Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Report from Princeton and Northwestern Proves It: The U.S. is an Oligarchy

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
By Michael Krieger and originally published at libertyblitzkrieg.com
From a recent study titled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University
In response to the publication of an academic study that essentially proves the United States is nothing more than an oligarchy, many commentators have quipped sentiments that go something like “so tell me something I don’t know.” While I agree that the conclusion is far from surprising to anyone paying attention, the study is significant for two main reasons.  
First, there is a certain influential segment of the population which has a disposition which requires empirical evidence and academic studies before they will take any theory seriously. Second, some of the conclusions can actually prove quite helpful to activists who want to have a greater impact in changing things. This shouldn’t be particularly difficult since their impact at the moment is next to zero.
What is most incredible to me is that the data under scrutiny in the study was from 1981-2002. One can only imagine how much worse things have gotten since the 2008 financial crisis. The study found that even when 80% of the population favored a particular public policy change, it was only instituted 43% of the time. We saw this first hand with the bankster bailout in 2008, when Americans across the board were opposed to it, but Congress passed TARP anyway (although they had to vote twice).
Even more importantly, several years of supposed “economic recovery” has not changed the public’s perception of the bankster bailouts. For example, a 2012 study showed that only 23% percent of Americans favored the bank bailouts and the disgust was completely bipartisan, as the Huffington Post points out. 
Personally, I think the banker bailouts will go down as one of the most significant turning points in American history. Despite widespread disapproval, Congress passed TARP and it was at that moment that many Americans “woke up” to the fact they are nothing more than economic slaves with no voice. That they are serfs. Even more importantly, once oligarchs saw what they could get away with they kept doubling down and doubling down until we find ourselves in the precarious position we are in today. A society filled with angst and resentment at the fact that the 0.01% have stolen everything.
Another thing that the study noted was that average citizens sometimes got what they wanted, but this is almost always when their preferences overlap with the oligarchs. When this occurs it is entirely coincidental, and in many cases may the result of public opinion being molded by the elite-controlled special interest groups themselves. How pathetic.
I read the entire 42 page study and have highlighted what I found to be the key excerpts below. Please share with others and enjoy:
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
Until very recently, however, it has been impossible to test the differing predictions of these theories against each other within a single statistical model that permits one to analyze the independent effects of each set of actors upon policy outcomes.
A major challenge to majoritarian pluralist theories, however, is posed by Mancur Olson’s argument that collective action by large, dispersed sets of individuals with individually small but collectively large interests tends to be prevented by the “free rider” problem. Barring special circumstances (selective incentives, byproducts, coercion), individuals who would benefit from collective action may have no incentive to personally form or join an organized group. If everyone thinks this way and lets George do it, the job is not likely to get done. This reasoning suggests that Truman’s “potential groups” may in fact be unlikely to form, even if millions of  peoples’ interests are neglected or harmed by government. Aware of the collective action problem, officials may feel free to ignore much of the population and act against the interests of the average citizen.
As to empirical evidence concerning interest groups, it is well established that organized groups regularly lobby and fraternize with public officials; move through revolving doors between public and private employment; provide self-serving information to officials; draft legislation; and spend a great deal of money on election campaigns. Moreover, in harmony with theories of biased pluralism, the evidence clearly indicates that most U.S. interest groups and lobbyists represent business firms or professionals. Relatively few represent the poor or even the economic interests of ordinary workers, particularly now that the U.S. labor movement has become so weak.
What makes possible an empirical effort of this sort is the existence of a unique data set, compiled over many years by one of us (Gilens) for a different but related purpose: for estimating the influence upon public policy of “affluent” citizens, poor citizens, and those in the middle of the income distribution.
Gilens and a small army of research assistants gathered data on a large, diverse set of policy cases: 1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change.
In any case, the imprecision that results from use of our “affluent” proxy is likely to produce underestimates of the impact of economic elites on policy making. If we find substantial effects upon policy even when using this imperfect measure, therefore, it will be reasonable to infer that the impact upon policy of truly wealthy citizens is still greater.
