Who Will Be the Bagholders This Time Around?

Once global assets roll over for good, it’s important to recall that somebody owns these assets all the way down. These owners are called bagholders, as in “left holding the bag.”

Those running the rigged casino have to select the bagholders in advance, lest some fat-cat cronies inadvertently get stuck with losses.

In China, authorities picked who would be holding the bag when Chinese stocks cratered 40%: yup, the poor banana vendors, retirees, housewives and other newly minted punters who borrowed on margin to play the rigged casino.

Corrupt Chinese officials, oil oligarchs and everyone else who overpaid for flats in London, Manhattan, Vancouver, Sydney, etc. will be left holding the bag when to-the-moon prices fall to Earth.

Anyone buying Neil Young’s 2-acre estate in Hawaii for $24 million will be a bagholder.

(If nobody buys it at this inflated price, Neil may end up being the bagholder.)

Bond funds that bought dicey emerging market debt (Mongolian bonds, anyone?) and didn’t sell at the top are bagholders.

Everyone with bonds and stocks in the oil patch who didn’t sell last summer is a bagholder.

Everyone holding yuan is a bagholder.

Everyone who bought euro-denominated assets when the euro was 1.40 is a bagholder at euro 1.12.

Everyone with 401K emerging market equities mutual funds who didn’t sell last summer is a bagholder.

Everyone who reckons “buy and hold” will be the winning strategy going forward will be a bagholder.

Anyone buying anything with borrowed money is a bagholder. Leveraging up to buy risk-on assets like Mongolian bonds and homes in vancouver is brilliant in bubbles, but not so brilliant when risk-on turns to risk-off. As the asset’s value drops below the amount borrowed to buy it, the owner becomes a bagholder.

Anyone betting China’s GDP is really expanding at 7% and the U.S. economy will grow by 3.7% next quarter is angling to be a bagholder.

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Obama’s Ukrainian Forces Break Minsk Agreement: Resume Invasion

Eric Zuesse

The U.S.-backed Ukrainian Armed Forces, on Wednesday August 26th, resumed their all-out war against the breakaway Donbass region, according to an announcement on August 27th by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Deputy Commander, Eduard Basurin. Donetsk is the largest city in Donbass — the region that broke away from Ukraine after the February 2014 U.S. coup in Kiev, which threw out the democratically elected Ukrainian President, for whom the residents of Donbass had voted over 90%. If this apparent re-invasion of Donbass by U.S.-backed forces is true, it would flagrantly violate the Minsk II Agreement that Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande had achieved, and that the warring parties had signed, six months ago, on February 11th.

As reported August 27th by the Fort Russ news site, Mr. Basurin said:

The situation in the DPR has drastically deteriorated. … From 5 P.M. [August 26th], punitive forces [that’s to say, forces aiming to ‘punish’ Donbass for rejecting Obama’s coup in Ukraine] began massively shelling positions of the DPR army and the civilian areas of Belaya Kamenka, Novolaspa, Staroslava, and Staroignatovka.

The fascists have used heavy artillery prohibited by the Minsk Agreements against the civilian areas of Aleksandrovka and Marinka. The outskirts of Donetsk have been struck.

The shelling has been carried out from the positions of the 72nd mechanized brigade under the command of the criminal Grishchenko, as well as the 19th infantry battalion. The enemy is using ACS howitzers of 152 and 122 mm, mortars of 120 and 80 mm, and tanks.

Basurin said that “According to our estimate, the enemy is trying to provoke a response by our troops and with such activity convince the army command of the DPR to prepare for an offensive in this direction of the UAF,” so that DPR’s strategy of — as much as possible — not initiating fire, but only responding to it, will be broken. That would then provide the U.S. side the opportunity to charge the DPR side with violating Minsk II.

Basurin went on to say:

the criminal fascist regime is purposefully trying to disrupt the Minsk Agreement. The bloodthirsty Kiev puppets are out to disrupt the establishment of peaceful life in the Republic, thereby showing the whole world their inability to conduct civilized negotiations. The paranoiacs in power are leading Ukraine into the abyss!

The President of Ukraine seeks to resume hostilities and lead a new escalation of tensions in Eastern Europe, and therefore, we appeal to the people and officers of Ukraine: sabotage the criminal orders of the UAF command, show acts of defiance, and demonstrate an absence of support for the aggressive plans of Poroshenko.

Basurin is urging the U.S.-backed forces to violate their instructions, which would be an extremely dangerous thing for those troops to do. However, a significant number of Ukrainian soldiers have, in fact, defected to the ‘rebels.’

