“The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.” – Harold Pinter, Nobel Acceptance Speech
“Obama is just a willing executioner. From the ruling class’s point of view, he’s the perfect figurehead because his mere appearance confuses and disarms so many. He seems to have spent his whole life trying to get chosen to play Judas. And that’s all there is in his resume.” -bevin, Comments line, Moon of Alabama
According to a newly-released Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Barack Obama’s job-approval ratings have dipped to a new low of 41 percent with a full 54 percent of respondents saying they “disapproved” of the job he’s doing. Obama’s handling of the economy, health care and foreign policy were particular areas of concern for most respondents. On health care, Obama is seen as having strengthened the for-profit insurance industry with little benefit for ordinary working people. The survey also showed “the lowest-ever approval” for the president’s handling of foreign policy. And, on the economy, the results were even more shocking; a full 57% of the people polled “believe the U.S. is still in a recession” while “65 percent think the country is on the wrong track”. Widespread disappointment in Obama’s performance has weakened his support among blacks, Hispanics and women, traditionally, the most loyal groups in the Party’s base.
There’s no doubt that Obama has been hurt by the anemic recovery or by focusing on deficit reduction instead of job creation. High unemployment, flat wages and shrinking incomes have weighed heavily on expectations, which has put a damper on consumption and growth. Gallup’s Economic Confidence index now shows a “sharp decline in the outlook for the future” …”with some 57 percent of the respondents saying things are getting worse, not better.”
Indeed, things have gotten worse under Obama, much worse, which is why many of his most ardent supporters are falling off the bandwagon. And the disappointment is not limited to economic policy either. Recent surveys confirm what most people already know, that the public is tired of the interventions, the provocations, the meddling and the endless wars. The American people are increasingly isolationist and want the government to disengage from foreign conflicts. Here’s an excerpt from a recent survey by PEW that sums up the mood of the country:
“For the first time since 1964, more than half (52%) agree that the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own;” 38% disagree, according to a survey conducted Oct.-Nov. 2013. Similarly, 80% agree with the statement, “We should not think so much in international terms but concentrate more on our own national problems and building up our strength and prosperity here at home.” (U.S. Foreign Policy: Key Data Points from Pew Research, PEW Research Center)
The PEW poll merely expands on the findings in other surveys like this from the LA Times:
“Two thirds of Americans questioned in a recent poll said the 12-year war fought in Afghanistan…hasn’t been worth the price paid in lives and dollars…
The survey conducted for the media by Langer Research Associates of New York found that disillusionment with the U.S.-led war was expressed by a majority of all political leanings. Overall, 66% of respondents said the war hasn’t been worth it. Those who identified themselves as liberals were most unhappy with the military investment: 78% said the war was a mistake.” (Poll: Two thirds of Americans say Afghan war not worth fighting, LA Times)
The same is true of Iraq. The war wasn’t worth fighting. Check this out on ABC News:
“Ten years after U.S. airstrikes on Baghdad punctuated the start of the Iraq war, nearly six in 10 Americans say the war was not worth fighting – a judgment shared by majorities steadily since initial success gave way to years of continued conflict.
Nearly as many in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the same about the war in Afghanistan. And while criticisms of both wars are down from their peaks, the intensity of sentiment remains high, with strong critics far outweighing strong supporters.” (A Decade on, Most are Critical of the U.S.-Led War in Iraq, ABC News)
And that brings us to today and the looming prospect of a war with Russia over developments in the Crimea. Here’s what people are thinking according to a survey in the Washington Post:
“A new poll suggests Americans have very little appetite for any real involvement in the crisis in Ukraine. Only 29 percent of Americans would like for the Obama administration to take a ‘firm stand’ against Russia’s incursion into its neighbor, according to the Pew Research Center poll, while nearly twice as many — 56 percent — prefer the United States not to get too involved in Ukraine.
The poll reflects a war-weary American public that is still very reticent to get involved in international conflicts. The American people were similarly opposed to military intervention in Syria last year, despite President Obama calling for the use of force and seeking congressional approval for action.” (Few Americans want ‘firm stand’ against Russia in Ukraine, Washington Post)
Of course, Obama doesn’t care the American people want. He’s going to do what he signed-on to do; crack down on civil liberties, strangle the economy, and spread war across the planet. As far as the warmongering goes–he’s doing an even better job than Bush. Don’t believe me? Just check out this clip from the International Business Times:
“In their annual End of Year poll, researchers for WIN and Gallup International surveyed more than 66,000 people across 65 nations and found that 24 percent of all respondents answered that the United States “is the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Pakistan and China fell significantly behind the United States on the poll, with 8 and 6 percent, respectively.” (In Gallup Poll, The Biggest Threat To World Peace Is… America?, IBT)
There you have it, the Obama presidency in a nutshell: “The United States is the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Keep in mind, this survey wasn’t taken during the Bush years. Oh no. This is all Obama’s doing, every bit of it.
Let’s summarize: The majority of Americans think Obama is doing a lousy job. They think the economy stinks, and they think their financial situation is getting worse. They also think the country is on the wrong track, that America is a threat to world peace, and that they don’t want anymore goddamned wars.
Check, check, check, check and check.
So, what do you think the Obama administration’s reaction to this public outpouring has been?
I’ll tell you what it’s been. They’re happy. That’s right, they’re happy. Despite the plunging poll numbers and dwindling public support, the Obama team feels vindicated by the fact that they’re not as widely reviled as the Bush administration. That’s their benchmark: Bush. And they could be on to something too, after all, who would have thought that a president could repeal habeas corpus, destroy the economy, launch wars and coups like they’re going out of style, vaporize hundreds of innocent people in drone attacks, intensify surveillance on every man, woman and child in the United States, and claim the right to assassinate US citizens without due process, without inciting millions of enraged Americans to grab their pitchforks and head to Washington?
That’s what would have happened if Bush was still in office, right? But Obama gets a “pass”. Why? Because he’s an articulate, charismatic black man who the vast majority of Dems still admire. Can you believe it?
Obama represents everything these people profess to hate–war, drone attacks, Gitmo, austerity, Wall Street (no prosecutions), indefinite detention, executive privilege (to assassinate) etc–and yet they still put the man on a pedestal. Which is why we think that Obama is the greatest public relations invention of all-time; a beaming, exuberant, galvanic paragon who embodies all the laudatory characteristics of leadership and who–at the same time– is able to carry out the most despicable, inhuman acts without the slightest hesitation or remorse. He is man who feels nothing towards his fellow human beings, neither empathy, compassion, or mercy. What matters to Obama is that he faithfully follow the script that’s been written for him by his miscreant handlers, that odious amalgam of cutthroat corporatists, bank mandarins and loafing ivy league silver-spooners who make up America’s iniquitous Kleptocracy. The best description of Obama I’ve ever read was in the comments section of a foreign policy blogsite called Moon of Alabama by a blogger named “bevin”. Here’s what he said:
“I think that Obama is completely empty of scruples…just a willing executioner. From the ruling class’s point of view he is the perfect figurehead because his mere appearance confuses and disarms so many. He seems to have spent his whole life trying to get chosen to play Judas. And that is all there is in his resume…
They present him as negligent, never responsible, never intentionally connected to an evil act, never drawn into the acts of duplicity by a conscious intent. This is the false image, the disinformation projected about who he is…
It strikes me that Obama is all those things. And that this is the core of the evil in him- that he is without conscience or principle, just an ordinary butcher going about his business, fulfilling the terms of his employment, doing what he was asked to do…
You see him as focused and intentional.
I see him as someone who will sign a stack of death warrants without reading them, or thinking about them again. Remember just after November 2008, waiting to take office, how the Israelis attacked Gaza, obviously to show him who is boss? Didn’t you sense that even they were surprised at the insouciance with which he watched those extraordinary massacres pass before his eyes?
He didn’t care. And he was, at last, relieved of the chore of pretending that he did care about such things.
That’s really what he likes about being President: he can relax while the killing goes on, he doesn’t need to pretend it bothers him, he doesn’t need to pass any kind of moral judgment.
Remember when he asked his step-father “Have you ever killed men?”
The reply he got was “Only men who were weak.”
He has adhered to that moral standard ever since.” (bevin, Moon of Alabama)
That perfectly summarizes the man; an empty gourd who never had any intention of fulfilling his promises, who has utter disdain for the fools that voted for him, and who finds it as easy to kill a man, his family and his kids, as to swat a fly on his forearm. As bevin notes Obama “is a pure confidence man and a sociopath.”
And now the sociopath has focused his attention on Ukraine where he’s determined to draw Russia into a conflict over the Crimea even though Moscow has assisted the US in the War on Terror, removed its heavy weapons from the Western part of Russia, reduced its conventional military by 300,000 troops, and fulfilled all its obligations under the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces Treaty in Europe (ACAF).
Moscow has done everything that was asked of it. And what has Washington done in return. Here’s how Valentin Mândrăşescu, Editor of The Voice of Russia’s Reality Check, sums it up on the Testosterone Pit website:
“Washington has defaulted on all of its key agreements made with USSR/Russia during the last 30 years. Gorbachev was promised that Eastern Europe would not be taken into NATO. Country by country became part of NATO and Yugoslavia was dismantled despite Russia’s objections. The US acted as the winner of the Cold War and guided its policies by the famous principle of “Vae victis!” Woe to the vanquished!” (Valentin Mândrăşescu, Editor of The Voice of Russia’s Reality Check, From now on, No compromises are possible with Russia, Testosterone Pit)
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the US has surrounded Russia with military bases, trained troops in Georgia that were eventually used to fight Russia in South Ossetia, instigated numerous color-coded revolutions in former Soviet states, and started to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe that will give Washington first-strike nuclear weapons capability that will destroy “the strategic equilibrium in the world” and force Putin to resume the arms race.
That’s how Washington makes friends; by stomping their face into the pavement every chance it gets. Sound familiar?
On Wednesday, Obama met with Ukraine’s imposter prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, at the White House in a attempt to lend credibility to the coup leader’s Nazi-strew government. Obama used the White House event to applaud the putsch and to promise support for the aggressively anti-Kremlin government. Shortly after Obama finished his statement, blogsites released copies of a resolution that was issued by the European Parliament just 15 months earlier condemning the groups which are now part of the US-backed Ukrainian government. Here’s a blurb from the text of that resolution:
“The European Parliament…Is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.” (Moon of Alabama)
How do you like that? So the European Parliament saw the danger of these groups and denounced them before they had a change of heart and realized that these died-in-the-wool, neo-Nazi, jackboot-thugs might be able to help them advance their foreign policy objectives. Now the EU nations are lining up behind Obama who’s doing his level-best to provoke Putin so he can push NATO to Russia’s borders, take control of critical pipeline corridors and vital resources, and install weapons systems on Russia’s perimeter. These are the administration’s goals despite the threat they pose to democracy, security, and regional stability, not to mention the possibility of a third world war.
Bottom line: You don’t get to be “the greatest threat to world peace” without really applying yourself.
Obama wants to prove he’s up to the task. Regrettably, we think he is.
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.
And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with them openly. “You are right. They will pry your gun from your cold dead hands,” which I often follow with the question, “And where will that leave you except face down in a pool of your own blood [in] the middle of the street, just another dead fool resisting the State?”
This is not a question they are comfortable with, if only because the intent of their saber-rattling was to imply they would fight to keep their weapons, and win.
Nice fantasy. It’s not happening.
If the federal government decides to disarm the public, and when the increasingly-militarized rolls down your street after a not-so-subtle request that you kindly turn over your firearms and ammunition “for the common good,” it will be nothing less than suicide by cop to do anything other than what you are told.
The militarization of U.S. police forces is ongoing and escalating. Many cities and towns now own tanks, armored personnel carriers, even attack helicopters, and almost all are outfitted with military weapons not available to the general public.
And, it is not just your hometown cops who are getting new boy-toys. The military itself is buying up weaponry not just for use in the current or next scheduled war, but to deal with the likes of you, citizens who don’t seem to understand that the Bill of Rights has been overruled, and that specifically includes, but is not limited to, the right to protest and engage in civil disobedience.
Also ignored (as if it didn’t even exist) is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which generally bars the military from law enforcement activities within the United States.
According to Public Intelligence:
“…for the last two years, the President’s Budget Submissions for the Department of Defense have included purchases of a significant amount of combat equipment, including armored vehicles, helicopters and even artillery, under an obscure section of the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the purposes of ‘homeland defense missions, domestic emergency responses, and providing military support to civil authorities.’ Items purchased under the section include combat vehicles, tanks, helicopters, artillery, mortar systems, missiles, small arms and communications equipment. Justifications for the budget items indicate that many of the purchases are part of routine resupply and maintenance, yet in each case the procurement is cited as being ‘necessary for use by the active and reserve components of the Armed Forces for homeland defense missions, domestic emergency responses, and providing military support to civil authorities’ under section 1815 of the FY 2008 NDAA.”
And, they are not just arming cops and weekend warriors for domestic purposes. Active duty Marines are now being trained for law enforcement operations all over the world (of which the U.S. remains a part) specifically to deal with civil uprisings, and the U.S. government knows that civil uprisings are coming to a town near you just as soon as the fantasy of a healing economy is shattered, the U.S. dollar fails, and unemployment goes to 30%+ in real numbers.
And, to you tough-talking Neo-Cons with your AR-15 rifles and a few thousand rounds of ammo, here is the reality: they will take your guns, and no, all your Second Amendment bluster aside, you are not going to do anything about it. You are not going to take on a platoon of Marines with state-of-the-art automatic weapons and the best body armor you cannot buy protected by armed personnel carriers and attack helicopters unless you choose to die that day — for nothing. You will either be in the country or out, and if you are in, you will stay in and you will comply.
That is your choice… for the moment.
Source: Laissez Faire
The stakes are high in the Ukraine: after the coup, as Crimea and Donbas asserted their right to self determination, American and Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory, both under cover.
The American soldiers are “military advisors”, ostensibly members of Blackwater private army (renamed Academi); a few hundred of them patrol Kiev while others try to suppress the revolt in Donetsk. Officially, they were invited by the new West-installed regime. They are the spearhead of the US invasion attempting to prop up the regime and break down all resistance. They have already bloodied their hands in Donetsk.
Besides, the Pentagon has doubled the number of US fighter jets on a NATO air patrol mission in the Baltics; the US air carrier entered the Black Sea, some US Marines reportedly landed in Lvov “as a part of pre-planned manoeuvres”.
The Russian soldiers ostensibly belong to the Russian Fleet, legally stationed in Crimea. They were in Crimea before the coup, in accordance with the Russian-Ukrainian treaty (like the US 5th fleet in Kuwait), but their presence was probably beefed up. Additional Russian troops were invited in by deposed but legitimately elected President Yanukovych (compare this with the US landing on Haiti in support of the deposed President Aristide ). They help the local pro-Russian militia maintain order, and no one gets killed in the process. In addition, Russia brought its troops on alert and returned a few warships to the Black Sea.
It is only the Russian presence which is described as an “invasion” by the Western media, while the American one is hardly mentioned. ”We have a moral duty to stick our nose in your business in your backyard a world away from our homeland. It’s for your own good”, wrote an ironic American blogger.
Moscow woke up to trouble in Ukraine after its preoccupation, nay obsession, with the Winter Olympic games had somewhat abated, — when people began to say that “Putin won the games and lost the Ukraine”. Indeed, while Putin watched sports in Sochi, the Brown Revolution succeeded in Ukraine. A great European country the size of France, the biggest republic of the former USSR (save Russia), was taken over by a coalition of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists and (mainly Jewish) oligarchs. The legitimate president was forced to flee for his very life. Members of Parliament were manhandled, and in some cases their children were taken hostage to ensure their vote, as their houses were visited by gunmen. The putsch was completed. The West recognised the new government; Russia refused to recognise it, but continued to deal with it on a day -to-day basis. However the real story is now developing in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, a story of resistance to the pro-Western takeover.
The economic situation of Ukraine is dreadful. They are where Russia was in the 1990s, before Putin – in Ukraine the Nineties never ended. For years the country was ripped off by the oligarchs who siphoned off profits to Western banks, bringing it to the very edge of the abyss. To avoid default and collapse, the Ukraine was to receive a Russian loan of 15 billion euros without preconditions, but then came the coup. Now the junta’s prime minister will be happy to receive a mere one billion dollars from the US via IMF. (Europeans have promised more, but in a few years’ time…) He already accepted the conditions of the IMF, which will mean austerity, unemployment and debt bondage. Probably this was the raison d’être for the coup. IMF and US loans are a major source of profit for the financial community, and they are used to enslave debtor countries, asPerkins explained at length.
The oligarchs who financed the Maidan operation divided the spoils: the most generous supporter, multi-billionaire Igor “Benya” Kolomoysky, received the great Russian-speaking city of Dnepropetrovsk in fief. He was not required to give up his Israeli passport. His brethren oligarchs took other Russian-speaking industrial cities, including Kharkov and Donetsk, the Ukrainian Chicago or Liverpool. Kolomoysky is not just an ‘oligarch of Jewish origin’: he is an active member of the Jewish community, a supporter of Israel and a donor of many synagogues, one of them the biggest in Europe. He had no problem supporting the neo-Nazis, even those whose entry to the US had been banned because of their declared antisemitism. That is why the appeals to Jewish consciousness against the Brown putsch demonstrably failed.
Now came the nationalists’ crusade against Russian-speakers (ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians – the distinction is moot), chiefly industrial workers of East and South of the country. The Kiev regime banned the Communist Party and the Regions’ Party (the biggest party of the country, mainly supported by the Russian-speaking workers). The regime’s first decree banned the Russian language from schools, radio and TV, and forbade all official use of Russian. The Minister of Culture called Russian-speakers “imbeciles” and proposed to jail them for using the banned tongue in public places. Another decree threatened every holder of dual Russian/Ukrainian nationality with a ten-years jail sentence, unless he gives up the Russian one right away.
Not empty words, these threats: The storm-troopers of the Right Sector, the leading fighting force of the New Order, went around the country terrorising officials, taking over government buildings, beating up citizens, destroying Lenin’s statues, smashing memorials of the Second World War and otherwise enforcing their rule A video showed a Right Sector fighter mistreating the city attorney while police looked other way. They began to hunt down riot policemen who supported the ex-president, and they burned down a synagogue or two. They tortured a governor, and lynched some technicians they found in the former ruling party’s headquarters. They started to take over the Orthodox churches of the Russian rite, intending to transfer them to their own Greek-Catholic Church.
The instructions of US State Dept.’s Victoria Nuland were followed through: the Ukraine had had the government she prescribed in the famous telephone conversation with the US Ambassador. Amazingly, while she notoriously gave “fuck” to the EU, she did not give a fuck about the Russian view of Ukraine’s immediate future.