Some particular U.S. membership organizations – especially the AARP and labor unions– do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants. Some membership groups may reflect the views of corporate backers or their most affluent constituents. Others focus on issues on which the public is fairly evenly divided. Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole. Business-oriented groups do even worse, with a modest negative over-all correlation of -.10.
The estimated impact of average citizens’ preferences drops precipitously, to a non-significant, near-zero level. Clearly the median citizen or “median voter” at the heart of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy does not do well when put up against economic elites and organized interest groups. The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.
By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy. This does not mean that theories of Economic Elite Domination are wholly upheld, since our results indicate that individual elites must share their policy influence with organized interest groups. Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential – more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.
The incredible thing here is that they use the 90th percentile to gauge the “economic elite,” when we well know that it is the “oligarchs” themselves and the businesses they run that call all the shots. It would have been interesting if they isolated the impact of the 0.01%.
These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.
In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30% of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80% of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.
Amidst all of the bad news in this study, there is one conclusion from which we can find a silver lining.
The importance of business groups’ numerical advantage is also revealed when we rescale our measures of business and mass-oriented interest group alignments to reflect the differing number of groups in each of these categories. Using this rescaled measure, a parallel analysis to that in table 4 shows that on a group-for-group basis the average individual business group and the average mass-oriented group appears to be about equally influential. The greater total influence of business groups in our analysis results chiefly from the fact that more of them are generally engaged on each issue (roughly twice as many, on average), not that a single business-oriented group has more clout on average than a single mass based group.
Relatively few mass-based interest groups are active, they do not (in the aggregate) represent the public very well, and they have less collective impact on policy than do business-oriented groups – whose stands tend to be negatively related to the preferences of average citizens. These business groups are far more numerous and active; they spend much more money; and they tend to get their way.
What the paragraphs above demonstrate is that the public has become very, very bad at organizing and that they aren’t even in the same ballpark as the the business groups. While mass-based interest groups will never be able to compete financially, we now live in a world of crowd-funding and a great deal of angst. Thus, there appears to be some low hanging fruit available for the activist community to pick at and become more organized.
Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically elite citizens who wield the actual influence.
But sure, keep chanting USA! USA! and keep sending your children to die overseas for no good reason.
Of course our findings speak most directly to the “first face” of power: the ability of actors to shape policy outcomes on contested issues. But they also reflect – to some degree, at least – the “second face” of power: the ability to shape the agenda of issues that policy makers consider. The set of policy alternatives that we analyze is considerably broader than the set discussed seriously by policy makers or brought to a vote in Congress, and our alternatives are (on average) more popular among the general public than among interest groups. Thus the fate of these policies can reflect policy makers’ refusing to consider them rather than considering but rejecting them. (From our data we cannot distinguish between the two.) Our results speak less clearly to the “third face” of power: the ability of elites to shape the public’s preferences. We know that interest groups and policy makers themselves often devote considerable effort to shaping opinion. If they are successful, this might help explain the high correlation we find between elite and mass preferences. But it cannot have greatly inflated our estimate of average citizens’ influence on policy making, which is near zero.
So what’s the conclusion? Well we aren’t a Democracy and we aren’t a Constitutional Republic. As I and many others have noted, we have descended into something far worse, an neo-fedualistic Oligarchy.
What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our  findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.
A possible objection to populistic democracy is that average citizens are inattentive to politics and ignorant about public policy; why should we worry if their poorly informed preferences do not influence policy making? Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does. Perhaps they know better which policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends, when deciding which policies to support.
But we tend to doubt it. We believe instead that – collectively – ordinary citizens generally know their own values and interests pretty well, and that their expressed policy preferences are worthy of respect. Moreover, we are not so sure about the informational advantages of elites. Yes, detailed policy knowledge tends to rise with income and status. Surely wealthy Americans and corporate executives tend to know a lot about tax and regulatory policies that directly affect them. But how much do they know about the human impact of Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, or unemployment insurance, none of which is likely to be crucial to their own well-being? Most important, we see no reason to think that informational expertise is always accompanied by an inclination to transcend one’s own interests or a determination to work for the common good.
