Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How Tyranny Arises

By Paul Craig Roberts and originally published at paulcraigroberts.org 
Law & Order Conservatives continue to shill for police as goon thugs continue to violate constitutional protections and abuse the public:
Gullible Americans have been trained to be fearful of crime, blacks, Muslims, terrorists, “domestic extremists,” and now Russia. These fears result in the public accepting illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral actions by police and government. With the passage of time the wrongful police and government behavior become institutionalized as the young are born into the system and know no different and the old who remember accountable government and liberty pass away. This is how liberty and freedom die, citizens become serfs, and the rise of tyranny is accomplished.
The transformation of the US into a tyranny is far advanced. It is a revolution that owes its success to the gullibility, ignorance and unconcern of the majority of the American people and to a corrupt and cowardly national media that betrays liberty and fosters tyranny.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Looking For The Spark Of World War 3? Start Here...

Any American influence left in Iraq should focus on rebuilding the credibility of national institutions.

– Editorial, The New York Times
Gosh, isn’t that what we spent eight years, 4,500 lives, and $1.7 trillion doing? And how did that work out? The Iraq war is just like the US financial system. The people in charge can’t imagine writing off their losses. Which, from the policy standpoint, leaves the USA pounding sand down so many rat holes that there may be no ground left to stand on anywhere. We’ll be lucky if our national life doesn’t soon resemble The Revenge of the Mole People.
The arc of this story points to at least one likely conclusion: the dreadful day that ISIS (shorthand for whatever they call themselves) overruns the US Green Zone in Baghdad. Won’t that be a nauseating spectacle? Perhaps just in time for the 2014 US elections. And what do you suppose the policy meeting will be like in the White House war room the day after?
Will anyone argue that the USA just take a break from further operations in the entire Middle East / North Africa region? My recommendation would be to stand back, do nothing, and see what happens — since everything we’ve done so far just leaves things and lives shattered. Let’s even say that ISIS ends up consolidating power in Iraq, Syria, and some other places. The whole region will get a very colorful demonstration of what it is like to live under an 11th century style psychopathic despotism, and then the people left after the orgy of beheading and crucifixion can decide if they like it. The experience might be clarifying.
In any case, what we’re witnessing in the Middle East — apparently unbeknownst to the newspapers and the cable news orgs — is what happens in extreme population overshoot: chaos, murder, economic collapse. The human population in this desolate corner of the world has expanded on the artificial nutriment of oil profits, which have allowed governments to keep feeding their people, and maintaining an artificial middle class to work in meaningless bureaucratic offices where, at best, they do nothing and, at worst, hassle their fellow citizens for bribes and payoffs.
There is not a nation on earth that is preparing intelligently for the end of oil — and by that I mean 1) the end of cheap, affordable oil, and 2) the permanent destabilization of existing oil supply lines. Both of these conditions should be visible now in the evolving geopolitical dynamic, but nobody is paying attention, for instance, in the hubbub over Ukraine. That feckless, unfortunate, and tragic would-be nation, prompted by EU and US puppeteers, just replied to the latest trade sanction salvo from Russia by declaring it would block the delivery of Russian gas to Europe through pipelines on its territory. I hope everybody west of Dnepropetrovsk is getting ready to burn the furniture come November. But that just shows how completely irrational the situation has become… and I stray from my point.
Which is that in the worst case that ISIS succeeds in establishing a sprawling caliphate, they will never be able to govern it successfully, only preside over an awesome episode of bloodletting and social collapse.This is especially true in what is now called Saudi Arabia, with its sclerotic ruling elite clinging to power. If and when the ISIS maniacs come rolling in on a cavalcade of You-Tube beheading videos, what are the chances that the technicians running the oil infrastructure there will stick around on the job? And could ISIS run all that machinery themselves? I wouldn’t count on it. And I wouldn’t count on global oil supply lines continuing to function in the way the world requires them to. If you’re looking for the near-future spark of World War Three, start there.
By the way, the US is no less idiotic than Ukraine. We’ve sold ourselves the story that shale oil will insulate us from all the woes and conflicts breaking out elsewhere in the world over the dissolving oil economy paradigm. The shale oil story is false. By my reckoning we have about a year left of the drive-to-Walmart-economy before the public broadly gets what trouble we’re in. The amazing thing is that the public might get to that realization even before its political leadership does. That dynamic leads straight to the previously unthinkable (not for 150 years, anyway) breakup of the United States.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Science and Religion