Russia was not involved in Ukrainian developments: Putin did not want to be accused of meddling in Ukrainian internal affairs, even when the US and EU envoys assisted and directed the rebels. The people of Russia would applaud him if he were to send his tanks to Kiev to regain the whole of Ukraine, as they consider it an integral part of Russia. But Putin is not a Russian nationalist, not a man of Imperial designs. Though he would like the Ukraine to be friendly to Russia, annexing it, in whole or in part, has never been his ambition. It would be too expensive even for wealthy Russia: the average income in the Ukraine is just half of the Russian one, and tits infrastructure is in a shambles. (Compare to the very costly West German takeover of the GDR.) It would not be easy, either, for every Ukrainian government in the past twenty years has drenched the people with anti-Russian sentiment. But involvement was forced upon Putin:
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians voted with their feet and fled to Russia, asking for asylum. Two hundred thousand refugees checked in during the weekend. The only free piece of land in the whole republic was the city of Sevastopol, the object of a French and British siege in 1852 and of a German siege in 1941, and the home base of the Russian Black Sea fleet. This heroic city did not surrender to the Kiev emissaries, though even here some local deputies were ready to submit. And at that last moment, the people began their resistance. The awful success of the putsch was the beginning of its undoing. The pendulum of Ukraine, forever swinging between East and West, began its return movement.
The people of Crimea rose, dismissed their compromise-seeking officials and elected a new leader, Mr Sergey Aksyonov. The new leadership assumed power, took over Crimea and asked for Russian troops to save them from the impending attack by the Kiev storm troopers. It does not seem to have been necessary at this stage: there were plenty of Crimeans ready to defend their land from the Brown invaders, there were Cossack volunteers and there is the Russian Navy stationed in Crimea by treaty. Its Marines would probably be able to help the Crimeans in case of trouble. The Crimeans, with some Russian help, manned the road blocks on the narrow isthmus that connects Crimea to the mainland.
The parliament of Crimea voted to join Russia, but this vote should be confirmed by a poll on March 16 to determine Crimea’s future — whether it will revert to Russia or remain an autonomous republic within the Ukraine. From my conversation with locals, it seems that they would prefer to join the Russian Federation they left on Khrushchev’s orders only a half century ago. Given the Russian-language issue and the consanguinity, this makes sense: Ukraine is broke, Russia is solvent and ready to assume its protection. Ukraine can’t pay salaries and pensions, Russia had promised to do so. Kiev was taking away the lion’s share of income generated in Crimea by Russian tourists; now the profits will remain in the peninsula and presumably help repair the rundown infrastructure. Real estate would likely rise drastically in price, optimistic natives surmise, and this view is shared by Russian businessmen. They already say that Crimea will beat out Sochi in a few years’ time, as drab old stuff will be replaced by Russian Imperial chic.
Perhaps Putin would prefer the Crimea gain independence, like Kosovo, or even remain under a token Ukrainian sovereignty, as Taiwan is still nominally part of China. It could become a showcase pro-Russian Ukraine to allow other Ukrainians to see what they’re missing, as West Berlin was for the East Germans during the Cold War. Regaining Crimea would be nice, but not at the price of having a consolidated and hostile Ukraine for a neighbour. Still Putin will probably have no choice but to accept the people’s decision.
There was an attempt to play the Crimean Tatars against the Russians; apparently it failed. Though the majlis, their self-appointed organisation, supports Kiev, the elders spoke up for neutrality. There are persistent rumours that the colourful Chechen leader Mr Kadyrov, a staunch supporter of Mr Putin, had sent his squads to the Tatars to strong-arm them into dropping their objections to Crimea’s switch to Russia. At the beginning, the Tatars supported Kiev, and even tried to prevent the pro-Russian takeover. But these wise people are born survivors, they know when to adjust their attitudes, and there is no doubt they will manage just fine.
Russian Nazis, as anti-Putin as Ukrainian Nazis, are divided: some support a “Russian Crimea” whilst others prefer pro-European Kiev. They are bad as enemies, but even worse as friends: the supportive Nazis try to wedge between Russians and Ukrainians and Tatars, and they hate to see that Kadyrov’s Chechnya actually helps Russian plans, for they are anti-Chechen and try to convince people that Russia is better off without Chechens, a warlike Muslim tribe.
As Crimea defied orders from Kiev, it became a beacon for other regions of the Ukraine. Donbas, the coal and steel region, raised Russian banners and declared its desire for self-determination, “like Crimea”. They do want to join a Russian-led Customs Union; it is not clear whether they would prefer independence, autonomy or something else, but they, too, scheduled a poll – for March 30. There were big demonstrations against the Kiev regime in Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov and other Russian-speaking cities. Practically everywhere, the deputies seek accommodation with Kiev and look for a way to make some profit, but the people do not agree. They are furious and do not accept the junta.
The Kiev regime does not accept their quest for freedom. A popularly-elected Mayor of Donetsk was kidnapped by the Ukrainian security forces and taken to Kiev. There are now violent demonstrations in the city.
The Ukrainian navy in the Black Sea switched its allegiance from Kiev to Crimea, and they were followed by some units of the air force with dozens of fighter jets and ground troops. Troops loyal to Kiev were blocked off by the Crimeans, but there was no violence in this peaceful transfer of power.
The junta appointed an oligarch to rule Donbas, Mr Sergey Taruta, but he had difficulty assuming power as the local people did not want him, and with good reason: Taruta had bought the major Polish port of Gdansk and brought it to bankruptcy. It seems he is better at siphoning capital away than in running serious business. Ominously, Mr Taruta brought with him some unidentified, heavily armed security personnel, reportedly guns-for-hire from Blackwater (a.k.a. Academi) fresh from Iraq and Afghanistan. He will need a lot more of them if he wants to take Donbas by force.
In Kharkov, the biggest Eastern city, erstwhile capital of Soviet Ukraine, local people ejected the raiding force of the Right Sector from government offices, but police joined with the oligarchs. While the fake revolution took place in Kiev under the tutelage of US and EC envoys, the real revolution is taking place now, and its future is far from certain.
The Ukraine hasn’t got much of an army, as the oligarchs stole everything ever assigned to the military. The Kiev regime does not rely on its army anyway. Their attempt to draft able-bodied men failed immediately as hardly anybody answered the call. They still intend to squash the revolution. Another three hundred Blackwater mercenaries landed Wednesday in Kiev airport. The Kiev regime applied for NATO help and expressed its readiness to allow US missiles to be stationed in the Ukraine. Missiles in the Ukraine (as now stationed in Poland, also too close for Russian comfort) would probably cross Russia’s red line, just as Russian missiles in Cuba crossed America’s red line in 1962. Retired Israeli intelligence chief Yaakov Kedmi, an expert on Russia, said that in his view the Russians just can’t allow that, at any price, even if this means all-out war.
Putin asked the upper house of the Russian parliament for permission to deploy Russian troops if needed, and the parliament unanimously approved his request. They will probably be deployed in order to defend the workers in case of attack by a Right Sector beefed up by Blackwater mercenaries. Humanitarian catastrophe, large-scale disturbances, the flow of refugees or the arrival of NATO troops could also force Putin’s hand, even against his will.
The President in exile
President Yanukovych will be historically viewed as a weak, tragic figure, and he deserves a better pen with a more leisured pace than mine. He tried his best to avoid casualties, though he faced a full-scale revolt led by very violent Brown storm-troopers. And still he was blamed for killing some eighty people, protesters and policemen.
Some of the victims were killed by the Right Sector as they stormed the ruling party offices. The politicians left the building well in advance, but the secretarial staff remained behind — many women, janitors and suchlike. An engineer named Vladimir Zakharov went to the besieging rebels and asked them to let the women out. They killed him on the spot with their bats. Another man was burned alive.
But the majority of casualties were victims of sniper fire, also blamed on Yanukovych. The Kiev regime even asked the Hague tribunal to indict the President as they had President Milosevic. But now, a telephone conversation between EC representative Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet reveals that the EC emissaries were aware that dozens of victims of sniper fire at the Maidan were killed by Maidan rebel supporters, and not by police or by President Yanukovych, as they claimed. Urmas Paet acknowledged the veracity of this conversation at a press conference, and called for an independent enquiry. It turned out that the rebel snipers shot and killed policemen and Maidan protesters alike, in order to shed blood and blame it on the President.
This appears to be a staple feature of the US-arranged revolutions. Snipers killing both protesters and police were reported in Moscow’s 1991 and 1993 revolutions, as well as in many other cases. Some sources claim that famed Israeli snipers were employed on such occasions, which is plausible in view of Mr Kolomoysky’s Israeli connection. A personal friend of Mr Kolomoysky, prominent member of the then-opposition, Parliamentarian and present head of administration Sergey Pashinsky was stopped by police as he removed a sniper’s rifle with a silencer from the scene of murder. This discovery was briefly reported in the New York Times, but later removed. This revelation eliminates (or at least seriously undermines) the case against the President. Probably it will be disappear down the memory hole and be totally forgotten, as were the Seymour Hersh revelations about Syria’s sarin attack.
Another revelation was made by President Putin at his press-conference of March 4, 2014. He said that he convinced (read: forced) President Yanukovych to sign his agreement of February 21, 2014 with the opposition, as Western ministers had demanded. By this agreement, or actually capitulation act, the Ukrainian President agreed to all the demands of the Brown rebels, including speedy elections for the Parliament and President. However, the agreement did not help: the rebels tried to kill Yanukovych that same night as he travelled to Kharkov.
Putin expressed amazement that they were not satisfied with the agreement and proceeded with the coup anyway. The reason was provided by Right Sector goons: they said that their gunmen will be stationed by every election booth and that they would count the vote. Naturally, the agreement did not allow for that, and the junta had every reason to doubt their ability to win honest elections.
It appears Yanukovych hoped to establish a new power base in Kharkov, where a large assembly of deputies from East and South of Ukraine was called in advance. The assembly, says Mr Kolomoysky, was asked to assume powers and support the President, but the deputies refused. That is why President Yanukovych, with great difficulty, escaped to Russia. His landing in Rostov made quite an impression on people as his plane was accompanied by fighter jets.
Yanukovych tried to contact President Putin, but the Russian president did not want to leave the impression that he wants to force Yanukovych on the people of Ukraine, and refused to meet or to speak with him directly. Perhaps Putin had no time to waste on such a weak figure, but he publicly recognised him anyway as the legitimate President of the Ukraine. This made sense, as President Yanukovych requested Russian troops to bring peace to his country. He still may make a comeback – as the president of a Free Ukraine, if such should ever be formed in some part of the country, – or as the protagonist of an opera.
English language editing by Ken Freeland.
Scoundrel media editors find new ways to embarrass themselves. They mock legitimate news and opinion.
They suppress it. They violate fundamental journalistic standards doing so.
They suck up to power. They support monied interests. They deplore popular ones. They endorse Western aggression. They do it repeatedly.
They blame victims for horrific US crimes committed against them. They condemn Putin for responsibly defending the safety and security of endangered Russian nationals.
Thank heavens he’s around. He’s the one world leader challenging the damn fool in the White House responsibly.
He’s our best hope for world peace. He deserves worldwide support. His best efforts may not be enough.
Neocons infest Washington. They threaten everyone. The damn fool in the White House risks starting WW III.
His damn fool Secretary of State John Kerry said “we’re now discussing all of the options.”
He outrageously accused Russia of “aggression.” No nation commits it more often against more nonbelligerent nations than America.
It wages one lawless war after another. It ravages and destroys countries doing so. Kerry is an unindicted war criminal. So is the damn fool in the White House.
They threaten world peace. They risk potential armageddon. Media scoundrels cheerlead what demands condemnation.
They denounce what demands praise. When America goes to war or plans one, they march in lockstep. They do it disgracefully.
New York Times editors stand out. They masquerade as legitimate journalists. They feature managed news misinformation rubbish.
They endorsed Ukrainian putschists. They ousted a democratically elected government. They did so with well-planned US help.
Stop NATO’s Rick Rozoff called their coup the most overt one since Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome. It’s no exaggeration. Nothing in recent memory matches their brazenness.
Times editors are mindless of mob rule governance. Fanatical putschists run things. They scare hell out of everyone paying attention.
Times editors turn a blind eye. Journalism the way it’s supposed to be is verboten. On March 2, they headlined “Russia’s Aggression.”
They outrageously accused Putin of “exploit(ing) the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea (as well as) any other power grab he may be hatching.”
They ludicrously claimed “an immediate threat to Ukrainian Russians is empty.” Crimean self-defense volunteers already put down an attempt by Kiev infiltrators to seize government buildings.
Times editors ignore what refutes their arguments. They lied claiming Ukrainians in Crimea are endangered.
They have nothing to fear from responsible governance. Democrats in charge prioritize public safety.
Times editors wrongfully accused ousted President Viktor Yanukovych of coup plotter killings.
They murdered civilians in cold blood. They gunned down Kiev security forces. They did so in Independence Square.
Neo-Nazi snipers fired from rooftops. They operated from windows in nearby buildings. Everything that happened was well choreographed in advance.
Washington’s dirty hands manipulated things. Obama bears full responsibility. He partnered with fascist thugs. He’s got another imperial trophy.
Keeping it is another matter entirely. Ukrainians nationwide won’t likely tolerate what’s planned for them. Perhaps real revolutionary fervor will erupt.
Times editors are consistent. They’re on the wrong side of history. They ignore facts. They bury them.
They make stuff up. They lie for power. They do it to defend the indefensible.
They lied claiming Putin wants “control over Crimea.” He wants to “humiliate Ukraine,” they said.
They want Obama, NATO and EU leaders challenging Putin “if (he) escalates his intervention in Ukraine.”
He supports its sovereign independence. He opposes Washington’s direct role in replacing democratic Ukrainian governance with mob rule fascists. Don’t expect Times editors to explain.
Neocon Washington Post editors want more direct US intervention. They support ousting Syria’s Assad forcibly. They endorse fascists usurping power in Ukraine.
They headlined “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.” They bashed Assad, China’s Xi Jinping and Putin.
They want Obama confronting them more aggressively. If he “doesn’t make the case for global engagement, no one else” will for him, they said.
They claimed “the tide of democracy in the world” is “retrenching.” They ignored Washington’s direct role in subverting it at home and abroad.
In previous editorials, they barely stopped short of urging direct US intervention. They support Ukrainian fascists retaining power.
David Ignatius is one of many WaPo neocon columnists. He has longstanding close US intelligence ties. He’s no journalist. He’s a propagandist.
He openly favors arming anti-Assad death squads. He reports what Washington bullies want stressed.
Inconvenient facts are dismissed. Lies, damn lies and misinformation substitute. On March 2, he headlined “Putin’s error in Ukraine is the kind that leads to catastrophe.”
He lied claiming he “invad(ed) Crimea.” He did no such thing. He’ll deploy military forces to protect Russian nationals if needed. Any responsible leader would do the same thing.
Ignatius turned facts on their head. He claimed “former Soviet satellites” are “prosperous” EU members.
He ignored deepening poverty, unemployment and deprivation throughout its member states.
He ludicrously claimed countries making up the former Yugoslavia “emerged as strong democracies.” Pro-Western puppet governments run them.
He blamed Yanukovych for fascist street thug crimes. They “courageous(ly) braved the cold and police brutality to protest,” he said.
They committed cold-blooded murder. They ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected government. They rule by brutal force. Don’t expect Ignatius to explain.
He ludicrously envisions “a cascading chain of error that brings Russian troops deeper into Ukraine and sets the stage for civil war.”
Putin wants it avoided. He’s going all-out for stability and security. Fascist coup plotters will bear full responsibility if internal conflict erupts.
Ignatius is militantly hawkish. Obama “would be wise to seek to deter Russian aggression without specifying too clearly what the US ladder of escalation might be,” he urged.
His commentary excluded what’s most important for readers to know. Truth was systematically suppressed.
Wall Street Journal editors match the worst of outrageous opinion writers. Rupert Murdoch rules apply. On March 2, they headlined “Putin Declares War.”
They lied saying he “seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula by force (and) now has his sights on the rest of his Slavic neighbor.”
“(B)razen aggression,” they screamed. War threatens Europe’s heartland “for the first time since the end of the Cold War,” they claimed.
Post-WW II, it never once did until now. Washington’s orchestrated coup ups the stakes. Obama threatens world peace.
Putin is the world’s best chance to preserve it. Whether he’s able deter possible US aggression remains to be seen.
Journal editors turned truth on its head. It’s hard imagining more convoluted rubbish. They accused Putin of “moving to carve up Ukraineâ¤|”
They claim “a popular democratic uprising” toppled Yanukovych. They ignored a US-orchestrated fascist coup d’etat.
They called Russia’s parliament “rubber-stamp.” They lied accusing its members of “approv(ing) military intervention anywhere in Ukraine, which is nothing less than a declaration of war.”
They called Obama’s full responsibility for crisis conditions in Ukraine “made entirely in Moscow.”
Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are world class diplomats. They’re democrats. They’re polar opposite Western fascists.
They’re worthy Nobel Peace Prize nominees. They’re more deserving than any other world leaders.
Nobel Committee members have their own system. They honor war criminals. Peacemakers needn’t apply.
Journal editors write what responsible ones wouldn’t touch. They claimed Putin seeks “entrench(ed) authoritarianism in client states.”
He wants them “prevent(ed) from joining free Europe,” they said. Freedoms in Western dominated areas are fast disappearing.
Neoliberal harshness is official policy. Ordinary people are ruthlessly exploited. Don’t expect Journal editors to explain.
They lied claiming Russia’s upper house Federation Council “approved (a) declaration of war.”
They lied again calling Kiev’s coup d’etat parliament democratic. They quoted Obama lying. He called Moscow’s legitimate defense of Russian nationals a “breach of international law.”
Journal editors urge aggressive anti-Russian measures. They want their officials targeted. They want Sixth Fleet warships patrolling Black waters close to Crimea.
Imagine their howls if Russian naval vessels entered the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine likely Washington countermeasures.
They want other NATO countries confronting Moscow. “Mr. Obama and the West must act,” they said. They must do more “than merely threaten…”
They absurdly called Ukraine “a casualty of Mr. Obama’s failure to enforce his ‘red line’ on Syria.”
“Ukrainians can’t be left alone to face Russia, and the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea can’t be allowed to stand,” they said.
They called Putin “the leading edge of what could quickly become a new world disorder.”
Journal editors and commentators specialize in reinventing history. Their rubbish doesn’t wash. They consistently turn truth on its head.
They suppress what readers most need to know. They disgrace themselves in the process.
A previous article quoted former Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932 – 1997) saying: “No respectable fish would (want to) be wrapped in” a Murdoch paper. It’s more than ever true now.