All in all, we believe that the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own interests than any feasible alternative. 
Leaving aside the difficult issue of divergent interests and motives, we would urge that the superior wisdom of economic elites or organized interest groups should not simply be assumed. It should be put to empirical test. New empirical research will be needed to pin down precisely who knows how much, and what, about which public policies. 
Our findings also point toward the need to learn more about exactly which economic elites (the “merely affluent”? the top 1%? the top 0.01%?) have how much impact upon public policy, and to what ends they wield their influence. Similar questions arise about the precise extent of influence of particular sets of organized interest groups. And we need to know more about the policy preferences and the political influence of various actors not considered here, including political party activists, government officials, and other non-economic elites. We hope that our work will encourage further exploration of these issues.
Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
So when Sam Zell or any other oligarch prances around on televisionsaying that the “poor should be more like the rich,” what he’s really saying is you need to sell your soul and attempt to become an oligarch. Otherwise, you’re fucked.
This is a truly excellent study and I suggest you read the entire thing here, if you have the time.
In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Liberty Movement Rising


"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."  - Thomas Paine
By Brandon Smith and originally published at alt-market.com
The label of “fringe” is a common one used by statists, bureaucrats and paid shills in order to marginalize those who would stand against government corruption. The primary assertion being sold is that the “majority” joyously supports the establishment; and the majority, of course, is always right.
The liberty movement, which is a collection of numerous freedom organizations and political activists brought together by a shared philosophical bond, has been accused of “fringe” status for quite some time. With corporatist dominance over the mainstream media for decades backing an elitist machine in Washington and a global banking cartel footing the bill with money created from thin air, any such accusation can be made to seem “real” to those who are unaware.
The problem has always been a matter of physical action giving rise to an acknowledgment of numbers.
We have all heard the old story of the debate within the ancient Roman government over the idea of forcing the slave population to wear distinct armbands so that they could be more easily identified among the regular population. The concept was rejected on the realization that if the slaves were given a visual confirmation of their considerable numbers and strength, they would be encouraged to revolt against the Roman tyrants. That is to say, as long as the slaves felt isolated, they would remain apathetic and powerless. Of course, that was not always the case. Sometimes, a small group would stand up despite their supposed isolation, and the rest of the world, wide-eyed and astonished, would take notice.
The liberty movement has just experienced one of its first great moments of realization and empowerment in Clark County, Nev., and millions of past naysayers have been shell-shocked.
I covered my views in detail on the Bundy Ranch saga in Nevada in my article “Real Americans Are Ready To Snap,” amid the usual choir of disinformation agents and nihilists desperate to convince Web audiences that the liberty movement would do nothing to stop the Bureau of Land Management’s militant assault on Cliven Bundy’s cattle farm. This assault included hundreds of Federal agents, helicopters, contractors hired essentially as cattle rustlers and even teams of snipers.
The statists and socialists were certainly out in force to misrepresent the Bundy issue and frighten anyone who might consider taking a stand for the family. The Southern Poverty Law Center, not surprisingly, was hard at work spreading lies and disinformation about the confrontation in Nevada, painting a picture of fractured patriot groups and militiamen with “little training” going to face unstoppable Federal BLM agents and likely “ending up dead.” The SPLC insinuated that the movement was ineffective and in over its head.
The reality was much the opposite. Liberty groups arrived in droves and were staunchly unified — not by a centralized leadership, but in defense of the basic moral principles outlined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Sources on the ground at the Bundy ranching operation relayed to me that at least 1,000 activists and militia members arrived over the weekend, with many more on the way. This one event proved certain points:
  1. The liberty movement is not afraid to put itself in harm’s way for the right cause — even if this means facing off against highly armed government thugs.
  2. The liberty movement has the ability to field a response team or even an army anywhere in the country at any time within a couple of days.
  3. The liberty movement has the ability to change the course of events, even to the point of removing Federal agents from a region who are acting in an unConstitutional manner.