As I reported earlier, a conflict within the Obama Administration broke out on May 15th, when Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State whom Obama had placed in charge of policy on Ukraine (and who had masterminded the coup and selected the post-coup government), contradicted her nominal superior, Secretary of State John Kerry, and said that, despite Kerry’s warning to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko not to violate Minsk II, Poroshenko would have America’s full backing if he were to follow through on his repeated threats to re-invade Donbass, regardless of what had been agreed to, and signed, at Minsk.

From that time to this, the Obama Administration has been ambiguous about its intentions on the matter, but Mr. Kerry has never reiterated his warning to Poroshenko; while Ms. Nuland has continued to maintain that the U.S. will support the Ukrainian side no matter what; and so, Donbass has been on constant alert, expecting Poroshenko to resume the invasion at any time.

In the interim since the first of the two Minsk agreements, the U.S. Congress has endorsed Obama’s policy and authorized funds for retraining Ukraine’s troops and for resupplying them with weapons.

Perhaps the decision has finally now been made in the White House to resume the war at full force. The next few days could make clear whether that is the case, or whether, instead, this is just yet another of the many relatively minor violations of Minsk, which both sides have engaged in during the past six months. 

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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War: Legal to Criminal and Back Again

Remarks in Chicago on the 87th anniversary of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, August 27, 2015.

Thank you very much for inviting me here and thank you to Kathy Kelly for everything she does and thank you to Frank Goetz and everyone involved in creating this essay contest and keeping it going. This contest is far and away the best thing that has come out of my book When the World Outlawed War.

I proposed making August 27th a holiday everywhere, and that hasn’t yet happened, but it’s begun. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota, has done it. Frank Kellogg, for whom the Kellogg-Briand Pact is named, was from there. A group in Albuquerque is holding an event today, as are groups in other cities today and in recent years. A Congress member has recognized the occasion in the Congressional Record.

But the responses offered to some of the essays from various readers and included in the booklet are typical, and their failings should not reflect poorly on the essays. Virtually everyone has no idea that there is a law on the books banning all war. And when a person finds out, he or she typically takes no more than a few minutes to dismiss the fact as meaningless. Read the responses to the essays. None of the responders who were dismissive considered the essays carefully or read additional sources; clearly none of them read a word of my book.

Any old excuse works to dismiss the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Even combinations of contradictory excuses work fine. But some of them are readily available. The most common is that the ban on war didn’t work because there have been more wars since 1928. And therefore, supposedly, a treaty banning war is a bad idea, worse in fact than nothing at all; the proper idea that should have been tried is diplomatic negotiations or disarmament or … pick your alternative.

Can you imagine someone recognizing that torture has continued since numerous legal bans on torture were put in place, and declaring that the anti-torture statute should be thrown out and something else be used instead, perhaps body cameras or proper training or whatever? Can you imagine that? Can you imagine someone, anyone, recognizing that drunk driving has outlasted bans on it and declaring that the law failed and should be overturned in favor of trying television commercials or breathalyzers-to-access-keys or whatever? Sheer lunacy, right? So, why isn’t it sheer lunacy to dismiss a law banning war?

This is not like a ban on alcohol or drugs that causes their use to go underground and expand there with added bad side effects. War is extremely difficult to do in private. Attempts are made to hide various aspects of war, to be sure, and they always were, but war is always fundamentally public, and the U.S. public is saturated with promotion of its acceptance. Try finding a U.S. movie theater that is not currently showing any movies glorifying war.

A law banning war is no more or less than what it was intended to be, part of a package of procedures aimed at reducing and eliminating warfare. The Kellogg-Briand Pact is not in competition with diplomatic negotiations. It makes no sense to say “I’m against a ban on war and in favor of using diplomacy instead.” The Peace Pact itself mandates pacific, that is, diplomatic, means for the settlement of every conflict. The Pact is not in opposition to disarmament but aimed at facilitating it.

The war prosecutions at the end of World War II in Germany and Japan were one-sided victor’s justice, but they were the first prosecutions of the crime of war ever and were based on the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Since then, the heavily armed nations have not yet fought each other again, waging war only on the poor nations that were never deemed worthy of fair treatment even by the hypocritical governments that signed the pact 87 years ago. That failure of World War III to arrive yet may not last, may be attributable to the creation of nuclear bombs, and/or may be a matter of sheer luck. But if nobody had ever driven drunk again after the very first arrest for that crime, tossing the law out as worse than useless would look even weirder than would tossing it out while the roads are full of drunks.

