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ANTI-STATE ANTI-WAR PRO-MARKET
Updated: 7 hours 20 min ago

The Mother of All Blowbacks

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

President Barack Obama is being lambasted by US Republicans for admitting that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the rise of the militant group, ISIS, or Islamic State, as it’s now known.

Given that the US had made an unbelievable mess of its Mideast policies, the president is right to pause and think, something his shoot –from- the- lip Republican critics rarely do. They are demanding the US attack both Iraq and Syria without asking “what then oh brave Washington warriors?” These are the Republicans who ardently supported George Bush’s catastrophic invasion and destruction of Iraq.

The problem is that too many cooks in Washington are spoiling its Mideast soup. In his magnificent new book, “The Sleepwalkers,” Prof. Christopher Clark of Cambridge describes how World War I was in part ignited by small numbers of anti-German officials in France, Russia, Serbia and Britain who often undermined their own government’s moderate policies.

The same process occurred under President George W. Bush when cabals of neocon officials in the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and media drove the US into a calamitous war whose negative effects are still being felt.

Today, other pro-war cliques in official Washington are at it again, each trying to dominate policy. Add a bunch of pro-Israel billionaires who have bought both the Republican and Democratic parties, apparently including Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.

President Obama has always found it extremely difficult to impose his will on all these different factions, even more now that he’s a lame duck. He has repeatedly made clear that he wants to avoid any new wars, but while allowing drone attacks to increase.

Both party politics and the need to shore up America’s shaky Mideast imperium – which I call the American Raj – are pushing Obama towards military action.

So we see small numbers of US troops being sent back to Iraq – enough men to get the nation stuck in a new conflict but not enough to make a major difference. In short, the worst of both worlds.

Now, Obama is being pressed to attack Syria, an idea so crazy it takes the breath away. Obama is largely responsible for the current disaster in Syria – nearly 200,000 dead and three million refugees. Once thriving Syria, the real heart of the Arab world, has been devastated. President Vlad Putin may not save Obama this time.

The US sponsored and armed the uprising against the Assad regime, which had brutally ruled Syria for 43 years. France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations backed the campaign to overthrow Assad, as a way to damage Iran, Syria’s principal ally. The result: a bloody war of attrition that is slowly being won by Damascus.

Worse, the western intervention in Syria produced what is known in the intelligence business as “blowback”- in this case the Mother of all blowback.

The Syrian jihadist supported by the western powers and, for some baffling reason, Turkey, ran amok. A previously unknown band of gunmen known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were trained and armed in Jordan by CIA, then turned lose on Syria.

ISIL became ISIS, then the by now notorious Islamic State(IS) which has been rampaging across northern and central Iraq. What makes IS so effective is that the major portion of its leaders and soldiers are veterans of President Saddam Hussein’s army, notably the Republican Guard. With IS is the last surviving Saddam insider, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri.

When the US first invaded Iraq, Saddam predicted it would face the “Mother of all battles.” Westerners laughed. Eleven years later, the laughter has been silenced. Iraq continues to fight on and it is no longer safe for foreign oil companies. Saddam’s revenge.

The Islamic State is the perfect example of Nietzche’s over-used maxim, “what does not kill us makes us stronger.” It has risen from the ruins of Iraq and Syria to challenge the American Raj.

“Light” bombing by the US in Iraq won’t stop the IS. Pentagon chiefs now say US air power and special forces must go into Syria. This is standard Obama procedure: inching forward and launching trial balloons to test public opinion. But it’s clear the American public does not want new wars no matter what the pro-war media and bought Congress may say.

Will Germans Resist the Empire?

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

Merkel is under serious pressure from two fronts. The sanctions against Russia are having a major impact upon the European economy as a whole. This has caused Merkel to bluntly state that the US cannot solve all the problems of the world. Indeed, what she is not saying is that these US policies may be causing more problems than she can handle. Europe is caught between two warring powers, US and Russia, who are still stuck in the old empire way of thinking. Putin sees the power of a nation as its size and I cannot say that the US is that much different. OK, the US does not want to own the world, just occupy it militarily for power. Obama just said The United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world…“. That statement is impossible for no nation can remain on top and that is the same thinking that existed in every empire from Babylon to Britain going into World War I. The US squanders its wealth on military and Putin wrongly thinks he needs territory to gain respect and power. Europe cannot impose economic sanctions on Russia without killing it’s already weak economy and Obama is too dense to understand that.

Then Merkel is telling France it has to reform. The French economic implosion cannot be dealt with by increasing the scope of socialism. Hollande also is in his empire building role where socialism would work if he could only stop people from leaving and transform the country into a dictatorial communistic state. He cannot see that his ideas are fundamentally flawed and have been attempted both in China and Russia with failure. France will be forced to either let go, as did China, or hand it all to an oligarchy, as did Russia.

The rising unemployment in France is becoming a contagion as the number of unemployed in Germany rose slightly more than usual in the holiday month of August. Unemployment exceeded the previous month by 30,000 reaching a total of 2.902 million unemployed according to the Federal Employment Agency (BA) as announced on Thursday in Germany. On average, in recent years, the increase was approximately 22,000. The unemployment rate increased from 6.6 to 6.7 percent and this is in the core economy of Europe. The further you move out of Germany the higher the unemployment. This trend will tear down the German economy as its exports slowly spiral down and it will go into free-fall economic decline after 2015.75.

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Neocon Powerlust

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

Sen. Rand Paul raises an interesting question:

When has Hillary Clinton ever been right on foreign policy?

The valkyrie of the Democratic Party says she urged President Obama to do more to aid Syrian rebels years ago. And last summer, she supported air strikes on Bashar Assad’s regime.

Had we followed her advice and crippled Assad’s army, ISIS might be in Damascus today, butchering Christians and Alawites and aiding the Islamic State in Iraq in overrunning Baghdad.

But if the folly of attacking Assad’s army and weakening its resistance to ISIS terrorists is apparent to everyone this summer, why were Clinton, Obama and Secretary of State Kerry oblivious to this reality just a year ago?

Consider the rest of Hillary’s record. Her most crucial decision as Senator came in 2002 when she voted to invade Iraq. She now concedes it was the greatest mistake of her Senate career.

She voted against the surge in 2006, but confided to Defense Secretary Bob Gates that she did so to maintain her political viability for 2008.

This is statesmanship? Not voting your convictions about what is best for your country at war, so as not to antagonize the liberals in the Iowa caucuses?

In 2009, Hillary presented a “reset button” to Vladimir Putin’s foreign minister. In 2011, she supported U.S. air strikes to bring down Col. Gadhafi and celebrated in Tripoli when he was overthrown and lynched.

How did that work out? Libya is today a hellhole of murder and mayhem and Islamists are threatening a takeover.

Who did Hillary think would rise when Gadhafi fell?

Hillary’s failure to anticipate or prevent the Benghazi massacre and her role in the botched cover-up, all concede, are burdens she will carry into the primaries in 2016, should she run.

Where, then, has Hillary exhibited the acumen to suggest she would be a wise and savvy steward of U.S. foreign policy in a disintegrating world?

Is this a convincing argument for the Republican alternative?

Hardly. The principal GOP voices on foreign policy, who get more airtime than Wolf Blitzer, are John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Their track record: McCain wanted to confront Putin over South Ossetia. He and Graham wanted to arm Ukrainians to fight the Russians in Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk. They wanted Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia brought into NATO, so that if war were to break out, we would be fighting the Russians alongside them.

This year, Graham was trolling around a Senate resolution to give Obama a blank check to attack Iran.

Last year, McCain and Graham were for attacking Assad’s army. This year they are for bombing ISIS, which is attacking Assad’s army.

But if Hillary, McCain and Graham have been repeatedly wrong about Syria, what do we now? Answer: Stop and think.

First, this war in Syria and Iraq, like all such wars, is eventually going to be won by soldiers, by boots on the ground, by troops who can take and hold territory. And in such wars, as Napoleon said, God is on the side of the big battalions.

America should declare to friends and allies in the Middle East, as Nixon did to our friends and allies in Asia in the Guam Doctrine of 1969, that while we will stand with them when they are attacked, they, not we, will provide the soldiers for their own defense.

No nation is less threatened by ISIS than ours. And as the Syrians, Turks, Kurds and Iraqis have the proximity and manpower to defeat ISIS, they should do this job themselves.

Turkey shares a 550-mile border with Syria and could march in and crush ISIS. But if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wishes to play games with ISIS, out of hatred of Assad, let him and the Turks live with the consequences.

As for Syria’s army and regime, which either defeats ISIS or dies, let us cease impeding their efforts by backing a Free Syrian Army that has rarely won a battle and is only bleeding the Syrian army.

Kurdistan and its ethnic cousins in Syria, Turkey and Iran are capable of defending themselves, and we should encourage any nation, including Iran, that is willing to send them the weapons to fight ISIS.