By Simon Wenham and originally published at rzim.org  
If you ask many people today what they think about science’s relationship to religion, you are likely to be told that the two have been in conflict for a very long time.(1) There was the trial of Galileo by the Inquisition, for example, the debate between Wilberforce and Huxley, and there is still an on-going dispute over the teaching of evolution in American schools. These usual suspects may be trotted out whenever this topic is mentioned, but are events such as these really typical of the history of science as a whole?
 Contrary to the impression given by some commentators, the conflict thesis between science and religion is one that has been discredited in academic circles for some time. The rise of science in the West was, of course, a very complicated affair in which many different factors played a part. There were certainly inevitable points of tension, but this does detract from the fact that Europe was a largely Christian continent in which religious individuals and institutions inevitably played a central role in the changes that occurred.
 A number of the popular misconceptions about history are addressed in Ronald Numbers’ book, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.(2) One of the most famous examples is the “debate” between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley (1860), which was actually an after-lecture discussion on the merits of Darwin’s work. The alleged clash was largely forgotten about until the 1890s, when it resurrected by those seeking to attack the power of the Anglican orthodoxy. By this point the scientific community had become more professionalized and some of its members realized the debate could be used to promote their already growing autonomy. The event was therefore portrayed as if it had been a portentous victory for science over religion, even though, at the time, neither side was said to have won and the discussion was held on purely scientific grounds.(3)
 It is important, therefore, to be aware of how history is sometimes portrayed. Scholars no longer use the term “dark ages,” for example, because the description gives the false impression that this was a period of ignorance during which little development occurred. Rodney Stark suggests that there is a similar problem with the process known as the Enlightenment, because the term itself, coined by Voltaire, was appropriated by various militant atheists and humanists who sought to claim the credit for the rise of science. As Stark points out, “The falsehood that science required the defeat of religion was proclaimed by such self-appointed cheerleaders as Voltaire and Gibbon, who themselves played no part in the scientific enterprise.”(4) This depiction of the Enlightenment, as if it was some kind of clean secular break from the past, persists today, but, as John Coffey points out, it could be more accurately described as a religious process. This is because many of those at the vanguard of the movement were Protestants (though certainly not all orthodox) who sought to fuse religious and philosophical ideas together. This is not to deny the role of certain groups of atheist thinkers, but crucially these were not representative of the Enlightenment as a whole. Furthermore, Dominic Erdozain argues that you can trace a lot of the unbelief of the time back to expressly religious roots. It was a Christian conscience (rather than a secular or pagan one) that drove much of the Enlightenment thought and a poignant example of this was the way in which Voltaire often used Jesus—albeit his own interpretation of him—in order to attack the church.(5)
 It is always helpful, therefore, to bear in mind John Hedley Brookes’ comments, when he reminds us that: “In many of the disputes that have been conventionally analyzed in terms of some notional relation between science and religion, the underlying issues were principally about neither science nor religion, nor the relationship between them, but were matters of social, ethical or political concern in which the authority of either science, religion or both was invoked (often on both sides) to defend a view held on other grounds…”(6)
 As this suggests, simplistic ways of understanding history honor neither history nor the present.

Simon Wenham is research coordinator for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Europe.

