

    Will there be a nuclear event? Yes. If war takes place in North Korea then it is likely they will use a nuclear device somewhere in retaliation. We may even see a nuclear event as a false flag catalyst for starting the war in the first place. This will not be a global threat, but a mushroom cloud over any American city or outpost is enough to scare the hell out of most people. It is all that will be needed.

    Does this mean "doom" for the American people? It depends on how we react. Will we continue to hold the banking establishment responsible for all of their sabotage previous to a high profile war in the pacific? Or, will we get caught up in the tides of war fever? Will we question the source of future attacks on the U.S., or will we immediately point fingers at whoever the media or government tells us is the enemy? Our response really is the greatest determining factor in whether or not the American ideal of liberty stands or falls. This time, I do not see bluster, but a dark fog very common in the moments preceding conflict. This time, I believe we are indeed facing war, but war is always a means to an end. War is an establishment tool for social engineering on a massive scale.

  • Study Finds Higher Min. Wages Bring Crushing Job Losses For Female And Minority Workers

    Anyone who has a basic understanding of elementary-level arithmetic and some common sense can easily explain why raising the minimum wage is bad for employment levels.  In a nutshell, higher labor costs simply improve the payback profile of capital investments in technology thus accelerating job losses.

    We recently shared the following example regarding California’s minimum wage hike from $10 per hour to $15.  At $10 per hour and a 10-year payback, employers may be reluctant to invest in new technology.  But, at $15 per hour and a 6-years payback, that investment become a no-brainer.

    Payback Example 

    Unfortunately, while these concepts are somewhat simplistic for most us, they have confounded left-leaning economists and politicians pretty much since the beginning of time.

    And while no amount of empirical evidence will change their minds, here is yet another study, this time from Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and David Neumark of UC Irvine, offering up evidence that raising minimum wages only serves to increase unemployment and disproportionately crushes female and minority low-income workers.

    Entitled “People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs,” the study found that each $1 increase in the minimum wage decreased the “share of lowskilled automatable jobs by 0.43 percentage point.”  Here’s a summary of Lordan’s findings:

    Overall, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers. Our estimates suggest that an increase of the minimum wage by $1 (based on 2015 dollars) decreases the share of lowskilled automatable jobs by 0.43 percentage point (an elasticity of ?0.11). However, these average effects mask significant heterogeneity by industry and by demographic group. In particular, there are large effects on the shares of automatable employment in manufacturing, where we estimate that a $1 increase in the minimum wage decreases the share of automatable employment among low-skilled workers by 0.99 percentage point (elasticity of ?0.17). Within manufacturing, the share of older workers in automatable employment declines most sharply, and the share of workers in automatable employment also declines sharply for women and blacks.

    Min Wage

     

    Meanwhile, the results are even worse for workers over 40, females and minorities…

    For example, a higher minimum wage significantly reduces the shares of both younger (? 25) and older (> 40) workers in jobs that are automatable, by a larger magnitude compared to those aged 26-39. For the younger and older groups, the estimates imply that a $1 increase in the minimum wage reduces the shares in automatable work by 0.94 and 0.72 percentage points respectively (the corresponding elasticities are ?0.20 and ?0.17. Looking by both age and industry, for older workers (? 40 years old) the negative effect mainly arises in the manufacturing and public administration sectors (a decrease of 1.68 and 3.50 percentage points for a $1 minimum wage increase respectively), while for younger workers (< 25 years old) the effects are large in many sectors but the estimate is close to zero for manufacturing. The middle age group, also, exhibits a decline in the share of workers in automatable jobs in manufacturing when the minimum wage increases – a 1.21 percentage point decline for a $1 increase. Thus, older workers appear more vulnerable to substitution away from automatable jobs when the minimum wage increases.

     

    On average, females are affected more adversely than males: in the aggregate estimates in column (1), the negative estimate is significant only for females, and is almost ten times larger, indicating that, for females, a minimum wage increase of $1 causes a decrease of 1.01 percentage points in the share of automatable jobs (the elasticity is ?0.14). Across industries, these negative effects for females are concentrated in manufacturing, services, and public administration; for example, a $1 minimum wage increase reduces the share of automatable jobs in public administration by 3.67 percentage points – an elasticity of ?0.41). For males, only the estimate for manufacturing is statistically significant; the estimated effect implies that a $1 increase in the minimum wage causes a decrease of 0.62 percentage point (an elasticity of ?0.13).

     

    Table 3 also points to similar overall effects by race, with a $1 increase in the minimum wage reducing the share in automatable jobs by 0.57 percentage point for whites and 0.72 percentage point for blacks. However, the effects are heterogeneous across industries. There are large estimated effects in manufacturing (1.19 percentage points) and public administration (1.53 percentage points) for whites, although only the first estimate is statistically significant. For blacks, there are large and statistically significant decreases in automatable shares in manufacturing and transport (declines of about 4.5 percentage point in both).

    Min Wage

     

    But, as usual, we’re sure this extra data will have no impact on Bernie’s “Fight for $15.”  Amazing how some politicians will embrace math and science when arguing climate change but completely reject it when discussing minimum wage…wonder why?

    $15

  • "No One Gave Peace A Chance, Including The Police" – John Whitehead Warns "We're Walking A Dangerous Road"

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders.” — Robert F. Kennedy

    Let’s be clear about one thing: no one—not the armed, violent, militant protesters nor the police—gave peace a chance during the August 12 demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va.

    What should have been an exercise in free speech quickly became a brawl.

    It’s not about who threw the first punch or the first smoke bomb.

    It’s not about which faction outshouted the other, or which side perpetrated more violence, or even which group can claim to be the greater victim.

    One young woman is dead because of the hate, violence, intolerance, racism and partisanship that is tearing this country apart, and it has to stop.

    Lawful, peaceful, nonviolent First Amendment activity did not kill Heather Heyer.

    She was killed by a 20-year-old Neo-Nazi who drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Charlottesville, Va.

    Words, no matter how distasteful or disagreeable, did not turn what should have been an exercise in free speech into a brawl.

    That was accomplished by militant protesters on both sides of the debate who arrived at what should have been a nonviolent protest armed with sticks and guns, bleach bottles, balloons filled with feces and urine and improvised flamethrowers, and by the law enforcement agencies who stood by and allowed it.

    As the New York Times reported, “Protesters began to mace one another, throwing water bottles and urine-filled balloons — some of which hit reporters — and beating each other with flagpoles, clubs and makeshift weapons. Before long, the downtown area was a melee. People were ducking and covering with a constant stream of projectiles whizzing by our faces, and the air was filled with the sounds of fists and sticks against flesh.”

    The madness is spreading.

    People I know—good, decent people who value equality, reject racism, and believe strongly in tolerance—in their grief and dismay and disgust, threatened violence, acted like a mob, and adopted similarly violent, intolerant, disorderly tactics as those they claim to oppose.

     

    Those who defend free speech were castigated by those who believe that only certain views should be allowed to be heard.

     

    Those who cling to nonviolence were outnumbered by angry mobs intent on inciting violence.

     

    Those who normally advocate a message of tolerance gave into the temptation to spew hate and intolerance.

    The Rutherford Institute and the ACLU, two organizations who repeatedly stand up for the Constitution and the rights of all people—no matter how disagreeable their views may be—have been cursed at, denounced and threatened with violence for daring to remind government officials (and members of the community) that the First Amendment applies to all people equally.

    We are walking a dangerous road.

    And then there’s the role police are supposed to play in upholding the law and preventing violence.

    It’s a thankless job most of the time, and police must walk a fine line between respecting peaceful First Amendment activity and maintaining the peace, while not overstepping the limits of the Fourth Amendment.

    For whatever reason—which only the police and government officials are privy to—the police failed to do their job at the Charlottesville demonstration, a charge levied by both the Alt Right and the counterdemonstrators.

    Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, despite the fact that police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, and despite the fact that Charlottesville had had what reporter David Graham referred to as “a dress rehearsal of sorts” a month earlier when 30 members of the Ku Klux Klan were confronted by 1000 counterprotesters, police failed to do their jobs.

    In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.”

    So what should the police have done differently?

    For starters, the police should have established clear boundaries—buffer zones—between the warring groups of protesters and safeguarded the permit zones.

    Instead, as eyewitness accounts indicate, police established two entrances into the permit areas of the park and created barriers “guiding rallygoers single-file into the park” past lines of white nationalists and antifa counterprotesters.

    There were other models that could have been followed.

    As investigative reporter Sarah Posner notes, “At a neo-Nazi rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just days before the November election, police employed this tactic with success – while the rally attendees and anti-fascist protesters taunted each other over a barrier of police, they were blocked from coming into physical contact.

    In Cleveland, the site of the GOP presidential convention, “Trump diehards, Revolutionary Communists, Wobblies, and Alex Jones disciples” faced off in a downtown plaza. Yet as The Atlantic reports, “Just as confrontations between the groups seemed near to getting out of hand, police swooped into the square in huge numbers, using bicycles to create cordons between rival factions. The threat of violence soon passed, and no pepper spray or tear gas was needed.”

    For that matter, consider that Charlottesville police established clear boundaries just a month earlier in which they maintained clear lines of demarcation at all times between KKK protesters and counterprotesters.

    The question, as always, is where do we go from here?

    It’s a question that Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with and addressed in the last book he wrote before his assassination, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

    As King pointed out repeatedly, hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.

    And as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, tyranny begets tyranny.

    The lesson for all of us is this: remember, when you strip away the politics and the class warfare and the skin color and the religious ideology and the gender differences and the sexual orientation and anything else that can be used as a source of division, remember that underneath it all, we are all the same.

    As Nelson Mandela recognized, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

  • Gov. Cuomo Wants To Remove Names Of Confederate Generals From New York Streets

    As a tidal wave of cultural revisionism sweeps America in the aftermath of this weekend’s tragic Charlottesville clashes, prompting governors to tear down Confederate statues across the country, the governor of New York has a different idea and if Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets his way, the names of the two Confederate generals – Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson – will be removed from streets on an Army base in New York City, according to the NY Daily News.

    General Lee Avenue is a main thoroughfare stretching through the center of Fort Hamilton, an Army installation in Brooklyn. Stonewall Jackson Drive is located in the southwestern corner of the base.

    A recent attempt by local leaders to have the names removed from the Fort Hamilton streets was denied by the Army on August 7. The Army said renaming the streets would be “controversial and divisive.” However, on Wednesday Cuomo decided that the army’s idea of divisiveness is less important than his own, and called on the Army to reconsider its recent decision not to rename two streets in Brooklyn honoring Civil War Confederate generals. “Renaming these streets will send a clear message that in New York, we stand against intolerance and racism, whether it be insidious and hidden or obvious and intentional,” Cuomo wrote in a letter sent to acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

    “Given the events of this week, including the violence and terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and the resulting emboldening of the voices of Nazis and white supremacists, I now strongly urge the U.S. Army to reconsider its decision and I call on them to rename these streets,” Cuomo said.

    “Symbols of slavery and racism have no place in New York,” said Cuomo, who has long been discussed as a possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. The governor wrote that New York condemns language and violence of white supremacy “in no uncertain terms.”  “Unlike President Trump, we stand together to say that there are not many sides to hatred and bigotry; they do not belong in our communities and must be denounced for what they are.”

    In rejecting the initial request to rename the two streets, Army Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff Diane Randon wrote to Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke that the naming of the streets after Confederate generals was originally done in “the spirit of reconciliation” and to honor soldiers who were “an inextricable part of our military history.”

    “After over a century, any effort to rename memorializations on Fort Hamilton would be controversial and divisive,” Randon wrote.

    Cuomo’s request comes as other cities and states consider what should be done with monuments honoring Confederate generals and pro-slavery advocates.

    In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan wants a statue of former Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney removed from the State House grounds. Taney wrote the decision in the Dred Scott case, which prevented black people from becoming U.S. citizens. The city of Baltimore removed four Confederate statues overnight Tuesday. Earlier in the day, a Chicago pastor called for the names of “slave owner” presidents such as George Washington and Andrew Jackson, to be removed from Chicago parks.

    On Wednesday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called for the removal of Jackson and Lee busts from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, which is on the Bronx Community College campus. 

    Cuomo has been outspoken about Charlottesville since the weekend. He launched a petition urging President Donald Trump to condemn white supremacists. He also proposed changes to the state’s hate crimes law that would increase penalties for riots that target people based on race, gender, religion or other protected classes.

    “The events of Charlottesville and the tactics of white supremacists are a poison in our national discourage, and every effort must be made to combat them,” Cuomo wrote in his letter to McCarthy.

  • Pastor Wants Names Of "Slave Owner" Presidents Removed From Chicago Parks

    Imagine being triggered by George Washington.

    Bishop James Dukes, a pastor at Liberation Christian Center located on Chicago’s south side, is demanding that the city of Chicago re-dedicate two parks in the area that are named after former presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson. His reasons? Dukes says that monuments honoring men who owned slaves have no place in the black community, even if those men once led the free world.

    Dukes is also demanding that the city remove a bronze statue of Washington on horseback that stands at the corner of 51st and King Drive, at the northwest entrance to Washington Park, according to CBS Chicago.

    “’When I see that, I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery, and was three-fifths of humans,’ he said. ‘Some people out here ask me, say ‘Well, you know, he taught his slaves to read.’ That’s almost sad; the equivalent of someone who kidnaps you, that you gave them something to eat.”

     

    Dukes said, even though Washington was the nation’s first president and led the American army in the Revolutionary War, he’s no hero to the black community.

     

    ‘There’s no way plausible that we would even think that they would erect a Malcolm X statue in Mount Greenwood, Lincoln Park, or any of that. Not that say Malcolm X was a bad guy; they just would not go for it,’ he said. ‘Native Americans would not even think about putting up a Custer statue, because of the atrocities that he plagued upon Native Americans. And for them to say to us ‘just accept it’ is actually insulting.’”

    To be sure, Dukes has proposed a solution that would allow the parks to keep at least part of their names. The city could re-dedicate Washington Park to former Mayor Harold Washington, and Jackson Park could be renamed after Michael Jackson (or maybe even one of his sisters). Dukes also emphasized that he’s not trying to “erase” history, but rather that black people should have a say over who is and isn’t honored on land in their community.

    “I think we should be able to identify and decide who we declare heroes in or communities, because we have to tell the stories to our children of who these persons are,” he said.

    Dukes said parks, statues, or other monuments honoring Presidents Washington and Jackson might be appropriate elsewhere, but not in black neighborhoods.

    “In an African-American community, it’s a slap in the face and it’s a disgrace for them to honor someone who was a slave owner.

    He said he's sent letters to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District asking them to change the names of Washington and Jackson parks. He shared the letter on Facebook.

    “I am feeling ambivalent that I would have to walk my child, attend a parade or enjoy a game of softball in a park that commemorates the memory of a slave owner,” Dukes wrote in his Facebook post, according to CBS’s Chicago affiliate.

     

    “Therefore, I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago. They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade.”

    Dukes’ call to remove Washington’s statue follows the toppling of a monument commemorating the Confederacy during an “emergency protest” held over the weekend. Antifa leader Takiya Thompson was hit with several charges, including at least one felony, after she led a crowd of angry protesters to topple a statue of a Confederate soldier located outside the historic Durham, N.C. courthouse. The 15-feet tall monument was erected in 1924 and engraved at the base with the words, “In memory of ‘the boys who wore the gray.’”

    Takiya Thompson, who is part of the far-left Workers World Party, described her actions as tearing down "vestiges of white supremacy."

    Is this the beginning of a widespread campaign to remove all statues and public memorials that are in some way tainted by a racist or violent past? If so, Americans should go visit their favorite public works of art now, before the repressive left succeeds in either sanitizing them, or having them removed altogether.
     

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Aug 16

Today’s News 16th August 2017

  • Korea And Venezuela: Flip Sides Of The Same Coin

    Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

    By suggesting that he might order a U.S. regime-change invasion of Venezuela, President Trump has inadvertently shown why North Korea has been desperately trying to develop nuclear weapons – to serve as a deterrent or defense against one of the U.S. national-security state storied regime-change operations. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Venezuela and, for that matter, other Third World countries who stand up to the U.S. Empire, also seeking to put their hands on nuclear weapons. What better way to deter a U.S. regime-change operation against them?

    Think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. national-security establishment had initiated a military invasion of the Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, had exhorted President Kennedy to bomb Cuba during that invasion, and then had recommended that the president implement a fraudulent pretext (i.e., Operation Northwoods) for a full-scale military invasion of Cuba.

    That’s why Cuba, which had never initiated any acts of aggression against the United States, wanted Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba. Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro knew that there was no way that Cuba could defeat the United States in a regular, conventional war. Everyone knows that the military establishment in the United States is so large and so powerful that it can easily smash any Third World nation, including Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Venezuela.

    Castro’s strategy worked. The Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba drove Kennedy to reject the Pentagon’s and CIA’s vehement exhortations to bomb and invade Cuba. The way the Pentagon and the CIA saw the situation was that Kennedy now had his justification for effecting a violent regime-change operation in Cuba. The way Kennedy saw the situation was that a violent regime-change operation through bombing and invasion could easily result in all-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia.

    It turned out that Kennedy was right. What the Pentagon and the CIA didn’t realize at the time is that Soviet commanders on the ground in Cuba had fully armed tactical nuclear weapons at their disposal and the battlefield authority to use them in the event of a U.S. bombing or invasion of the island. If Kennedy had complied with the dictates of the Pentagon and the CIA, it is a virtual certainty that the result would have been all-out nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. To his ever-lasting credit, Kennedy struck a deal in which he vowed that the United States would cease and desist from invading Cuba in return for the Soviet Union’s withdrawal of its nuclear missiles from Cuba.

    The point is this: If the Pentagon and the CIA had not been trying to get regime-change in Cuba, Cuba would never have felt the need to get those Soviet missiles. It was the Pentagon’s and CIA’s commitment to regime change in Cuba that gave us the the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Equally important, the resolution of the crisis showed that if an independent, recalcitrant Third World regime wants to protect itself from a U.S. national-security-state regime-change operation, the best thing it can do is secure nuclear weapons. Thus, the current crisis over North Korea’s quest to get nuclear weapons to deter a U.S. regime-change operation is rooted in how Cuba deterred the U.S. national security establishment’s regime-change efforts in 1962.

    Americans would be wise to regime change operations in North Korea and Venezuela in the context of the U.S. government’s overall foreign policy of military empire and interventionism.

    Recall, first of all, that the U.S. government has a long history of interventionism in Latin America, where it has brought nothing but death, destruction, suffering, misery, and tyranny. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Panama, and Grenada come to mind.

    In fact, the situation in Chile that resulted in U.S. intervention was quite similar to today’s situation in Venezuela. In Chile, a socialist was democratically elected and began adopting socialist policies, which caused economic chaos and crisis. The CIA and Pentagon intentionally and secretly did everything they could to makes matters worse. U.S. officials even engaged in bribery, kidnapping, and assassination in Chile. They incited and encouraged a coup that succeeded in ousting the democratically elected socialist and replaced by a “pro-capitalist” military general, whose forces proceeded to round up, kidnap, torture, rape, or execute tens of thousands of people, including the murder of two Americans, all with the support and complicity of the Pentagon and the CIA.

    Haven’t we seen the same types of results with the U.S. regime-change operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere? Death, destruction, and chaos, not to mention a gigantic refugee crisis for Europe.

    And look at what the pro-empire, interventionist system has done to the American people. Constant, never-ending crises and chaos, with North Korea being just the latest example. Out of control federal spending and debt that are threatening the nation with financial bankruptcy and economic and monetary crises. Totalitarian-like powers being exercised by the president and his national-security establishment, including assassination, torture, and indefinite detention. Weird, bizarre random acts of violence that reflect the same lack of regard for the sanctity of human life that U.S. officials display in faraway countries.

    None of this is necessary. It’s entirely possible for Americans to live normal, healthy, free lives. All it takes is a change of direction – one away from empire and interventionism and toward a limited-government republic and non-interventionism in the affairs of other nations. That’s the way to achieve a free, prosperous, harmonious, and friendly society.

  • Tucker Carlson Asks the Question: Will the Left Refute America’s Forefathers Because They Owned Slaves?

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

    I cannot see how the left cannot call for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others to be removed from the public square, libraries, museums, universities and our currency.

    Since the left is out to get all racists, feverishly on the lookout for nazis and alt-right retards, ripping down statues of confederates, why not go to the source of all this racism, eh? America’s forefathers.

    41 out of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. Therefore, and using the same logic we’re applying to the white supremacists in the streets demanding, err, nothing, we must reject the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and America, basically.

    The country is over.

    Tucker Carlson lays it out perfectly. I’d like to hear from any left wingers who disagree with my train of thought and explain to me why we should revere Thomas Jefferson.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Naturally, Bill Kristol attacked Tucker for his cogent analysis. Brit Hume came to his defense.

     

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    NOTE: Earlier today, the President had it out with the media over this very topic. Here is the full showdown.

  • Paul Craig Roberts On Charlottesville: "Identity Politics Always Leads To Violence, Americans Won't Be Spared"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    Listening to NPR this morning confirmed what I already knew. Charlottesville is being turned into another nail in President Trump’s coffin.

    NPR had no interest whatsoever in reporting the actual facts about what had occurred in Charlottesville. The several “interviews” with the like-minded were orchestrated to produce the desired propaganda result: It was all Trump’s fault.

    It was Trump’s fault for many reasons.

    He had stirred up White Supremacists and Nazis by appealing during the presidential election campaign to their supremacist views with his slogan “America first.”

    Of course, what Trump means by “America first,” is precisely what the voters understood him to mean—the interest of the broad American public should come before trade deals that serve the interests of other countries and the narrow profit interests of global corporations. However, the NPR propagandists put words in Trump’s mouth and twisted the meaning of the slogan to be “White America Comes First.”

    In other words, “America first” according to NPR is code language to white supremacists to take advantage of the electoral college and elect a leader over the popular vote of the heavy population densities in the narrow geographical areas that comprise the northeast and west coasts, the centers of moral rot. Thus, Trump was the candidate of white supremacists and, thereby, illegitimate.

    NPR next conveyed the message that Trump proved he was the Nazis’ candidate when he criticized both sides for the trouble in Charlottesville. NPR used its orchestrated interviews to place all blame for violence on the group that had a permit for their rally. According to NPR, the group that had no permit and formed in order to protest the rally consisted entirely of white hats defending America from free speech from alleged Nazis and racists.

    There is no doubt that a rally of what is called the “alt-right” will pull into itself all sorts of extremists and that the cause of the rally, apparently defending a statue of Robert E. Lee from demolition or perhaps simply gaining attention for the organizers, was done harm by the young, apparently unbalanced, man who drove a car into counter-marchers, after the permitted rally had ended. The nonsensical element of this act has convinced some Americans that the entire scene was an orchestration by the deep state as a weapon against Trump and civil liberty.

    Charlottesville has many aspects that are ignored by NPR and the rest of the presstitutes.

    For example, how does the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neoconservative assertion that Americans are the “exceptional people” whose country is the “indispensable country” differ from Trump’s proclamation of “America first”? No one among the liberal/progressive/left was disturbed when Obama proclaimed to the world that Americans are the exceptional, indispensable people. Doesn’t Obama use much clearer language that puts America first? If Americans are exceptional, everyone else is unexceptional. If Americans are indispensable, everyone else is dispensable.

    What is the difference?

    One difference is that Obama was elected by the good people, the non-racist, non-misogynist, non-white-supremacist people, and Trump was elected by “the deplorables,” to use Hillary’s term. Little wonder she lost, having dismissed everyone between the two coasts as “deplorables.”

     

    But she didn’t lose, right? Putin and Trump conspired to steal the election from her. Trump is illegitimate and therefore must be driven out of office. He is doubly illegitimate because white heterosexual males elected him. This bogus charge despite the fact that Hillary got 2 million less votes from women than did Obama. Either the 2 million women didn’t vote or they voted for Trump.

     

    The other difference is that Trump’s use of “America first” refers to the loss of millions of American middle class jobs and tax base for former manufacturing cities and states, whereas the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neoconservative use of “exceptional, indispensable America” refers to Washington’s right to bomb other peoples into the stone age for not complying with Washington’s orders.

    The campaign to drive Trump out of office has been going on 24/7 since Trump confounded the pundits and won the election. For the liberal/progressive/left Trump is the enemy against whom they are conducting war, and as in war, truth is crowded out by propaganda. The liberal/progressive/left gets away with this abuse of news reporting because Trump’s intent to reduce tensions with Russia is seen as threats to the income and power of the military/security complex and the hegemonic ideology of the neoconservatives. Powerful material interests, ideology, and media together comprise a very strong force against which a mere president hasn’t a chance.

    Few Americans understand the fundamental transformation of their politics and society since the 1960s when the Civil Rights Act was stood on its head by EEOC compliance chief Alfred W. Bloomrosen. The Civil Rights Act explicitly prohibited racial and gender quotas as methods to combat “discrimination,” which was mainly a product of history rather than of the motivations of white males. But it is difficult to make history a villain, and social engineering benefits from having a villain to overcome. Thus was the foundation of Identity Politics laid.

    The initial stage of the new politics was that quotas established privilege for “preferred minorities,” and preference began prevailing over merit.

    Over the decades white males have slowly but surely experienced discrimination in university admissions, hiring, promotions, university appointments, and in their ability to exercise free speech. Remember, only a few days ago a senior male engineer at Google was fired because he expressed a truthful fact—men and women have different traits—that is unacceptable to feminists.

    Perhaps somewhere at some time a woman or a black has been fired for saying something unacceptable to a white male, but I know of no such case. Indeed, it is common parlance that white heterosexual males are racists, sexists, and homophobic. This is the accepted language of Identity Politics. Few of us are brave enough to challenge it.

    The liberal/progressive/left along with the media has abandoned the working class for Identity Politics. Identity Politics teaches that women, blacks, and homosexuals are all victims of white heterosexual males who are characterized as the victimizer class, that is, those who victimize others.  The doctrine delegitimizes white heterosexual males in the same way that Nazi doctrine delegitimizes Jews and communist doctrine delegitimizes capitalists. There is no difference.

    Initially, white males, such as the University of Virginia history professor on NPR today who obligingly demonized the white males who do not accept their second class status, survive by mouthing Identity Politics and crawling on their knees. But this is a temporary respite. For Identity Politics the only acceptable white heterosexual males are those who admit their gender and sexual preference guilt and accept their punishment for being the victimizers of women, blacks, and homosexuals.

    In 1995 in our book, The New Color Line, How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, Larry Stratton and I describe how one EEOC bureaucrat by ignoring the statutory language of the Civil Rights Act, legislation the intent of which was to enforce equality before the law, reintroduced legalized discrimination into US law, thus beginning the process of delegitimizing the white male. Today some would turn their backs on this fact, not because it is invalid but because it is politically incorrect. When our book was published 22 years ago, the major media endorsed our argument:

    “A forceful and convincing case . . . vividly dramatic.” — New York Times Book Review

     

    “There are important lessons to learn . . . not least how good intentions can go badly awry.” — The Wall Street Journal

     

    “Roberts and Stratton make a strong case that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s has been distorted beyond recognition.” — The Washington Post

    The consequence of quotas wasn’t obvious at first, and there were claims that the quotas were temporary, but today the consequence is obvious. Heterosexual white males are deplorables.

    Today on NPR one male said that the views of white males who defend both themselves and dead white males from attacks should not be allowed a voice in American politics.

    The liberal/progressive/left asserts that everyone knows that Robert E. Lee was an evil racist who fought for slavery and everyone who wants to protect his statue is obviously the same. Such people deserve no voice, no vote. They must be excluded from public discussion.

    Imagine saying this about any other group, especially women, blacks, and homosexuals. How is it possible for the liberal/progressive/left to really believe that they are oppressed by powerful white male heterosexuals when they can demonize white males at will and prevent any backtalk?

    If white males are so powerful, how can they be so easily fired by feminist thought control czars for “expressing harmful gender stereotypes.” Harmful to who? How harmful is getting fired?

    As Faith Goldy and Stefan Molyneux predict, white males have had enough of their demonization and the demonization of our country’s heros. They see the writing on the wall and are organizing to defend themselves.

    As anti-white male propaganda is apparently the only mental activity of which the liberal/progressive/left is capable, Faith Goldy and Stefan Molyneux are probably correct that America, broken into pieces by Identity Politics, is heading into civil war.

    I wonder which side will control the nukes and bio-chemical weapons.

    If the white heterosexual males lose, I wonder who will protect the white women. Are they destined for the same rape and butchery as befell German women from the Russians and Americans once the Wehrmacht surrendered?

    Of course, this is an impermissible question.

    The liberal/progressive/left are incapable of understanding that by demonizing white heterosexual males they are demonizing all whites and, thereby, themselves.

    They should go ask the liberal whites in Rhodesia how well they are faring in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. They should ask South African whites how secure they believe themselves to be now that they have turned over power and a second black political party has risen, forcing political competition between black politicians into which black party hates whites the most.

    These also are impermissible questions.

    Identity Politics always leads to violence, and Americans will not be spared.

  • Visualizing The Diversity Of The Tech Industry

    With the recent leak of the “Google Manifesto” and the maelstrom of media backlash that followed, Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes that it seems that concerns around diversity in the technology industry have finally reached a boiling point.

    Today’s infographic from Information is Beautiful breaks down the demographics of 23 major tech companies, based on statistics from 2016. It also provides comparisons to the composition of the U.S. population in general, the top 50 U.S. companies, Congress, and Fortune 500 CEOs.

    Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

     

    WHICH COMPANIES EMPLOY THE MOST WOMEN?

    With just a focus on the major companies on this list, here is a breakdown that shows which companies employ the most women:

    The above list already illustrates why diversity is such a concern for many observers of the industry: even the companies with the most women on their rosters have proportions lower than U.S. population average of 50%.

    In contrast, here are the companies on the list that employ the fewest women, as a proportion of their workforce:

    Google, which is at the center of debate right now, did not make the list of the companies with the fewest women – but it’s not far off with a workforce comprised of 31% women.

    WHAT’S CHANGED IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS?

    According to Information is Beautiful, here is what has changed in the last 12 months as of their last update (April 2017):

    • Facebook, Apple, eBay, and Microsoft all had their ratio of women increase by 1%.
    • LinkedIn had their ratio of women increase by 3%.
    • Google’s gender ratio stayed the same.
    • Microsoft increased the ratio of non-white employees by 3%, and Facebook by 2%.
    • Google, Apple, and eBay increased ratio of non-white employees by 1%.
    • LinkedIn lost 3% of its non-white employees.
    • Asian staff accounted for the majority of increases in ethnic diversity, while the ratio of Hispanic employees remained static.

    To get an even better sense of the data, we recommend visiting the interactive version of Information is Beautiful’s graphic, which shows numbers for 2014 and 2015 as well.

  • Brien Lundin: If They Don't Want You To Own It, You Probably Should

    Authored by Adam Taggart via PeakProsperity.com,

    We're living through the most extraordinary period of monetary manipulation in all of human history. It’s as widespread as it is delusional.