As for Baghdad, if it wants its Sunni lands back, it either should fight for them or accept their loss. We Americans are living today with the consequences, in considerable losses of blood and treasure, of fighting other people’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Yet, we are suffering not at all from having kept out of other people’s wars — in Georgia, Crimea, Donetsk, Syria and Iran.

Speaking of the debate over U.S. air strikes in Syria, the New York Times writes, “There are too many unanswered questions to make that decision now, and there has been far too little public discussion for Mr. Obama to expect Americans to rally behind what could be another costly military commitment.”

Sometimes the Times gets it right.

Heaping Lie Upon Lie

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

The latest Washington lie, this one coming from NATO, is that Russia has invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops and self-propelled artillery.

How do we know that this is a lie? Is it because we have heard nothing but lies about Russia from NATO, from US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, from assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, from Obama and his entire regime of pathological liars, and from the British, German, and French governments along with the BBC and the entirety of the Western media?

This, of course, is a good reason for knowing that the latest Western propaganda is a lie. Those who are pathological liars don’t suddenly start telling the truth.

But there are even better reasons for understanding that Russia has not invaded Ukraine with 1,000 troops.

One reason is that Putin has invested heavily in diplomacy backed by unprovocative behavior. He would not risk his bet on diplomacy by sending in troops too few in number to have a decisive effect on the outcome.

Another reason is that if Putin decides he has no alternative to sending the Russian military to protect the Russian residents in eastern and southern Ukraine, Putin will send in enough troops to do the job quickly as he did in Georgia when the American and Israeli trained Georgian army invaded South Ossetia and was destroyed in a few hours by the Russian response. If you hear that 100,000 Russian troops accompanied by air cover have invaded Ukraine, it would be a more believable claim.

A third reason is that the Russian military does not need to send troops into Ukraine in order to stop the bombing and artillery shelling of the Russian populations by Washington’s puppet government in Kiev. The Russian air force can easily and quickly destroy the Ukrainian air force and artillery and, thereby, stop the Ukrainian attack on the secessionist provinces.

It was only two weeks ago that a fabricated report spread by the UK Guardian and the BBC that a Russian armored convoy entered Ukraine and was destroyed by the Ukrainian Military. And two weeks prior to that we had the hoax of the satellite images allegedly released by the US State Department that the corrupt US ambassador in Kiev spread around the world on social media allegedly showing that Russian forces were firing into Ukraine. One or two weeks from now we will have another lie, and another a week or two after that, and so on.

The cumulative effect of lie piled upon lie for most people is to build the view that the Russians are up to no good. Once this view is established, Western governments can take more serious moves against Russia.

The alleged entry of 1,000 Russian soldiers into Ukraine has been declared by NATO Brigadier General Niko Tak to be a “significant escalation in Russia’s military interference in Ukraine.” The champion liar Samantha Power told the US Security Council that “Russia has to stop lying.” The UK ambassador to the UN said that Russia was guilty of “a clear violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.” UK prime minister Cameron warned Russia of “further consequences.” German chancellor Merkel announced that there would be more sanctions. A German Security Council advisor declared that “war with Russia is an option.” Polish foreign minister Sikorski called it Russian aggression that required international action. French president Hollande declared Russia’s behavior to be “intolerable.” Ukraine’s security council imposed mandatory conscription.

This suicidal drive toward war with Russia by Europe’s leaders is based entirely on a transparent lie that 1,000 Russian troops crossed into Ukraine

Of course the Western media followed in lock-step. The BBC, CNN, and Die Welt are among the most reckless and irresponsible.

The mountain of lies piled up by Western governments and media has obscured the true story. The US government orchestrated the overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine and imposed a US puppet in Kiev. Washington’s puppet government began issuing threats and committing violent acts against the Russian populations in the former Russian territories that Soviet leaders attached to Ukraine. The Russian people in eastern and southern Ukraine resisted the threat brought to them by Washington’s puppet government in Kiev.

Washington continually accuses the Russian government of supporting the people in the territories who have voted their separation from Ukraine. There would be no war, Washington alleges, except for Russian support. But, of course, Washington could easily stop the violence by ordering its puppet government in Kiev to stop the bombing and shelling of the former Russian provinces. If Russia can tell the “separatists” not to fight, Washington can tell Kiev not to fight.

The only possible conclusion from the facts is that Washington is determined to involve Europe in a war with Russia or at least in an armed standoff in order to break up Europe’s political and economic relations with Russia.

Europe’s leaders are going along with this because European countries, except for Charles de Gaulle’s France, have not had independent foreign policies since the end of World War II. They follow Washington’s lead and are well paid for doing so.

The inability of Europe to produce independent leadership dooms Russian President Putin’s diplomacy to failure. If European capitals cannot make decisions independently of Washington, there is no scope for Putin’s diplomacy.

Notice that the very day after Putin met with Washington’s Ukrainian vassal in an effort to resolve the situation, the new lie of Russian invasion was issued in order to ensure that no good can come of the meeting in which Putin invested his time and energy.

Washington’s only interest is in hegemony. Washington has no interest in resolving the situation that Washington itself created in order to bring discomfort and confusion to Russia. With the caveat that the situation could be resolved by Ukrainian economic collapse, otherwise the longer Putin waits to resolve the situation by force, the more difficult the task will be.

The Flexible Gold Standard Is Nonsense

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

According to mainstream economics textbooks, one of the primary functions of money is to measure the value of goods and services exchanged on the market. A typical statement of this view is given by Frederic Mishkin in his textbook on money and banking. “[M]oney … is used to measure value in the economy,” he claims. “We measure the value of goods and services in terms of money, just as we measure weight in terms of pounds and distance in terms of miles.”

When money is conceived as a measure of value, the policy implication is that one of the primary objectives of the central bank should be to maintain a stable price level. This supposedly will remove inflationary noise from the economy and ensure that any changes in money prices that do occur tend to reflect a change in the relative values of goods and services to consumers. Thus, for mainstream economists, stabilizing a price index based on a basket of arbitrarily selected and weighted consumer goods, e.g., the CPI, the core CPI, the Personal Consumption Expenditure (CPE), etc., is a prerequisite for rendering money a more or less fixed yardstick for measuring value.

This idea — that a series of acts involving interpersonal exchange of certain sums of money for quantities of various goods by diverse agents over a given period of time somehow yields a measure of value — is another ancient fallacy that can be traced back to John Law. Law repeatedly referred to money as “the measure by which goods are valued.” This fallacy has been refuted elsewhere and rests on the assumption that the act of measurement involves the comparison of one thing to another thing that has an objective existence, and whose relevant physical dimensions and causal relationships with other physical phenomena are absolutely fixed and invariant to the passage of time, like a yardstick or a column of mercury.

In fact, the value an individual attaches to a given sum of money or to any kind of good is based on a subjective judgment and is without physical dimensions. As such the value of money varies from moment to moment and between different individuals. The price paid for a good in a concrete act of exchange does not measure the good’s value; rather it expresses the fact that the buyer and the seller value the money and the price paid in inverse order. For this reason neither money nor any other good can ever serve as a measure of value.

Unfortunately, advocates of a gold-price target wholeheartedly embrace this mainstream doctrine while giving it an odd twist. They begin with the wholly unsupported assumption that one commodity, gold, is stable in value and that, therefore it can serve as the lone guiding star — or “The Monetary Polaris” as Nathan Lewis terms it — for Fed monetary policy. According to Steve Forbes, writing in the introduction to Lewis’s Gold: The Monetary Polaris, real gold standards have one thing in common: “They use gold as a measuring rod to keep the value of money stable. Why? Because the yellow metal keeps its intrinsic value better than anything on the planet.”

Louis Woodhill, in a Forbes column, writes in a similar vein, explaining that “[t]he fundamental validity of the gold standard rests upon the premise that the real value of gold remains constant over time. … The most fundamental thing about a unit of measure is that it be constant. … Gold is not money, and it should not be money. However we can and should use gold to define the value of the dollar.” These passages reflect an almost mystical belief that the “intrinsic” or “real” value of gold is, for all practical purposes, eternally unchanging, unaffected by the continual flux of human valuations, stocks of resources (including gold itself ), technology, and entrepreneurial judgments that define the essence of the dynamic market economy. Furthermore no definition is ever given of what exactly the concept of “intrinsic value” means or in what units it is expressed.

Historical experience clearly shows that the value of gold vis-à-vis other commodities has fluctuated over the centuries, even when gold has served as the monetary standard. This was certainly the case, for example, when the US returned to the gold standard after the Civil War. From 1880 to 1896, US wholesale prices fell by about 30 percent. From 1897 to 1914 wholesale prices rose by about 2.5 percent per year or by nearly 50 percent. This rise came about mainly as the result of a nearly doubling of the global stock of gold between 1890 and 1914 due to discoveries of new gold deposits in Alaska, Colorado, and South Africa, and improvements in the technology of mining and refining gold.