So why do people so eagerly dismiss the Peace Pact almost immediately upon learning about it? I used to suppose this was just a question of laziness and acceptance of bad memes in heavy circulation. Now I think it is more a matter of belief in the inevitability, necessity, or beneficiality of war. And in many cases I think it may be a matter of personal investment in war, or of reluctance to think that the primary project of our society might be entirely and tremendously evil and also blatantly illegal. I think it can be disturbing to some people to contemplate the idea that the central project of the U.S. government, taking in 54% of federal discretionary spending, and dominating our entertainment and self-image, is a criminal enterprise.

Look at how people go along with Congress supposedly banning torture every couple of years even though it was totally banned before the torture spree that began under George W. Bush, and the new bans actually purport to open up loopholes for torture, just as the U.N. Charter does for war. The Washington Post actually came out and said, just as its old friend Richard Nixon would have said, that because Bush tortured it must have been legal. This is a common and comforting habit of thought. Because the United States wages wars, war must be legal.

There have been times in the past in parts of this country when imagining that Native Americans had rights to land, or that enslaved people had the right to be free, or that women were as human as men, were unthinkable thoughts. If pressed, people would dismiss those ideas with any excuse that came to hand. We live in a society that invests more heavily in war than in anything else and does so as a matter of routine. A case brought by an Iraqi woman is now being appealed in the 9th Circuit seeking to hold U.S. officials responsible under the laws of Nuremberg for the war on Iraq that was launched in 2003. Legally the case is a sure win. Culturally it’s unthinkable. Imagine the precedent that would be set for millions of victims in dozens of countries! Without a major change in our culture, the case doesn’t stand a chance. The change needed in our culture is not a legal change, but a decision to abide by existing laws that are, in our current culture, literally unbelievable and unknowable, even if clearly and concisely written and publicly available and acknowledged.

Japan has a similar situation. The Prime Minister has reinterpreted these words based on the Kellogg-Briand Pact and found in the Japanese Constitution: “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes … [L]and, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” The Prime Minister has reinterpreted those words to mean “Japan shall maintain a military and wage wars anywhere on earth.” Japan doesn’t need to fix its Constitution but to abide by its clear language — just as the United States could probably stop bestowing human rights on corporations by simply reading the word “people” in the U.S. Constitution to mean “people.”

I don’t think I would let the common dismissal of the Kellogg-Briand Pact as worthless by people who five minutes earlier never knew it existed bother me were so many people not dying of war or had I written a tweet instead of a book. If I had just written on Twitter in 140 characters or fewer that a treaty banning war is the law of the land, how could I protest when someone dismissed it on the basis of some factoid they’d picked up, such as that Monsieur Briand, for whom the treaty is named along with Kellogg, wanted a treaty with which to force the U.S. to join in French wars? Of course that’s true, which is why the work of activists to persuade Kellogg to persuade Briand to expand the treaty to all nations, effectively eliminating its function as a commitment to France in particular, was a model of genius and dedication worth writing a book about instead of a tweet.

I wrote the book When the World Outlawed War not just to defend the importance of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but primarily to celebrate the movement that brought it into being and to revive that movement, which understood that it then had, and which still has, a long way to go. This was a movement that envisioned the elimination of war as a step building on the elimination of blood feuds and dueling and slavery and torture and executions. It was going to require disarmament, and the creation of global institutions, and above all the development of new cultural norms. It was toward that latter end, toward the purpose of stigmatizing war as something illicit and undesirable, that the Outlawry movement sought to outlaw war.

The biggest news story of 1928, bigger at the time even than Charles Lindbergh’s flight of 1927 which contributed to its success in a manner completely unrelated to Lindbergh’s fascist beliefs, was the signing of the Peace Pact in Paris on August 27th. Was anyone naive enough to believe that the project of ending war was well on its way to success? How could they not have been? Some people are naive about everything that ever happens. Millions upon millions of Americans believe that each new war is going to finally be the one that brings peace, or that Donald Trump has all the answers, or that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will bring us freedom and prosperity. Michele Bachmann supports the Iran agreement because she says it will end the world and bring back Jesus. (That is no reason, by the way, for us not to support the Iran agreement.) The less that critical thinking is taught and developed, and the less that history is taught and understood, the wider a field of action naiveté has to work in, but naiveté is always present in every event, just as is obsessive pessimism. Moses or some of his observers may have thought he would end murder with a commandment, and how many thousands of years later is it that the United States has begun taking up the idea that police officers shouldn’t kill black people? And yet nobody suggests tossing out laws against murder.

