One of the most troubling aspects of the “education reforms” currently being advanced by the Obama administration and its allies is the unprecedented monitoring and tracking of students — invasions of privacy so pervasive George Orwell might blush. Everything from biometric data to information on children’s beliefs and families is already being vacuumed up. Opponents of the “reform” agenda have highlighted the cradle-to-grave accumulation of private and intimate data as among the most compelling reasons to kill the whole process.
Aside from data produced by the looming Common Core-aligned national testing regime, most of the data-mining schemes are not technically direct components of the plot to nationalize education standards. However, the vast collection of personal information and the accompanying data-mining are intricately linked to the federally backed standards in multiple ways, not to mention myriad other federal schemes. Despite protestations to the contrary, the new standards and the data collection go together hand in hand.
Efforts to portray the data gathering via Common Core-aligned testing as a “state-led” plot notwithstanding, the Obama administration is reportedly considering raising phone taxes by executive decree to help subsidize the necessary technology. Why federal tax increases would be needed to pay for education and data-mining schemes that the federal government is supposedly not involved in has not been explained by officials, but experts and analysts say the reason is obvious.
Already, there are numerous systems being used and deployed across America aimed at compiling unprecedented amounts of data on students. Some are run by private organizations with government assistance; others are operated by authorities directly. All of them are extremely controversial, however, with parents and privacy advocates outraged.
Among the data schemes that have received a great deal of attention in recent months is “inBloom.” As with the new national education standards called Common Core, it is also funded by Bill Gates and the Carnegie Corporation. With at least nine states participating in the $100 million program already, the non-profit entity, which shares data with whomever authorities choose, is quickly gobbling up vast quantities of information.
Respected experts such as attorney Michael Farris, president of ParentalRights.org, pointed out that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child committee has repeatedly pressured governments to create similar national databases on children, albeit using different pretexts. Even liberals have expressed opposition. “Turning massive amounts of personal data about public school students to a private corporation without any public input is profoundly disturbing and irresponsible,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, slamming authorities for failing to disclose the scheme or offer parents an opt-out.
In conjunction with inBloom, other systems are being funded and largely directed by the federal government itself. Using the same unconstitutional process as the one used to foist Common Core on state governments — a combination of federal bribes, waivers, and more — the Obama administration all but forced cash-strapped states to start monitoring and tracking student information, or to expand their existing systems.
Previous administrations and U.S. lawmakers also contributed to the problem, with the foundations having been laid decades ago. Before Obama, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, for instance, among myriad other demands, called on states seeking federal funds to create “unique statewide identifiers” for each student. Under Obama, the process has accelerated at an unprecedented rate.
The stimulus-funded “Race to the Top,” a so-called school improvement scheme demanded by Obama, only distributed taxpayer funds to states that agreed to build and expand data systems, with the secretary of education specifically requesting interoperable databases to facilitate the collection and transfer of data. Massive bribes to states from the $50 billion “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” conditioned on acceptance of Common Core and expanded data tracking, also part of the “stimulus” package, were critical in advancing the plot as well.
Boasting about the “stimulus”-funded coercion of state governments on data regimes during a speech to UNESCO, the deeply controversial UN “education” agency, Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded the program.
“More robust data systems and a new generation of assessments can assist teachers and principals to improve their practices and tailor their instruction in ways that were largely unthinkable in the past,” Duncan continued. “We have advanced data systems that we are constantly improving.” Duncan wants other governments and the UN to follow the Obama administration’s lead on data gathering, he explained.
The administration helped pay for expanding “state” systems with an eye toward integrating them. Some $315 million in federal grants, for example, were used to bribe state governments and help them comply. However, the specific grant scheme, known as the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) program, actually began handing out taxpayer money in 2005.
As of 2009, the latest year for which figures are available on the Department of Education’s website, 41 states and Washington, D.C. had been awarded federal SLDS grants to expand their data systems on students. Experts say all 50 states now maintain or are capable of maintaining huge databases on the vast majority of American kids.
According to the Department of Education, the goal of the SLDS grants is to have states “expand their data systems to track students’ achievement from preschool through college.” The Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics offers slightly more detail about the SLDS scheme online: “Through grants and a growing range of services and resources, the program has helped propel the successful design, development, implementation, and expansion of K12 and P-20W (early learning through the workforce) longitudinal data systems,” it explains. “These systems are intended to enhance the ability of States to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records.”
Cradle to Career Data Collection
Of course, all of the data collected must be shared with the U.S. Department of Education and other entities within and outside the federal government. Acting unilaterally, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan even purported to overrule federal privacy laws by promulgating new “regulations” gutting the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Some lawmakers expressed outrage, but the process continues.
“As part of what you described as a ‘cradle to career agenda,’ the Department of Education is aggressively moving to expand data systems that collect information on our nation’s students,” wrote Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), now chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, in an early 2010 letter to Duncan. “The Department’s effort to shepherd states toward the creation of ade facto national student database raises serious legal and prudential questions.”
As Kline points out in the letter, there is good reason to believe that the administration is again flouting federal law. “Congress has never authorized the Department of Education to facilitate the creation of a national student database,” he explained. “To the contrary, Congress explicitly prohibited the ‘development of a nationwide database of personally identifiable information’ … and barred the ‘development, implementation, or maintenance of a Federal database.” Despite no mention of the Constitution, multiple federal statutes are cited in the correspondence.
Apparently, the administration does not take kindly to having its alleged violations of the law exposed. While it couldn’t fire Rep. Kline, the Education Department did reportedly dismiss its top privacy official, then-Family Policy Compliance Office chief Paul Gammill. According to a 2010 report in Inside Higher Ed, Gammill was fired after he “argued in internal meetings and documents that the department’s approach to prodding states to expand their longitudinal student data systems violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.” The Education Department refused to comment on the case, though it openly admits that one of the long-term goals of the SLDS program is to “make education data transparent through Federal and public reporting.”
According to the Department of Education, grants awarded to states under the program are aimed at supporting the creation and implementation of systems “that have the capacity to link individual student data across time and across databases” and “promote the linking of data collected or held by various institutions, agencies, and States.” Among the data to be included are the yearly test records of individual students mandated under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. “States are encouraged to include additional information in their longitudinal data systems,” the department continued.
In another Education Department document offering “guidance” on the SLDS schemes, further insight is offered into what sort of information authorities are seeking and collecting. Among the “Personally Identifiable Information” outlined in the report: name, parents’ names, address, Social Security number, date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, and more.
Other private and protected data that might be collected, the document suggests, include the “political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent; mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family, sex behavior or attitudes; illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; or income.” While the collection of such data in surveys and questionnaires funded by federal tax dollars requires parental consent under federal law, state-level collection does not. Plus, experts say there are numerous other potential loopholes as well.
So Much for Student Privacy
Much of the information vacuumed up at all levels of government already makes its way into a national Department of Education scheme known as “EDFacts.” The department describes it online: “EDFacts is a U.S. Department of Education (ED) initiative to collect, analyze, report on and promote the use of high-quality, kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) performance data…. EDFacts centralizes data provided by state education agencies, local education agencies and schools.” Under EDFacts, state education agencies submit some 180 data groups. The federal National Center for Education Statistics, meanwhile, describes over 400 data points to be collected.
The U.S. Department of Labor, separately, admits that it is working to “integrate workforce data and create linkages to education data.” According to the department’s “Workforce Data Quality Initiative,” the SLDS will “enable workforce data to be matched with education data to ultimately create longitudinal data systems with individual-level information beginning with pre-kindergarten through post-secondary schooling all the way through entry and sustained participation in the workforce and employment services system.” When combined with information from the IRS, ObamaCare, the NSA, and countless other federal data-collection schemes, the picture that emerges has critics very nervous.
As technology advances, the federal government’s Orwellian data gathering will — without action to stop it — almost certainly expand beyond most people’s wildest nightmares. In fact, it already has. Consider, for example, a February 2013 report by the Department of Education dubbed Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. Included in the 100-page report is information about technology already being used in an Education Department-funded tutoring program.
“Researchers are exploring how to gather complex affective data and generate meaningful and usable information to feed back to learners, teachers, researchers, and the technology itself,” the report explains. “Connections to neuroscience are also beginning to emerge.” (Emphasis added.) The technological tools already being used by federally funded education schemes to probe students’ minds and “measure” the children include, as described in the report, “four parallel streams of affective sensors.”
Among the devices in use today through a federally funded tutoring scheme is a “facial expression camera” used to “detect emotion” and “capture facial expressions.” According to the report, the camera is linked to software that “extracts geometric properties on faces.” There is also a “posture analysis seat” and a “pressure mouse.” Finally, the report describes a “wireless skin conductance sensor” strapped to students’ wrists. The sensors collect “physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration.” Again, these systems are already being used in government-funded programs, and with technology racing ahead, developments are expected to become increasingly troubling.
Another Education Department report, entitled Enhancing, Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics, acknowledges similarly alarming schemes. “A student learning database (or other big data repository) stores time-stamped student input and behaviors captured as students work within the system,” it notes. “A predictive model combines demographic data (from an external student information system) and learning/behavior data from the student learning database to track a student’s progress and make predictions about his or her future behaviors or performance.” (Emphasis added.)
All across the country today, Big Brother-like technological developments in biometrics are also making schools increasingly Orwellian. Earlier this year in Polk County, Florida, for example, students’ irises were scanned without parental consent. “It simply takes a picture of the iris, which is unique to every individual,” wrote the school board’s “senior director of support services” in a letter to parents. “With this program, we will be able to identify when and where a student gets on the bus, when they arrive at their school location, when and what bus the student boards and disembarks in the afternoon. This is an effort to further enhance the safety of our students. The EyeSwipe-Nano is an ideal replacement for the card based system since your child will not have to be responsible for carrying an identification card.”
In San Antonio, Texas, meanwhile, a female student made national news — and exposed what was going on — when she got in a legal battle with school officials over her refusal to wear a mandatory radio-frequency identification (RFID) device. The same devices are already being implanted under people’s skin in America and abroad — albeit voluntarily. Also in the biometric field, since at least 2007, children in states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey have been fingerprinted at school under the guise of “school lunch” programs and other pretexts.
Despite fierce opposition, the trend toward using biometric data to identify and track students while collecting unimaginable amounts of information is accelerating. The federal government is helping lead the way toward abolishing any vestiges of privacy, and aside from NSA spying on virtually everyone, students appear to be among the primary targets. Without major resistance, experts predict that someday — perhaps even in the very near future — biometric identification will become ubiquitous. Combined with all of the other data being collected, the federal government may finally achieve what was sought by tyrants throughout history: detailed 24/7 information on everything, about everyone.
A record breaking stock market is distorting a frightening reality: The U.S. is being eaten alive by a horrific cancer that will ultimately destroy the economy and impoverish the vast majority of its citizens.
That’s according to Peter Schiff, the best-selling author and CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, who delivered his harsh warning to investors in a recent interview on Fox Business.
“I think we are heading for a worse economic crisis than we had in 2007,” Schiff said. “You’re going to have a collapse in the dollar…a huge spike in interest rates… and our whole economy, which is built on the foundation of cheap money, is going to topple when you pull the rug out from under it.”
Schiff says that, despite “phony” signs of an economic recovery, the cancer destroying America stems from a lethal concoction of our $16 trillion federal debt and the Fed’s never ending money printing.
Currently, Bernanke and company is buying $1 trillion of Treasury and mortgage bonds a year. That’s about $85 billion per month against a budget deficit that is about the same level.
According to Schiff, these numbers are unsustainable. And the Fed has no credible “exit strategy.”
Eventually interest rates will rise… and when they do, Schiff says, stocks will tank and bonds dip to nothing. Massive new tax hikes will be imposed and programs and entitlements will be cut to the bone.
“The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”
“We’re broke,” Schiff added. “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”
Schiff points out that the market gains experienced recently, with the Dow first topping 14,000 on its way to setting record highs, are giving investors a false sense of security.
“It’s not that the stock market is gaining value… it’s that our money is losing value. And so if you have a debased currency… a devalued currency, the price of everything goes up. Stocks are no exception,” he said.
“The Fed knows that the U.S. economy is not recovering,” he noted. “It simply is being kept from collapse by artificially low interest rates and quantitative easing. As that support goes, the economy will implode.”
A noted economist, Schiff has been a fierce critic of the Fed and its policies for years. And his warnings have proven to be prophetic.
In August 2006, when the Dow was hitting new highs nearly every day, Schiff said in an interview: “The United States is like the Titanic, and I’m here with the lifeboat trying to get people to leave the ship… I see a real financial crisis coming for the United States.”
Just over a year later, the meltdown that became the Great Recession began, just as Schiff predicted.
He also predicted the subprime mortgage bubble burst, nearly a year before the real estate market fully crashed.
His recent warnings, however, have been even more alarming. Will they also prove to be true?
In his most recent book, The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy — How to Save Yourself and Your Country, Schiff writes that when the “real crash” comes, “it will be worse than the Great Depression.” Unemployment will skyrocket, credit will dry up, and worse, the dollar will collapse completely, “wiping out all savings and sending consumer prices into the stratosphere.”
Schiff estimates this “cancer” could consume a trillion dollars from consumers this year.
“Today we’re the world’s greatest debtor nation. Companies, homeowners and banks are so highly leveraged, rising interest rates will be devastating.”
According to polls, the average American is indeed sensing danger. A recent survey found that 61% of Americans believe a catastrophe is looming — yet only 15% feel prepared for such a deeply troubling event.
Is Devastation The Ultimate Cure?
Despite its bleak outlook, Schiff’s book has become a real wake-up call for millions of readers.
While Schiff’s predictions can be grim, he also offers step-by-step solutions that average Americans can follow to protect their wealth, investments and savings.
According to Schiff, “the crash and what follows” can be beneficial. But only for those who understand beforehand what is happening and have time to prepare for the devastation.
“All we can do now is prepare for the crash,” Schiff said. “If we brace ourselves properly and control the impact, we will survive it.”
Soon the Foreclosure Floodgates Will Open and Prices Will Plunge…
Anyone who buys a house in today’s market should be aware of the risks. They should know that current prices are not supported by fundamentals, but by unprecedented manipulation by the Fed, the Obama administration, Wall Street Private Equity investors, and the nation’s biggest banks. If any of these main-players withdraws or even reduces their support for the market (in other words, if the banks release more of their distressed inventory, if rates rise, if PE firms buy fewer homes, or if the Congress curtails current mortgage modification programs), housing prices will fall. Given the increasing volatility in global stock and bond markets in recent weeks–which is likely to intensify as the Fed implements its exit strategy from QE– interest rates will continue to fluctuate putting downward pressure on housing sales and prices. The impact the Fed’s policy will have on markets and the economy is unknown. The Central Bank is in uncharted water. That makes it a particularly bad time to buy a home. Caveat emptor.
When we say that fundamentals are weak, it means that the factors that typically drive the market are not strong enough to boost sales or push up prices. In a normal market, “first-time homebuyers” and “move up” buyers would represent the vast majority of sales. In today’s market, these two “demand cohorts” are actually quite weak, which is to say that current prices are not sustainable. Consider this: According to Lender Processing Services (LPS) Mortgage Monitor for April, there are “4,699,000, or 9.76% of home loans delinquent or in foreclosure as of April 30th”…” (“Mortgage Delinquencies Down….But a Record 843 Days to Foreclose“, Naked Capitalism)
So, nearly 5 million homes are either seriously delinquent or in some stage of foreclosure. This unseen backlog of distressed homes makes up the so called “shadow inventory” which is still big enough to send prices plunging if even a small portion was released onto the market. In other words, supply vastly exceeds demand in real terms. Now check this out from Zillow:
“13 million homeowners with a mortgage remain underwater. Moreover, the effective negative equity rate nationally —where the loan-to-value ratio is more than 80%, making it difficult for a homeowner to afford the down payment on another home — is 43.6% of homeowners with a mortgage.” (Zillow)
This might sound a bit confusing, but it’s crucial to understanding what’s really going on. While many people know that 13 million homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, they probably don’t know that nearly half (43.6%) of the potential “move up” buyers (who represent the bulk of organic sales) don’t have enough equity in their homes to buy another house. Think about that. Like we said, housing sales depend almost entirely on two groups of buyers; firsttime homebuyers and move up buyers. Unfortunately, the number of potential move up buyers has been effectively cut in half. It’s simply impossible for prices to keep rising with so many move up buyers on the ropes.