Proponents of gold-price targeting thus seem to ignore both theory and history in assuming that once the dollar price of gold has been fixed, the value of money itself becomes forever stable and immune to the influence of market forces of supply and demand. Inflation and deflation are, therefore, ipso facto banished from the economy. This implies that any changes occurring in the quantity of money under a fixed-gold price regime are to be construed as benign and stabilizing adjustments of the supply of money to changes in the demand for money. Steve Forbes writes: “The fact that a foot has 12 inches doesn’t restrict the number of square feet you have in a house. The fact that a pound has 16 ounces doesn’t restrict your weight, alas — it’s a simple measurement. … The virtue of a properly constructed gold standard is that it’s both stable and flexible—stable in value and flexible in meeting the marketplace’s natural need for money. If an economy is growing rapidly such a gold-based system would allow for rapid expansion of the money supply.”

In other words Forbes’s “stable and flexible” gold standard would facilitate and camouflage an inflationary expansion of the money supply that would, according to Austrians, distort capital markets and lead to asset bubbles. The motto of our current gold-price fixers seems to be: “We want sound money — and plenty of it.”

Power Elite in Panic Mode?

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

Folks, take economic cover. There is already a rabid financial mania loose in the land as reflected in the irrational exuberance of the stock market, but, in fact, the fairy tale economics fueling the current financial bubble is fixing to leap into a whole new realm of lunacy. Namely, an out-and-out drop of “helicopter money” to the main street masses.

That’s right. The Keynesian brain freeze has so deeply infected the Wall Street/ Washington corridor that the grey old lady of the establishment, the Council On Foreign Relations, has lent the pages of its prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs, to the following blithering gibberish:

It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers — as well as their counterparts in other developed countries — to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops…..  Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly. In practice, this policy could take the form of giving central banks the ability to hand their countries’ tax-paying households a certain amount of money. The government could distribute cash equally to all households or, even better, aim for the bottom 80 percent of households in terms of income.Targeting those who earn the least would have two primary benefits. For one thing, lower-income households are more prone to consume, so they would provide a greater boost to spending. For another, the policy would offset rising income inequality.

I have actually checked, and, no, the publishing arm of the Council on Foreign Relations has not been hacked by writers from the Onion. This monetary insanity is for real!

Worse still, this sophmoric prattle is supposed to be based on economic reasoning and purported structural changes in modern economies that cause people everywhere to under-consume and over-save. Hence the need to drop fiat money from the sky so that citizens spend one afternoon per week scooping-up the new money and six-and-one-half days per week in an orgy of consumption and gluttony.

Well, that’s what the authors—a political science professor from Brown and a beltway bandit from Washington DC—actually say. Since their “under consumption” thesis completely denies every known fact about modern economies, their “analysis” needs to be quoted verbatim:

Three trends explain why. First, technological innovation has driven down consumer prices and globalization has kept wages from rising. Second, the recurring financial panics of the past few decades have encouraged many lower-income economies to increase savings — in the form of currency reserves — as a form of insurance. That means they have been spending far less than they could, starving their economies of investments in such areas as infrastructure and defense, which would provide employment and drive up prices. Finally, throughout the developed world, increased life expectancies have led some private citizens to focus on saving for the longer term (think Japan). As a result, middle-aged adults and the elderly have started spending less on goods and services.

Alrighty then, lets “think Japan” and explore the savings glut thesis. Does the chart below suggest that Japan’s robust pre-1990 growth rate—which the authors laud—-has vanished during the last two decades because the savings rate went up?

In fact, it has plummeted from north of 20% during Japan’s heyday of growth to a US style 3% at present.  Worse still, this occurred during the waning years before Japan began turning into a retirement colony. That is, instead of building up a nest egg for their greying years, Japanese households in recent times have spent nearly everything they earned.

So even though Japan’s real GDP growth rate drastically downshifted from 4-7% during the pre-1990 boom years to just 1% annually during the last two decades, it wasn’t due to a “savings glut”.  Even the most superficial examination of the data establishes that truth.

Nor is Japan an outlier among developed economies. The US picture is virtually the same over this period. The household savings rate during the pre-1980 period, and before the Greenspan-Bernanke-Yellen money printing era got fully underway, was always above 10% of disposable income. As shown below, it has tumbled into the 3-6% zone since the late 1990s.

Like in Japan, therefore, the US baby boomers were spending almost all they earned in their most productive years. Accordingly, the sharp down-shift in the US  real GDP growth rate—-from 3-4% pre-1980 to only 1.8% during the last 14 years—- is not due to a “savings glut”, either.

In a word, the entire “savings glut” theory  is upside down with respect to Japan, the US and the developed economies of Europe as well. All of these societies are now getting old, fast. The real problem is that they have over-consumed, not under-saved, during the central bank sponsored debt party of the last 30 years.  Consequently, the actual culprit weighing down real growth is “peak debt” on household, business and government balance sheets, not a perverse failure to spend.

In fact, during the several decades leading up to the financial crisis, household and business leverage ratios were steadily ratcheted-up, meaning that consumption spending was financed by currently earned income plus borrowed funds from the credit card, mortgage and consumer loan markets.  But the resulting consumption spree was a one-time economic trick that has now been exhausted.

Accordingly, the credit expansion channel of monetary stimulus is now broken and done. All of the massive balance sheet expansion by major central banks is being shunted into the financial gambling channel where it fuels asset price inflation, not main street jobs, output and enterprise.

Stated differently, the downshift in developed world growth is not due to under-consumption and insufficient “aggregate demand”. The GDP of these economies is growing at “only” 1-2% per annum because production and productivity are also languishing in this same tepid zone. But that’s a problem on the supply-side—reflecting high taxes, high debt burdens, regulatory hurdles to enterprise and the vast financialization of developed economies owing to central bank distortion of financial markets.

Self-evidently, money is flowing in a mighty tidal wave into the Wall Street casino where it is driving the price of existing financial assets skyward. In that environment, labor cannot compete with debt, and so it is is liquidated on the margin in order to generate incremental cash flow to pay the interest. Likewise, investment in productive assets cannot compete with the short-run boost to stock prices resulting from massive corporate stock repurchases.

At the end of the day, ironically, helicopter money—-the kind currently being dropped on the financial markets—-is the overarching problem. Redirecting the fleet to main street is obviously nothing more than crackpot economics.

The real problem is way too much debt—the legacy of Keynesian central banking, manipulated, sub-economic interest rates and the consequent scramble for yield which has enabled governments to borrow and spend at unsustainable rates. Now the piper has to be paid, and the phony growth that was stolen from the future during the bubble years must unavoidably be recouped.

Indeed, when the US data from the above chart is inspected more closely, the barrier of peak debt fairly screams out. And the back story only further demolishes the authors’ thesis as quoted above.

They claim that the peasants who came out of the rice paddies and into the factories of East China saved too much on the one hand, and drove down the price of labor on the other, thereby causing developed world wages to stagnate and household consumption spending in Chicago and Paris to languish.

Now that is really Keynesian gibberish. The soaring ratio of US debt to national income shown below was enabled by the Fed and its vast expansion of dollar liabilities which have financed $8 trillion of current account deficits since the late 1970s. The effect was that US exported dollar inflation, and mercantilist central banks in China, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere in Asia and the developing world bought-up this dollar inflow in order to peg their currencies and fuel their export based development policies.

Accordingly, the vaunted and massive “currency reserves” of the developing world reflected not an excess of genuine savings, but an abundance of domestic money printing. And the cheap labor which allegedly suppressed US consumption was actually nothing more than the economic blow-back from attempting to inflate domestic spending through cheap debt and the emission of a massive and continuous flow of unwanted dollars into the world market.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

Why I’m Leaving America

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

“Dear Mr. President,

I am writing with a heavy heart as I, my husband, and our daughter are all seriously contemplating giving up our U.S. citizenship. We are doing this not to avoid paying U.S. taxes but because we strongly object to a system that is blatantly discriminatory and unfair to law-abiding Americans living outside the country. In addition, it has become too expensive, too difficult, and frankly, too frightening, to try to comply with all of the tax filing requirements that now apply to citizens living abroad.

My husband is 70 years old and I am 69. I was born in St. Louis, my husband in Denver, and our daughter in Toronto. When my husband graduated with a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and I with a law degree from Villanova, both in 1971, he received a job offer to teach U.S. history to Canadian university students. I began teaching law at the same university. We never expected to stay in Canada but, as you know, life is often unpredictable and we have now happily lived here for 43 years. I retired many years ago and my husband more recently.

In order to practice my profession I had to become a member of the Ontario Bar, which I did in 1985 and which required me to become a Canadian citizen. My husband did so some years later because he also wanted the right to vote in a country where we were living and raising our daughter. We have continued to vote in U.S. federal elections, we hold U.S. passports as well as Canadian, and we have never failed, in 43 years, to comply with U.S. laws that require American citizens anywhere in the world to file U.S. tax returns. Of course, that obligation does not exempt us from also having to fileCanadian tax returns each year, and in some instances, paying taxes to both countries. (Please note, neither one of us receives U.S. Social Security or Medicare, so we take nothing in return from the U.S.)