    One of the most perplexing mysteries to us is that right as the Federal Reserve embarked on QE3 — which was a huge, enormous, $85 billion a month experiment — commodities began a multiyear decline within two weeks of that announcement. Concurrently, the world’s central banks plunged the world into steeply negative real interest rates, a condition that has almost always resulted in booming commodity prices — but not this time. Today, the ratio between commodity prices and equities is at one of, if not the most, extreme points in history.

    To explain that gap, we talk this week with Brien Lundin, publisher of Gold Newsletter and producer of the New Orleans Investment Conference (where Chris and Adam are speaking on Oct 25-28):

    Gold Newsletter was started in 1971 by my mentor in the business, Jim Blanchard. That's the same year that the United States had closed the gold window, closed the convertibility of dollars into gold by other nations. Jim realized that now the US could print money with full abandon, it could print as much money and create as much debt as it wanted.

     

    And at that time still, and until we managed to get gold legalized in 1974, you couldn’t own gold legally, except in the form of jewelry or rare coins. It was up there with plutonium and heroin as substances you weren't allowed to own.

     

    So it should be little surprise that, today, we're seeing a synchronous rise in equity markets across the globe. It corresponds almost exactly with the unprecedented rise in debt, in liquidity, in all of these developed nations. If you look for example at the rise in the Fed's balance sheet since 2008 and the corresponding rise in the S&P 500, the correlation is 97%. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. That’s where all of this reflation, this monetary reflation went, into those markets — which is why you really need to up your allocation to the uncorrelated assets [such as the precious metals] that are at historic lows in relation to financial assets.

     

    Every time in history, before we’ve had a great upset in the financial markets, people have said: This time is different. And every time, it’s proven not to be. You have to have a correction. You have to have things return to the mean and, usually, overshoot a bit.

     

    Alan Greenspan just a couple of days ago made the point that we’re in a bond market bubble and that's what’s eventually going to burst. The risk inherent in bonds is not being priced into the markets now. When that bond bubble bursts, it’s going to take equities down with it. And there’s still tremendous liquidity out there; massive amounts of money will start suddenly looking for a safe haven.

     

    The gold market is miniscule. It’s so small relative to the funds that are in bonds, interest bearing securities, equities, that it won’t take much of an allocation at all to send gold to record levels. That’s going to happen at some point. We can get fuzzy on the actual timescale and the timing of when it’s going to happen. But the fact that it will happen is inevitable, these trends are absolutely irreversible at this point.

     

    So…What’s so special about gold? If it's what they tell us: that it’s a barbaric relic and it has no use in society, then why be so secretive about it? Why be so reluctant to have your citizens own it? That alone tells you all you really need to know.

     

    If they don’t want you to know about it, if they don’t want you to own it, you probably should.

    Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Brien Lundin (46m:01s).

  • Realtors Warn Of "Another Housing Crash" If Mortgage Tax Deductions Are Scrapped

    After failing miserably if their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Republicans are set to shift their legislative agenda to focus on tax reform when they get back from their generous month-long August recess (taxpayers are such great employers).  Among other things, proposed changes to the personal tax code would include eliminating nearly all tax write-offs, including those for state and local taxes, and instead doubling the standard deduction.

    Of course, potentially no industry would be more impacted by such a move as the housing market which has sparked a slight panic at the National Association of Realtors (NAR).  As Reuters points out this morning, roughly 30 million taxpayers taxpayers claim mortgage interest deductions totaling some $70 billion each year which provides a huge incentive to own a home.   

    The National Association of Realtors issued an “August Recess Talking Points” circular imploring members to remind lawmakers that “Homeowners must be treated fairly in tax reform” to avoid “another housing crash.”

     

    The group cited a report it commissioned from PwC that estimated home values could quickly dive more than 10 percent if the tax plan becomes law.

     

    Currently, about 30 million taxpayers claim the mortgage interest deduction, with about $70 billion in total claims, according to Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Homebuilders.

     

    Estimates suggest more than half of taxpayers would stop itemizing under the proposed plan, Dietz said, warning that this would create a large ripple effect through the economy. He said people in early years of a mortgage would suffer most, along with prospective home buyers.

    House

     

    Meanwhile, talking points distributed by NAR, intended to give realtors around the country ammunition against their elected officials while they’re ‘vacationing’ in their districts, warns that tampering with the mortgage deduction could cause “home values everywhere to plunge” resulting in many homeowners once again going “under water” on their primary asset.

    –  Proposals limiting tax incentives for homeownership would cause home values everywhere to plunge. Estimates provided by PwC show that values could fall in the short run by more than 10 percent if a Blueprint-like tax reform plan were enacted. The drop could be even larger in high-cost areas.   It may take years for home values to rebound from such a significant decrease.

     

    –  With a reduction in values of this size, homeowners with relatively small amounts of equity would again see their mortgages go under water, finding they owe more than what their home is worth. For many, this will lead to defaults, foreclosures, or short sales, creating havoc for families, neighborhoods and communities.

     

    –  The home is the most valuable asset for most owners. Millions of families have built equity for years with the hope of using it to help pay for retirement or college for children. Many of these dreams would evaporate.

    But it’s not just the housing market that would be impacted as the CEO of the American Red Cross warned that removing charitable deductions would be “devastating” for non-profit organizations that currently collect some $13 billion worth of tax-deductible donations annually.

    Charitable organizations are not arguing against increasing the standard deduction. But they are asking members of Congress to consider creating a “universal deduction,” so taxpayers taking the standard deduction can get additional credit for donations without itemizing.

     

    Taxpayers claim an estimated $13 billion each year in charitable deductions. Charities fear giving would plummet if the standard deduction were doubled without creating a universal deduction.

     

    Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said reducing charitable deductions would be “devastating.”

    But it’s probably no ‘yuge’ deal…the U.S. housing stock is only worth about $30 trillion so we’re sure the homebuilders and lenders can absorb a small $3 trillion valuation loss, right?

  • Iran Threatens Trump With Restart Of Nuclear Program "Within Hours"

    One day after Iran announced it was preparing to send a flotilla of warships to the western Atlantic Ocean following the announcement of a massive $500 million investment in war spending, the Iranian regime is fast emerging as the latest potential geopolitical headache for the Trump administration, after it warned on Tuesday that Iran could abandon its 2015 nuclear deal signed with Obama with world powers “within hours” if the United States imposes further sanctions on Tehran, president Hassan Rouhani said in his first address to Iran’s parliament since being sworn in to a second term, and hinted that Iran could quickly boost enrichment up to levels even higher than before it signed the nuclear accord.

    “Those who try to return to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past delusions,” Rouhani said in the address. “If they want to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time — not in weeks or months, but within hours or days — we will return to our previous [nuclear] situation very much stronger.”

    He also said Iran prefered to stick with the nuclear deal, which he called “a model of victory for peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism” but that this was not the “only option“. In response, the US warned it would continue to punish Iran’s “non-nuclear destabilising activities.”

    Rouhani’s statement comes as Obama’s sole diplomatic achievement, the Iran Nuclear deal, finds itself under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and strikes, and Washington imposed new sanctions, with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement. Rouhani has warned that Iran was ready to walk out of the deal, which saw the lifting of most international sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme, if Washington persisted.

    As a reminder, last month Iran tested a powerful new ballistic missile that resulted in new US sanctions, and as reported last night, Iran’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to increase budget spending to $260 million for the ballistic missile programme, which is not limited by the nuclear deal. The vote also covered  a further US$260 million spending on regional operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign wing, the Quds Force, which is leading a range of militias in Syria and Iraq.

    Rouhani warned that a reconstituted nuclear program would be “far more advanced” the NYT reports, a veiled threat that the country could start enriching uranium up to the level of 20%, a step toward building a nuclear weapon. Such enrichment activities were a major concern before 2015, when Tehran signed a landmark agreement with the United States and other world powers that lifted crippling economic sanctions in return for severe limits on Iran’s nuclear activities

    Separately, Rouhani said Trump had shown he was an unreliable partner not just for Iran but for US allies.

    Joining pretty much every other world leader in mocking the US president, Rouhani said that “in recent months, the world has witnessed that the US, in addition to its constant and repetitive breaking of its promises in the [nuclear deal], has ignored several other global agreements and shown its allies that the US is neither a good partner nor a reliable negotiating party,” he said, highlighting Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and international trade deals.

    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert refused to address Rouhani’s comments directly, insisted Washington was in full compliance with its side of the nuclear deal, however she did confirm the US administration was reviewing its policy towards Iran and that it believes the nuclear deal did not put an end to Tehran’s other “destabilising activities” in its region. Rouhani’s warning was also sharply criticized by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, who said in a statement that the warning amounted to an Iranian attempt at blackmail.

    “Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage,” Ms. Haley said in the statement, titled “Ambassador Haley on Iran’s Threats to Quit the JCPOA.”

     

    The new United States sanctions on Iran, she said, were not a violation of the nuclear deal but part of an effort to “hold Iran responsible for its missile launches, support for terrorism, disregard for human rights, and violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

    Which begs the questions: what’s the point of the deal, how much longer will it remain in place, and what happens to the price of oil if and when some 2-3 million barrels per day of Iranian oil exports are again taken out of the global market, crippling Iran’s economy.

    Of course, Iran is aware what the devastating consequences of such an escalation – the bottom line is tens of billions in lost oil revenue – could do to its economy, which is why some analysts cited by The National, cautioned that Rouhani’s remarks on the nuclear deal do not indicate that Iran is close to, or even considering, pulling out of the deal. It is much more likely a tactical move to protect the moderate president’s political flank on the right from the IRGC and other hardliners who oppose the cultural and economic opening that the deal is intended to facilitate, but which could weaken their grip on society and on the economy.

    “I clearly do not think it is alarming,” said Marc Martinez, Iran analyst at the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi. “It is a political speech for a domestic audience and a display of unity” as Washington steps up pressure. 

     

    “Rouhani’s remarks are a classic act of political bravado, but the president’s intentions [and] Iran’s intentions are quite evident when we consider that Javad Zarif was reappointed minister of foreign affairs,” Mr Martinez said. “Iran is highly benefiting from the JCPOA, and it makes the calculus that the international community will not support Trump’s adventurism.”

    Which is spot on, and yet one can’t help but think that Iran is, perhaps worried about Trump’s unpredictable decision-making nature, hedging its bets. It would expain why on Monday night Rouhani spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, vowing to build on their joint military efforts across the region.

    Tehran welcomes the active presence of Russia’s investors… in major infrastructure projects including in the fields of industry and energy,” his office said as Putin, no longer busy manipulating several tens of millions of middle class Americans to vote against Hillary Clinton, smiled in the background.

    It’s not just the Kremlin that Tehran is building up close ties: the European Union, which initially supported global sanctions against Iran under President Barack Obama, has started to invest heavily in the country since the nuclear deal was signed, and it is not likely to support new penalties. China has also been a partner to the Iranians for many years.

  • Pat Buchanan Asks "If We Erase Our History, Who Are We?"

    Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

    When the Dodge Charger of 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr., plunged into that crowd of protesters Saturday, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, Fields put Charlottesville on the map of modernity alongside Ferguson.

    Before Fields ran down the protesters, and then backed up, running down more, what was happening seemed but a bloody brawl between extremists on both sides of the issue of whether Robert E. Lee’s statue should be removed from Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park.

    With Heyer’s death, the brawl was elevated to a moral issue. And President Donald Trump’s initial failure to denounce the neo-Nazi and Klan presence was declared a moral failure.

    How did we get here, and where are we going?

    In June of 2015, 21-year-old Dylann Roof gunned down nine Christians at an evening Bible study in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. A review of Roof’s selfies and website showed him posing with the Confederate battle flag.

    Gov. Nikki Haley, five years in office, instantly pivoted and called for removal of the battle flag from the Confederate war memorial on the State House grounds, as a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

    This ignited a national clamor to purge all statues that lionize Confederate soldiers and statesmen.

    In Maryland, demands have come for removing statues and busts of Chief Justice Roger Taney, the author of the Dred Scott decision. Statues of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson, President Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee have been pulled down in New Orleans.

    After Charlottesville, pressure is building for removal of the statues of Lee, Jackson, Davis and Gen. “Jeb” Stuart from historic Monument Avenue in Richmond, capital of the Confederacy.

    Many Southern towns, including Alexandria, Virginia, have statues of Confederate soldiers looking to the South. Shall we pull them all down? And once all the Southern Civil War monuments are gone, should we go after the statues of the slave owners whom we Americans have heroized?

    Gen. George Washington and his subordinate, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, father of Robert E. Lee, were slave owners, as was Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson. Five of our first seven presidents owned slaves, as did James K. Polk, who invaded and annexed the northern half of Mexico, including California.

    Jefferson, with his exploitation of Sally Hemings and neglect of their children, presents a particular problem. While he wrote in the Declaration of Independence of his belief that “all men are created equal,” his life and his depiction of Indians in that document belie this.

    And Jefferson is both on the face of Mount Rushmore and has a memorial in the U.S. capital.

    Another term applied to the “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville is that they are “white supremacists,” a mortal sin to modernity. But here we encounter an even greater problem.

    Looking back over the history of a Western Civilization, which we call great, were not the explorers who came out of Spain, Portugal, France, Holland and England all white supremacists?

    They conquered in the name of the mother countries all the lands they discovered, imposed their rule upon the indigenous peoples, and vanquished and eradicated the native-born who stood in their way.

    Who, during the centuries-long discovery and conquest of the New World, really believed that the lives of the indigenous peoples were of equal worth with those of the colonizers?

    They believed European Man had the right to rule the world.

    Beginning in the 16th century, Western imperialists ruled much of what was called the civilized world. Was not the British Empire, one of the great civilizing forces in human history, a manifestation of British racial superiority?

    And if being a segregationist disqualifies one from being venerated in our brave new world, what do we do with Woodrow Wilson, who thought “Birth of a Nation” a splendid film and who re-segregated the U.S. government?

    In 1955, Prime Minister Churchill, imperialist to the core, urged his Cabinet to consider the slogan, “Keep England White.”

    Nor is a belief in the superiority of one’s race, religion, tribe and culture unique to the West. What is unique, what is an experiment without precedent, is what we are about today.

    We have condemned and renounced the scarlet sins of the men who made America and embraced diversity, inclusivity and equality.

    Our new America is to be a land where all races, tribes, creeds and cultures congregate, all are treated equally, and all move ever closer to an equality of results through the regular redistribution of opportunity, wealth and power.

    We are going to become “the first universal nation.”

    “All men are created equal” is an ideological statement. Where is the scientific or historic proof for it? Are we building our utopia on a sandpile of ideology and hope?

    Nevertheless, on to Richmond!

  • Dick's CEO: "The Retail Industry Is In Panic Mode"

    With Dick’s stock crashing after reporting dreadful results this morning, in which both comp sales and EPS missed as the company slashed its full year guidance below even the lowest sellside forecast (it now sees full year EPS of $2.80 to $3.00, below the previous guidance of $3.65 to $3.75 and the Wall Street estimate of $3.62 ), the management team had no reason to hold back on today’s earnings call, and luckily – unlike many other retailers who still hold out hope that the worst is behind them – it did not, for an unvarnished look into the retail space.

    Confirming just how little pricing power retailers have, CEO Ed Stack said “we have conducted extensive consumer research, and the customers have told us they feel our prices are not competitive in today’s environment” in which everyone is slashing price to capture market share, and as a result the company is “intentionally joining this battle, and we will aggressively be promoting our business to drive market share to our stores and online.”

    Stack said he observed heavier promotions and price cuts particularly on athletic apparel, electronics, and hunting, fishing and camping gear which started as early as Father’s Day. “We started to see this happening a little bit before Father’s Day, and it continued to be very promotional, not only from retailers but also from some of the brands on a direct-to-consumer basis.”

    Having no other choice, Dicks has joined the battle of the “deep discounters”, and has also launched a “best price guarantee” in which it promises customers that if they find a lower price on a product, Dick’s will match it. Of course, by doing so, the retailer assures that both Dick’s and its peers margins and net income shrink even more in the coming quarters.

    Another major concern on the call – and to management – was the recent partnership between Amazon and Nike. Asked “how can you ensure that your positioning is still differentiated from that of the Amazon offering” the CEO responded: “We’ll see how this goes. They’ve been transparent talking to us about this test, and I suspect it will probably go well, and then Nike will decide what they want to do about it and how they want to handle the balance of the market. Our relationship with Nike has been – has always been very good. It continues to be very good. We continue to work with them on shops, on our footwear decks and exclusive products. They are a strategic vendor of ours and we’ve got great relationship and what we’re going to test and what they’ll do ultimately we’ll deal with that when it happens.”

    Speaking to CNBC, SW Retail Advisors’ Stacey Widlitz said that “Dick’s is another example of Amazon becoming the new middleman… Here we go down the gross margin rabbit hole just in time for the holidays.”

    Of course, if Nike ultimately decides to go exclusively with Amazon at least Dick’s terminal suffering will be greatly shortened. Meanwhile, as the call went on, there was the following striking admission by the CEO:

    There’s a lot of people right now, I think, in retail and in this industry in panic mode. There’s been a difficult environment. I think people, I’m not going to speculate what they’re thinking, but they seem to be in panic mode with how they’re pricing product, and we think it’s going to continue to be promotional and at times, irrational going forward.

    * * *

    Just in case the message was not clear the first time, there was more panic: “People need to get rid of the inventory, and then some people are panicked as to what’s going to happen with their business from a growth standpoint.

    * * *

    And then, to top it off,  just a little more: “What’s going on in the marketplace right now is that it’s just very promotional, almost panicked in some cases, I think, especially in the hunt, fish categories. There’s a lot of inventory in the pipeline, and people need to move it out, and it’s going to continue to be promotional until this inventory gets moved out of the pipeline”

    * * *

    Finally, one can’t possibly use the word “panic” 4 times in a conference call without also adding the occasional “perfect storm”, and sure enough:

    “So I think it’s just a perfect storm right now in retail, and I think sporting goods is in the center of it right now. There’ll be further consolidation. We’re seeing Gander Mountain closing right now. We’ll see what happens with some other retailers, but it’s a perfect storm right now. We’re not particularly happy that we’re in it.”

    Meanwhile, as the legacy retail sector implodes and as US households drown under a record amount of debt (the two may be connected), the Fed is confused why credit card defaults as mysteriously surging at a time when the US economy is supposed to be recovering

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Aug 15

Today’s News 15th August 2017

  • The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11

    Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

    • "Those who work as spies know the risks from America's enemies, but they shouldn't have to worry about politicized retribution from its friends"The Wall Street Journal.
    • These officials should have never be prosecuted in a court; they should be protected from such actions. This prosecution is a betrayal of those who worked hard to prevent more massacres and to cripple the infrastructure of jihad.
    • That is the most important lesson: our spies and officials involved in the war against Islamic terrorism, like those who prevented another 9/11, now fear not only the wrath of the jihadists, but also the witch hunt of our media and judicial system.

    One of the most important chapters in the war on terror is being rewritten — with a moral inversion. Islamic terrorists who were arrested and deported have become "liberal causes célèbres", while agents of the CIA who questioned them are not only being condemned but also financially crushed by punishment and legal bills — for having tried, legally, to save American lives.

    Guantanamo Bay has supposedly become "the Gulag of our time"; the psychologists who interrogated the murderer who sawed off Daniel Pearl's head have been charged with working "for money"; the "black sites" in the Polish and Lithuanian forests have been compared to Nazi concentration camps, and the U.S. jurists and officials who conducted the war on terror have been compared to the Germans hanged in Nuremberg.

    "In just a few months, Obama had sent the CIA back to the September 10 culture of risk aversion and timidity that had contributed to the disaster of 9/11", Bruce Thornton wrote in his book, The Wages of Appeasement. A few examples of Obama's policy include a directive to release Justice Department memos on the process of vetting interrogation techniques for legality. The attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, appointed a special prosecutor to determine if the CIA officers involved in the interrogation program had been guilty of breaking the law.

    A judicial condemnation, however, has begun only now. A federal judge in Spokane, Washington, has opened one of the most important trials in the recent U.S. history. For the first time after September 11, three American citizens involved in interrogating Islamic terrorists have been called to answer to a judge. The New York Times released the video of their testimony. The federal court in Spokane, Washington, heard Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell and Jose Rodriguez testifying on their role in the war on terror. They are among the heroes who prevented another 9/11; now they are on the bench.

    "I'll tell you a story," Bruce Jessen testified.

    "Two Christmases ago, I get a call from the CIA; my grandchildren and my daughter and son-in-law are living with us. You have 15 minutes to get out of your house because ISIS has found someone to come and kill you and your family… Now, those — that isn't the only threat I've received over the years, I've received lots of them. And I'm not afraid, and I did my duty and I stood up and I went to war, and I'll stand up to any of them again, but I don't want them messing with my family… And when you stick your face in the public eye, you get people like the SSCI and [Senator Dianne] Feinstein and the ACLU and other people who accuse you of things you didn't do, who out your name, who give them your address, who print articles that are full of crap about you, and it makes it difficult."

    Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA clandestine service, told the court what was at stake:

    "George Washington did not face an enemy like Al Qaeda. These are people who want to die as martyrs and see the killing of thousands of innocent men, women, and children as justifiable to promote their cause. Making a few of the worst terrorists on the planet uncomfortable for a few days during their first month of imprisonment is worth it in order to save thousands of lives".

    John Rizzo also testified. In 2002, when George W. Bush signed the executive order in which he argued that the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists, Rizzo was an interim legal advisor. "No, I can't honestly sit here today and say I should have objected to that", Rizzo said.

    Now, Judge Justin L Quackenbush of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, cleared the way for the case to move to the trial phase, rejecting the psychologists' lawyers request for summary judgement. "This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for torture," ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a press release. "The court's ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did".

    These officials should have never be prosecuted in a court; they should be protected from such actions. This prosecution is a betrayal of those who worked hard to prevent more massacres and to cripple the infrastructure of jihad.

    Many former CIA directors explained that the program of enhanced interrogation techniques worked extremely well:

    "It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield; it led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives; it added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it".

    The CIA claimed the demonstrable successes of the interrogation program: the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed; the capture of José Padilla, accused of wanting to commit an attack in the United States with a dirty radiological bomb; preventing an attack on the US consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; a second wave of attacks after September 11 with a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into Library Tower in Los Angeles.

    Jessen and Mitchell are not the only psychologists now in trouble for their involvement in this program. There are also the military psychologist Morgan Banks; Stephen Behnke, a former director of the American Psychological Association's ethics office; Joseph Matarazzo, a former chairperson of the Psychologist Association, who allegedly wrote an opinion for the CIA in which the deprivation of sleep would not constitute "torture".

    One of the most important cases of rendition took place in the Italian city of Milan against Abu Omar; the verdict ended by condemning CIA agents. Robert Seldon Lady, the former head of the CIA in Milan, and involved in the Abu Omar case, was arrested and released in Panama. In a rare interview, the Wall Street Journal wrote:

    "Mr. Lady, who had planned to retire and become a security consultant from a farm house he bought with his life savings in Italy's Piedmont region, received the stiffest sentence — eight years in prison, increased to nine on appeal. Before the case went to trial, Magistrate Armando Spataro sued to seize Mr. Lady's house and use the proceeds to pay damages to Abu Omar. Mr. Lady fled Italy in 2005 but lost his property. His 30-year marriage, he says, was another casualty".

    Sabrina De Sousa, another CIA agent involved in the Milan rendition, avoided the jail only thanks to being pardoned by the Italian authorities.

    The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Macedonia for the rendition of a German citizen. The European judges also condemned Poland for hosting one of the CIA's secret sites. Spanish judges opened a criminal file against some senior Bush administration officials, including John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee of the Justice Department, and William Haynes, a former senior Pentagon jurist. John Yoo, now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, wrote the 2003 memorandum authorizing the CIA's interrogation techniques. The German attorney Wolfgang Kaleck filed a criminal complaint against Yoo; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the Law School at the California University, asked to prosecute Yoo, who was also sued by José Padilla, a convicted American terrorist.

    In 2009, Spanish judges opened a criminal file against some senior Bush administration officials, including John Yoo (pictured) of the Justice Department. Yoo, now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, wrote the 2003 memorandum authorizing the CIA's interrogation techniques. (Image source: Commonwealth Club/Wikimedia Commons)

    Recently, attorneys of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin, filed a criminal complaint against Gina Haspel, now the CIA's number-two person under Director Mike Pompeo, and charged her with being involved in directing a secret CIA detention facility near Bangkok, Thailand. Will U.S. officials fear that traveling in Europe might expose them to arrest?

    The Wall Street Journal wrote last year, regarding the De Sousa case:

    "The threat from terrorism is worse than at any time since 9/11, even as the West has limited its capacity for self-defense… Those who work as spies know the risks from America's enemies, but they shouldn't have to worry about politicized retribution from its friends. Sabrina De Sousa's abandonment by the U.S. government sends a demoralizing message to all who serve in the shadows, even as the war on terror enters a dangerous new phase."

    That is the most important lesson: our brave spies and officials involved in the war against Islamic terrorism, like those who prevented another 9/11, now fear not only the wrath of the jihadists, but also the witch hunt of a Western media and judicial system.

    As James E. Mitchell said, by prosecuting what the U.S. and the West have done in the war on terror, "we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks".

  • Guam Governor Calls For North Korean "Bully" To Be "Punched In The Nose"

    After suddenly being thrust into the crosshairs of an international standoff between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last week, Guam’s governor, Eddie Calvo, doesn’t seem to be all that worried.  Using a seemingly Trumpian vernacular, Calvo compared Kim Jong-Un to a playground bully who needs a simple “punch in the nose.”  Per AFP:

    Guam’s leader said Monday that “sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose”, in a spirited defence of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea which has the island in its crosshairs.

     

    While Trump’s critics accuse him of inflaming tensions with Pyongyang, Guam governor Eddie Calvo said he was grateful the US leader was taking a strong stance against North Korean threats to his Pacific homeland.

     

    “Everyone who grew up in the schoolyard in elementary school, we understand a bully,” Calvo told AFP.

     

    “(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un is a bully with some very strong weapons… a bully has to be countered very strongly.”

    Guam

     

    Calvo, a Republican, said Trump was being unfairly criticized over his handling of the North Korea crisis, which escalated when Pyongyang announced plans to launch a “simultaneous strike” on Guam by mid-August.  While noting Trump’s penchant for dramatic language, Calvo pointed out that his underlying message is not that dissimilar from Obama’s. 

    Trump has responded by threatening “fire and fury”, warning last week that the US military was “locked and loaded” to respond to any aggression.

     

    “President Trump is not your conventional elected leader, what he says and how he says it is a lot different from what was said by previous presidents,” Calvo said.

     

    But he pointed out previous presidents had also used strong words to warn off Pyongyang, including Barack Obama who said last year that “we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals”.

     

    “One president (Obama) said it one way, cool and calmly with a period… the other said fire and fury with an exclamation point, but it still leads to the same message,” Calvo said.

    Meanwhile, Calvo rejected the mainstream media’s attempt to compare Trump to the often unpredictable North Korean dictator.

    “Well there’s only one guy that has vaporised into a red mist his uncle or a general because he fell asleep in a meeting with an anti-aircraft gun, that’s Kim Jong-Un,” he said.

     

    “There’s only one guy that’s killed his brother with one of the most toxic nerve agents ever created, that’s Kim Jong-Un.”

    Of course, he may have point…the “punch in the nose” diplomacy worked out pretty well for Ralphie…

  • Intel CEO Resigns From Trump Manufacturing Council Over "Divided Political Climate"

    The CEOs on President Trump's Manufacturing Council are dropping like flies as they realize, one by one, this weekend's media mayhem surrounding Trump's comments about the chaos in Charlotteville is the perfect excuse to detach from the Trump bandwagon.

    Following Merck's Ken Frazier and Under Armour's Kevin Plank, Intel CEO Bryan Krzanich chose to resign his position by announcing it quietly on a blog post at 2230ET explaining that he is departing the manufacturing council in order to bring attention to the demise of US manufacturing…

    In a blog post, Krzanich said that the decline in American manufacturing remains a serious issue, but said that "politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base."

     "I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing," Krzanich said in a blog post.

     

    "Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base."

    Here is Krzanich's full statement:

    Earlier today, I tendered my resignation from the American Manufacturing Council. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base.

     

    I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence. I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.

     

    I am not a politician.

     

    I am an engineer who has spent most of his career working in factories that manufacture the world's most advanced devices. Yet, it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible. Promoting American manufacturing should not be a political issue.My request—my plea—to everyone involved in our political system is this: set scoring political points aside and focus on what is best for the nation as a whole. The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be.

    So who's left?

    Here’s the full list of members on the new manufacturing council:

    • Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company
    • Bill Brown, Harris Corporation
    • Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
    • John Ferriola, Nucor Corporation
    • Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation
    • Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company
    • Ken Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
    • Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
    • Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
    • Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corporation
    • Jeff Immelt, General Electric
    • Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
    • Klaus Kleinfleld, Arconic
    • Brian Krzanich, Intel Corporation
    • Rich Kyle, The Timken Company
    • Thea Lee, AFL-CIO
    • Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel
    • Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company
    • Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing
    • Elon Musk, Tesla
    • Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar
    • Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing
    • Kevin Plank, Under Armour
    • Michael Polk, Newell Brands
    • Mark Sutton, International Paper
    • Inge Thulin, 3M
    • Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
    • Wendel Weeks, Corning

  • Used Car Prices Crash To Lowest Level Since 2009 Amid Glut Of Off-Lease Supply

    The U.S. auto market is at an interesting crossroads with used car prices crashing to new lows every month while new car prices continue to defy gravity courtesy of a somewhat ‘frothy’, if not suicidal, lending market that has seemingly decided that anyone with a pulse is financially qualified for a $0 down, 0% interest, 80 month loan on a brand new $40,000 luxury vehicle of their choice. 

    As the Labor Department’s consumer-price index data showed last Friday, used car prices once again dropped in July to the lowest level since the ‘great recession’ of 2009.  In fact, since the end of 2015, the cost of used vehicles has dropped in all but three months and are now roughly 10% off their 2013 high.

     

    Unfortunately, the outlook for the used market is only expected to get worse with the volume of lease returns expected to soar to nearly 4mm units by 2018.

    Auto Leases

     

    Meanwhile, despite modest weakness over the past two months, new car prices have held up fairly well…

     

    …even as the domestic auto OEM’s continue to flood dealer lots with new inventory that isn’t moving.

     

    Of course, logic would dictate that some level of substitution would have to take over at some point as the financial benefits of buying a used car eventually outweigh the social indignity of cruising around town in a 3-year old clunker. 

    That said, those innovative “Low Credit Score” discounts do make new car buying very attractive…

    Truck

  • The Trigger? "If This Ever Happens You Know You're Days Away From Nuclear War"

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    Back in February of 2014 we published an interview and report from well known preparedness strategist and strategic relocation expert Joel Skousen in which he explained his assessment of how World War III would “go down.”

     

    At the time, North Korea was considered by most to be nothing more than a small pest that posed no real threat to the United States. President Barrack Obama, like his predecessors, had maintained America’s policy of “strategic patience” with the rogue state, while its leader, as he does today, often made threats about attacking the United States, Japan and South Korea. What’s different today is that North Korea has proven their capabilities with not only inter-continental ballistic missiles, but nuclear weapons as well. Moreover, they have threatened to launch nuclear attacks against specific U.S. targets and many in the intelligence community have argued that the North may already have the weapons systems in place to strike key population centers that include Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.