Ongoing crisis conditions persist. War winds threaten to become gale force. Potential East/West conflict is real.
Obama bears full responsibility if it erupts. Bellowing scoundrel media liars share it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false.
The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category. The transcripts (1,865 pages) reveal the details of 14 emergency meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak and the Fed braintrust was deliberating on how best to prevent a full-blown meltdown. But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized.
What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time. They take advantage of the fact that people simply forget a lot of what happened during the crisis and, as a result, absolve the Fed of any accountability for what is likely the crime of the century. It’s an accomplishment that PR-pioneer Edward Bernays would have applauded. After all, it was Bernays who argued that the sheeple need to be constantly bamboozled to keep them in line. Here’s a clip from his magnum opus “Propaganda”:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”
Sound familiar? My guess is that Bernays’ maxim probably features prominently in editors offices across the country where “manufacturing consent” is Job 1 and where no story so trivial that it can’t be spun in a way that serves the financial interests of the MSM’s constituents. (Should I say “clients”?) The Fed’s transcripts are just a particularly egregious example. Just look at the coverage in the New York Times and judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”:
“The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
This quote is so misleading on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.
First of all, the New York Times is the ideological wellspring of elite propaganda in the US. They set the tone and the others follow. That’s the way the system works. So it always pays to go to the source and try to figure out what really lies behind the words, that is, the motive behind the smokescreen of half-truths, distortions, and lies. How is the Times trying to bend perceptions and steer the public in their corporate-friendly direction, that’s the question. In this case, the Times wants its readers to believe that the Fed members “misread the crisis”; that they were ‘behind the curve’ and stressed-out, but–dad-gum-it–they were trying their level-best to make things work out for everybody.
How believable is that? Not very believable at all.
Keep in mind, the crisis had been going on for a full year before the discussions in these transcripts took place, so it’s not like the members were plopped in a room the day before Lehman blew up and had to decide what to do. No. They had plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, get their bearings and do what was in the best interests of the country. Here’s more from the Times:
”My initial takeaway from these voluminous transcripts is that they paint a disturbing picture of a central bank that was in the dark about each looming disaster throughout 2008. That meant that the nation’s top bank regulators were unprepared to deal with the consequences of each new event.”
Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Of course, the Fed knew what was going on. How could they NOT know? Their buddies on Wall Street were taking it in the stern sheets every time their dingy asset pile was downgraded which was every damn day. It was costing them a bundle which means they were probably on the phone 24-7 to (Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson whining for help. “You gotta give us a hand here, Hank. The whole Street is going toes-up. Please.”
Here’s more from the NYT:
“Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators. As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
There’s that same refrain again, “Blind”, “In the dark”, “Behind the curve”, “Misread the crisis”.
Notice how the Times only invokes terminology that implies the Fed is blameless. But it’s all baloney. Everyone knew what was going on. Check out this excerpt from a post by Nouriel Roubini that was written nearly a full year before Lehman failed:
“The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation’s worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.
On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis.” ( Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor)
Roubini didn’t have some secret source for data that wasn’t available to the Fed. The financial system was collapsing and it had been collapsing for a full year. Everyone who followed the markets knew it. Hell, the Fed had already opened its Discount Window and the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in 2007 to prop up the ailing banks–something they’d never done before– so they certainly knew the system was cratering. So, why’s the Times prattling this silly fairytale that “the Fed was in the dark” in 2008?
I’ll tell you why: It’s because this whole transcript business is a big, freaking whitewash to absolve the shysters at the Fed of any legal accountability, that’s why. That’s why they’re stitching together this comical fable that the Fed was simply an innocent victim of circumstances beyond its control. And that’s why they want to focus attention on the members of the FOMC quibbling over meaningless technicalities –like non-existent inflation or interest rates–so people think they’re just kind-hearted buffoons who bumbled-along as best as they could. It’s all designed to deflect blame.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these conversations didn’t happen. They did, at least I think they did. I just think that the revisionist media is being employed to spin the facts in a way that minimizes the culpability of the central bank in its dodgy, collaborationist engineering of the bailouts. (You don’t hear the Times talking about Hank Paulson’s 50 or 60 phone calls to G-Sax headquarters in the week before Lehman kicked the bucket, do you? But, that’s where a real reporter would look for the truth.)
The purpose of the NYT article is to create plausible deniability for the perpetrators of the biggest ripoff in world history, a ripoff which continues to this very day since the same policies are in place, the same thieving fraudsters are being protected from prosecution, and the same boundless chasm of private debt is being concealed through accounting flim-flam to prevent losses to the insatiable bondholders who have the country by the balls and who set policy on everything from capital requirements on complex derivatives to toppling democratically-elected governments in Ukraine. These are the big money guys behind the vacillating-hologram poseurs like Obama and Bernanke, who are nothing more than kowtowing sock puppets who jump whenever they’re told. Here’s more bunkum from the Gray Lady:
”By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.
Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.
On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”
Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)
This part deserves a little more explanation. The author says “the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.” Uh, yeah; because the whole flimsy house of cards came crashing down when investors figured out Wall Street was peddling toxic assets. So the money dried up. No one buys crap assets after they find out they’re crap; it’s a simple fact of life. The Times makes this sound like this was some kind of unavoidable natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado. It wasn’t. It was a crime, a crime for which no one has been indicted or sent to prison. That might have been worth mentioning, don’t you think?
More from the NYT: “…on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.”
Yipee! Free money for all the crooks who blew up the financial system and plunged the economy into recession. The Fed assumed blatantly-illegal powers it was never provided under its charter and used them to reward the people who were responsible for the crash, namely, the Fed’s moneybags constituents on Wall Street. It was a straightforward transfer of wealth to the Bank Mafia. Don’t you think the author should have mentioned something about that, just for the sake of context, maybe?
Again, the Times wants us to believe that the men who made these extraordinary decisions were just ordinary guys like you and me trying to muddle through a rough patch doing the best they could.
Right. I mean, c’mon, this is some pretty impressive propaganda, don’t you think? It takes a real talent to come up with this stuff, which is why most of these NYT guys probably got their sheepskin at Harvard or Yale, the establishment’s petri-dish for serial liars.
By September 2008, Bernanke and Paulson knew the game was over. The crisis had been raging for more than a year and the nation’s biggest banks were broke. (Bernanke even admitted as much in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2011 when he said “only one ….out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States…was not at serious risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” He knew the banks were busted, and so did Paulson.) Their only chance to save their buddies was a Hail Mary pass in the form of Lehman Brothers. In other words, they had to create a “Financial 9-11″, a big enough crisis to blackmail congress into $700 no-strings-attached bailout called the TARP. And it worked too. They pushed Lehman to its death, scared the bejesus out of congress, and walked away with 700 billion smackers for their shifty gangster friends on Wall Street. Chalk up one for Hank and Bennie.
The only good thing to emerge from the Fed’s transcripts is that it proves that the people who’ve been saying all along that Lehman was deliberately snuffed-out in order to swindle money out of congress were right. Here’s how economist Dean Baker summed it up the other day on his blog:
“Gretchen Morgensen (NYT financial reporter) picks up an important point in the Fed transcripts from 2008. The discussion around the decision to allow Lehman to go bankrupt makes it very clear that it was a decision. In other words the Fed did not rescue Lehman because it chose not to.
This is important because the key regulators involved in this decision, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, have been allowed to rewrite history and claim that they didn’t rescue Lehman because they lacked the legal authority to rescue it. This is transparent tripe, which should be evident to any knowledgeable observer.” (“The Decision to Let Lehman Fail”, Dean Baker, CEPR)
Here’s the quote from Morgenson’s piece to which Baker is alluding:
“In public statements since that time, the Fed has maintained that the government didn’t have the tools to save Lehman. These documents appear to tell a different story. Some comments made at the Sept. 16 meeting, directly after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, indicate that letting Lehman fail was more of a policy decision than a passive one.” (“A New Light on Regulators in the Dark”, Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times)
Ah ha! So it was a planned demolition after all. At least that’s settled.
Here’s something else you’ll want to know: It was always within Bernanke’s power to stop the bank run and end to the panic, but if he relieved the pressure in the markets too soon (he figured), then Congress wouldn’t cave in to his demands and approve the TARP. Because, at the time, a solid majority of Republicans and Democrats in congress were adamantly opposed to the TARP and even voted it down on the first ballot. Here’s a clip from a speech by, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in September 2008 which sums up the grassroots opposition to the bailouts:
“The $700 bailout bill is being driven by fear not fact. This is too much money, in too short of time, going to too few people, while too many questions remain unanswered. Why aren’t we having hearings…Why aren’t we considering any other alternatives other than giving $700 billion to Wall Street? Why aren’t we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren’t we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? Why aren’t we directly helping homeowners with their debt burdens? Why aren’t we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Isn’t time for fundamental change to our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”
But despite overwhelming public resistance, the TARP was pushed through and Wall Street prevailed. mainly by sabotaging the democratic process the way they always do when it doesn’t suit their objectives.)
Of course, as we said earlier, Bernanke never really needed the money from TARP to stop the panic anyway. (Not one penny of the $700 bil was used to shore up the money markets or commercial paper markets where the bank run took place.) All Bernanke needed to do was to provide backstops for those two markets and, Voila, the problem was solved. Here’s Dean Baker with the details:
“Bernanke deliberately misled Congress to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He told them that the commercial paper market was shutting down, raising the prospect that most of corporate America would be unable to get the short-term credit needed to meet its payroll and pay other bills. Bernanke neglected to mention that he could singlehandedly keep the commercial paper market operating by setting up a special Fed lending facility for this purpose. He announced the establishment of a lending facility to buy commercial paper the weekend after Congress approved TARP.” (“Ben Bernanke; Wall Street’s Servant”, Dean Baker, Guardian)
So, there you have it. The American people were fleeced in broad daylight by the same dissembling cutthroats the NYT is now trying to characterize as well-meaning bunglers who were just trying to save the country from another Great Depression.
I could be wrong, but I think we’ve reached Peak Propaganda on this one.
(Note: By “good” propaganda, I mean “effective” propaganda. From an ethical point of view, propaganda can never be good because its objective is to intentionally mislead people…..which is bad.)
Many benefit programs have gone high tech with debit cards and J.P. Morgan Chase and others are making a pretty penny charging users fees. What is there to be done?
The Agricultural Act of 2014, signed into law by President Obama last Friday, includes $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade. One way the bill proposes to accomplish these savings is by reducing food stamp fraud. When the new farm bill is enacted, many of America’s hardest working families will experience cuts in services and have trouble putting food on their family’s table. But there will be major gains for an industry that most Americans might not expect: banking.
Banks reap hefty profits helping governments make payments to individuals, business that only got better when agencies switch from making payments on paper—checks and vouchers—to electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. EBT cards look and work like debit cards, and by 2002, had entirely replaced the stamp booklets that gave the food stamp program its name. SNAP is the most well-known program delivered via EBT, but they also carry payments for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF); Women, Infants and Children (WIC); childcare subsidies; state general assistance; and many other programs. EBT use is widespread, from the corner store to the supercenter. According to a 2012 USDA report, SNAP funds, averaging $133 per family member per month, can be spent at more than 246,000 authorized stores, farmers’ markets, farms, and meal providers nationwide.
Not only are the operating costs of delivering benefits by EBT lower—no paper checks to cut, envelopes to stuff, or postage to pay—but electronic forms of payment allow banks to multiply opportunities for revenue generation. Banks hold contracts with federal, state, and municipal agencies to provide EBT cards and services, collect interest on federal reserve money held for government programs (though not on SNAP funds), charge transaction fees for merchant use of bank technology and infrastructure, and levy penalties on users for EBT card loss, out-of-network use, and balance inquiries. Banks make money distributing government benefits if the economy is bad, because more people sign up for assistance; they make money if the economy is good, because rising interest rates mean more profit on the money they hold to distribute to beneficiaries.
Distributing government benefits is a lucrative industry. According to theGovernment Accountability Institute, J.P. Morgan Chase, which currently controls EBT contracts in 21 states, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, made more than half a billion dollars between 2004 and 2012 providing government benefits to U.S. citizens. In New York alone, J.P. Morgan Electronic Financial Services (EFS) holds a nine-year, $177 million EBT services contract with the State Office of Temporary and Disability Services (OTDA). New York currently pays $0.95 per month for each its 1.7 million SNAP cases. In addition, J.P. Morgan EFS collects penalties and fees from benefit recipients: $5 to replace a lost EBT card, $0.40 for each balance inquiry, $0.50 each time their cards are declined for insufficient funds, and $1.50 per withdrawal if they use ATMs to get cash more than once a month. While information about profit margins on EBT contracts is neither collected at the national level nor released by banks, EBT is a significant growth area for big banks. Last year, the Federal Reserve Payments Study reported that the number of EBT transactions more than doubled since 2006.
Electronic benefits delivery is such a rewarding business that banks seem to fear only two things: policy changes and bad publicity. The publicity problems of EBT programs became obvious over the last three months of 2103 when three major EBT system failure scandals erupted. The threat of policy change is perhaps less visible. New regulations could take distribution of these benefits out of the hands of for-profit banks, limit the fees they are able to collect, or mandate a switch from EBT cards to different kinds of electronic funds transfer with fewer opportunities for generating revenue, such as direct deposit. But banks have nothing to fear in the new Agricultural Act; it’s only good news for the finance sector.
The new farm bill lowers benefit levels somewhat, exempts new categories of people—college students, ex-felons, and lottery winners—from SNAP eligibility, and prohibits advertising to increase enrollment of eligible individuals, like radio and television campaign launched by the USDA in 2004. But the bill’s sponsor, Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), and other members of the House Committee on Agriculture seem to trust that detecting and preventing fraud will accomplish much of the hoped-for savings. The new Act includes numerous fraud-fighting provisions, including those that:
- Require merchants to maintain unique terminal identification numbers for point of sale machines, further restrict the kinds of food that can be bought with SNAP, and bar manual sales of food items without bar codes;
- Improve procedures and technologies to facilitate state-to-state and state-to-federal information sharing;
- Invite federal-state collaborative pilot projects to “identify, investigate, and reduce fraud” by merchants; and
- Set aside $40 million to help the USDA store information, such as food purchase data from chain stores and loyalty card companies, and data-mine it, by linking store sales and EBT transaction data at the household level to uncover purchasing patterns, for example.
In short, the SNAP fraud provisions will increase the ability of state and federal agencies to track who bought what food, where, and for how much. A vast amount of information on the purchases of millions of U.S. citizens will be collected by state agencies and private entities, stored by the USDA, and data-mined for patterns of EBT use that indicate fraud.
Why will this intensified focus on fraud work out so well for banks? First, banks innovate and control the most cutting-edge technologies that detect and prevent fraud in electronic funds transfer. The financial sector employs armies of computer programmers, IT specialists, and software engineers, and banks hold dozens of patents on biometric technology, data-mining systems, and payment tracking software. State and federal agencies can develop fraud-fighting code and procedures themselves, but many lack sufficient capacity and choose instead to contract with banks. Florida, for example, piloted an eight-month EBT abuse detection project in 2012 that was staffed by both J.P. Morgan and state employees, as Peter Schweizer reported in The Daily Beast. The anti-fraud provisions of the farm bill, thus, provide a significant opportunity for more, and more lucrative, contracts for banks.
Second, fraud in food stamps, despite public perceptions, is already low, and getting from very little fraud to zero fraud is prohibitively expensive. This is especially true for trafficking—the trading of SNAP benefits for cash—the most common form of SNAP fraud. Merchants and recipients must work together to traffic SNAP benefits. Recipients approach a merchant, who might offer 50 cents on the dollar to convert food stamps to cash. The merchant runs the EBT card, hands over cash, and then reports sales for reimbursement by the Treasury. Current fraud detection and prevention focuses on suspicious patterns—merchants who claim lots of even-dollar sales, recipients who spend all of their SNAP benefits in the first week of the month—but traffickers have adjusted quickly, learning to input odd dollar amounts and to spread requests for reimbursement over time.
The USDA estimates that the amount of SNAP benefits being trafficked has been reduced by 145 percent since 1993. According to a March 2011 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) report, for the period of 2006-2008, trafficking diverted about 1 cent of each benefit dollar. Trafficking is difficult to detect and prevent, because retailers and recipients who commit fraud adapt as fast as banks, states, and the USDA can develop new data-mining and investigative procedures. This fraud-detection arms race is expensive and time-consuming for government agencies and contractors, and adds cumbersome limits and procedures for users—both merchants and recipients—most of whom aren’t committing fraud.
What cost are we willing to bear to reduce SNAP fraud to less than a penny per dollar? Federal and state government agencies invest astronomical sums in high-tech tools to address a financially negligible problem. For comparison’s sake, while we lose $330 million a year to SNAP trafficking, Ashlea Ebeling of Forbesestimates that the U.S. government loses $40 to $70 billion a year to offshore tax evasion. Nevertheless, in 2012, the FNS conducted 4,396 undercover investigations of retail grocers suspected of fraud, at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers, identifying violations in about 40 percent of cases. In 2011, Alabama’s RFP for EBT services strongly encouraged potential vendors to “recommend the use of new and innovative technologies” to “improve detection and prevention of fraud” and integrate biometrics in their proposals for the state’s SNAP program. The five-year Alabama contract, worth $51 million, went to Xerox, the same company that denied SNAP users in 17 states access to food for several hours when they shut down their EBT system without any warning last October.
Third, only three firms handle the majority of EBT contracts with states and U.S. territories: J.P. Morgan EFS (23 contracts); Xerox State and Local Solutions, Inc. (17 contracts); and eFunds Corporation, a subsidiary of FIS Global (11 contracts). On February 10, J.P. Morgan confirmed that it plans to sell its prepaid card business, including U.S. Public Sector and EBT programs, after suffering a serious data breach on debit cards used at Target stores and facing inquiries from Connecticut and New York about its lack of sufficient privacy safeguards and high card fees. This may leave even fewer players in the mix, and that’s a bad thing, according to Michele Simon, author of the report, “Food Stamps, Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting From Hungry Americans?”, who provided a copy of the New York/J.P. Morgan EBT contract for this story. When so few firms control such significant market share, it implies limited competition and excessive market power. Simon suggests, in fact, that the recent changes to SNAP represent a large, mostly overlooked corporate subsidy. “The real policy challenge in SNAP is not fraud. It is the fact that we have an $80 billion a year program that does not solve hunger, and certainly does not provide good nutrition, but instead is a boon for banks, big box retailers, and junk food companies.”
If banks are secret winners, the losers are pretty clear: taxpayers, particularly those who receive nutritional support through the SNAP program. That’s one in seven Americans at this moment, and 52 percent of all Americans at some point in their lifetimes, according to Mark Rank, author of One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All. Put simply, the Agricultural Act of 2014 takes money from a program that serves the majority of Americans and gives it to banks and high-tech companies.