  4. The Federal government is not invincible, nor is it unfazed by liberty movement opposition. They worry about our strength and ability.
Over the past weekend, we witnessed the true influence of the liberty movement. As thousands of activists and militia arrived in the area, the BLM finally began to understand what it was facing. The government agency that has been terrorized farming communities throughout the West for years, the agency armed with military-grade weaponry and hundreds of agents, ran away, as freedom fighters descended on the region.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, two politicians who were deathly silent during the beginning of the Federal incursion on the Bundy ranch, have now suddenly become vocal in defense of Nevada ranchers against the BLM. It’s amazing how “inspired” politicians can become to do the right thing when they see an army of liberty activists marching against tyranny in their own backyard.
Not only was the BLM forced to remove itself from the area, but it was also forced to relinquish all the cattle it had stolen from Bundy over the course of the past week. Here, liberty groups close in on the cattle holding pens of the BLM and take back Bundy’s property.
Statists are indignant and furious over the surrender of the BLM. The same people who boasted that liberty activists would be slaughtered by Fed agents are now frothing at the mouth because they did not get their massacre. Not only that, but the bureaucracy they worship has shown itself to be impotent in the face of Constitutional champions. All I can say is nothing puts a bigger grin on my face than to see statists cry like babies when their delusions of grandeur are trampled on.
This was a major victory for the liberty movement. But let’s be clear; the fight is just beginning.
I suspect that the Bundy event will be spun by news agencies and the government until it is unrecognizable. They will claim that the BLM left not because they were wrong, but because they were trying to keep people safe. They will claim that liberty movement protesters were the aggressors and the poor BLM agents were just trying to do their jobs. They will play the race card as they always do, much like this pathetically lazy and unprofessional article from Slate, which asserts that if the Bundy's had been black, the Liberty Movement would have never supported them. They will argue the so-called Federal legality of the raid itself, and paint Bundy as a “freeloader” who refuses to pay taxes and who is living off the American people. They will do everything in their power to destroy the image of the victory and soil the name of the Bundy family.
What they don’t seem to understand, though, is that the liberty movement does not care what the Federal government deems “legal” or “illegal.” Our only interest is what is Constitutional and what is moral. The dispute was never about the “legality” of Bundy’s use of the land, which his family used for grazing without interference for generations — until 1993, when the BLM used the absurd endangered species protection racket to put all of his neighbors out of business and threaten his ranch with invasion.  Add to this the recently discovered fact that Senator Harry Reid's former assistant and friend Neil Kornze is now head of the BLM due to Reid's influence, and the fact that Harry Reid and his family are reaping financial rewards by driving farmers from all over the region where Cliven Bundy's ranch sits while arranging land deals with Chinese solar companies, and one has to ask, why should Bundy pay any of his hard earned money to the federal government when they are just going to use it to bulldoze his cattle and make Harry Reid more rich?
Disinformation websites like Snopes contend that Reid's "projects" are not being established anywhere near the Bundy Ranch, yet, one such project has already been launched only 35 miles south of Bundy, and, the BLM has erased a page from its website specifically mentioning the Bundy Ranch and it's "interference" with Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone Projects, the same projects Harry Reid and his son are heavily involved in.
What is amazing to me is that in light of this information hardcore socialists are still willing to defend Reid and the BLM.  My question is, if the BLM is so innocent, then why are they erasing such data from their website at all?  What were they trying to hide?
Harry Reid has not responded to the facts behind his financial involvement in the BLM's attacks on Nevada farmers, except to say that they are "conspiracy theories".  He added when asked about the status of the confrontation:
“Well, it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over...”
Yes, Harry, it won't be over until men like you are thrown behind bars.
Note that he says "an American people"; as if he is separate, as if he is referring to all of us as a subservient organism, or servant class.  What Reid is saying is, the elites can't have "an American people" openly exposing their criminality and defying their tyranny, and then just walking away.  I'm sorry to break it to Reid, but that is exactly how all of this is going to end.