(1) Article adapted from Simon Wenham’s, “Making History: The ‘War’ Between Science and Religion,” Pulse, Issue 8 (Summer 2011), 2-4.
(2) R. Numbers, Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion(Boston: Harvard University Press, 2009).
(3) For further reading see J. R. Lucas Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter(available online).
(4) R. Stark, For the Glory of God (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 123.
(5) J. Coffey and D. Erdonzain, lectures given at The Dark Side of Christian HistoryConference, St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, February 5, 2011.
(6) J. H. Brooke, Darwinism and Religion: A Revisionist View of the Wilberforce-Huxley Debate (lecture), at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 26 February 2001 (available online).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Russia Invades Ukraine, Israel-Hamas Cease Fire, ISIS Update

Russia Invades Ukraine, ISIS Update and Israel-Hamas Cease FireGreg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com
It’s official–Russia invades Ukraine.  Now you know why I have led every Wrap-Up with Ukraine.   I have been predicting wider war in Ukraine, and now we have one.  The President said in a press conference that there is not going to be a military response to this escalation, but my sources say the U.S. has been covertly helping the Ukrainians.  How do you think they have been able to overtake the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine?  Looks like Vladimir Putin has had enough and is now directly involved with his military.  The Ukrainians have reinstated the draft; so, don’t think this is going to blow over quickly.  Even though Ukraine is not a NATO country, you can count on U.S. and NATO help to intensify.  How can bankrupt Ukraine expect to fight the Russian military?  It cannot do it without big time help, and it will be provided.  President Obama said he was going to ask European members of NATO for more sanctions, but sanctions will make an already bad economy in Europe even worse.  Maybe this is why the number two at the Fed, Stanley Fischer, was outlining bank bail-ins in a speech two weeks ago.  Haven’t we been told over and over again that the economy was in“recovery”?  Why lay out an official plan for bailing out systemically important banks now?  War will implode the economy, and a big one is coming.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, everyone is talking about ISIS or ISIL or, simply, the Islamic State.  The Islamic State has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria.  Now, the Islamic State is threatening the Golan Heights on the Northern Israeli border.  The President said in a press conference he “did not have a strategy” for dealing with the Islamic State.  What???  This after the Secretary of Defense and the head of the Joint Chiefs gave a press conference that said the Islamic State was an“imminent threat” and that IS was “not like anything we have seen.”  How could the President go on television and look any weaker and more disconnected?  The President may not have a plan, but they surely do.
The Israelis and Hamas have agreed to another cease-fire.  The Israelis wanted Hamas to disarm before they opened the borders of Gaza and extended fishing off the coast.  The new cease-fire allows the borders to be open for humanitarian aid and construction material to rebuild Gaza.  Hamas did not agree to disarm.  So, why did the Israelis cave in?  I think that the military wing of Hamas has been damaged so badly that it is now much less of a threat.  Israel sees wider war coming and wants Washington to resupply it with offensive weapons such as Sidewinder missiles that the Obama Administration stopped recently.  I heard Karl Rove on TV talking about destroying the Islamic State while helping the moderate Syrian rebels take down the Assad regime.  What kind of foreign policy is this?  I have been telling you all for months the U.S. has been arming the rebels and that a large part of them were al-Qaeda.  ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda.  Our policy just keeps making bigger and bigger messes.  Even if the President does not have a strategy, wider war is coming to the Middle East.
Let’s not forget China.  The U.S. is sending another carrier group to Japan.  The Chinese buzzed one of our spy aircraft, and tensions are running high.  Do you think the Chinese think the U.S. is spread a little thin?  You know they do, and when you look at the wars and rumors of war, can you envision anything but global war.  Please keep in mind, that just this past week, the world’s biggest oil company, Gazprom, in Russia officially started accepting payment for its energy in rubles and yuan.  I am sure that’s not causing any of these war tensions around the planet.
Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Attitude is Everything