So, if “repeat” buyers cannot support current prices, then what about the other “demand cohort”, that is, firsttime home buyers?
It looks like demand is weak there, too. According to housing analyst Mark Hanson: “First-timer home volume hit a fresh 4-year lows last month and distressed sales 6-year lows”.
So, no help there either. Firsttime homebuyers are vanishing due to a number of factors, the biggest of which is the $1 trillion in student loans which is preventing debt-hobbled young people from filling the ranks of the firsttime homebuyers. Given the onerous nature of these loans, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, many of these people will never own a home which, of course, means that demand will continue to weaken, sales will drop and prices will fall.
The banks have countered this weakness in demand by withholding distressed inventory. According to Realty Trac, foreclosures are down 33 percent in May year-over-year. There’s no reason for this reduction in foreclosures because there are nearly 5 million homes that are either seriously delinquent or in some stage of foreclosure. The banks are simply manipulating distressed supply to push up prices and avoid losses. To better understand what the banks are up to, check out this article on Marketwatch666:
“As of April, the average seriously delinquent homeowner has not paid on their mortgage for 503 days, and that the typical home in foreclosure has been delinquent for 843 days; in general, those who are seriously delinquent (more than 90 days past due) are not being foreclosed on, and those who are in the foreclosure process are not having their homes seized. Since this metric seems to be increasing an average of ten days a month, and new foreclosure starts are being added each month which should be bringing the average days down, we can only conclude that the foreclosure process is damn near frozen.” (“Mortgage Delinquencies Down….But a Record 843 Days to Foreclose“, Naked Capitalism)
“843 days”! That’s a new record, which means that the banks are actually dragging the process out longer today then ever before. This has had profound effect on prices which have soared by more than 10 percent in the last 12 months creating the illusion of a sustainable recovery. Keep in mind, that the banks have little choice in the matter. They are still sitting on more-than one trillion dollars worth of non performing loans leftover from the recession. If they simply dumped their backlog of distressed homes onto the market all at once, the deluge would push prices below their 2009-lows leaving bank balance sheets in tatters. That’s the scenario they want to avoid at all costs. Now get a load of this article in last week’s Reuters:
“Well over a million U.S. homeowners are months behind on payments on government-backed mortgages, raising the risk federal housing agencies will end up facing the cost of managing a fresh flood of foreclosed homes, two government watchdogs said on Thursday.
Some 1.7 million borrowers have missed several payments on mortgages backed by the U.S. government, the inspectors general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a joint report.
These loan delinquencies represent a “shadow inventory” of homes that could hit the market if foreclosed on, which would need be managed by government-run Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) or Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB), or some other federal housing agency.” (“Shadow’ homes could burden U.S. housing agencies”, Reuters)
Actually, the numbers are much larger that Reuters indicates, but it’s good to see someone in the MSM finally acknowledging the magnitude of the problem.
It would be interesting to know how many of these 1.7 million non-performing loans were shunted off to Fannie and Freddie in 2009 and 2010 by cagey banksters who knew that they were essentially worthless. We’ll probably never know for sure. The fact is, the vast majority of toxic mortgages weren’t created by the GSE’s but by crooked bankers who pooled the dreck into private label securities and sold them to gullible investors around the world. Now, much of that securitized sewage is festering on the Fed’s bloated balance sheet. The Fed has replaced the shadow banking system as the place where bad loans go to die. Here’s more from Reuters:
“Once seized, these so-called real estate owned properties, or REOs, present significant financial challenges to these government agencies, the report said.
“Not only are current REO inventory levels elevated … they may rise over the next several years depending on the number of shadow inventory properties that are ultimately foreclosed on,” the report stated….
The report said the shadow inventory, which is made up of loans that have been delinquent for at least 90 days, is more than seven times the inventory of REOs that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD currently own.” (Reuters)
So, the number of seriously delinquent mortgages IS MORE THAN SEVEN TIMES the inventory of REOs that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD currently own?!? What the hell kind of shell-game are these guys playing? Do you get the impression, dear reader, that the government is pulling the wool over your eyes? 7X is a bit more than a rounding error, I’d say.
Okay, so the government has been fudging the numbers to make things look better than they really are. (What a surprise) But why would the GSE’s try to hide what’s going on, after all, Fannie and Freddie have implicit government guarantees, so they don’t really have to worry about falling prices. And, as far as the red ink, well, Uncle Sugar will take care of that, right?
Not exactly. It looks to me like Fannie and Freddie are tailoring their policies to meet the needs of the banks. As Reuters reluctantly admits, “Even a fraction of the shadow inventory falling into foreclosure could considerably swell … inventories of REO properties.”
It’s simple, really; more foreclosures mean lower prices. Lower prices, in turn, mean heavier losses for the banks. That’s why Fannie and Freddie are playing hide-n-seek; it’s another giveaway to the banks.
Reuters again: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned about 158,000 REO properties at the end of September 2012, while HUD had about 37,000.” (Reuters)
Huh? The author has already admitted that the real number is at least 7 times that amount (“Well over a million.”), so why the sudden reversal? Is he trying to downplay the bad news to slip it past his editor?
Many of the experts still anticipate between 3 to 6 million foreclosures in the next few years, so it is doubtful that the current strategy will work. Eventually, the floodgates will open, distressed supply will be released, and prices will drop.
And distressed inventory is just one of many headwinds facing the housing industry today. There’s also this: “Rising Prices Lead to Fewer Investor Purchases, Longer Holding Times“, DS News:
“Close to half—48 percent—of the investors surveyed in May said they will purchase fewer properties in the next 12 months than they did in the past year.” (DS News)
And this from CNN Money:
“Say goodbye to ultra-low mortgage rates.
In the past month, rates have been on the rise and they are expected to continue to climb. This week, the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped another 10 percentage points to 4.07% and are up from 3.3% in early May, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
“It’s unlikely that rates will ever be that low again,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “Those who didn’t take advantage of record-low rates have missed the boat — at least for now.” (“Why 3% Mortgage Rates Are a Thing of the Past”, CNN Money)
Application Volume Stumbles, Sales to Suffer, OC Housing News
“Mortgage application data for May lends credence to analysts’ predictions of a slowdown in the year’s second half, Capital Economics says in its latest US Housing Data Response. According to Capital Economics’ data—compiled from statistics offered by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)—total mortgage application volume fell 2.0 percent from April to May, the first monthly drop since February and the biggest decline since January.” (“Application Volume Stumbles, Sales to Suffer“, OC Housing News)
And, finally, this from BusinessWeek:
“Hedge fund manager Bruce Rose was among the first investors to coax institutional money into the mom and pop business of single-family home rentals, raising $450 million last year from Oaktree Capital Group LLC.
Now, with house prices climbing at the fastest pace in seven years and investors swamping the rental market, Rose says it no longer makes sense to be a buyer.
“We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest….There’s a lot of — bluntly — stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.” (“Carrington Stops Buying U.S. Rentals as Blackstone Adding“, BusinessWeek)
I could go on, but why bother? You get the point. The fact is, is that this is a uniquely bad time to buy a house. There’s too much uncertainty about rates, inventory, demand and investors. The risks far outweigh the rewards. Anxious buyers should hold-their-horses and wait for the market to normalize instead of chaining themselves to sinking asset that will cost them a bundle. Remember, patience is a virtue. It can also save you a lot of dough.
Until a few weeks ago, political leaders in the United States and Western Europe had claimed with monotonous regularity that the government of Syria was on the verge of collapse. “Assad’s rule is coming to an end. It is inevitable,” Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told a Senate committee in November 2011. “Assad’s going to be gone; it’s just a question of time,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in November 2012. “I think the regime in Damascus is approaching collapse … it is only a question of time,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last December. Only three months ago President Barack Obama averred that he was confident the Assad regime in Syria would fall. “It’s not a question of if, it’s when,” he said in Amman, Jordan, on March 22. Similar predictions from mainstream punditry are too numerous to quote.
All this was in stark contrast with our assessments from two years ago (“On current form it is an even bet that [Bashar] will survive, which is preferable to any likely alternative,” I wrote in the May 2011 issue of Chronicles), and from February 2012 (“The regime of Bashar al-Assad is… not in any immediate danger of collapsing; if there is no foreign intervention it may survive”). It was reiterated most recently in March of this year, two weeks before Obama’s statement in Amman (“The rebels are unable to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, foreign political support and military supplies notwithstanding”).
I was right and Obama, Clinton et al were wrong. The proponents and opponents of Western intervention now agree that the tide has turned. Sen. John McCain, a hawk par excellence, declared that “Bashar al-Assad is winning” while visiting rebel-held territory last month to urge U.S.-led intervention. The fact that Bashar iswinning has prompted other, more levelheaded commentators to insist that we should stay out of Syria. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) warns that our record of arming “rebels” has resulted in a disaster in Libya and elsewhere. Writing in the National Review, Andrew McCarthy (former Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman) ridiculed McCain’s call for yet another war. While rubbing elbows with Syria’s motley jihadists last month, McCarthy wrote, the increasingly senile Arizona Senator said that they “are just trying to achieve the same thing that we have shed American blood and treasure for well over 200 years”:
Yeah, just like in Benghazi. And in Egypt, where a pogrom against Christians is underway, and the Muslim Brotherhood government McCain joins Obama in supporting has just installed a sharia constitution. And in Iraq, where Sunnis and Shiites are back to slaughtering each other under the sharia constitution our State Department helped them write. And in Afghanistan, where, under a similar American-sponsored sharia constitution, the Taliban bides its time while the U.S.-backed Islamist forces turn their guns on their American trainers. And in Turkey, where an Islamic-supremacist regime jails its political opponents, supports terrorist organizations, undermines sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, and gradually suffocates what was once a pro-Western democracy.
“Liberty is not spread by fueling sharia supremacists,” McCarthy concluded – and he used to be a proponent of military intervention, once. The Financial Times also used to favor intervention, but now its columnists admitthat “the fact that Mr. Obama is refusing to respond to calls for ‘tough action’ in Syria is not a sign that he is a weak leader,” it is a sign of his prudence. Writing in the Boston Globe, America’s leading foreign policy realist Andrew Bacevich warned that, on Syria, the U.S. Government “is manifestly clueless and powerless.”
The Syrian rebels are far from powerless, but they are utterly out of their depth. Their most recent announcement that they will not attend the proposed Geneva conference on the crisis unless their fighters receive new supplies of arms and ammunition is a sign of despair. They will not get anti-aircraft weapons they crave because no Western power will deliver such weapons to the bearded human flesh-eaters, the rhetoric in Washington, London and Paris notwithstanding. Their real message is that the fall of Qusayr has changed the equation so radically that the rebels do not want to attend any conference at a time of evident and increasing battlefield weakness. That weakness will be even more evident when Aleppo is cleared of rebel forces, which I predict will happen in the next two to three weeks.
Foreign intervention is bad in principle if no vital American security and economic interests are at stake. In Syria this is manifestly not the case. Foreign intervention is bad in particular if its likely outcome is worse than the status quo. In Syria it is clear that the only likely alternative to Bashar is a nosedive into terrorist jihadist mayhem. That is infinitely worse from the vantage point of U.S. interests, geopolitically as well as morally, than what we have now in Damascus. Bashar is certainly no John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, but he is the least bad option.
“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
In “Against the Heathen,” early Church Father Athanasius reveals that pride and haughtiness preceded man’s fall into idolatry and paganism. A haughty spirit led them to make light of higher things, and deliberately disregarding what they knew to be true they began to seek in preference things in the lower or natural dimension. Thus they fell into worship of self, sexual pleasures and acquisition of status and things to the living God and higher things.
The truth as to evil said Athanasius,
“….is that it originates, and resides, in the perverted choice of the darkened soul” which, “materialized by forgetting God” and engrossed in lower things, “makes them into gods,” and thereby “descends into a hopeless depth of delusion and superstition,” whereby ”they ceased to think that anything existed beyond what is seen, or that anything was good save things temporal and bodily; so turning away and forgetting that she was in the image of the good God, she no longer… sees God the Word after whose likeness she is made; but having departed from herself, imagines and feigns what is not (and then) advancing further in evil, they came to celebrate as gods the elements and the principles of which bodies are composed….” (Against the Heathen, New Advent)
Having descended into delusion and superstition they imagined they had no free will and further that “all that exists” is the natural dimension— a divine One Substance, watery abyss, chaos, or void, primordial matter, animated natural powers, forces, and deterministic laws, all of which they celebrated and attributed miraculous powers to. So for example, with the Egyptians’ self-created Sun-God Ra, the divine abyss or One Substance out of which he evolved is Nu–primordial matter:
“I came into being from primordial matter…I made all the forms under which I appeared by means of (or out of) the god-soul which I raised up out of Nu (i.e., the primeval abyss of water.) (The Long War Against God, Dr. Henry Morris, p. 243)
This is naturalism, or materialism, which is the belief that there is neither living God nor heavenly realm. There is only the natural dimension, thus evolutionary materialist Dr. Scott Todd wrote in the science journal ‘Nature:’
“Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” (Naturalism in the Light of Reality, Robert Gurney, creation.com, June 14, 2012)
Materialism is of the worldview of monism which is held in common by pantheism and spiritualism and dates back to pagan antiquity and was or is taught by all non-biblical thought systems.
Greek Stoics and Epicureans, for example, were materialistic monists and these two schools of natural science and evolution held the ancient world of thought in allegiance well into the Roman Empire. Epicureanism reigns supreme in our own age through modern evolutionary materialism, which is merely revamped and revised Epicureanism.
The pagan philosopher Epicurus (342-270 B.C.) believed in an infinite number of worlds, or parallel universes in the words of contemporary ‘new’ pagan materialists. Like his modern counterparts, Epicurus taught that there was no god or gods, first principles, moral law, souls and afterlife as all things on earth had evolved from the earth material.
Epicurus preferred lower things to higher things, as do his contemporary followers, thus he taught that “all that exists” is an eternally existing void and animated matter. This made human beings, their intelligence and volition, an evolved accident of chance. Reason is left, but reason is active only because sensations (i.e., firing of neurons, chemical interactions) stimulate it.
In modern “scientific” terms, the idea that brute matter spontaneously generated itself from nothing (void) in much the same way as Ra spontaneously generated himself from Nu is called abiogenesis. On the basis of this ancient mythological superstition, new-pagan evolutionary materialists assert that the living supernatural God, souls, spirits, angels, demons, heaven, hell and metaphysics do not exist.
As for ‘modern’ evolutionary theory, anthropologist Henry Fairfield Osborn, longtime director of the American Museum of Natural History reveals that Darwin is not its’ originator but rather ancient pagans are. In the introduction to his history of evolutionism Osborn wrote:
“When I began the search for anticipations of the evolutionary theory….I was led back to the Greek natural philosophers and I was astonished to find how many of the pronounced and basic features of the Darwinian theory were anticipated even as far back as the seventh century B.C.” (Osborn, From the Greeks to Darwin, p. xi)
Abiogenesis is such an obvious embarrassment that today some naturalists such as SETI researcher Paul Davies and Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, have abandoned it in favor of panspermia.