Statists and bureaucrats like Reid continually attempt to argue this issue from the standpoint of Federal legality, obviously because the Federal government has the legislative and bureaucratic power to make any despicable action legal (at least on paper) if it wishes. However, the liberty movement has no interest whatsoever in Federal interpretations of legal precedence. We are only concerned with what is right. As the old saying goes, when injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.
The liberty movement also fully understands that the Bundy victory was only one battle at the beginning of a long war.
The BLM may very well be waiting for activists to leave the area before attacking again. And even if that is not the case, tyrannical systems have a way of attempting to make up for signs of weakness by escalating violence during the next siege. That is to say, we should expect the next event involving the BLM or other government agencies to be even more vicious than the Bundy incident. It is simply the natural inclination of totalitarian systems to exaggerate their power when their failings have been exposed.
That said, it should be noted that corrupt leadership often crumbles in the face of steadfast resolve and courage. We have a long way to go before this Nation is once again truly free, but the liberty movement has proven its invaluable worth over the course of the past several days. We arrived at a crossroads, and we are now moving forward in the right direction — without fear and without regret. It is in these moments when history is made — when common men and women thwart the odds, defy the darkness and make good on their beliefs by risking everything in the name of freedom.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Penning the Sheep for a Shearing—Capital Controls, Part 1

By Nick Giambruno and originally published at internationalman.com
Capital controls are a favorite tool in a bankrupt or domineering government’s toolbox. You should be familiar with them and how to preempt them.
There are numerous countries that currently have capital controls in one form or another—China, Colombia, Iceland, Cyprus, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Cuba, to name a few.
It’s not exactly a secret that the West generally and the US in particular are moving deeper into bankruptcy and are seeking more and more control over all facets of their citizens’ lives. These trends will sooner or later lead to an overt attempt to control the flow of money in some way—just as they have in other countries throughout history that have headed down similar paths.
It’s crucially important to your financial future that you understand what capital controls are, how and why they are implemented, the harm they can cause, and what you can do to protect yourself.
This is because I believe it is a near certainty that the US dollar will lose its role as the world’s premier reserve currency. And when that happens, capital controls are sure to follow.
The purpose of capital controls is straightforward: to restrict and control the free flow of money into and out of a country. Capital controls come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and labels. But no matter what they’re labeled or how they’re implemented, the end result is always the same—restricting, controlling, and taxing the flow of money.
The effects are always harmful. Strategies on how you can protect yourself are frequently discussed on the International Man site.

Why Governments Impose Capital Controls

It’s simple: imposing capital controls is similar to penning sheep that are about to be sheared so that they cannot escape.
Capital controls are not usually used unless a government has run out of ways to otherwise steal money from its people, such as when it can no longer borrow, inflate the currency, or tax like it used to.
In most cases, capital controls are used during acute crises, like financial and banking collapses, wars, or in countries with chronic economic problems. In other cases, it’s just the dominating nature of the particular government to control its citizens by denying them the means of taking their wealth abroad.
No matter the immediate reason, an always attractive effect of capital controls for governments is that they trap as much money within their borders and their reach as possible. They of course do this to optimize the amount of money that’s available for them to tax or otherwise confiscate.
Capital controls are also used because they can be politically popular. The government will try to get the average person to incorrectly believe that moving your money offshore or investing in foreign assets is something that is only for the rich or is otherwise unpatriotic (both are obviously false). It’s also a way for the government to show that it is “doing something” during a crisis.

How It’s Usually Done

In order to be effective, capital controls naturally have to come as a surprise… well, to the average person at least. The political and economic elite are usually tipped off well in advance and take action accordingly.
Announcing them to the public beforehand would cause people to get their money out before the controls are put in place, which would defeat the purpose of implementing them in the first place.
In Cyprus they came in a flash, on a seemingly ordinary Saturday morning when people would least suspect it. From the perspective of the government, weekends and holidays are ideal times to implement capital controls.
Here are the four most common ways they’re imposed:
1. “Official” Currency Exchange Rates
The first way capital controls are imposed is when a government sets an “official” currency exchange rate. Since gold’s value is universally recognized across the globe and is the international money par excellence, “official” prices for gold also fall under this category.