And yet, we now feel like second class citizens at best, or criminals at worst. The FBAR forms that we must file every year, detailing the amount in every single financial account we have, from savings to checking to investment to retirement accounts, are filed with the Fraud Division of the U.S. Treasury Department. The message given here, along with the enormous fines for improper filing, make U.S. citizens feel like they are guilty until proven innocent.

Recently I learned that, on top of all the other tax disadvantages of being dual citizens, Americans living and working in Canada can now hold Canadian mutual funds only at their financial peril. These funds carry onerous, expensive tax filing requirements for every single fund owned, as well as attracting much higher taxes than U.S. mutual funds (which we are not allowed to hold in our Canadian investment accounts.) What this new obstacle means for U.S. citizens in Canada is that, in addition to being prohibited from buying U.S. mutual funds, we must now sell the Canadian mutual funds in our investment portfolios for a reason that has nothing to do with their inherent value or what they add to our savings and retirement strategies.

To my knowledge the IRS does not tell U.S. citizens living in America that they will be penalized for owning mutual funds domiciled in that country. So why does it feel it is fair or appropriate to penalize Americans living in Canada for simply investing in mutual funds domiciled in Canada? Let us be clear. These are not funds that are investing in terrorist activities in the Mideast. These are funds that are invested heavily in U.S. bonds and U.S. companies, as well as in Canadian bonds and companies. While the IRS looks at Canadian mutual funds as “foreign investments“, obviously for those living in Canada they are local investments!

Nevertheless, I must now instruct our investment advisor to sell them. Americans living in the U.S. pay 15% in capital gains on U.S. domiciled mutual funds. Americans living in Canada will now pay over 38% in capital gains on Canadian domiciled mutual funds, even though both funds might contain very similar investments. This places American citizens living in Canada at a distinct disadvantage in planning and saving for our retirement. What have we done to deserve this discriminatory and second class treatment? Are we to save for our old age by hiding our money under the mattress?

For many years we have been willing to pay the substantial expenses involved in using tax accountants who are qualified to file our tax returns in both countries. As you can imagine, dual citizens cannot use just any tax accountant and still feel confident that they are complying with the very confusing U.S. tax laws, tax treaty, and all of the special requirements that apply only to Americans living outside the country. This is especially true when it is the Fraud Division that investigates even the most innocent errors in filing some of the necessary forms.

However, now the overall burden and the unfairness have become too heavy to reasonably bear. My earliest known American ancestor, who sailed from Europe and settled in Kentucky 166 years ago, is probably “rolling over in his grave” to think that I am giving up my U.S. citizenship. However, growing up in Colorado I was raised and educated to stand up for what is right. I have been doing that ever since.

What America is doing to its own citizens living in other countries is not right and we have had enough. What I have outlined here is only part of the problem. All we want in return for fulfilling our responsibilities as Americans is to be treated fairly and equally. We are performing our part of the bargain. America is not.

There are approximately one million Americans living and working in Canada, and millions more in other parts of the world. I understand from our specialized tax accountant, and our cross-border consultant, that we are not alone in contemplating or taking this very dramatic and previously inconceivable step of relinquishing our U.S. citizenship. What a sad state of affairs for America and for its citizens everywhere.

Regretfully yours,

MarilynOntario, Canada”

You can reach me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This discussion is not intended as legal advice, and cannot be relied upon for any purpose without the services of a qualified professional.

Reprinted from Forbes.com.

We’re Winning

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

Earlier this month the New York Times wondered aloud if the “libertarian moment” had arrived. A good question, to be sure.

To answer it, though, Times reporter Robert Draper sought out not quite the top libertarian thinkers in the world, but instead those people most easily reached within a ten-minute walk from the Capitol or the Empire State Building.

Draper begins with an ex-MTV personality and proceeds from there. None of the people whose work and writing have shaped the libertarian movement, and who have converted so many people to our point of view, make an appearance. Ask the hordes of young kids who are devouring libertarian classics how many of them were introduced to libertarianism, or even slightly influenced, by the figures on whom the Times chooses to rely. You already know the answer.

The movement’s major thinkers have rather more intellectual heft behind them, which I suspect is why the Times would prefer to keep them from you. Far better for libertarianism to seem like an ill-focused, adolescent rebellion against authority per se, instead of a serious, intellectually exciting school of thought that challenges every last platitude about the State we were taught in its ubiquitous schools.

Economist and historian Bob Higgs shared my impression of the Times article:

Of course, it’s easy to ridicule libertarians if you focus exclusively on the lifestyle camp. Easy, too, to accuse them of inconsistency, because in truth these particular libertarians are inconsistent. Easy, too, to minimize their impact by concentrating heavily on conventional electoral politics, as if no other form of societal change were conceivable. Easy, too, to ignore completely the only ones – the anarchists – who cannot be accused of inconsistency or ridiculed for their impotence as players in the conventional political game, a game for which they have only contempt. Finally, it’s easy, too – and a great deal more interesting for general, clueless readers – to focus on the hip libertarians.

As Bob points out, the Times reporter says he finds inconsistency among libertarians, because some want to cut only this much, or abolish only those things. But this is what he gets for focusing on the political class and the Beltway brand of libertarianism. Libertarianism is about as consistent a philosophy as a Times reader is likely to encounter. We oppose aggression, period. That means we oppose the State, which amounts to institutionalized aggression.

We have zero interest in “public policy,” a term that begs every important moral question. To ask what kind of “public policy” ought to exist in such-and-such area implicitly assumes (1) that private property is subject to majority vote; (2) that people can be expropriated by the State to whatever degree the State considers necessary in order to carry out the “public policy” in question; (3) that there exists an institution with moral legitimacy that may direct our physical resources and even our lives in particular ways against our wills, even when we are causing no particular harm to anyone.

Still, I note in passing, political consultants are doing their best to make a quick buck on the rising tide of libertarianism. A fundraising email I receive from time to time urges people to get involved in the political process, since simply “educating people” (contemptuous, condescending quotation marks in original) isn’t enough. Instead. they’re told, it’s more important to spend their time supporting political candidates who occasionally give a decent speech but who otherwise deny libertarian principles on a routine basis, in the spurious hope that once in office, these candidates will throw off their conventional exteriors and announce themselves as libertarians.

The Times, too, thinks primarily about politics, of all things, when assessing whether the libertarian moment has arrived. The article is fixated on the political class. But why conceive of the question so narrowly? Why should we assess the growth and significance of libertarianism on the basis of political metrics alone?

The left understands this point. Recall Antonio Gramsci’s strategy for bringing about lasting leftist victory. He did not advocate immediate and exclusive emphasis on political activity. If the people’s minds had not been changed in the direction that a leftist government would want to take them, all their political conniving would be in vain anyway.

Vastly more important, Gramsci taught, was for their ideas to work their way through the universities, the arts, and all the other institutions of civil society. At that point, it wouldn’t matter who won the elections. The people would already be in their hands – and in all likelihood, the two competing candidates would themselves have adopted leftist language and ideas, whether they realized it or not, to boot.

Now judged by Gramsci’s standard, the libertarian moment has not arrived any more than it has in politics. These institutions are firmly in the hands of those who hold libertarian ideas in contempt, even if an exception might be found here and there.

But if we define the term “libertarian moment” more modestly, a different conclusion emerges. No, we have not reached a point at which anything like a majority of Americans have embraced our ideas. But we have reached a point at which even mainstream sources, which in the pre-Internet age could get away with ignoring us altogether, are forced to acknowledge us, if only for purposes of dismissal and ridicule.

Economic commentary can no longer pretend that our choices are either fiscal expansion or monetary expansion. A new school of thought has spoiled the party, letting Americans know that these phony choices by no means exhaust the real alternatives.

Thanks to Ron Paul, a new generation understands it’s all right to favor the free market and to oppose war. Libertarians have done more than anyone else to expose the Democrats as just another wing of the war party, and to show there’s no real debate in America over foreign policy. This is considered extremely uncouth by those who wish to maintain the pretense that open discussion of important issues takes place in the land of the free.

After decades of virtually no progress at all against the war on drugs, the prohibitionist regime is beginning to crack all around us. The standard bromides in its favor elicit only cynical chuckles from a rising generation that knows better.

Ordinarily, federal bailouts would be bipartisan and all but unanimous, with self-described supporters of the market economy solemnly informing us that just this once, it had to be done. Progressives have not distinguished themselves here as they might have; Rachel Maddow once said we wouldn’t have had an economy without the bailouts. It’s the libertarians who have stood against the establishment tide, as usual.

In other words, we are having discussions that we did not have in the past. Libertarians have staked out positions that a lot of ordinary people share, but which they never saw articulated in public, thereby giving people the confidence and courage to express dissent.