But it does something else. These provisions improve a system meant to collect information on the food purchases of more than half of the U.S. population, and fund the development of increasingly sophisticated technology to sift and analyze it. In the same year that we expressed shock and outrage that the NSA is collecting meta-information on our cellphone calls and Google searches, why are we acquiescing, even welcoming, a sophisticated new program to collect American consumer information? Do we really want the federal and state governments data-mining our grocery lists?
We need a solution that contains bank profits and prevents this kind of mass surveillance. The answer’s simple: stop trying to predict fraud, eliminate complicated rules about what can and cannot be bought with food stamps, and switch to direct deposit.
A key challenge of this solution is connecting benefits recipients with affordable bank accounts, because for-profit banks are not particularly interested in low-balance, high-transaction customers. But, according to Aleta Sprague, policy analyst in the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation, strategies that focus on eliminating barriers to bank accounts will provide significant benefits for poor and working Americans. Connecting benefits recipients to the financial mainstream poses real challenges to both the public assistance system and current financial practices, but there are intriguing experiments already underway. In Washington state, for example, a collaboration of the Department of Commerce and Burst for Prosperity is connecting households on public assistance with affordable banking services and requiring that no-fee accounts be included in future EBT provider contracts.
“Instead of seeking to monitor and regulate every purchase a low-income consumer makes,” says Sprague, “we should recognize and capitalize on the potential of the public assistance system to serve as a mechanism for financial inclusion. That way, rather than constructing the safety net around distrust of the poor, we would leverage the system to increase families’ financial autonomy and capabilities.”
Direct deposit is more efficient, cheaper, and requires less administrative oversight. That’s why the IRS, Social Security, and Unemployment Insurance encourage us to use it. What direct deposit would not allow is paternalistic rules about how public assistance beneficiaries choose to use their resources to best support their families. Treating SNAP recipients like the reasonable, hard-working adults they are is not only simpler and less expensive; it is most just.
“Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.” – John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
It’s too bad Keynes isn’t around today to see how the toxic combo of financial engineering, central bank liquidity and fraud have transformed the world’s biggest economy into a hobbled, crisis-prone invalid that’s unable to grow without giant doses of zero-rate heroin and mega-leverage crack-cocaine. This is exactly what the British economist warned about more than half a century ago in his magnum opus, “The General Theory…”, that you can’t build a vital, prosperous economy on the ripoff, Ponzi scams of Wall Street charlatans, mountebanks and swindlers. It can’t be done. And, yet– here we are again– in the middle of another historic asset-price bubble conceived and engineered by the bubbleheaded crackpots at the Federal Reserve. Go figure?
Just take a look at housing, which is at the end of an astonishing 18-month run that was entirely precipitated by what?
Consumer confidence, bigger incomes, credit expansion, growing revenues, pent-up demand?
No, no, no, no and no. Economic fundamentals played no part in the so called housing rebound. In fact–as everyone knows–the economy stinks as bad today as it did 4 years ago when the government number-crunchers announced the end of the recession. The reason prices have been rising is because of the Fed’s loosy-goosey monetary policy (fake rates and QE), inventory suppression, bogus gov mortgage modification programs, and unprecedented speculation. (mainly Private Equity and investors groups) Those are the four legs of the stool propping up housing. Only now it looks like a couple of those legs are in the process of being sawed off which is going to put downward pressure on sales and prices. Take a look at this from DS News:
“A majority of experts surveyed by Zillow and Pulsenomics expect large-scale investors will pull out of the housing market in the next few years…
Out of 110 economists, real estate experts, and investment strategists surveyed in Zillow’s latest Home Value Index, 57 percent said they think institutional investors will work to sell the majority of homes in their portfolios “in the next three to five years.” These investors are largely credited with propping up housing during its recession, helping to keep sales volumes from plummeting too far.
While their withdrawal will most certainly affect today’s still-fragile market—79 percent of those surveyed said the impact would be “significant or somewhat significant” should investor activity curtail this year.”
Experts Predict Level Playing Field as Investors Withdraw, DS News
This is what we were afraid of from the very beginning, that the big PE firms would pack-it-in and move on once they’d made a killing, which they have, since prices soared 12 percent in one year. Now they want to get out while they getting is good, which means that–in some of the hotter markets where investors represented upwards of 50 percent of all purchases–there will have to be a new source of demand. Unfortunately, the demand for housing has never been weaker.
Sales are down, purchase applications are down, and the country’s homeownership rate has slipped to levels not seen since 1995, 18 years ago. The Fed’s $1 trillion purchase of mortgage backed securities (MBS) and zero rates have done nothing to stimulate “organic” consumer demand. Zilch. No “trickle down” at all. All the policy has done is generate a temporary surge of speculation that’s distorted prices and created conditions for another big bust. Get a load of this article from Housing Perspectives:
“Although household growth is the major driver of housing demand, getting an accurate picture of recent trends in this measure is difficult…In its recent release, the HVS reported annual household growth of just 448,800 in 2013. This represents a 48 percent drop in household growth relative to that from 2012 and marked the lowest annual household growth measure since 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession (Figure 1).
Source: US Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey
Repeat: “…a 48 percent drop in household growth relative to that from 2012 and marked the lowest annual household growth measure since 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession.”
Do you really think there are enough firsttime homebuyers in out there in Mortgageland to fill that gap?
In your dreams! Keep in mind, that a lot of firsttime homebuyers are collage grads who want to start a family and put down roots. Regrettably, nearly half of those potential buyers have been scrubbed from the list due to their burgeoning student loans which now exceed $1 trillion. These kids will probably never own a home, let-alone have a positive impact on sales in 2014. Ain’t gonna happen.
Maybe this is why the banks are suddenly speeding up their foreclosure filings, because they want to offload more of their distressed inventory before prices fall. Is that it? Check out this article on Housingwire:
“Monthly foreclosure filings — including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — reversed course and increased 8% to 124,419 in January from December, according to the latest report from RealtyTrac.
This marks the 40th consecutive month where foreclosure activity declined on an annual basis, with filings down 18% from January…
As a whole, 57,259 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in January, rising 10% from December…
…this month’s foreclosure starts increased from a year ago in 22 states, including Maryland (up 126%), Connecticut (up 82%), New Jersey (up 79%), California (up 57%), and Pennsylvania (up 39%).
Scheduled foreclosure auctions jumped 13% in January compared to the previous month.”RealtyTrac: Monthly foreclosure filings reverse course, rise 8%, Housingwire
Like most articles on housing, you have to sift through the bullshit to figure out what’s really going on, but it’s worth the effort. The banks have been dragging their feet for 40 months now, slowing down the foreclosure process (and adding to the shadow supply of distressed homes.) in order to push up prices hoping to ignite another boom. Now–after 3 and a half years of blatant collusion–they’ve done a 180 and started speeding up foreclosures. Why?
It’s because they agree with the above-mentioned “110 economists, real estate experts, and investment strategists” who think that “institutional investors” are going to call-it-quits and move on to greener pastures. That’s going to push down prices, which means they’re going to lose money. So they want to get ahead of the curve and dump more houses on the market before the stampede. That way, they lose less money.
Keep in mind, the banks are up-to-their-eyeballs in distressed inventory. Even conservative estimates of shadow backlog puts the figure of 90-day delinquent or worse, above 3 million homes. But if you review the gloomier prognostications, the sum could easily exceed 6 million homes, enough to suck the entire bleeding banking system into a black hole of insolvency. There was an interesting article on the topic in Bloomberg last week. It seems that, “bond king” Jeffrey Gundlach has been warning mortgage-backed security purchasers that they should to pay more attention to underlying collateral in MBSs (vacant homes, that is) which have been “rotting away” for “six years” or more. Here’s a clip from the article:
“The housing market is softer than people think,” Mr. Gundlach said, pointing to a slowdown in mortgage refinancing, shares of homebuilders that have dropped 13% since reaching a high in May, and the time it’s taking to liquidate defaulted loans…
About 32% of seriously delinquent borrowers, those at least 90 days late, haven’t made a payment in more than four years, up 7% from the beginning of 2012, according to Fitch analyst Sean Nelson.
“These timelines could still increase for another year or so,” Mr. Nelson said, leading to even higher losses because of added legal and tax costs, and a greater potential for properties to deteriorate.”
Gundlach Counting Rotting Homes Makes Subprime Bear, Bloomberg
Let me get this straight: The number of “seriously delinquent borrowers” has actually gone up in the last year? Not only that, but many of these people “haven’t made a payment in more than four years”?
That’s a mighty fine recovery you got there, Mr. Bernanke. Sheesh.
Keep in mind, the backlog of unwanted homes could be a lot bigger than most people think. Way bigger. I was reading an article by Keith Jurow the other day, (“The Coming Mortgage Delinquency Disaster”, Keith Jurow, dshort.com) that paints a pretty grim picture of what is really going on behind the faux inventory numbers. Jurow–who has done extensive research on pre-foreclosure notice filings in New York state– says: “The number of monthly foreclosure filings in Suffolk County on Long Island …(were) more than 180,000 (while) fewer than 1,000 foreclosure filings had been served each month in (the last 4 years). By this calculation, Jurow figures that there should have been 1,192,000 foreclosures in New York state while the actual percentage of homes that have been repossessed remains in the single digits. (Read the whole article here.)
Chew on that for a minute. So, that’s a total of 180,000 homeowners who would have faced foreclosure under normal conditions, while less than 48,000 have actually been foreclosed. That’s 132,000 fewer foreclosures than there should have been IN JUST ONE COUNTY IN ONE STATE ALONE.”
The reason the prodigious shadow stockpile continues to balloon is quite simple, as Jurow points out in his piece: “Servicers do not foreclose on seriously delinquent borrowers throughout the entire NYC metro area. Completed foreclosures have actually declined rather dramatically throughout the nation in the past two years. The difference is that in the NYC metro, the servicers have not been foreclosing since the spring of 2009.”
So, there you have it; the banks haven’t been foreclosing because it hasn’t been in their interest to foreclose. Foreclosure sales push down prices which batters balance sheets and scares shareholders. Who wants that? So the game goes on. Only now, the dynamic is changing. Skittish investors are eyeing the exits, QE is winding down, and housing prices have peaked. The recovery has reached its zenith, which is why the bankers want get off on the top floor before the elevator begins its bumpy descent.
People who are thinking about buying a house in the near future, should watch developments in the market closely and proceed with extreme caution. No one wants to get burned in another bank swindle.
Matt Drudge, owner and publisher of the “Drudge Report,” recently tweeted a cryptic warning to his readers, “Have an exit plan.” Here is how Susan Duclos reported the story in BeforeItsNews.com:
“The economic indicators are bad, markets, the weakening dollar, banks preventing large withdrawals, news of China banks halting all cash transfers, in fact, economies across the globe are failing, and much more has led to a simple, four word Tweet from American political commentator and the creator and editor of the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge, that chillingly states ‘Have an exit plan.’”
Duclos also wrote, “Drudge’s words should be a warning to everyone, it is coming, it is almost here and ‘have an exit plan’ ready.”
See the report here:
The Drudge Report is one of the finest news sources on the Web. Matt is well connected. This is the first time I have known of him to write such a warning–as mysterious as it was. No, I do not know what Matt learned to cause him to write this warning; but I do believe we should all pay attention to it.
I know it’s hard for most Americans to believe that something cataclysmic could ever happen to this country, but all of the signs on the horizon indicate that things simply cannot continue as they are for a whole lot longer. The stock markets are being manipulated by the Feds, as are the precious metals markets. Unemployment is vastly greater than what is being officially reported. Hyperinflation is a looming probability. The Feds are printing money like there is no tomorrow. Congress is totally unwilling to control its spending habits no matter which political party is in the majority. Republicans and Democrats alike continue to smash the so-called “debt ceiling.” Federal courts are unwilling to rein-in an out-of-control White House that seems determined to trample and ignore the Bill of Rights. Several countries are desperately trying to find a way to dump the dollar. U.S. foreign policy has made enemies of practically every nation on earth–as has the NSA’s global snooping. Our military is weaker and more demoralized than at any time in recent memory–maybe ever. China and Russia continue to unite militarily. More Americans are expatriating out of the country than at any time in our country’s history. Local and State law enforcement personnel more and more resemble Storm Troopers rather than peace officers. The America that was once the most envied nation in the world is now the most despised. Government corruption at the highest levels mirrors those of banana republics. For the most part, the Church in America is impotent and irrelevant. And, culturally-speaking, honesty and decency are practically non-existent. This is a recipe for disaster.
Unlike the days of America’s first Great Depression, most of us now live in major metropolitan areas. Can one imagine what life would be like in any major city in America today should normalcy be interrupted for more than a few days? Has everyone forgotten what New Orleans looked like following Hurricane Katrina? In any kind of area-wide emergency, there are about four hours (you read it right: HOURS) worth of food and supplies on store shelves–and the same with fuel at the gas pumps. And can you imagine what that big city of yours is going to look like when the welfare checks are not delivered?
I know. I know. Every time I touch on this subject, I hear from hundreds of Christian people saying things like, “Chuck, my exit plan is Jesus is coming” or “God has it all under control,” etc. But most of those same people lock their doors at night and give their teenagers (or even children) cell phones “just in case.” Many have AAA or similar plans for travel emergencies. Most of them have car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. Most have some sort of retirement plan–or wish they did. Most of them tell their wives and daughters to avoid the “bad” parts of town. Every day they routinely put in practice commonsense plans for their family’s safety. So, why is it every time the subject of having a plan for some sort of a national emergency comes up, they get all holier-than-thou and start talking about Jesus coming back?
First of all, most of America’s pastors and churches are doing nothing to help their people make commonsense preparations for any number of looming disasters. In fact, they are fueling the passiveness and indifference most people are drowning in. In the second place, the establishment media is deliberately hiding and obfuscating the truth. In the third place, too many politicians are so consumed with their own lust for wealth and power, that they would do anything to keep the American people in the dark. And, yes, some of them are actually ignorant themselves and are immersed in their own darkness. And, beyond that, the American people continue to turn their backs on honest political candidates–who know what’s going on and would truly make a gallant effort to turn the ship of state around–and elect the same kinds of establishment elitists (regardless of party) who only want to maintain the status quo.
Ladies and gentlemen, this party is almost over. The charade is about to be exposed. Whether it be by divine judgment or the natural result of all of this corruption and graft (probably both), America is going to be forced to pay the bills. And it’s not going to be pretty.
Government agencies are not buying up millions of rounds of hollow-point ammunition for target practice. First it was the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), then it was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), then the Social Security Administration (SSA), then the Department of Education (DE), then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and now it’s the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). That’s right. The Post Office is making mega-purchases of ammunition.
See this report:
But when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently introduced a bill that would have overturned a federal ban that prohibits citizens who possess concealed weapon permits from carrying inside post offices, members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill–including Montana Senator Jon Tester, Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. Obviously, elitists love it when government employees are armed but private citizens are not.
And I can tell you for a fact that there is a host of federal law enforcement personnel–who know what is going on–that are personally leading their own families to prepare for bad times. Many economists are doing the same thing.
The Scripture states, “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3 KJV) Famous Bible commentators Karl Keil and Friedrich Delitzsch quote the verse this way: “The prudent man arises from his perceiving an evil standing before him; he sees the approaching overthrow of a decaying house, or in a sudden storm the fearful flood, and betimes [early] betakes himself to a place of safety; the simple [foolish], on the contrary, go blindly forward into the threatening danger, and must bear the punishment of their carelessness.”
Ladies and gentlemen, America’s house is decaying; there is an evil standing before us; the fearful flood will come; and the sudden storm will strike. How we respond before that happens will reveal our prudence or our foolishness. I’m with Matt Drudge: “Have an exit plan.” This is especially true if you live in or near a big city.
P.S. I highly recommend Joel Skousen’s well-researched book, “Strategic Relocation.” It is chock-full of helpful information regarding dangerous and safe places and what to do about it. Learn about Skousen’s book here:
The corporate media would have us believe that the nation is in the midst of an economic recovery.
In the shadow of the approaching mid-term elections, the president cites the number of jobs created and speaks optimistically about America’s economic future. The future is indeed bright, but only if you are among the wealthiest one percent of the population.
For instance, since the 2007 recession, the greatest crisis of capitalism in 75 years, corporate profits have risen, CEO salaries and bonuses are at record levels and the stock market is soaring. By contrast, workers’ wages have stagnated for more than four decades, benefits are either few or non-existent, and workers are encumbered with debt that forces them to perform multiple jobs— if they can find them—in order to survive.
Jobs that offer long-term security and a living wage are scarce even for those with university degrees. Adjusted for inflation, today’s workers are worse off than they were in the late 1960s.
Whose economic recovery is this?
According to economic forecaster Gerald Celente, 90 percent of the jobs created in 2013 were part-time, most of them paying low wages and providing no benefits. Student loan debt exceeds $1.1 trillion, a number that surpasses the combined credit card liability of the nation.
These debts cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. The big banks and corporations that finance political campaigns have no such restrictions placed upon them.
Even the unemployment figures are deceiving. According to the latest government data, unemployment is at 6.7 percent. In reality, that number is probably closer to 17 or 18 percent, according to economist Richard Wolff.
The government does not count people whose unemployment benefits have expired or those who have given up looking for work. A cashier working 10 hours a week at Food Lion is counted as fully employed.
We have students, many of them burdened with immense debt, entering a job market that makes it difficult for them to earn a decent living. This is the economic minefield that workers across America must navigate. A little truth might help them find their way and comprehend why this is happening.
One of the many reasons we face such a bleak economic future is the implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
In 1992, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented between the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was fast-tracked through Congress by President H.W. Bush and signed into law by President Clinton. NAFTA was promoted in the commercial media as an engine for job creation in the United States, an assertion that is contradicted by the facts. According to Wolff, more than 700,000 jobs fled the country as the result of NAFTA, many of them providing middle class incomes and benefits.
Those jobs are never coming back. It is not just the number of jobs created that matter, it is the quality of those jobs that is a predictor of economic success.
Furthermore, the mass movement of U.S. corporations to Mexico wrecked the already struggling Mexican economy, particularly its sustainable, locally-based businesses. The situation initiated a mass migration of immigrant Mexican workers to the U.S. in search of better-paying jobs than were available to them in the homeland. Multinational corporations seeking a source of cheap labor and a climate of deregulation are the primary benefactors. The quantifiable effect that NAFTA has had on the U.S. workers is staggering job loss, reduced wages and increasing economic disparity.