And the people who made Kellogg-Briand happen, who were not named Kellogg or Briand, were far from naive. They expected a generations-long struggle and would be amazed, bewildered, and heartbroken by our failure to continue the struggle and by our rejection of their work on the grounds that it hasn’t succeeded yet.

There is also, by the way, a new and insidious rejection of peace work that pokes its way into the responses to the essays and into most events like this one these days, and I fear that it may be growing rapidly. This is the phenomenon that I call Pinkerism, the rejection of peace activism on the basis of the belief that war is going away on its own. There are two problems with this idea. One is that if war were going away, that would almost certainly be in large part because of the work of people opposing it and striving to replace it with peaceful institutions. Second, war isn’t going away. U.S. academics make a case for war vanishing that rests on a foundation of fraud. They redefine U.S. wars as something other than wars. They measure casualties against global population, thus avoiding the fact that recent wars have been as bad for the populations involved as any wars of the past. They shift the topic to the decline of other types of violence.

Those declines of other types of violence, including the death penalty in U.S. states, should be celebrated and held up as models for what can be done with war. But it’s not yet being done with war, and war is not going to do it by itself without a great deal of effort and sacrifice by us and by many other people.

I’m glad that people in St. Paul are remembering Frank Kellogg, but the story of late 1920s peace activism is a great model for activism precisely because Kellogg was opposed to the whole idea such a short time before he was enthusiastically working for it. He was brought around by a public campaign initiated by a Chicago lawyer and activist named Salmon Oliver Levinson, whose grave rests unnoticed in Oak Woods Cemetery, and whose 100,000 papers sit unread at the University of Chicago.

I sent an op-ed on Levinson to the Tribune which declined to print it, as did the Sun. The Daily Herald ended up printing it. The Tribune did find room a couple of weeks ago to print a column wishing that a hurricane like Katrina would hit Chicago, creating enough chaos and devastation to allow the swift destruction of Chicago’s public school system. An easier method of wrecking the school system might be just to force all the students to read the Chicago Tribune.

This is part of what I wrote: S.O. Levinson was a lawyer who believed that courts handled interpersonal disputes better than dueling had done before it was banned. He wanted to outlaw war as a means of handling international disputes. Until 1928, launching a war had always been perfectly legal. Levinson wanted to outlaw all war. “Suppose,” he wrote, “it had then been urged that only ‘aggressive dueling’ should be outlawed and that ‘defensive dueling’ be left intact.”

I should add that the analogy may be imperfect in an important way. National governments banned dueling and handed out punishments for it. There’s no global government punishing nations that make war. But dueling didn’t die out until the culture rejected it. The law was not enough. And part of the cultural shift against war certainly needs to include the creation and reformation of global institutions that reward peacemaking and punish war-making, as in fact such institutions already do punish war-making by poor nations acting against the agenda of the West.

Levinson and the movement of Outlawrists whom he gathered around him, including well-known Chicagoan Jane Addams, believed that making war a crime would begin to stigmatize it and facilitate demilitarization. They pursued as well the creation of international laws and systems of arbitration and alternative means of handling conflicts. Outlawing war was to be the first step in a lengthy process of actually ending that peculiar institution.

The Outlawry movement was launched with Levinson’s article proposing it in The New Republic magazine on March 7, 1918, and took a decade to achieve the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The task of ending war is ongoing, and the Pact is a tool that might still help. This treaty commits nations to resolving their disputes through peaceful means alone. The U.S. State Department’s website lists it as still in effect, as does the Department of Defense Law of War Manual published in June 2015.

The frenzy of organizing and activism that created the peace pact was massive. Find me an organization that’s been around since the 1920s and I’ll find you an organization on record in support of abolishing war. That includes the American Legion, the National League of Women Voters, and the National Association of Parents and Teachers. By 1928 the demand to outlaw war was irresistible, and Kellogg who had recently mocked and cursed peace activists, began following their lead and telling his wife he might be in for a Nobel Peace Prize.

On August 27, 1928, in Paris, the flags of Germany and the Soviet Union newly flew along many others, as the scene played out that is described in the song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.” The papers the men were signing really did say they would never fight again. The Outlawrists persuaded the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty without any formal reservations.