By Martin Armstrong and originally published at armstrongeconomics.com
Part of the war cycle is just the general feeling or attitude that shifts due to economics. We seem to be headed for such a fateful turn. The police domestically have turned militaristic. This is a very serious issue far beyond what most people would even guess. It tends to show the changing attitudes within society. Couple this with Obama who seems to think he was elected to start a war. We are approaching a serious turning point that may reshape the world as did 1932 following the economic trend of the Great Depression.
The year 1932 saw Mao come to power in China. In Germany, Hitler came to power. FDR came to power in the United States. Even in Japan, the seeds of war were planted with the May 15 Incident, in which Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was assassinated by young military officers in an attempted coup. The killing spread fear among Japan’s liberal politicians and strengthened the militarists, who eventually led the country into the catastrophic Pacific War.
1932, which was also the low in the markets from 1929, was linked to 2007 for this was 8.6 years squared. The year 2007 began the changing process and we should be looking ahead now at 2017 where the war cycle will turn upward.
We are witnessing the collapse democracy or to put it in the proper perspective – the right of the people to vote even in a republic. Europe is hell-bent on removing any democratic process because Brussels believes they know best and the people are just too stupid to know what is best for them.
So 2007 market the beginning of shift in attitude. Even liquidity has not recovered.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dropping The Shackles Part 2

Second in a series

By Alan Johnson      
This series explores my efforts and journey to break away from a typical American style of living, a living based on debt and the financing of a lifestyle.

In my last entry I presented the events and reasons that brought me to the decision to explore this philosophy and lifestyle and the decision to make major changes in our lives to help us move to a more flexible and satisfying life.

My wife and I had discussed our current circumstances, and what we wanted for our future and decided that since our goals had changed over recent years and our financial strategies had not, it was time to make some big changes.

We still had mortgages, we still has consumer credit debt, we still spent more than we should each month with too little to show for it.

I had a good job, I was well compensated for my work, but I also knew that all good gigs eventually come to an end. I don't think I have ever had the same job, or even worked for the same company for more than five years. I was at the three year mark with my employer at that time, and I knew the game clock was ticking down. Eventually I would have to find another job, and when it came time to find a new gig, my goal was to not be stressed or panicked about it. The job market has not been in what I would call a favorable condition for job seekers in recent years, and a good job might take some time to find, so what that meant for me was not having a heavy burden of debt, having an emergency fund of at least a couple of months expenses in reserve cash.
My wife's goal was simply to be able to retire at fiftyfive years of age, and have time to be with our grandchildren when she chooses, and go where and when she chooses. Simple goals, right? Shouldn't exactly be a bridge too far.

This will be a multistep process, and take at least several years to complete, God willing. We may not live a luxurious lifestyle, but it should allow us more flexibility in our lives and a bit more peace of mind if we are successful in our goals.

To pull this off, we will need to unburden ourselves of many things that will be unnecessary in the future.
Our plan was to rent a couple of rooms from our eldest son, who lives near our home, for a couple of years, until my wife is ready to retire from her job.
My job involves traveling around the country each week, so it doesn't matter for me during the week, but I do need a place to land during the weekend and holidays. Fortunately, my son was open to us sharing his house.
Our current home is on a few acres, it has fruit tree orchards and all the things that go to maintaining the property, tractors, tools and equipment, all of that would no longer be needed if we short sell the place.

Time to get busy with Craigslist. We stated selling everything we no longer would need, and only kept what would be worth keeping in storage for a year or two.
We sold so much stuff I really think the dogs were worried they would be next.
All the proceeds from the sale of the stuff we no longer needed went into a lock box and was not to be touched or spent.
It really is amazing how much unnecessary things we tend to collect and hang onto, even though we haven't used it lately and maybe not even looked at for years.

At the same time we focused on getting any consumer debt paid off. We knocked them down gradually, thankfully none were more than a few thousand dollars. It took a great amount of self discipline to resist using the charge accounts. My wife is especially tempted when the ' Use your XYZ Card and save XX%' offers show up in the mail. We reminded each other about our goals and the time table we were working under.
When you have 40+ years of undisciplined spending habits to reverse, cash control can be a challenge. You must embrace the virtue of delayed gratification, or you will fail.

We worked at this strategy for months, gaining encouragement from seeing our cash reserves in the lock box grow, and seeing our debt levels gradually shrink. At the same time we interviewed real estate agents and a CPA to prepare for the short sale of our home.