Ten years ago, these dissident views would have been drowned out by the establishment consensus, which closes ranks whenever an issue of real importance arises.

Is it too much to call this the libertarian moment? Whatever we want to call it, it’s the beginning of something never seen before in American history, and that alone is reason to celebrate.

Free Scotland!

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

upport for Scottish independence is gathering steam three weeks before the referendum, bringing victory tantalizing closer for the “Yes” camp after its decisive debate win and David Cameron’s attempt to make a business case for remaining in the UK.

A poll for the Scottish Daily Mail newspaper released Friday showed that support for independence has surged by 4 percent, to 47 percent – just 6 percentage points behind the “No” campaign.

The Survation poll found 47 percent of respondents would vote “Yes” to independence, compared to 53 percent who would vote “No,” excluding people who were undecided.

This is the first survey after the final TV debate between Alex Salmond, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, and Alistair Darling, the head of the anti-independence “Better Together” campaign.

Commenting on the results, Yes Scotland’s chief executive, Blair Jenkins, said: “With only 20 campaigning days before the referendum, more and more people are waking up to the great opportunities of Yes to make Scotland’s vast wealth, talent and resources work better for all in a more prosperous and fairer country.”

In a similar poll three weeks earlier, 43 percent said they would vote “Yes,” versus 57 percent who would vote to remain in the union.

Prime Minister Cameron urged Scottish people to reject independence in a speech in Glasgow on Thursday, arguing union was a strong economic advantage.

Cameron said the union between Scotland and England was the “greatest merger in history” as he addressed a conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Glasgow. He said the UK was“one of the oldest and most successful single markets in the world” and that Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the UK as the rest of the world put together.

According to Cameron, trade between the UK and Scotland supports 1 million Scottish jobs, or about 20 percent of the population.

“Our single market is one of our union’s greatest advantages. If we stay together, Scottish businesses have better opportunities, Scottish consumers have more choice and Scottish people have more secure jobs,”Cameron said.

While the economy is a key debate, national identity is a strong factor for many in deciding whether they want to belong to the rest of the United Kingdom, or be an independent country.

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MOR, a leading UK research company, told RT that much of the Scottish push for independence is based on issues of identity.

“It matters more to them to be Scottish than being English,” he said.

Although he raised concerns whether the current constitution of four separate countries together as the United Kingdom still works, he said Scotland’s economy would be “stronger if it stays in the union.”

Earlier this year, Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister under the Edinburgh parliament’s current limited powers, said that Scotland would be becoming independent “in more promising circumstances than virtually any nation in history,” if it votes for secession.

Scotland called for its share of £1.3 trillion ($2.19 trillion) of UK assets to help support an independent Scottish economy, which Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney said is already one of the richest in the world. “Everyone in Scotland has contributed to this 1.3 trillion-pound stockpile of UK assets and Scotland is entitled to a fair share, giving us an even stronger base to build on,” he said.

On Thursday, 200 company heads signed an open letter to say independence was in Scotland’s “best interest.”

“We are involved in business and entrepreneurship at different levels in Scotland and around the world. We believe independence is in the best interests of Scotland’s economy and its people,” the letter reads.

Leading signatories are Sir Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach, an Australian-based transport giant, Jim McColl, chairman and CEO of Clyde Blowers, a £1 billion engineering group, and Ralph Topping, former CEO of bookmaker William Hill.

This came a day after a similar letter from 130 pro-UK Scottish business leaders said the case for independence had not been made.

“Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world – and uncertainty is bad for business,” the letter said.

Questions over whether Scotland’s economy could do well alone have been at the heart of the campaign – including whether Scotland could keep using the pound and what share of Britain’s national debt it should take on.

On 18th September Scotland will vote “Yes” or “No” to ending its 307-year union with England.

Reprinted with permission from Russia Today.

She Sounds Just Like Netanayhu

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.

One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . .  The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”

Read the rest of the article

Are You a Narcissist?

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 02:01

There was once a young man named Narcissus who was so vain that he fell in love with his own reflection in the water and died. In some versions of the mythological tale from Ancient Greece, Narcissus was transformed into a flower that today carries the name narcissus, or daffodil.

Like the flower, narcissism has continued to flourish in modern culture. “Selfie” was awarded word of the year in 2013 by the Oxford Dictionary. Capturing an image of oneself – once the purview of despondent artists – has become an international pastime. Even politicians rode the trend taking selfies at memorial services. Celebrities continued to be, well, celebrated as well. Miley Cyrus ended 2013 as the most searched person on Google, with Drake and Kim Kardashian coming in at the number two and three spots. Between them they have more “followers” than the population of an average country. And, as both Miley Cyrus’s career trajectory and research findings suggest, the importance of fame is more prominent than ever before.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen the Ice Bucket challenge thrive, but it has been revealed that less than half of people doing the challenge are actually donating. So, for some, is it really about awareness for ALS or self-promotion?

When we wrote The Narcissism Epidemic a few years ago we didn’t predict the extent of these changes. Narcissism has become such a part of culture that a new study found people could report their own narcissism simply by answering a question:

To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)

But narcissism is more complicated – and confusing – than a single question can capture. There are really three types of narcissism. Problems arise when people discuss narcissism without identifying the form.

Grandiose narcissism is the outgoing, extraverted form. When you look at charismatic but corrupt leaders, unfaithful ex-partners or media hungry celebrities you are often seeing grandiose narcissism in action. Grandiose narcissism starts with is an inflated image of oneself. The narcissistic individual believeshe or she is smarter, better looking and more important than others. And, of course, deserves special treatment for this fact. This does not mean that grandiose narcissists are all pompous bores. They can be very charming, likable (especially on first dates or job interviews) and enjoy people. On the flip side, narcissistic relationships are often not very emotionally warm or caring.

Here is the big catch with grandiose narcissism: If your image of yourself and reality do not match, you have to fill in the gaps. That is, you have to make yourself look better than you are. So, you might spend time with popular people who boost your image. Or you might name drop or show-off. There is a running joke that the most dangerous place in the world is between certain politicians and a camera crew. If you are talented and narcissistic you might be able to attract a posse to follow you or an attractive “trophy” partner. Online this might take the form of followers or friends – research has found that grandiose narcissism predicts the number of Twitter followers, Klout score and Facebook friends a person has.

If you have money (or can get loans – debt is a narcissism enabler) you can sport fancy clothes or a car. You can even enhance your physical appearance. This is easy to do with online photos. You just take several and pick the best one then use various filters to make it even better. In real life, this same feat can be accomplished with make-up, facial hair, grooming and even cosmetic surgery. Reality always wins, but illusion can put up a good fight.

Read the rest of the article

Middle-Aged Men Dancing

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

Hope was probably 52 when this was filmed. Cagney was 56. They were middle-aged men.

This is from The Seven Little Foys (1955). I saw it in a theater. I paid. It was money well spent. (No, I did not ask a girl. When you are 13, and you like this sort of thing, you are a pariah.)

 

Tank the Tank

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

The city council of Davis, California has decided to drop the local police department’s Pentagon-supplied armored vehicle following worries from the community that it could be used against demonstrations, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri this month.

The Davis City Council adopted a resolution this week that orders the city to come up with a plan to drop the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected), originally developed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and acquired by the city through a government surplus program. The armored vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies, especially after the wars wound down and the Pentagon’s budget was reduced.

A large crowd largely opposed to the city’s MRAP gathered at the city council meeting for the resolution vote. A petition had circulated around town calling for Davis officials to get rid of or repurpose the MRAP.

“I would like to say I do not suggest you take this vehicle and send it out of Davis, I demand it. I demand it!” announced a man attending the meeting wearing a “Tank The Tank” t-shirt, according to the local CBS affiliate.

Many in Davis are concerned that the military vehicle could be used against political demonstrations or protests, as was the case in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month when local law enforcement responded to civil unrest over the police killing of an unarmed teenager with what many saw as a heavy-handed, militarized posture.

Davis Police Chief Landry Black made the case for keeping the MRAP, saying the police department had confiscated much high-power weaponry in the last year. He said there were specific guidelines for its use, and that it is a necessary piece of safety equipment for the city.

“We enjoy a certain quality of life but none the less the real world intrudes upon us from time to time,”Black said.

One way the US government distributes military-grade weaponry to local police departments is through the US Department of Defense’s 1033 program, in which the Pentagon offers hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus military equipment to police forces throughout the US. For instance, St. Louis County, which encompasses Ferguson, is part of the program, as RT has reported.

In response to national outrage over the utilization of military weaponry by police in Ferguson – which is emblematic of police forces across the nation – some in Congress have mulled stemming the flow of Pentagon excess to towns across America. Yet powerful police lobbies are mobilizing to beat back any anti-militarization sentiment resulting from scenes and accounts in Ferguson.

Meanwhile, close to 200 state and local police departments in the US have lost military-level equipment transferred to them by the Pentagon’s 1033 program, according to a recent independent investigation.