Now, with the backing of corporate lobbyists, yet another FTA—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—is being fast-tracked through Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans are enthusiastically backing the legislation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes the process: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.” TPP is currently being negotiated between nine to 12 nations.
If enacted, TPP will permit privately-owned corporations to have hegemony over the governments of sovereign nations. For instance, if the state of West Virginia were to ban the use of genetically modified soybeans, Monsanto Corporation could either overturn the decision or extort billions of dollars in remuneration from their projected loss of profits. FTAs belligerently put corporate profits before the legitimate needs of the people and the welfare of the biosphere.
The implications for students and working class people will be profoundly detrimental.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will flee the country, wages will fall yet again, autonomy will be lost, and the job market will resemble the wreckage of the Hesperus. FTAs are the means by which the power elite are turning the U.S. into a Third World economy.
I began writing analysis on the macro-economic situation of the American financial structure back in 2006, and in the eight years since, I have seen an undeniably steady trend of fiscal decline.
I have never had any doubt that the U.S. economy as we know it was headed for total and catastrophic collapse, the only question was when, exactly, the final trigger event would occur. As I have pointed out in the past, economic implosion is a process. It grows over time, like the ice shelf on a mountain developing into a potential avalanche. It is easy to shrug off the danger because the visible destruction is not immediate, it is latent; but when the avalanche finally begins, it is far too late for most people to escape…
If you view the progressive financial breakdown in America as some kind of “comedy of errors” or a trial of unlucky coincidences, then there is not much I can do to educate you on the reasons behind the carnage. If, however, you understand that there is a deliberate motivation behind American collapse, then what I have to say here will not fall on biased ears.
The financial crash of 2008, the same crash which has been ongoing for years, is NOT an accident. It is a concerted and engineered crisis meant to position the U.S. for currency disintegration and the institution of a global basket currency controlled by an unaccountable supranational governing body like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The American populace is being conditioned through economic fear to accept the institutionalization of global financial control and the loss of sovereignty.
Anyone skeptical of this conclusion is welcome to study my numerous past examinations on the issue of globalization; I don’t have the time within this article to re-explain, and frankly, with so much information on deliberate dollar destruction available to the public today I’ve grown tired of anyone with a lack of awareness.
If you continue to believe that the Fed actually exists to “help” stabilize our economy or our currency, then you will never find the logic behind what they do. If you understand that the goal of the Fed and the globalists is to dismantle the dollar and the U.S. economic system to make way for something “new”, then certain recent events and policy initiatives do start to make sense.
The year of 2014 has been looming as a serious concern for me since the final quarter of 2013, and you can read about those concerns and the evidence that supports them in my articleExpect Devastating Global Economic Changes In 2014.
At the end of 2013 we saw at least three major events that could have sent America spiraling into total collapse. The first was the announcement of possible taper measures by the Fed, which have now begun. The second was the possible invasion of Syria which the Obama Administration is still desperate for despite successful efforts by the liberty movement to deny him public support for war. And, the third event was the last debt ceiling debate (or debt ceiling theater depending on how you look at it), which placed the U.S. squarely on the edge of fiscal default.
As we begin 2014, these same threatening issues remain (along with many others), only at greater levels and with more prominence. New developments reinforce my original position that this year will be remembered by historians as the year in which the final breakdown of the U.S. monetary dynamic was set in motion. Here are some of those developments explained…
Taper Of QE3
When I first suggested that a Fed taper was not only possible but probable months ago, I was met with a lot a bit of criticism from some in the alternative economic world. You can read my taper articles here and here.
This was understandable. The Fed uses multiple stimulus outlets besides QE in order to manipulate U.S. markets. Artificially lowering interest rates is very much a form of stimulus in itself, for instance.
However, I think a dangerous blindness to threats beyond money printing has developed within our community of analysts and this must be remedied. People need to realize first that the Fed does NOT care about the continued health of our economy, and they may not care about presenting a facade of health for much longer either. Alternative analysts also need to come to grips with the reality that overt money printing is not the only method at the disposal of globalists when destroying the greenback. A debt default is just as likely to cause loss of world reserve status and devaluation – no printing press required. Blame goes to government and political gridlock while the banks slither away in the midst of the chaos.
The taper of QE3 is not a “head fake”, it is very real, but there are many hidden motivations behind such cuts.
Currently, $20 billion has been trimmed from the $85 billion per month program, and we are already beginning to see what APPEAR to be market effects, including a flight from emerging market currencies from Argentina to Turkey. A couple of years ago investors viewed these markets as among the few places they could exploit to make a positive return, or in other words, one of the few places they could successfully gamble. The Fed taper, though, seems to be shifting the flow of capital away from emerging markets.
The mainstream argument is that stimulus was flowing into such markets, giving them liquidity support, and the taper is drying up that liquidity. Whether this is actually true is hard to say, given that without a full audit we have no idea how much fiat the Federal Reserve has actually created and how much of it they send out into foreign markets.
I stand more on the position that the Fed taper was actually begun in preparation for a slowdown in global markets that was already in progress. In fact, I believe central bankers have been well aware that a decline in every sector was coming, and are moving to insulate themselves.
Is it just a “coincidence” that the central bankers have initiated their taper of QE right when global manufacturing numbers begin to plummet?
Is it just “coincidence” the taper was started right when the Baltic Dry Index, a global indicator of shipping demand, has lost over 50% of its value in the past few weeks?
Is it just “coincidence” that the taper is running tandem with dismal retail sales growth reports from across the globe coming in from the final quarter of 2013?
And, is it just a “coincidence” that the Fed taper is a accelerating right as the next debt ceiling debate begins in March, and when reports are being released by the Congressional Budget Office that over 2 million jobs (in work hours) may be lost due to Obamacare?
No, I do not think any of this is coincidence. Most if not all of these negative indicators needed months to generate, so they could not have been caused by the taper itself. The only explanation beyond “coincidence” is that the Federal Reserve WANTED to launch the taper program and protect itself before these signals began to reach the public.
Look at it this way – The taper program distances the bankers from responsibility for crisis in our financial framework, at least in the eyes of the general public. If a market calamity takes place WHILE stimulus measures are still at full speed, this makes the banks look rather guilty, or at least incompetent. People would begin to question the validity of central bank methods, and they might even question the validity of the central bank’s existence. The Fed is creating space between itself and the economy because they know that a trigger event is coming. They want to ensure that they are not blamed and that stimulus itself is not seen as ineffective, or seen as the cause.
We all know that the claims of recovery are utter nonsense. Beyond the numerous warning signs listed above, one need only look at true unemployment numbers, household wage decline, and record low personal savings of the average American. The taper is not in response to an improving economic environment. Rather, the taper is a signal for the next stage of collapse.
Stocks are beginning to plummet around the world and all mainstream pundits are pointing fingers at a reduction in stimulus which has very little to do with anything. What is the message they want us to digest? That we “can’t live” without the aid and oversight of central banks.
The real reason stocks and other indicators are stumbling is because the effectiveness of stimulus manipulation has a shelf life, and that shelf life is over for the Federal Reserve. I suspect they will continue cutting QE every month for the next year as stocks decline. Will the Fed restart QE? If they do, it will probably not occur until after a substantial breakdown has ensued and the public is sufficiently shell-shocked. The possibility also exists that the Fed will never return to stimulus measures (if debt default is the plan), and QE stimulus will eventually be replaced by IMF “aid”.
Government Controlled Investment
Last month, just as taper measures were being implemented, the White House launched an investment program called MyRA; a retirement IRA program in which middle class and low wage Americans can invest part of their paycheck in government bonds.
That’s right, if you wanted to know where the money was going to come from to support U.S. debt if the Fed cuts QE, guess what, the money is going to come from YOU.
For a decade or so China was the primary buyer and crutch for U.S. debt spending. After the derivatives crash of 2008, the Federal Reserve became the largest purchaser of Treasury bonds. With the decline of foreign interest in long term U.S. debt, and the taper in full effect, it only makes sense that the government would seek out an alternative source of capital to continue the debt cycle. The MyRA program turns the general American public into a new cash stream, but there’s more going on here than meets the eye…
I find it rather suspicious that a government-controlled retirement program is suddenly introduced just as the Fed has begun to taper, as stocks are beginning to fall, and as questions arise over the U.S. debt ceiling. I have three major concerns:
First, is it possible that like the Fed, the government is also aware that a crash in stocks is coming? And, are they offering the MyRA program as an easy outlet (or trap) for people to pour in what little savings they have as panic over declining equities accelerates? Bonds do tend to look appetizing to uninformed investors during an equities route.
Second, the program is currently voluntary, but what if the plan is to make it mandatory? Obama has already signed mandatory health insurance “taxation” into law, which is meant to steal a portion of every paycheck. Why not steal an even larger portion from every paycheck in order to support U.S. debt? It’s for the “greater good,” after all.
Third, is this a deliberate strategy to corral the last vestiges of private American wealth into the corner of U.S. bonds, so that this wealth can be confiscated or annihilated? What happens if there is indeed an eventual debt default, as I believe there will be? Will Americans be herded into bonds by a crisis in stocks only to have bonds implode as well? Will they be conned into bond investment out of a “patriotic duty” to save the nation from default? Or, will the government just take their money through legislative wrangling, as was done in Cyprus not long ago?
The Final Swindle
Again, the next debt ceiling debate is slated for the end of this month. If the government decides to kick the can down the road for another quarter, I believe this will be the last time. The most recent actions of the Fed and the government signal preparations for a stock implosion and ultimate debt calamity. Default would have immediate effects in foreign markets, but the appearance of U.S. stability could drag on for a time, giving the globalists ample opportunity to siphon every ounce of financial blood from the public.
It is difficult to say how the next year will play out, but one thing is certain; something very strange and ugly is afoot. The goal of the globalists is to engineer desperation. To create a catastrophe and then force the masses to beg for help. How many hands of “friendship” will be offered in the wake of a U.S. wealth and currency crisis? What offers for “aid” will come from the IMF? How much of our country and how many of our people will be collateralized to secure that aid? And, how many Americans will go along with the swindle because they were not prepared in advance?
Source: Brandon Smith | Alt-Market
The Fed’s easy money policies have pushed margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to record levels laying the groundwork for a severe correction or another violent market crash.
In December, margin debt rose by $21 billion to an all-time high of $445 billion.
Buying equities on margin, that is, with loads of borrowed cash, is a sign of excessive risk taking the likes of which invariably takes place whenever the Central Bank creates subsidies for speculation by keeping interest rates pegged below the rate of inflation or by pumping trillions of dollars into the bloated financial system through misguided liquidity programs like QE.
Investors have shrugged off dismal earnings reports, abnormally-high unemployment, flagging demand, droopy incomes, stagnant wages and swollen P/E ratios and loaded up on stocks confident that the Fed’s infusions of liquidity will keep prices going higher. It’s only a matter of time before they see the mistake they’ve made.
The chart below illustrates how zero rates and QE lead to excessive risk taking. The correlation between the stratospheric rise of margin debt and the Fed’s destabilizing monetary policy is hard to avoid. This is what bubblemaking looks like in real time.
Chart: Seeking Alpha.
In the minutes of the FOMC’s December meeting, FOMC officials acknowledge the froth they’ve created in financial assets which is why they’ve begun to scale back their asset purchases. The Fed hopes that by gradually winding down QE they’ll be able to stage a soft landing rather than a full-blown crash. Here’s an excerpt from the FOMC’s minutes:
“In their discussion of potential risks, several participants commented on the rise in forward price-to-earnings ratios for some smallcap stocks, the increased level of equity repurchases, or the rise in margin credit. One pointed to the increase in issuance of leveraged loans this year and the apparent decline in the average quality of such loans.”
There you have it, the Fed sees the results of its work; the distortions in P/E ratios, the exuberant stock buybacks (“equity repurchases”), the deterioration in the quality of leveraged loans, and the steady rise in margin debt. They see it all, all the bubbles they’ve created with their gargantuan $3 trillion surge of liquidity. Now they have started to reverse the policy by reducing their asset purchase from $85 bil to $65 bil per month, the effects of which can already be seen in the Emerging Markets.
The bubble in Emerging Markets has burst sending foreign currencies plunging and triggering a sharp reversal in capital flows. The hot money that flooded the EMs,–(which lowered the cost of borrowing for businesses and consumers)–is entirely attributable to the Fed’s policy. QE pushes down long-term interest rates forcing investors to search for higher yield in other markets. Thus, the cost of money drops in EMs creating a boom that abruptly ends when the policy changes (as it has).
Capital is fleeing EMs at an unprecedented pace precipitating a dramatic slowdown in economic activity, higher consumer prices and widespread public distress. The Fed is 100% responsible for the turmoil in emerging markets, a fact which even mainstream news outlets blandly admit. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Bloomberg just this week:
“Investors are pulling money from exchange-traded funds that track emerging markets at the fastest rate on record…More than $7 billion flowed from ETFs investing in developing-nation assets in January, the most since the securities were created, data compiled by Bloomberg show…
Emerging economies have benefited from cheap money as three rounds of Fed bond buying pushed capital into their borders in search of higher returns…
The Fed’s asset purchases had helped fuel a credit boom in developing nations from Turkey to Brazil. Accumulated capital inflows to developing-country’s debt markets since 2008 reached $1.1 trillion, or $470 billion more than their long-term trend, according to a study by the International Monetary Fund in October.” (“Record Cash Leaves Emerging Market ETFs on Lira Drop“, Bloomberg)
The Fed doesn’t care if other countries are hurt by its policies. What the Fed worries about is how the taper is going to effect Wall Street. If the slightest reduction in asset purchases causes this much turbulence abroad, then what’s it going to do to US stock and bond markets?
The answer, of course, is that stocks are going to fall…hard. It can’t be avoided. And while the amount of margin debt is not a reliable tool for calling a top; it’s safe to say that the recent spike in investor leverage has moved the arrow well into the red zone. Investors are going to cash out long before the Fed ends QE altogether, which means the selloff could persist for some time to come much like after the dot.com bubble popped and stocks drifted lower for a full year. Now check out this clip from Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage”:
“For the year, total margin debt usage jumped by an almost incomprehensible $123 billion, while cash balances declined by $19 billion. That $142 billion leveraged bet on stocks far surpasses any twelve month period in history. The only times that were even close to as leveraged were the year leading up to June 2007 (-$89 billion) and the twelve months preceding February and March 2000 (-$77 billion). Both of those marked significant tops in the market.” ( Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage“)
Repeat: “The $142 billion leveraged bet on stocks far surpasses any twelve month period in history.”
Investors are “all-in” because they think that the Fed has their back. They think that Bernanke (or Yellen) will not allow stocks to fall too far without intervening. (This is called the “Bernanke Put”) So far, that’s been a winning strategy, but that might be changing. The Fed’s determination to taper suggests that it wants to withdraw its stimulus to avoid being blamed for the bursting bubble. (“Plausible deniability”?) That’s what’s driving the current policy. Here’s more on margin debt from Wolf Richter at Testosterone Pit:
“On the New York Stock Exchange, margin credit has been hitting new records for months. All three mega-crashes in my investing lifetime have been accompanied by record-setting peaks in margin debt. In September 1987, a month before the crash, margin credit peaked at 0.88% of GDP. In March 2000, when the crash began, margin credit peaked at 2.7% of GDP. In July 2007, three months before the downdraft started, margin credit peaked at 2.6% of GDP. Now, margin credit has already reached 2.5% of GDP.” (“Plagued By Indigestion, Fed Issues Asset-Bubble Warning”, Testosterone Pit)
Stock market crashes are always connected to massive leverage, loosey-goosey monetary policy and irrational exuberance (“excessive risk taking”), the toxic combo that presently rules the markets. The Federal Reserve is invariably the source of all bubblemaking and financial instability.
As we noted earlier, equity repurchases or stock buybacks are another sign of froth. Here’s an excellent summary on the topic by Alhambra Investment Partners:
“In the third quarter of 2013, share repurchases totaled $128.2 billion, the highest level since Q4 2007. For the twelve months ended in September 2013, aggregate share repurchases were an astounding $445.3 billion; the only twelve-month period greater than that total was the calendar year of 2007 and its $589 billion.
The common argument advanced in favor of such share repurchases is that companies are using cash to recognize undervalued stocks, but that is total hogwash…
…corporate managers are no different than the reviled stereotypical retail investor. Both leverage themselves further and further as the market goes higher, not in recognizing undervalued stocks or companies but in full froth of chasing obscene values via rationalizations.” ( Alhambra Investment Partners newsletter titled “The Year of Leverage”)
In other words, corporate managers are doing the same thing as your average margin investor. They are loading up on financial assets–not because they think they are a good value or because they expect higher earnings –but because Fed policy supports artificially-high prices. That’s what’s driving the bull market, the Fed’s thumb on the scale. Remove the thumb, and you have a whole new ballgame (as we see in the EMs). There’s also a bubble in high yield “junk” bonds which just had their second biggest year on record (Total issuance $324 billion) Investors are only too happy to dump their money into high-risk debt believing that companies never default or that the Fed will save the day again credit tightens and the dominoes start tumbling through the debt markets. According to Testosterone Pit:
“The cost of a high-yield bond on an absolute coupon basis is as low as it’s ever been,” explained Baratta, king of Blackstone’s $53 billion in private equity assets. Even the riskiest companies are selling the riskiest bonds at low yields… Why would anyone buy this crap?” (“Bubble Trouble: Record Junk Bond Issuance, A Barrage Of IPOs, “Out Of Whack” Valuations, And Grim Earnings Growth”, Testosterone Pit)
Why, indeed? Of course, the author is just being rhetorical, after all, he knows why people are piling into junk. It’s because the Fed has kept a gun to their heads for 5 years, forcing them to grab higher yield wherever they can find it. That’s how Bernanke’s dogwhistle monetary policy works. By slashing rates to zero, the Fed coerces investors to speculate on any type of garbage that’s available. That why junk “just had its second biggest year on record.” You can thank Bernanke.
Housing is also in a bubble due to the Fed’s zero rates, withheld inventory, government modification programs, and an unprecedented uptick in all-cash investors. Clearly, there’s never been a market more manipulated than housing. It’s a joke.
The surge of Wall Street liquidity has spilled over into housing distorting prices and reducing the number of first time homebuyers to an all-time low. The homeownership rate is actually falling even while prices climb higher, which is just one of many anomalies created by the Fed’s policy. (Who’s ever heard of a housing boom, where the number of firsttime homebuyers is dropping?)
Also, the Central Bank has purchased more than $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) via QE, which begs the question: How can housing prices NOT be in a bubble?