In my next installment I will discuss the short sale strategy and how we made the best use of this option.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

America Can See Its Future In The Mirror

By Raul.Ilargi Meijer and originally published at theautomaticearth.com 
If Americans were less prone to self-deceit, they would have long since realized that the American Dream is over, for good, and that continuing to chase it is the worst of the few remaining options they get to choose between.
They could then look at themselves in the mirror and see their future.
As things are, however, the future is creeping up on them in small, slow and silent steps, until one day it will simply be there, no longer deniable or avoidable, and it will find them woefully unprepared.
This is not true only for Americans, the entire formerly rich world will undergo the same transformation. But it will be very pronounced stateside.
It’s impossible to follow events in Ferguson, Missouri and not recognize that there are thousands of – potential – Fergusons in-waiting spread across the USA. You don’t have to be particularly clever to recognize the patterns.
Segregation by race – a.k.a. racism – has never left the country, even though the courage of true American heroes like Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali changed many things for the better.
Segregation by race has always remained inevitably linked to segregation by wealth and income. As a hugely disproportionate number of black kids continue to be incarcerated under a prison system that locks away more citizens than in any other country.
You could be forgiven for thinking that America went looking for trouble. And is now finding it. Like so many things, that trouble doesn’t stand out or float to the top in times of plenty. But when those times are over, trouble is the only thing remaining.
As long as the illusion of the American Dream, and the illusion of economic growth, can be kept alive, people will be inclined to take a lot of things for granted. When their eyes open and these illusions are shattered, matters can turn on a dime.
Bloomberg provides some of the background to Ferguson and all those other American communities. What’s happening in Ferguson shouldn’t come as a surprise, what’s surprising is that it’s not much more widespread yet.
• “We’ve passed this tipping point and there are now more poor people in the suburbs than the cities,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, author of [a July 31 Brookings Institution report]. “In those communities, we see things like poorer health outcomes, failing schools and higher crime rates.”
• [..] the city – which has lost more than 40% of its white population since 2000 – [has] a mostly white city council and police force. [..] The St. Louis metropolitan area ranks as one of the most segregated in the U.S. Ferguson, once a majority white community that’s now about two-thirds black, highlights that dynamic.
• Coinciding with the decline in white population is a rapid rise in poverty since 2000 [..]
• “Looking at the neighborhood poverty rates, it’s striking how much has changed over a decade,” Kneebone said. “In Ferguson in 2000, none of the neighborhoods had hit that 20% poverty rate. By the end of the 2000s, almost every census tract met or exceeded that poverty rate.
• The poverty rate in Ferguson was 22% in 2012, the most recent available, up from 10.2% in 2000. Suburban locales from the outskirts of Atlanta to Colorado Springs have seen similar trends. The number of poor people living in impoverished U.S. suburbs has more than doubled since 2000, comparing to a 50% rise in cities. More than half of the 46 million Americans in poverty now live in suburbs ..
• “The median income is so low in Ferguson that people are really struggling, living from check to check, and they’re even behind checks,” state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal said.
• “For much of the latter half of the 20th century, it was a pattern of segregation by race, and that’s been displaced somewhat by a segregation by income, which is growing starker and starker in cities like St. Louis.”
While Americans have been – and still are – waiting for the recovery to come that the government and the media promise, their world is not standing still; it’s deteriorating at a fast pace. It just takes them a long time to notice, focused as they are on the illusions.
That is a dangerous dynamic in a country so loaded to the hilt with firearms. Something that the government, at all levels, has been acutely aware of for many years. The calls, in the wake of Ferguson, to de-militarize police forces, look somewhat less than timely or honest or genuine in that light.
The militarization of American police forces has been a very conscious choice by those who long since sensed a threat to their positions, their way of life, and their powers. Not everyone feels they can afford to stare blindly into illusions.