Panspermia is the idea that life on earth was accidentally seeded by meteorites containing the essential building blocks of life or perhaps by highly evolved extraterrestrials who for billions of years have been guiding the evolution of man. The extraterrestrial idea was favored by Arthur C. Clarke in his book, “Childhood’s End” and a variation on this theme has recently been advanced by Davies, Crick, and Ralph Pudritz of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Davies has written seriously about the possibility of “alien bioengineering” that could be detected in the DNA of life on earth and suggests that citizen scientists and school students be enlisted to help search for evidence. (An Alien Code Close to Home: Seeking ET Beyond the Radio Silence, Astrobiology Magazine, Jeremy Hsu, 10/27/2011)
Pudritz theorizes that humans and aliens may share the same DNA which itself could be part of a universal structure “of the first genetic codes anywhere….” (Why Aliens Might Look Like You, Eddie Wren, dailymail.co.uk/ June 11, 2012)
Crick proposes a theory called “directed panspermia,” the idea that,
“…life on earth may have begun when aliens from another planet sent a rocket ship containing spores to seed the earth.”
He admits however that his theory only pushes the unresolvable problem of the origin of life out into deep space:
“This scenario still leaves open the question of who designed the designer [aliens] — how did life originally originate?” (Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, 1981)
The Myth of Extraterrestrials
In his book, “Scientific Mythologies,” James A. Herrick traces the ‘aliens from outer-space’ idea back to certain Renaissance astrologers, occultists, and mystics such as Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who claimed to not only receive telepathic secrets from spirits but to have visited populated planets during out-of-body experiences.
Swedenborg’s influence is far-reaching. From Kant to the occult theosophist Madame Blavatsky and points in between and on into our own time to psychologist J.B. Rhine, a vast array of science fiction writers (i.e., Clarke, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Steven Spielberg) and numerous evolutionary scientists.
Over time, Swedenborg’s astral plane ‘space travels’ gave birth to what Herrick dubs “The Myth of the Extraterrestrial.” As far back as the seventeenth century science fiction writers were imagining “the intelligent extraterrestrial visitor” and preparing the public to accept their existence. And accept them they have, for the twentieth century has witnessed a veritable population explosion in the alien domain, said Herrick. (p. 43)
In general, science fiction, like new-pagan evolutionary materialism, is neither particularly scientific nor futuristic. It is rather a regression to the mystical pagan origins of modern science that reappeared in the heart of Christendom during the Renaissance. In “The Abolition of Man” (1974) C.S. Lewis points out that the Renaissance reawakened a magical view of the world closely connected with pagan Gnostic sectarianism, Hermetic magic, astrology, Eastern pantheism and alchemical scientism . Accompanying all of this was evolution, occultism, Epicureanism, reincarnation and karma.
Evolution is both the antithesis of creation ex nihilo and the primary doctrine of both Eastern pantheism and Western scientific materialism, and so early on Lewis understood that both movements were merely two sides of the same pagan revival. Thus he argued that pantheism and materialism are not enemies in principle but rather cooperating philosophies united against the supernatural Creator, His Revelation, creation ex nihilo, all higher things, the linear view of history and Christian-based civilization.
What this means is that naturalism, abiogenesis, chance, natural selection, multiple universe and panspermia theories are but six contemporary adaptations of ancient pagan “idolatry, magic, occult mysticism and mythology.” These six are of a whole host of fallacies derived from modern evolutionary thinking that have permeated the post-Christian West and American society giving birth to a “new” pagan religion of evolutionary science.
Fall of Western Civilization
Christendom and Protestant America arose on the wings of the Genesis account of creation ex nihilo, the Biblical view of man’s sinful condition and God’s Moral Law. Their subsequent fall was traced by Richard Weaver in his book, “Ideas Have Consequences,” (1945). In many ways Weaver’s analysis parallels Athanasius’ account of the fall of man.
Weaver writes that 14th century Western man had made an “evil decision” to abandon his belief in the transcendent God and universals and thus the position that “there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man…” The consequences of the rejection of “higher things” were catastrophic:
“The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably…the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of ‘man is the measure of all things.” (The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, George H. Nash, pp. 32-33)
“Now the soul of mankind, not satisfied with the devising of evil, began by degrees to venture upon what is worse still.” Athanasius
Fueled by a corrupted motive of dominating and bull-dozing the real world so as to coerce other wills, Western apostates conceptually murdered the living God, sealed off the supernatural dimension and elevated Nature to the supreme reality. The doctrine of original sin was abandoned and replaced by the “goodness of man.” With only the material realm of the senses held to be real, supernatural Christianity declined, the omniscient mind of human-gods arose, and pagan materialistic science became the most prestigious way to study man. With knowledge limited to the sensory realm, man’s spiritual attributes—-soul, mind, conscience and volition—were soon lost in an endless cycle of reductionism and determinism. Man, created in the spiritual likeness of his supernatural Creator was lost. In his place stood the soulless human ape, an accidental emergent product of evolution and “earth material.”
Fall of Western Man
From the Renaissance to our own time, a stunning spiritual transformation of consciousness has shifted Western and American thinking away from the supernatural God and biblical religion and toward the lower thing, the new pagan religion of evolution. In his book, “The Making of the New Spirituality: The Eclipse of the Western Tradition,” James Herrick calls it the “New Religious Synthesis” and briefly outlines seven of its components:
1. History (as well as unchanging truth and moral absolutes) has no spiritual significance. This is because the idea of continuous evolutionary change makes them absurd.
2. The supremacy of omniscient reason, mystical mind-powers, intuition, and collective consciousness.
3. The spiritualization of science. Since the empirical study of the material universe employs reason to acquire knowledge, and reason is not physical but rather spiritual, today it is acknowledged that reason is in fact acquiring spiritual knowledge.
4. Animated nature (animism). The natural dimension is alive with energies, divine spirit, Zoe, god-soul, and consciousness.
5. Gnosis, or esoteric knowledge, the provenance of spiritual elites and extraordinarily gifted individuals, including some scientists.
6. Spiritual evolution. Through control and direction of their own spiritual evolution certain naturally selected humans are destined to realize unimaginable spiritual advances. Spiritual or conscious evolution leap frogs off of Darwin’s’ biological theory and will supposedly lead to actual human divinity.
7. Religious syncretism rooted in common mystical experiences and telepathic revelations from disembodied intelligences. (Herrick, pp. 33-35)
“But in his estate shall (Antichrist) honour the God of forces.” Dan. 11:38
Under the New Religious Synthesis, the animated god-force called evolution is the principle miracle-producing power of the cosmos. Whether by way of abiogenesis or by accidental or directed panspermia, human beings are evolution’s conscious products and can now achieve ever-higher levels of consciousness by directing their own evolution.
In the book, “The Aquarian Conspiracy,” Marilyn Ferguson pointed out that the efficient direction of evolution requires “a mechanism for biological change more powerful than chance mutation” which will open “the possibility of rapid evolution in our time.” (p. 148)
Some evolutionists now claim that this powerful mechanism is presently available to man from aliens who will solve mankind’s problems and conduct man to a new “cosmic” age. Aliens are busily transforming the consciousness of abductees and other Westerners and through them teaching evolution, naturalism and occult New Age philosophy as well as warning of a coming planetary apocalypse and denying the living God, the supernatural dimension and Christian theism.
All of this has led French physicist and UFO researcher Dr. Jacques Vallee to conclude that something is happening to human consciousness that is causing a major shift in man’s belief systems and his relationship to the concept of the invisible. Vallee believes that the same “powerful force’ that influenced the human race in the past is influencing it again:
“…..human belief…is being controlled and conditioned, man’s concepts are being rearranged, and we may be headed toward a massive change of human attitudes toward paranormal abilities and extraterrestrial life.” (Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, Fr. Seraphim Rose, p. 109)
In light of this, Vallee proposes the hypothesis that there is a control system,
“… for human consciousness…I am suggesting that what takes place through close encounters with UFOs is control of human beliefs, control of the relationship between our consciousness and physical reality, and that this control has been in force throughout history….” (Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, Gary Bates, p. 158)
Frank Baumer concurs and observes that evolution has,
“….persuaded people to think of everything in nature as the fruit of a gradual growth rather than an original creation.” The sweeping acceptance of evolutionary thinking means that it is “now difficult if not impossible for an educated man to conceive of a primitive revelation such as traditional Christianity taught, or even of an original natural religion from which men had declined.” This difficulty arises because “in an evolving world, perfection obviously lay, not in the past, but in the future.”(Religion and Rise of Skepticism, p. 147)
In occult terminology, transformation of consciousness is egregore, a concept representing a “thought form” (i.e., Richard Dawkins’ memes) or “collective group mind,” resulting from a psychic entity influencing the thoughts of a group of people. However, egregore derives from the Greek word for “watchers,” leading the French occult magician Eliphas Levi (1810-1875) to identify egregore with the fallen angel ‘fathers’ of the nephilim. In Christian language, transformation of consciousness means “demonic outpouring.’ Vallee’s “powerful force” is a new demonic outpouring being loosed upon mankind.
So complete has the transformation been that the God of forces has successfully inverted the order of creation and reversed the direction of Biblical theism. With creation ex nihilo virtually replaced by evolution, it is now believed that men have not fallen from perfection but instead are gradually evolving upward from their ape beginnings toward greater and greater spiritual perfection. Self-perfecting man no longer needs the living, supernatural God as the idea of “conscious evolution” means he can save himself, and perhaps even attain god-hood.
“The gradual abasement of the Soul from Truth to Falsehood (is) by the abuse of her freedom of Choice.” Athanasius
Two brilliant visionaries foresaw the stunning events we are witnessing today—the wholesale rejection of Truth tied to the fall of Westerners into idolatry and paganism influenced and directed by a demonic outpouring effecting a transformation of consciousness in tandem with the rise of the New Religious Synthesis. Each man in his own way predicted these events would usher in the end of the world and the appearance of the Antichrist. The two visionaries, Vladimir Soloviev (1850-1900), a brilliant Russian philosopher and theologian, and Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914), an English Catholic priest, recorded their predictions in gripping novels—Soloviev in the “A Short Tale of the Antichrist” and Benson in “Lord of the World.”
Benson saw through the scientific pretenses of new-pagan materialism and its’ primary doctrine, evolutionary theory, leading him to describe it and its’ ideological movement Communism as “quiet pantheism.”
Benson predicted that evolutionary thinking would prepare Westerners and Americans not only to embrace the ‘new’ pagan religion but to worship and adore Antichrist, for this human-god (Mr. Felsenburgh) is the first perfected product of nature and evolutionary forces. Mr. Felsenburgh has arisen in America and he is,
“….the first perfect product of that new cosmopolitan creation to which the world has labored throughout its history…” (p 85)
He transfixes men, and they excitedly declare they have seen,
“…the Son of Man,’ the ‘Savior of the world,’ we knew Him in our hearts as soon as we saw Him, as soon as He stood there. It was like a glory around his head (and now we) understand it all… It was He for whom we have waited so long; and He has come, bringing Peace and Goodwill in His hands.” (pp. 85, 89)
Christianity failed, it divided people. But now Jehovah is gone. He never existed at all except as a hideous nightmare. Now at long last man’s natural Savior has arisen:
”The reign of God has really begun (and) we are all partakers of God” because God is in everything, including all men….”Jehovah has fallen. He is in His grave.” In His place is the evolved Son of Man, a god indeed and a man as well…”a god because human and a man because so divine.” (ibid, pp. 93, 95)
Soloviev’s predictions regarding events in our age are astonishing in their prescience, primarily because they not only offer an amazingly accurate glimpse into the mind of the super-man who will become the Antichrist but they also illustrate the real obstacle to salvation, the refusal by proud, willful men to recognize and admit to their sinful condition.
Prior to his transformation, Soloviev describes the proud super- man as outwardly just, but within he is full of pride and is morally reprehensible:
“…. He believes in God but loves nobody but himself. His relationship with Christ was quickly defined as one of superiority (for he will never) bow before Him like the most stupid of Christians (nor) mutter senselessly….’Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’….’I, the bright genius, the superman! No, never!” (The Wrath of God: The Days of Antichrist, Livio Fanzaga, pp. 39-40)
As the super-mans’ spiritual fall progresses, instead of the former cold rational respect for the living God and Christ:
“…..there was born and grew in his heart, first, a kind of terror, and then a burning, choking and corroding envy and furious breath-taking hatred.” Devoured with envy of Jesus Christ he cries out “He rotted in the tomb, rotted like the lowest…” (ibid, pp. 40-41)
This is the moment the Evil One has been waiting for. He openly approaches the proud super-man and possesses him:
“He saw those piercing eyes and heard…a strange voice, toneless…stifled, and yet clear, metallic and absolutely soulless as though coming from a phonograph.” Satan pours out his spirit, saying, “I ask nothing of you, and I will help you for your own sake…Receive my spirit…it gives birth to you in power. At these words…the superman’s lips opened of themselves, two piercing eyes came quite close to his face, and he felt a sharp, frozen stream enter into him and fill his whole being. And at the same time he was conscious of a wonderful strength, energy, lightness and rapture.” (p. 43)
Soloviev masterfully portrays a striking contrast between the apostles of Christ and the Antichrist. The former receive the power of the living God and are full of wisdom, truth, and courage while the latter receives the power of the devil and is full of nihilistic pride, lies, burning envy, murderous hate, blasphemy, cursing, resentment, deception, covetousness, and perversion.
The Antichrist, as described by Soloviev, suffers the same massively inflated pride and envy that transformed Lucifer into the devil. This same pride and envy animated the pantheist sorcerer Hegel, the neo-pagan Masonic Illuminati who planned and instigated the bloody French Revolution, as well as Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, the West’s “God is dead” theologians, America’s Ruling Class, and many contemporary New World Order globalists.
The “New” Pagan Religion of Darkened Souls
“….human history can now be hesitantly traced back as an unbroken narrative to 4000 B.C. The facts must not, however, be twisted to suit the fallacy of necessary human progress. For the picture emerging….is one of the Fall of Man in historic terms as well as his rise; it is a picture …more of degradation than of success; it is a picture of monotheism breaking down into polytheism and of the struggle to return to monotheism. The establishment view of the history of religion gradually progressing from animism to polytheism, from polytheism to monotheism is the reverse of facts.” (The God-Kings and the Titans: The New World Ascendancy in Ancient Times, James Baily, 1973, p. 296)
Evolution is a religion, said Michael Ruse. From the beginning it was a religion and this is true of evolution today. (Michael Ruse, former professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph, Canada, “How evolution became a religion: creationists correct?” National Post, pp. B1, B3, B7, May 13, 2000)
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. From the beginning this was true, and in these last days it is still true. Pride, haughtiness and envy are the common bonds linking Satan, the Antichrist, idolatry, paganism, the Religion of Evolution and all who have been and are being spiritually transformed by it. Thus when the Antichrist arrives, perhaps as a highly evolved extraterrestrial or as the Transcended Master Maitreya, all darkened souls will perversely celebrate him as the highly evolved god and man they foolishly believe they too will become.
Can Washington and Her Allies Stop Syria’s Reconciliation Efforts?
Damascus – This observer lost count more than a year ago of the sheer number of predictions by analysts and lobbyists that the “tipping point” signaling the Assad government’s collapse was a sure thing and would happen any time now. “It’s just a matter of days, not weeks” President Obama declared back in 2011.
Based on personal observations and interviews with a fair number of informed people who actually live in Syria, as opposed to the Zionist “think” tank-arm chair “expert” variety, this observer concedes that prognosticators are finally right.
In point of fact, I have concluded over the past few months that the long elusive “tipping point” in Syria has indeed been reached and the momentum has shifted decisively in this embattled.
But not the tipping point that the rebel promoters were hoping for, including the NATO countries.
But rather the momentum here has tipped in favor of the current regime due to its capacity to maintain a slowly rising level of popular support, and good relations with key foreign supporters during the current run up to next year’s Presidential election. Then, it will be up to the Syrian voters to decide who stays, goes, and/or joins in their next government.
I base my tentative conclusions, on among others, the following factors.
The Syrian population here is so tired, so exhausted and beaten down– the killing has gone on for so long, and the Syrian people, like Iranians and others I have observed, appear to exhibit a ( distinctly noticeable by this foreigner), profound and almost moral and religious bond with their countrymen and they personally feel acutely their country’s suffering. Such that people on the streets are very shocked and incredulous at what is going on and many in fact feel less strongly about either side in the conflict and just want the slaughter to end and for life to return to ‘normal’ even without deep revolutionary-across the board-changes for now.