The “official” rate is always unfavorable compared to the black market rate (i.e., the free market rate). This is exactly what’s happening in Argentina and Venezuela. Unless you go through some convoluted process, whenever you wire or otherwise bring large amounts of money into and out of the country, you’ll likely get stuck with the unfavorable “official” exchange rate set by the government. Getting the more-favorable black market rate usually involves informal transactions on the street, which is of course technically illegal since you’re supposed to use the government-approved “official” rate. The penalties and enforcement of this vary widely among countries with this type of capital control.
In reality, the difference between the market rate and the “official” rate amounts to a wealth transfer from you to the government. It’s a form of implicit taxation.
2. Explicit Taxation
Another form of capital controls is when a government imposes explicit taxes that specifically target foreign investments, foreign currencies, or gold in order to discourage you from buying them. An example of this is India, which imposed a 10% tax on gold imports in 2012.
Governments prefer you stored your wealth in the local currency, where it’s easier for them to tax, outright confiscate, or siphon via inflation.
Taxation on inbound/outbound money transfers is also another tactic. While you would still be able to send money abroad to an offshore bank (or receive it from abroad), there would be a tax, of say 20%—or whatever the government wants.
No matter the type of taxation-based capital control, you will still able to move your capital… though it will likely be very costly to do so.
3. Restrictions and Regulations
Capital controls can also come in the form of restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or gold that can imported, exported, or otherwise possessed. This may come in the form of a regulation that prohibits you from taking a certain amount of money out of the country (usually only a couple thousand dollars) without special permission from the government.
4. Outright Prohibition
This is the most severe form of the capital controls. This is where a government outright prohibits the ownership of foreign currencies, offshore bank accounts, foreign assets, gold, or moving any form of wealth abroad.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Resurrection Then And Now

By Jill Carattini and originally published at rzim.org  
There are at times immense chasms between historical depictions of Jesus and depictions of Christ in orthodox Christology.  The disparity is such that attempts to reconcile the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth with the “perfect God, perfect Man” of the early confessing church often seem futile.  Yet this is precisely the task before us. 
Though there are no doubt those among us who would not believe on any amount of evidence that something so unusual as the resurrection could happen, there are countless others who are asking perceptive questions.  Among others: What happened on that first Easter morning?  Why would the disciples go to their deaths making such an outrageous claim?  And why does the rise of Christianity remain a challenge unanswered?  
Such questions are a good starting point for anyone, and often—like the resurrection for those who first beheld it—the questioner is moved quickly from historical matters below to matters far above.  As N.T. Wright notes:
“[T]he challenge [of the resurrection] comes down to a much narrower point, not simply to do with worldviews in general, or with ‘the supernatural’ in particular, but with the direct question of death and life, of the world of space, time and matter and its relation to whatever being there may be for whom the word ‘god,’ or even ‘God,’ might be appropriate.  Here there is, of course, no neutrality.”(1)
The earliest creeds confess Jesus as one who “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried…. [And] on the third day he rose again.”(2)  The writers of these creeds confessed the suffering of Jesus as a datable event, his crucifixion as an occurrence in history.  Even “three days later” is a confession of a historical, quantifiable occasion—albeit an occasion wholly unprecedented. 
Unlike modern presuppositions might project, there is nothing abstract about the details confessed by those who first beheld the risen Christ.  Yet the resurrection of Jesus was clearly not viewed as a static fact either, a fixed event both occurring and remaining in history.  Their confessions included a keen understanding of implication:  “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe…” says Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:14.  The resurrection of Christ was seen an eschatological event with clear consequences and necessary responses.  It was a phenomenon that was actively interpreted in the backdrop of the very anticipation that beheld it. 