Another aspect of the demise of America as we once knew it, and one very much connected to Ferguson, because it’s economics that drives the whole machinery, is pensions. An amazing graph posted by Tyler Durden, along with some apt comments, explain.
… it is not the 1% that would suffer the most should the S&P have a post-Lehman like 50%+ wipe out, which also means that the Federal Reserve’s only mandate of pushing asset prices to ever higher levels while pretending it does so to boost employment and keep inflation at 2% is no longer for the benefit of the uber-wealthy.
So why can’t, or rather won’t, the Fed let the bubble market collapse once again? Simple – as the following chart shows, the illusion of wealth is now most critical when preserving the myth of the welfare state: some 50% of all US pension fund assets are invested in stocks and only 20% in Treasurys.
This compares to less than 10% for Japan which also explains why for Abe, the only lifeline left is pushing pension funds out of their existing asset allocation sweet spot and forcing them to buy stocks.
What is known is that in a country like Germany between 2005 and 2012 the Pension funds asset rotation out of stocks and into bonds has been truly unprecedented, with stocks plummeting from 30%+ of total exposure to less than 5%! It also explains why Germany was, is and always will be leery of allowing the ECB to pursue asset bubble-inflating policies which would barely benefit pension funds on the equity side …
But back to the US: while the 1%’s paper fungible, market-driven wealth has been long converted into other hard asset formats, it is the paper gains for the future retirees that are on the chopping block should the S&P 500 “get it.”
As such, it is the fate of future retirement funds, and in fact, the very core of the US welfare state that is at stake should there be a massive market crash. In which case what happened in Ferguson will be a polite stroll in the park compared to the chaos that would ensue should another generation of Americans wake up with half or more of their paper wealth wiped out overnight.
… will the Fed be able to avoid a market crash? The answer of course is no. But we will give the podium to Fred Hickey, aka the High-Tech Strategist, who gives a very poetic summary of what the Fed’s endgame will look like:
The Fed hasn’t made the world a better place with its interventions. It has created moral hazard, encouraged the formation of asset bubbles that eventually pop (leaving economic messes), widened the wealth inequality gap to record levels, discouraged savings and investment, severely penalized retirees on fixed incomes, encouraged spending, funded massive government deficit spending by monetizing the debts, lengthened the recession and likely reduced the number of jobs that would have been created if the economy had been allowed to take its normal course.
What Durden forgets to mention is that, given the incredibly outsized exposure US pensions funds have built up to stocks, it’s no wonder the S&P 500 has been setting records.
Another issue he omits is while one may claim the Fed can’t let the stock market crash, it has no such control, if only since because of that same outsized exposure pension funds have to the S&P, they are set and certain to cause their own demise by moving out of stocks and back into bonds.
Recent developments in geopolitics are not a one-off incident. They are merely a first step in the real battle for oil and gas, equals energy, equals power. It’s not going to stop if Ukraine and Russia sign some deal, or if Shi’ites beat Sunnis or the other way around. Every party that sees an opening to increase their share of oil and gas will do so, and increasingly with blunt force. That’s the geopolitics which will be a part of the global – and financial – landscape for the rest of our lives.
That necessarily means that the Fed controlled quiet boom in stocks is over. Volatility is back to stay. And volatility doesn’t rhyme with pension funds. Risk and potential losses are too great to even consider. So the funds will have to move back into Treasurys. A move that will hurt both stocks AND bonds. And cause more volatility. Rinse and repeat.
It would be suicide for pension funds to stay where they are. It will also be suicidal to move. They’re hugely overexposed to a market that’s only seemingly under control. They purchased themselves into a bind.
Just like America developed itself into a bind. By building an infrastructure around its city cores that is increasingly, and rapidly, becoming an expansive layer of cemeteries for the hopes and dreams of large numbers of its citizens, where millions of poorly constructed and insulated overpaid homes play the part of so many underwater mausoleums.
There is still time to take another look in the mirror. To see what is actually there in your reflection, not what you would like there to be. And make your decisions based on what you see when you do. But that time is not measured in decades, perhaps not even years.