Two days ago mortars hit the campus of Damascus University. By the grace of God there were no casualties-this time. But students report that on average about six mortars or explosive devices hit Damascus every week. While unreported in the media, the attack on Damascus University where the student body has pretty much stayed on the sidelines during the current crisis, is an example of the nerve shattering recognition here that rebels can more or less fire mortars or rockets at will into Damascus, from miles away. And these terrorist attacks are very difficult to stop and constitute an ever present danger for Damascenes. The relatively frequently used small US M252 81mm mortar that can be carried in a deep pocket or under a shirt when strapped, has a bit more than a one mile range (5700 meters). Larger ones can travel several miles when set at between 45 and 85 degrees to the ground according to military sources.
Also, according to students, about five days ago the Tishreen War Panorama Museum was hit with four or five rebel projectiles. The military museum was built to celebrate the October 1973 Yom Kippur War (“Tishreen” means “October” in Arabic), and this main tourist attraction is only two miles northeast of the Old City in Damascus.
One also experiences here an attitude that the Assad government is showing signs of learning some serious lessons about the direction that Syria must move in. While number estimates are difficult, increasing number of Syrians appears to believe that the current regime is the best solution- at least for now. For now, meaning, until next year’s election.
One also notices in Syria these days that people appear (maybe influenced a bit by the recent spring weather) somewhat more optimistic that things are getting “better”– warmer weather means less need for mazot (heating oil), people are car-pooling more to decrease dependence on limited benzene, some flour, which is not being produced here due to rebel burning fields, theft from supply warehouses and Turkish condoned destruction of a majority of manufacturing enterprises in Aleppo, that is still often difficult to find in appearing to a degree from bordering countries. . Plus many of the shortages–partly caused by the US-led sanctions- are for now somehow less severe due to the ingenuity of the Syrian people and Government in ameliorating the harsh conditions somewhat and are increasingly getting around the civilian targeting sanctions by employing some shrewd countermeasures.
This observer, along with others, has been critical of the Lebanese government for not doing more for the Syrian and Palestinian refugees forced into their country by the current crisis. While still a serious problem, there has finally developed a life-line of sorts operating from Lebanon into Syria. More consumer goods now move officially from the Masnaa Syrian-Lebanese border crossing where vehicles are checked, and much more food stuffs and essential goods arrive into Syria via many other routes between the two countries which ever since the French created Lebanon back in 1943 have been used for smuggling.
From before Choura to Majdal and Anjar, one comes across lines of massive fuel tankers as well as trucks loaded with Bekaa valley root vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, squash, radishes, wheat, barley, lentil, beets, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower and beans of different varieties.
According to my driver, government’s regulations require that these life support large vehicles line up until 4 p.m. so as not to jam the narrow, windy, pot holed and frankly dangerous cliff hanging roads.
Even this observers favorite driver Ahmad, has become involved. No longer does he transport up to five passengers. Only me who rides“shotgun.” This is because he fills the trunk of his taxi and the back seat with about a dozen kilo tanks of pressured cooking gas. Ahmad pays $16 per filled tank in Lebanon and sells them in Syria for $50 each. I am not sure why he needs me to ride with him and why he give me a great price,but having an American board seems to help in some way with some of the checkpoints. Maybe the novelty distracts the soldiers somehow from his dangerous cargo and they decide to cut the driver some slack.
For about a decade, starting at about age seven, this observer would almost never miss a Saturday matinee at the Victory theater in Milwaukie, Oregon, I have known since that time that riding “shotgun” whether on a stage coach or covered wagon was not the best seat because you might catch an arrow from “wild Resistance Indians on the warpath” (for some reason) or a bullet from road bandits.
Things have not changed so much. Modernly, riding “shotgun” from Beirut to Damascus with a dozen tanks of pressured gas jammed into ones car invites instant immolation from a snipers bullet fired from some hill overlooking the main highway. Trying to make a joke, my driver reminds me from time to time that the US M24 specially adapted Remington 700 Sniper Weapon, some of which are in the hands of rebels around here, has a supposed range of more than two miles and one bullet into one tank and it’s all over fast for the both of us.
More seriously, regular views are expressed in Syria about the support levels for the current regime vs. support for the rebels. Admittedly based on nothing very scientific, this observer tends to agree with what he has been hearing from a cross section of the local population that the regime has the fairly strong backing of around 30% of the population. Less than half of that for the rebels. Syrian minorities, including Christians, Shi’a and Alawites , among others, seem to cast with the regime. For reasons that include that they are afraid of the wahabist/salafist/jihadist types and the breaking up of their country.
One teenager who I asked why she supports the current regime explained that the Assad regime is doing their best and despite the rising prices that her parents chronically complain about she is grateful on one thing the government has done. Waiting for me to ask what, she explained: “And that is that despite all the rising prices the government has not allowed the cost of telephone service to increase so I can chat with my friends just like before!” The kid has a point because during this crisis and all the rumors ricocheting around people are staying to contact with loved ones more than ever it seems.
A bit more than 50% do not seem to express firm support for either side and just want the killing to stop and for some sort of ‘normalcy’ to return. While at the same time expressing an opinion something like, “how did our country into this mess. Let the foreigners go home and we can deal with our problems ourselves.”
Tragically this plea does not appear to be acted on anytime soon from Washington DC, Paris, London or Brussels, given the new pledges this week of “non-lethal” aid to the rebels factions.
If ever there was such an intense series of expressed meaning and logic destroying non-sequiturs as the past few days it is hard to remember when. Faced with the tipping point moving away from the foreign forces and toward the Syrian government and majority population, the “Friends of Syria” has stretched beyond recognition the meaning of ordinary phrases like “defensive APC’s and electronic devices of several sorts,” a variety of non-lethal aid” “a number of advanced devices to help pinpoint the locations of the Syrian Arab Army troops”, and “weapons to protect the civilian population,” as well as “humanitarian sanctions” that exempt “food and medicines.” In fact all of the new Friends of Syria “breakthrough assistance” target Syria’s civilian population and all are lethal given the uses to which they are put.
History instructs us that as a result of American wars, from Vietnam to the Middle East-that it is the civilian population who will pay the price of the Obama administration’s just announced “humanitarian assistance” to selected civilians in Syria. This history is well known here in Syria who understand well US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s strange paradox this week wherein he expressed Washington’s desire to find means to speed up the political process which aims at ending the crisis in Syria, and at the same time its desire to back the armed wahabist/salafist/jihadist groups in the country.
This week’s US and European decisions to back Syria’s rebels with direct aid will only lead to more bloodshed and encourage “terrorism” in the war-torn country, according to two Sheiks from Syria’s largest tribe who held court recently during tea in the lobby of the Dama Rose Hotel here.
What Washington fears, according to a source at the same interlocutor from the Russian embassy who spoke with this observer for nearly two hours, is the confirmation that the Syrian opposition is ready to immediately enter into negotiations with the Syrian government without preconditions and that President Assad’s departure or even his future status will not be part of the process.
The Russians believe that the rebels are finally coming around to a more realistic approach after the recent achievements of the governments is gaining support from the population here and on both military and political levels. This is more than anathema to Washington and its allies. It is not less than catastrophic and will not be allowed despite NATO’s rhetoric to the contrary. Thus the new fake proposals.
The new “Non-lethal aid” has been designed to somehow reverse the “tipping point” chosen by a majority of the Syrian population over the past few months. These aggressive actions, rather than constituting neutral humanitarian aid given to the 11 major objective and neutral international NGO’s operating across Syria, and pressuring all sides to show up at the dialogue table, is certain to prolong the conflict as they condemn countless more Syrians to death.
What in the world is happening to America? I have written many articles about how society is crumbling right in front of our eyes, but now it is getting to the point where people are going to be afraid to go to school or go shopping at the mall. Just consider what has happened over the past week. Adam Lanza savagely murdered 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 42-year-old Marcus Gurrola threatened to shoot innocent shoppers and fired off more than 50 rounds in the parking lot of Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach, California. After police apprehended him, he told them that he “was unhappy with life”. Earlier in the week, a crazy man wearing a hockey mask and armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire on the second floor of a mall in Happy Valley, Oregon. He killed two people and injured a third. On Saturday morning, a lone gunman walked into a hospital in Alabama and opened fire. He killed one police officer and two hospital employees before being gunned down by another police officer. So have we now reached the point where every school, every mall and every hospital is going to need armed security? How will society function efficiently if everyone is constantly worried about mass murderers?
In response to the horrible tragedy in Connecticut, many in the mainstream media are suggesting that much stricter gun laws are the obvious solution.
After all, if we get rid of all the guns these crazy people won’t be able to commit these kinds of crimes, right?
Unfortunately, that is not how it works. The criminals don’t obey gun control laws. Banning guns will just take them out of the hands of law-abiding American citizens that just want to protect their own families.
Adam Lanza didn’t let the strict gun control laws up in Connecticut stop him from what he wanted to do. Connecticut already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and Adam Lanza broke at least three of them.
However, if there had been some armed security officers or some armed teachers at that school, they may have had a chance to protect those dear little children from being brutally gunned down.
If gun control was really the solution to our problems, then cities that have implemented strict gun control laws should be some of the safest in the entire country.
But sadly, just the opposite is true.
For example, Chicago has very strict gun laws. But 10 people were shot in the city of Chicago on Friday alone. Chicago is now considered to be “the deadliest global city“, and the murder rate in Chicago is about 25 percenthigher than it was last year.
So has gun control turned Chicago into a utopia?
Of course not.
And it won’t solve our problems on a national level either.
You can find more statistics about the futility of gun control right here.
Well, how would things be if we did just the opposite and everyone had a gun?
Would gun crime go through the roof?
That is what liberals were warning of when the city of Kennesaw, Georgia passed a law requiring every home to have a gun. But instead of disaster, the results turned out to be very impressive…
In March 1982, 25 years ago, the small town of Kennesaw – responding to a handgun ban in Morton Grove, Ill. – unanimously passed an ordinance requiring each head of household to own and maintain a gun. Since then, despite dire predictions of “Wild West” showdowns and increased violence and accidents, not a single resident has been involved in a fatal shooting – as a victim, attacker or defender.
The crime rate initially plummeted for several years after the passage of the ordinance, with the 2005 per capita crime rate actually significantly lower than it was in 1981, the year before passage of the law.
Prior to enactment of the law, Kennesaw had a population of just 5,242 but a crime rate significantly higher (4,332 per 100,000) than the national average (3,899 per 100,000). The latest statistics available – for the year 2005 – show the rate at 2,027 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the population has skyrocketed to 28,189.
When criminals know that everyone has guns, they are much less likely to try something. And often armed citizens are able to prevent potential mass murderers from doing more damage. You can find several examples of this right here.
But of course most of our politicians are not interested in common sense. Instead, they are obsessed with the idea that gun control will make our country “safe” again.
Senator Diane Feinstein says that she is ready to introduce a strict gun control bill in January that will “ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession” of many types of firearms.
Will such a law keep the criminals from getting guns?
No way. Just look at what is happening with the cartels down in Mexico. The criminals are always able to get guns.
If our “leaders” were really interested in stopping these mass murders, they would take a look at the role that mind-altering pharmaceutical drugs play in these incidents. If you look at the mass murders that have occurred over the past several decades, in the vast majority of them the murderer had been using mind-altering pharmaceutical drugs…
The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has raised concerns about severe acts of violence as side effects of anti-psychotic and antidepressant drugs not only on individuals but on society as well.
Just a month ago PRWeb described drug induced violence as “medicine’s best kept secret.”
And the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHRI) is calling for a federal investigation on its web page which links no less than 14 mass killings to the use of psychiatric drugs such as Prozac and Paxil.
And guess what?
According to the Washington Post, one neighbor says that Adam Lanza was “on medication”.
But will our politicians ever consider a law against such drugs?
Of course not. The big corporations that produce those drugs give mountains of money to the campaign funds of our politicians.
So the focus of the debate will remain on guns.
And a lot of liberals would have us believe that our society could be transformed into some type of “utopia” if we could just get rid of all the guns.
Unfortunately, that is simply not true. Our society is in an advanced state of moral decay, and this moral decay is manifesting in our society in thousands of different ways. The corruption runs from the highest levels of society all the way down to the lowest.
For those that believe that gun control would somehow “fix America”, I have some questions for you…
Down in Texas, one set of parents kept their 10-year-old son locked in a bedroom and only fed him bread and water for months. Eventually he died of starvation and they dumped his body in a creek.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
A pastor in north Texas was recently assaulted by an enraged man who beat him to death with an electric guitar.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
Police up in New Jersey say that a man kept his girlfriend padlocked in a bedroom for most of the last 10 years.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
A 31-year-old man up in Canada was found guilty of raping an 8-year-old girl, breaking 16 of her bones and smashing her in the face with a hammer.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
According to the FBI, a New York City police officer is being accused of “planning the kidnap, rape, torture and cannibilization of a number of women”.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
A Secret Service officer that had been assigned to protect Joe Biden’s residence has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
Over in Texas, a very sick 29-year-old man stabbed his girlfriend to death and then burned his one-year-old baby alive because she had gone to court and filed for child support.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
Over in Utah, a 21-year-old man is accused of stabbing his grandmother 111 times and then removing her organs with a knife.
Would banning guns have kept that from happening?
There are more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States every single year.
Would banning guns keep that from happening?
An average of five children die as a result of child abuse in the United States every single day.
Would banning guns keep that from happening?
The United States has the highest child abuse death rate on the entire globe.
Would banning guns keep that from happening?
It is estimated that 500,000 Americans that will be born this year will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Would banning guns keep that from happening?
In the United States today, it is estimated that one out of every four girls is sexually abused before they become adults.
Would banning guns keep that from happening?
If there was a way to take all of the guns away from all of the criminals, I would be all in favor of it. Unfortunately, no government on the planet has been able to do that.
Instead, we have seen that criminals thrive whenever gun bans are instituted and the guns are taken away from law-abiding citizens.
But the bottom line is that our social decay will not be solved either by more guns or less guns.
Our social decay is the result of decades of bad decisions. We have pushed morality out of our schools, out of government and out of almost every aspect of public life. Now we are experiencing the bitter fruit of those decisions.
And this is not a problem that our government is going to be able to fix. Violent crime increased by 18 percent in 2011, and this is just the beginning.
As our economy gets even worse, the rot and decay that have been eating away the foundations of America are going to become even more evident. The number of Americans living in poverty grows with each passing day, and millions upon millions of people are becoming very desperate.
Desperate people do desperate things, and crime, rioting and looting are going to become commonplace in the United States in the years ahead.
So you can pretend that the government is going to be able to keep our society from crumbling all you want, but that is not going to help you when a gang of desperate criminals has invaded your home and is attacking your family.
We definitely should mourn for the victims in Connecticut. It was a horrible national tragedy.
But this is just the beginning. The fabric of our society is coming apart at the seams. The feeling of safety and security that we all used to take for granted has been shattered, and the streets of America are going to steadily become much more dangerous.
I hope that you are ready.
Source: The Economic Collapse
Syrian Volunteers Exhibit Their Humanity, Despite International Politicizing of Emergency Aid…
Over the past twenty months, as the Syrian crisis continued beyond most early predictions, this observer learned something about the Syrian people that I had known for decades about Palestinians. And that is their great concern for their countrymen wherever they are found and whatever their current condition. When I am in Syria I am frequently asked “how are our people doing in Lebanon as refugees from this crisis?” In Lebanon, I am often asked “how are our (internal) refugees in Syria and what of our people in Jordan, Iraq or Turkey, how are they being treated and are they getting the basic necessities they need to live?”