Davis is home to the University of California-Davis, with around 32,000 students. The city’s progressive politics are shaped by the university.

UC-Davis was the site of one of the more shocking moments of the Occupy protests. In November 2011, a university police officer, Lt. John Pike, wantonly pepper-sprayed several peaceful demonstrators on campus, creating a national uproar while becoming a symbol of police aggression in the face of national Occupy protests.

Reprinted with permission from Russia Today.

Will the Empire Succeed in Breaking Russia?


Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

In Why they are making an enemy of Russia? we looked at two of the key reasons why the US is making an enemy of Russia, namely the promotion of conflict by the powerful Defense industry lobby in order to keep its order books full, and the value of conjuring up an external enemy as a hate figure for the masses, in order to take the heat off the government. In this article we are going to look at what is arguably an even bigger reason, that was largely omitted in the earlier article, which is that Russia, in alliance with China, is threatening to bring an end to the dollar as the global reserve currency, which would mean the end of the American empire.

We are witness to the greatest struggle of our age – the battle to maintain global dollar hegemony, and with it US economic, military and political dominance of the entire planet – and this struggle is now coming to a head.

Notwithstanding its undeniably great accomplishments of the past hundred years, the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world is parasitic. This is because it creates money and debt instruments out of nothing, requiring virtually no effort, which it then swaps for goods and services with other countries. Because the US dollar is the global reserve currency, it is able to rack up astronomic deficits that would be untenable for any other country. US debts are now at such levels that if the US dollar loses its reserve currency status, the United States economy will implode and it will quickly be reduced to the status of a banana republic – hence the sense of urgency in the face of growing threats.

Any state that moves to opt out of using the dollar as a medium of exchange is dealt with, forcibly if deemed necessary. The tactics are threefold – economic blockade (sanctions), the funding of an internal revolution, perhaps assisted by US special forces, and an outright military invasion, or perhaps a combination of the three. This is what happened in Iraq and Libya, both of which planned to trade their oil in currencies other than the dollar. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the world’s savings, via the Treasury market, are used to fund the vast US military machine with its hundreds of bases spread across the world which forcibly makes sure they stay yoked to this system.

Enter Russia (and China), the biggest threat yet to dollar dominance. These large powerful neighbors have entered into various major currency and trade agreements in the recent past that do not involve the dollar, and therefore pose a serious threat to the dollar’s reserve currency status that left unchallenged would bring it to an end. Once you understand that you understand the reason for the recent propaganda blitz against Russia. In addition China has been busy mopping up the global gold supply for several years, as early preparation for the eventual backing of its currency by gold, which will put the final nail in the US’ coffin, as the unbacked dollar will collapse completely when this happens.

A sad irony for the American people is that even though the US has the ability to swap unlimited intrinsically worthless paper for goods and services from the the rest of the world, the infrastructure of the country is crumbling and many Americans already live in poverty on “food stamps”, and even the great US middle class is being squeezed. This is because the elites don’t care about the country or the masses – all they care about is power and the amassing of personal fortunes.

If you are any good at playing chess you should find it very easy to understand the power game as it now stands. The US wants to “deal with Russia” which has made substantial moves to operate outside the confines of the dollar based trading system. If it could attack it militarily and bomb it into submission, as it has done with various smaller states, it would, but because Russia is a big powerful country with a sizeable military of its own, and nukes, that is not an option. Efforts to subvert the Russian government from within and foment revolution probably wouldn’t work, because the Russian secret services are good at rooting out subversives, and probably as ruthless as the US black ops. That only leaves the option of an economic blockade – sanctions, in an effort to isolate and mortally weaken the Russia economy, and as we know, these sanctions are already in place. But what excuse do you use to impose sanctions? – after all, it doesn’t sound too good to go on BBC World News and say “Russia has decided to implement trade agreements that don’t involve the US dollar, so we are going to blockade it economically” – enter the Ukraine.

The US searched for a geographic doorway through which to attack Russia – the North and east routes don’t work because they are either ocean or China, countries like Poland in Europe wouldn’t do either, because they are firmly in the Western camp now, but the Ukraine was perfect for the job because of its being a large country on the SW flank of Russia that is torn in two directions, having old loyalties and blood ties to Russia, and aspirations to a closer union with Europe – the perfect place to foment a pro-Western revolution and perhaps a civil war that would draw Russia in and could then be used as an excuse to implement sanctions. That is exactly what has happened.

So now we have sanctions, but the problem for the US is this – they probably won’t work. They will cause damage, especially to the fools in Europe who have slavishly followed their orders from Washington to implement them, but they probably won’t destroy the Russian economy as the US is hoping. This is because the Russian economy is very big and can if necessary operate on a self-sufficient basis, especially as it has its own oil and gas, and an important supportive factor is that it has a big powerful neighbor in the form of China which knows it will be “in the firing line” after Russia, and is thus quite happy to enter into a mutually supportive relationship with Russia. China and Russia look set to form a “dollar free” axis and tough it out with Washington. The Chinese have worked all this out in advance, as has Putin, which is why, in addition to mopping up all the gold available on the market in recent times to later back its currency, it has been beefing up its military in readiness to counter future threats from the US military, which is already making moves to reopen bases in the Philippines, and engaging in other expansionary measures in the west Pacific.

Meanwhile, in the Mid-East, we have the Islamic State movement, which appears to have arisen spontaneously to fill the power vacuum that was created when US forces quit Iraq. We should not forget that although Iraq has existed for many decades, the country is an artificial creation of the British after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in order to control the region and its oil reserves. The US is trying to stop them with air power, but without “boots on the ground” they are unlikely to succeed. Although Israel is looking on with satisfaction as Arab kills Arab, it had better hope that the dollar doesn’t lose its reserve currency status, or they could be in big trouble as the conveyor belt of money and arms across the Atlantic from the US could grind to a halt.

The situation between the US and Russia (and in the future China) is potentially very dangerous – is already very dangerous. Are they (the US elites and NATO) crazy enough to start a World War? – World War III? Sure they are and you can see the potential for it in the continual provocation and brinksmanship that is already going on, a fine example of which being the rabid and almost hysterical reaction to the Russian aid convey that just went across the border into eastern Ukraine. What they could have said to Russia, if they were reasonable, is “Thank you for going to the trouble and expense of organizing a big relief convoy for the besieged people of the cities of eastern Ukraine, who have no electricity, food or water.” Instead their reaction was one of sanctimonious outrage – “How dare you cross the border of this sovereign state without the permission of their government? – This is a grave escalation.” etc and are using it as an excuse to crank up sanctions even more.

The situation in eastern Ukraine and involving the Russian aid convey is a classic example of how propaganda can be used to turn white into black. The way it worked is this; the humanitarian situation for countless thousands of people holed up in big cities in eastern Ukraine, like Donetsk and Luhansk, is dire. They have been relentlessly shelled and have little or no electricity, food or water. Many of these people are either Russian speaking or of Russian descent, so it is natural for Russia to want to go to their aid. So Russia went to the trouble and expense of organizing a big relief convoy. The controlled Western media have downplayed this crisis which affects countless thousands, hardly reporting on it at all, but they have had plenty of airtime – much more – for one American reporter gruesomely executed by a British Jihadist. They have done this because they don’t want people to be aware of the attacks being carried by the Ukraine government against its own people, which they back, and they don’t want people to understand the reason for the Russian aid convoy, so that they can then misrepresent the reasons for the aid convoy. The allegations by the Western media that the aid convoy has military objectives is absurd – you don’t need to be a truck driver to know that it’s very difficult to squeeze a tank or an armored troop carrier into an average sized truck. The protest that Russia is “violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity” by driving the trucks on through without permission is hypocritical cant and humbug, especially coming from a country that invaded Iraq on false pretenses, the mythical “weapons of mass destruction”. If Kiev wasn’t massacring its own citizens in eastern Ukraine, the aid convoy wouldn’t be necessary, and the reason that the trucks pressed on into Ukraine is that they were being deliberately messed about for a week at the border, when vetting the trucks should have taken 2 days maximum. So there you see a fine example of propaganda by omission, the purpose being to misrepresent the objectives of the Russian aid convoy, in order to present it as an act of aggression by Russia and therefore as a justification for a further tightening of sanctions.

Let’s go back to first principles for a moment and ask ourselves why the US is so concerned about what happens in the Ukraine, which is a country on the other side of the world from the US and therefore none of its business, unless that is it fancies itself as the new Roman Empire – perhaps Barack Obama believes himself to be a latter day Julius Caesar, which conjures up the vision of him entering Congress as if it was the Coliseum, dressed in a white robe and sandals, with a laurel wreath on his head. The US does in fact command an empire, and uses the dollar reserve currency system and its massive military to control its dominions, punishing severely any that try to break out of it. However, its dominions do not include China and Russia, which cannot be subjugated due to their big economies and their ability to physically defend themselves with nukes, if need be, and they are destined to dethrone the dollar and collapse the empire, which is completely rotted out internally, stricken as it is with massive debts and hopelessly corrupt government, as evidenced by the recent train of deplorable leaders.