     

    Unlike 2014, today we have a different kind of President – one who believes strategic patience is a failed policy. Donald Trump has made it clear that North Korea will not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons and has backed his words with the might of Naval carrier strike groups off the Korean Peninsula and strategic bombers stationed in Guam. Trump and his national security team have essentially given Kim Jong Un two options. Either dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program, or war will be declared.

     

    On that note, we encourage you to consider the following assessment from Joel Skousen. If war is coming, this may well be how it’s triggered. And when it goes down, it’s going to be thermo-nuclear.

    Originally published February 10, 2014:

    It’s no secret that the world is on the brink of a significant paradigm shift. With the economy in shambles and the United States, Europe, China and Russia vying for hegemony over global affairs, it is only a matter of time before the powder keg goes critical.

    As was the case with World Wars I and II, the chess pieces are being positioned well in advance. It’s happening on all levels – monetary, financial, economic, geo-political. Lines are being drawn. Alliances are being cemented.

    We know that a widespread depression is sweeping across just about every nation on earth. The complete collapse of the world we have come to know as it relates to commerce and consumption is a foregone conclusion. We may not know exactly when or how the final nail is driven into the coffin, but we know it’s happening right before our eyes.

    Throughout history, when countries have fallen into destitution and despair, their leaders have often resolved their domestic plights by finding foreign scapegoats. This time will be no different – for all parties involved.

    In the following interview with Infowars’ Alex Jones, Joel Skousen of World Affairs Brief  leaves nothing to the imagination and outlines what we can expect as East and West face off in coming years.

    The trigger is clear. What will follow is nothing short of thermo-nuclear warfare on a massive scale.

    The trigger event has to be North Korea… North Korea is the most rogue element in the world and yet it’s been given a pass by the U.S… We don’t do anything to stop its nuclear progress, unlike Iran.

     

     

    Russia and China… it’s too early… they’re not ready to go to a third world war over Iran…

     

     

    When you see a North Korean launch against the South… and they do some minor military attack every year, so you’ve got to be careful not to confuse those with a major artillery barrage on Seoul. If this ever starts you know you’re days away from nuclear war. People ought to get out of major cities that are major nuclear targets.

     

     

    There has to be a reason why North Korea has been preserved… It can only be because the globalists know that they are the puppets of China and that they will be the trigger.

     

    Here’s how I think it’s going down. I think there will be an attack against South Korea. The North Koreans have over two million troops… 20,000 artillery… they can level Seoul in a matter of three or four days. The only way the U.S. can stop that attack is using tactical nuclear weapons.

     

    And that would give China the excuse to nuke the United States. U.S. is guilty of first-use, the U.S. is the bully of the world, Russia and Chinese unite to launch against U.S. military targets. Not civilian targets per say. There will be about 12 or 15 cities that are inextricably connected with the military that are going to get hit that I mentioned in Strategic Relocation… you don’t want to be in those cities.

     

    You may have two days notice when that attack in Korea starts, before China launches on the United States.

     

    And if you ever see everything blackout, because both Russia and China will use a preemptive nuclear EMP strike to take down the grid… before the nukes actually fall… anytime you see all electricity out, no news, nothing at all… that’s the time you need to be getting out of cities before the panic hits.

    In his Strategic Relocation documentary, Skousen notes that the reason Russia and China have yet to take action is because they are not ready. But as current events suggest, they are making haste. Iran has apparently deployed warships near US borders and China has continually balked at internationally established air zones, encroaching on U.S. interests. North Korea continues to do whatever it wants, even after sanctions issued again their nuclear development plans by the United Nations. And, given President Obama’s refusal to attend the Olympic games with other world leaders that include Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, it should be obvious that the relationship between the world’s super powers are strained.

    No one is willing to back down. And as we saw in the 20th century, that kind of diplomacy ends with the deaths of millions of people.

    No one believed it could happen in the early 1910’s and again in the late 1930’s.

    And with a Nobel Peace Prize winner at the helm of the freest nation on earth, not many Americans think it can happen in today’s modern and interconnected world.

    But what if history rhymes once again?

    Are we really to dismiss the warnings of Joel Skousen simply because it is such an outlier that it is impossible to imagine for most? Or do we look at history, see how such situations have unfolded over the last 5,000 years, and conclude that it is, in fact, possible that it happens again?

    The lives of hundreds of millions of people are in the balance. That’s a sobering thought for average people, but mere chess pieces to the elite who sit behind the curtains with their fingers on the buttons.

    As before, when the circumstances suit them and the time is right, they will invariably push those red buttons as their predecessors did before them.

    Those in target cities in the U.S., Russia, China and Europe will become nothing more than statistics for the history books.

    But if you know the warning signs, then perhaps at the very least, you stand a chance.

    If you ever wake up one morning and your TV doesn’t work, the internet is down, and your cell phone is off, then you need to assume that your city or region was hit by a super EMP weapon, such as those being developed and tested in North Korea, Russia and China.

    As Skousen warns, in such a scenario you’ll have about two days to get out of major cities to a safe location outside of the blast radius.

  • America's Most Active Hate Groups May Surprise You

    During a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, far-right demonstrators including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members were involved in violent clashes with counter-protesters. A woman was killed and 19 other people were injured on Saturday when a car ran into a crowd protesting against the rally. In the wake of the clashes, U.S. President Donald Trump was criticized from all sides for failing to explicitly condemn the white supremacy group; and even after doing so today, the media seems unsatisfied…

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    As Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, the violence comes at a time when hate groups are experiencing growth and higher prominence. However, while today's headlines scream of far-right, neo-nazism, you may be surprised at which tops America's hate groups….

    Infographic: America's Active Hate Groups  | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    According to research from the Southern Poverty Law Center released earlier this year, 917 hate groups were spread out across the U.S. in 2016 compared to 892 in 2015 and 784 in 2014.

    The organization identified 193 Black Separatist groups, as well as 130 active Ku Klux Klan groups. That is a sharp increase on 2014 when the country’s most infamous supremacist organization had 72 groups.

    Last year, the U.S. also had 101 anti-Muslim and 100 White Nationalist organizations. 99 neo-Nazi groups were also identified, along with 78 categorized as being Racist Skinhead.

  • "Attack Venezuela!?" Ron Paul Rants "Trump Can't Be Serious!"

    Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

    There is something unsettling about how President Trump has surrounded himself with generals. From his defense secretary to his national security advisor to his White House chief of staff, Trump looks to senior military officers to fill key positions that have been customarily filled by civilians. He’s surrounded by generals and threatens war at the drop of a hat.

    President Trump began last week by threatening “fire and fury” on North Korea. He continued through the week claiming, falsely, that Iran is violating the terms of the nuclear deal. He finally ended the week by threatening a US military attack on Venezuela.

    He told reporters on Friday that,

    “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary. …We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying.”

    Venezuela’s defense minister called Trump’s threat “an act of craziness.”

    Even more worrisome, when Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro tried to call President Trump for clarification he was refused. The White House stated that discussions with the Venezuelan president could only take place once democracy was restored in the country. Does that mean President Trump is moving toward declaring Maduro no longer the legitimate president of Venezuela? Is Trump taking a page from Obama’s failed regime change policy for Syria and declaring that “Maduro must go”?

    The current unrest in Venezuela is related to the economic shortcomings of that country’s centrally-planned economy. The 20th century has shown us very clearly that state control over an economy leads to mismanagement, mal-investment, massive shortages, and finally economic collapse. That is why those of us who advocate free market economics constantly warn that US government intervention in our own economy is leading us toward a similar financial crisis.

    But there is another factor in the unrest in Venezuela. For many years the United States government, through the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, and US government funded NGOs, have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government. They almost succeeded in 2002, when then-president Hugo Chavez was briefly driven from office. Washington has spent millions trying to manipulate Venezuela’s elections and overturn the results. US policy is to create unrest and then use that unrest as a pretext for US intervention.

    Military officers play an important role in defending the United States. Their job is to fight and win wars. But the White House is becoming the war house and the president seems to see war as a first solution rather than a last resort. His threats of military action against a Venezuela that neither threatens nor could threaten the United States suggests a shocking lack of judgment.

    Congress should take President Trump’s threats seriously. In the 1980s, when President Reagan was determined to overthrow the Nicaraguan government using a proxy army, Congress passed a series of amendments, named after their author, Rep. Edward Boland (D-MA), to prohibit the president from using funds it appropriated to do so. Congress should make it clear in a similar manner that absent a Venezuelan attack on the United States, President Trump would be committing a serious crime in ignoring the Constitution were he to follow through with his threats. Maybe they should call it the “We’re Not The World’s Policeman” act.

  • Autonomous Cars Could Impact Nearly 16 Million Jobs In U.S., Commerce Department Finds

    The technology required to enable fully autonomous cars is not here yet. You’ll get no argument from us on that point. 

    Despite the loftiest of wishes from companies like Uber and Tesla, for now autonomous cars can’t seem to stop running red lights…which is a slight issue.  And that says nothing about the societal transformation required to fully adopt such technology which will likely span a generation.  Let’s face it, just like grandma refused to adopt the e-commerce revolution, there are certain people who will simply never trust a computer to drive them around.

    All that said, it is inevitable that, at some point in the future, autonomous vehicles will be the norm.  And, when that day comes, it will undoubtedly wreak further havoc on a U.S. job market where 95 million people have already decided they would rather sit at home than look for a job…at least according to a new study from the U.S. Commerce Department

    According to the study released last week, nearly 4 million jobs in the U.S. could be completely eliminated by autonomous vehicle technology while closer 16 million will be radically transformed.

    The expected introduction of autonomous, or “self-driving,” vehicles (AVs) promises to have a potentially profound impact on labor demand. This paper explores this potential effect by identifying the occupations most likely to be directly affected by the business adoption of autonomous vehicles.

     

    In 2015, 15.5 million U.S. workers were employed in occupations that could be affected (to varying degrees) by the introduction of automated vehicles. This represents about one in nine workers.

     

    We divide these occupations into “motor vehicle operators” and “other on-the-job drivers.” Motor vehicle operators are occupations for which driving vehicles to transport persons and goods is a primary activity, are more likely to be displaced by AVs than other driving-related occupations. In 2015, there were 3.8 million workers in these occupations. These workers were predominately male, older, less educated, and compensated less than the typical worker. Motor vehicle operator jobs are most concentrated in the transportation and warehousing sector.

     

    Other on-the-job drivers use roadway motor vehicles to deliver services or to travel to work sites, such as first responders, construction trades, repair and installation, and personal home care aides. In 2015, there were 11.7 million workers in these occupations and they are mostly concentrated in construction, administrative and waste management, health care, and government. Other-on-the-job drivers may be more likely to benefit from greater productivity and better working conditions offered by AVs than motor vehicle operator occupations.

     

    So which professions will be hit the hardest?  Well, the Commerce Department says that 65% of the most obvious job losses will likely come from the long and short-haul commercial delivery businesses.

     

    Of course, the direct driving job losses say nothing about the 2nd-derivative losses that will also inevitably come.  For instance, consider our post from almost exactly one year ago in which we argued that autonomous cars could double the capacity utilization of passenger vehicles thus cutting a ‘normalized’ auto SAAR in half (see: Ford Announces Plans To Self-Destruct Starting In 2021).

    So what do we mean when we say an autonomous car pretty much ensures Ford’s demise?  To be clear, we’re not specifically targeting Ford…the whole auto industry is in serious trouble when truly autonomous driving arrives.  Below is a little math to help illustrate the point.

     

    Right now there are roughly 250mm light-duty passenger cars on the road in the U.S. (that’s about 1 car per driving age person, btw, which is fairly astounding by itself).  American’s travel roughly 3 trillion miles per year in aggregate which which means that each car travels an average of 12k miles per year.  Now if you assume the average rate of travel is 45 miles per hour then you’ll find that each car is implied to be on the road for an average of about 45 minutes per day.  That’s a capacity utilization of about 3% (see table below for quick math).

     

    Capacity Utilization

     

    A 3% capacity utilization ratio is, needless to say, fairly terrible.  We don’t imagine too many CFOs would model capital allocation decisions based on a 3% capacity utilization for fixed assets.  That said, individuals are forced to underwrite car purchases to a 3% capacity utilization because they have no choice.  People have to get to work and 100% reliance on public transit options as just not feasible for most people in this country.

     

    That is, until the arrival of completely autonomous vehicles.  The problem with mass transit is that people still need a car to get back and forth to the train station or bus stop.  The problem with Ubers/Taxis is that they’re expensive for daily use due primarily to the labor overhead that’s built into your per mile rate.  But fully autonomous vehicles solve both those problems.  Now, people will have the option of a vehicle at their beck and call without having to fund the upfront capital cost of a purchase and/or the per unit human capital costs inherent in taking an Uber.  In other words, the per mile rental rate of a fully autonomous car should be competed down to a level that provides an adequate return solely on the cost of the vehicle…no wages, no benefits, none of the typical hassles associated with employing people.  Or, said another way, taking an Uber is going to get really freaking cheap.

     

    But the best part is that capacity utilization with fully autonomous cars can skyrocket driving per unit costs even lower for passengers.  For example, when you drive to work right now your car sits there all day until you drive home.  In the autonomous car world, that car will drive you to work then go pick up multiple other people to do the same thing.  Now, if capacity utilization doubles from just 3% to 6% all of sudden half the number of cars are required in the US which means annual SAAR goes from ~17mm to ~8.5mm…which means Ford and GM likely find themselves in another bailout situation.

     

    Normalized SAAR

     

    And, if you’re making half the cars, guess how many people you need to make them?

    Oh well, at least there’s always that McDonalds job to fall back on…oh wait…

    Mcdonalds

     

    The full Commerce Department study can be viewed here:

  • Hedge Funds' Love Affair With FAANG Fizzles: Full 13-F Breakdown

    One quarter after virtually every hedge fund loaded up on one or more of the six most influential tech stocks in the U.S stock market, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – a handful of stocks roughly responsible for half the market’s YTD gains – the love affair with FAANG continued, albeit far less passionately, with quite a few cases of “buyer’s remorse” emerging. According to an analysis by Reuters, closely-watched U.S. hedge fund managers were generally bearish on FAANGs in Q2, with eight prominent investors in aggregate cutting or liquidating 18 stakes in the companies, according to the latest 13-F dump.

    Among those who had chilled on the tech space, were Coatue Management, Omega Advisors, Third Point, Tiger Global Management, Appaloosa Management, Paulson & Co, Soros Fund Management and Greenlight Capital, who in aggregate slashed 16 stakes, sold two stakes, increased six stakes, opened two new stakes, and maintained two positions in the so-called FAANG stocks in the three months ended June 30.

    Some examples:

    • Dan Loeb’s Third Point increased its stake in GOOGL by 120,000 class A shares to 575,000 and increased its position in Facebook by 500,000 class A shares to 3.5 million as of June 30.
    • On the other hand, Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors took a more bearish stance overall and cut its stake in Facebook by 26,700 class A shares to 236,200. It also cut its stake in Netflix by 12,700 shares to 65,000 shares and trimmed its stake in Amazon by 8,900 shares to 10,500 shares. Omega kept its stake in Alphabet of 158,835 class A shares unchanged.
    • Soros Fund Management sold its entire stake in Alphabet of 1,300 class A
      shares, cut its stake in Facebook Inc by 161,373 class A shares to
      476,713, sold its entire stake in Netflix of 131,966 shares, but took a
      new stake in Amazon of 7,500 shares.
    • Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global – a pioneer in tech investing  – cut its stake in Amazon by 110,120 shares to 1.2 million shares and trimmed its stake in Netflix by 52,600 shares to 376,400.
    • Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management trimmed its stake in Netflix by 17,909 shares to 3 million shares and cut its stake in Apple by 46,060 shares to 2.9 million shares.
    • David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital also cut its Apple position by 42,400 shares to 3.9 mln shares.
    • John Paulson unimaginatively named hedge fund took a new stake of 12,300 shares in Apple.

    On the bullish side, most “balls to the wall” was David Tepper, whose Appaloosa Management increased its stake in Apple by 325,000 shares to 625,000, raised its Alphabet position by 110,000 shares to 585,000 – the fund’s second largest position at roughly $531MM as of Q2 – and boosted its Facebook holdings  by almost 450k shares to 2.356 million shares.

    However, Appaloosa’s most bullish bet was a massive, 3.6 million new share position in Alibaba, equal to over $520MM as of June 30.

    As a reminder, in Q2 all of the FAANG stocks rose in the second quarter, with Alphabet surging the most, by 9.7% and Apple the least at just 0.3%. Judging by the move in the third quarter, in which all of the FAANG stocks have continued their ascent, with Netflix gaining the most at 14.5% and Alphabet the least at 1%, some of those who sold were likely dragged right back in.

    Below, courtesy of Bloomberg, is a breakdown of some key moves by marquee hedge funds during the second quarter:

    ADAGE CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: BCR, EMR, CBS, LMT, NDSN, DXC, KGC, GDDY
    • Top exits: OGE, JCI, EQT, MPC, SQM, RF, TMUS, LII, RBC, AGR
    • Boosted stakes in HON, DOV, DHR, ABX, SPR, COF, CMCSA, GOOG, AERI, NOC
    • Cut stakes in DE, DIS, CC, GD, ITW, TIF, BKH, JAZZ, AAPL, FOXA

    APPALOOSA MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: BABA, DG, SYK, ETE, LB, WFC, CX
    • Top exits: RF, PFE, MYL, TEVA, SYMC, CHTR, MT, UAL, GLBL, X
    • Boosted stakes in MU, GOOG, WDC, FB, AAPL, URI, TMO, UNH, DAL
    • Cut stakes in LUV, GM, AGN, KMI, WPZ, HCA, NUE, BSX, MHK, PNC

    BAUPOST GROUP

    • Top new buys: CAR, SRUN, SRC
    • Top exits: INVA, MCK, SYT, ABC
    • Boosted stakes in SYF, AR, ESRX, QRVO, CAH, PRTK, FWP
    • Cut stakes in CACC, LNG

    BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY

    • Top new buys: SYF, STOR
    • Top exits: GE
    • Boosted stakes in BK, GM, AAPL
    • Cut stakes in IBM, WFC, WBC, SIRI, UAL, AAL, DAL

    BLUE HARBOR

    • Top new buys: INCR, AXTA, COMM, CLNS
    • Top exits: AKAM
    • Boosted stakes in OTEX, ADNT, SPY, FFIV, RDC
    • Cut stakes in BWXT, AVT, AGCO, XLNX, LAZ, IWM

    BRIDGEWATER ASSOCIATES

    • Top new buys: GLD, CHK
    • Top exits: DIS, CVS, SPLS, MU, CTL, AET, X, DISH, JCP, WMT
    • Boosted stakes in HYG, RL, NFX, SWN
    • Cut stakes in ENDP, CLF, IPG, UPS, PBR, COP, BP, KORS, CVX, XOM

    COATUE MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: SHOP, NOW, CRM, CGNX, ON
    • Top exits: JPM, ZAYO, ILMN
    • Boosted stakes in BABA, TWLO, ALGT, NTRI, CMCM
    • Cut stakes in BAC, EBAY, DIS, APPL, NTNX

    CORVEX MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: CTL, TWX, JBLU, FDX, SBNY, BTU, CFCO
    • Top exits: YUM, YUMC, BLL, CRM, PX, CL, HUM, ETFC, JACK, PRXL
    • Boosted stakes in EGN, SIG, GOOGL, BAC
    • Cut stakes in BIO, MDCO, PAH, RF, FB, NOMD

    DUQUESNE FAMILY OFFICE

    • Top new buys: BABA, MRK, NOW, YUMC, DAL, V, MA, SBAC, CCI
    • Top exits: LYB, ABX, BAC, AA, AEM, PXD, COG, LNG, SYMC, TMUS
    • Boosted stakes in FB, GOOGL, MSFT, AMZN, CMCSA, PCLN, JD, CTRP, PYPL, EA
    • Cut stakes in PTC

    ELLIOTT MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: NXPI, BTU, NORD, GIMO, WYN, ATHN, FMSA, ARCC
    • Boosted stakes in ECA, MPC, AA, RYAAY, EGN, ACAD, GPI, SAH, ABG, NRG
    • Cut stakes in LOGM, CJ

    FIDELITY MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: EEX, YEXT, FPH, ATUS, NCSM
    • Top exits: GCO, VR, SYT, NYRT, FCN
    • Boosted stakes in PYPL, BABA, GOOGL, UNH, FB
    • Cut stakes in APC, AAPL, CMG, TJX, NXPI

    GREENLIGHT CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: HPE, TGNA, ADNT, TPX, CARS, NYRT
    • Top exits: TWX, SYT, CI, IAC, ALR, TPH, FMC
    • Boosted stakes in PRGO, MYL, DDS, MU, DSW
    • Cut stakes in CC, PVH, FRED, QHC, AAPL, MON

    HIGHFIELDS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: HDS, FOXA, GS, KO, NVDA, DLTR, MCD, FE
    • Top exits: CVS, SYT, MPC, IAC, KMI, YPF, BTE
    • Boosted stakes in TWX, TEVA, TV, FDX, MON, WBA, VER, TGT, HCA
    • Cut stakes in AMT, CCE, GOOG, TSLA, GOOGL, APO, VOD, ICE, NAK, HLT

    ICAHN ASSOCIATES

    • Boosted stakes in IEP, FCX
    • Cut stakes in PYPL, AIG, XRX

    JANA PARTNERS

    • Top new buys: EQT, ZBH, P, FDC, MOH, CDK, PF, SFM
    • Top exits: WLTW, AET, ADS, SHPG, BMY, WBMD, ACAD, SNAP, BMRN, GWPH
    • Boosted stakes in WFM, HPE, HDS, NUVA, ZAYO, DERM
    • Cut stakes in UHS, DOW, CAG, SHW, CRM, HAWK, TIF, LBRDK, CTSH, LADR

    LANSDOWNE PARTNERS

    • Top new buys: PYPL, WDC, FSLR, HCC, VXX, CAFD, BTU, SWK, ENIC
    • Top exits: WFC, SNAP, GE, NFLX, TGP, TGS, ALGN, TSLA, SPWR
    • Boosted stakes in TSM, DAL, BAC, JPM, LB, C, HAS, CNQ, JCI, BABA
    • Cut stakes in DIS, CMCSA, FB, NKE, IR, ETN, UTX, ADNT, HON, SYY

    LONE PINE CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: MSFT, ORLY, MA, ICE, TRU, NOW, UNH, ATUS, AAP, CRM
    • Top exits: NKE, EA, V, PCLN, DLTR, RICE, COMM, SHPG, ALGN, ECA
    • Boosted stakes in BABA, Q, EXPE, CMCSA, FLT, FB, ANET, SNAP, TMUS, TV
    • Cut stakes in CHTR, SYMC, CSX, ALB, ADBE, EQIX, ULTA, ATVI, STZ

    LONG POND CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: DHI, SLG, VER, RF, BXP, HLT, LSI, ATH, FOR
    • Top exits: ESS, GGP, REG, LEN, TPH, CZR, INXN, UDR, QCP, BK
    • Boosted stakes in AIV, PGRE, SRC, WFC, RPAI, CLGX, TCO
    • Cut stakes in EQR, MSG, LOW, FCE/A, MAC, LQ

    MARCATO CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: NTCT, CFCO, RYAM
    • Top exits: SIG, FC
    • Boosted stakes in DECK, TEX, RCII, LQ, BWLD
    • Cut stakes in AVT, BID, GT, ERI, TPHS, IAC

    MAVERICK CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: TAP, DOW, MGM, QCOM, FIS, CHTR, V, ATUS, MIK
    • Top exits: NWL, KHC, SBAC, FLT, MYL, CMCSA, NVDA, HSY, MELI, FFIV
    • Boosted stakes in DLTR, EVHC, IPXL, WYNN, LVS, UHS, FB, SHPG, MCD, WTW
    • Cut stakes in ADBE, PFE, COMM, AET, CI, USFD, VMC, WCN, ORLY, ANDV

    MELVIN CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: GOOGL, WYN, QSR, YUM, FLT, TTWO, PANW, EDU, MHK
    • Top exits: AAP, FOXA, FDX, DLTR, CALM, NTES, SKX, MAS, HDS, DFRG
    • Boosted stakes in BABA, STZ, AMZN, V, ADBE, WYNN, KMX, LOW, AOBC, LAUR
    • Cut stakes in MCD, FB, SHW, DE, COO, BURL, THO, RLGY, SUM, CASY

    MOORE CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: MON, WMT, CDEV, AMT, SRUN, PVH, YNDX, QTS, SBAC
    • Top exits: GS, MS, EXPE, CTRP, PCAR, SNAP, MCD, DLTR, CMG, WLK
    • Boosted stakes in GOOGL, JD, UTX, MLCO, CRM, BURL, IT, VMC, CCL
    • Cut stakes in MSFT, BAC, AAPL, ATH, HD, XLF, AER, BKD, PLYA, SYF

    OMEGA ADVISORS

    • Top new buys: MXL, OCN, CVA, LB, TRN, ADSK, AAL, ETE, NCLH
    • Top exits: WBA, TPH, WPZ, HUM, P, FL, IBKC, CLF, FGL, AA
    • Boosted stakes in MSFT, SBGI, VVV, NBR, ZNGA, PVH, GIMO, FRAC, WPX, SYF
    • Cut stakes in HRG, ASPS, ARRS, HES, LOW, BERY, AMZN, AIG, NRZ

    PERSHING SQUARE

    • Top new buys: ADP
    • Top exits: APD
    • Boosted stakes in HHC
    • Cut stakes in MDLZ

    POINT72 ASSET MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: JNJ, IGT, PAGP, WMT, LMT, DHR, LLL, CAH, BKD, MSG
    • Top exits: BDX, BCR, JCI, MEOH, CTSH, APA, COST, ESRX, FTI, GPC
    • Boosted stakes in BIIB, GOOGL, CMCSA, TTWO, GOOG, EA, V, AMZN, OLN
    • Cut stakes in FB, AAP, MCD, DIS, TWX, EOG, CLR, PK, ANDV, MYL

    POINTSTATE CAPITAL

    • Top new buys: C, MGM, CCI, SBAC, BTU, DAL, ADBE, BA, TSRO, REGN
    • Top exits: ECA, VIAB, FANG, PNC, PE, HON, CRM, URI, ALKS, OLN
    • Boosted stakes in BABA, COG, AMZN, CMCSA, BAC, BMA, ETN, RICE, WMB, AGRO
    • Cut stakes in DOW, LYB, WFC, STZ, TMUS, CSX, EA, CFG, VRTX, BIIB

    RENAISSANCE TECHNOLOGIES

    • Top new buys: PFE, MCK, ADSK, AIG, WDAY, T, WFC, KHC, AXP, NKE
    • Top exits: PCLN, TSLA, TEVA, AMD, CVS, MYL, REGN, TAP, ESRX, INFO
    • Boosted stakes in BMY, DPZ, NVDA, EA, CL, LLY, GSK, GILD, SBUX, AMGN
    • Cut stakes in CMCSA, FB, AET, MRK, PX, UNH, SHW, SIRI, INTC, NFLX

    RUANE CUNNIFF & GOLDFARB

    • Top new buys: SPSC, APPF
    • Top exits: PRGO, CHTR, AMG, MCD, NVO, GHC, CVS, MSFT, ACGL, JNJ
    • Boosted stakes in OMC, PCLN, FCAU, GOOGL, V, CACC, WAT, GOOG, KMX
    • Cut stakes in FAST, BIDU, ORLY, BRK/B, BRK/A, TJX, WUBA, PRI, CMG, COF

    SANDELL ASSET

    • Top new buys: ALR, GNCMA, WFM, BCR, TWX, BABA, TIVO, PCRX, BKS
    • Top exits: BOBE, WGL, CIT, VIAV
    • Boosted stakes in MGI, NXPI, BRCD, LVLT

    SOROS FUND MANAGEMENT

    • Top new buys: EQT, ATUS, GIS, K, PAGP, BCR, TRGP, CARS, NEP
    • Top exits: AGRO, HPE, SYMC, CJ, SUPV, COP, GS, NFLX, VMW, CTXS
    • Boosted stakes in VIAV, MMYT, KHC, EPC, BABA, NOMD, TWX, ATGE, TIVO, ALLT
    • Cut stakes in LRCX, WMB, TMUS, CRC, FB, SBAC, TTWO, LBRDK, SNAP

    STARBOARD VALUE

    • Top new buys: FCE/A, WBMD, ILG, SRC, PHG
    • Top exits: TRCO, CL, MYCC, PNK
    • Boosted stakes in HPE, FTNT, AAP
    • Cut stakes in NSP, BCO, CTSH, BAX, ABCO, QTM

    TEMASEK

    • Top new buys: NFX, GRA, AVGO, KREF, NETS, CELG, AMGN, BIIB, MON
    • Top exits: SNAP
    • Boosted stakes in RDS/B, REGN, ALXN, UNVR
    • Cut stakes in GILD, ATH, AMRS, TMO, PTLA

    TIGER GLOBAL

    • Top new buys: NETS, ATUS, JCP, OKTA, CLDR
    • Top exits: NTES, MELI, ELF
    • Boosted stakes in MSFT, TDG, APO, FLT, CMCSA, AWI
    • Cut stakes in CHTR, FCAU, DPZ, GOOG, GOOGL, FB, QSR, NFLX, ONDK, AMZN

    THIRD POINT

    • Top new buys: BLK, BABA, NXPI, VMC, ALXN, FMC, BMA, EQT
    • Top exits: JPM, CRM, QCOM, ZAYO, RICE, CE, PXD, AA, NOMD, SNAP
    • Boosted stakes in GOOGL, FB, BAC, ANTM, PE, RSPP, TWX, DHR, DOW, HPE
    • Cut stakes in CHTR, SHW, HUM, MHK, STZ, HON, GD, BAX

    TRIAN FUND

    • Boosted stakes in BK, PNR, PG, SYY, GE
    • Cut stakes in MDLZ, WEN

    TUDOR INVESTMENT

    • Top new buys: FB, TRCO, FICO, CACQ, DISH, PCLN, GOOG, DXC
    • Top exits: SYT, BIVV, THS, BOBE, MBLY, CFG, CTAS, KEY, CB, MMC
    • Boosted stakes in GOOGL, AMZN, SPY, BCR, LVLT, AKRX, IAC, SEE, UNP
    • Cut stakes in DVA, ZBH, TSS, UNH, PCRX, FIS, BABA, NDAQ, EW, RTN

    VALUEACT

    • Top new buys: KKR
    • Boosted stakes in STX, AFI
    • Cut stakes in MSFT, CBG, WLTW, BIVV, NTCT

    VIKING GLOBAL

    • Top new buys: WFC, APC, AFL, BABA, TDG, MOH, RJF, FLT, NSC, LOW
    • Top exits: GOOG, SCHW, JPM, ICE, BIIB, DIS, UTX, CNC, GPOR, WDC
    • Boosted stakes in V, CRM, PH, JAZZ, LYB, NUVA, AVXS, XRAY, CALA, HDB
    • Cut stakes in FB, DOW, WBA, JD, NFLX, GOOGL, MSFT, DE, AMZN, ECA

    Source: BBG

Digest powered by RSS Digest

Aug 14

Today’s News 14th August 2017

  • American Citizen Held By Immigration Enforcement For Over 3 Years Without Lawyer

    Submitted by Sovereign Man

    This Week's Intelligence

    American Citizen Held by Immigration Enforcement for Over 3 Years Without Lawyer

    “I am an American citizen,” Davino Watson pleaded with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, judges, and jailers. But to no avail; he was held in detention for over 3 years as a deportable illegal immigrant.