And many Syrian refugees there are these bitter days. As of early November, 2012, close to 700,000 have fled their country with the UN now expecting close to one million by early next year if the fighting does not stop. Soon, it is likely that there will be close to 2 million displaced persons inside Syria according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are currently, according to the 10/12 UNHCR Syrian Refugee Report, 205,000 in Jordan, approximately 60,000 in Iraq (the first known refugees who have sought refuge in Iraq during the past quarter century) 110,649 in Turkey and 110,095 in Lebanon. The true figures are higher by an estimated 13% if one were to include the many Syrian refugees who are unable or do not want to register with local authorities or NGO’s for various reasons.
“Many more Syrians have recently been displaced within our borders and we are bracing for a long conflict.” Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar, Director of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent told this observer during a meeting in his Damascus office. Dr. Attar explained that “internally displaced persons” now exceed 1.5 million and close to 8.5% of the entire population have fled their homes during the last 19 months of conflict. Nearly 400,000 in Damascus alone. Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR’s regional co-coordinator for Syrian refugee’s advised that more than 3,000 refugees flee to neighboring countries every day, or approximately 90,000 per month. Both agree that due to the collapse of public services, and given that perhaps 1.2 million people need humanitarian aid inside the country, it brings the total number of Syrians requiring some form of relief to 2.7 million – or roughly 12 per cent of the total population.
Politicizing Humanitarian Aid
Whereas in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, official refugee camps are providing shelter at no cost to more than a quarter million Syrian refugees, the government in Lebanon has not yet permitted the construction of similar sites due to confessional fears that perhaps a political or other advantage might somehow accrue to a rival sect-once more exposing how deeply its current anarchist confessionalist arrangement paralyzes Lebanon. Unfortunately it is the same mentality and prejudices that so far has prevented Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from being granted the same elementary civil rights to work and to own a home that Syria and every other country granted the victims of the Zionist colonial enterprise usurpation of Palestine, six decades ago.
The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon who fled the violence in their homeland have increased sectarian tensions with one result being Syrian workers and refugees being targeted by elements of the Lebanese government. This despite the enormous aid Syria gave Lebanese refugees during the 2006 war when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese sought safety next door in Syria. Nadim Houry, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch, has documented growing political harassment of Syrian workers in Lebanon. He reports: “We’ve seen the army and the police detaining and roughing up a number of Syrian workers. Most recently, the Lebanese army beat up 72 workers; most of them were Syrian,” Houry reported. “The Lebanese army rounded up the migrant men in the neighborhood and decided to ‘teach them a lesson’ instead of doing police work.”
Against this dismal backdrop one can find across the border in Syria hope and even inspiration. It is coming from the Syrian people themselves and their mainly Arab friends. Between 10,000 and 11,000 volunteers, including Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, are manning across Syria more than 80 Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC) aid “sub-stations.” These include more than a dozen mobile clinics and pharmacies as well as 10 “on the spot readiness centers.” Depending on the level of localized conflict on any given day, SARC volunteers operate 24/7 anywhere from 6 and 30 ambulances, as they liaise with the Palestine Red Crescent Society volunteers, among others. Since mid-summer, SARC volunteers have been opening centers for psychological support services for children as well as adults. Recently a phone “hotline” has been set-up to help citizens find emergency help. International volunteers are most welcomed at any of SARC’s centers.
SARC’s volunteers have recently been praised by the UN World Food Program and many others for their work delivering humanitarian aid to internal refugees here in Syria. They distribute necessities of life during the chaos and killing to their fellow countrymen without regard to religion or political views. Foreign donor countries giving the most support currently include Germany, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy and Britain. Others help as well, including money and foodstuffs from Iran and cash from the American Red Cross, the latter channeled through the ICRC so as not to raise Congressional outcries about possible violations of heavy US sanctions being imposed on the Syrian people.
Founded in 1942, as the French colonizers withdrew from this 7000 year old civilization which they occupied in 1917, as part of the English-French Sykes-Picot arrangement, the Syria Arab Red Crescent society became linked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1946. SARC receives no government funding. This observer had the opportunity to meet SARC staff and volunteers of such singular commitment to helping their countrymen that more than a dozen have given their lives while trying to bring assistance to those stranded in Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, Deraa and elsewhere. One SARC team leader to me: “When one of our people is killed we bury the martyr and by the next morning we have 20 or more new volunteers who want to take their place and bring aid to those trapped in the most dangerous areas. I must tell you that this hell we are living through-we are confronting directly—it has made me very proud of my people and to be Syrian. Enshallah, we will overcome this chaos and killing and we will be stronger than before as a people.”
At the United Nations on 11/5/12, a top relief official said the UN aid effort in Syria, which means mainly SARC’s volunteers, “is very dangerous and very difficult.” The official, John Ging, director of operations of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, stated that the aid efforts in Syria (mainly being done by SARC volunteers) was supplying 1.5 million people in with food and that nearly half was being delivered into areas of conflict, but “there are areas beyond our reach, particularly areas under opposition control for quite a long time.”
Despite UNCHR’s role in studying the refugee problem and coordinating yet more studies and some registration of aid applicants during the current crisis, some familiar with its activities in Syria, including a few other NGO’s and some Syrian officials, have been critical of its performance to date. One highly respected governmental official told this observer recently, “I said to UNCHR’s local administration, “We have noticed the many fine vehicles that you flew into Syria, and we have met some of the well paid staff that you have brought to help us, but please can you show us that you have to date delivered even one loaf of bread to our desperate people?”
In fairness to UNCHR, after an admittedly slow start in Syria, it has recently picked up steam and its international staff is learning much from the local Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers.
Nor is SARC is without its critics.
Tawfik Chamaa, spokesman for the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM) speaking from his comfortable Geneva office issued an ad holmium broadside on 11/6/12 against the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society and its nearly 11,000 volunteers. He charged that cash or materials sent to SARC was being “confiscated by the regime. It will not reach the civilians who are bombed every day or besieged,” telling reporters in Geneva, “Ninety, even 95 percent of everything that is sent to Syrian Red Crescent headquarters in Damascus goes to support the Syrian regime, especially the soldiers.”
However, according to AFP, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN World Food Program (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent Society, strongly denied their aid was being seized by the government or anyone else. This observer, during the late night of 11/7/12 contacted “Wassim”, a friend and a volunteer at the Damascus SARC HQ who last week arranged visits for me of SARC aid distribution centers and Wassim also flatly denied the UOSSM report. Wassim informed this observer on the evening of 11/7/12 that SARC will immediately prepare a response to the USOOM allegations.
UOSSM itself has been criticized, as have a few other NGO’s working in Syria, for becoming politicized, polarized and for being inordinately top heavy administratively with bloated salaries and ” humanitarian team leaders” sitting in offices in Paris or Geneva and elsewhere far from Syria. Mr. Chamaa, himself, is a high salaried founding member of the Western group of 14 aid organizations from countries including France, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. According to SARC volunteers working in field aid distribution centers in Syria, Mr Chamaa could learn more were he to visit Syria and actually observe what’s happening on the ground before making unsupported claims. The UOSSM was set up at the beginning of the year mainly by Syrian doctors living in NATO countries. Some speculate that UOSSM hopes to be part of a possible future NATO affiliated “transition team” while others claim its political charges against SARC volunteers, without proof, are irresponsible and hurt those suffering most in Syria. The reason is because such alarmist press releases tend to damp down much needed donations of medical aid and necessities. This affects directly the 1.5 million people inside Syria who are in need of emergency humanitarian aid.
In response to Charmaa’s sensationalistic headline grabbing charges, UN World Food Program spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told the media on 11/7/12: ”I believe there is absolutely no confiscation. WFP food monitors are able to visit most areas to check that food is reaching the people who need it most. Even in some dangerous areas, they use WFP armored vehicles.” She insisted that the Red Crescent, “as the designated coordinator of humanitarian assistance in Syria, operates through branches in an independent manner”.
The ICRC said it was aware of Chamaa’s allegations. Its HQ stated on 11/7/12: “Whenever such facts are clearly established, which does not appear to be the case in Syria, we treat them very seriously and would address directly the management of (the Syrian Red Crescent) and Syrian authorities” ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk stressed that the ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent “strive to assist all populations in need without any discrimination, which is a challenging task given the deteriorating humanitarian situation and security conditions.” The ICRC and SARC volunteers recently managed to deliver medical and food aid to 1,200 people in the Old City of Homs, and since the beginning of the year they have provided food, water and other assistance to more than one million people across Syria, according to ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk, and as reported by AFP.
On 11/8/12 exhibiting exasperation, a sense of foreboding and just a whiff of defeatism, ICRC president Peter Maurer to a conference in Geneva that “We are in a situation where the humanitarian situation due to the conflict is getting worse. And we can’t cope with the worsening of the situation. We have a lot of blank spots, we know that no aid has been there and I can’t tell you what the situation is or what we can do.”
In a late breaking development Friday morning, 11/9/12, the UN human rights chief expressed concern after the ICRC said it was struggling to deliver aid in war-ravaged Syria. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told AFP during an interview at the Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia: “The fact that they’ve now said they are unable to perform their core functions makes the humanitarian crisis in Syria extremely critical. Nearly hopeless.”
Don’t tell that to Zeinab Tamari, a thirties something Palestinian volunteer from the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus who is traveling across Syria bringing aid and relief to her fellow Arabs.
And don’t tell either it to Syrian student Mahar Saad whose home was destroyed during fighting in Homs and who daily risks his life remaining in his neighborhood helping his neighbors despite losing family members in the fighting. Both are SARC volunteers appeared without being asked at one of the aid organizations outlets across Syria to help. They inspire hope for Syria and for all humanity, regardless of the outcome of the current crisis.
The staff and volunteers who perform the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society’s humanitarian work undertaken in the main by Syrians for Syrians, with Syrians are a credit to their country and warrant the blessings and support all people of good will as they risk their lives to bring aid to their countrymen.
My cynicism about the stupidity of the American public would have increased exponentially if Mitt Romney would have been elected president. In over 50 years of voting and 25 years of working professionally in the world of politics and public policy I had never seen such outrageous and persistent lies, distortions and intellectual insults from a presidential candidate. Please note that I was not an Obama supporter; I proudly voted for the Libertarian candidate.
Repeatedly, Romney sold his soul to first get the Republican nomination and then attempt to win the presidency. For such a supposedly religious person he had no difficulty in saying anything to win support, despite contradictions with his previous positions and statements as well as with objective facts. The only thing you could trust about him was his love for his family and religion, and oh yes his quite negative view of 47 percent of the American public muttered when he thought he was only talking to a bunch of his rich supporters. But for such callous behavior he deserves to go to Mormon hell for lying to so many, including himself apparently because he could justify just about anything because the end of becoming president justified all means.
Up until the last moment so many of his supporters and the mental midget blowhards on right wing talk radio let their own delusional thinking prevent them from seeing reality. On FOX News the usual idiots kept predicting landslide state victories for Romney even after all major networks had declared reelection of President Obama, including the FOX network. Not so surprising when one appreciates the anti-science views of so many conservatives. Remarkably, the supposed data driven and smart Romney bought into the delusional, self-serving predictions from his supporters in the final days and hours.
“Impossible to beat Santa Claus,” said the poisonous pundit Rush Limbaugh as his explanation of why Romney lost, very much in line with the 47 percent belief of Romney. Rush only sees lies on the left and none of the multitude of lies that came from the Romney campaign. And he easily ignores the over 65 demographic taking Medicare and Social Security benefits who mostly voted for Romney. True conservatives should stop listening to the herd of right wing radio nuts.
Here is my recommendation to President Obama: Offer Mitt Romney the new cabinet position of Secretary of Business. What a show of innovative bipartisan thinking. And Romney should gladly accept the offer if he has any core belief whatsoever of serving his country.
The two-party plutocracy remains alive and very well. Third party presidential candidates once again did miserably. Most congressional incumbents were reelected, as usual. The American delusional democracy marches on.
Billions of dollars wasted propagating lies from both sides designed to piss off or frighten people. Happy to see all those millionaires and billionaires wasting their money on the Romney campaign. Now, every one of them should donate equal amounts to the recovery efforts related to the Sandy Hurricane disaster.
It’s true that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have many political differences. But they also agree on many essential policies; enough to make the next four years easily predictable, no matter who wins. Here are five predictions based on the most important shared beliefs of the two candidates:
1) The war on unions will continue. The Republicans are explicitly anti-union, while the Democrats are pro-union in words, but anti-union in practice. Obama’s much touted Race to the Top national education policy directly targets the heart of the teacher’s unions — the most powerful union in the country — by attacking seniority rights and restricting wages and benefits.
Also, Democratic and Republican governors on a state by state basis aim to either carve giant concessions from public employees, or take away their rights as unionists altogether — the lesser evil policy of demanding concessions (Democrats) is but one step from ending collective bargaining (Republicans).
As the recession grinds on, this bi-partisan anti-union policy will intensify, no matter who is president. The aim of this anti-union policy is to lower wages for all workers, since unions artificially skew the labor market to the benefit of workers in general; attacking the unions is thus an attack on all workers, organized or not, so that corporations can regain “profitability” by having their labor costs lowered.
2) The war on the environment will continue. Both parties treat the environment like they do organized labor. The Republicans openly degrade it and the Democrats make pro-environment statements while practicing the opposite. Whoever wins will continue to pander to Big Coal, and they will continue to advocate for dangerous arctic and Gulf oil drilling, wreak havoc by shale “natural gas” drilling, build the cross continental Keystone pipeline, while continuing to do little or nothing to build the absolutely necessary alternative energy infrastructure that would provide jobs and hope for humanity against climate change. Obama and Romney refuse to take the necessary actions to address the climate crisis because doing so would harm the profits of the big corporate polluters. Neither presidential candidates will do so much as begin an honest public discussion about the problem, ensuring that other countries will follow suit, to the peril of all of us.
3) Wall Street will reign supreme. During the debates it was made clear that no further action against Wall Street was necessary. But the banks are bigger under Obama than they were under Bush, which means they are still “too big to fail,” ensuring future bailouts paid by taxpayers. Federal Reserve policy is not controversial for either Republicans or Democrats: historic low interest rates combined with printing massive amounts of additional money — called “quantitative easing” — have both served the profits of Wall Street banks quite well, while everyone else sees their wages and benefits cut. Loans to working people are no easier to come by, while the banks and corporations are literally sitting on trillions of dollars of reserves in cash.
4) Post election national austerity cuts. The national deficit is the result of bank bailouts, foreign wars, and decades of continually lowering taxes for the rich and corporations. Obama and Romney both ignore these facts, and favor “trigger cuts” — massive cuts in jobs and social programs that would go into effect if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on how many trillions of dollars of cuts to make (Obama’s proposed deficit cutting plan would make 4 $trillion in cuts; Paul Ryan wants 6 $trillion.)
And while Obama has made quite a bit of noise about “taxing the rich” to help fill the deficit gap, the same promises were made last election and amounted to naught when he extended Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Taxing the rich is the only alternative to making cuts, since working people have so little left to tax. Instead, Obama is using the deficit to justify massive cuts to Medicare, public education, unemployment insurance, and likely Social Security and other programs. The Obama/Romney “rift” over the deficit is, in reality, a polite discussion of how best to slash and burn social programs, while differences are exaggerated for the sake of their election campaigns.
5) Foreign wars will continue. Listening to Obama and Romney debate foreign war was very much a Pepsi/Coke style debate. Both candidates love Israel, hate Iran and Syria, lie about a “time table” for Afghanistan (no serious foreign policy pundit believes the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan in 2014). Both are for continued drone bombings of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia which are obvious war crimes, while both candidates hypocritically accuse Syria of “human rights violations.” In short, both candidates argue over how best to push the Middle East and North Africa to the brink of regional war, without being blamed for it.
Ultimately, there do exist differences in social policy between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The above policies, however, will deeply affect all working people in the United States. The country is not in a typical recession. Most economists agree that, at best, the U.S. economy can expect a “lost decade” of economic stagnation — at worst, a double dip recession/depression.
The above policies are shaped with this worst case scenario in mind, with the understanding that for capitalism to re-stabilize itself, a “new normal” is needed that shifts the power in the U.S. even more towards the banks and corporations, who must be completely unrestrained by labor, environmental and other regulations to ruthlessly chase profit, to the detriment of us all.