As we noted earlier, the Fed understands the impact its policies have had. They know the markets are overheated and they’re determined to do something about it. A recent article in Bloomberg explains the Fed’s plan for winding down QE “without doing damage to the economy”. Here’s a short excerpt from the piece:
“Janet Yellen probably will confront a test during her tenure as Federal Reserve chairman that both of her predecessors flunked: defusing asset bubbles without doing damage to the economy…
Yellen is ‘going to be trying to do something that no one has ever done,’ said Stephen Cecchetti, former economic adviser for the Bank for International Settlements, the Basel, Switzerland-based central bank for monetary authorities. She needs ‘to ensure that accommodative monetary policy doesn’t create significant financial stability risks,’ he said in an interview…
The Fed’s ‘first, second and third lines of defense” for dealing with such imbalances is to rely on supervision, regulation and so-called macro-prudential policies, such as mortgage loan-to-value restrictions, Bernanke told the Brookings Institution in Washington on Jan. 16. ….Only as a last resort would it consider raising interest rates.’ (“Yellen Faces Test Bernanke Failed: Ease Bubbles“, Bloomberg)
You got that?
So the Fed is going into the “bubble-deflating” biz.
And uber-dove Yellen is going to put things right. She’s going to eliminate the price distortions and gradually return the markets to normalcy.
She’s going to wind down QE and start to reduce the Fed’s $4 trillion balance sheet.
And she’s going to do all of this without raising interest rates or sending stocks into freefall?
Right. It’s a pipedream. The first sign of trouble and old Yellen will be scuttling across the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with a punch bowl the size of Yankee Stadium.
You can bet on it.
Urban War Zones are now a reality inside many American cities.
It’s no longer necessary to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa to enter a real war zone and have to fight for your life.
Thanks to massive CIA drug trafficking and American Free-trade Treaties like NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT & WTO, many American inner cities have been transformed into actual war zones.
These inner city war zones are infested with drug gangs that outnumber police and out gun them too.
At present these gangs are typically competing and battling with each other for turf and making a living selling drugs and running prostitutes, some captive sex-slaves. At some point if the economy worsens and the SHTF, they could easily start looting and attacking anyone and everyone.
However, in every major city in America at present, violent urban predators prey on the unarmed, old, weak, sick or disabled. And while out of control Police Swat Teams battle these predators and drug gangs, they often tyrannize the innocent which include women and young children, using excessive force all too often. There are numerous incidents of such teams murdering innocents after attacking the wrong home.
The massive War on Drugs was designed as a dualistic program. One hand, the top secret part involves the USG bringing in massive amounts of illegal drugs to raise “off the books money” for covert ops. The other hand uses all serious gang crimes arising as a pretext to militarize the police as justify their deployment as Nazi Storm Troopers.
This second part of the War on Drugs is for public disclosure and consumption. In response to all this massive urban breakdown, the worsening economy and increasing government tyranny from the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA and out of control local police, Americans are arming at an astounding rate. Guns are literally flying off the shelves and ammo sales are at an all time high also.
Americans now arming up in mass in order to protect themselves from and this increasing USG Tyranny of the USG, DHS and their local militarized and Mind-kontrolled local police (1) and from increasing and spreading urban crime which includes robberies, car-jackings, home burglaries and home invasions.
Also given as an important reason for arming up for the first time when asked, is a fear of possible impending economic collapse with an associated SHTF occurrence. Many express a salient and absolute need to be able to protect themselves and/or their family members from possible looters and armed home invaders which would likely accompany a SHTF urban breakdown situation.
And who should be credited with creating such a foreboding urban environment? It is the Globalist Traitors and infil-Traitors who have hijacked the political process and Banking in America.
These Globalist “enemies within” have rammed through economically disastrous Free-Trade Agreements and forced Diversity, Perversions and Political correctness accompanied by massive immigration, most illegal. All this has been designed to destroy the borders, language and culture of America, to neutralize its Constitution, Bill of Rights and Rule of Law while transforming America into a economically distressed Third World Nation.
These Globalist enemies within the Gates have been working very hard to transform America into a Democracy (Mob rule by the masses) from the Republic which was set up by our Founding Fathers. Obviously any real enforcement of the US Constitution would assure that American would remain a republic the way it was set up.
Since the imposition of so-called “Free Trade” policies upon the American Republic, urban decay and blight have become epidemic in major American cities. Many cities have turned into Urban Jungles, where only the strongest survive. In these Urban Jungles, violent gangs prevail and the weak are parasitized and consumed, afraid to go out of their homes, especially after dark.
Take Chicago, which has become a “kill or be kill” free fire Urban War Zone in some of its Urban areas. Chicago is the one of the most gun restricted areas ever, but the only ones that do not carry guns to defend themselves are law abiding citizens.
Gang members have all the guns they want, supplied by drug gangs and the CIA and BATF.http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gang-wars-at-the-root-of-chicagos-high-murder-rate/
Some of these areas such as Washington DC have been rated as having a 300% chance of being mugged if out after dark in certain areas, which means you could likely be robbed three times in a single block if you have a victim profile (old, young, weak, disabled, female). The real unemployment rate is 37%, despite phony USG that it is 7% or less.(2)
And now Detroit has been declared Bankrupt. It has been reported that retired police and City workers will now receive approximately 13% of their pensions due.
The Ruins of Detroit:
The ten Most Dangerous American Cities which are truly Urban Jungles at Night:
There are areas in Detroit, South Chicago and St. Louis that are so violent and infested with violent gangs that even the police refuse to enter unless ordered and then do so with major forces.
Until recently parts of Detroit was so violent that police and ambulances refused to provide service during the night hours and often found abandoned dead bodies (murder victims) days later. Detroit, known as “Iron City”, the jewel of America, used to be prosperous beyond measure based on the manufacture of the world’s finest cars.
Remember what a 1965 Olds Starfire coupe was like, or a mid 60′s Buick Wildcat or Pontiac Bonneville was like. How about a mid 60′s Chevy with a HP409 engine or a Plymouth Belvedere with a 426 Hemi or 440 Wedge engine?
That all changed in 1971 with the introduction of very extreme anti-pollution “clean air” laws which reduced automotive engine compression ratios from approximately 10.5 to 8.5, required the installation of retarded, goofy extremely inefficient camshafts. The result was garbage engines that had little power, consumed huge increases in gasoline and a major shift in chassis quality to near complete crap. At that point American automotive quality was gone and is only starting to come back now forty years later.
This is but one symptom of the covert Globalist engineering of American Society on behalf of the City of London zionist Central Banksters.
This of course created a great opportunity for the Japanese Auto manufacturers, secretly owned and controlled by the super-elite American Banking families. When W. Edwards Deming, an astute American engineer approached American Automotive Manufacturers in Detroit and proposed his plan to drastically reduce defects and lemons, he was rebuffed because it was felt his plan was too expensive and too slow.
Deming’s plan required 100% quality checks and verification of all parts from every supplier instead of the approximately 1% or less sampling. When Deming approached the Japanese, who had already shown a new coming expertise in motorcycles and quality circles in their electronics manufacturing, his program was accepted and implemented.
The rest is history, and after about 15 years, the American Automotive manufacturers have been playing a catch up game ever since for quality with the Japanese Auto manufacturers.
And now the Korean Automotive Manufacturers have hired retired Japanese automotive engineers as consultants and have adopted many of their same practices and principals to their automotive manufacturing. The result?
Some Autos manufactured in South Korea have attained the same quality as the Japanese which are considered to currently be the highest quality in the world. As many automotive enthusiasts suggest, if you want the best performance buy German, if you want the highest quality buy Japanese.
It is a fair assumption that Globalism and the Free-Trade Agreements it produced, have resulted in the exportation of most American heavy industry, manufacturing and millions of good paying jobs. This alone has seriously harmed the American economy and set America on a path of destruction, starting first with its Urban Centers which have become urban wastelands and jungles, and now progressively spreading to middle class and upper middle class outlying suburbs.
Fair Trade with suitably adjusted reasonable Tariffs to protect American Jobs are necessary to America’s economic survival and prosperity. Free Trade is not Free at all and is an abomination to the American republic and its Sovereignty.
It is a tool of the Globalists to enhance the earnings of their international offshore Globalist corporations at the expense of the American worker. It is nothing less than a secret war against America’s Sovereignty and the Republic itself.
The only other globalist tactic to destroy America that approaches its effectiveness are the policies of unrestricted illegal immigration, forced diversity, cultural programming that perversion is good, required perversion programming in the public schools that it is normal, and political correctness.
Obviously these are all Globalist weapons of covert war waged against America to destroy its borders, language and culture and gut it economically. These Globalist weapons have been deployed against Americans in order to transform America into a Third World “Democracy” instead of the Republic that it was set up to be by the Founding Fathers.
These Traitors and Infil-Traitors in Congress and the Administration keep financing and running foreign wars for Israel in order to establish Democracy like they keep claiming we have in America. We have never had a democracy but they have been doing their best to kill the Republic on the behalf of their zionist owners and masters This is of course one of the biggest lies ever told.
America has always been a Republic, a democracy is mob rule. Of course bringing in 30-60 million illegal immigrants and millions of legally sanctioned foreign workers has quickly undermined American culture and tradition and established a real base to elect politicians who appeal to the masses. The election of President Obama was the first of such travesties.
Up until recently when American aircraft manufacturers starting buying foreign parts, American aircraft were the best in the world, especially the military aircraft and fighter/interceptors. Now we have an F-22 with a contaminated O2 system from China that causes some pilots to start passing out and a Boeing Dreamliner with a faulty battery system that was imported.
For years St. Louis has been so poor that some of their police radio don’t work properly and their squad cars are in disrepair. In East Los Angeles, despite how tough and well armed the LA Police Department is, top police officials know that they are completely outgunned by Mexican drug gangs allowed to enter and do business inside America and also provided arms shipped by the CIA and the BATF.
It’s not as if Americans weren’t duly warned what such Free-Trade Treaties would produce, because Presidential Candidate Ross Perot went public with what was coming. He described the effects as a “giant sucking sound” for American jobs as they would leave America in droves.
But despite Perot’s grave warnings, President George HW Bush signed NAFTA on Dec. 17, 1992 with full Congressional support. The NAFTA Treaty was ratified after Bill Clinton became President. Soon after the sucking sound started, with shocking support the the US Department of State which provided massive grants to major corporations to move manufacturing to Mexico. These grants continued at American taxpayer expense under the subsequent Trade Treaties that were subsequently signed and ratified such as CAFTA, GATT, and WTO.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, President Obama is now deeply involved in secret negotiations to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPP) which experts have described as “NAFTA on Steroids”. TPP is far more than just another Free Trade Treaty which continues to lower the value of American wages to the “rock bottom” levels in third world countries. If signed and ratified by Congress, the TPP would be the complete end to any remaining American Sovereignty.
What established this frenzy for Free-Trade Agreements? It is now known that The last duly elected President of the United States of America was Ronald Reagan. It is also known by seasoned intel officers that Ronald Reagan distrusted American Intel in general and especially his Vice President George HW Bush.
In fact it has now been discovered that President Reagan distrusted the CIA and American Intel so much, he set up his “Kitchen Cabinet” and brought in Lee Wanta as his Secret Agent under the Totten Doctrine (3).
George HW Bush was illegally elected later as President, since his father Prescott Bush had signed an Immunity Agreement that no future Bushes (Scherfs) would ever run for office after he was arrested for “aiding the enemy” and his Union Bank assets were seized by FDR during WW2.
It is also known that George HW Bush ran his own private CIA inside the CIA which served the specific needs of the zionist City of London Central Banksters and their franchisees, the American private Federal Reserve and major Wall Street Banksters.
Some former top American Intel believe that it was this private GHW Bush Intel organization that tried to assassinate President Reagan, by using their man, a secret service man who fired a high speed plastic disc from a compressed air powered disc-gun, the type displayed by William Colby in Congressional Hearings on the abuses of American Intel.
PBS Judy Woodruff had reported this of seeing the SS man fire a gun from a second story window that night on PBS but the story was quickly squelched and she changed it after a very convincing “not to worry visit” from some very serious American Intel agents. President Reagan, despite a long slow disjointed route to the hospital, survived. This assassination attempt however signaled that the Treasonous Bush Cabal had attained a major power base inside the Military and Congress.
The sad thing is that all the political power and influence necessary to accomplish this and to transform the American Congress into Traitors was due to the vast money provided to K Street Lobbyists and zionist espionage groups like AIPAC, ADL, B’nai B’brith, and the like by the Central Banksters and the various Judaic groups shaken down and manipulated by zionist for donations.
So the first beach-head of the Globalists (aka zionist City of London Central Banksters and the “Old Black Nobility” they represented) was established with a bought, owned and controlled US Congress. Once GHW Bush was elected President, the circle of control was complete.
One of George W. Bush’s major assignments was to take American further down the Globalist path by fighting more Mideast wars for Israel. Another was to destroy the Republic party by being the worst President ever and fully debasing the Republican, which he did. Now the Republican leaders in Congress are tricking the Republican Party into committing suicide by agreeing to back the Democratic legislation for making illegal immigrants legal and future citizens.
So it is now obvious that the Republic Party is finished and Americans need to rise up and form a new Third Party. Otherwise you can be assured that just like in the last Presidential election, both candidates will be owned by the Bush Cabal.Unless the Bush Cabal has been fully exposed and displaced by then which is now real possibility.
It has been estimated that there are now approximately 30 million illegal immigrants inside Americaallowed in by a Globalist controlled USG who prevented border enforcement and liberal immigration laws which are not enforced. With the the passage of the currently proposed Democratic plan for legalizing illegal immigrants, this number could easily grow to 60 to 100 million.
In most major American Cities, Police are not allowed to arrest suspected illegal immigrants for minor traffic violations or check their identification for legal status. Not so for those whose license plates are run and show up as actual American Citizens. And this is all due to orders coming down from a few top policy-Makers who operate at the nexus of the Secret Shadow Government (SSG).
GHWB could now institute major efforts to undo all the excellent plans for the economic and industrial reconstruction of America that President Reagan had set in place and activated. As has been disclosed in a previous article (4), President Reagan had brought in Lee Wanta to serve as his Secret Agent because he didn’t trust the CIA which had been corrupted and hijacked by GHWB.
It should now be exceedingly clear to those who are well informed about the degradation of the American economy and rule of law accompanied by increasing tyranny, deployment of DHS, TSA and the passage of all the unConstitutional draconian laws (like the so-called Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and NDAA 2014).
All this is being engineered by foreign controlled Globalist traitors and infil-Traitors who have hijacked America and worked hard to export heavy industry, manufacturing and jobs.
And that they are doing this to asset strip America, destroy it’s economy and the Republic itself in order to Balkanize America and prevent it from ever rising in economic strength again and operating as a Republic “of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Their motives for all this? To covertly re-fight the Revolutionary war that was lost and retake America on behalf of the zionist City of London Central Banksters and their Kingpin overlords the Old Black Nobility (OBN). These hidden masters of the world-wide occult network which runs the IZCS prefer to stay hidden in the background where they can pull all the strings of several top Policy-Makers in America with no personal risk to themselves.
What can be done to turn this around? Obviously the first step is to get rid of all Free-Trade Agreements. In order to do this all the zionist espionage fronts inside America such as AIPAC, ADL, B’nai B’rith and the like must be fully exposed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In order to do this zionist Israeli-American dual citizens inside Congress and the USG and its Agencies must be exposed as traitors and agents of foreign espionage and routed out of power.
America has to stop fighting Israel’s illegal Mideast wars and withdraw all aid and support for Israel as long as it is a criminal, racist apartheid state persecuting and murdering Palestinians and stealing their land incrementally.
Lee Wanta, a great American Heroe that served as President Reagan’s Secret Agent under the Totten Doctrine and was instrumental in bringing down the evil Soviet Union
We need to re-institute the Wanta Reconstructing America Plan based on the Maglev High Speed Rail System which has the necessary funding already available. (5)
And it is time to also re-establish the Want Economic Recovery Plan for America that was also set up under President Reagan, but later stopped cold by George HW Bush and his Cabal when they instituted a secret coup to take over the whole USG on behalf of the City of London zionist Central Banksters and their Wall Street and Federal Reserve Franchisees.(6)
In fact it is a reasonable assumption that the massive Free-Trade attack on America’s economy was largely a reaction by the Bush Cabal to these amazing economic reconstruction plans President Reagan had put in place through his Secret Agent Lee Wanta, who was the master strategist that took down the Soviet Union for President Reagan.
Recent respected surveys show that a majority of American are disgusted with the current administration and rating of the lowest ever experienced in America in the last century. Congress is also rated at an all time low with only 9% approving of it. Many view the current President as an alien imposter with no traceable past. Some alternative media writers have stated that he is a sheep-dipped CIA creation just like Bill Clinton. All this is a mute point. Why?
Because Ronald Reagan was the last duly elected President of the United States of America, the Republic, all presidents since have been fraudulently elected and owned by the Bush Cabal. And this Bush Cabal is the Action Agent of the City of London zionist Central Banksters and their International Zionist Crime Syndicate (IZCS).
The IZCS is centered in Israel where most intel is done by privatized Israeli corporations serving as American Defense and Intel contractors. It is these private Israeli contactors who control all NSA raw intel and almost all American communications including internal White House phone calls and messaging, as well as all Pentagon and DOD communications.
Obviously the Bush Cabal has been able to install its own Presidential puppets and run a lucrative illegal drug trafficking operations into America. All done to destabilize and “dirty up” American Cities while absorbing a great deal of the Welfare dollars and capturing vast “off the books” funds for their own covert operations and bribery of Congress. It is a fair conclusion that the Bush Cabal has destroyed the American Rule of Law, debased any true enforcement of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and has corrupted every institution and agency of the USG.
However there is good news. A growing force for good has emerged in the Alternative Media now transmitted everywhere instantly on demand by the worldwide Internet, the new Gutenberg Press and the NWO Globalist’s Achilles Heel. Yes, the Controlled Mass media (CMMM) has been a propaganda mouthpiece for the Bush Cabal and the IZCS, but is now losing its appeal and credibility. The CMMM keeps feeding lies and crap to the American public that are obviously false, like the Mideast American wars are wars to establish Democracy. More and more Americans now realize this is complete BS, that we are there to fight Israel’s wars and defend British Oil interests.
Compare the articles of Veterans Today and other respected truth media now which are being published and read by millions inside America and all over the world with the CMMM. You will see the gap between the alternative media truth and the CMMM lies is ever widening and we are starting to see Alternative Media’s popularity driving stories into the CMMM, even thought the CMMM usually attempts to neutralize their significance.
Many thousands of brave American Soldiers who were lied to and deceived into fighting these illegal, unConstitutional, unprovoked, undeclared wars for Israel and Big Oil, thinking that they were defending America and its freedom. Few greater lies and deceptions has ever been predicated on Americans than this complete lie. Many thousands of Americans have been killed and horribly wounded and disabled in this war.