    What did his court appointed lawyer have to say ? Nothing, because he was never assigned one. After all, illegal immigrants are not afforded the same rights of the accused and due process guaranteed to American citizens. The only problem: Davino Watson was in fact an American citizen.

    Eventually, Watson was released and managed to get a meager court settlement of $82,500. But he would never see the money. Two weeks ago, an appeals court ruled that Watson is not entitled to the compensation. Turns out the statute of limitations expired–while he was still in ICE custody!

    What this means:

    What kind of monster working for the U.S. government appealed the decision to compensate this man $82,500 for the nightmare he was put through? Clearly, if the U.S. government falsely imprisons someone, all they need to do is keep them falsely imprisoned until the clock runs out on the two-year statute of limitations. The rights of the accused should apply to anyone on U.S. soil. And there should be no statute of limitations for “petition[ing] the government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment guarantees.

    Anyone detained on U.S. soil should be provided a lawyer. This would have prevented Davino from ever being wrongfully imprisoned by immigration officers. Due process should be applied anyway, because it is the right thing to do. But beyond that, as this nightmarish case shows, authorities can be wrong. Why should an agent be able to unilaterally make the call that someone is an illegal immigrant?

    The man was basically assumed guilty of being an illegal immigrant without the state having to prove anything.

    Let’s hope this goes on to the Supreme Court, so that no other American citizens have to endure such abuse.

    * * *

    IRS Cashes in on Bitcoin Boom

    What happened:

    Have you made money on Bitcoin? Did you give the IRS their cut? Here is another reason to hold Bitcoin long term, instead of treating it as a speculation. If you sold your Bitcoin high, and made some cash, the IRS considers that capital gains. And they most likely know who you are.

    The IRS is now actively seeking those who made money on Bitcoin and did not report the gains to the IRS. They used a “John Doe summons”  to collect all records from the Bitcoin trading website Coinbase.

    In the past, the IRS used the same methods to bully Swiss banks into revealing American account holders.

    What this means:

    How is this type of summons legal? Isn’t the government supposed to abide by the Fourth Amendment, and describe particular things to be searched and seized? This is broad dragnet investigation into personal documents or “papers.” Since the 16th amendment created the income tax, Americans have put up with yearly investigations into their finances that completely trample the Fourth Amendment.

    Just because the government says it is legal to tax income, suddenly the right to be secure in your person, houses, papers, and effects goes out the window.

    * * 

    Jail Time for Reproduction in Cambodia

    What happened:

    Her body her choice? Not according to the Cambodian government. A Cambodian court  has sentenced an Australian woman to prison time. No, she wasn’t running an abortion clinic. She was running a surrogacy clinic, for women who need another woman to carry their baby to term.

    Cambodia outlawed surrogacy last year. The government claimed Cambodian women were being taken advantage of by foreigners looking for a surrogate.  But two Cambodian women who were paid $12,000 each for their surrogacy testified that they were not coerced into carrying the babies.

    What this means:

    In Cambodia, abortion is legal for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. So it is a woman's choice to get rid of her baby, but not to carry another woman’s baby. In trying to protect women from exploitation, Cambodia has destroyed a unique business. The business provided opportunity for the right women to make good money. It also provided a much needed service for women who cannot carry their babies to term.

    But the government didn’t care. They simply outlawed the practice. They didn’t bother asking the women who depend on the income from surrogacy. And now a woman will spend a year and a half in prison because she facilitated a beneficial trade between two consenting adults.

    * * *

    Federal Obamacare Money a State’s Right?

    What happened:

    Funny how the House voted to repeal Obamacare six times while they knew Obama was there to veto it. There were also about 50 attempts to repeal or defund select pieces of Obamacare. Now that the President would actually sign the repeal, Congress can’t seem to drum up the votes.

    In response, Trump could begin dismantling Obamacare by stopping cost sharing reduction payments. These funds go to states to support their health insurance exchanges. Trump has dubbed these payments insurance company bailouts.

    But  the courts just made it that much harder to actually dismantle the law.

    States will be able to sue the federal government to continue collecting Obamacare funds. The ruling claims cost sharing reduction payments are crucial to the state run insurance exchanges. Because of the court ruling, if Trump cuts the payments, it would open the federal government to lawsuits.

    What this means:

    Tax dollars have quickly become a right, according to the courts. This shows how once a person–or a state–is on the dole, it isn’t so easy to get them off of it. The original case this ruling was based on actually stemmed from the Obama administration funding state exchanges without Congress approving the funds.  But now, it may be illegal for Trump to remove this illegal funding. Obamacare made the government more powerful. Power is a drug. This is the government on drugs.

  • Yes Congress, Afghanistan Is Your Vietnam

    Authored by Andrew Bacevich via The American Conservative,

    Does any member have the courage and vision to take responsibility?

    Just shy of fifty years ago on November 7, 1967, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, met in executive session to assess the progress of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of State Dean Rusk was the sole witness invited to testify. Even today, the transcript of Rusk’s remarks and the subsequent exchange with committee members make for depressing reading.  

    Responding to questions that ranged from plaintive to hostile, Rusk gave no ground.  The Johnson administration was more than willing to end the war, he insisted; the North Vietnamese government was refusing to do so. The blame lay with Hanoi. Therefore the United States had no alternative but to persist. American credibility was on the line.  

    By extension, so too was the entire strategy of deterring Communist aggression. The stakes in South Vietnam extended well beyond the fate of that one country, as senators well knew. In that regard, Rusk reminded members of the committee, the Congress had “performed its function…when the key decisions were made”—an allusion to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution,  a de facto declaration of war passed with near unanimous congressional support. None too subtly, Rusk was letting members of the committee know that the war was theirs as much as it was the administration’s.

    Yet Fulbright and his colleagues showed little inclination to accept ownership. As a result, the back-and-forth between Rusk and his interrogators produced little of value. Rather than illuminating the problem of a war gone badly awry and identifying potential solutions, the event became an exercise in venting frustration. This exchange initiated by Senator Frank Lausche, Democrat from Ohio, captures the overall tone of the proceedings.

    Senator Lausche:  “The debate about what our course in Vietnam should be has now been in progress since the Tonkin Bay resolution. When was that, August 1964?

     

    Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.):  “Long before that."

     

    Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tenn.):  “Long before that.”

     

    Senator Fulbright:  “Oh, yes, but that was the Tonkin Bay.”

     

    Senator Lausche:  “For three years we have been arguing it, arguing for what purpose? Has it been to repeal the Tonkin Bay resolution? Has it been to establish justification for pulling out? In the three years, how many times has the Secretary appeared before us? 

     

    Those hearings, those debates, in my opinion, have fully explored all of the aspects that you are speaking about without dealing with any particular issue. Now, this is rather rash, I suppose: If our presence in Vietnam is wrong, [if] it is believed we should pull out, should not one of us present a resolution to the Senate[?] …. [Then] we would have a specific issue. We would not just be sprawled all over the field, as we have been in the last three years.

    Put simply, Senator Lausche was suggesting that Congress force the matter, providing a forum to examine and resolve an issue that had deeply divided the country and that, Rusk’s assurances notwithstanding, showed no signs of resulting in a successful outcome. No such congressional intervention occurred, however. As a practical matter, Congress in 1967 found it more expedient to defer to the wishes of the commander in chief as the exigencies of the Cold War ostensibly required.

    So the Vietnam War dragged on at great cost and to no good effect. Not until the summer of 1970 did Congress repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Even then, the gesture came too late to have any meaningful impact. The war continued toward its mournful conclusion.  

    To characterize congressional conduct regarding the Vietnam War as timorous and irresponsible is to be kind. There were individual exceptions, of course, among them Senator Morse who had opposed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and Senator Fulbright who by 1967 openly regretted his vote in favor and recognized Vietnam for the disaster it had become. Collectively, however, legislators failed abjectly.

    Well, with the passage of a half century, here we are again, back in the soup (or perhaps more accurately, the sand). With the United States currently mired in the longest armed conflict in the nation’s history—considerably longer than Vietnam—Senator Lausche’s proposal of 1967 just might merit a fresh look.  

    Of course, the Afghanistan War (ostensibly part of a Global War on Terrorism) differs from the Vietnam War (ostensibly part of the Cold War) in myriad ways. Yet it resembles Vietnam in three crucial respects. First, it drags on with no end in sight. Second, no evidence exists to suggest that mere persistence will produce a positive outcome. Third, those charged with managing the war have long since run out of ideas about how to turn things around.

    Indeed, the Trump administration seems unable to make up its mind about what to do in Afghanistan. A request for additional troops by the senior U.S. field commander has been pending since February. He is still waiting for an answer. James Mattis, Trump’s defense secretary, has promised a shiny new strategy. That promise remains unfulfilled.  Meanwhile, the news coming out of Kabul is almost uniformly bad. The war itself continues as if on autopilot. Lausche’s “sprawled all over the field” provides an apt description of where the United States finds itself today.

    Where is the Congress in all of this?  By all appearances, congressional deference to the putative prerogatives of the commander in chief remains absurdly intact—this despite the fact that the Cold War is now a distant memory and the post once graced by eminences like Truman and Eisenhower is now occupied by an individual whose judgment and attention span (among other things) are suspect.

    A citizen might ask: What more does the Congress need to reassert its constitutional prerogatives on matters related to war? Surely there must be at least a handful of members who, setting aside partisan considerations, can muster the courage and vision to offer a rash proposition similar to Senator Lausche’s. Doing so has the potential not only to inaugurate debate on a conflict that has gone on for too long to no purpose, but also to call much needed attention to the overall disarray of U.S. policy of which Afghanistan is merely one symptom. Otherwise, why do we pay these people?

  • ANTIFA Clashes With Police in Seattle

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

    A right wing group was marching in Westlake (just north of Seattle), so naturally the leftists led by ANTIFA in Seattle attempted to disrupt their little shindig.

    As always, the masked men clad in black didn’t fail to provide its audience with ample supplies of degeneracy and violence.

    Here are the lowlights.

    With a ‘Go Back to Europe’ flag in the background, an gentleman from the ANTIFA organization burned an American flag.

    Here they are trying to break through the police barrier of mountain bikes, most likely to say a few unkind words to the other gents in Westlake.

    They caught one! An evil alt-right racist was snagged by ANTIFA, so naturally they tried to rob him of his phone.

    Unable to break the barrier, ANTIFA resorted to third grade schoolyard assaults, spraying police with silly string.

    The police get fed up with having silly string sprayed on their officers and decide to reply with flash bangs into the crowd.

    Gameover.

  • Bitcoin (BTC/USD) Breaks Above 4000

     

    Bitcoin (BTC/USD) Weekly/Daily

    Bitcoin (BTC/USD) continued surging higher over the weekend, smashing above the psychologically key whole figure resistance level of 4000.  4000 coincides with an upside target previously estimated by taking the height of the prior flag pole of roughly 1000, and adding it to the point of breakout above flag/channel resistance 2 weeks ago at 3000ish.  With the weekly and daily RSI and Stochastics overbought, the weekly and daily MACD could begin tiring in the next few days.  Going into the early part of the European morning, healthy profittaking on BTC/USD has just begun and can be expected to gather steam in the next few days after BTC/USD’s near month long rally.

     

    Bitcoin (BTC/USD) Weekly


    Bitcoin (BTC/USD) Daily


     

    Ethereum (ETH/USD) Weekly/Daily

    Ethereum (ETH/USD) is beginning to show fatigue after its month long bounce going into today’s European morning.  Significantly, while BTC/USD has been making new all-time highs for a few weeks now, ETH/USD has begun to hesitate in its current rally at the 61.8% Fib retrace of the fall from the June peak.  Over the next month or so, ETH/USD still appears poised to retest its record high in June, but may begin seeing a healthy correction in the next few days.  Longer term bulls will remain encouraged with the bottomish weekly RSI, Stochastics and MACD.

     

    ETHUSD (Ethereum) Weekly Technical Analysis

     

    ETHUSD (Ethereum) Daily Technical Analysis

     

    Click here for today’s technical analysis on USDCHF


     

    Tradable Patterns was launched to demonstrate that the patterns recurring in liquid futures, spot FX and cryptocurrency markets can be analyzed to enhance trading performance. Tradable Patterns’ daily newsletter provides technical analysis on a subset of three CME/ICE/Eurex futures (commodities, equity indices, and interest rates), spot FX and cryptocurrency markets, which it considers worth monitoring for the day/week for trend reversal or continuation. For less experienced traders, tutorials and workshops are offered online and throughout Southeast Asia.

  • Alt Right Activists Are Being Outed on Twitter and Fired From Their Jobs

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

     

    After the ‘alt-right’ (what the fuck does that mean anyway?) took to the streets, without masks, to defend confederate monuments and profess ‘white pride’, libshits on Twitter have been busy doxing them, which is internet jargon for outing them. The purpose of outing them, naturally, is to hope the so called ‘racist’ person will lose his job and his racist wife and kids could starve and die.

    The circle of hate continues.

    Via NY Post

    Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, has gotten so much backlash as a result of “Yes, You’re Racist” identifying him on Saturday night as one of the “angry” torchbearers from Friday’s Emancipation Park rally that he tried to clear his name in an interview with a local TV station in his home city of Reno, Nevada.

    “I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was,” he told Channel 2 News. “I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”

    White, who worked for the Top Dog restaurant chain, was the very first person that “Yes, You’re Racist” exposed this weekend. His employers said he was fired as a direct result of his involvement in the “Unite the Right” demonstrations.

    “The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog,” the restaurant said in a statement, which was posted outside their Berkeley location on Sunday.

    Here’s your typical tweet by the “Yes, You’re Racist” account on Twitter. I am sure this guy/gal/both is a real hoot at parties.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    There are plenty others out there doing this; and it’s totally fair game. The people on the right do the same thing when the left head out into the streets to ‘bash fash.’

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    In summary, this is the correct way to conduct free speech these days, with a mask.

    You thought you were being brave by showing your face. But like Batman said, the mask is to protect the people you love — not yourself.

    These guys knew the deal, covered from head to toe.

  • China Macro Data Misses Across The Board In July, Worst Since 2016

    Confirming the credit impulse peak is passed (June’s surprise beats), China’s July macro-economic data is ugly. Retail Sales, Industrial Production, and Fixed Asset Investment all fell and missed notably. For now the reaction is absolutely nothing…

    National Bureau of Statistics reports some ugly data for July:

    • China July Industrial Output MISS Rises 6.4% Y/y; Est. 7.1% (range 6.5%-8.7%, 37 economists)
    • Fixed-asset investment excluding rural households MISS up 8.3% y/y in Jan.-July; est. 8.6% (range 8.4%-9.3%, 35 economists)
    • July retail sales MISS rose 10.4% y/y; est. 10.8% y/y (range 9.5%-11.5%, 37 economists)

    China data is the weakest since 2016…

    We wonder just how bad it will get…

    For now there is zero reaction anywhere as it appears traders are numb to global nuclear war concerns, epic Japanese growth, and dismal Chinese data.

  • Paul Craig Roberts Explains "How Conspiracy Theories Really Work"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    In the United States «conspiracy theory» is the name given to explanations that differ from those that serve the ruling oligarchy, the establishment or whatever we want to call those who set and control the agendas and the explanations that support the agendas.

    The explanations imposed on us by the ruling class are themselves conspiracy theories. Moreover, they are conspiracy theories designed to hide the real conspiracy that our rulers are operating.

    For example, the official explanation of 9/11 is a conspiracy theory. Some Muslims, mainly Saudi Arabians, delivered the greatest humiliation to a superpower since David slew Goliath. They outsmarted all 17 US intelligence agencies and those of NATO and Israel, the National Security Council, the Transportation Safety Administration, Air Traffic Control, and Dick Cheney, hijacked four US airliners on one morning, brought down three World Trade Center skyscrapers, destroyed that part of the Pentagon where research was underway into the missing $2.3 billion, and caused the morons in Washington to blame Afghanistan instead of Saudi Arabia. 

    Clearly, the Saudi Arabians who humiliated America were involved in a conspiracy to do so.

    Is it a believable conspiracy?

    The ability of a few young Muslim men to pull off such a feat is unbelievable. Such total failure of the US National Security State means that America was blindly vulnerable throughout the decades of Cold War with the Soviet Union. If such total failure of the National Security State had really occurred, the White House and Congress would have been screaming for an investigation. People would have been held accountable for the long chain of security failures that allowed the plot to succeed. Instead, no one was even reprimanded, and the White House resisted all efforts for an investigation for a year. Finally, to shut up the 9/11 families, a 9/11 Commission was convened. The commission duly wrote down the government’s story and that was the «investigation».

    Moreover, there is no evidence to support the official conspiracy theory of 9/11. Indeed, all known evidence contradicts the official conspiracy theory.

    For example, it is a proven fact that Building 7 came down at freefall acceleration, which means it was wired for demolition. Why was it wired for demolition? There is no official answer to this question.

    It is the known evidence provided by scientists, architects, engineers, pilots, and the first responders who were in the twin towers and personally experienced the numerous explosions that brought down the towers that is described as a conspiracy theory.

    The CIA introduced the term «conspiracy theory» into public discourse as part of its action plan to discredit skeptics of the Warren Commission report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Any explanation other than the one handed down was debunked as a conspiracy theory.

    Conspiracy theories are the backbone of US foreign policy. For example, the George W. Bush regime was active in a conspiracy against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The Bush regime created fake evidence of Iraqi «weapons of mass destruction», sold the false story to a gullible world and used it to destroy Iraq and murder its leader. Similarly, Gaddafi was a victim of an Obama/Hillary conspiracy to destroy Libya and murder Gaddafi. Assad of Syria and Iran were slated for the same treatment until the Russians intervened.

    Currently, Washington is engaged in conspiracies against Russia, China, and Venezuela. Proclaiming a non-existent «Iranian threat», Washington put US missiles on Russia’s border and used the «North Korean threat» to put missiles on China’s border. The democratically elected leader of Venezuela is said by Washington to be a dictator, and sanctions have been put on Venezuela to help the small Spanish elite through whom Washington has traditionally ruled South American countries pull of a coup and reestablish US control over Venezuela.

    Everyone is a threat: Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, tribes in Pakistan, Libya, Russia, China, North Korea, but never Washington. The greatest conspiracy theory of our time is that Americans are surrounded by foreign threats. We are not even safe from Venezuela.

    The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, and the rest of the presstitutes are quick to debunk as conspiracy theories all explanations that differ from the explanations of the ruling interests that they serve.

    Yet, as I write and for some nine months to date, the presstitute media has been promoting the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump was involved in a conspiracy with the president of Russia and Russian intelligence services to hack the US presidential election and place Trump, a Russian agent, in the White House. 

    This conspiracy theory has no evidence whatsoever. It doesn’t need evidence, because it serves the interests of the military/security complex, the Democratic Party, the neoconservatives, and permits the presstitutes to show lavish devotion to their masters. By endless repetition a lie becomes truth.

    There is a conspiracy, and it is against the American people. Their jobs have been offshored in order to enrich the already rich. They have been forced into debt in a futile effort to maintain their living standards. Their effort to stem their decline by electing a president who spoke for them is being subverted before their eyes by an utterly corrupt media and ruling class.

    Sooner or later it will dawn on them that there is nothing they can do but violently revolt. Most likely, by the time they reach this conclusion it will be too late.

    For the gullible and naive who have been brainwashed into believing that any explanation that differs from the officially-blessed one is a conspiracy theory, there are available online long lists of government conspiracies that succeeded in deceiving the people in order that the governments could achieve agendas that the people would have rejected.

    If liberty continues to exist on earth, it will not be in the Western world. It will be in Russia and China, countries that emerged out of the opposite and know the value of liberty, and it will be in those South American countries, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia that fight for their sovereignty against American oppression.

    Indeed, as historians unconcerned with their careers are beginning to write, the primary lesson in history is that governments deceive their peoples.

    Everywhere in the Western world, government is a conspiracy against the people.

  • US Launches Quiet Crackdown On Cryptocurrencies

    While all eyes were distracted with the Trump-demeaning headlines of the foreign sanctions bill, few spotted the hidden mandate that foreign governments monitor cryptocurrency circulations as a measure to combat "illicit finance trends" in an effort to "combat terrorism."

    As Coinivore reports, the bill requires the governments to develop a “national security strategy” to combat the “financing of terrorism and related forms of illicit finance.”

    Governments will be further required to monitor “data regarding trends in illicit finance, including evolving forms of value transfer such as so-called cryptocurrencies.”

    According to the bill, an initial draft strategy is expected to come before Congress within the next year, and will see input from U.S. financial regulators, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department.

    The bill calls for:

    “[A] discussion of and data regarding trends in illicit finance, including evolving forms of value transfer such as so-called cryptocurrencies, other methods that are computer, telecommunications, or internet-based, cybercrime, or any other threats that the Secretary may choose to identify.”

    Interestingly enough, Coindesk reports, “the new bill echoes another submitted in May as part of a wider Department of Homeland Security legislative package.” That measure, as CoinDesk reported at the time, calls for research into the potential use of cryptocurrencies by terrorists. 

    Like the DHS bill, the new sanctions law doesn’t constitute a shift in policy, but rather indicates that Congress is taking steps to explore the issue more closely.

    Just more examples of the U.S. government trying to impose its will upon other nations and citizens who never lived there, as witnessed with the arrest of Alexander Vinnik in Greece, BTC-E’s alleged CEO according to the Department Of Justice.

  • Hertz – The Final Nail In The Coffin

    Authored by Daniel Ruiz via Blinders Off blog,

    As a disciplinarian in the automotive sector, my focal point is concentrated on the study of used vehicle values and how they affect the automotive industry as a whole.

    Measure the Cause to Predict the Effect

    There are several subcategories that help predict the trajectory of used vehicle values that I use as leading indicators. For example, there is a very strong correlation between the performance of Hertz stock and used vehicle values. In June, while the stock was trading at multi-year lows due to excessive pessimism, I witnessed used vehicle values begin to stabilize. I also noticed the amount of vehicles available from Hertz at auction fall drastically. These events made me believe that a strategy change was at hand. Was Hertz reducing the size of their fleet as they have in the past during difficult times? Would Hertz focus on better utilization rates and other cost saving measures? My suspicions proved to be correct. The benefits of stabilizing used vehicle values plus fleet management changes will likely be felt through the end of Q3.

    The reduced volume of rental vehicles at auction has supported higher used vehicle values. Additionally, falling new vehicle retail sales increase the demand for used vehicles. Fewer new vehicle sales result in fewer used vehicle trades forcing dealers to acquire more used inventory at wholesale auctions.

    However, I believe the factors currently supporting used vehicle values are transitory, and we should consider what comes next.

    Poor Residual Performance Prompts A Change In Fleet Mix

    Base trim levels and underperforming passenger vehicle values were identified by Hertz as part of the reason for the excessive per unit monthly depreciation levels experienced in Q1 and Q2 of 2017. The fix? Purchase vehicles with more options, reduce the amount of compact cars and add more SUVs.

    This is where it all goes wrong. Higher trim levels are accompanied by higher cost. Assuming that the added cost will be recuperated when the vehicles are retired should not be expected. This is because added options do not depreciate at the same pace as the base value of a vehicle. To use a simple example, a navigation system with an added cost of $2,000 in a new vehicle will only add about $500 of additional wholesale value. The same applies for upgraded stereos, sunroofs, etc. However, the available wholesale and retail supply of a vehicle in a specific trim level is more important than the trim level itself. As the concentration of any vehicle in a specific trim level grows, it will experience pricing pressure. To date, the damage done by Hertz and other rental companies when vehicles are retired en masse has been limited entry level vehicles. When higher value assets experience pricing pressure, they put pricing pressure on all related lower value assets. When these higher trim level vehicles are retired, more pricing pressure will be felt in the used vehicle market because in essence, Hertz has taken one step up on the asset value ladder.

    Higher trim levels were not the only change to the fleet. Hertz, like many others experiencing the accelerated depreciation in passenger vehicles, has chosen to seek the safety of the better performing SUV segment. The compact car portion of the fleet was reduced by 5% and replaced with more expensive SUVs. The timing of this decision could not be worse. I have been very vocal about the misconception that the truck and SUV market is healthy. Trucks and SUVs are in a different cycle than passenger cars, but the values have already peaked and will continue to fall for the next 2 to 3 years. SUVs are more expensive than passenger cars, so the losses will be greater.

    We’ve Been Here Before

    During the 2008 and 2009, Hertz faced a very depressed used vehicle market. In response to the difficult market conditions, they decided to reduce their fleet size and keep the vehicles longer as stated in this New York Times article. During this difficult time, the peak depreciation per unit reached $332 (2009).

    In Q1 of 2017, Hertz reported a depreciation rate per unit of $348 and the most recently, a depreciation rate of $353 for Q2.

    In response to the rising per unit cost due to weakening used vehicle values, Hertz has decided to reduce the size of its fleet once again.

    More importantly, Hertz has committed to only half of the new vehicle purchases thought to be necessary in 2018 as they cautiously measure the demand and the strength of the used vehicle market going forward. If used vehicle values continue to fall (as I fully expect they will), a very similar scenario to 2009 is possible allowing new vehicle sales into rental to fall drastically.

    This has very negative implications for manufacturing when you consider that new vehicle sales into rental represented a little more than 1.8 million units in 2016.

    The last time this happened for Hertz the story had a happy ending. The peak of monthly depreciation per unit in 2009 also marked the bottom of the stock price declines.

    This was largely due to used vehicle values rebounding strongly which provided them with a seller’s market when their aging fleet needed to be retired.

    What’s Different This Time?

    Unlike 2009 when the US government intervened with Cash for Clunkers and the lowest interest rates in history, I don’t foresee a catalyst that will boost or even stabilize used vehicle values for the next 2-3 years. Most important of all, in 2009, when the depreciation for rental vehicles was at its peak, new vehicle sales had been declining for three years: A used vehicle is little more than a new vehicle that is sold then driven just beyond the curb. Weak new vehicle sales for a prolonged period of time created a shortage of late model vehicles with low mileage.

    Last year was a record setting year for new vehicle sales. We have not experienced a sufficient decline in new vehicle sales which will be necessary to balance the supply of used vehicles. Similar to the 2008 period, I expect that Hertz will have to keep their current fleet longer than expected due to further used vehicle value declines. However, a fleet can only be allowed to age for so long due to higher wear and tear costs like tire and brake replacement. In conclusion, Hertz has surpassed the previous peak in per unit depreciation and now has to weather a 2 plus year declining used vehicle value storm with a more expensive mix of vehicles.

    The greatest challenge for Hertz is not behind, it lies ahead, and it’s one that they may not be able to survive this time.

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Aug 13

Today’s News 13th August 2017

  • Charlottesville is a Symptom of a Much Greater Problem in America Today

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    So I was walking around Maine today, without a phone, totally unplugged from the world. Since I’m a personable person, quite affable at times, I conversed with lots of strangers, many people who might disagree with my ‘world view.’ Although I have strong opinions, I’m mature enough to know my ideas are meaningless time fodder, the result of theories concocted through emotional and cognitive experiences. Too many Americans actually think their ideas matter. They’re told this lie by the media and their politicians all the time, in an effort to trick people into thinking we live in a participatory democracy. Everyone is trying to ram their ideologies down the necks of others, which of course results in backlash.

    The vast majority of people just want to larp around, drink something strong, and procreate. I can’t think of the last time when I thought discussing politics was a good idea for casual conversation. I did it more when I was younger, filled with vigor — stuck in the amber of idealism. I’ve always felt dreadful after engaging in political debate — even with people who totally agreed with me. It’s a time sink down the hole of extreme negativity and only serves to make people angry.

    Why?

    Because government can never please everyone, which is why I believe the less government, the better.

    The connectivity of our phones and social media, amplified by the media, has turned total imbeciles into activists. These people are sick and have nothing better to do than foment strife. The ‘white supremacists’ who marched in Virginia yesterday were idiots. They weren’t idiots because they had low IQs or because they wanted to express their opinions, but because they actually took the time out of their day to bring attention to themselves for a negative reason. What did they think was going to result from this?

    A great man once told me, ‘if it doesn’t generate revenue, I’m not interested.’ He’d actually say that to total strangers at a bar, ordinary men asking for the time or if he had watched some sports game on the tube, which caused him to get punched hard in the face more times than I can remember. But it’s a good way to live, if you think about it.

    I’d like to tie this up in a pretty bow and simply say ‘we’re all so different and America can never truly come together because of idealogical differences.’ But that’d be false. The core issue here isn’t politics, or racism, or identity politics, but the fact that ordinary citizens are getting wound up by social engineers, who are seeking to divide people, bringing out the ugliest in people. We’re all ugly, in one way or another — some uglier than others. When Americans work together and leave out politics, we produce beautiful, life changing, things. But it seems every god damned news report I read these days is talking about an angry white man, a violent black man, or an evil Russian. Naturally, if you keep fucking with people’s emotions and pride, bad things will happen.

    I won’t say the news needs to accentuate the positive things in life — because they have a business to run. What I am saying, however, is that the combination of having everyone with a phone and social media account wanting to be a celebrity, coupled with an atmosphere of purposeful divisiveness, is a toxic, if not deadly, combination. At some point, I hope all people will realize that it isn’t Joe from down the block that is the problem — but Jim in DC messing up America’s legacy.

  • When The Grid Goes Down…

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via ReadyNutrition.com,

    Let’s just say that the unthinkable becomes the real and happening.  Let’s take this article and go over it.  This will be a segment in three parts, the next ones being immediate actions taken at work and at home.  I’m hitting on traveling first, as there are so many vacationers jaunting around happily over the landscape.  All kidding aside, traffic is congested during the summer, extending traveling time on the commutes.  Let’s game the scenario, and here it is.

    Here’s the scenario:

    You’re cruising down the highway in your 2013 four-door sedan, having just dropped the kids off twenty minutes ago to the swim club.  Now you’re on the open highway with a heavy traffic flow…about 5 miles from the edge of town and 7 miles from work.  You’re listening to the radio, when suddenly it crackles and goes dead, along with your engine.  You look around and pumping the brakes manage to slow down and then drive off the road onto the shoulder, just feet away from the back bumper of another vehicle.

     

    The vehicle comes to a stop, and you try the ignition again.  You look at your watch, a Casio G-Shock, to find there is no display.  You reach for your cell phone.  Nothing.  It’s dead.  There are perhaps a dozen cars around you…half to your front and half to your rear.  All of them have stopped, and most of the drivers have gotten out.  You hear the sound of an engine, and looking up, see a ’58 Ford pickup truck weaving in and out of the stalled traffic, moving toward your rear, away from town.  The book “One Second After” has just played out in real life.  The United States has been attacked by an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) weapon.  You’re 15 miles from home, and the “S” has hit the fan.