It is hard to overstate the stupidity of Europe in toadying to the US and imposing sanctions on Russia (in other words starting a trade war). Russia is not some Third World banana republic, it is an important world power, and the act of imposing sanctions on it by Europe and the US is a gross insult and extreme provocation that will have disastrous consequences, particularly since it is now allied with China, with which it will now work assiduously to completely bypass the dollar. China knows that if the US succeeds in destroying Russia economically and subjugating it, then it’s next, so we can expect China and Russia to forge a very powerful alliance. Europe’s economy is already extremely fragile, and it stands to lose far more over the short to medium-term than the US by picking a fight it can’t win with its huge neighbor. Europe now faces a plunging currency and disintegration with the rise of far right political parties leading eventually to tribal wars – European countries have a long tradition of idiotic destructive attritional wars. Russia will probably get along alright, with its big internal economy and new trade agreements with China.

The rabid propaganda now being bandied about in Western media, especially with respect to Russia, is so crude and primitive that it would have even made the Nazi propaganda maestro, Dr Goebbels, blush with embarrassment, and you couldn’t accuse him of underestimating the stupidity of the masses. We haven’t seen this sort of thing since before the 2nd World War. What does it mean? – it means that the Western elites are DESPERATE, desperate in the face of a looming collapse of the dollar caused by its losing its reserve currency status – so desperate that you can practically see the perspiration running down their faces. It’s true that the dollar is rallying now temporarily because of the gathering collapse of Europe, and may continue to benefit from this for a while, and possibly soon from stockmarket liquidation too, but they are looking beyond that. Once the dollar goes their empire is finished – it will no longer be possible to maintain careening astronomic deficits, there will be no more limitless funds for the military machine many of whose bases could end up looking like the town of Pripyat near Chernobyl, no more imposing their will by force anywhere in the world, no more imposing fines on foreign banks and institutions for not doing things their way, no more money and arms for Israel, no more massive bonuses on Wall St etc. The rapid spread of destitution and poverty amongst the masses in the US means that a state of anarchy could well erupt that sees the mansions and citadels of the elites ransacked by the mob, and they are well aware of this possibility, which is the reason for the militarization of police forces across the country, as recently demonstrated in Ferguson, Missouri, and the stockpiling of vast quantities of ammo.

The biggest danger arising out of all this is that desperate people do desperate things, and the recent crude “gloves off” propaganda blitz is certainly a sign of desperation. It’s been a long time since a really big war and you can see from their increasingly reckless words and actions that they are lusting for it. It is one of the supreme ironies of this time that amidst all the maudlin sentimentality over the start of the 1st World War exactly 100 years ago, they are bringing us to the brink of another. Could it cross the line and go nuclear? – given the reckless aggression and brinksmanship already being displayed, that is certainly a possibility.

They can mass all the arms and missile batteries along Russia’s western border they like, perhaps promoting the paranoid notion that Russia wants to take back Eastern Europe, which it doesn’t, but it will never amount to anything more than a costly bluff, because if they ever dared attack Russia, then European cities would disappear under mushroom clouds. The underlying reason for such operations would probably be more lucrative contracts for the defense industry.

Remember, it wasn’t the elites who got killed in the 1st World War, it was the hapless young fools who thought they were doing the honorable thing going off to fight for their countries. So you’d better get good at seeing through the thick smog of propaganda in order that you understand what’s really going on and can take the necessary steps to protect yourself – if you don’t it could cost you and your loved ones more than just your property and investments, it could cost you your lives.

Many people suffer from vague uncertainties – they know something is wrong, but can’t put their finger on it. This is because they are not privy to “The Grand Plan” and believe the lies and misinformation carefully and skillfully served up to them by the compliant media, whose masters view the masses as sheep and treat them like mushrooms – “Feed them shit and keep them in the dark”. But once you become aware of the game plan, it is liberating, and spotting the lies and misinformation in the media becomes a kind of sport. Knowledge is power, and if you figure out that the dollar is going to collapse after its current rally – which could have quite a way to go incidentally – then you know to position yourself to escape the catastrophic effects of its eventual collapse and even profit handsomely from it – that is when gold and silver will do their moonshot of course, and it could coincide with the Chinese backing their currency with gold.

In conclusion, the answer to the question posed by this article “Will the US succeed in breaking Russia to maintain dollar hegemony?” is: “No, it won’t”, which means that the dollar is going to collapse, probably right after its swansong “death of Europe” rally, which is currently in progress.

Please note that this article may later appear on some public websites.

Reprinted with permission from Clive Maund.com.

Another Suspicious Car Crash

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

Any serious student of history is on alert for “interesting accidents.” Because sometimes they are accidents. Sometimes, they’re not.

We have no opinion at the moment on the one-car wreck that left former FBI Director Louis Freeh badly injured around noon on Aug. 25. But we do think it is worth reviewing what we know about Louis Freeh. Because all such incidents deserve scrutiny.

The Crash

From news reports available at press time, Freeh

was headed south on Vermont 12 in his 2010 GMC Yukon when he drove off the east side of the road. The vehicle struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs, then came to rest against the side of a tree, police said….[he] was airlifted from Barnard to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., for treatment, police said.

And the Burlington Free Press reports that Freeh is under armed guard.

Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh epitomizes the risks attendant in a president’s decision to demonstrate bipartisanship by appointing or re-appointing figures associated with the opposing political party and/or prior regime. He also embodies the troubled legacy of the Bureau from its earliest days. (For a look at how the U.S. media cooperated with the Bureau to misleadingly burnish its image, see this)

Louis Freeh was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the federal bench in 1991. In the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Clinton named Freeh head of the FBI.

Right from the start, the Freeh FBI was drenched in controversy. The “screw-ups” were legion—from the exposure of fraudulent FBI crime lab results to the wrongful blaming of an innocent man for the bombings at the Atlanta Olympics—to the bloody standoff and shootout at Ruby Ridge.

Freeh vs the Clintons

In order to move the heat off himself and his agency, Freeh made political peace with Newt Gingrich and his firebrand GOP Congressional operation, deflecting the political pressure back onto the White House. He did this via a Campaign Finance Task Force, under the auspices of his parent agency, the Justice Department. In December of 1996, after Clinton was re-elected. This became, prior to 9/11, what some say was the largest federal investigation in U.S. history.

Over 300 FBI agents were assigned to the investigation, which targeted both Clinton and Gore. No one was ever indicted but a steady drip of leaked stories pounded Gore particularly—feeding the damaging story line that he was a captive of the China Lobby and possibly even compromised by certain foreign intelligence services. This long-simmering PR crisis did serious damage to Al Gore’s prospects in 2000, and thereby aided the campaign of George W. Bush, son of Freeh’s original sponsor.

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How To Read Roman Numerals

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

Despite the fall of the Roman Empire millennia ago and despite the ubiquitous, worldwide use of Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), Roman numerals still pop up regularly in modern society. We see them in the names of popes and monarchs and august events like the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania (who can forget the drama and excitement of WrestleMania III?). They sometimes appear on the pillars of docks and the outside of the hulls of ships, to indicate how high the water is, and they’re often engraved on the cornerstones of buildings, to indicate the date they were laid. And for some odd reason, Roman numerals are used to designate the year of production on films.

There are a lot of folks who can’t remember the Roman numerals for even 1-10 (they often get hung up on 4 and 6…does the “I” go before the “V” or after?), let alone going above and beyond that. I do okay up to 50, but then things start getting fuzzy for me. The other day I was reading an old book and came across a long string of Roman numerals that was used to signify a year, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I decided it was time for a little refresher on my Roman numerals.

Whether you don’t know the Roman numeral for 5 or 500, here’s a quick primer to get it all sorted out.

A Very Brief History of Roman Numerals

Several hypotheses exist as to the origin of Roman numerals. The common thread through all of them is that the numerals were developed primarily as a counting system for commerce, with the most popular theory being that they began as notches on tally sticks. A single notch represented “one.” Every fifth notch was double cut to form a “V” shape and every tenth notch was double crossed to form an “X.” The Romans later transferred this tally system to writing and designated Roman letters to certain values: I → 1; V → 5; X → 10, etc.

Another theory posits that the numerals originated from finger counting. Each finger represented a numeral. The numeral “V” (five) represented a hand held upright with the fingers and thumb apart. The numeral “X” (ten) represented both hands held upright and the two thumbs crossing each other.

A defining and extremely limiting trait of the Roman numeral system is that it lacks a character to designate the number 0. The system also has no way to represent negative or decimal numbers. This all goes back to the fact that Roman numerals were developed primarily to count and keep track of things for commerce. Consequently, higher-level math was and is pretty much impossible with this system.