The details of death, burial, and the third day confessed in the early creeds are similarly followed by certain understood implications.  Jesus is now “seated at the right hand of the Father.”(3)  The resurrection verified Jesus’s ties with the Father as well as his claim to divine authority.  This rabbi who was accused of blasphemy for calling himself equal to God was now shown by God to be speaking the truth.  “For God raised him from the dead,” writes Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10.  Far from the rebel Jesus was accused of being, the risen one and his claims to the Father were in one instant, visibly and unmistakably confirmed by the God of Israel. 
Thus, it is also confessed of Christ:  “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”(4)  For those who first beheld it, the resurrection is clearly not seen as a one time event.  There are ways in which it informs the future and, indeed, touches all of history.  Writes Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Through his resurrection from the dead, Jesus moved so close to the Son of Man that the insight became obvious: the Son of Man is none other than the man Jesus who will come again.”(5)  For the disciples, this meant the beginning of all end events—the arrival of the time of judgment as well as the universal resurrection of the dead.  In the words of the Athanasius Creed:  “All men shall rise again with their bodies: and shall give account for their own works.” 
In the eyes of Jesus’s beholders, the resurrection had clear implications for our own bodies, lives, and deaths.  Paul is similarly bold in his application:  “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).  As the fulfillment of apocalyptic hope, the risen Jesus is understood as the one who ushers in the future resurrection promised to all of God’s people. 
The resurrection is so much more than an event in history, but that it is an event in history is what allows us—indeed, requires us—to answer the very question Jesus first asked his disciples:  Who do you say that I am?  However we answer this question, there is, of course, no prospect of neutrality.   
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

He Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Harry Reid And Domestic Terrorists, Russian Military In Ukraine


4By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com 
A deal has been reached over the Ukraine crisis, and that will supposedly “de-escalate tensions and restore security.”  This deal is between the EU, U.S., Russia and Ukraine.  I guess this is good news, but I would call it extremely temporary.  This is supposed to lead to disarming the pro-Russian militia and returning control of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine.  Loyal Ukrainians and pro-Russian factions have been going at it, and I am not sure this deal is going to “de-escalate tensions.”  Even President Obama is skeptical.  He said that the U.S. has to be ready to “respond to what continue to be interference by the Russians.”   The military option is off the table according to the White House.  So, that leaves sanctions that nobody wants, especially in the EU.  Massive amounts of business are done between Russia and the EU.  The global economy is weak at best, and in some places in Europe, you can call it a depression.  Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has,“the right to use military force in Ukraine.”  Russia is going to end up with much of Ukraine, and I do not think there is much anyone is going to do about it.  
I don’t think the Russians are worried about sanctions over the Ukraine.  I think they and many other countries are trying to halt the use of the U.S. dollar as fast as they can.  The latest evidence of that is news of the BRICS making great strides in developing alternatives to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  There is no doubt that the use of the dollar is being used less and less to settle international trade.  That is the dominate trend, and I see no reversal in sight.  The rest of the world is going to stop depending on the U.S. dollar, and my prediction is that will be much sooner than many can imagine.  The inflation this will bring is going to be stunning as there are $16 trillion liquid dollar assets held outside the country. 
The Intelligence Minister of Israel is not happy about the negotiations with Iran over curtailing its nuclear program.  Yuval Steinitz said the U.S. negotiations were a “surrender” to Iran.  Israel is not happy that Iran could enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon in a matter of months.  This is a big indication on how the negotiations are going.  Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for the peaceful production of energy, and the West does not buy it.  More negotiations are happening next month.  
President Obama is touting 8 million have now signed up for Obama Care.  Of course, the government admits it does not know how many have paid or how many are really newly enrolled.  What is constantly ignored is the plan is not nearly rolled out.  Hundreds of exemptions have been given to big business and the plan for the bulk of the people has been delayed.  It’s been delayed because it will hurt many who will pay more and get less, and it is all enforced by the IRS.  Instead of saving $2,500 per family, the CBO says it will cost $2,100 more for the average family.  Sure, some will get a good deal, but that will be paid for by others. This is the big election issue and no matter if the MSM ignores the bad parts of the Obama Care story. Many now that are living this are not going to be happy come Election Day.  