    On Friday 7/29/17, North Korea just successfully tested an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) and experts from four different countries including the U.S. have determined that they have the capability of striking the U.S. anywhere.  That means the optimal point for an EMP strike (dead center of the continental U.S., at 300 km above ground) is not only their prime target but also attainable.

    15 Tips to Get Safely Home Following an EMP

    Back to our scenario.  Most will be clueless and unprepared.  Let’s do it up, down and dirty with the steps that you should take if you are “Citizen X” outlined in the scenario:

    1. Have a plan already in place: That means to formulate one right now, if you haven’t already done so.

    2. If there are a lot of people around, such as in the scenario, then immediately grab your gear and get out of there. What gear, you may ask?  We’ve “gamed” much of this to the point of nausea, but let’s list out those essentials:

    “Go/Bug Out Bag”: This guy already needs to be packed and ready, in that vehicle that will become a 3,000-lb. paperweight. Three days’ supply of ready-to-eat food, one day’s worth of water and the means to filter more.  Compass, flashlight, knife, first aid kit, poncho, jacket/sweatshirt, extra socks, map, light sleeping bag, fire starting material, small fishing kit (hooks, line, bobber), sewing kit, MSW (Minor Surgical Wound) kit, extra cash ($20 denominations and smaller), ground pad, extra clothing (hat, OG bandana, etc.), and ammo. An EMP may be followed by radiological and nuclear consequences. Having an NBC gas mask and anti-radiation pills in your vehicle could be a lifesaver.

    Weapon: Please don’t feed me “legal information,” or “I can’t do that in my state.” These are “sink or swim” rules.  If you don’t have a weapon now, you may not have one later.  If you don’t have the fortitude to take that weapon and be ready to use it when the time comes, then you probably won’t survive this or be able to help your family.  One rifle, one pistol, with ammo for each.

    Grab that bag and put it on, securing your weapons. Then secure the vehicle, closing the windows and locking it up.  If nobody is around, throw it into neutral and push it off the road.  Camouflage it with branches and leaves…taking care not to cut them from the immediate area that you stash it.  Most likely it’ll be “violated,” so now is the time to take the stuff you need and get it out. If the scenario above applies, just secure the vehicle and get out of there.

    3. Traveling: Do not walk on the roads. Skirt the road with about 50 meters (that’s about 150 feet) between you and the edge of the road.  Stay away from people unless you know them and trust them…both qualities are emboldened.

    4. For metro people: If you are out in the suburbs or open road, and you must return to the city? It may be better for you and your family to arrange for a rallying point outside of the city.  If that isn’t possible, then you should exercise extreme caution.  Allow the nearest family member to secure the home and then wait for you.  Travel when it’s dark to be on the safe side.  Your visibility is cut down, and so is the visibility of those who may be hunting you.

    5. Long distance to go? Forage along the way.  Refill your canteens/water bottles whenever you’re able, and take note of any freestanding water supplies or “blue” features (that’s the color of water on a military map) for use in the future.  DON’T MARK YOUR MAP!  If someone gets a hold of it, you do not want them to be able to find your home.  You must commit the route to memory and adjust your steps accordingly.

    6. Dealing with the Stress of the Event: The power is not coming back on…ever…and it really has begun…the Day After Doomsday is here. Take a deep breath and concentrate on your training, your preparations.  If you don’t have any, then this piece is a wake-up call to get moving!  The best way to do it is immediately accepting what has happened without dwelling on it.  Concentrate on the tasks at hand: navigating home, scouting what is in between, and foraging for anything you need.  You have a job to do!  Reconnaissance!  We’ll go over that now.

    Reconnaissance: You must see on the ground what is in between you and the happy Hallmark home you’re returning to. You should take note of any places that hold medical supplies, food, or anything you may need for yourself or your family.  You should take note of possible refuge sites to hide if you and the family hightail it out of the home instead of having a “Walton Family Homecoming.”  You must take note of water features, danger locations (cliffs or impassable terrain features), as well as dangerous individuals.  Yes, the ones who were jerks before all of this?  Wait until you see how they’ll be now, with no controls exercised over them.

    7. The best advice I can give: Travel at night. This may be impossible for several reasons.  Firstly, if it’s an all-out nuke attack, there may be the problem of radiation for you, in which case you’ll have to either reach home immediately or seek shelter immediately to remain in place for several weeks.  Secondly, you may have other family members that need to be attended to and cannot wait for a long time.  The kids in the scenario are a prime example.  If it is an EMP only, there will be a “quiet period” of about 6 to 12 hours before everything breaks loose and the sequel to the movie “The Road” begins in real life.  Darkness is the best time to travel.  It hides you and helps you to cover your tracks until the morning light.

    8.The rest of the family: They must KNOW THE OVERALL PLAN AND HAVE A PLAN OF THEIR OWN TO FOLLOW UNTIL YOU GET THEM OR UNTIL THEY REACH HOME. This is all going to take some preparation on your part and remember the saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Don’t put it off!

    9. Avoid people, families, and groups of people. Your goal when traveling is to be invisible.  I wrote some articles on how to hunt and how to avoid the manhunt.  You may want to refresh yourself on those points, and follow a few basic rules I keep in my own mind and heart:

    • When a disaster occurs, everyone is your “friend” even when they are not
    • There is no interest but self-interest outside of you and your immediate family
    • Whatever you need and have, they also need and want
    • They will kill you for the barest of essentials of what you’re carrying
    • Don’t talk to anyone: don’t exchange information, pleasantries, and do not tell anyone anything about yourself, your family, your general destination, or your home…it can be used against you later…and it will be.

    10. Coming home: Don’t walk right on in. Use a roundabout route, and go to a spot where you can watch your house for at least half an hour or so before making your “triumphant return.”  The S has hit the fan, and this is not the return of the Prodigal…you’re just going to tiptoe in.  But before you tiptoe through the tulips and the window, keep in mind that Tiny Tim and his gang of marauders may have done it before you.  That is why you want to watch the house closely.  Best Advice I can give: Have your kids/spouse put up a long-distance-visible sign/signal so that you know everything is either OK or that you’ll have to come in and rescue the family.  For example, if the birdhouse is still on the corner of the porch, then all is well.  If the birdhouse is gone, or if it’s sitting on top of the post that holds the mailbox…well, time to play CQB (that’s Close Quarters Battle) and clear the house of the rats.

    11. Never underestimate anyone’s ability to take your family members hostage: That goes for the “friendly neighbors,” most of all…the biggest rats on the block. If that happens, guess what?  You’re now the HRT (that’s Hostage Rescue Team), or you better have a couple of guys such as this in your survival group/pod/neighborhood unit.  The hardest guy or gal in the world will “cave” when their son or daughter is being held at gunpoint by some goon.

    12. You’re home…Now, it’s time to fight! That’s right!  Just when you thought it would be cozy and comfortable…just you and the family and your happy supplies…here comes a whole bagful of “Gummi Bears” down the block…only these bears are armed with baseball bats, zip guns, chains, and crowbars.  Armed also with about a week of BO (that’s Body Odor), all twelve of them combined still have an IQ of 50, tops…and here they are, at your door.  They don’t want Halloween candy, by the way.  You just walked twenty miles.          Say, remember that article I wrote about using ginseng, and drinking coffee to help you keep alert and awake?  I hope that one comes to mind because it’s about to become a “festival” at your house.  We’re going to cover more on this in the next segment.

    13. Obtain that “second set” of electronic equipment. Oh yeah, the one JJ continuously warns about!  Well, now that all your electronics that were exposed are junk, I hope you made some Faraday cages and stashed an extra one of those radios…or even several, for those of you who thought long-term.  You need to find out what’s going on.  Ham radios may help if you shielded them.  So may CB’s and satellite phones.

    14. Arm the whole family: by the time you reach home, every family member either accompanying you (small children and toddlers excepted) should be armed. Time to really see how tight and full of solidarity you are as a real family unit…one that must fight in order to survive.

    15. Exit stage left: You may just find that the homecoming isn’t; that is, you must write it off as a loss and get out of there…it’s either destroyed and burning or occupied by the marauders. Unless you have the skills and the ability to deal with all of them, it is better to retreat and stay alive.  You need a plan in place in order to make this work.

    We’ve covered a lot of information here.  This is all designed to stimulate those creative thought processes.  The thinking alone is not enough: you must formulate a plan and then implement it.  A plan without action is of no use.  A plan executed too late is a tragedy: a funeral dirge getting ready to play.  Don’t be too late to formulate your plan for you and your family.  If the lights go out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the party’s over…and the party may be one that never comes to an end.  Fight that good fight each and every day!  JJ out!

  • Error 404: Visualizing The Internet's Digital Decay

    In 2005, one of the most intriguing advertising stunts of the internet age was hatched.

    As Visual Capitalist's Nick Routley explains, Alex Tew launched the The Million Dollar Homepage, where anyone could “own a piece of internet history” by purchasing pixels-plots (minimum of 10×10) on a massive digital canvas. At the price of just one dollar per pixel, everyone from individual internet users to well-known companies like Yahoo! raced to claim a space on the giant digital canvas.

    Today, The Million Dollar Homepage lives on as a perfect record of that wacky time in internet history – or so it seems. However, the reality is that many of the hyperlinks on the canvas are now redirects that send incoming users to other sites, while over 20% of them are simply dead.

    Here are the links that still work on the Million Dollar Homepage today:

    The revealing graphic above, via John Bowers, raises the question – how do hyperlinks disappear, and what implications does this “digital decay” have?

    DIGITAL DECAY

    The internet is stitched together by an incalculable number of hyperlinks, but much like cells in an organism, the sources and destinations have a finite lifespan. Essentially, links can and do die.

    Most “link rot” is the result of website restructuring, or entities going out of business and pulling their website offline.

    A high-impact example of this is when Yahoo! pulled the plug on GeoCities, one of the first popular web hosting services. In one fell swoop, roughly 7 million websites (containing a plethora of animated gifs, auto-playing midi files, and traffic counters) went dark forever.

    Links can also die because of more deliberate reasons, as well. In 2015, the editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed, Ben Smith, came under fire for deleting thousands of posts from the site (including content that was critical of Buzzfeed advertisers). Journalism has traditionally acted as a public record, so this type of “decay” has serious implications on the credibility of media brands.

    WHO CARES?

    This idea of a public record is at the heart of why digital decay is an issue worth addressing. Once millions of links simply burn out, what will people in the future know about society in the early-ish days of the internet? What record will remain of people’s thoughts and feelings in that era?

    I worry that the twenty-first century will become an informational black hole.

    – Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer

    Perhaps more urgent are public records that live in the digital realm. Supreme Court decisions and academia lean heavily on citations to build their arguments. What happens when those citations simply vanish? A Harvard study found that 49% of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions are now broken.

    Even that ubiquitous resource, Wikipedia, has serious issues caused by digital decay. Over 130,000 entries link to dead pages – a troubling development, as linked citations are what lend entries their credibility.

    BACKING UP THE INTERNET

    A handful of people are taking steps to archive the internet.

    The most well-known solution is Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which has archived hundreds of billions webpages over the past 20 years. Even the The Library of Congress – which is well known for archiving digital information such as tweets – contracts Internet Archive to do its web crawling.

    The academia-focused Perma is another example of a company looking to create permanent records of the web sources (particularly citations).

    Many of the weird and wonderful forums and hand-coded homepages of early internet lore may be gone, but we’re finally taking steps to combat digital decay. As awareness grows, avoiding an “informational black hole” may be possible.

  • Baltimore Mayor Offers Solution To "Out Of Control" Homicides – Free Community College For All

    Via StockBoardAsset.com,

    Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announces her crime-fighting initiative last Wednesday, portion of which includes free community college. 

    Her answer to a homicide rate that is doubled Chicago’s is free community college for Baltimore youth.

    Here is what she had to say per WBALTV:

    “Community college has become critical in providing the necessary education and training that high school graduates need to pursue a trade or a four-year degree,” Pugh said.

     

    “What we are going to do in Baltimore City is make Baltimore Community College free.”

    Earlier this week, ‘Project Baltimore’ asked this question: How can a high school with zero students proficient in math, have one of the highest graduation rates in Baltimore City? 

    In a stunning interview from one of the masked educators who uncovered this possible great theft of education.. They said, “grade changing. Giving out diplomas to students that did not earn them.”

    So, therein lies a major issue of efficiency in the city. An alleged corrupt school system in Baltimore is handing out high school diplomas like candy to students who have zero proficiency in math. Then the expectation is to push these students into free college in the name of stopping homicides. This does not pass the smell test.

    Perhaps, the problem is much deeper and it starts with deindustrialization of the city and 50-years of democratic controlled leadership. This has forced a shocking facial wealth divide – 1/3 of black households have zero net worth.

    Education Attainment for Black or African American is shocking

    Conclusion:

    Baltimore Mayor Pugh needs a lesson in timeframes. Her holistic approach of free college for Baltimore youth will not solve today’s homicide rate that is doubled Chicago’s. We’re sure Baltimore taxpayers will be thrilled.

  • Al-Qaeda's "Inspire" Magazine Targets US Commuter Trains With Homemade "Derailment Devices"

    The magazine that helped the Tsarnaev brothers pull off the Boston Marathon bombing – while also purporting to teach wannabe jihadis how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” – is homing in on its next target: America’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

    “Inspire,” the Al Qaeda propaganda magazine, will dedicate its next issue to America’s passenger and commuter trains. The focus on rail transportation comes at a time of great anxiety over the scarcity of resources devoted to repairing America’s vulnerable trains, which is advantageous to a group aiming to reestablish maximum relevance.

    Derailments in the Bronx, Philadelphia and New York City’s Penn Station have made commuters anxious. The effort to rescue New York City’s deteriorating subway system has been one of the most closely followed stories of the summer, according to the Washington Times.

    “Issue No. 17 is headlined, “Train Derail Operations,” and will spell out ways to create rail disasters in a transportation system that lacks the stiff security procedures of airline travel.

     

    It’s competing Sunni extremists group, the Islamic State, for more than a year has advocated using vehicles to mow down innocents. Its murderous followers have weaponized vehicles in Nice, Berlin and London, creating hundreds of deaths and injuries.

     

    Adding trains to the terrorist’s priority list would put at risk virtually every mode of transportation and placed added pressure on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

    Furthermore, two of the deadliest terror attacks in European history were carried out on public commuter trains. The 7/7 London tube bombing, when four suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London Underground. And the Madrid train bombings, when a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda killed nearly 200 people on a Madrid Cercanias train. Now Al Qaeda wants to replicate those attacks in the US.

    A “trailer” for the new issue was being shared on the social-media app Telegram, a popular venue for sharing extremist content that has often been used by terrorists for recruiting.

    The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) put out a report on Friday saying al Qaeda has teased the Inspire articles with a trailer appearing on Telegram app channels operated by its fans.

     

    “The trailer highlights that derailments are simple to design using easily available materials, that such a planned attack can be hard to detect, and that the outcome can substantially damage a country’s transportation sector and the Western economy in general,” MEMRI said.

    The New York City subway is featured in the promotional video, which depicts derailment devices that the narrator says could easily be attached to tracks, causing a derailment.

    “Simple to design,” the promo says in English script, mentioning “America” several times. “Made from readily available materials. Hard to be detached. Cause great destruction to the Western economy and transportation sector.”

    The magazine’s push is part of a rebranding effort for Al Qaeda as the group seeks to regain the upper hand in recruiting from ISIS, which was recently driven out of Mosul, and has also suffered other setbacks like the death (and miraculous rebirth) of the group’s founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Al Qaeda, which is trying to reassert itself by forging alliances with other jihadist groups outside its home in South Yemen, wants to revive its formerly fearsome reputation…and the most effective method would involve an attack.
     

  • North Korea Says Army Is "On Standby Waiting For An Order Of Attack"

    Global markets are closed for the weekend, so we will need to wait until tomorrow evening to see how investors react to the latest back-and-forth between the North Korean government and President Donald Trump. In North Korea’s latest salvo in its war of words, a state-run newspaper declared in an editorial that the country’s Paektusan army is now “on standby to launch fire into its [the US’s] mainland, waiting for an order of final attack."

    The comments follow a Friday report from KBS World Radio, the official international broadcasting station of South Korea (which is owned by the Korean Broadcasting System), that "North Korean authorities have dispatched emergency standby orders to the leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party committees and civil defense units."

    Here’s more from Fox News:

    “North Korea took its turn Saturday in the country’s escalating, back-and-fourth with President Trump, with the state-run newspaper saying leader Kim Jung Un’s revolutionary army is “capable of fighting any war the U.S. wants.”

    The assertion was made in an editorial that also states the Paektusan army is now “on the standby to launch fire into its mainland, waiting for an order of final attack."

     

    The editorial also argues that the United States ‘finds itself in an ever worsening dilemma, being thrown into the grip of extreme security unrest by the DPRK. This is tragicomedy of its own making. … If the Trump administration does not want the American empire to meet its tragic doom in its tenure, they had better talk and act properly.’”

    Late last week, in a response to domestic criticism about Trump’s bellicose commentary, the president said that his rhetoric concerning North Korea – particularly his now infamous promise to respond with “fire and fury and…power” if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continues to threaten the US – may not have been “tough enough.”

    * * *

    Fox also reported that Chinese leader Xi Jinping pleaded with Trump to tone down his rhetoric during a Friday night phone call with the US president.

    “During Trump’s phone conversation Friday with Xi, the Chinese leader also requested that the U.S. and North Korea tone down their recent rhetoric and avoid actions that could worsen tensions between the two nations, Chinese Central Television reported.

     

    ‘At present, the relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean Peninsula,’ Xi was quoted as saying.”

    As we noted last night, it doesn’t look like Xi was able to sweet-talk Trump into once again delaying an investigation into China’s trade practices that many expect will lead to an all-out trade war between the world’s two largest economies. China is North Korea’s only major benefactor, and is responsible for 90% of the country’s foreign trade. Trump’s decision comes despite an IMF warning last month that “inward-looking” policies could derail a global recovery that has so far been resilient to raising tensions over trade. We also have noted the tendency, throughout history, for trade wars to blossom into the real thing…

    Indeed, it seems that relations between the two world powers are deteriorating once again even after Trump praised China for signing off on the latest round of UN Security Council sanctions against the North – which are expected to reduce North Korea’s exports by more than $1 billion.

    But despite Xi’s repeated jawboning and half-hearted promises to act, China has so far been reluctant to take meaningful action to curb North Korea’s nuclear program. Now any effort would probably be too little, too late, as the US and Japan now believe the North has developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside on of its ICBMs. This newfound capability could allow the North to deliver a nuclear payload to the US mainland – a fact that was not lost on global markets this week.

    The escalating tensions between NK and the US – particularly Kim Jong Un’s threat to launch a missile at Guam, a US island territory in the Pacific – helped keep the S&P 500 below its 50DMA for the longest stretch since April

    …and the Chinese VIX to its highest level of the year.

    On Monday, we will learn if US investors are sufficiently terrified to dump stocks…or if “buy-the-f**king-all-out-nuclear-war-dip becomes the mantra of the day.
     

  • If War Comes, Don't Blame The "Military-Industrial Complex" – It's Much Worse Than You Think

    Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    As the drumbeat intensifies for what might turn out to be anything but a «splendid little war» against North Korea, it is appropriate to take stock of the ongoing, seemingly successful effort to strip President Donald Trump of his authority to make any foreign and national security policies that fly against the wishes of the so-called Military-Industrial Complex, or MIC. A Google search for «Military-Industrial Complex» (in quotation marks) with «Trump» yields almost 450,000 hits from all sources and almost 26,000 from just news sources.

    During the 2016 campaign and into the initial weeks of his administration, Trump was sometimes described as a threat to the MIC. But over time, with the appointment to his administration of more generals and establishment figures (including some allegedly tied to George Soroswhile purging Trump loyalists, it’s no surprise that his policies increasingly seem less a departure from those of previous administrations than a continuation of them (for example, welcoming Montenegro into NATO). Some now say that Trump is the MIC’s best friend and maybe always was. 

    There are those who deny that the MIC exists at all. One self-described conservative blogger writing in the pro-war, pro-intervention, and mostly neoconservative National Review refers to the very existence of the MIC as a «myth» peddled by the «conspiracy-minded». Sure, it is conceded, it was appropriate to refer to such a concept back when President Dwight Eisenhower warned against it in 1961 upon his impending departure from the White House, because back then the military consumed some 10 percent of the American GDP. But now, when the percentage is nominally just 3.2 percent, less than $600 billion per year, the term supposedly is inapplicable. (There are those who argue that the real cost annually is over $1 trillion, but why quibble.) 

    There is a germ of truth contained in the reference to money. Compared to the «wars of choice» that have characterized US global behavior since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the MIC of the 1950s and 1960s was relatively less likely to embark upon foreign military escapades. The existence of a world-class nuclear-armed foe in the form of the USSR moderated tendencies toward adventurism. The most serious «combat» the classic MIC preferred to engage in was inter-service battles for budgetary bounty. Reportedly, once General Curtis LeMay, head of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, was briefed by a junior officer who repeatedly referred to the USSR as «the enemy». LeMay supposedly interrupted to correct him: «Young man, the Soviet Union is our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy». 

    But today the «Military-Industrial Complex» is an archaic term that doesn’t begin to describe the complexity and influence of current structures. Indeed, even in Eisenhower’s day the MIC was more than a simple duplex consisting of the Pentagon and military contractors but also included an essential third leg: the Congressional committees that provide the money constituting the MIC’s lifeblood. (Reportedly, an earlier draft of the speech used the term «military-industrial-Congressional» complex, a fuller description of what has come to be called the «Iron Triangle». Asked about the omission from the final text, Eisenhower is said to have answered: «It was more than enough to take on the military and private industry. I couldn't take on the Congress as well».) 

    Not only did the Iron Triangle continue to expand during the Cold War, when production of military hardware established itself as the money-making nucleus of the MIC, it swelled to even greater proportions after the designated enemy, the USSR, went out of business in 1991. While for one brief shining moment there was naïve discussion of a «Peace Dividend» that would provide relief for American taxpayers from whose shoulders the burden of a «long twilight struggle» against communism (in John Kennedy’s phrase) had been lifted, that notion faded quickly. Instead, not only did the «hard» side of the MIC maintain itself – first in Iraq to fight «naked aggression» by Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, then in the Balkans in the 1990s as part of NATO’s determination to go «out of area or out of business» – it then branched out into «soft» areas of control.

    In the past quarter century what began as Eisenhower’s MIC has become a multifaceted, hybrid entity encompassing an astonishing range and depth in both the public and private sectors. To a large extent, the contours of what former Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren has called the «Deep State» (which largely through Lofgren’s efforts has since become a household word) are those of the incestuous «expert» community that dominates mainstream media thinking but extend beyond it to include elements of all three branches of the US government, private business (especially the financial industry, government contractors, information technology), think tanks, NGOs (many of which are anything but «nongovernmental» but are funded by US official agencies and those of our «allies», satellites, and clients), higher education (especially the recipients of massive research grants from the Department of Defense), and the two political parties and their campaign operatives, plus the multitude of lobbyists, campaign consultants, pollsters, spin doctors, media wizards, lawyers, and other functionaries. 

    Comparing the MIC of 1961 to its descendant, the Deep State of today, is like comparing a horse and buggy to a Formula One racecar. The Deep State’s principals enjoy power and privileges that would have brought a blush to the cheeks of members of the old Soviet nomenklatura, of which it is reminiscent. 

    Indeed, the Deep State’s creepy resemblance to its late Soviet counterpart is manifest in its budding venture into the realm of seeking to brand domestic American dissent as treason, to the hearty approval of the loony Left. As described by Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

    ‘The government would never compile, analyze, and target private news outlets just because they deviate from the official neocon Washington line.

     

    ‘Perhaps not yet. But some US government funded «non-governmental» organizations are already doing just that.

     

    ‘The German Marshall Fund has less to do with Germany these days than it did when founded after WWII as a show of appreciation for the US Marshall Fund. These days it’s mostly funded by the US government, allied governments (especially in the Russia-hating Baltics), neocon grant-making foundations, and the military-industrial complex. Through its strangely Soviet-sounding »Alliance for Securing Democracy» project it has launched something called «Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter».

     

    ‘This project monitors 600 Twitter accounts that the German Marshall Fund claims are «accounts that are involved in promoting Russian influence and disinformation goals». Which accounts does this monitor? It won’t tell us. How does it choose which ones to monitor? It won’t tell us. To what end? Frighteningly, it won’t tell us.

     

    ‘How ironic that something called the German Marshall Fund is bringing Stasi-like tactics to silence alternative media and opinions in the United States!’

    The Soviet nomenklatura gave up without a fight. It’s unlikely its American counterpart will. Whether Trump in the end decides to fight or to seek accommodation is still under debate. Some suggest that by signing the recent bill imposing sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, he has already surrendered. But either way, war or not, things are going to get very rocky.

  • Elon Musk Doubles Down On AI Scare: "Artificial Intelligence Vastly More Risk Than North Korea"

    With the world's attention focused on the Korean Peninsula and the growing threat of global thermonuclear war, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bigger things to worry about. In a series of 'alarming' tweets on Friday, Musk warned the world should be more worried about the dangers of artificial intelligence than North Korea.

    Having unveiled his apocalytpic vision of the world a few weeks ago…

    “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said.

     

    “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

     

    “Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued.

     

    “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

    Musk was quickly admonished by another Silicon Valley billionaire as Mark Zuckerberg suggested Musk is exaggerating, noting:

    “I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic. I think you can build things and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic.

     

    “And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”

    And while the feud grows…

    Musk took to Twitter to turn the fearmongery amplifier to '11'…

    “If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea,” he tweeted.

     

    “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc.) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too,”

     

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    His stark warning came at a time when the US and North Korea remain on heightened alert amid spiraling tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier this week, both sides degenerated to open threats, demonstrating readiness to use coercive force if provoked to do so.

     

    But Musk appeared to be more frightened by artificial intelligence, a rising phenomenon he is willing to put under control.

    We look forward to Mr. Zuckerberg's response.

  • A Thought Experiment On Why Wages Are So Weak

    By Steven Englander, head of research and strategy at Rafiki Capital Management

    I propose a microeconomic rationale for why macro wage performance is so weak, despite tight labor markets. The idea is that we are getting paid less for our job-specific knowledge because technology is making it easier to replace us without major loss of productivity with less skilled workers. The implications for markets:

    • Flattish Phillips curve and low wage inflation continue for an indefinite period
    • Living standards may increase because of lower price relative to wages, not higher wages relative to prices
    • Monetary policy will have to get on with dealing with a low inflation economy — this means setting aside obsessions about balance sheet reduction and setting up the facility to use fiscal policy as needed when the zero bound is approached
    • It’s relatively positive for equities in innovating sectors
    • Long-term bond yields will be driven by monetary policy fears, not long-term inflation worries
    • Short-term policy rate moved will be capped by the sensitivity of the economy to interest rates which may not be large. Note that this cuts both ways – both tightening and easing may be ineffective.

    The thought experiment

    My idea is that wages are driven by how scared your boss is that you are going to leave. If replacing you, retraining your successor and waiting for him to climb the experience curve is costly, he will pay a lot to keep you from leaving. If you are a cog in a wheel, then he won’t care much.

    Imagine an economy of a bus driver, a taxi driver, a cook, a translator, a baby sitter, a doctor and a foreign exchange strategist…. Conceptually you can measure average job specific content by asking the following question: if you randomly reallocated jobs among these workers how much would productivity fall? For example, if the FX strategist was given the cook’s job and the cook became a doctor and the doctor a taxi driver and so on, what would happen?

    Say in Economy A, there is specific knowledge or character traits needed: a bus driver needs the specifics of driving a bus safely, a taxi driver knowledge of the street grid, the translator an excellent command of relevant languages, the baby sitter some proven degree of responsibility, the cook of recipes and technique, the doctor the body of medical knowledge, the FX strategist how to say ‘current account’ and so on. Now imagine the chaos and productivity loss, if the random reallocation occurred and none of the occupants of new jobs had the required skills.

    Now, say in Economy B, the bus is programmed to avoid dangerous manoeuvres, all taxi drivers have a GPS (unlike NYC where none seem to), the translator has automated translation at his fingertips, the baby sitter is aware the house and liquor cabinets are cameraed, the cook has a set of packets to mix (or almost equivalently the packets are sent to your home for you to mix), the doctor a diagnostic program and the FX strategist a chatty virtual assistant that can say ‘current account’. If a random job reallocation occurred in this economy the productivity loss would be much less. My conjecture is that wages would be lower
    because there would be no need to bid to retain workers if they were readily substitutable, or if the same jobs could be filled with less specialized workers with no major productivity loss.

    Wage compression is very likely to be a feature in Economy B relative to Economy A – that is, the premium one receives for job specific knowledge and experience would fall. If you throw in a bit of capital saving technological progress from the sharing economy and economies of scale from the low marginal cost of replicating many IT-based innovations, you could end up with a kind of immiserization of parts of the skilled and semi-skilled working classes.

    Evidence is partial, but it is not straight forward to test this speculation. Figure 1 shows wage levels in selected industry groupings. Note that wages in motor vehicles and parts (bright blue) started way above over industries, but is now average for durable goods (red line) and below education and health services (green line) which started way below. Motor vehicles and parts are now way below the average wage in the private sector, having started above 50% higher in the 1990s.

    In Figure 2 we index these industries to 100 in 2000. We note that wages in leisure and hospitality (light blue) and education and health (green) have both grown faster than in durables manufacturing (red) and above the average for all private industries. Vert similar patterns emerge if we index to 2011.

    So wages have grown slower in high paying industries, faster in low paying industries and the net is the mediocre observed wage growth. What isn’t consistent is Atlanta Fed wage evidence that suggests the quit rate is back to normal for this time of the cycle and the wage premium for quitters is as high as it was in the early 2000s. The other side is that the Atlanta Fed data shows the gap between increases of skilled and unskilled workers as having narrowed.

    Macro/market implications

    The problem for central banks is that we know little of what triggers such shifts in labor market power, how long they last and what ends them. As long as these shifts persist, the Phillips Curve will look flatter in  two-dimensional Unemployment Rate/Wage Inflation space. A well-specified wage equation that account for such structural changes would have a steeper inflation/unemployment trade off than one without the term but capturing the effects we discuss above is not so easy.

    The type of technological progress would imply lower price pressures because the wage weakness would be transmitted in part into prices. (Full disclosure, you have to believe that there is an unmeasured component of actual productivity change here, although it may show up as quality-adjusted labor productivity, rather than standard output per-worker or worker-hour).

    These disinflationary pressures may be hard to fight. Combine this with investment that is not overly responsive to interest rates and you have a situation where getting the inflation that you want may be impossible without risking undesirable levels of asset price inflation. It sounds as if the Fed is already there. There is nothing inevitable about this outcome, but it emerges easily if the disinflationary pressures are strong enough and the interest rate responsiveness is low enough.