Thus, the Democrats and Republicans have the same “big picture” agenda that all working people should find abhorrent, since corporate gains will come at our expense. Once workers feel compelled to organize themselves to put up a fight, as the Chicago teachers did, all illusions in the Democrats will begin to fade, as people see with their own eyes the Democrats not only refusing to help them but actively opposing them, just as they did to the teachers in Chicago. Developments like this will allow a real movement to emerge that can challenge the two-party corporate dominated agenda. Until labor and community groups can unite on a widespread basis in independent action against the above bi-partisan agenda, we’ll be forever dragged into rooting for one of two candidates, neither of who have our basic interests in mind.
Yep, Larsen is staying up at night with the worry beads due to the fact that all the nation’s peanuts are processed at one plant, in North or South Carolina…he can’t remember which. According to Larsen, the centralization of this facility provides an easy target for terrorists wielding chemical or biological weapons.
Larsen is a former Colonel in the United States Air Force and is a decorated Vietnam vet. He is a founding member of the WMD center, a not-for- profit research organization, along with former Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jim Talent (R_MO). Larsen is also the national security advisor at the Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and is a senior fellow at the Homeland Security Policy institute at George Washington University.
In a recent telephone interview, Larsen opined that food terrorism is one the most significant threats faced by the nation.
Larsen also responded to questions about predictions being tendered that we should expect a pandemic by the end of 2013. “Pandemics,” declared Larsen, “run in thirty-forty year cycles. We are overdue.”
In fact, Larsen may have his numbers screwed up. The Spanish flu, which killed 20-40 million people worldwide, made its debut in 1918. The Asian flu killed about a million people in 1957-58 and only ten years later the Hong Kong flu killed just under a million.
Facts notwithstanding, the predictions persist that 2013 will be the Big One—either in terms of a terrorist attack or a pandemic. Not only have Larsen’s colleagues, Talent and Graham committed to this perception, but Dr. Daniel Gerstein of the Department of Homeland Security made just such a prediction last December at the Biological Weapons Convention, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations. “We expect a pandemic before the end of 2013,” stated Gerstein.http://www.activistpost.com/
A pandemic or a biological weapons attack? Or are they one and the same?
Larsen pooh- poohed the idea that water systems might be a target for a domestic terrorist attack. He stated that, given the amount of pathogen necessary to contaminate a water system, it was highly unlikely that such an effort would be successful.
However, Larsen’s perception is not shared by others in government nor by the scientific community. Last year, DHS chief Janet Napolitano issued a homeland security warning http://www.news10.net/news/
Her concerns were echoed just last week by Leon Panetta, who was reported in Money Newshttp://www.moneynews.com/
The scientific community is also at odds with Larsen’s assessment of the threat posed by a waterborne attack. A heavily footnoted report by the Congressional Research Service entitled “Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector,” declared “Bioterrorism or chemical attacks could deliver widespread contamination with small amounts of microbiological agents or toxic chemicals, and could endanger the public health of thousands.” (December 15, 2010)
During the course of our phone interview, this reporter suggested to Larsen that the danger posed by vulnerabilities inherent in the very configuration of water systems countrywide might present a compelling concern to those involved in protecting the United States from a terrorist attack. With his permission, this reporter forwarded a report detailing these vulnerabilities, which was submitted to the Critical Infrastructure unit of the Department of Homeland Security last August. The report is reproduced in its entirety, below.
Larsen’s response was terse and to the point. On September 8, 2012, he sent me this message from his I phone:
“After reading some of your pieces on the Internet about the Patriot Act, I assure you we will have no further conversations or email exchanges. Sorry I wasted your time and mine.”
Well, at least he has locked in on the Skippy terrorism. What a relief. I was beginning to think we might have a problem
During the second half of the 20th century the United States was an opportunity society. The ladders of upward mobility were plentiful, and the middle class expanded. Incomes rose, and ordinary people were able to achieve old-age security.
In the 21st century the opportunity society has disappeared. Middle class jobs are scarce. Indeed, jobs of any kind are scarce. To stay even with population growth from 2002 through 2011, the economy needed about 14 million new jobs. However, at the end of 2011 there were only 1 million more jobs than in 2002. http://www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm
Only 426,000 of these jobs are in the private sector. The bulk of the net new jobs consist of waitresses and bartenders and health care and social assistance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the 9 years, employment for waitresses and bartenders increased by 1,188,000. Employment in health care and social assistance increased 3,087,000. These two categories accounted for 1,000% of the net private sector job growth.
As for manufacturing jobs, they not only did not grow with the population but declined absolutely. During these nine years, 3.5 million middle class manufacturing jobs were lost.
Over the entire nine years, only 48,000 new jobs were created for architects and engineers.
In the 21st century the US economy has been able to create only a few new jobs and these are in lowly paid domestic services that cannot be offshored, such as waitresses and bartenders.
The lack of jobs, especially high value-added, high productivity jobs, is the reason real median household income has declined and the distribution of income has worsened. Without rising real household income, there cannot be a consumer economy.
In the early years of the 21st century, the Federal Reserve substituted a rise in consumer debt to drive the economy in place of the missing rise in consumer incomes. Low interest rates drove up housing prices, and people refinanced their mortgages and spent the equity. The Federal Reserve kept the economy alive by loading up consumers with debt that housing prices and consumer incomes would soon be unable to support.
When debt and real estate prices reached unsustainable levels, the bubble popped, and the ongoing financial crisis was upon us.
The cause of all of the problems is the offshoring of Americans’ jobs. When jobs are moved offshore, consumers’ careers and incomes, and the GDP and payroll and income tax base associated with those jobs, go with them. When the goods and services produced for American markets by offshored labor are brought into the US to be sold, the trade deficit rises, and downward pressure is put on the dollar, pushing up domestic inflation. (On October 12, statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) reported that “third-quarter wholesale inflation jumped to an annualized 6.2%.”)
Jobs offshoring is driven by Wall Street, “shareholder advocates,” the threat of takeovers, and by large retailers, such as Walmart. By cutting labor costs, profits go up.It is that simple. However, as a result of sending American jobs to cheap labor countries, US consumer incomes go down. The end result is to destroy the domestic consumer market. What would have been US consumer income growth becomes instead profit growth for US corporations.
Keynesian economists use in their textbooks the example of how the aggregate effect of individual saving could be the opposite of the effect intended by the individuals. Whereas each saver seeks to improve his position by building wealth, in the aggregate saving could exceed investment, resulting in a decline in aggregate demand and a fall in income for all. Offshoring has the same logic. Each corporation can expect to gain more profits from moving US jobs offshore, but the aggregate effect is a fall in American consumer incomes and a reduction in the American consumer market.
I have told this story many times. But policymakers, the media, and economists seem unable to connect the dots.
Jobs offshoring has substantial implications for Social Security and Medicare. The US has the least adequate social safety net of any developed country. The two major components of the US social safety net are Social Security and Medicare for the elderly. Social Security and Medicare are financed by a payroll tax. The combined tax is 15.3% of payrolls. For the past quarter of a century the Social Security portion of the payroll tax has built up a surplus of over $2 trillion. Recently, the Medicare portion began running in the red.
Right-wing Republicans, free market ideologues, and the left-wing have all indoctrinated themselves with incorrect beliefs about Social Security and Medicare. The right-wing claims that a safety net financed with 15.3% of payrolls is a “Ponzi scheme” and an “unfunded liability.” If that is the case, then so are veterans benefits, military pensions, and federal pensions, all of which are financed by the income tax, the basis for the payroll tax.
The left-wing claims that the rich do not pay high enough payroll taxes, because the income subject to Social Security payroll tax is capped at about $110,000. But the benefits are also capped. Social Security is not supposed to be an income redistribution scheme from rich to poor, and it is not supposed to be a pension system for the rich. The pension paid is supposed to correlate with the pre-retirement income level of the retiree. Those who had higher wages or salaries and consequently paid more in payroll taxes receive a larger Social Security check than those who had lower wages and salaries and paid less payroll taxes, although there is favoritism toward the lower income earners who receive proportionally more in respect to their payroll taxes than higher income earners.
There is no cap on income subject to the Medicare portion of the payroll tax. Moreover, Medicare charges a Medicare Part B premium that is deducted from the Social Security monthly check. In addition, there is a further Part B premium based on retirement age income. For example, someone working beyond retirement age and making $250,000 per year pays about $3,800 in Medicare Part B premium in addition to the Medicare portion of the payroll tax of about $7,500. The annual premium he pays for his “free” Medicare for which he has paid all his working life with a payroll tax is about $11,300.
Moreover, Medicare by itself is insufficient coverage. To actually have medical coverage, those covered by Medicare have to purchase a supplementary private policy to cover the large gaps in Medicare. Depending on the range of coverage, a supplementary policy costs approximately $100 to $300 per month.
As the person making $250,000 per year is likely to go for the most coverage, he will be paying about $14,900 (excluding deductions and co-payments) per year for his “free” Medicare. This is despite having paid the Medicare payroll tax each year of his working life. A person who made $250,000 in taxable income per year for 30 years would have paid $217,500 into Medicare at the current Medicare payroll tax rate.
The right-wing’s notion that Social Security and Medicare are handouts, part of the welfare state’s bread and circuses, and the left-wing’s idea that the rich get a free ride are equally untrue.
(Note: $250,000 is the politicians’ dividing line between the rich and the rest of us. For a person making $50,000 a year, an income five times larger can seem rich. However, a $250,000 annual income leaves a family or person far distant from the lifestyle of the rich. Upper middle class incomes are generally associated with high-tax, high-cost urban areas in states with high income taxes. After federal income and payroll taxes, state income and sales taxes, and property taxes, what appears to many as a large income disappears. In New York City, the federal income tax will take about 25% of the $250,000, New York state will take about 9%, and New York City will take about 3.65%. The combined city and state sales tax is 8.875%. The property tax is high. The conclusion is that in New York City a $250,000 income is reduced to $125,000 or thereabouts. Those who claim “the rich don’t pay taxes” are not talking about $250,000 incomes.)
Social Security and Medicare have served the country well. They protect the individual from his own mistakes, from crooked and incompetent money managers, and from financial crises, and they protect society from the moral dilemma of confronting large numbers of fellow citizens who through fault or no fault of their own cannot provide for their livelihood and medical care. After the financial scandals and crisis of the past five years, it is a stretch to believe that any but the astute can manage their personal wealth, whether small or large, in today’s situation of unregulated financial markets, zero interest rates, currency uncertainty, and highly complex investment instruments with computers programmed with mathematical models dominating equity trades.
The argument that conceptually a person could do better by investing his payroll taxes in the stock market is a poor basis for old age security policy. The person can do better as long as he or she doesn’t fall into the hands of a Bernie Madoff or a Goldman Sachs, doesn’t receive zero interest on his bonds because the Federal Reserve has to bail out the “too big to fail banks,” doesn’t experience a decline in currency value due to monetization of enormous federal deficits, and doesn’t experience a bear market as he approaches retirement.
The right-wing ideologues who try to scare old age security out of existence go on and on about rising medical costs, about an aging population living longer, declining birthrates and a worsening ratio of workers to retirees, about people learning to rely on handouts rather than their own means, and about Washington’s rising unfunded liabilities.
Scare projections are designed to scare, and most are untenable. For example, longevity was a product of rising incomes, good diet, and antibiotics. Today only the upper crust have rising incomes. Antibiotics are wearing out from abuse and rising immunity of bacteria. Diet is compromised in ways still poorly understood as a result of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, pumping chicken, pork, and beef full of antibiotics and hormones and feeding the animals GMO grains and also possibly infected animal byproducts, and pumping our water full of fluoride. A variety of destructive activities and behaviors are causing ecological damage. Longevity might have been a short-term benefit of irreproducible conditions considering the mounting ecological damage and the rise of superbugs, stress, and tainted food and water production.
The projection of an aging population might also be wrong. Clearly, the post-World War II baby boomers are aging, but do the projections take into account the legislated 1965 immigration increases plus the illegal influx from Mexico and points south of young people with high birth rates? How can it be that a country with allegedly 30 million illegal immigrants, whose children born in the US are citizens, has a declining birth rate? How do we know that the illegal population will not continue to increase?
There are so many Spanish speaking people in the US today that if a person calls any of his utility companies, whether telephone, Internet, water, electricity, TV, or any of his credit card companies, or his bank, he has to select English or Spanish. Obviously, as
anti-immigration sites make clear, the US population is changing in its national origin, and there appears to be no sign of an aging Hispanic population. How many old Spanish speaking people do you see in the US compared to the young?
When confronted with this apparent fact, the response is: “why will the Hispanics pay for the aging white population?” The answer is: because they are in the same payroll tax system and the taxes will be withheld from their wages and salaries just as they are from everyone else’s.
It is possible that if Hispanics in the US have suffered years of hostility, accusations, and hatred from “the ice people,” once Hispanics are sufficiently numerous to control the legislature, assuming one still exists, or to take over the executive branch, the only seat of power, they may in retribution cut off the aging whites. But if so, the whites will have brought it on themselves.
Whatever the scare projections that are mustered to undermine the public provision of old age security, the real financial danger is never mentioned. The only significant financial danger to Social Security and Medicare is the offshoring of American jobs and GDP. A country without a job base is without a payroll tax base. If the only jobs that the 21st century “world’s only superpower” economy can create are for waitresses, bartenders, and health care and social assistance (hospital orderlies and practical nurses), payroll tax revenues will be less than if the US still had 20 million workers and rising in well-paid manufacturing jobs instead of 11 million.
Regardless of Medicare’s financing, the death knell for the elderly was the legality of abortion. If the yet to be born are an insufferable burden, imagine the cost of the elderly. As far as the state is concerned, once you stop producing income and payroll tax revenues for the state, it is time for you to die. Washington would rather enact euthanasia than to pay back the $2+ trillion in the Social Security trust fund that Washington spent, leaving only non-marketable IOUs in the account.
Readers might think that Americans would never stand for death by injection for the elderly once the qualified age is reached. But why would they not? They have accepted millions of aborted babies, and Americans, including the elderly, have stood for Washington’s murder, maiming and displacement of millions of Muslim men, women, and children in 7 countries over the past 11 years and are yet to show any signs of remorse for their complicity in mass murder. Next month tens of millions of Americans will vote for Mitt Romney who believes Obama isn’t killing Muslims fast enough.
The new “Obamneycare” health legislation does have “death panels.” They are not called that, and they do not make formal decisions to terminate lives. But it comes to almost the same thing. Various panels, committees, or bureaucratic departments are empowered to make decisions about “effective care.” It has long been known that most health care costs are associated with the last year of life. Cost and age will be elements in determining standards of care. The greater the weight assigned to cost, the more care will be withheld. In effect, the “effective care” panel is a “death panel.”
Prior to the advent of the new “health care” system, Medicare and or hospitals are already shifting costs to Medicare patients. To avoid penalties and fraud allegations for “medically unnecessary hospitalizations,” rather than formally admit Medicare patients as inpatients, hospital administrators classify them as outpatients “under observation.”
According to a Brown University analysis of Medicare records in 2007, 2008, and 2009, the ratio of Medicare observation patients to those admitted as inpatients rose by 34 percent.
Being classified an outpatient under observation eliminates medicare coverages, especially for post-operative or post-accident rehabilitation care, leaving Medicare patients with bills in the tens of thousands of dollars (AARP Bulletin, October 2012).
Other costs are being shifted to doctors and to hospitals. Medicare pays fixed prices for each covered procedure or test, and these prices can be as low as half of the billed prices. During a period when costs incurred by providers of health care have been rising, Medicare has been cutting the amounts it pays providers.
As the payroll tax is commingled with general tax revenues, Social Security and Medicare payroll tax collections can be diverted to other purposes and, thus, are always subject to competing budgetary demands, such as the previous 11 years of gratuitous wars and the bailouts of “banks too big to fail,” or to deficit reduction demands as the government consistently overspends all revenue sources.