The U.N. Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945, so its 70th anniversary is approaching. Its potential is still unfulfilled. It has been used to advance and to impede the cause of peace. We need a rededication to its goal of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. But we should be clear about how much weaker the U.N. Charter is than the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

Whereas the Kellogg-Briand Pact forbids all war, the U.N. Charter opens up the possibility of a legal war. While most wars do not meet the narrow qualifications of being defensive or U.N.-authorized, many wars are marketed as if they meet those qualifications, and many people are fooled. After 70 years isn’t it time for the United Nations to cease authorizing wars and to make clear to the world that attacks on distant nations are not defensive?

The U.N. Charter echoes the Kellogg-Briand Pact with these words: “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” But the Charter also creates those loopholes for war, and we are supposed to imagine that because the Charter authorizes the use of war to prevent war it is better than a total ban on war, it is more serious, it is enforceable, it has — in a revealing phrase — teeth. The fact that the U.N. Charter has been failing to eliminate war for 70 years isn’t held up as grounds for rejecting the U.N. Charter. Rather, the U.N. project of opposing bad wars with good wars is imagined as an eternal on-going project that only the naive would suppose might be completed some day. As long as the grass grows or water runs, as long as the Israeli Palestinian peace process holds conferences, as long as the Non-proliferation Treaty is pushed in the faces of non-nuclear nations by permanent nuclear powers that violate it, the United Nations will go on authorizing the protection of Libyans or others by the world’s dominant war makers who will go on immediately creating hell on earth in Libya or elsewhere. This is how people think of the United Nations.

There are two relatively recent twists on this on-going disaster, I think. One is the looming catastrophe of climate change that sets a time limit that we may have already surpassed but that certainly isn’t lengthy on our on-going waste of resources on war and its intense environmental destruction. Eliminating war has to have an end date and it has to be fairly soon, or war and the earth on which we wage it will eliminate us. We cannot go into the climate-induced crisis we are headed into with war on the shelf as an avialable option. We’ll never survive it.

The second is that the logic of the United Nations as permanent maker of war to end all war has been stretched far beyond the norm by both the evolution of the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” and by the creation of the so-called global war on terror and the commission of drone wars by President Obama.

The United Nations, created to protect the world from war, is now widely thought of as having a responsibility to wage wars under the pretence that doing so protects someone from something worse. Governments, or at least the U.S. government, can now wage war by either declaring that they are protecting someone or (and numerous governments have now done this) by declaring that the group they are attacking is terrorist. A U.N. report on drone wars mentions rather casually that drones are making war the norm.

We are supposed to talk about so-called “war crimes” as a particular type, even a particularly bad type, of crimes. But they are thought of as the smaller elements of wars, not the crime of war itself. This is a pre-Kellogg-Briand mentality. War itself is widely seen as perfectly legal, but certain atrocities that typically constitute the bulk of the war are understood as illegal. In fact, war’s legality is such that the worst crime possible can be legalized by declaring it to be part of a war. We’ve seen liberal professors testify before Congress that a drone killing is murder if it’s not part of a war and just fine if it is part of a war, with the determination of whether it’s part of the war being left up to the president ordering the murders. The small and personal scale of drone murders should be helping us recognize the wider killing of all wars as mass murder, not legalizing murder by associating it with war. To see where that leads, look no further than the militarized police on the streets of the United States who are far more likely to kill you than ISIS is.

I’ve seen a progressive activist express outrage that a judge would declare that the United States is at war in Afghanistan. Doing so apparently allows the United States to keep Afghans locked up in Guantanamo. And of course it’s also a mar on the myth of Barack Obama ending wars. But the U.S. military is in Afghanistan killing people. Would we want a judge to declare that under those circumstances the U.S. is not at war in Afghanistan because the President says the war is officially over? Do we want someone who wages war to have the legal power to recategorize a war as an Overseas Contingency Genocide or whatever it’s called? The United States is at war, but the war is not legal. Being illegal, it cannot legalize the additional crimes of kidnapping, imprisonment without charge, or torture. If it were legal it couldn’t legalize those things either, but it’s illegal, and we’ve been reduced to the point of wanting to pretend it isn’t happening so that we can treat the so-called “war crimes” as crimes without coming up against the legal shield created by their being part of a wider operation of mass-murder.

What we need to revive from the 1920s is a moral movement against mass-murder. The illegality of the offense is a key part of the movement. But so is its immorality. Demanding equal participation in mass-murder for trans-gendered people misses the point. Insisting on a military in which female soldiers are not raped misses the point. Canceling particular fraudulent weapons contracts misses the point. We need to insist on an end to mass-state-murder. If diplomacy can be used with Iran why not with every other nation?