    One policy response is to live with it. Ultra-low inflation countries such as Japan and Switzerland have done just fine by many measures and the zero bound becomes an issue in a recession, not during an extended recovery. By ignoring it you have some ability to rein in asset market exuberance, but you are compromising on inflation and possibly activity targets.

    This does not necessarily stop you from raising rates, but you are faced with a dilemma. If raising rates is effective you end up with the downturn you wanted to avoid, if raising rates is ineffective you are fooling
    yourself in thinking that the margin versus the zero bound means that you are all clear in the next downturn. Being able to raise policy rates to three percent without tanking the economy very likely means that you can cut them in the next recession, you won’t have much of an impact. Hawks would argue that reducing the risk of a financial market bubble reduces the risk of a recession down the road.

    It seems to me that whichever way you turn, fiscal policy has to be taken out of the doghouse. Post election, Fed officials reversed their pre-election love affair with fiscal policy, arguing that the economy does not need it. One might say that if the inflation undershoot turns out to be persistent, fiscal policy will become even more necessary to offset structural pressures. And if you think that high liquidity is contributing to asset market ebullience, then a bit of fiscal stimulus combined with monetary tightening can maintain activity and unwind some of the asset market pressures.

    Modest long-term price pressures are probably positive on the fixed income side. Long-term disinflationary pressures and modest investment will keep downward pressure on long-term bond yields even if the Fed tightens at the short end in response to fiscal policy. The use of fiscal likely means being more relaxed about the size of the balance sheet. Debt-to-GDP would have to grow both cyclically and structurally, but debt servicing may not grow very rapidly because of the low inflation and the Fed’s interest income being recycled back to the Treasury. Short-term policy rates may swing around a lot versus stable but relatively low long-term rates.

    The central bank could take a hard line and maintain or shrink the balance sheet even as fiscal expansion was put in place. Still, it would hardly help macroeconomic stabilization if government finances were called into question, so willy-nilly it is likely that the balance sheet would absorb some of the debt incurred via fiscal policy.

    Caveat emptor – this analysis is pretty long term. In the short to medium term, I expect central banks like the Fed and ECB to try and follow up their rhetoric with liquidity tightening and for this to be reflected in long-term rates. Only if/when it turns out that the tightening is unsustainable will the forces I discuss above come into play.

    On the equity side, if you can replace a skilled worker with a less skilled worker that is an attractive proposition. It is not as exciting as booming demand but it still reaches the bottom line. The social consequences are mixed. It is possible that this reduces the returns to certain types of training and education, both specialized and generic, but overall demand for relatively undifferentiated blue-collar labor will go up as will their wages. Improvements in living standards are likely to come via lower prices than higher wages. This is hardly the American dream. However, it is often difficult to put together policies that efficiently offset technological forces to provide distributional equity, and if other jurisdictions are not so focussed on distribution, you can end up with the worst of both worlds. It is possible that workers will drift to occupations where differentiated skills can earn a higher return – so maybe fewer doctors and lawyers but more dancers with the stars.

    If you look at any central bank econometric model, the demand side has decades of development, the supply-side and particularly the modelling of technological change is primitive, distribution is virtually  nonexistent and asset market bubbles a problem because they should not exist in the model world. These secondary issues have become first order issues. Unaddressed they mean incomplete policy regimes and surprising and disappointing outcomes.

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Aug 12

Today’s News 12th August 2017

  • Does Kim Jong-Un's Strategy Make Sense?

    Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    "Looking at the recent North Korean testing of two intercontinental missiles, it may seem that Pyongyang wishes to increase tensions in the region. A more careful analysis, however, shows how the DPRK is implementing a strategy that will likely succeed in averting a disastrous war on the peninsula."

    In the last four weeks, North Korea seems to have implemented the second phase of its strategy against South Korea, China and the United States. The North Korean nuclear program seems to have reached an important juncture, with two tests carried out at the beginning and end of July. Both missiles seem capable of hitting the American mainland, although doubts still remain over Pyongyang's ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to mount it on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). However, the direction in which North Korea’s nuclear program is headed ensures an important regional deterrent against Japan and South Korea, and in some respects against the United States, which is the main reason for North Korea’s development of ICBMs. Recent history has repeatedly demonstrated the folly of trusting the West (the fate of Gaddafi remains fresh in our minds) and suggests instead the building up of an arsenal that poses a serious deterrence to US bellicosity.

    It is not a mystery that from 2009 to date, North Korea's nuclear capacity has increased in direct proportion to the level of distrust visited on Pyongyang by the West. Since 2009, the six-party talks concluded, Kim Jong-un has come to realize that the continuing threats, practices, and arms sales of the United States to Japan and South Korea needed to be thwarted in some way in the interests of defending the sovereignty of the DPRK. Faced with infinitely lower spending capacity than the three nations mentioned, Pyongyang chose a twofold strategy: to pursue nuclear weapons as an explicit deterrence measure; and to strengthen its conventional forces, keeping in mind that Seoul is only a stone’s throw away from North Korean artillery.

    This twofold strategy has, in little more than eight years, greatly strengthened the ability of the DPRK to resist infringement of its sovereignty. In contrast to the idea commonly promoted in the Western media, Pyongyang has promised not to use nuclear weapons first, reserving their use only in response to aggression against itself. In the same way, a pre-emptive attack on Seoul using traditional artillery would be seen as intolerable aggression, dragging Pyongyang into a devastating war. Kim Jong-un’s determination in developing conventional and nuclear deterrence has succeeded in establishing a balance of power that helps avoid a regional war and, in so doing, contributes to the strengthening of overall security in the region, contrary to what many believe.

    The reason the United States continues to raise tensions with Pyongyang and threaten a conflict is not out of a concern for the protection of her Japanese or South Korean allies, as one may initially be led to think. The United States in the region has a central objective that does not concern Kim Jong-un or his nuclear weapons. Rather, it is driven by the perennial necessity to increase forces in the region for the purposes of maintaining a balance of military force (Asian Pivot) and ultimately trying to contain the rise of the People's Republic of China (PRC). One might even argue that this strategy poses dangers not only to the entire region but, in the case of a confrontation between Washington and Beijing, the entire planet, given the nuclear arsenal possessed by the United States and the People's Republic of China.

    In this respect, the triangular relationship between China, North Korea and South Korea takes on another aspect. As always, every action is accompanied with a reaction. The statement that Beijing would prefer to get rid of the DPRK leadership is without foundation. Central in the minds of Chinese policy makers is the threat of a US containment that could undermine the country's economic growth. This strategic planning is well known in Pyongyang, and explains in part why the DPRK leadership still proceeds with actions that are not viewed well by Beijing. From the North Korean point of view, Beijing derives an advantage from sharing a border with the DPRK, which offers a friendly leadership not hostile to Beijing. Pyongyang is aware of the economic, political, and military burden of this situation, but tolerates it, receiving the necessary resources from Beijing to survive and develop the country.

    This complex relationship leads the DPRK to carry out missile tests in the hope of gaining many benefits. First of all, it hopes to gain a regional, and possibly a global, deterrence against any surprise attacks. Secondly, it forces South Korea to have a symmetrical response to DPRK missile tests, and this strategy, coming from North Korea diplomacy, is far from improvised or incongruous. In recent years, South Korea’s response has come in the form of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, designed to intercept missiles. As repeatedly explained, it is useless against North Korean rockets, but poses a serious threat to the Chinese nuclear arsenal, as its powerful radars are able to scout much of China's territory, also being ideally positioned to intercept (at least in theory) a responsive nuclear strike from China. In a nutshell, THAAD is a deadly threat to China's strategic nuclear parity.

    From the point of view of the four nations involved in the region, each has different aims.

    For the United States, there are many advantages in deploying the THAAD: in increases pressure on China, as well as concludes an arms sale that is always welcomed by the military-industrial complex; it also gives the impression of addressing the DPRK nuclear problem adequately.

     

    South Korea, however, finds itself in a special situation, with the former president now under arrest for corruption. The new president, Moon Jae-in, would prefer dialogue rather than the deployment of new THAAD batteries. In any case, after the latest ICBM test, Moon required an additional THAAD system in the Republic of Korea, in addition to the launchers already there. With no particular options available to conduct a diplomatic negotiation, Seoul is following Washington in a spiral of escalation that certainly does not benefit the peninsula's economic growth.

     

    Ultimately, the PRC sees an increase in the number of THAAD carriers close to the country, and the DPRK is growing in its determination to pursue a nuclear deterrent.

     

    Indeed, the strategy of the Pyongyang is working: on the one hand, they are developing a nuclear weapon to deter external enemies; on the other, they are obligating the PRC to adopt a particularly hostile attitude towards South Korea’s deployment of THAAD. In this sense, the numerous economic actions of Beijing towards Seoul can be explained as a response to the deployment of the THAAD batteries. China is the main economic partner of South Korea, and this trade and tourism limitation is quite damaging to South Korea’s economy.

    This tactic has been used by North Korea for the last several years, and the results, in addition to the recent economic crunch between the PRC and South Korea have indirectly led to the end of the reign of the corrupt leader Park Geun-hye, an ever-present puppet in American hands. The pressure that the DPRK applies to bilateral relations between China and South Korea increases with each launch of an ICBM carrier, which is the logic behind these missile tests. Pyongyang feels justified in urging its main ally, China, to step up actions against Seoul to force it to compromise in a diplomatic negotiation with Pyongyang without the overbearing presence of its American ally pushing for war.

    The main problem in the relations between South Korea, China and North Korea is represented by American influence and the need to prevent a rapprochement between these parties. As already stated, the United States needs the DPRK to justify its presence in the region, aiming in reality at Chinese containment. Pyongyang has been isolated and sanctioned for almost 50 years, yet serves to secure China’s southern border in the form of a protected friend rather than an enemy. This situation, more than any United Nations sanction to which the PRC adheres, guarantees a lasting relationship between the countries. Beijing is well aware of the weight of isolationism and economic burden on North Korea, which is why Beijing is symmetrically increasing pressure on South Korea to negotiate.

    In this situation, the United States tries to remain relevant in the regional dispute, while not having the capacity to influence the Chinese decisions that clearly rely on other tactics, specifically putting pressure on South Korea. In military terms, as explained above, Washington can not start any military confrontation against the DPRK. The consequences, in addition to millions of deaths, would lead Seoul to break relations with Washington and seek an immediate armistice, cutting off the United States from negotiations and likely expelling US troops from its territory. Ultimately, there is no South Korean ability to influence the political process in the North while they continue to be flanked by the United States in terms of warfare (very aggressive joint exercises). The influence Washington can exert on Pyongyang is zero, having fired all cartridges with over half a century of sanctions.

    Conclusion

    The bottom line is that the United States cannot afford to attack the DPRK. Pyongyang will continue to develop its own nuclear arsenal, with Beijing's covert blessing in spite of its officially continuing to condemn these developments. At the same time, South Korea is likely to persevere with a hostile attitude, especially in regard to the deployment of new THAAD batteries. Sooner or later, Seoul will come to a breaking point as a result of further restrictions on trade between China and South Korea. As long as Seoul is able to absorb Chinese sanctions, little will change.

    What will lead to a major change in the region will be the economic effect of these restrictions that will eventually oblige Seoul to consider its role in the region and its future. Seoul's leadership is aware of three situations that will hardly change, namely: Pyongyang will never attack first; Beijing will continue to support North Korea rather than accept the United States on its border; and Washington is not able to bring solutions but only greater chaos and a worsening global economic situation to the region. In the light of this scenario, time is all on the side of Beijing and Pyongyang. Eventually the economic situation for Seoul will become unbearable, bringing it to the negotiating table with a weakened and certainly precarious position. Beijing and Pyongyang have a long-term common goal, which is to break the bond of submission between South Korea and the United States, freeing Seoul from Washington's neo-conservative programs to contain China (on a Russia containment model).

    Indirectly coordinated work between Beijing and Pyongyang is hardly understandable to Western analysts, but examining every aspect, especially with regard to cause-and-effect relationships, these decisions are not so incomprehensible and even more rational in a broader viewing of the region and its balance of power. On the one hand, Seoul sees the DPRK offering peace, stability and prosperity based on a framework agreement between Seoul, Pyongyang and Beijing. This would also particularly benefit South Korean trade with China, eventually returning to normal relationships between countries, with important economic benefits.

    The alternative is an alliance with Washington that would completely eliminate the economic benefits of a healthy relationship with Beijing. This could even potentially lead to a war involving millions of deaths, fought on South Korean soil and not in the United States. The United States does not offer any solutions to South Korea, either in the short or long term. The only thing Washington is offering is a fixed presence in the country, together with a stubborn anti-Chinese policy that would have serious economic consequences for Seoul.

    As paradoxical as it may seem, Kim Jong-un's rockets are much less of a threat than is Seoul’s partnership with Washington in the region, and in fact seem to offer Seoul the ultimate solution to the crisis in the peninsula.

  • Look Out Manhattan – Chinese Foreign Real-Estate Spending Plunges 82%

    Earlier this month, Morgan Stanley warned that commercial real estate prices in New York City, Sydney and London would likely take a hit over the next two years as Chinese investors pull out of foreign property markets.

    The pullback, they said, would be driven by China’s latest crackdown on capital outflows and corporate leverage, which they argued would lead to an 84% drop in overseas property investment by Chinese corporations during 2017, and another 18% in 2018.

    Sure enough, official data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce have proven the first part of Morgan Stanley’s thesis correct. Data showed that outbound investment in real estate was particularly hard hit during the first half of the year, plunging 82%.

    “According to official data, outbound investment by China’s real estate sector fell 82% year-on-year in the first half, to comprise just 2% of all outbound investment for the period.”

    Overall, outbound direct investment to 145 countries declined to $48.19 billion, an annualized drop of 45.8%, according to China Banking News.

    The decline is a result of a crackdown by Chinese authorities after corporations went on a foreign-acquisition spree that saw them spend nearly $300 billion buying foreign companies and assets, with China’s four most acquisitive firms accounting for $55 billion, or 18%, of the country’s total. The acquisitions aggravated capital outflows, creating a mountain of debt and making regulators uneasy. Late last month, Chinese authorities ordered Anbang Insurance Group to liquidate its overseas holdings. In June, authorities asked local banks to evaluate whether Anbang and three of its peers posed a “systemic risk” to the country’s financial system. As Morgan Stanley noted, these firms were responsible for billions of dollars of commercial real-estate investments in the US, UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

    The pullback will likely be equally as devastating for residential home prices. Average sales prices for Manhattan residential real estate has continued to climb, but cracks are starting to appear. As we pointed out two days ago, 25% of homes sold in 2Q still experienced a price cut, with that number rising to 40-60% in trendy neighborhoods like the Upper East Side.

    While falling real-estate prices would be an inconvenience for corrupt Chinese officials and other shady investors trying to stash their money as far away as possible from their homeland, they’d be a welcome relief for renters and young couples or individuals looking to buy their first home.

    Across the US, asking rents hit all-time highs earlier this year.

  • "We Can Barely Keep Up" – Prepper Panic-Buying Begins As WWIII Fears Grip America

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    As is often the case, most people wait until the last minute to prepare for the worst.

    As reported by CBS Detroit, one Army Surplus store owner reports that preparedness equipment is flying off the shelves:

    “We’ve been very busy. Unusually busy, I’d say,” Orr told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill. “It’s definitely an increase, just in selling all the normal prepper stuff, end of the world stuff. A lot of water prep stuff, food, MREs — the military meals.”

     

    And there’s been a substantial increase in the sale of a particular item they don’t sell much of — a so-called radiation antidote called potassium iodide.

     

     

    “It actually stops your thyroid from absorbing any radiation. So, it fills your thyroid with iodine, which it normally does anyways,” said Orr.

     

     

    Another popular request: gas masks. But most people looking for those will be out of luck.

     

    “Gas masks are a big thing too, but we only sell them as novelty,” said Orr.

    Ed Thomas, a spokesperson for TopTierGearUSA.com, which distributes high-end protective equipment for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical emergencies, says that their web site has seen a 1200% spike in orders in the last week.

    We’re barely keeping up with the inflow of orders and our staff is working double shifts just to get everything shipped. People are concerned with North Korea, World War III and what President Trump might do.

     

    I’ve never seen it at these levels.

     

    Everything… Anti radiation pills, gas masks, body suits and respiratory filters… people are trying to get their hands on these critical supplies in case this really happens.

     

    Our biggest concern is that our manufacturers won’t be able to keep up with demand.

    And it’s not just preparedness supplies. As Zero Hedge reports, bunker sales in California have skyrocket:

    While a global nuclear confrontation is generally viewed as a bad thing, for Ron Hubbard, President of Atlas Survival Shelters in Los Angeles, it has resulted in an economic windfall.  Here’s more from The Sacramento Bee:

    “It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ron Hubbard, president of Atlas Survival Shelters, told Fox11.
     
     “It’s all over the country. I sold shelters today in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, California.”

    As we’ve reported previously, the situation has gotten so serious that the island nation of Guam, recently threatened for annihilation by North Korea, has issued a nuclear emergency guide warning residents to not look at the flash or fireball following a nuclear detonation.

    President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded,” ready to respond to North Korean aggression.

    With panic buying taking hold, it’s only a matter of time before prices for items like gas masks anti-radiation pills go through the roof. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, panicked U.S. West coast residents pushed prices for a single package to $200 on auction sites. Under normal circumstances, a package of the FDA approved pills sells for about $15.

  • IRS Reports 40% Surge In People Underpaying Their Tax Bills

    Paying taxes is just about as much fun as a root canal.  As such, apparently more and more people are just deciding not to do it.  As the Wall Street Journal points out today, the IRS saw a 40% surge in returns that owe tax penalties between 2010 and 2015.

    For reasons that aren’t clear, a growing number of people who pay taxes quarterly are getting their payments wrong and incurring penalties as a result. These taxpayers often owe estimated taxes because they have income that’s not subject to the same withholding as wages earned by employees.

     

    According to Internal Revenue Service data, the number of filers penalized for underpaying estimated taxes rose nearly 40% between 2010 and 2015—to 10 million from 7.2 million.

     

    In 2015, the total number of filers owing penalties may have exceeded the number filing estimated taxes, although final results aren’t out yet. This is possible because some who paid quarterly taxes may have made mistakes, and others who didn’t pay them should have.

     

    “The data suggest that millions of people don’t understand they need to pay quarterly taxes, or at least increase their withholding to avoid penalties,” says Eric Smith, an IRS spokesman.

     

    Estimated tax payments are Congress’s way of keeping non-wage earners from having an advantage over wage earners. More than 80% of taxpayers have wages that are typically subject to withholding, and most people pay most of their income tax this way. Thus the law requires people with other types of income to make quarterly payments based on amounts received during each period.

    Taxpayers with a mixture of wage and non-wage income must either pay tax quarterly or raise their withholding to cover the non-wage income. If total payments don’t meet certain thresholds, then the taxpayer owes a penalty on the underpayment based on interest rates charged by the IRS. Currently the rate is 4%.

    Of course, there’s any number of reasons why people may be underpaying their tax bills.  Some people, you know…those who count themselves among the 95 million ‘discouraged’ workers who have left the work force completely, have been forced to take on random contract work to make ends meet and simply don’t understand that they have to make quarterly estimated tax payments.

    That said, others understand the tax system perfectly well and are all too happy to take a 4% loan from the federal government courtesy of the Janet Yellen’s accommodative interest rate policies.

    Tax preparers suspect several factors are at work. For most of the period penalties grew, the interest rate was 3%—the lowest in decades, making the pain of paying them lower as well.

     

    “Some people don’t mind paying the toll, especially if their income bunches in the last quarter, and they just owe it for a few months,” says Don Williamson, noting the decision also could explain why average penalties have declined. Mr. Williamson is a certified public accountant who heads the Kogod Tax Policy Center at American University and has a private practice.

    To that end, and while unclear if it’s true, Floyd Mayweather’s tax attorney, Jeffrey Morse, recently said that he was simply taking advantage of Yellen’s low rates by ‘deferring’ his $22 million tax bill from 2015.  Of course, we suspect this could be just a clever way to avoid fessing up to blowing through nearly $1 billion in career prize winnings…because that would just be embarrassing.

    “If he is investing money and getting a rate of return that far exceeds what he has to pay the IRS in interest, then any smart business person is going to take advantage of that deferral.”

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

    Then again, maybe it’s all much more simple and people aren’t paying their taxes because they need the money to fund that $500 monthly BMW lease payment they could never afford but finance companies were all too willing to underwrite…just a thought.

  • Social Security Requires A Bailout That's 60x Greater Than The 2008 Emergency Bank Handout

    Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

    A few weeks ago the Board of Trustees of Social Security sent a formal letter to the United States Senate and House of Representatives to issue a dire warning: Social Security is running out of money.

    Given that tens of millions of Americans depend on this public pension program as their sole source of retirement income, you’d think this would have been front page news…

    … and that every newspaper in the country would have reprinted this ominous projection out of a basic journalistic duty to keep the public informed about an issue that will affect nearly everyone.

    But that didn’t happen.

    The story was hardly picked up.

    It’s astonishing how little attention this issue receives considering it will end up being one of the biggest financial crises in US history.

    That’s not hyperbole either– the numbers are very clear.

    The US government itself calculates that the long-term Social Security shortfall exceeds $46 TRILLION.

    In other words, in order to be able to pay the benefits they’ve promised, Social Security needs a $46 trillion bailout.

    Fat chance.

    That amount is over TWICE the national debt, and nearly THREE times the size of the entire US economy.

    Moreover, it’s nearly SIXTY times the size of the bailout that the banking system received back in 2008.

    So this is a pretty big deal.

    More importantly, even though the Social Security Trustees acknowledge that the fund is running out of money, their projections are still wildly optimistic.

    In order to build their long-term financial models, Social Security’s administrators have to make certain assumptions about the future.

    What will interest rates be in the future?
    What will the population growth rate be?
    How high (or low) will inflation be?

    These variables can dramatically impact the outcome for Social Security.

    For example, Social Security assumes that productivity growth in the US economy will average between 1.7% and 2% per year.

    This is an important assumption: the higher US productivity growth, the faster the economy will grow. And this ultimately means more tax revenue (and more income) for the program.

    But -actual- US productivity growth is WAY below their assumption.

    Over the past ten years productivity growth has been about 25% below their expectations.

    And in 2016 US productivity growth was actually NEGATIVE.

    Here’s another one: Social Security is hoping for a fertility rate in the US of 2.2 children per woman.

    This is important, because a higher population growth means more people entering the work force and paying in to the Social Security system.

    But the actual fertility rate is nearly 20% lower than what they project.

    And if course, the most important assumption for Social Security is interest rates.

    100% of Social Security’s investment income is from their ownership of US government bonds.

    So if interest rates are high, the program makes more money. If interest rates are low, the program doesn’t make money.

    Where are interest rates now? Very low.

    In fact, interest rates are still near the lowest levels they’ve been in US history.

    Social Security hopes that ‘real’ interest rates, i.e. inflation-adjusted interest rates, will be at least 3.2%.

    This means that they need interest rates to be 3.2% ABOVE the rate of inflation.

    This is where their projections are WAY OFF… because real interest rates in the US are actually negative.

    The 12-month US government bond currently yields 1.2%. Yet the official inflation rate in the Land of the Free is 1.7%.

    In other words, the interest rate is LOWER than inflation, i.e. the ‘real’ interest rate is MINUS 0.5%.

    Social Security is depending on +3.2%.

    So their assumptions are totally wrong.

    And it’s not just Social Security either.

    According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston Collage, US public pension funds at the state and local level are also underfunded by an average of 67.9%.

    Additionally, most pension funds target an investment return of between 7.5% to 8% in order to stay solvent.

    Yet in 2015 the average pension fund’s investment return was just 3.2%. And last year a pitiful 0.6%.

    This is a nationwide problem. Social Security is running out of money. State and local pension funds are running out of money.

    And even still their assumptions are wildly optimistic. So the problem is much worse than their already dismal forecasts.

    Understandably everyone is preoccupied right now with whether or not World War III breaks out in Guam.

    (I would respectfully admit that this is one of those times I am grateful to be living on a farm in the southern hemisphere.)

    But long-term, these pension shortfalls are truly going to create an epic financial and social crisis.

    It’s a ticking time bomb, and one with so much certainty that we can practically circle a date on a calendar for when it will hit.

    There are solutions.

    Waiting on politicians to fix the problem is not one of them.

    The government does not have a spare $45 trillion lying around to re-fund Social Security.

    So anyone who expects to retire with comfort and dignity is going to have to take matters into their own hands and start saving now.

    Consider options like SEP IRAs and 401(k) plans that have MUCH higher contribution limits, as well as self-directed structures which give you greater influence over how your retirement savings are invested.

    These flexible structures also allow investments in alternative asset classes like private equity, cashflowing royalties, secured lending, cryptocurrency, etc.

    Education is also critical.

    Learning how to be a better investor can increase your investment returns and (most importantly) reduce losses.

    And increasing the long-term average investment return of your IRA or 401(k) by just 1% per year can have a PROFOUND (six figure) impact on your retirement.

    These solutions make sense: there is ZERO downside in saving more money for retirement.

    But it’s critical to start now. A little bit of effort and planning right now will pay enormous dividends in the future.

  • India Deploys More Troops Along China Border, Raises "Caution" Level

    With the world obsessing over every increasingly childish outburst in the daily back and forth between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, another conflict which has so far gone largely unnoticed by the global media continues to grow on the border between India and China.

    As reported yesterday, in the most recent escalation between the two nuclear powers, the Indian Army ordered the evacuation of a village close to the Doklam India-Bhutan-China tri-junction amid to a standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers. This takes place just days after China turned the war threat amplifier up to ’11’ by threatening India (in an article published a Chinese state-controlled newspaper) that it could conduct a “small-scale military operation” to expel Indian troops from a contested region in the Himalayas.

    For those who need a reminder, the latest geopolitical standoff between India and China started in June, after Chinese troops started building a road on a remote plateau which is disputed by China and Bhutan. Indian troops countered by moving to the flashpoint zone to halt the work, with China accusing them of violating its territorial sovereignty and calling for their immediate withdrawal.

    After adding a large number of troops to the region, China then sharply escalated when a Chinese Ministry of Defense warned explicitly that Indian troops must leave the contested area if they do not want war.

    Then, earlier this week, tensions escalated further when as the Independent reported, the Chinese state-owned Global Times quoted a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences who said China is preparing to initiate a “limited war” to push Indian soldiers out of the area.

     

    To this, the Indian response was the abovementioned forced evacuation of a few hundred villagers living in Nathang, who were asked to vacate their houses immediately, according to News18. Nathang is 35 km from the site of the two-month old standoff.

    Which brings us to today, and the latest report by PTI India, according to which in a strategically key move, India has poured in more troops along the entire stretch of its border with China in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the face of heightened rhetoric by Beijing over the Dokalam standoff, according to senior government officials on Friday.

    Furthermore, the “caution level” among the troops has also been raised, the officials told PTI.

    The Indian officials said that the decision to increase the deployment along the nearly 1,400-km Sino-India border from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh was taken after carrying out a detailed analysis of the situation and considering China’s aggressive posturing against India on Dokalam.

    “The troop level along the border with China in the Sikkim and Arunachal sectors has been increased,” said the officials on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information. The Army’s Sukna-based 33 Corps as well as 3 and 4 corps based in Arunachal and Assam are tasked to protect the sensitive Sino-India border in the eastern theatre.

    However, the officials declined to give any figure or percentage of increased deployment, saying they cannot disclose “operational details.”

    According to defence experts, roughly 45,000 troops including personnel having completed the weather acclimatisation process are normally kept ready along the border at any given time, but not all are necessarily deployed. The soldiers, deployed over 9,000 feet, have to go through a 14-day-long acclimatisation process.

    The officials, however, said there is no enhancement of troops at the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction in Dokalam where around 350 army personnel are holding on to their position for nearly eight weeks after stopping Chinese troops from constructing a road on June 16.

    Bhutan and China have competing claims over Dokalam, and are negotiating a resolution. Meanwhile, China has been ramping up bellicose rhetoric against India over the last few week – in many aspect echoing either side in the US-North Korea conflict – demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Dokalam. Both the Chinese and Indian state medias have carried a barrage of critical articles on the Dokalam stand-off slamming India.

    India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently said both sides should first pull back their troops for any talks to take place, and favoured a peaceful resolution of the border standoff. India also conveyed to the Chinese government that the road construction would represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications for it.

    So far, not only has neither side pulled back troops, but as today’s latest news of increasing deployment suggests, a full blown conflict, one whose consequences could be far more devastating than a US military intervention in North Korea, looks increasingly likely with every passing day.

  • School Board Removes "Lynch" From The Name Of Three Schools Because It Was Deemed Offensive

    Authored by Daniel Lang via SHTFplan.com,

    Every time that the absurdity of political correctness reaches a new peak in our culture, it’s easy to assume that it can’t get any worse.

    But if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that it can always get worse.

    For people who have their entire identity wrapped up in being oppressed and downtrodden, the limit to what they can be offended by is absolutely bottomless. Which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a school board in Oregon recently voted to remove the name “Lynch” from several elementary schools.

    You can probably guess why.

    Lynch Meadows Elementary, Lynch Woods Elementary and Lynch View Elementary were all named after a local family who donated land to the school district in the late 1800s.

     

    In recent years, school officials say they have received complaints from people who are concerned about the name’s connotation with lynching.

     

    ‘There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name,’ Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Coakley, who is black, told the Oregonian.

     

    ‘Our diversity is increasing every year, with families coming in from Northeast Portland and out of state, so [the names] needed to be looked at,’ he added.

    The fact that “Lynch” is an actual surname held by perhaps tens of thousands of people and has been around for hundreds of years, was of no consequence to the perpetually offended people who wanted these schools to change their names.

    “I don’t think any of you have ever seen a picture where one of your decedents was hanging from a tree,” said one man who testified in favor of the name change.

     

    “I know the majority of you guys are white and it’s hard to know how that word could have an effect but it does,” added a young student who testified. “If a simple name change could make students feel safe, then why are we holding back?”

    Actually, there is a very good and practical reason why these school names shouldn’t be changed. We have to ask ourselves, where does this end?

    Perhaps any “people of color” who happen to work for Merrill Lynch should be outraged.

     

    Maybe director David Lynch should have his name scrubbed from his films.

     

    Maybe the residents of Lynch Town Kentucky, as well as 10 other cities across the country that happened to be named “Lynchburg” should vote to change the names of their communities.

     

    Maybe this surname should be banned entirely. After all, we can’t let these people be a walking reminder of a terrible crime that they had nothing to do with, now can we?

    In case you’ve ever wondered why the culture of political correctness is always capable of reaching new levels of madness, now you know.

    Once you permit one absurdity, every absurdity is on the table.

     

  • Thrill-Seeking Chinese Tourists Rush To Visit North Korea "Before The Regime Collapses"

    While nearly two-thirds of Americans view North Korea as a “serious threat” and most would rather vacation literally anywhere else following the death of college student Otto Warmbier, Chinese adventure-seekers are visiting the North in ever-greater numbers, according to Reuters. The wave of tourism has been inspired by the fear that the latest escalation between Pyongyang and Washington might lead to the toppling of the Kim regime, which has successfully kept the forces of modernization at bay for decades, offering tourists a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse into the past that some say reminds them of a "young" China.