A national health service is the only way to control health costs and provide the population with health care coverage. A national health system takes the many levels of profits out of the system and also reams of compliance and liability costs. A national health system can coexist with a private system for those who can afford it or whose employers are sufficiently profitable to provide it.
As Jarad Diamond reveals in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, societies fail, if not because of their moral bankruptcy, then because their rulers are only capable of short-term thinking. The future is beyond their interest. The US offshored its economy, because it worked short-term for corporate executives (rewarded with multi-million dollar performance bonuses), Wall Street (rewarded with profits), shareholders (rewarded with capital gains), and politicians (rewarded with corporate and Wall Street campaign contributions).
Incompetent free market economists confused jobs offshoring with free trade. They said the country would and was benefiting by giving its manufacturing, industrial, and tradable professional service jobs to China and India, that the US was ridding itself of “dirty fingernail jobs” and would soon be flush with highly paid high-tech jobs and highly paid financial service jobs.
None of these promises or predictions were true. Nowhere in the government’s jobs statistics are there any of these promised replacement jobs. The economists who provided cover for the destruction of the US economy were rewarded by the corporations with speaking fees, grants for their university departments, and newspaper columns paid for by corporate advertisers. Those few who told the truth were expelled from the corporate media that Bill and Hilary Clinton allowed to be monopolized (for campaign contributions, of course).
The future of old age security in the United States has been lost, because the job base has been given away to foreigners in order to maximize incomes in the short-run for the few decision-makers.
The misrepresentation of jobs offshoring as free trade has destroyed the prospects of cities, counties, and states along with those of unions and millions of Americans who once had a secure future. It has destroyed the prospects of class after class of university graduates burdened with student loans who expected to step into the jobs that have been offshored or filled by H-1B visa holders from abroad.
The American work force has been forsaken by the corporations and by Washington, and this means that Social Security and Medicare have also been forsaken.
As I predicted in the early years of this new century, “the United States will be a third world country in 20 years.” We might get there even sooner as Washington exhausts what little is left of American wealth in gratuitous wars in service to Israel and the US Military/Security Complex, in unaffordable military buildups in futile hopes of establishing hegemony over China and Russia, and in negative interest rates from the Federal Reserve’s effort to drive up the book value of debt instruments on the balance sheets of financial institutions.
In 1817 Percy Bysshe Shelly forecast America’s future:
“I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stampt on these lifeless things,
The hand that mockt them and the heart that fed:
On the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Writing in the October 15 online CounterPunch, John V. Walsh, relying on charts prepared by economics professor Mark J. Perry at the University of Michigan and blogger John Hunter, concludes that it is a myth that US manufacturing is in decline.
Walsh says that the loss of US manufacturing jobs is due to automation, not to offshoring. Think about this for a moment. Perry’s graph on which Walsh relies shows the sharp drop in US manufacturing employment to be a 21st century experience. However, automation has been around for a long time. The notion that its effect on employment only showed up recently needs an explanation that is not provided. The steep drop in US manufacturing employment that began in 2000 does correspond with the date at which jobs offshoring began to bite hard.
Why does automation not also affect Chinese manufacturing, especially as most of the Chinese manufacturing technology came from the US as US corporations offshored their production for the US market? If Chinese manufacturing is not up to date with automation, like the US is assumed to be, how do the Chinese, even with cheap labor, undersell US automated factories? How did Chinese manufacturing employment increase in a mere four years by an amount equal to the total manufacturing employment in the US?
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis shows only 11.2 million full time US manufacturing jobs in 2010. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 11.7 million US manufacturing jobs in 2011, down from 15.3 million in 2002.
In contrast, China, an industrial and manufacturing backwater for most of my life, had 112 million manufacturing jobs in 2006. In a mere four years (2002-2006), the increase in China’s manufacturing employment was as large as today’s total employment in US manufacturing. As long ago as 2006, China’s manufacturing employment was about 10 times the current US manufacturing employment. The Chinese population is about 4 times larger than the US population, but China’s manufacturing population is proportionately greater–10 times larger. Indeed, Chinese manufacturing employees almost equal the total number of employees in all occupations in the US (Manufacturing and Technology News, December 15, 2009).
Obviously, something is wrong with Walsh’s article or the graphs on which he relied.
America’s manufacturing prowess cannot be found in the statistical data. The US is primarily an exporter of Agricultural commodities. The US imports almost twice the amount of manufactured goods as it exports. Indeed, according to the US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract of the US http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1308.pdf US imports of manufactured goods are 5.5 times larger than US imports of crude oil and 4 times larger than all imports of mineral fuel. Yet, we hear about energy dependency, not manufacturing dependency.
As of 2010 the “superpower” US economy still had a trade surplus in airplanes and airplane parts and a small $6 billion surplus in scientific instruments, but that is about all.
In ADP equipment and office machinery, the US exported $22.2 billion in 2010 (latest information at time of writing), down from $44.6 billion in 2000. US imports in 2010 of ADP equipment and office machinery were $113.5 billion, or 5.1 times exports.
The US cannot even make its own clothes and shoes. In 2010 footwear imports are 28.7 times exports. Clothing imports are 24.6 times exports.
Electrical machinery exports were $77 billion; imports were $120 billion.
Exports of power generating machinery were $33 billion; imports were $42 billion.
Exports of television, VCRs were $21.5 billion; imports were $137 billion.
US exports of vehicles was $88 billion; imports were $179 billion.
US news reports of thousands upon thousands of discharged US workers never cite their replacement by automation. The news story is always that the plant is being closed and the jobs moved abroad. Any review of America’s former manufacturing centers verifies this. Boarded up plants and cities and towns in decline are the remains of America’s formerly world dominant manufacturing economy.
The loss of the US post-war trade surplus in manufacturing has left the US with a huge trade deficit. The charts on which Walsh relied left him unaware of the fact that China has a large trade surplus with the US, and the US has a large trade deficit not only with China but with the world.
The fact that the US has to import not only manufactured goods, but also high-technology products from China, an inconceivable outcome during the second half of the 20th century, is powerful testimony to the decline of the US as a manufacturing powerhouse.
It took some doing to obscure the facts and to present the US as a rival to China in manufacturing prowess. How did it happen?
The fault might lie in the way statistical information is collected and presented. Apple, for example, is a US corporation. It reports its worldwide earnings to the IRS. Its manufacturing is counted as US manufacturing as it is a US corporation. However, Apple doesn’t produce a single computer in the US. They are produced in China. The employment that Apple reports is in China. The Chinese are employed by an American company, but they are not Americans. The Chinese incomes that Apple provides do not support the American consumer market or provide the tax base for cities and states. The Chinese incomes do not provide ladders of upward mobility or careers for Americans.
The wages Apple pays are in China. The consumer incomes and GDP that it generates are in China. When Apple’s computers come back to America to be sold they come in as imports. But Apple’s manufacturing and employment are reported as the output and employment of an American company.
When statistics and the methods by which they are compiled were put into effect, countries did not offshore their production for their domestic markets. Foreign investments were made for selling abroad, not for selling in the home market. With the advent of offshoring, counting the employment and output of US firms that are producing abroad for their domestic market as an indication of the strength of US manufacturing is very misleading. Apple, for example, has done more to boost China’s GDP than to boost America’s GDP. This is true of every US corporation that offshores its production for US consumers.
In recent years the percentage of the work forces of large US corporations that is foreign sourced has risen rapidly. Some of the overseas hiring reflects traditional foreign investment in which a company builds abroad in order to sell abroad, but much of the hiring reflects offshored production for US markets.
The US has been able to survive the large trade deficits produced by jobs offshoring, because the US dollar is the world reserve currency. Being the world reserve currency, the US does not have to earn foreign currencies with exports in order to pay for its imports. However, as these trade deficits persist and the buildup of foreign holdings of dollar paper assets rises, there is a diminishing willingness of foreigners to trade real goods and services for financial assets denominated in a fiat currency whose value is diminishing with the ever-growing supply.
Thus, the basic notion of globalism–that a country’s corporations can produce goods and services in any country for home markets–is false.
Walsh is correct that China is not to blame for the decline in US manufacturing. Offshoring is to blame, and, thus, the blame lies with US corporations, policymakers, and the economists and financial media who shill for “globalism.” The decision was made to sacrifice the US economy to the short-term profits of the few. A country so poorly led can do nothing but decline.
Source: Paul Craig Roberts
Before one can understand the nature of partisan or party politics, a correct comprehension of The Choice of Ideology is essential.
“Contemporary Political Ideologies is a text book that has been around for a long time. Many of the usual suspects are covered: Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, Conservatism, Liberalism, Nationalism, Marxism, Fascism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Feminism and Environmentalism. Since written, additional offshoots have come to include: Neoconservatism, the Paleo versions of Conservatism and Libertarianism and what we will call “Inherit Populism”.
These broad based viewpoints have distinctions, sometimes subtle, often dramatic. The reason why partisan politics is a blood sport is that it is waged to achieve a false party line. BREAKING ALL THE RULES advocates a paleo-conservative philosophy based upon traditional values and moral principles. Consistent with the historic legacy of the founding of this Nation is a lament that most inhabitants are oblivious to our ingenious heritage and purpose of the American Revolution.
The article, Ideology Matters, But What Is It?, clearly repudiates the destructive ideologies that result in the suicidal course this country has taken, especially in the last century.
“The test for valid support is simple. The legacy of the New Deal to the Good Society has constructed a total reputation of American ideals. To deny this reality, is to associate yourself with the cause of depravity. There is no room to compromise on this axiom. The lines are clear, distinct and irrefutable. Career operatives rationalize their support for destructive policies as the price for civility. The notion that getting along with the opposition that is bent upon the destruction of the Nation is psychotic. When polls are cited that the public wants less ranker, leadership sinks into the cauldron of deceit and treachery of our heritage. Those of us who advocate a State responsive and accountable to the citizen, are left with few champions to carry the banner of limited government.”
Rejecting an artificial left/right template for a deeper analysis of the publically accepted nomenclature of liberal vs. conservative is a constructive leap to appreciate the differences that are so prevalent among different factions within society.
How individuals assess politics often rests upon their own personality and outlook. From a report in Clinician’s Digest, the following insights are useful.
“Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical.
Evidence suggests that these personality differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age. A 20-year longitudinal study by Jack and Jeanne Block showed that those who grew up to be liberals were originally assessed by their preschool teachers as more emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive when compared to those who became conservatives, who were considered more inhibited, uncertain, and controlled. Liberals may show greater tolerance for diversity and creativity, but they may also be more impulsive, indecisive, and irresponsible. On the flip side, conservatives may be organized, stable, and thrifty, but also have stronger just-world beliefs (leading to a greater tolerance for inequality), and stronger fears of mortality and ambiguity. Even recent neuroscience work published in Current Biology from University College London identifies fundamental differences in the partisan brain. Brain scans revealed a larger amygdala in self-identified conservatives and a larger anterior cingulate cortex in liberals, leading the researchers to conclude that conservatives may be more acute at detecting threats around them, whereas liberals may be more adept at handling conflicting information and uncertainty.”
Partisan party proponents, both Democrats and Republicans are practicing Statists. Mutual lust to control the levers of government closes ranks, when an external threat comes from dissenting citizens. This background brings us to examine the essay, Speaking Out Against Government is a Mental Disorder, by Susanne Posel.
“According to the psychiatric manual, the DSM-IV-TR, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a mental disease wherein free thinkers, non-conformists, civil disobedience supporters, those who question authority and are perceived as being hostile toward the government are labeled mentally ill. Psychiatrists refer to this mental defect as “Mentality III”.
This mental disorder is defined as: “a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least 6 months.”
Ms Posel continues:
Symptoms of ODD include:
- negativistic and defiant behaviors are expressed by persistent stubbornness
- resistance to directions
- unwillingness to compromise, give in, or negotiate with adults or peers
- defiance may also include deliberate or persistent testing of limits, usually by ignoring orders, arguing, and failing to accept blame for misdeeds
- hostility can be directed at adults or peers and is shown by deliberately annoying others or by verbal aggression (usually without the more serious physical aggression seen in Conduct Disorder)
If this alleged ailment has, any legitimate clinical application, it seems that these warning signs, foremost apply to elected officials and party organizations. Reinforcing the practice of the partisan political psychopathic art, John D. Mayer in Psychology Today asks two questions. The first is relevant while the second is naive.
“If members of Congress and the executive branch extended genuine respect to one another, wouldn’t they recognize that it is more important to vote for that which is best for the country rather than for that which may promote their political party? If they truly respected one another, wouldn’t the best and brightest among them join in a thoughtful give-and-take to promote good legislation above partisanship?”
Where is the evidence that government has the objective of “doing what is best for the country”? Frankly, the body of facts is so overwhelming that every successive administration builds upon the treason of the last government, that only a faint memory of a constitutional Republic exists. The notion that power hungry grabbers are capable of transcending partisan rhetoric for a good purpose is patently absurd. The only cooperation that ever unites the party politics is to protect the despotism of the State.
“Haidt helped devise a questionnaire that gauged moral views by eliciting test-taker responses to statements in five categories: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Haidt likens these moral groupings to the five taste receptors of the tongue (sweet, sour, bitter, savory, salty). It turns out that liberal receptors failed to engage on questions of loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Conservatives, on the other hand, reacted to all five moral categories more or less equally. Haidt’s conclusion is that his fellow liberals are morally tone deaf. “Republicans understand moral psychology,” Haidt concedes. “Democrats don’t.”
It gets worse for liberals. Haidt and colleagues asked their subjects to answer their questionnaire as if they were liberals, as if they were conservatives, and as themselves. Liberals don’t know their political adversaries nearly as well as the right knows them. “The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as ‘very liberal.’ The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.” Liberals see caricatures when they see conservatives.
The thesis may prove cathartic for Republican readers. But it’s more useful to Democrats.”
As long as partisan political parties, ignore moral principles, and the “States Rights” framework of limited government the psychological disorders of the ultimate Statist mental illness will spread. It is always amusing when partisan critics rant about the lack of condemnation against opposing party foes, when their silence about the abuses of their patron party hacks goes unspoken.
It is bad enough how ignorant the average voter is when they cast their ballot. As long as people accept and tolerate the two party diatribes against viewpoints that challenge the establishment power cabal, there are no viable prospects for elective solutions. As of this writing, the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll has, “Mitt Romney attracting support from 48% of voters nationwide, while President Obama earns the vote from 47%. One percent (1%) prefers some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.”
How can any thinking and responsible American vote for either candidate? Both are tyrannical teammates for the globalist franchise. Those who speak out against the establishment order are not the ones with a mental illness. Those who vote for their own demise are one-step removed from the infective treachery coming out of the federal government. Paleo-conservative ideology is the righteous political philosophy for a Free People. What is the state of your own mental health?
Warnings That A Massive Stock Market Crash Is ImminentIn the financial world, the month of October is synonymous with stock market crashes. So will a massive stock market crash happen this year? You never know. The truth is that our financial system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008, and financial experts such as Doug Short, Peter Schiff, Robert Wiedemer and Harry Dent are all warning that the next crash is rapidly approaching. We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world and Wall Street has been transformed into a giant casino that is based on a massive web of debt, risk and leverage. When that web breaks we are going to see a stock market crash that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic. Yes, the Federal Reserve has tried to prevent any problems from erupting in the financial markets by initiatinganother round of quantitative easing, but 40 billion dollars a month will not be nearly enough to stop the massive collapse that is coming. This will be explained in detail toward the end of the article. Hopefully we will get through October (and the rest of this year) without seeing a stock market collapse, but without a doubt one is coming at some point. Those on the wrong end of the coming crash are going to be absolutely wiped out.
A lot of people focus on the month of October because of the history of stock market crashes in this month. This history was detailed in a recent USA Today article….
When it comes to wealth suddenly disappearing, October can be diabolically frightful. The stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression occurred in October. So did the 22.6% plunge suffered by the Dow Jones industrial average in 1987 on “Black Monday.”