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid says the folks that protested at the Bundy ranch in Nevada recently are “domestic terrorists.”  That is harsh language, especially from the government that set up 1st Amendment zones for protestors miles away from the ranch.  The 1st Amendment is everywhere in the U.S.  I guess all the folks at the BLM failed civics class.  What scares me about this “domestic terrorist” comment by Senator Reid is I think he is trying to justify the heavy handed tactics by the government.  I’ll be the first to say that Cliven Bundy is not totally in the right here.  He has lost some court battles over the use of this land, but the government was totally out of line bringing swat teams and attack dogs to settle a civil issue.  The government destroyed property and killed many of Bundy’s cattle.  The government is certainly not cracking down on illegal immigration this way.  Banks that admitted they laundered money for terrorists have paid fines.  JP Morgan paid a fine to get out of criminal prosecution in the Bernie Madoff fraud case.  The list goes on and on.  Not a single banker has been arrested and prosecuted for trillions of dollars in fraud perpetrated on honest Americans.    My guest Fabian Calvo brought up this week that there is plenty of information about the possible collateralization of American land to pay off our debts, debts that many crooked bankers have stacked up with fraud such as “toxic” mortgage backed securities.  If law enforcement wants to crack down let’s start with the bankers, not the food producers!! 
Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.   

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cruciform Disruptions

By Jill Carattini and originally published at rzim.org  
Simon of Cyrene had every reason to be shocked.  He was on his way in from the country, likely headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, when he was seized from the crowd and forced to join a procession heading toward Golgotha, the place of the Skull.  They put a crossbeam on him, one to be used in the execution of a criminal, and made him carry it.  The offense of this object and unchosen assignment would have been blatant to Simon and everyone around him.  He had been recruited to play a role in a crucifixion, an extremely dishonorable form of judicial execution in the Roman Empire.  Among Jews, anyone condemned to hang on a tree was thought accursed.  Staggering in front of Simon, beaten and bloodied, was the man to whom this cross belonged. 
In many ways, it was a day of shocking darkness.  For Simon, thrust in the middle of angry men and wailing women, the day held a burden he did not deserve, a shame he did not seek to bear.  He was on his way to celebrate the Passover, the release of the Jews from the bondage of slavery—the central act of God in Israel’s history—and he found himself forced to carry the cross of a condemned man instead. 
The crowd pressed in behind them as they walked forward.  Simon heard Jesus turn to the women who mourned and wailed for him and offer a curious response:  “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!  They will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘  For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28-31).  Simon probably would have recognized these lines as words of the prophet Hosea, the prophet God used to show Israel his heart, to demonstrate a love that would not quit despite an adulterous bride. 
When they made it to Golgotha, Simon’s task was finished.  The beam was taken from him and the man he followed to the place of the Skull was stripped of his garment and nailed to the cross.  Nothing further is mentioned about Simon the Cyrene in any of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion.  Still much is left to wonder.  Did he stay after the burden had been lifted from his shoulders?  Did he hear Jesus cry out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” or watch him extend the invitation of paradise to the broken criminal on the cross beside him?  What went through Simon’s mind as he walked behind the weak and beaten Jesus, the events of Passover interrupted by the events of the cross?  Did he look on as they mocked the “King of the Jews” who remained silent through the insults?  Was he filled with thoughts of the Passover he was missing, the life he needed to resume, as they challenged Jesus to come down from the cross?  Or perhaps Simon was more deeply disturbed by the end of the journey than he was of its beginning.   
Matthew reports the conclusion of the first Good Friday and the cross that would become a stumbling block for all of history:  “When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split…  When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” (27:50-54). 
It is impossible to tell what became of Simon after he carried the burden of the one sentenced to die.  Ironically, the memorial he had celebrated his entire life—the redemption of Israel from the yoke of slavery, the blood of the unblemished lamb, the Passover hope for the liberating Messiah—was emerging before him, the slaughter of the paschal lamb.  Still one thing is clear; Simon of Cyrene was on his way somewhere else and the cross was a shocking interruption.  And so it remains.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.