If the American Military ever fully realizes that all these wars were phony and based on a lie and that Israel did the 9/11 attacks with the help of a cabal within the USAF and JCS, there will be hell to pay for all those perps involved. And now there is good reason to believe that day is coming in the not too distant future.
As most Americans are beginning to realize, America has been infil-Traited by Traitors and Infil-Traitors in the highest positions of the USG. The major economic deterioration and loss of assets to the Wall Street Banksters and the private Federal reserve through financial Fraud have been staggering and Americans are catching on the the BLATANTLY OBVIOUS.
When American society reaches a critical mass awakening to this obvious situation that Globalists have been doing everything they can to destroy America, there will be major Blow-back of astounding proportions. When 12% of Americans are awakened, a critical mass and major turning point will be reached and you will begin to see major social change like never conceived, and this will all be due to major Blow-back from awakening.
The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Johnson and Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of Congress to end legal racial discrimination. More recently, the townhall meetings, dominated by people opposed to health care reform, have been a serious roadblock for those pushing reform…. A big turnout … can make a real difference….When someone tells you to stop imagining that you are having an impact, ask them to please direct their energy into getting 10 friends to join you in doing what needs to be done. If it has no impact, you’ll have gone down trying. If it has an impact, nobody will tell you for many years. (7)
This coming complete awakening will be due to information dispensed and diffused by the Alternative Media and the worldwide Internet as well as word of mouth. it is best viewed as a byproduct of a new and powerful emerging worldwide populism which has now reached the point it is unstoppable. One recent study has established 10% as a critical mass, turning point for Society.(8)
I believe we are already at 11% and when we reach 12%, the days of the Bush cabal will be dated. They know it too and are scared sh*tless. That is why they have been going for broke trying to ram the NWO down our throats and militarize local police and build up DHS to oppress and then mass murder us.
It’s time to speak up to all your family, friends and associates that we need to abandon the Republican and Democratic political Parties. Both parties are owned and controlled by the same Overlord, the IZCS who bought them and can blackmail them with NSA provided intel.
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who is also a Vet and a Navy Seal/UDT man had it right in his book of the Replican and Democrat Political Gangs in America, DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans (9).
Gov. Ventura recommends Americans dump both political Parties which serve the same corrupt masters and start electing alternative candidates only who are not associated with either of the two parties.
It should now be exceedingly clear to those who are well informed about the degradation of the American economy and rule of law accompanied by increasing tyranny, deployment of DHS, TSA and the passage of all the unConstitutional draconian laws (like the so-called Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and NDAA 2014), that all this is being engineered by foreign controlled Globalist traitors and infil-Traitors who have hijacked America and worked hard to export heavy industry, manufacturing and jobs.
And that they are doing this to asset strip America, destroy it’s economy and the Republic itself in order to Balkanize America and prevent it from ever rising in economic strength again and operating as a Republic “of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Their motives for all this? To covertly re-fight the Revolutionary war that was lost and retake America on behalf of the zionist City of London Central Banksters and their Kingpin overlords the Old Black Nobility (OBN). These hidden masters of the world-wide occult network which runs the IZCS prefer to stay hidden in the background where they can pull all the strings of several top Policy-Makers in America with no personal risk to themselves.
(3) TOTTEN DOCTRINE [ 92 U.S. 105, 107 (1875) ]
Source: Preston James | Veterans Today
“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.” ― Emile Gauvreau
If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun. November and December retail sales account for 20% to 40% of annual retail sales for most retailers. The number of visits to retail stores has plummeted by 50% since 2010. Please note this was during a supposed economic recovery. Also note consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Also note credit card debt outstanding is 7% lower than its level in 2010 and 16% below its peak in 2008. Retailers like J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears, Radio Shack and Barnes & Noble continue to report appalling sales and profit results, along with listings of store closings. Even the heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target continue to report negative comp store sales. How can the government and mainstream media be reporting an economic recovery when the industry that accounts for 70% of GDP is in free fall? The answer is that 99% of America has not had an economic recovery. Only Bernanke’s 1% owner class have benefited from his QE/ZIRP induced stock market levitation.
The entire economic recovery storyline is a sham built upon easy money funneled by the Fed to the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks so they can use their HFT supercomputers to drive the stock market higher, buy up the millions of homes they foreclosed upon to artificially drive up home prices, and generate profits through rigging commodity, currency, and bond markets, while reducing loan loss reserves because they are free to value their toxic assets at anything they please – compliments of the spineless nerds at the FASB. GDP has been artificially propped up by the Federal government through the magic of EBT cards, SSDI for the depressed and downtrodden, never ending extensions of unemployment benefits, billions in student loans to University of Phoenix prodigies, and subprime auto loans to deadbeats from the Government Motors financing arm – Ally Financial (85% owned by you the taxpayer). The country is being kept afloat on an ocean of debt and delusional belief in the power of central bankers to steer this ship through a sea of icebergs just below the surface.
The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The most amazingly delusional aspect to the chart above is retailers continued to add 44 million square feet in 2013 to the almost 15 billion existing square feet of retail space in the U.S. That is approximately 47 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Retail CEOs are not the brightest bulbs in the sale bin, as exhibited by the CEO of Target and his gross malfeasance in protecting his customers’ personal financial information. Of course, the 44 million square feet added in 2013 is down 85% from the annual increases from 2000 through 2008. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.
The impact of this retail death spiral will be vast and far reaching. A few factoids will help you understand the coming calamity:
- There are approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the United States ranging in size from the small convenience centers to the large super-regional malls.
- There are in excess of 1 million retail establishments in the United States occupying 15 billion square feet of space and generating over $4.4 trillion of annual sales. This includes 8,700 department stores, 160,000 clothing & accessory stores, and 8,600 game stores.
- U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.
- The U.S. shopping-center industry directly employed over 12 million people in 2010 and indirectly generated another 5.6 million jobs in support industries. Collectively, the industry accounted for 12.7% of total U.S. employment.
- Total retail employment in 2012 totaled 14.9 million, lower than the 15.1 million employed in 2002.
- For every 100 individuals directly employed at a U.S. regional shopping center, an additional 20 to 30 jobs are supported in the community due to multiplier effects.
The collapse in foot traffic to the 109,500 shopping centers that crisscross our suburban sprawl paradise of plenty is irreversible. No amount of marketing propaganda, 50% off sales, or hot new iGadgets is going to spur a dramatic turnaround. Quarter after quarter there will be more announcements of store closings. Macys just announced the closing of 5 stores and firing of 2,500 retail workers. JC Penney just announced the closing of 33 stores and firing of 2,000 retail workers. Announcements are imminent from Sears, Radio Shack and a slew of other retailers who are beginning to see the writing on the wall. The vacancy rate will be rising in strip malls, power malls and regional malls, with the largest growing sector being ghost malls. Before long it will appear that SPACE AVAILABLE is the fastest growing retailer in America.
The reason this death spiral cannot be reversed is simply a matter of arithmetic and demographics. While arrogant hubristic retail CEOs of public big box mega-retailers added 2.7 billion retail square feet to our already over saturated market, real median household income flat lined. The advancement in retail spending was attributable solely to the $1.1 trillion increase (68%) in consumer debt and the trillion dollars of home equity extracted from castles in the sky, that later crashed down to earth. Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. With real median household income 8% lower than it was in 2008, the collapse in retail traffic is a rational reaction by the impoverished 99%. Americans are using their credit cards to pay their real estate taxes, income taxes, and monthly utilities, since their income is lower, and their living expenses rise relentlessly, thanks to Bernanke and his Fed created inflation.
The media mouthpieces for the establishment gloss over the fact average gasoline prices in 2013 were the second highest in history. The highest average price was in 2012 and the 3rd highest average price was in 2011. These prices are 150% higher than prices in the early 2000′s. This might not matter to the likes of Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine, but for a middle class family with two parents working and making 7.5% less than they made in 2000, it has a dramatic impact on discretionary income. The fact oil prices have risen from $25 per barrel in 2003 to $100 per barrel today has not only impacted gas prices, but utility costs, food costs, and the price of any product that needs to be transported to your local Wally World. The outrageous rise in tuition prices has been aided and abetted by the Federal government and their doling out of loans so diploma mills like the University of Phoenix can bilk clueless dupes into thinking they are on their way to an exciting new career, while leaving them jobless in their parents’ basement with a loan payment for life.
The laughable jobs recovery touted by Obama, his sycophantic minions, paid off economist shills, and the discredited corporate legacy media can be viewed appropriately in the following two charts, that reveal the false storyline being peddled to the techno-narcissistic iGadget distracted masses. There are 247 million working age Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Only 145 million of these people are employed. Of these employed, 19 million are working part-time and 9 million are self- employed. Another 20 million are employed by the government, producing nothing and being sustained by the few remaining producers with their tax dollars. The labor participation rate is the lowest it has been since women entered the workforce in large numbers during the 1980′s. We are back to levels seen during the booming Carter years. Those peddling the drivel about retiring Baby Boomers causing the decline in the labor participation rate are either math challenged or willfully ignorant because they are being paid to be so. Once you turn 65 you are no longer counted in the work force. The percentage of those over 55 in the workforce has risen dramatically to an all-time high, as the Me Generation never saved for retirement or saw their retirement savings obliterated in the Wall Street created 2008 financial implosion.
To understand the absolute idiocy of retail CEOs across the land one must parse the employment data back to 2000. In the year 2000 the working age population of the U.S. was 213 million and 136.9 million of them were working, a record level of 64.4% of the population. There were 70 million working age Americans not in the labor force. Fourteen years later the number of working age Americans is 247 million and only 144.6 million are working. The working age population has risen by 16% and the number of employed has risen by only 5.6%. That’s quite a success story. Of course, even though median household income is 7.5% lower than it was in 2000, the government expects you to believe that 22 million Americans voluntarily left the labor force because they no longer needed a job. While the number of employed grew by 5.6% over fourteen years, the number of people who left the workforce grew by 31.1%. Over this same time frame the mega-retailers that dominate the landscape added almost 3 billion square feet of selling space, a 25% increase. A critical thinking individual might wonder how this could possibly end well for the retail genius CEOs in glistening corporate office towers from coast to coast.
This entire materialistic orgy of consumerism has been sustained solely with debt peddled by the Wall Street banking syndicate. The average American consumer met their Waterloo in 2008. Bernanke’s mission was to save bankers, billionaires and politicians. It was not to save the working middle class. You’ve been sacrificed at the altar of the .1%. The 0% interest rates were for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Your credit card interest rate remained between 13% and 21%. So, while you struggle to pay bills with your declining real income, the Wall Street bankers are again generating record profits and paying themselves record bonuses. Profits are so good, they can afford to pay tens of billions in fines for their criminal acts, and still be left with billions to divvy up among their non-prosecuted criminal executives.
Bernanke and his financial elite owners have been able to rig the markets to give the appearance of normalcy, but they cannot rig the demographic time bomb that will cause the death and destruction of our illusory retail paradigm. Demographics cannot be manipulated or altered by the government or mass media. The best they can do is ignore or lie about the facts. The life cycle of a human being is utterly predictable, along with their habits across time. Those under 25 years old have very little income, therefore they have very little spending. Once a job is attained and income levels rise, spending rises along with the increased income. As the person enters old age their income declines and spending on stuff declines rapidly. The media may be ignoring the fact that annual expenditures drop by 40% for those over 65 years old from the peak spending years of 45 to 54, but it doesn’t change the fact. They also cannot change the fact that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next sixteen years. They also can’t change the fact the average Baby Boomer has less than $50,000 saved for retirement and is up to their grey eye brows in debt.
With over 15% of all 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ basement and those under 25 saddled with billions in student loan debt, the traditional increase in income and spending is DOA for the millennial generation. The hardest hit demographic on the job front during the 2008 through 2014 ongoing recession has been the 45 to 54 year olds in their peak earning and spending years. Combine these demographic developments and you’ve got a perfect storm for over-built retailers and their egotistical CEOs.
The media continues to peddle the storyline of on-line sales saving the ancient bricks and mortar retailers. Again, the talking head pundits are willfully ignoring basic math. On-line sales account for 6% of total retail sales. If a dying behemoth like JC Penney announces a 20% decline in same store sales and a 20% increase in on-line sales, their total change is still negative 17.6%. And they are still left with 1,100 decaying stores, 100,000 employees, lease payments, debt payments, maintenance costs, utility costs, inventory costs, and pension costs. Their future is so bright they gotta wear a toe tag.
The decades of mal-investment in retail stores was enabled by Greenspan, Bernanke, and their Federal Reserve brethren. Their easy money policies enabled Americans to live far beyond their true means through credit card debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, and home equity debt. This false illusion of wealth and foolish spending led mega-retailers to ignore facts and spread like locusts across the suburban countryside. The debt fueled orgy has run out of steam. All that is left is the largest mountain of debt in human history, a gutted and debt laden former middle class, and thousands of empty stores in future decaying ghost malls haunting the highways and byways of suburbia.
The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. Real estate developers will be going belly-up and the banking sector will be taking huge losses again. I’m sure the remaining taxpayers will gladly bailout Wall Street again. The facts are not debatable. They can be ignored by the politicians, Ivy League economists, media talking heads, and the willfully ignorant masses, but they do not cease to exist.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
Source: The Burning Platform
What really happened in the Ukrainian crisis?
It is freezing cold in Kiev, legendary city of golden domes on the banks of Dnieper River – cradle of ancient Russian civilisation and the most charming of East European capitals. It is a comfortable and rather prosperous place, with hundreds of small and cosy restaurants, neat streets, sundry parks and that magnificent river. The girls are pretty and the men are sturdy. Kiev is more relaxed than Moscow, and easier on the wallet. Though statistics say the Ukraine is broke and its people should be as poor as Africans, in reality they aren’t doing too badly, thanks to their fiscal imprudence. The government borrowed and spent freely, heavily subsidised housing and heating, and they brazenly avoided devaluation of the national currency and the austerity program prescribed by the IMF. This living on credit can go only so far: the Ukraine was doomed to default on its debts next month or sooner, and this is one of the reasons for the present commotion.
A tug-of-war between the East and the West for the future of Ukraine lasted over a month, and has ended for all practical purposes in a resounding victory for Vladimir Putin, adding to his previous successes in Syria and Iran. The trouble began when the administration of President Yanukovich went looking for credits to reschedule its loans and avoid default. There were no offers. They turned to the EC for help; the EC, chiefly Poland and Germany, seeing that the Ukrainian administration was desperate, prepared an association agreement of unusual severity.
The EC is quite hard on its new East European members, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria et al.: these countries had their industry and agriculture decimated, their young people working menial jobs in Western Europe, their population drop exceeded that of the WWII.
But the association agreement offered to the Ukraine was even worse. It would turn the Ukraine into an impoverished colony of the EC without giving it even the dubious advantages of membership (such as freedom of work and travel in the EC). In desperation, Yanukovich agreed to sign on the dotted line, in vain hopes of getting a large enough loan to avoid collapse. But the EC has no money to spare – it has to provide for Greece, Italy, Spain. Now Russia entered the picture. At the time, relations of the Ukraine and Russia were far from good. Russians had become snotty with their oil money, the Ukrainians blamed their troubles on Russians, but Russia was still the biggest market for Ukrainian products.
For Russia, the EC agreement meant trouble: currently the Ukraine sells its output in Russia with very little customs protection; the borders are porous; people move freely across the border, without even a passport. If the EC association agreement were signed, the EC products would flood Russia through the Ukrainian window of opportunity. So Putin spelled out the rules to Yanukovich: if you sign with the EC, Russian tariffs will rise. This would put some 400,000 Ukrainians out of work right away. Yanukovich balked and refused to sign the EC agreement at the last minute. (I predicted this in my report from Kiev full three weeks before it happened, when nobody believed it – a source of pride).
The EC, and the US standing behind it, were quite upset. Besides the loss of potential economic profit, they had another important reason: they wanted to keep Russia farther away from Europe, and they wanted to keep Russia weak. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but some of the Soviet disobedience to Western imperial designs still lingers in Moscow: be it in Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Venezuela or Zimbabwe, the Empire can’t have its way while the Russian bear is relatively strong. Russia without the Ukraine can’t be really powerful: it would be like the US with its Mid-western and Pacific states chopped away. The West does not want the Ukraine to prosper, or to become a stable and strong state either, so it cannot join Russia and make it stronger. A weak, poor and destabilised Ukraine in semi-colonial dependence to the West with some NATO bases is the best future for the country, as perceived by Washington or Brussels.
Angered by this last-moment-escape of Yanukovich, the West activated its supporters. For over a month, Kiev has been besieged by huge crowds bussed from all over the Ukraine, bearing a local strain of the Arab Spring in the far north. Less violent than Tahrir, their Maidan Square became a symbol of struggle for the European strategic future of the country. The Ukraine was turned into the latest battle ground between the US-led alliance and a rising Russia. Would it be a revanche for Obama’s Syria debacle, or another heavy strike at fading American hegemony?
The simple division into “pro-East” and “pro-West” has been complicated by the heterogeneity of the Ukraine. The loosely knit country of differing regions is quite similar in its makeup to the Yugoslavia of old. It is another post-Versailles hotchpotch of a country made up after the First World War of bits and pieces, and made independent after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Some parts of this “Ukraine” were incorporated by Russia 500 years ago, the Ukraine proper (a much smaller parcel of land, bearing this name) joined Russia 350 years ago, whilst the Western Ukraine (called the “Eastern Regions”) was acquired by Stalin in 1939, and the Crimea was incorporated in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by Khrushchev in 1954.
The Ukraine is as Russian as the South-of-France is French and as Texas and California are American. Yes, some hundreds years ago, Provence was independent from Paris, – it had its own language and art; while Nice and Savoy became French rather recently. Yes, California and Texas joined the Union rather late too. Still, we understand that they are – by now – parts of those larger countries, ifs and buts notwithstanding. But if they were forced to secede, they would probably evolve a new historic narrative stressing the French ill treatment of the South in the Cathar Crusade, or dispossession of Spanish and Russian residents of California.
Accordingly, since the Ukraine’s independence, the authorities have been busy nation-building, enforcing a single official language and creating a new national myth for its 45 million inhabitants. The crowds milling about the Maidan were predominantly (though not exclusively) arrivals from Galicia, a mountainous county bordering with Poland and Hungary, 500 km (300 miles) away from Kiev, and natives of the capital refer to the Maidan gathering as a “Galician occupation”.