Instead war is now a protection for all lesser evils, an ongoing rolling shock doctrine. On September 11, 2001, I was working on trying to restore value to the minimum wage and was immediately told that nothing good could be done anymore because it was war time. When the CIA went after whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling for supposedly being the one to reveal that the CIA had given nuclear bomb plans to Iran, he appealed to civil rights groups for help. He was an African American who had accused the CIA of discrimination and now believed he was facing retaliation. None of the civil rights groups would go near. The civil liberties groups that address some of the lesser crimes of war will not oppose war itself, drone or otherwise. Environmental organizations that know the military is our single biggest polluter, will not mention its existence. A certain socialist candidate for president can’t bring himself to say that the wars are wrong, rather he proposes that the benevolent democracy in Saudi Arabia take the lead in waging and footing the bill for the wars.

The Pentagon’s new Law of War Manual which replaces its 1956 version, admits in a footnote that the Kellogg-Briand Pact is the law of the land, but proceeds to claim legality for war, for targeting civilians or journalists, for using nuclear weapons and napalm and herbicides and depleted uranium and cluster bombs and exploding hollow-point bullets, and of course for drone murders. A professor from not far from here, Francis Boyle, remarked that the document could have been written by Nazis.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff’s new National Military Strategy is worth reading as well. It gives as its justification for militarism lies about four countries, beginning with Russia, which it accuses of “using force to achieve its goals,” something the Pentagon would never do! Next it lies that Iran is “pursuing” nukes. Next it claims that North Korea’s nukes will someday “threaten the U.S. homeland.” Finally, it asserts that China is “adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region.” The document admits that none of the four nations wants war with the United States. “Nonetheless,” it says, “they each pose serious security concerns.”

And serious security concerns, as we all know, are far worse than war, and spending $1 trillion a year on war is a small price to pay to handle those concerns. Eighty-seven years ago this would have seemed insanity. Luckily we have ways of bringing back the thinking of years gone by, because typically someone suffering from insanity doesn’t have a way to enter into the mind of someone else who’s viewing his insanity from the outside. We have that. We can go back to an era that imagined the ending of war and then carry that work forward with the goal of completing it.

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First State Approves Drones with Rubber Bullets, Tasers, Pepper Spray, Tear Gas, Sound Cannons for Domestic Use

North Dakota has become the first state to approve government use of drones equipped with “less than lethal weapons”, including “rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers”.

The bill passsed largely due to the inherent corruption of the US political system, as the wording was modified to allow for weaponized drones and approved “thanks to a last-minute push by a … lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry”.

The Republican who originally proposed the bill had written it to ban all weaponization of drones, and he was dismayed that it ultaimately passed in a form that allows non-lethal weaponization.

Police claim the drones will only be used in “non-criminal” situations, such as surveilance, but did not mention that they have already been used in at least one criminal situation, or that the claim is dubious at best given the ultra-militarized and brutal state of policing in the US, which many, particularly those in ethnic minority groups, liken to military occupation.

A police deputy, explaining why he opposed requiring search warrants for use of drones, told Daily Beast that “you don’t want things that would potentially have a chilling effect on [drone] manufacturers”.

“It’s really all about the commercial development,” said Republican rep. Gary Paur.

As Daily Beast puts it, “In other words, limit civil liberties so Big Drone can spread its wings.”

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that, as numerous US crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters, including mass arrests of civilians and journalists, demonstrate.

@_DirtyTruths

Posted in General, Politics / World News | 1 Comment

Nazis’ Gold Train Is Said to Have Been Found in Poland

Eric Zuesse

On 27 August, Polish Radio announced that two people have presented evidence that they have discovered Nazi Germany’s legendary “Gold Train,” containing art and that’s especially “laden with precious metals,” and that the pair are demanding a 10% cut of its value, for finding this nearly 200-yard-long train, in a hidden mountain tunnel in the Polish town of Walzbrych, formerly the German town of Waldenburg. Nazis had constructed the tunnel in 1943, to hide valuables from Soviet forces, in the event that Germany might lose the war.

Soviets conquered Nazi forces at Waldenburg on 8 May 1945; and, until now, this heavily armored train had not been found. On August 27th, the town announced that agreement was reached with the German citizen and the Polish citizen, who jointly claim to have made the find, agreeing to pay them their demanded 10%. The report says, “As outlined in their claim to Wałbrzych authorities, ‘the train contains valuable objects, costly industrial materials and precious metal ores’.” So, the town is now seeking assistance from the Polish government, to provide mine-detection and other help, so that the site can safely be entered by the town’s officials, in order that the train’s cargo can be itemized and estimated. According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Poland’s military are “cordoning off” the area.