Even after the decline of the Roman Empire, their numerals continued to be used throughout Europe, up through the Middle Ages. It wasn’t until the 14th century that Hindu-Arabic numerals replaced Roman numerals en masse. Even after the rise of the former, the Roman system continued on as a sort of antiquated shout out to things old and classic.

How to Read Roman Numerals

1. Know the symbols and their values.

Reading Roman numerals is pretty easy once you have the basic symbols and their corresponding values down pat.

There are seven basic symbols. With these seven symbols you can fashion pretty much any number (with the exception of exotic numbers like negatives, decimals, etc.).

2. When one or more numeral is used to form a number, the value of each symbol is (generally) added together from left to right.

The letters are arranged from left to right in descending order of value to form a number:

  • II = 2
  • XXX (10+10+10) = 30
  • LII (50+1+1) = 52
  • MMLVII (1,000+1,000+50+5+1+1) = 2,057
  • You get the picture…

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Homicide Bombs Away!


Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

America’s spanker-in-chief is at it again—threatening to bomb Syria owing to the uncivilized actions of its inhabitants. And when it comes to Syria, Washington avers that there are punishable malefactors virtually everywhere within its borders.

Exactly one year ago Obama proposed to take Bashir Assad to the woodshed because he had allegedly unleashed a vicious chemical attack on his own citizens. That was all pretext, of course, because even the CIA refused to sign-off on the flimsy case for Assad’s culpability at the time—-a reluctance corroborated since then by the considerable evidence that hundreds of Syrian civilians were murdered during a false flag operation staged by the rebels with help from Turkey. The aim of the rebels, of course, was to activate American tomahawk missiles and bombers in behalf of “regime change”, which was also the stated goal of the Obama Administration.

Now the White House is threatening to bomb Syria again, but this time its “regime change” objective has been expanded to include both sides! In 12 short months what had been the allegedly heroic Sunni opposition to the “brutal rule” of the Assad/Alawite minority has transmuted into the “greatest terrorist threat ever”, according to the Secretary of Defense.

So Obama has already unleashed the drones and surveillance apparatus to identify targets of attack that will help bring down a regime in northern and eastern Syria—the so-called Islamic State—which did not even exist a year ago. And a regime that is now armed to the teeth with America’s own latest and greatest weaponry as previously supplied to the disintegrated Iraqi army and the Syrian rebels trained by the CIA in Jordan.

Adding to this blinding farce is the warning of Syria’s Foreign Affairs minister that Obama should please to request permission before he rains destruction from the sky on the Opposition—-that is, the opposition to the very same Damascus regime which the White House has vowed to eradicate. Needless to say,  the Washington apparatus is having nothing to do with aiding the enemy of its new enemy:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday tried to tamp down the notion that action against the Islamic State group could bolster Assad, saying, “We’re not interested in trying to help the Assad regime.” However, he acknowledged that “there are a lot of cross pressures

In fact, there is apparently an option emerging from the bowels of the war machine that calls for an odd/even day plan to bomb both sides, thereby making clear that Washington is an equal opportunity spanker. Apparently, whether you use a 12th century sword or 20th century attack helicopter as a means of rule, you will be bombed by the “indispensable nation”, as Obama put it, adding that “no other nation can do what we do”.

Well, that involves some “doing”. According to AP, it appears that Syrian airstrikes are imminent, but could be carried out under the odd/even day plan:

“In an effort to avoid unintentionally strengthening the Syrian government, the White House could seek to balance strikes against the Islamic State with attacks on Assad regime targets.”

Is any more evidence needed that Washington has gone stark raving mad than even the possibility that such an absurd option could  be under consideration? Has not the imperial city on the Potomac become so inured to its pretensions of global hegemony and to instant resort to deployment of its war machine that any semblance of rationality and coherence has been dissolved?

Indeed, in the context of Syria’s fractured and riven tribal, religious and political splinters how could anyone in their right mind think that a bombing campaign without boots on the ground will accomplish anything other than function as a potent recruiting tool for ISIS, and a generator of jihadist blowback for years to come. By the same token, the White House’s polling machine surely documents that an outright Iraq-style invasion of the Islamic State is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people, and rightly so.

Accordingly, the silly, hapless man in the Oval Office stumbles forward, apparently unaware that he’s not merely playing video games during his sojourns in the Situation Room. Indeed, the make-believe “nuanced” bombing options that are likely to be ground out by the national security machinery are destined to fail and drag Washington ever deeper into the violent cauldron of Mesopotamia and the Levant. The trillions of treasure wasted, the millions of lives lost and the venomous tribal enmities resulting from Washington’s misbegotten ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan provide all the proof that is needed.

The fact is, the artificial states created by the Sykes-Picot map drawn up by the French and British foreign offices in 1916—- as they carved up the Ottoman empire— are now destined for the dustbin of history. The fracturing remnants of Syria and Iraq cannot be fused back together by means of lethal deposits of metal and chemicals delivered by tomahawks and F-16s.

So let the region rearrange itself without Washington’s unwelcome meddling and mayhem. If Turkey and an independent Kurdistan can make mutually acceptable political and economic arrangements, which are already well-advanced, so be it. If the Shiite south in Iraq and the  Alawite/Shiite southwest in Syria break-off from their present Europe-bequeathed boundaries and form independent regimes, how does that jeopardize the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE and Spokane WA?

And, yes, if the Islamic State temporarily manages to coalesce within the Sunni lands of the Euphrates Valley and the upper Tigress why is that really a national security threat which requires launching an unwinnable war, a new round of hostility to America in the Islamic world and the blowback of legions of jihadi with a score to settle?

Now that you know about the Yazidis, did you ever hear of the Sheitaat tribe of Sunnis who inhabit the minor oil province around Deir al-Zor in northeastern Syria?  There appear to be about 100,000 members of that sect in the region and they have been declared apostates by the medieval butchers who run ISIS:

Hundreds of members of the Sheitaat clan have been executed after their tribe refused to submit to Islamic State. The entire tribe have been deemed “hostile apostates” by the group, an offshoot of al Qaeda that has declared a “caliphate” in the territory it holds.

Islamic State has declared the Sheitaat tribe “an unbelieving sect” that should be fought as if they were infidels, according to a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war.

At least 700 hundred members of the tribe have already been executed, the Observatory reported on Aug. 16.

Another 1,800 are still missing after being detained by Islamic State, according to the Observatory, which gathers information from all sides in the Syrian war. Its efforts to pledge allegiance to Islamic State have been rebuffed.

Pictures of the bodies of men apparently slain by Islamic State fighters in Sheitaat areas are surfacing every day, said Rami Abdelrahman, founder of the Observatory. “We have repeatedly expressed concerns about extermination,” he said.

“It is the first time that the Islamic State has used these (religious) concepts against an entire tribe,” he said.

Three Sheitaat villages seized by Islamic State have been designated as a military zone, the rebel and another activist from the area said. The clan’s property and livestock have also been seized, another person from the area said.

Islamic State has declared that no truce is possible with the Sheitaat, that its prisoners can be killed, and its women are unfit for marriage, according to the Observatory.

“We’re still seeing Islamic State trucks loaded up with furniture and rugs from Sheitaat homes in those villages, which are now totally abandoned,” said one person from the area contacted by internet link, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Islamic State has started to use house demolitions as a punishment. A video posted over the weekend shows what appears to be the detonation of a rural home as the narrator, who identifies himself as from Islamic State, explains that the home belongs to Sheitaat “apostates”.

Why would you believe that a viable state can be built in today’s world on the tactics of Genghis Kahn? The Islamic State, such as it is, is not rich, does not have enough oil to make a difference, will soon be bogged down in the insuperable problems of governance by the sword and will flounder on the impoverished economics of the dusty villages and desert expanse which comprise its natural territory. And it will eventually mobilize its neighbors—-Turkey, Hezbollah, the rump regime of Assad’s Alawite Syria, Kurdistan, the Shiite alliance of Iran and lower Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia and the oil sheikdoms—to contain its external ambitions.

So Washington should call off the bombers and get out of harm’s way. The American Imperium has failed and the prospect of bombing both sides of an irrelevant non-country’s ancient tribal wars ought, at last, to make that much clear.

 Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

Is the Bible More Bloodthirsty Than the Koran?

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 02:01

While the Koran Calls for Violence, The Bible Is Even Worse … Calling for Genocide

Christians and Jews rightly point out that the Koran is a violent text which calls on Muslims to attack “unbelievers”.

But they fail to see that the Bible is at least as violent.

NPR noted in 2010:

Religion historian Philip Jenkins decided to compare the brutality quotient of the Quran and the Bible.

“Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins is a professor at Penn State University and author of two books dealing with the issue: the recently published Jesus Wars, and Dark Passages , which has not been published but is already drawing controversy.

Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack.

“By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane,” he says. “Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide.”

It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.

“In other words,” Jenkins says, “Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian historyIt is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God’s law if you do not.”

Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During theCrusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.

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