    North Korea has become a favorite destination among wealthier, more adventurous Chinese travelers. Another tour operator who targets the affluent said he’s been fielding more questions about whether it’s safe to visit the North, Reuters reported.

    "But those that inquire often already have their heart set on going," the operator, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "The idea of a bit of danger adds to the thrill and mystery of North Korea."

    While the looming threat of nuclear annihilation is keeping some tourists at bay, more daring travelers say they are trying to visit the North before regime change brings the country into the 21st century, according to one tour guide.

    "There have been quite a few tourists in my groups who say they want to see North Korea in its reclusive state while they can," he said.

     

    "It won't be the same if the regime collapses."

    China stopped publishing national data about tourism to North Korea in 2012. But regional data show that more than 580,000 Chinese from the province of Dandong crossed the border into North Korea during the second half of 2016, more than the double the 237,000 Chinese who visited the country during 2012.

    “China's tourism authority has not published a breakdown of the total number of Chinese visitors to North Korea since 2012, when it said 237,000 made the trip.

     

    But the number traveling just from Dandong spiked to 580,000 in the second half of 2016 alone, according to the state-run China News Service. The report said 85 percent of Chinese tourist visits to North Korea originated from Dandong.

     

    That's still only a fraction of the 8 million Chinese who visited South Korea in 2016.”

    According to Reuters, tourists can take ferries or charter speedboats down the Yalu River – the border between the North and China – to catch a glimpse of North Korea villages and the heavily armed guards who patrol the border.

    Other fun activities include paying respects to a statue of Kim il-Sung.

    “A flyer for the one-day tour to Sinijiu tout a trip to the city’s central plaza, where you can pay respects to a bronze statue of North Korea's founding president Kim il-Sung, as well as visits to a cosmetics factory, a revolutionary history museum, art history museum and a cultural park.

     

    "You can feast on the North Korean specialty food by warm and hospitable North Koreans," it says.

    As we reported last month, trade between China and North Korea expanded by 10% during the first half of the year, as have the number of border crossings. Meanwhile, traffic, especially on lower-end group tours, has grown steadily to one of the world's most isolated states over the past few years, despite North Korea's persistent nuclear and missile tests, which have elicited increasingly tight U.N. sanctions.

    Few of the Chinese who spoke to Reuters were concerned about the North’s missile tests, or the economic sanctions imposed by the UN. Most said they saw the opportunity to visit a “piece of history” as too attractive to pass up.

    “Undeterred by escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington rattling nerves globally, a steady stream of tourists from China each morning passes through the immigration checkpoint at the border trading hub of Dandong.

     

    Greeting them on the North Korean side are dozens of tour buses, collecting them for itineraries ranging from a day in neighboring Sinijiu to a week visiting North Korea's main cities, including the capital Pyongyang.

     

     "We're curious. We want to see how they live," Xu Juan said on Thursday before crossing the Yalu River, which marks the border between the two countries. Xu was traveling with friends and family from Hangzhou, in eastern China.

     

    "I just want the sense of nostalgia, to see a country that is poor, like (China was) when I was young," said a man in his early 50s, from Jilin province, declining to give his name.”

    If the Chinese government has its druthers, the North’s status as a living wax museum likely won’t change any time soon: According to an article in the Global Post, the Communist Party has vowed to step in if the US or South Korea tries to topple the Kim regime.

    Though no official US records are available, it’s believed that hundreds of adventure-seeking US tourists would visit North Korea every year. Typically, they would arrange tours through Switzerland, or sign on with a Chinese tour company based near the border. However, relations between the two countries have deteriorated to such a degree that any US tourist crazy enough to visit the North should get it over with soon: The State Department has banned US passport holders from traveling to the North after Sept. 1.

    For any American hoping to visit a foreign country ruled by a hostile government, we hear Eritrea is beautiful in the fall.
     

  • This Is How America Would Wage A Nuclear War Against North Korea

    Authored by Dave Majumdar via The National Interest,

    "It is time to think about the unthinkable…"

    The standoff between the United States and North Korea continues to escalate with neither side willing to back down.

    With each passing day, the possibility of open warfare breaking out seems to increase as each side ups the ante. Indeed, President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric in recent days—seemingly threatening to launch a nuclear first strike against North Korea.

    “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

     

    “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

    Just hours later, Kim Jong-un’s regime in Pyongyang threatened to preemptively strike at American forces given even a “slight sign of the U.S. provocation.” That, according to the North Korean statement, would include a “beheading operation” such as a special operations forces raid aimed at assassinating Kim.

    “The U.S. should remembered, however, that once there observed a sign of action for ‘preventive war’ from the U.S., the army of the DPRK will turn the U.S. mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into the one,” reads a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement.

     

    “We do not hide that we already have in full readiness the diversified strategic nuclear strike means which have the U.S. mainland in our striking range.”

    Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis—while taking a more measured tone—issued a statement on August 9 warning North Korea that it must give up its nuclear weapons. “The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

    Mattis also warned that the United States would continue to maintain overwhelming nuclear superiority over Pyongyang. “While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” Mattis said. “The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

    If tensions with North Korea boil over into open warfare—or if Trump decides to launch a preemptive strike—there are military options available to the United States. However, the collateral damage that might be wrought onto South Korea and Japan could be devastating.

    “We would not necessarily need to resort to a nuclear strike,” one retired Defense Department official told The National Interest.

     

    “We have conventional capabilities and capacity to take out many of the threats we are most concerned with. It wouldn't be easy, of course.”

    Another high-ranking former senior defense official said that North Korea is a complex, multi-dimensional problem. It is not an issue that can be solved by the military or even the United States by itself. All of the stakeholders in the Western Pacific including Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and United States have to be part of the equation. “Endorsing Japan and South Korea seeking their own nuclear deterrent force may get China’s attention,” the former senior defense official said. “There are many such options available and that needs to be played out before resorting to the military option is the best way ahead.”

    But what are the military options available to the United States should it come to war?

    Arms control advocates note that a preventative nuclear first strike would be a gross violation of international law. “Talk of targeting North Korea with nuclear weapons is delusional and should be off the table,” Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told The National Interest. “In addition to the gross illegality of a preventative nuclear strike, the humanitarian, economic and environmental consequences would be devastating—and not just contained within North Korea’s borders. Washington would be putting U.S. allies at serious risk, both from the fallout, but also from a North Korean counter attack.”

    If Trump’s words are taken at face value and a nuclear first strike is a real option that he is considering, the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of twenty Northrop B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will likely have to shoulder the burden.

    “We haven't had tactical nukes in the fleet since the Bush I administration, so no first strike will come from the sea,” James R. Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College—speaking in a personal capacity—told The National Interest.

     

    “An ICBM or SLBM strike could be misinterpreted by China and Russia as against them, so that's probably out as well. My guess would be that USAF bombers, probably B-2s, would carry out the mission.”

    As for conventional options, the B-2 can carry a pair of 30,000 pound GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs, but the U.S. Air Force only has a handful of those weapons in its inventory. It is not clear if there are enough GBU-57s available to substantially damage the North Korean nuclear program, let alone destroy it.

    “On the conventional side, there are bunker-busting munitions. We're back to the USAF as the primary executor of the operation, with THAAD and Aegis ships providing the defense against missile launches,” Holmes said.

     

    “How effective bunker busters would be would depend on how many sites need to be struck, how deep and extensive the bunkers are, and whether we could concentrate enough fire on them to do the job.”

    Davenport agreed that the United States has conventional military options—but there is no guarantee of success. Moreover, North Korea could retaliate with its road-mobile ballistic missiles, which are designed to ride out a first strike by dispersing.

    “The United States has non-nuclear options in the region for targeting North Korea’s nuclear assets, such as airstrikes and cruise missiles,” Davenport said.

     

    “But while a conventional strike would be less devastating, there is still no guarantee that the United States would hit all of Korea’s nuclear assets. The U.S. has fewer intelligence options at its disposal in North Korea, and Pyongyang has mobile nuclear-capable missiles that are more difficult to track.”

    Even if Trump were to resort to the nuclear option, there are questions as to how effective such an attack would be.

    “I guess the answer depends on how you define effective,” Holmes said.

     

    “One imagines we could take out the program with nukes, but at what cost? Even apart from the obvious loss of life and material damage, you're talking about nuking a country that is centrally located among American allies and prospective foes.”

    In fact, the collateral damage to the United States’ network of alliances and Washington’s standing in the world could be catastrophic.

    “There would be a very real prospect of breaking our alliances with Japan and South Korea and assuring permanent enmity from China and Russia,” Holmes said.

     

    “We would also place our position as guarantor of the international order in jeopardy. As you suggest, it's hard for an international pariah to lead by example. So my answer would be: a first strike wouldn't be effective even if it worked. The returns don't justify the enormous costs.”

    Another factor to consider is that a military attack that is intended to disarm North Korea’s nuclear forces might actually prompt a nuclear retaliation.

    “If the North Korean regime thought is nuclear deterrent was at risk, either from a nuclear or conventional strike, Pyongyang might miscalculate and launch its own nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

     

    “A nuclear exchange of any size would have devastating regional consequences. Even a strike targeted solely at taking out North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles runs the risk of being misinterpreted by Pyongyang as part of a larger military operation.”

    Indeed, as former director of national intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper told CNN, North Korea is looking at the world in strict realist terms. Pyongyang—from its vantage point—is surrounded by enemies that are overwhelmingly more powerful than it is. The Kim regime’s only trump card against those foes are their nuclear weapons. Because the survival of the Kim regime is dependent on their nuclear capability, Pyongyang will never give up those weapons under any circumstances. Thus, America’s best response is containment and deterrence.

    “We need to have dialogue with them,” Clapper told CNN. “But accept the fact they are a nuclear power."

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Aug 11

Today’s News 11th August 2017

  • US Military Presence Overseas Mushrooming: Here, There, And Everywhere

    Authored by Alex Groka via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. The forces use several hundred bases, more than 1,000 if the figure includes overseas warehouse and installations. The US may need more soon, with its presence and involvement in armed conflicts on the rise.

    It was reported on August 7 that the Pentagon plans to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. This move will be part of the effort to rout IS militants who occupied Marawi, a city in the south of the Philippines, in May, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire southern region of Mindanao and ask the US for help. In June, the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident joined the battle.

    Just three days before that (on August 4), it was reported by the Pentagon that a Special Operations Forces (SOF) team was deployed to Yemen to support the ongoing United Arab Emirates (UAE) operation against the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group. The amphibious assault ship Bataan with several hundred Marines aboard is also operating in the region. Close-air support missions in the current offensive against AQAP are not ruled out.

    On August 7, the US was also reported to be sending dozens more Marines to Helmand Province in southwestern Afghanistan. Army Gen. John Nicholson as the US commander in that country has been lobbying for 3,000 to 5,000 troops in addition to the 8,400 US service members already on the ground.

    In June, the US increased the size of its special operations advisory force embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces as the group prepared its invasion of Raqqa, Syria. Around 1,000 US service members are believed to be operating there.

    The SOF play a special role to implement the «here, there and everywhere» policy. In 2016, the US SOF teams conducted missions in 138 countries – roughly 70 percent of the nations on the planet. The Special Operations Command is tasked with carrying out 12 core missions. Last year, US SOF were deployed to 32 African nations, about 60 percent of the countries on the continent. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special operators are now conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries at any given time. They are deployed in Libya – the country, which has its future uncertain after the 2011 US-led NATO involvement.

    The US war footprint grows in the Middle East with no endgame in sight. In his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Donald Trump said that the last 15 years of US military action in the Middle East had been an almost incomprehensible waste of money – six trillion dollars – and that after all that US war and meddling the region was actually in a worse shape than before the operations were launched. So, the policy was wrong, the president understands that and…keeps on doing the very same thing on a larger scale!

    The presence in Europe is on the rise. Troops are being deployed to countries they had no presence in before, such as Norway and Estonia. It’s not forces only but also the costly logistics infrastructure. The military wants more large-scale exercises in Europe to further boost the presence and expand infrastructure there. During his recent foreign trip, Vice President Mike Pence said the US Air Force would deploy twice as many jets during the Russian exercise Zapad-2017 to be held in September.

    The US military is calling for even greater presence in Europe. Air Force Brigadier General John Healy, the director of US exercises in Europe, says he wants one comprehensive training maneuver would be crucial in testing NATO's preparedness for a global showdown with Russia. As he put it, «What we're eventually going toward is a globally integrated exercise program so that we (are) … all working off the same sheet of music in one combined global exercise». The military leader believes the exercise should encompass all domains of war – land, sea, air, space and cyber and involve all nine US combatant commands.

    Under President Trump, drone strikes worldwide grew 432 percent as of mid-March. Civilian death toll is significant in Iraq and Syria as a result of US bombardment.

    A war with Iran appears to be imminent. An attack against North Korea is on the cards. There is a plan to spend $8 billion on bulking up the US presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years by upgrading military infrastructure, conducting additional exercises and deploying more forces and ships.

    All these facts make one recall the events that took place just a few months ago. President Trump said he would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts. Instead of investing in wars, he would spend money to build up America's aging roads, bridges and airports. But there was a loophole. He promised to stay away from all other conflicts except Islamic State militancy.

    Everybody thought he meant only airstrikes in the Middle East. Now it looks like the president meant the other regions as well. The Islamic State is present in Afghanistan and Africa. The IS terrorists have recently staged a terrorist act in Iran. They take responsibility for terrorist attacks in Europe. Jihadists operate in Russia and Central Asia. Their presence is menacing in the Asia-Pacific region. They are almost everywhere to serve as a pretext for US invasions or war preparations in almost any corner of the globe.

    The United States in actually one way or another involved in all hot spots on the world map. No doubt, it will expand the involvement in the Philippines, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and boost the naval and air force presence in the Asia Pacific to oppose China – a move not related to the IS by any stretch of imagination as well as the beefing up of forces in Europe.

    So, it’s Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa! It feels like the United States is always at war or preparing for a war somewhere. Yemen on August 4, the Philippines on August 7, perhaps some other place a few days later, you never know what to expect. It’s like the «perpetual war for perpetual peace» described by Charles Beard.

    No matter how high the military expenditure is, the US military is doomed to be stretched thin until the policy is not changed. One cannot square the circle or embrace the boundless. The nation has a huge national debt. If the enemy is the Islamic State then the intelligence and military efforts should be concentrated on the mission to strike the group, not a number of tall orders to be accomplished by and large at the very same time.

    With one mission accomplished, the US could review the priorities. The thing is – it will never be accomplished because the Islamic State is not only militants, but rather the ideology that drives them. This evil cannot be defeated by the people in uniform alone. But that’s a different story to talk about in another article. Anyway, stretching the resources thin is not an effective policy. The United States will be following two hares catching neither instead of setting the priorities straight and focusing on what is the primary mission.

  • Who's The Richest Person In Your State?

    The United States is known to have many millionaires and billionaires. But, as HowMuch.net details, it turns out that not all states are equal when it comes to the rich and powerful.

    Where does your state fall? Take a look at the map below to see the richest person in every state.

    Source: HowMuch.net

    A photo of the richest person in any given state is superimposed on each state in the map, along with the person’s name and net worth. States are color coded based upon how the richest person in that state attained his or her wealth: red for self-made, blue for inherited and purple for inherited and growing. There is a total of 52 wealthy individuals on the map because there was a tie in two states. The data were collected from Forbes.

    An outright majority of the richest people in the states are self-made. Nearly all of the wealthiest people in Western states are self-made, while a more mixed group is found among the richest individuals in Northeastern states. There is also a small trend found in familial ties. The wealthiest person in both Texas and Arkansas – Jim and Alice Walton – are from the family that founded retail giant Wal-Mart. The Mars family, the founders of the Mars candy company, also appears twice on the map; John and Jacqueline Mars in Wyoming and Virginia.

    Although the individuals found on the map represent the wealthiest person in each state, the net worth of each person varies to a significant degree. The West Coast – California, Oregon and Washington – is home to some of the wealthiest people in the country. This includes Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in not only the U.S. but the world. The wealthiest person in states with a small population, like Midwestern America states, tend to have a relatively lower net worth compared to larger states. But there are a few notable exceptions, including the world’s third wealthiest man Warren Buffet in sparsely-populated Nebraska.

    There are many millionaires and billionaires found throughout the United States. But some states, particularly highly populated states, are home to the ultra-rich, while other states with smaller populations tend to be home to individuals with relatively lower net worth. It appears that the further you go West, the more you find wealthy individuals that are self-made, rather than inheritors of large fortunes.

  • Pepe Escobar On North Korea: Fire, Fury, Fear, & False Flags

    Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

    Alarm bells ringing as rampant speculation breaks out over Pyongyang’s ‘possible’ miniaturized nuclear warheads.

    Beware the dogs of war.

    The same intel “folks” who brought to you babies pulled from incubators by “evil” Iraqis as well as non-existent WMDs are now peddling the notion that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead able to fit its recently tested ICBM.

    That’s the core of an analysis completed in July by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Additionally, US intel believes that Pyongyang now has access to up to 60 nuclear weapons.

    On the ground US intel on North Korea is virtually non-existent – so these assessments amount to guesswork at best.

    But when we couple the guesswork with an annual 500-page white paper released earlier this week by the Japanese Defense Ministry, alarm bells do start ringing.

    The white paper stresses Pyongyang’s “significant headway” in the nuclear race and its “possible” (italics mine) ability to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads able to fit on the tips of its missiles.

    This “possible” ability is drowned in outright speculation. As the report states, “It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear bombs into warheads and has acquired nuclear warheads.”

    Western corporate media would hardly refrain from metastasizing pure speculation into a “North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons” frenzy consuming the cable news cycle/ newspaper headlines.

    Talk about hearts and minds comfortably numbed by the fear factor.

    The Japanese white paper, conveniently, also escalated condemnation of China over Beijing’s actions in both the East and South China seas.

    So let’s look at the agendas in play. The War Party in the US, with its myriad connections in the industrial-military-media complex, obviously wants/needs war to keep the machinery oiled. Tokyo, for its part, would much appreciate a pre-emptive US military attack – and damn the inevitable, massive South Korean casualties that would result from Pyongyang’s counterpunch.

    It’s quite enlightening that Tokyo, for all practical purposes, considers China as a “threat” as serious as North Korea; Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera went straight to the point when he said, “North Korea’s missiles represent a deepening threat. That, along with China’s continued threatening behavior in the East China Sea and South China Sea, is a major concern for Japan.” Beijing’s response was swift.

    Kim Jong-Un, demonized ad infinitum, is not a fool, and is not going to indulge in a ritual seppuku unilaterally attacking South Korea, Japan or US territory. Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal represents the deterrent against regime change that Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi could not count on. There’s only one way to deal with North Korea, as I’ve argued before; diplomacy. Tell that to Washington and Tokyo.

    Meanwhile, there’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 2371. It does target North Korea’s major exports – coal, iron, seafood. Coal accounts for 40% of Pyongyang’s exports, and arguably 10% of GDP.

    Yet this new sanctions package does not touch imports of oil and refined-oil products from China. That’s one of the reasons why Beijing voted in favor.

    Beijing’s strategy is a very Asian attempt to find a face-saving solution – and that takes time. UNSC resolution 2371 buys time – and may dissuade the Trump administration, for now, from going heavy metal, with horrible consequences.

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi cautiously stated the sanctions are a sign of international opposition to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. The last thing Beijing needs is a war right on its borders, also bound to negatively interfere with the expansion of the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    Beijing could always work on re-building trust between Pyongyang and Washington. That’s an order taller than the Himalayas. One just needs to look back at the 1994 Agreed Framework, signed during Bill Clinton’s first term.

    The framework was supposed to freeze – and even dismantle – Pyongyang’s nuclear program and was bound to normalize US-North Korea relations. A US-led consortium would build two light-water nuclear reactors to compensate for Pyongyang’s loss of nuclear power; sanctions would be lifted; both parties would issue “formal assurances” against the use of nuclear weapons.

    Nothing happened. The framework collapsed in 2002 – when North Korea was enshrined in the “axis of evil” by the Cheney regime. Not to mention that the Korean War is still, technically, on; the 1953 armistice was never replaced by a real peace treaty.

    So what next? Three reminders.

    1) Beware of an engineered false flag, to be blamed on Pyongyang; that would be the perfect pretext for war.

     

    2) The current narrative is eerily similar to the usual suspects blaring since forever that Iran is a heartbeat away from “building a nuclear weapon”.

     

    3) North Korea holds trillions of US dollars in unexplored mineral wealth. Watch the shadowplay by candidates bound to profit from such juicy loot.

  • Bomb Shelter Sales "Skyrocket" In California As Nuclear Fears Spike

    Equity investors today failed to follow through on initial efforts to “Buy The Fucking Fire and Fury Dip” but they are apparently rushing out to buy their very own doomsday bunkers on the off chance that President Trump wasn’t joking yesterday when he offered the following warning to North Korea:

     

    Apparently the comments have spooked some folks on America’s west coast who are thought to be within Kim Jong Un’s nuclear strike radius. And while a global nuclear confrontation is generally viewed as a bad thing, for Ron Hubbard, President of Atlas Survival Shelters in Los Angeles, it has resulted in an economic windfall.  Here’s more from The Sacramento Bee:

    “It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ron Hubbard, president of Atlas Survival Shelters, told Fox11. “It’s all over the country. I sold shelters today in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, California.”

     

    The company, based in Montebello in eastern Los Angeles, sells shelters priced from $10,000 to $100,000. Hubbard told the station that the shelters are designed to be buried 20 feet below ground and can sustain survivors for up to one year, depending on the size and model.

     

    He told the station he had sold more than 30 units in recent days, including to customers in Japan.

     

    Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Vivos, another shelter manufacturer in Del Mar, Calif., near San Diego, also has experienced a spike in business.

    “Japan’s going hog wild right now,” said Ron Hubbard, owner of Atlas Survival. The Montebello, California-based company makes about a dozen different underground refuge models intended to be inhabitable for six months to a year, some outfitted with escape tunnels, decontamination rooms and bulletproof hatches.

     

    “People are getting off the fence – we’ve got thousands and thousands of applications,” said Robert Vicino, founder and chief executive officer of Vivos, Spanish for “alive.”

     

    Vivos sells models for individual and communal use, and the company has built subterranean survival communities in the U.S. and Europe. The latest, xPoint, covers 9,000 acres in South Dakota with 575 off-grid dugouts. Planned amenities include a community theater, hydroponic gardens, shooting ranges, restaurant and bar. Shelters in the community are available for lease with an up-front cost of $25,000. Vicino told Bloomberg about 50 units have been leased or reserved.

    Bunker

     

    Of course, for now we can only speculate that Trump and Putin must have colluded in efforts to spark a global nuclear confrontation while quietly buying up bunker manufacturers behind the scenes to make a little extra cash.  We demand that Special Counsel Mueller expand his investigation to look into this rather suspicious development immediately. 

  • Canada Sends Soldiers To Popular Border Crossing

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should probably stop telling refugees that “everybody is welcome in Canada,” after his vow to protect asylum seekers inspired thousands of migrants to journey north across the US-Canada border, fearing deportation should they remain in the states following the election of President Donald Trump.

    The influx of migrants has overwhelmed the ability of local and federal agencies to process and provide for the newcomers, leaving many in an uncomfortable legal limbo as they wait for their hearing dates. In recent months, thousands of Haitian asylum seekers have crossed into Quebec following Trump’s threat to remove the temporary protected status granted to nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the US following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. Of the 4,345 people who either sought asylum at the Canadian border or were intercepted by police in the first six months of 2017, 3,350 were recorded in Quebec.

    With the pace of new arrivals increasing, the federal government is being forced to take action.

    According to the Associated Press, the Canadian government has dispatched soldiers to a remote back road connecting Quebec with upstate New York. The site has become a popular route for migrants, with more than 400 crossing on Sunday alone.

    The military will assist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Service agency in constructing a registration center complete with tents that can house close to 500 people at the site.

    The site will function as a point of entry where asylum seekers are processed and turned over to the government. Soldiers will not play a security role, according to the AP.

    Once the settlement is finished, only a few will stay behind. The rest will go back to their home base.

    The decision to construct the makeshift shelter comes as Quebec is running out of space to house the migrants.

    Local officials recently opened a temporary shelter in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium as they scramble to meet the demand for beds, with some local aid workers telling the Montreal Gazette that government-funded aid programs are “close to their limits.”  

    It appears that, with local agencies straining under the workload, Trudeau has come through with some federal aid. But when will the progressive iconic and frequent Trump antagonist realize that Canada has simply taken in too many migrants?
     

  • Understanding The Hysterical Reaction To The Google Memo

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    Today’s post is the final installment of a four part series on the Google memo and the various issues it’s raised regarding our cultural capacity for intelligent debate. I’ve also touched upon the very serious issue of Google’s expanding position as an integral and willing tool of U.S. imperial foreign policy, as well as its defense of oligarchy and status quo thinking at home.

    Here are the first three parts, in case you missed them:

    Part 1 — Why the Google Memo Brings Forward an Overdue Conversation

    Part 2 — ‘The Firing’

    Part 3 — Google: Search Engine or Deep State Organ?

    Before I get started, I want to make something clear. I am entirely sympathetic to the fact that the Google memo justifiably made many women who work in the tech industry feel uncomfortable and anxious. While I’ve never worked in that field, I worked in the highly aggressive and male-dominated environment of Wall Street for a decade. That sort of culture can definitely make women feel left-out, awkward or worse. I do not deny that such problems exist in an industry dominated by one gender. Unfortunately, that very legitimate issue has become totally swamped in the public mind due to the hysterical, dishonest and illogical reactions by many to the Google memo.

    Irrespective of what you think of the memo, it’s dangerous and counterproductive to start calling people names rather than engage in calm, intelligent debate. Certainly, James Damore could’ve done some things differently in the composition of his memo, but anyone who reads it can see he was trying to be fair and open-minded. I have no doubt that he was genuinely trying to have a conversation about an issue he identified at Google and feels passionately about. He wasn’t trying to make his colleagues feel anxious or uncomfortable. For that transgression he was demonized and fired. Are we already back to burning witches?

    Today’s post will focus on applying what we learned about consciousness evolution in my five-part series on Spiral Dynamics to the Google memo affair. I’ll do my best to make this as understandable as possible for those of you who never read those posts, but to fully grasp what I’m about to discuss, you should probably read (or reread) them.

    As I started reading the Google memo I couldn’t help but think that I was reading something written by someone coming from a second-tier consciousness perspective. This is important, because according to author and thinker Ken Wilber only a small fraction of the world’s population (about 5%) is centered around yellow consciousness or higher. Here’s a brief description of yellow consciousness from a prior post.

         7. Yellow: Integrative. Life is a kaleidoscope of natural hierarchies [holarchies], systems, and forms. Flexibility, spontaneity, and functionality have the highest priority. Differences and pluralities can be integrated into interdependent, natural flows. Egalitarianism is complemented with natural degrees of excellence where appropriate.

     

    Knowledge and competency should supersede rank, power, status, or group. The prevailing world order is the result of the existence of different levels of reality (memes) and the inevitable patterns of movement up and down the dynamic spiral. Good governance facilitates the emergence of entities through the levels of increasing complexity (nested hierarchy). 

    If that’s confusing, here’s an alternative attempt:

    Yellow value system Characteristics

    Firstly, he noticed that a Yellow orientated lifestyle is much more free than a lifestyle in any of the other value systems. Yellow oriented people seemed to move and express themselves completely free and independent of their life environment. Contrary to people in other value systems, they were not afraid anymore to be rejected and they didn’t fear other people’s or God’s judgment. They didn’t show the need to make an impression on others and to reach the top at the cost of everything.

     

    They also didn’t strive anymore for absolute truths and they didn’t have the need to belong to something anymore. In short: these were people without irrational fears, compulsive needs and compulsive behaviors. However, this Yellow freedom doesn’t mean that people in the Yellow value system are not connected to their environment. On the contrary, Yellow oriented people are very much involved and show a lot of compassion. The biggest difference with people from other value systems is that their life environment is not fearfully or compulsively leading them.

    Right off the bat, I identified James as a second-tier thinker when he wrote the following about political leanings.

     

    Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

    What James does right there is something most people never do. He objectively, and without claiming one to be superior to the other, discusses the key traits of people who tend to lean left versus those who lean right. Of course, you could always add to the list, but I think he pretty much nails it. He goes on to state that both are necessary for a functioning society. This is where it becomes clear he’s coming at political debate from an integral, or second-tier consciousness perspective. Rather than profess one ideology to be superior to the others and try to fight about it in an attempt to gain power and dominance, which is what first-tier thinkers always do, he understands that different human perspectives are important and necessary to the whole. Progress is not about demonizing and subjugating people who don’t agree with you, but rather integrating all the various and beautiful differences amongst us in the most healthy and beneficial way possible.

    Moving on, one of the many things Ken Wilber so accurately notes throughout much of his work, is how the prior leading-edge level of consciousness (green) tends to despise and react very negatively to anyone operating on second-tier consciousness. When we talk about green in 2017, we are really talking about how green currently manifests on the planet, which is actually just a twisted perversion of its original self. This devolution of green consciousness into a destructive “mean green” meme is a big part of what’s been holding us back as a species, and also played a consequential role in the election of Trump. Ken Wilber discussed this at length in his excellent e-book on the election, Trump and a Post-Truth World. Here are a few relevant excerpts:

    The green postmodern leading-edge of evolution itself has, for several decades, degenerated into its extreme, pathological, and dysfunctional forms. As such, it is literally incapable of effectively acting as a real leading-edge. Its fundamental belief—“there is no truth”—and its basic essential attitude—“aperspectival madness”— cannot in any fashion actually lead, actually choose a course of action that is positive, healthy, effective, and truly evolutionary. With all growth hierarchies denied and deconstructed, evolution has no real way to grow, has no way forward at all, and thus nothing but dominator hierarchies are seen everywhere, effectively reducing any individual you want to a victim. The leading-edge has collapsed; it is now a few-billion-persons (or so) massive car crash, a huge traffic jam at the very edge of evolution itself, sabotaging virtually every move that evolution seeks to take. Evolution itself finds its own headlights shining beams of nihilism, which can actually see nothing, or narcissism, which can see only itself. Under this often malicious leadership (the mean-green-meme), the earlier levels and stages of development have themselves begun to hemorrhage, sliding into their own forms of pathological dysfunction. And this isn’t just happening in one or two countries, it is happening around the world.

     

    As the decades unfolded, green increasingly began veering into extreme, maladroit, dysfunctional, even clearly unhealthy, forms. Its broad-minded pluralism slipped into a rampant and runaway relativism (collapsing into nihilism), and the notion that all truth is contextualized (or gains meaning from its cultural context) slid into the notion that there is no real universal truth at all, there are only shifting cultural interpretations (which eventually slid into a widespread narcissism).