The initial Polish report noted that, “As Germans fled the advancing Red Army at the end of the war, innumerable valuables were evacuated. Thousands of these, including artworks such as Raphael’s ‘Portrait of a Young Man’, which had been looted from Poland’s Czartoryski Museum during the war, have not been traced until this day.”

According to warhistoryonline, “Damien Simonart, France Info’s Warsaw correspondent, said: ‘If there is Nazi gold in this train, we are not talking about Indiana Jones here but gold pulled from the teeth of Jews in death camps.’ He added that if the two unidentified treasure hunters really have struck gold, they will have to question their consciences over its origin if they do seal a deal to take home 10 per cent of its value.”

However, with the announcement now, that Walzbrych has agreed to that payment, there will also be complex legal decisions by the Polish Government, and perhaps also some broader questions of international law, regarding whether and how assets that were extracted from people who were exterminated can belong legally to any government, and to any finders; and, if so, then at what percentages.

The report by Simonart says that, “The Walbrzych region is home to dozens of kilometers of underground galleries. The Nazis had dug them during the war to secretly produce strategic weapons, but it may very well hide a train full of gold.”

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in Business / Economics, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pentagon’s New “Law of War” Manual “Reduces Us to the Level of Nazis”

Pentagon Goes Barbarian

The Pentagon’s new Law of War Manual – a 1,200-plus page document issued in June by the Defense Department’s Office of the General Counsel – is barbaric.

The Manual is so bad that one of the leading experts on the law of war (Dr. Francis Boyle) – who wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, and teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign – says :

This Law of War Manual reduces us to the level of Nazis. There’s no other word for it.

Boyle also says the Manual:

Reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War.

Why is the Manual so bad?

Manual Authorizes Slaughter of Innocent Civilians

Because – according to Boyle – the Manual allows massacres of civilian populations. The most comprehensive previous such document – the 1956 Pentagon field manual – assumed that any deliberate targeting of civilians was illegal and a war crime.

Reporters Can Be Assassinated

And the Manual treats allows reporters to be treated as “unprivileged combatants”, who can be assassinated.

Boyle points out that this retroactively legalizes assassination of reporters, such as Al Jazeera reporters during Iraq war. Boyle notes that even a SPY would be treated better, and given a trial.

(As we’ve previously noted, the U.S. government treats real reporters as terrorists. Because the core things which reporters do could be considered terrorism, in modern America, journalists are sometimes targeted under counter-terrorism laws.)

Manual Authorizes Barbarous War Crimes

Boyle also says the Manual authorizes the following barbarous war crimes:

(1) Warfare with nuclear weapons. Specifically, the manual states:

There is no general prohibition in treaty or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons.

This flies in the face of the United Nations Charter, which – as noted by the World Court in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons – makes even threatening to use nuclear weapons a war crime.

This is also particularly worrisome because – as documented in
Towards a World War III Scenario, by Michel Chossudovsky –  the U.S. is so enamored with nuclear weapons that it has authorized low-level field commanders to use them in the heat of battle in their sole discretion … without any approval from civilian leaders.

2. Depleted uranium. The use of depleted uranium can cause cancer and birth defects for decades (see this, this, this, this, this and this).

3. Landmines.

4. Cluster bombs.

5.  Napalm, which is banned under Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

6. Expanding hollow-point bullets, banned under the 1868 St. Petersburg declaration.

7. Herbicides, like Agent Orange in Vietnam.

The Good News

The good news – according to Dr. Boyle – is that both Congress and the president have power to revoke the Manual.

So – if we stand up and raise holy hell – we might be able to walk back from the fascist path we’re heading down.  And we can prove that we’re not the rogue nation that the rest of the world thinks we are.

Posted in Politics / World News | 10 Comments

Seven Ways Racism Is Built In

1. WEALTH GAP: The playing field is not level. The median wealth of a white household in the United States is over 13 times that of a black household, and the gap is widening. Most black households have less than $350 in savings. It takes money not just to make money but to get a start, to live near good schools, to live free of lead paint poisoning, or to address the special needs that every person has.

2. EDUCATION: Black students are three times as likely as whites to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of the teachers meet all the state certification and licensure requirements. This is a crude measurement of how some of our schools are even worse than others, but it’s a good one. Such a situation is driven by the disparity in wealth noted above, by segregation, and by racist attitudes that accept it.