Like the fiery Bretons, the Galicians are fierce nationalists, bearers of a true Ukrainian spirit (whatever that means). Under Polish and Austrian rule for centuries, whilst the Jews were economically powerful, they are a strongly anti-Jewish and anti-Polish lot, and their modern identity centred around their support for Hitler during the WWII, accompanied by the ethnic cleansing of their Polish and Jewish neighbours. After the WWII, the remainder of pro-Hitler Galician SS fighters were adopted by US Intelligence, re-armed and turned into a guerrilla force against the Soviets. They added an anti-Russian line to their two ancient hatreds and kept fighting the “forest war” until 1956, and these ties between the Cold Warriors have survived the thaw.
After 1991, when the independent Ukraine was created, in the void of state-building traditions, the Galicians were lauded as ‘true Ukrainians’, as they were the only Ukrainians who ever wanted independence. Their language was used as the basis of a new national state language, their traditions became enshrined on the state level. Memorials of Galician Nazi collaborators and mass murderers Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych peppered the land, often provoking the indignation of other Ukrainians. The Galicians played an important part in the 2004 Orange Revolution as well, when the results of presidential elections were declared void and the pro-Western candidate Mr Yuschenko got the upper hand in the re-run.
However, in 2004, many Kievans also supported Yuschenko, hoping for the Western alliance and a bright new future. Now, in 2013, the city’s support for the Maidan was quite low, and the people of Kiev complained loudly about the mess created by the invading throngs: felled trees, burned benches, despoiled buildings and a lot of biological waste. Still, Kiev is home to many NGOs; city intellectuals receive generous help from the US and EC. The old comprador spirit is always strongest in the capitals.
For the East and Southeast of the Ukraine, the populous and heavily industrialised regions, the proposal of association with the EC is a no-go, with no ifs, ands or buts. They produce coal, steel, machinery, cars, missiles, tanks and aircraft. Western imports would erase Ukrainian industry right off the map, as the EC officials freely admit. Even the Poles, hardly a paragon of industrial development, had the audacity to say to the Ukraine: we’ll do the technical stuff, you’d better invest in agriculture. This is easier to say than to do: the EC has a lot of regulations that make Ukrainian products unfit for sale and consumption in Europe. Ukrainian experts estimated their expected losses for entering into association with the EC at anything from 20 to 150 billion euros.
For Galicians, the association would work fine. Their speaker at the Maidan called on the youth to ‘go where you can get money’ and do not give a damn for industry. They make their income in two ways: providing bed-and breakfast rooms for Western tourists and working in Poland and Germany as maids and menials. They hoped they would get visa-free access to Europe and make a decent income for themselves. Meanwhile, nobody offered them a visa-waiver arrangement. The Brits mull over leaving the EC, because of the Poles who flooded their country; the Ukrainians would be too much for London. Only the Americans, always generous at somebody’s else expense, demanded the EC drop its visa requirement for them.
While the Maidan was boiling, the West sent its emissaries, ministers and members of parliament to cheer the Maidan crowd, to call for President Yanukovich to resign and for a revolution to install pro-Western rule. Senator McCain went there and made a few firebrand speeches. The EC declared Yanukovich “illegitimate” because so many of his citizens demonstrated against him. But when millions of French citizens demonstrated against their president, when Occupy Wall Street was violently dispersed, nobody thought the government of France or the US president had lost legitimacy…
Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State, shared her biscuits with the demonstrators, and demanded from the oligarchs support for the “European cause” or their businesses would suffer. The Ukrainian oligarchs are very wealthy, and they prefer the Ukraine as it is, sitting on the fence between the East and the West. They are afraid that the Russian companies will strip their assets should the Ukraine join the Customs Union, and they know that they are not competitive enough to compete with the EC. Pushed now by Nuland, they were close to falling on the EC side.
Yanukovich was in big trouble. The default was rapidly approaching. He annoyed the pro-Western populace, and he irritated his own supporters, the people of the East and Southeast. The Ukraine had a real chance of collapsing into anarchy. A far-right nationalist party, Svoboda (Liberty), probably the nearest thing to the Nazi party to arise in Europe since 1945, made a bid for power. The EC politicians accused Russia of pressurising the Ukraine; Russian missiles suddenly emerged in the western-most tip of Russia, a few minutes flight from Berlin. The Russian armed forces discussed the US strategy of a “disarming first strike”. The tension was very high.
Edward Lucas, the Economist’s international editor and author of The New Cold War, is a hawk of the Churchill and Reagan variety. For him, Russia is an enemy, whether ruled by Tsar, by Stalin or by Putin. He wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that the [Ukraine] determines the long-term future of the entire former Soviet Union. If Ukraine adopts a Euro-Atlantic orientation, then the Putin regime and its satrapies are finished… But if Ukraine falls into Russia’s grip, then the outlook is bleak and dangerous… Europe’s own security will also be endangered. NATO is already struggling to protect the Baltic states and Poland from the integrated and increasingly impressive military forces of Russia and Belarus. Add Ukraine to that alliance, and a headache turns into a nightmare.”
In this cliff-hanging situation, Putin made his pre-emptive strike. At a meeting in the Kremlin, he agreed to buy fifteen billion euros worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds and cut the natural gas price by a third. This meant there would be no default; no massive unemployment; no happy hunting ground for the neo-Nazi thugs of Svoboda; no cheap and plentiful Ukrainian prostitutes and menials for the Germans and Poles; and Ukrainian homes will be warm this Christmas. Better yet, the presidents agreed to reforge their industrial cooperation. When Russia and Ukraine formed a single country, they built spaceships; apart, they can hardly launch a naval ship. Though unification isn’t on the map yet, it would make sense for both partners. This artificially divided country can be united, and it would do a lot of good for both of their populaces, and for all people seeking freedom from US hegemony.
There are a lot of difficulties ahead: Putin and Yanukovich are not friends, Ukrainian leaders are prone to renege, the US and the EC have a lot of resources. But meanwhile, it is a victory to celebrate this Christmas tide. Such victories keep Iran safe from US bombardment, inspire the Japanese to demand removal of Okinawa base, encourage those seeking closure of Guantanamo jail, cheer up Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, frighten the NSA and CIA and allow French Catholics to march against Hollande’s child-trade laws.
What is the secret of Putin’s success? Edward Lucas said, in an interview to the pro-Western Ekho Moskvy radio: “Putin had a great year – Snowden, Syria, Ukraine. He checkmated Europe. He is a great player: he notices our weaknesses and turns them into his victories. He is good in diplomatic bluff, and in the game of Divide and Rule. He makes the Europeans think that the US is weak, and he convinced the US that Europeans are useless”.
I would offer an alternative explanation. The winds and hidden currents of history respond to those who feel their way. Putin is no less likely a roguish leader of global resistance than Princess Leia or Captain Solo were in Star Wars. Just the time for such a man is ripe.
Unlike Solo, he is not an adventurer. He is a prudent man. He does not try his luck, he waits, even procrastinates. He did not try to change regime in Tbilisi in 2008, when his troops were already on the outskirts of the city. He did not try his luck in Kiev, either. He has spent many hours in many meetings with Yanukovich whom he supposedly personally dislikes.
Like Captain Solo, Putin is a man who is ready to pay his way, full price, and such politicians are rare. “Do you know what is the proudest word you will ever hear from an Englishman’s mouth?”, asked a James Joyce character, and answered: “His proudest boast is I paid my way.” Those were Englishmen of another era, long before the likes of Blair, et al.
While McCain and Nuland, Merkel and Bildt speak of the European choice for the Ukraine, none of them is ready to pay for it. Only Russia is ready to pay her way, in the Joycean sense, whether in cash, as now, or in blood, as in WWII.
Putin is also a magnanimous man. He celebrated his Ukrainian victory and forthcoming Christmas by forgiving his personal and political enemies and setting them free: the Pussy Riot punks, Khodorkovsky the murderous oligarch, rioters… And his last press conference he carried out in Captain Solo self-deprecating mode, and this, for a man in his position, is a very good sign.
As the global financial crisis now enters its seventh year, it is time to start asking difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. There can be no revolution in a truly moral or global sense until the critical needs of the extreme poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before.
At the onset of 2014, many people are now anticipating the prospect of a ‘global revolution’. The intense revolutionary fervour of 2011 may have dissipated in North America and much of Western Europe in the past couple of years, but a new geography of protest continues to shift and transmute in different countries and world regions – the million people on the streets of Brazil in June last year; the earlier defence of the commons in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park; the indigenous uprising and student protests across Canada; the Ukraine demonstrations that are still under way.
There is no way of predicting where a mass protest movement will kick off next or what form it will take, but analysts expect that an even larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement will emerge in 2014. The conditions for a truly global political awakening are firmly in place, and few can believe in the politician’s rhetoric about the world economy sorting out its problems during the year ahead. Wealth and income inequalities continue to spiral out of control, increasingly to the benefit of the 1% (or indeed the 0.001%). Austerity policies pushed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic continue to threaten the social gains made since the Second World War, which is deepening social divisions and creating a new situation of desperately poor and hungry people in Britain, America and many so-called wealthy countries.
And there is no shortage of analysis about the structural crisis of our political and economic systems, from chronic unemployment and falling real incomes to corporate-captured representative democracies and Orwellian state controls. At the same time, governments remain committed to the paradigm of endless growth for its own sake, and are nearly all beholden to the interests of giant energy corporations that are determined to burn more fossil fuels than the planet can absorb without becoming unliveable. Not to mention the escalation of climate and ecological disasters, dwindling oil reserves, the risk of food shortages and further food price volatility, or even the prospect of global terrorism. Hence the growing understanding among everyday people that we are in the midst of a crisis of civilization, and we cannot rely on our existing government administrations to affect a necessary transformation of the international political and economic order.
The revised meaning of ‘revolution’
As we continue along this chaotic and uncertain road, the very idea of social or political ‘revolution’ is taking on new and different meanings. A common understanding of the term is no longer limited to the revolutionary wave of actions of the 20th century, which were typically led by charismatic leaders and a strong ideology, and often involved the violent overthrow of state power (notwithstanding such heroic examples of non-violent political struggle as Gandhi, Luther King and Vaclav Havel). But now we have the examples of Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Taksim Square demonstrations and other mass protest movements that defy conventional explanation in their spontaneous and largely peaceful mobilisations, their leaderless structures and practice of horizontal democracy, as well as their disavowal of traditional left/right politics and ideologies or ‘isms’, such as socialism and communism.
Since 2011 there is also much serious talk of a revolution of love and a collective awakening to our spiritual potential as human beings, as captured in the now-famous words of Russell Brand who advocates a “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic systems”. Others speak of a revolution in our sense of self as ‘global citizens’, in which we equate our own interests with those of people anywhere in the world, and we no longer conform to a financialised vision of society in which we are forced to compete with everyone else as ‘others’. In short, a renewed sense of idealism and hope is everywhere being felt for a new society to be built from within the existing one, and for a revolution in every sense of the word – in our values, our imaginations, our lifestyles and our social relations, as well as in our political and economic structures.
What still isn’t clear is how the growing call for revolutionary change and new economic models can be realised on a truly international basis, and for the common good of all people in all countries – not only for the citizens of individual nations (in particular within the most advanced economies). The new protest movements may draw on a concept of human rights that is necessarily international, and they may be driven by social networks and communications technology that is shared beyond national borders, but their various concerns and demands are still generally of a domestic and country-specific nature.
Following the artful state repression of Occupy Wall Street, the vision of a collectively organised alternative to neoliberal politics is too often lost in a fight for or against individual reforms, while the Occupy movement as a whole has become increasingly atomised and fragmented. The Arab Spring is fast fading in memory, as exemplified by the political chaos and recent crackdown on popular dissent in Egypt. And there is little evidence of a shared agenda for change that can unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, one that recognises the need for global as well as national forms of redistribution as a pathway towards sharing the world rather than keeping it divided.
Blueprints for a new world
This is not to say that realistic proposals for planetary change do not exist, as individuals and groups everywhere are discussing the necessary reforms and objectives for how the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from the local to global. An abundance of enlightened thinking outlines the need for a ‘revolution’ in every aspect of our economic and political systems – a commons revolution, a food sovereignty revolution, a renewable energy revolution, the next American revolution – which altogether articulate an effective blueprint for a new and better world. But great uncertainty remains around how this crucial transformation of our lives can be affected when such immensely powerful forces of economic and political self-interest control the current world direction, combined with political apathy and disengagement among a vast swathe of the population.
With the global financial and economic crisis now entering its seventh year, it is time to start asking some difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. It is inevitable that the gap between rich and poor will continue to increase in most countries, and the reality of poverty and hunger will worsen across the world – regardless of the distorted arguments by the World Bank and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coterie at the UN. And as living standards decline for many middle-class families in developed countries, there is a risk that people will remain preoccupied with their own situations and solely national concerns, which is already where all the militant strength is being directed in European and U.S. protest movements.
But there is no escaping the enormous disparities in wealth and income between rich OECD countries and the less developed nations, where millions of people face such extreme deprivation and food insecurity that at least 40,000 people needlessly die each day from poverty-related causes. There can be no genuine revolution in a moral or global sense until the critical needs of these voiceless poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before – not only predicated on redistributing resources from the 1% to the 99% within our own countries, but also centred on a shared demand for a fairer distribution of wealth, power and resources across the entire world. Perhaps that is where the true meaning of ‘global revolution’ begins, and it could be our greatest hope for a sustainable and just future in the coming year and beyond.
Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings. According to CNN, “Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings…50% have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all….” (“76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck“, CNN Money)
“No savings at all”?
That’s right. So retirement is out of the question. A sizable chunk of the adult population is going to punch a clock until they keel-over in the office parking lot and get hauled off in the company dumpster. And those are the lucky ones, the so called baby boomers. By the time we get to the millennials it’ll be even worse because the economy will have been ravaged by 25 or 30 years of austerity leaving the proles to scrape by on hardtack and gruel. Pensions are already being looted, Social Security is under fire, and any small stipend that supports the poor, the unemployed, or the infirm is going to be terminated. That’s why everyone is so down-in-the-mouth, because their expectations of the future are so bleak. Check this out from Business Insider:
“For millennials, the situation is even more grim. Compared to their parents at their age, the under-30 set is worth only half as much. And while this is a sobering reminder of the scale of the Great Recession’s impact on younger generations, it’s not the whole story. These households were actually falling behind even before the stock market and housing crash, researchers found.
Young people not only saw their wages stagnate or drop but also suffered a rise in fixed costs. They leave college with an average $27,000 debt load and have a harder time finding jobs that pay well, while facing more expensive health care and housing costs.
“If these generations cannot accumulate wealth, they will be less able to support themselves when unexpected emergencies arise or when they eventually retire,” the study authors said. “This financial uncertainty could reverberate throughout the economy, since entrepreneurial activity, saving, and investment tend to build on a base of confidence and growing wealth.”(“AMERICA IN DECLINE: Young People Are Much Worse Off Than Their Parents Were At That Age“, Business Insider)
An entire generation of young people have been raped and discarded by their government and all the author cares about is the impact it will have on personal consumption.
Go figure. And there’s a larger point here too, which is that Americans have always believed that their children would enjoy a higher standard of living than their own. Until now, that is. Now most people think things are going to get worse, much worse. You see it in all the surveys. Expectations have changed, the future looks darker than ever before, and people are scared. Check this out from CNN:
“Things appear to be looking up for the economy.
On Wednesday the Federal Reserve felt confident enough to begin slowly withdrawing the huge economic stimulus the central bank has been pumping into the economy.
Unemployment is the lowest in five years. Economic growth picked up recently. The housing sector — which got us into this mess in the first place — is bouncing back. Home sales, prices and construction are all on the rise.
Auto sales recently had their strongest growth since 2006. Gas prices have fallen dramatically this year, and the stock market has risen sharply.
And there’s some reason to be hopeful for next year too. The Fed announced a slightly improved outlook for unemployment in 2014.
But things aren’t always as good as they seem. For many Americans, all the good news in the larger economy isn’t translating over to everyday life. Only 24% of the public believe economic conditions are improving, while nearly four-in-ten say the nation’s economy is actually getting worse, according to a recent CNN poll.” (“Is the economy as good as it looks?“, CNN Money)
That’s right; no one is buying the “recovery” crappola any more. They all know it’s BS. And a closer look at the CNN survey tells you why.
“Looking specifically at the economy, 39% feel that the economy is still in a downturn, up six points from April. Only 24% believe that an economic recovery is under way. Thirty-six percent are in the middle – they don’t think we’re in a recovery but they believe conditions have stabilized.” (CNN Politics)
So, 3 out of 4 people think we’re either still in a severe slump or running in place.(stagnation) That’s your recovery in a nutshell. And it explains why people hate bankers, Wall Street, and Congress. It also explains why millennials have given up on Obama after finally acknowledging that the man is a bumptious blowhard who’s never lifted a finger to help the people who shoehorned his worthless keister into office. Take a look at this from Policy Mic:
“Debt-weary millennials are disillusioned with Obama’s performance with regard to the economy, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, his handling of foreign relations”…
A new poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics has revealed that young Americans’ support for President Barack Obama has reached the lowest point yet. According to the poll, only 41% of Americans aged 18-29 approve of Obama’s performance in office, an 11% drop since April.” (“Millennials officially hate Obama. Here’s why“, policymic)
Ahhh, so people are finally waking up to what an unprincipled phony this guy is. Good!
Unfortunately, ripping Obama won’t pay the bills, which is why so many people are making painful adjustments in their own lives to make ends meet. Aside from cutting back on trips to the doctor and setting the thermostat on “Off”, America’s plenteous graybeards are staying on the job longer than ever. Here’s a clip from an article in Forbes:
“An alarming 37% of middle class Americans believe they’ll work until they’re too sick or until they die.
Another 34% believes retirement will come at the ripe age of 80…
It’s a grim look at the state of retirement which seems to be getting worse for middle class Americans.
Wells Fargo WFC -0.09% interviewed 1,000 Americans between age 25 and 75 and with household income ranging between $25,000 and $99,000. More than half (59%) said their top day-to-day financial concern is paying the monthly bills; that’s up from 52% who said the same last year.
“We do this survey every year and for the past three years, the struggle to pay bills is a growing concern and the prospect of saving for retirement looks dim, particularly for those in their prime saving years,” Laurie Nordquist, head of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust, says in the report.
And here’s something for leaders in Washington DC to consider: One third of those surveyed said their primary source of retirement income will come from social security. That figure gets even bigger for those who make less than $50,000–48% of those earners say social security is going to be their primary retirement income.” (“Work Until You Die? More Middle Class Americans Say They Can Never Retire“, Halah Touryalai, Forbes)
How do you like that, eh? So nearly half the people who make less than $50,000 are counting on Social Security as their “primary retirement income.” At the same time, our old buddy Obama is planning to cut Social Security to keep his criminal friends on Wall Street happy.
That means a whole lot of us are going to be stuck bussing tables at Olive Garden until they carry us out feet first.
Your doing a hechuva job, Barry!