    One of the reasons contemporary greens act so hysterical all the time is because of the fact that their entire worldview is actually based on a contradiction. On the one hand, they claim to believe that there’s no absolute truth and that everything is a social construct, yet…

    For postmodernists, all knowledge is non-universal, contextual, constructivist, interpretive—found only in a given culture, at a given historical time, in a particular geopolitical location. Unfortunately, for the postmodernists, every one of its summary statements given in the previous paragraph was aggressively maintained to be true for all people, in all places, at all times—no exceptions. Their entire theory itself is a very Big Picture about why all Big Pictures are wrong, a very extensive metanarrative about why all metanarratives are oppressive. They most definitely and strongly believe that it is universally true that there is no universal truth. They believe all knowledge is context bound except for that knowledge, which is always and everywhere trans-contextually true. They believe all knowledge is interpretive, except for theirs, which is solidly given and accurately describes conditions everywhere. They believe their view itself is utterly superior in a world where they also believe absolutely nothing is superior. Oops.

    The madness emanating from a lot of these folks makes sense when you deconstruct it all and realize that pretty much the entire postmodern green ideology is based on a massive, irreconcilable contradiction. This is precisely why they don’t like to debate issues, but would rather shout people down by calling them names like Nazi, racist, misogynist, etc. It’s a brutish form of language oppression and authoritarianism, which they somehow justify in the name of their view being superior (in a world where nothing is supposed to be superior). No wonder they’ve lost their minds.

    It’s even worse than that though. Not only do greens have to deal with the fact their ideology and worldview is rooted in a lie, they now have to deal with the obvious truth that their policies in government have completely failed the public. As Wilber notes:

    Meanwhile, the leading-edge green cultural elites—upper-level liberal government, virtually all university teachers (in the humanities), technology innovators, human services professions, most media, entertainment, and most highly liberal thought leaders—had continued to push into green pluralism/relativism—“what’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me”—all largely with intentions of pure gold, but shot through with an inherently self-contradictory stance with its profound limitations (if all truth is just truth for me and truth for you, then there is no “truth for us”—or collective, universal, cohering truths— and hence, in this atmosphere of aperspectival madness, the stage was set for massively fragmented culture, which the siloed boxes and echo chambers of social media were beginning to almost exclusively promote and enhance).

     

    The problem very quickly became what Integral Metatheory calls a “legitimation crisis,” which it defines as a mismatch between Lower-Left (or cultural) beliefs and the Lower-Right systems (or actual background realities, such as the techno-economic base). The cultural belief was that everybody is created equal, that all people have a perfect and equal right to full personal empowerment, that nobody is intrinsically superior to others (beliefs that flourished with green). Yet the overwhelming reality was increasingly one of a stark and rapidly growing unequality—in terms of income and overall worth, property ownership, employment opportunity, healthcare access, life satisfaction issues. The culture was constantly telling us one thing, and the realities of society were consistently failing to deliver it—the culture was lying. This was a deep and serious legitimation crisis— a culture that is lying to its members simply cannot move forward for long. And if a culture has “no truth,” it has no idea when it’s lying—and thus it naturally lies as many times as it accidentally tells the truth, and hence faster than you can say “deconstruction,” it’s in the midst of a legitimation crisis.

     

    In the meantime, the leading-edge of both green “no-truth” and techno- economic “no-job” had created a seething, quietly furious, and enormously large amount of what Nietzsche called “ressentiment”—which is French for “resentment.” Nietzsche meant it specifically for the type of nasty, angry, and mean-spirited attitude that tends to go with “egalitarian” beliefs (because in reality, there are almost always “greater” and “lesser” realities— not everything is or can be merely “equal,” and green resents this mightily, and often responds with a nasty and vindictive attitude, which Integral theorists call “the mean green meme”). But the notion of “ressentiment” applies in general to the resentment that began to increasingly stem from the severe legitimation crisis that began to soak the culture (which itself was, indeed, due primarily to a broken green). Everywhere you are told that you are fully equal and deserve immediate and complete empowerment, yet everywhere denied the means to actually achieve it. You suffocate, you react, and you get very, very mad.

    So where does all of this lead us? For starters, we’re dealing with a mean green ideology that increasingly dominates most elitist institutions. This worldview is based on an obvious contradiction, and over the past several decades, has also publicly failed when it comes to governing. While Trump’s election was a regressive political backlash to this reality, the cultural dominance of green remains firmly in place as we can see with the dishonest and unfair reaction to the memo by the media and Google itself.

    Going forward, there are two paths to a better future. Personally, I don’t think greens will ever get control of their own madness and become healthy “greens.” Rather I think we will have to push to try to get 10% of the world’s population to what Ken Wilber describes as the “tipping point.” Here’s how he put it in his e-book:

    The one other option, slightly different, is for evolution to leap-frog to an integral stage of unfolding as its new leading-edge, which would inherently perform all of the tasks now required of a regenerated green. This “leap- frogging” would not constitute skipping a stage (which is not possible), but it would mean building a higher stage on a diseased predecessor, which lands it with a handicap right from the start. The integral attitude, however, is designed to effectively spot and route around such roadblocks, and this we would expect to see.

     

    The most likely course of action, however, is some mixture of both. That’s not a cop-out, it’s a precise prediction. Green simply cannot function, not even on its own level, if it continues in its extreme, mean-green-meme (vindictively seeing “deplorables” everywhere), hyper-sensitive, over-the- top politically correct, dysfunctional, and pathological form in which it now exists. Its inherent contradictions are increasingly being seen and felt, and ways to work around them are being explored (which incorporate the partial truths of green but not their extreme and pathological absolutisms).

     

    That lessening of green’s pervasive hostility and vindictiveness toward all previous stages of development is what we identied as “step one” in the requisite self-healing of green. There is at least a decent likelihood that this will—and to some degree already has—begun to happen. On the other hand, “step two”—the realization that growth holarchies provide the actual basis of the value judgments that green is already making, and that these growth holarchies also are the only truly effective means to displace the dominator hierarchies that green correctly ranks on the bottom of the list of social desirables—is a bit less likely to occur at the green level itself, but will most likely depend upon the transformation to integral 2nd tier. My strong suspicion, therefore, is that green will perform a good deal of step one on its own, and that this will have a very positive effect on culture at large. (And conversely, to the extent that at least this first step is not taken, then the self-corrective drive of evolution will continue to push, and push, and push into existing affairs, driving more Trump-like “disasters” as evolution redoubles its efforts to force its way through these recalcitrant obstructions.)

     

    But step two will likely be taken at this time only by integral communities themselves, and otherwise will await the growth of 10 percent of the population which would initiate a tipping point and propel the integral stage into being the next-higher leading-edge, with altogether stunning repercussions.

     

    Contributing to this growth and increase in truly inclusive awareness, and under the drive to discover “what’s next” after postmodernism, various Integral theories and metatheories are increasingly gaining ground, and wherever they do, they automatically correct the green dysfunctions that they unearth. Little by little, in other words, an Integral awareness is helping to embody an evolutionary self-correction in its very actions.

     

    It is this Integral view that I wish to recommend to any who are ready for such…In embracing all of yesterday, it opens us to all of tomorrow. And it will provide a leading-edge of evolution the likes of which humanity has literally never seen before.

     

    This is indeed the next, authentic and genuine leading-edge, and it has already begun its inevitable emergence. It carries with it the inexorable drive to “transcend and include” literally all of the previous stages of development and the stations of life that they now inhabit—but minus the inherent rancor that each of them, on its own, feels for the others.

     

    Humankind has never had a leading-edge like this at any previous point in history. It is indeed “cataclysmic,” “a monumental leap in meaning,” and it is here for each of us to embrace and express should we so desire. And it is the one, sure, and certain balm—if authentically inhabited—for the isolating, regressive, repressive, mean-spirited, and fragmenting state in which the world now nds itself rapidly drowning.

    As Wilber explains, green consciousness, so revolutionary and important in its early days has devolved and descended into madness. It is no longer capable of leading, and we face a major evolutionary crossroads — regress or push forward into higher consciousness. Green will go into this new world kicking and screaming as we’ve seen recently with the Google memo, but go they will. The more they act out, the more they expose themselves as vacuous, narcissistic charlatans, which will turn more and more people off. Its self-destruction is a necessary step in the path forward.

  • South Korea Introduces World's First Robot Tax

    In case you missed it, South Korea has introduced what is being called the world’s first tax on robots amid fears that machines will replace human workers, leading to mass unemployment. Of course, one can’t actually tax robots so what they’re actually doing is changing the corporate tax code to provide disincentives for capital investments in technology.  Genius plan if we understand it correctly.  Per The Korea Times:

    Amid worldwide debate on the use of robots for work and possible consequent unemployment issues, the government made a first move that may help slow down automation in industries, according to sources, Monday.

     

    In its recently announced tax law revision plan, the Moon Jae-in administration said it will downsize the tax deduction benefits that previous governments provided to enterprises for infrastructure investment aimed at boosting productivity.

     

    Currently, enterprises that have invested in industry automation equipment are eligible for a corporate tax deduction. Companies can have part of their corporate tax ? between 3 percent and 7 percent of the investment ? deducted under the policy, with the rate varying by the size of their business.

     

    This sunset policy was scheduled to expire at the end of the year. But the government suggested extending it to the end of 2019 while decreasing the deduction rate by up to 2 percentage points.

    Let that sink in for a moment…South Korea is literally looking to change its tax code to deter corporations from making capital investments “aimed at boosting productivity.” 

    Robot Tax

     

    Of course, it’s not just financially challenged politicians who have managed to convince themselves that taxing productivity gains is a great idea…Bill Gates is fully onboard as well.

    Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of the well-known advocates of a robot tax. In an interview this February, he said governments should levy a tax on the use of robots in a goal to fund retraining of those who lose jobs and to slowdown automation.

     

    “For a human worker who does $50,000 worth of work in a factory, the income is taxed,” Gates said. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

     

    He also stressed that there are still many jobs that need human hands and minds and thus cannot be properly replaced by robots.

     

    “What the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today, and free up labor, let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes, helping kids with special needs, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very unique,” he said. “We still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there.”

    Just out of curiosity, who does Bill Gates think is actually on the hook for those tax bills sent to corporations?  If the U.S. government suddenly decided to raise Microsoft’s tax rate by 40% would the company simply absorb the earnings hit and move on as if nothing happened?  Or, would they pass those additional costs on to their customers to save their share price from tanking? 

    You see, Bill, corporations don’t really pay taxes.  Yes, we know that in a literal sense their names are on the tax returns but they’re simply pass through entities that collect money from end consumers and send it to various taxing authorities. 

    So, as usual, the only people who really get hurt by these ridiculously misinformed policies are the consumers who will have to overpay for everything from iphones to automobiles.

    And here’s the real kicker, Bill, your robot tax is massively regressive as the poorest people are the ones who will be hit hardest by what is effectively a consumption tax.

    Meanwhile, this all ignores the far more dire long-term consequences of deterring technological innovation. 

    As we’ve pointed out before, John Maynard Keynes made similar predictions about technology leading to mass unemployment back in the 1930s…

    “We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment” – Keynes, 1930

    …Yet, here we are some 85 years later sitting on near full employment (well, if you ignore the ~95 million people just ‘don’t want’ a job) despite coming quite a long way since the days of primitive single-engine prop planes and steam engines.  Go figure…

  • "We Need More Suckers At The Table" – Quant Funds Stumble As Dumb-Money Disappears

    The omniptence of artificial intelligence is unquestioned. The 'future' is automation, robotization, and algorithmic domination is the mantra of the new normal prognosticators – and anyone who challenges this world view is a luddite or 'denier'.

    There's just one problem – those quantitative, AI-based, computerized algos, that are supposed to be making people obsolete in the financial markets, are in trouble. As Bloomberg reports, program-driven hedge funds are stumbling, a promising startup has closed, and once-reliable styles are showing weakening returns.

    This isn’t just normal volatility confined to a single month, according to noted quant fund manager Neal Berger, the founder and chief investment officer of Eagle’s View Asset Management, a $500 million fund-of-funds that invests with 30 managers, half of them quants. Returns have been decaying for a year, suggesting the rest of the market has figured out what the robots are doing and started taking evasive action, Berger said.

    Bloomberg notes that June was the worst month on record for Berger’s fund, as usually robust strategies lost their footing and the firm fell 2.4 percent. The worst pain has been among quants in the market-neutral equity space, which take long and short positions to isolate bets on price patterns and relationships.

    There's "Turmoil in Quant Land", said Berger in a letter to clients this summer to explain his "candid view why strategies that were once working regularly mysteriously stopped working."

    It comes down to two factors:

    1.Increased competition: more investors are using algorithms to fight over the same inefficiencies in the market.

    “Now every bank has a factor model,” said Benjamin Dunn, president of the portfolio consulting practice at Alpha Theory LLC, which works with managers overseeing about $200 billion.

     

    “You’ve had a democratization of a lot of data and analytics that were once the domain of very systematic quant investors. Everything is getting arbitraged away.

    2. Low volatility: quantitative funds are most successful in an environment where there is large disagreements in the market over the prices of assets. Today there is little disagreement, and the best way to earn outsized returns is placed highly leveraged bets that the market will remain calm. That's working for some investors, but is far too risky for others.

    In fact, the persistently low level of volatility has brought out an increasing number of hedge funds strategies oriented toward regularly selling volatility. Although we believe that this is "picking up nickels in front of a bulldozer", shockingly, these Funds have been some of the best performing strategies over the past years.

     

    Although our guess is as good as anyone's, we believe the shockingly low levels of volatility has to do with an increase in computer driven, quantitative trading coupled with banks selling options to offer "yield enhancement" structured products to investors who are starving for this yield.

     

    This feedback loop, the increase in assets run by hedge funds, and, the rise of quants, has created unusual patterns, dislocations, and low levels of volatility.

     

    While those simply following the broader market indices wouldn't realize anything is amiss, it is our belief that these factors have created a challenging mix for trading oriented strategies. It won't last forever, but, it could last longer than we can.

    Additionally, he explains, systematic strategies require an endless supply of victims to thrive, and the growth of quant and passive funds has caused dumb money to behave unpredictably or disappear altogether.

    With all the geniuses in quant, high-powered computers, and enormous data, where are the "suckers" who are providing the juice for all of these absolute return quantitative strategies?

     

    Simply put, the 'edge providers' have moved aggressively into passive index funds and broader market ETFs.

     

    As such, we have a condition amongst the traditional quantitative strategies whereby we have robots trading against robots. Without a steady source of 'edge providers', these 'edge demanders' are just trading money back and forth with each other.

     

    We believe increased quantitative trading coupled with passive indexation by retail, and, low levels of realized and implied volatility may be creating a feedback loop that has caused unusual price movements in a variety of securities that have challenged trading oriented strategies.

    Eagle’s View is shifting “almost entirely away from mainstream quant strategies due to the fact that we feel that they are too crowed and without enough juice available for all to feast,” Berger wrote.

    …the shift toward passive indexation by those investors who have historically been the 'edge providers' has no end in sight. While one might argue that fundamentals always win out in the end (and we agree), we need to make money over a much shorter horizon for our investors and cannot sit idle in a world where hedge funds are expected to produce regular returns and stay ahead of the curve even if fundamentals are irrational. Over my nearly 30 year Wall St. career, I am a firm believer in the adage that "the markets can stay irrational longer than we can stay solvent".

    A market neutral version of value is on track to post its worst year since at least 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg PORT.

    And factors aren’t just performing poorly, some are barely performing at all. With equity markets bathed in tranquility, groups of stocks assembled according to their growth, momentum and volatility traits have never been more muted, the data show.

    In order to exploit inefficiency, giant quant firms "need to be dwarfed by large, dumb money," Berger concluded by phone to Bloomberg.

     

    "They’re waiting for the sucker to come to the table, but the suckers are fewer and far between."

    Don't be the sucker, America.

  • A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack

    Written by Patrick Lawrence of The Nation,

    It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised—a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump. A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

    The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget. In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole.

    All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that “hack” and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined. The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.

    Debbie

    Lost in a year that often appeared to veer into our peculiarly American kind of hysteria is the absence of any credible evidence of what happened last year and who was responsible for it. It is tiresome to note, but none has been made available. Instead, we are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception. These officials profess “high confidence” in their “assessment” as to what happened in the spring and summer of last year—this standing as their authoritative judgment. Few have noticed since these evasive terms first appeared that an assessment is an opinion, nothing more, and to express high confidence is an upside-down way of admitting the absence of certain knowledge. This is how officials avoid putting their names on the assertions we are so strongly urged to accept—as the record shows many of them have done.

    We come now to a moment of great gravity.

    There has been a long effort to counter the official narrative we now call “Russiagate.” This effort has so far focused on the key events noted above, leaving numerous others still to be addressed. Until recently, researchers undertaking this work faced critical shortcomings, and these are to be explained. But they have achieved significant new momentum in the past several weeks, and what they have done now yields very consequential fruit. Forensic investigators, intelligence analysts, system designers, program architects, and computer scientists of long experience and strongly credentialed are now producing evidence disproving the official version of key events last year. Their work is intricate and continues at a kinetic pace as we speak. But its certain results so far are two, simply stated, and freighted with implications:

    There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year—not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak—a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.

     

    Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source—claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.

    This article is based on an examination of the documents these forensic experts and intelligence analysts have produced, notably the key papers written over the past several weeks, as well as detailed interviews with many of those conducting investigations and now drawing conclusions from them. Before proceeding into this material, several points bear noting.

    One, there are many other allegations implicating Russians in the 2016 political process. The work I will now report upon does not purport to prove or disprove any of them. Who delivered documents to WikiLeaks? Who was responsible for the “phishing” operation penetrating John Podesta’s e-mail in March 2016? We do not know the answers to such questions. It is entirely possible, indeed, that the answers we deserve and must demand could turn out to be multiple: One thing happened in one case, another thing in another. The new work done on the mid-June and July 5 events bears upon all else in only one respect. We are now on notice: Given that we now stand face to face with very considerable cases of duplicity, it is imperative that all official accounts of these many events be subject to rigorously skeptical questioning. Do we even know that John Podesta’s e-mail was in fact “phished”? What evidence of this has been produced? Such rock-bottom questions as these must now be posed in all other cases.

    Two, houses built on sand and made of cards are bound to collapse, and there can be no surprise that the one resting atop the “hack theory,” as we can call the prevailing wisdom on the DNC events, appears to be in the process of doing so. Neither is there anything far-fetched in a reversal of the truth of this magnitude. American history is replete with similar cases. The Spanish sank the Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. Iran’s Mossadegh was a Communist. Guatemala’s Árbenz represented a Communist threat to the United States. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh was a Soviet puppet. The Sandinistas were Communists. The truth of the Maine, a war and a revolution in between, took a century to find the light of day, whereupon the official story disintegrated. We can do better now. It is an odd sensation to live through one of these episodes, especially one as big as Russiagate. But its place atop a long line of precedents can no longer be disputed.

    Three, regardless of what one may think about the investigations and conclusions I will now outline—and, as noted, these investigations continue—there is a bottom line attaching to them. We can even call it a red line. Under no circumstance can it be acceptable that the relevant authorities—the National Security Agency, the Justice Department (via the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the Central Intelligence Agency—leave these new findings without reply. Not credibly, in any case. Forensic investigators, prominent among them people with decades’ experience at high levels in these very institutions, have put a body of evidence on a table previously left empty. Silence now, should it ensue, cannot be written down as an admission of duplicity, but it will come very close to one.

    It requires no elaboration to apply the above point to the corporate media, which have been flaccidly satisfied with official explanations of the DNC matter from the start.

    Qualified experts working independently of one another began to examine the DNC case immediately after the July 2016 events. Prominent among these is a group comprising former intelligence officers, almost all of whom previously occupied senior positions. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), founded in 2003, now has 30 members, including a few associates with backgrounds in national-security fields other than intelligence. The chief researchers active on the DNC case are four: William Binney, formerly the NSA’s technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis and designer of many agency programs now in use; Kirk Wiebe, formerly a senior analyst at the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center; Edward Loomis, formerly technical director in the NSA’s Office of Signal Processing; and Ray McGovern, an intelligence analyst for nearly three decades and formerly chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch. Most of these men have decades of experience in matters concerning Russian intelligence and the related technologies. This article reflects numerous interviews with all of them conducted in person, via Skype, or by telephone.

    WB

    William Binney

    The customary VIPS format is an open letter, typically addressed to the president. The group has written three such letters on the DNC incident, all of which were first published by Robert Parry at www.consortiumnews.com. Here is the latest, dated July 24; it blueprints the forensic work this article explores in detail. They have all argued that the hack theory is wrong and that a locally executed leak is the far more likely explanation. In a letter to Barack Obama dated January 17, three days before he left office, the group explained that the NSA’s known programs are fully capable of capturing all electronic transfers of data. “We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks,” the letter said. “If NSA cannot produce such evidence—and quickly—this would probably mean it does not have any.”

    The day after Parry published this letter, Obama gave his last press conference as president, at which he delivered one of the great gems among the official statements on the DNC e-mail question. “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking,” the legacy-minded Obama said, “were not conclusive.” There is little to suggest the VIPS letter prompted this remark, but it is typical of the linguistic tap-dancing many officials connected to the case have indulged so as to avoid putting their names on the hack theory and all that derives from it.

    Until recently there was a serious hindrance to the VIPS’s work, and I have just suggested it. The group lacked access to positive data. It had no lump of cyber-material to place on its lab table and analyze, because no official agency had provided any.

    Donald Rumsfeld famously argued with regard to the WMD question in Iraq, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In essence, Binney and others at VIPS say this logic turns upside down in the DNC case: Based on the knowledge of former officials such as Binney, the group knew that (1) if there was a hack and (2) if Russia was responsible for it, the NSA would have to have evidence of both. Binney and others surmised that the agency and associated institutions were hiding the absence of evidence behind the claim that they had to maintain secrecy to protect NSA programs. “Everything that they say must remain classified is already well-known,” Binney said in an interview. “They’re playing the Wizard of Oz game.”

    New findings indicate this is perfectly true, but until recently the VIPS experts could produce only “negative evidence,” as they put it: The absence of evidence supporting the hack theory demonstrates that it cannot be so. That is all VIPS had. They could allege and assert, but they could not conclude: They were stuck demanding evidence they did not have—if only to prove there was none.

    Research into the DNC case took a fateful turn in early July, when forensic investigators who had been working independently began to share findings and form loose collaborations wherein each could build on the work of others. In this a small, new website called www.disobedientmedia.com proved an important catalyst. Two independent researchers selected it, Snowden-like, as the medium through which to disclose their findings. One of these is known as Forensicator and the other as Adam Carter. On July 9, Adam Carter sent Elizabeth Vos, a co-founder of Disobedient Media, a paper by the Forensicator that split the DNC case open like a coconut.

    By this time Binney and the other technical-side people at VIPS had begun working with a man named Skip Folden. Folden was an IT executive at IBM for 33 years, serving 25 years as the IT program manager in the United States. He has also consulted for Pentagon officials, the FBI, and the Justice Department. Folden is effectively the VIPS group’s liaison to Forensicator, Adam Carter, and other investigators, but neither Folden nor anyone else knows the identity of either Forensicator or Adam Carter. This bears brief explanation.

    The Forensicator’s July 9 document indicates he lives in the Pacific Time Zone, which puts him on the West Coast. His notes describing his investigative procedures support this. But little else is known of him. Adam Carter, in turn, is located in England, but the name is a coy pseudonym: It derives from a character in a BBC espionage series called Spooks. It is protocol in this community, Elizabeth Vos told me in a telephone conversation this week, to respect this degree of anonymity. Kirk Wiebe, the former SIGINT analyst at the NSA, thinks Forensicator could be “someone very good with the FBI,” but there is no certainty. Unanimously, however, all the analysts and forensics investigators interviewed for this column say Forensicator’s advanced expertise, evident in the work he has done, is unassailable. They hold a similarly high opinion of Adam Carter’s work.

    Forensicator is working with the documents published by Guccifer 2.0, focusing for now on the July 5 intrusion into the DNC server. The contents of Guccifer’s files are known—they were published last September—and are not Forensicator’s concern. His work is with the metadata on those files. These data did not come to him via any clandestine means. Forensicator simply has access to them that others did not have. It is this access that prompts Kirk Wiebe and others to suggest that Forensicator may be someone with exceptional talent and training inside an agency such as the FBI. “Forensicator unlocked and then analyzed what had been the locked files Guccifer supposedly took from the DNC server,” Skip Folden explained in an interview. “To do this he would have to have ‘access privilege,’ meaning a key.”

    What has Forensicator proven since he turned his key? How? What has work done atop Forensicator’s findings proven? How?

    Forensicator’s first decisive findings, made public in the paper dated July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate—the time a remote hack would require. The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

    These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

    What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need were it a hack. Other investigators have built on this finding. Folden and Edward Loomis say a survey published August 3, 2016, by www.speedtest.net/reports is highly reliable and use it as their thumbnail index. It indicated that the highest average ISP speeds of first-half 2016 were achieved by Xfinity and Cox Communications. These speeds averaged 15.6 megabytes per second and 14.7 megabytes per second, respectively. Peak speeds at higher rates were recorded intermittently but still did not reach the required 22.7 megabytes per second.

    “A speed of 22.7 megabytes is simply unobtainable, especially if we are talking about a transoceanic data transfer,” Folden said. “Based on the data we now have, what we’ve been calling a hack is impossible.” Last week Forensicator reported on a speed test he conducted more recently. It tightens the case considerably. “Transfer rates of 23 MB/s (Mega Bytes per second) are not just highly unlikely, but effectively impossible to accomplish when communicating over the Internet at any significant distance,” he wrote. “Further, local copy speeds are measured, demonstrating that 23 MB/s is a typical transfer rate when using a USB–2 flash device (thumb drive).”

    Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm. This confirms that the person entering the DNC system was working somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. In theory the operation could have been conducted from Bangor or Miami or anywhere in between—but not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone. Combined with Forensicator’s findings on the transfer rate, the time stamps constitute more evidence that the download was conducted locally, since delivery overheads—conversion of data into packets, addressing, sequencing times, error checks, and the like—degrade all data transfers conducted via the Internet, more or less according to the distance involved.

    In addition, there is the adulteration of the documents Guccifer 2.0 posted on June 15, when he made his first appearance. This came to light when researchers penetrated what Folden calls Guccifer’s top layer of metadata and analyzed what was in the layers beneath. They found that the first five files Guccifer made public had each been run, via ordinary cut-and-paste, through a single template that effectively immersed them in what could plausibly be cast as Russian fingerprints. They were not: The Russian markings were artificially inserted prior to posting. “It’s clear,” another forensics investigator self-identified as HET, wrote in a report on this question, “that metadata was deliberately altered and documents were deliberately pasted into a Russianified [W]ord document with Russian language settings and style headings.”

    To be noted in this connection: The list of the CIA’s cyber-tools WikiLeaks began to release in March and labeled Vault 7 includes one called Marble that is capable of obfuscating the origin of documents in false-flag operations and leaving markings that point to whatever the CIA wants to point to. (The tool can also “de-obfuscate” what it has obfuscated.) It is not known whether this tool was deployed in the Guccifer case, but it is there for such a use.

    It is not yet clear whether documents now shown to have been leaked locally on July 5 were tainted to suggest Russian hacking in the same way the June 15 Guccifer release was. This is among several outstanding questions awaiting answers, and the forensic scientists active on the DNC case are now investigating it. In a note Adam Carter sent to Folden and McGovern last week and copied to me, he reconfirmed the corruption of the June 15 documents, while indicating that his initial work on the July 5 documents—of which much more is to be done—had not yet turned up evidence of doctoring.

    In the meantime, VIPS has assembled a chronology that imposes a persuasive logic on the complex succession of events just reviewed. It is this:

    On June 12 last year, Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks had and would publish documents pertinent to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

     

    On June 14, CrowdStrike, a cyber-security firm hired by the DNC, announced, without providing evidence, that it had found malware on DNC servers and had evidence that Russians were responsible for planting it.

     

    On June 15, Guccifer 2.0 first appeared, took responsibility for the “hack” reported on June 14 and claimed to be a WikiLeaks source. It then posted the adulterated documents just described.

     

    On July 5, Guccifer again claimed he had remotely hacked DNC servers, and the operation was instantly described as another intrusion attributable to Russia. Virtually no media questioned this account.

    Assange

    It does not require too much thought to read into this sequence. With his June 12 announcement, Assange effectively put the DNC on notice that it had a little time, probably not much, to act preemptively against the imminent publication of damaging documents. Did the DNC quickly conjure Guccifer from thin air to create a cyber-saboteur whose fingers point to Russia? There is no evidence of this one way or the other, but emphatically it is legitimate to pose the question in the context of the VIPS chronology. WikiLeaks began publishing on July 22. By that time, the case alleging Russian interference in the 2016 elections process was taking firm root. In short order Assange would be written down as a “Russian agent.”

    By any balanced reckoning, the official case purporting to assign a systematic hacking effort to Russia, the events of mid-June and July 5 last year being the foundation of this case, is shabby to the point taxpayers should ask for their money back. The Intelligence Community Assessment, the supposedly definitive report featuring the “high confidence” dodge, was greeted as farcically flimsy when issued January 6. Ray McGovern calls it a disgrace to the intelligence profession. It is spotlessly free of evidence, front to back, pertaining to any events in which Russia is implicated. James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, admitted in May that “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies (not the 17 previously reported) drafted the ICA. There is a way to understand “hand-picked” that is less obvious than meets the eye: The report was sequestered from rigorous agency-wide reviews. This is the way these people have spoken to us for the past year.

    Behind the ICA lie other indefensible realities. The FBI has never examined the DNC’s computer servers—an omission that is beyond preposterous. It has instead relied on the reports produced by Crowdstrike, a firm that drips with conflicting interests well beyond the fact that it is in the DNC’s employ. Dmitri Alperovitch, its co-founder and chief technology officer, is on the record as vigorously anti-Russian. He is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, which suffers the same prejudice. Problems such as this are many.

    “We continue to stand by our report,” CrowdStrike said, upon seeing the VIPS blueprint of the investigation. CrowdStrike argues that by July 5 all malware had been removed from the DNC’s computers. But the presence or absence of malware by that time is entirely immaterial, because the event of July 5 is proven to have been a leak and not a hack. Given that malware has nothing to do with leaks, CrowdStrike’s logic appears to be circular.

    In effect, the new forensic evidence considered here lands in a vacuum. We now enter a period when an official reply should be forthcoming. What the forensic people are now producing constitutes evidence, however one may view it, and it is the first scientifically derived evidence we have into any of the events in which Russia has been implicated. The investigators deserve a response, the betrayed professionals who formed VIPS as the WMD scandal unfolded in 2003 deserve it, and so do the rest of us. The cost of duplicity has rarely been so high.

    I concluded each of the interviews conducted for this column by asking for a degree of confidence in the new findings. These are careful, exacting people as a matter of professional training and standards, and I got careful, exacting replies.

    All those interviewed came in between 90 percent and 100 percent certain that the forensics prove out. I have already quoted Skip Folden’s answer: impossible based on the data. “The laws of physics don’t lie,” Ray McGovern volunteered at one point. “It’s QED, theorem demonstrated,” William Binney said in response to my question. “There’s no evidence out there to get me to change my mind.” When I asked Edward Loomis, a 90 percent man, about the 10 percent he held out, he replied, “I’ve looked at the work and it shows there was no Russian hack. But I didn’t do the work. That’s the 10 percent. I’m a scientist.”

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