The scariest 19-day span during the 2008 financial crisis also went down in October, when the Dow plunged 2,675 points after investors fearing a financial collapse went on a panic-driven stock-selling spree that resulted in five of the 10 biggest daily point drops in the iconic Dow’s 123-year history.
So what will we see this year?
Only time will tell.
If a stock market crash does not happen this month or by the end of this year, that does not mean that the experts that are predicting a stock market crash are wrong.
It just means that they were early.
As I have said so many times, there are thousands upon thousands of moving parts in the global financial system. So that makes it nearly impossible to predict the timing of events with perfect precision. Financial conditions are constantly shifting and changing.
But without a doubt another major financial collapse similar to what happened back in 2008 (or even worse) is on the way. Let’s take a look at some of the financial experts that are predicting really bad things for our financial markets in the months ahead….
According to Doug Short, the vice president of research at Advisor Perspectives, the stock market is somewhere between 33% and 51% overvalued at this point. In a recent article he offered the following evidence to support his position….
● The Crestmont Research P/E Ratio (more)
● The cyclical P/E ratio using the trailing 10-year earnings as the divisor (more)
● The Q Ratio, which is the total price of the market divided by its replacement cost (more)
● The relationship of the S&P Composite price to a regression trendline (more)
Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, has been one of the leading voices in the financial community warning people about the crisis that is coming.
During a recent interview with Fox Business, Schiff stated that the massive financial collapse that we witnessed back in 2008 “wasn’t the real crash” and he boldly declared that the “real crash is coming”.
So is Schiff right?
We shall see.
Economist Robert Wiedemer warned people what was coming before the crash of 2008, and now he is warning that what is coming next is going to be even worse….
“The data is clear, 50% unemployment, a 90% stock market drop, and 100% annual inflation . . . starting in 2012.”
Financial author Harry Dent believes that the stock market could fall by as much as 60 percent in the coming months. He is convinced that stocks are hugely overvalued right now….
“We have the greatest debt bubble in history. We will see a worldwide downturn. And when you are in this type of recessionary environment stocks should be trading at five to seven times earnings.”
So are these guys right?
We shall see.
But I do find it interesting that some of the biggest names in the financial world are currently making moves as if they also believe that a massive financial crisis is coming.
For example, as I have written about previously, George Soros has dumped all of his holdings in banking giants JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
Infamous billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, the man who made somewhere around 20 billion dollarsbetting against the U.S. housing market during the last financial crisis, is making massive bets against the euro right now.
So where are these financial titans putting their money?
According to the Telegraph, both of these men are pouring enormous amounts of money into gold….
There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).
Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.
At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.
So why would they do this?
Why would they pour millions upon millions of dollars into gold?
Well, it would make perfect sense to put so much money into gold if a massive financial crisis was coming.
So is the next financial crisis imminent?
We will see.
Most “financial analysts” that appear in the mainstream media would laugh at the notion that a stock market crash is imminent.
Most of them would insist that everything is going to be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future.
In fact, most of them are convinced that quantitative easing is going to cause stocks to go even higher.
After all, isn’t quantitative easing supposed to be good for stocks?
Didn’t I write an article just last month that detailed how quantitative easing drives up stock prices?
Yes I did.
So how can I be writing now about the possibility of a stock market crash?
Aren’t I contradicting myself?
Not at all.
Let me explain.
The first two rounds of quantitative easing did indeed drive up stock prices. The same thing will happen under QE3, unless the effects of QE3 are overwhelmed by a major crisis.
For example, if we were to see a total collapse of the derivatives market it would render QE3 totally meaningless.
Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market range from 600 trillion dollars all the way up to 1.5 quadrillion dollars. Nobody knows for sure how large the market for derivatives is, but everyone agrees that it is absolutely massive.
When we are talking about amounts that large, the $40 billion being pumped into the financial system each month by the Federal Reserve during QE3 would essentially be the equivalent of spitting into Niagara Falls. It would make no difference at all.
Most Americans do not understand what “derivatives” are, so they kind of tune out when people start talking about them.
But they are very important to understand.
Essentially, derivatives are “side bets”. When you buy a derivative, you are not investing in anything. You are just gambling that something will or will not happen.
I explained this more completely in a previous article entitled “The Coming Derivatives Crisis That Could Destroy The Entire Global Financial System“….
A derivative has no underlying value of its own. A derivative is essentially a side bet. Usually these side bets are highly leveraged.
At this point, making side bets has totally gotten out of control in the financial world. Side bets are being made on just about anything you can possibly imagine, and the major Wall Street banks are making a ton of money from it. This system is almost entirely unregulated and it is totally dominated by the big international banks.
Over the past couple of decades, the derivatives market has multiplied in size. Everything is going to be fine as long as the system stays in balance. But once it gets out of balance we could witness a string of financial crashes that no government on earth will be able to fix.
Five very large U.S. banks (including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Bank of America) have combined exposure to derivatives in excess of 250 trillion dollars.
Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for 2011 was only about 15 trillion dollars.
So we are talking about an amount of money that is almost inconceivable.
That is why I cannot talk about derivatives enough. In fact, I apologize to my readers for not writing about them more.
If you want to understand the coming financial collapse, one of the keys is to understand derivatives. Our entire financial system has been transformed into a giant casino, and at some point all of this gambling is going to cause a horrible crash.
Do you remember the billions of dollars that JP Morgan announced that they lost a while back? Well, that was caused by derivatives trades gone bad. In fact, they are still not totally out of those trades and they are going to end up losinga whole lot more money than they originally anticipated.
Sadly, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Much, much worse is coming. When you hear of a major “derivatives crisis” in the news, you better run for cover because it is likely that the entire house of cards is about to start falling.
And don’t get too caught up in the exact timing of predictions.
If a stock market crash does not happen this month, don’t think that the storm has passed.
A major financial crisis is coming. It might not happen this week, this month or even this year, but without a doubt it is approaching.
And when it arrives it is going to be immensely painful and it is going to change all of our lives.
I hope you are ready for that.
Source: The Economic Collapse
An aerial view of drought affected Colorado farm lands, 74 miles east of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 21, 2012 [Photo: USDA]
Severe drought spread rapidly across the central US this week, further damaging staple crops and heightening the risk of a global food crisis. The Midwest, where roughly one-third of the world’s staple grains are produced, is experiencing the deepest dry spell in over half a century.
The National Drought Mitigation Center in a statement Thursday reported “tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week.” Almost 30 percent of the Midwest is under extreme drought, triple that of the previous week.
Every state in the country had some counties under abnormally dry or drought conditions, making the disaster the most widespread US drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared 1,369 counties across 31 states disaster areas—officially the largest US disaster on record.
“It’s getting to the point where some of the damage is not reversible,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the center. “The damage is done, and even with rain, you’re not going to reverse some of these problems, at least not this growing season.”
With temperatures remaining in the triple digits across the Midwest, scattered rainstorms did little to restore moisture to topsoil. Iowa State University agronomist Roger Elmore said that over the week, “most of the state got a quarter- to half-inch of rain. We lose the equivalent of a quarter-inch of moisture every warm, sunny day.”
Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center have warned that the high heat and dry spell could extend through October. Through June, the year has been the hottest ever recorded for the US. Globally, land temperatures likewise broke all previous records last month. The extreme weather corresponds to projections issued by climatologists over the past three decades, indicating the worsening impact of global warming.
“This year is very emblematic of the type of thing we worry about with climate change,” David Lobell of global warming monitor Climate Central told ABC News. “The new normal for agriculture is going to be frequent episodes of very high temperatures. Temperatures at which pretty much any crop does not do very well.”
For the seventh consecutive week, the USDA on Monday downgraded its assessment of corn and soybean crops. For the week ending July 22, the portion of the corn crop rated in “poor” and “very poor” condition rose to 45 percent. Thirty-five percent of soybean acreage was rated poor to very poor. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt told the World Socialist Web Site in a recent interview that a rating of “very poor” likely meant such crops were “approaching no yield.”
Since June 3, the portion of corn rated in “good” to “excellent” condition plummeted from 72 to 26 percent. Seven of the largest corn-exporting states now have only one percent or less of corn acreage assessed as “excellent.” A similar plunge was recorded in soybean acreage (65 to 31 percent).
The assessment is the worst since the drought of 1988, when small farmers went out of business en masse after a decade-long rural economic crisis.
The impact of the agricultural disaster on the global food supply is compounded by a speculative frenzy on grain futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. Last week corn futures surpassed all-time records at $8.2875 a bushel, before falling back on news of rain. As of Friday, corn for September delivery was trading at $7.9375 a bushel. Some analysts have suggested that corn futures for December delivery could fetch $9 or more per bushel in August if climate predictions prove correct.
With pastures in ruin and feed prices driven up in trading, smaller US livestock producers are facing the prospect of liquidating their herds. As a result, supermarket prices for beef, pork, and other meats are likely to surge in the coming year, after the initial influx of slaughtered herds. Prices for quick-to-market meats such as chicken and eggs, as well as dairy products, will likely rise more swiftly.
The USDA on Wednesday announced that supermarket prices would rise in coming months. Currently it projects beef prices will rise 4 to 5 percent, and dairy products 3.5 to 4.5 percent.
However, large meat producers are warning that cheaper meats such as pork and chicken will become “luxuries” if Washington does not suspend a program enabling the energy industry to secure up to 40 percent of the US corn crop for ethanol production.
“I’ll use the word catastrophe—that’s my definition,” Larry Pope, head of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, told the Financial Times. In June, Smithfield moved to lock in feed costs on the futures markets before corn broke $8 a bushel. “I thought that $6 corn was the end of the world,” he said. “I never could have realized that I would be thankful to be buying it at $7.”
“Beef is simply going to be too expensive to eat,” Pope said. “Pork is not going to be too far behind. Chicken is catching up fast… Are we going to really take protein away from Americans?” He said US meat prices would rise by “significant double digits” per year.
Even a less drastic price increase in protein food sources would compell millions of low-income Americans to choose what they can afford to buy over the nutritional value provided.
The disaster bears brutal consequences for the populations of import-dependent countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. In 2008, riots erupted in more than 30 countries after a similar confluence of severe weather and speculation drove up staple food prices. Among the billions of people living on $2 a day or less, the cost of food consumes as much as three-quarters of a family’s income.
Grain suppliers are beginning to default on deals with importers in Egypt, Libya, and Iraq. Egypt, the world’s largest consumer of wheat, is turning to Russia as the US drought deepens. However, Russia has also cut its wheat outlook by 3 million tons.
The US corn outlook negatively impacts wheat exports, as a poor corn harvest tends to mean wheat is held more tightly for domestic use. Because Egypt imports half of its wheat, and a quarter of its wheat imports originate in the US, any fluctuation in the grain’s price or supply sharply impacts living conditions in the country. Forty percent of the Egyptian population subsists on $2 a day or less.
The world’s population is subjected to the irrationality of the market, and the disjointed global food system. Barges loaded with Southeast Asia-bound grain have clogged Indian ports, creating delays of up to 25 days. Spotty rains in Asian growing regions may further compound food shortfalls and inflation.
“The deficit in rainfall will definitely cause food inflation to go up,” Dun & Bradstreet economist Arun Singh told Reuters. “The extent of the impact will be known only after the monsoon is over.” With monsoon season half over, some agricultural areas of the country have seen rainfall 68 percent lower than average. Food inflation in India is already 10.81 percent, significantly higher than general inflation; on lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, and other staples, the rise is far higher.
Source: Naomi Spencer | wsws.org
I first came to national attention back in 2008 and 2009 when the housing and credit markets imploded. I became known as the guy that other market “experts” laughed at when I warned of trouble brewing in the seemingly indestructible American economy. After the wheels ground to a halt in mid-2008, people noticed that my book Crash Proof, originally released in early 2007, read like a detailed preview of many of the events that eventually unfolded.
Three years later I am now catching heat from many who assume that my predictions actually fell short. They argue that I was able to anticipate the crash but that I severely underestimated the resiliency of the American economy. They admit that we took an “unexpected” blow to the chin, and that it left a lingering bruise, but they argue that we never hit the canvas like I predicted we would.
However, they mistakenly assumed that the crash I was warning about was solely a housing led credit bubble. While that was part of it, I never saw it ending there. The crash that most concerned me was the one that would result from the government’s response to the initial crisis. My concern was not that our economy would succumb to the disease that I had diagnosed, but instead would be taken down by the “cure” that the government unleashed to combat it.
When the government’s delaying tactic, which involves continuous borrowing and money printing is no longer tenable, the dollar could collapse, interest rates and consumer prices could soar and the U.S. economy could implode. That’s the real crash that I was warning about, and the one we all need to be worried about now.
This is the subject of my new book “The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy, How to Save Yourself and Your Country.” For now it is just a prophecy but as with my first book, it soon may be regarded as history. Unfortunately, the policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and the Ben Bernanke led Federal Reserve, have vastly raised the chances that my catastrophic view will come to pass. However, it’s not all gloom and doom — I devote a large majority of the book to solutions. The real crash may be inevitable, but what we do in response is not. We can follow on the path that I recommend back to prosperity, or we can continue on our current course which I believe will lead to economic ruin.
When looking back from a point in the future, I believe that the years immediately after the credit collapse of 2008 will stand out as a period of dangerous economic negligence. We have bought ourselves some time by sweeping enormous problems under the rug. Through a combination of political cowardice, economic ignorance, and false confidence, we are digging ourselves into a hole so deep that it may take generations to crawl out.
Most people assume that half way through 2012 we have made some important positive strides since flirting with the brink of economic catastrophe in the dark days of 2008. Although no one is wildly celebrating the below trend 2 to 3 percent GDP growth, we are continuously reminded that we have turned the corner and that our situation is better than many other regions around the world. But what has really changed?
Immediately prior to the crash, the United States economy was experiencing unprecedented consumer debt levels, persistently high trade deficits, historically large government budget deficits, high-energy prices, and a moribund manufacturing sector. Four years later, all of these problems have gotten worse. And unlike four years ago, we are now saddled with the highest unemployment rate in generations and levels of public debt that would have been unimaginable then. Yes we are no longer technically in recession. But I believe that is just an illusion created by perhaps the cheapest, and most obvious, trick ever devised.
I had argued that our economic growth prior to the crisis was largely a function of the real estate bubble. When that bubble popped, I knew that the economy would have to shrink. And that’s just what happened. From 2008 to 2009 our national GDP (of around $14 trillion) contracted by $212 billion. To prevent any further dips, the government aggressively spent, borrowing heavily to do so. To the relief of just about everyone, these moves did stop the nominal contraction. From 2010 to 2011 the U.S. GDP expanded by $502 billion, and from 2011 to 2012 it added an additional $508 billion. All told, from the end of 2008 the U.S. economy added a cumulative $798 billion in GDP. But those gains came at a very high price.
The combined federal deficits for the same time frame come in at a staggering $4.2 trillion! In 2009 alone the feds chalked up a chart breaking $1.4 trillion in debt (the deficit was a mere $161 billion in 2007). In other words, we borrowed five times more than we grew. This “strategy” for growth is no different from an individual who loses half his income, but continues to spend by running up credit card debt. Could this be described as economic growth? But that’s just how we are describing our current economy, and for the large part, expert economists, politicians, investors, and academics all agree.
I felt certain before writing Crash Proof that the government would never let the economy contract far enough to restore balance and sustainability. I knew the spending and deficits would head off the charts. I thought those realities would push down the dollar and cause foreign creditors to shun American government debt. However, I did not factor in the reprieve we have gotten from the false perception that Europe is in even worse shape than we.
As the curtain eventually falls on the drama unfolding in Europe, the world will refocus its attention on the more spectacular events in the U.S. The sovereign debt crisis that is now playing out in Europe will cross the Atlantic, and when it opens here The Real Crash may indeed finally begin. The average American will have a front row seat but will hardly enjoy the show.
Source: Peter Schiff | Business Insider