3. JOBS: The employment game is rigged. Identical resumes and job applications result in 50% fewer calls from employers when the applicant’s name sounds black. Whether those choices are conscious or intentional or thought through is not terribly relevant. This sort of experiment has been run numerous times with the same result. An African-American trying to find a job must face all the usual hurdles, plus possible hurdles created by wealth disparity (such as lack of transportation, lack of prior friendship with insiders, lack of education), plus the racism of many people who read and consider resumes. As a result, the unemployment rate for blacks is twice as high as for whites.

4. COSTS: Banks both fail to make the same number of fair loans in predominantly black neighborhoods and concentrate predatory loans that unfairly strip the borrower of equity in those same neighborhoods. Blacks are charged prices roughly $700 higher than white people when buying cars. Not only is it very expensive to be poor, not only has poverty been criminalized so that people are ending up in jail for the inability to pay a bill or a fine or a traffic ticket, but racism tends to exacerbate all of these problems if you’re black. One of many ways it does this is by making you more likely to be given a fine or a ticket in the first place.

5. POLICING: Punishment is disproportionate. African American students are more likely to be punished harshly — with suspension or arrest — than whites. Black drivers are twice as likely to be pulled over by police, and three times as likely to be searched during a stop. Blacks are four times as likely to experience the use of force during an encounter with police, and black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police. The police have been militarized especially in black neighborhoods, and the military training appears to have a significant impact. The provision of weapons of war to police has accelerated under both Bush and Obama. Here’s one way to push back.

6. WAR ON DRUGS: Blacks do not use more drugs than whites but are far more likely to be arrested, more likely if arrested to be prosecuted, more likely if prosecuted to be prosecuted for a felony, and more likely if convicted to be given a harsh sentence. African Americans are imprisoned at six times the rate of whites. Upon release, the “felon” label further slants the uneven field. Of course we need to end mass incarceration entirely. The point here is just that it has a racist impact.

7. MEDIA: The U.S. media subtly promotes racism through what it includes, what it excludes, and whom it chooses to treat as a human and whom as a monster. Of course, no one has to believe what their television says, but everyone must engage in constant re-education to correct for it.

Posted in General | 3 Comments

The Greatness of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Or Not?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

Many people are aware that U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt skillfully lured Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor so as to get the American public to support joining England’s war against Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. 

Until the Pearl Harbor attack, all of FDR’s efforts to win the U.S. public’s support for going to war against Hitler had failed miserably, and time was rapidly running out to turn the war’s tide away from Hitler and global dictatorship, and toward Churchill and a possible world future of democracy (the latter being the world future which has made our lives as good as they are, not the hell that Hitler had intended them to be). FDR’s effort to join the war was blocked by congressional Republicans, allied with a few determinedly pacifist Democrats such as Idaho’s Senator William E. Borah, people who ignored the ideological stakes, vast though those were, if they even opposed fascism at all (which in many cases is questionable). Communism was widely hated because America’s rich hated it and propagandized heavily against it; so, Stalin’s perfidies were well-publicized, but Hitler’s and other fascists’ vilenesses weren’t so clearly and unambiguously presented, especially because many of America’s aristocrats were very profitably doing business with Nazis and were hoping to become invited onto what then seemed likely to be the winning team after the war between Churchill and Hitler would be over. Both the Congress and the American public were against FDR on the war-issue, and yet FDR needed to turn all of them around on it, and to do it fast. The process to do this violated moral rules; and, in some respects, it even violated U.S. laws; but FDR did what he had to do, in order to save the world, by joining Churchill’s war against Hitler. 

As the BBC documentary which is linked to there (within the article linked to just above) makes clear (read that article, but above all, click onto that video), Churchill was hiding some important things from FDR, or else FDR was hiding from everyone key things about Pearl Harbor that Churchill had informed him of. No one knows which is the case, but Churchill had certainly been constantly currently informed by British code-breakers regarding all details of Japan’s evolving war-plans concerning Pearl Harbor, including Japan’s decision in January 1941 to attack Pearl Harbor. Of course, Churchill had wanted the attack to occur, at least as much as did FDR, because Churchill desperately wanted Britain not to be defeated, and a U.S. entry into the war was now Britain’s only hope. Furthermore, America’s FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover intercepted British intelligence that showed Germany was helping Japan to prepare its Pearl Harbor attack. (Churchill already knew all about this, since it came from Britain’s double-agent, who had infiltrated German intelligence.) FDR might have been hiding some important things from Churchill, Hitler might have been hiding some important things from Japan’s leaders, Japan’s leaders were definitely hiding some important things from Germany’s leaders, and the situation was even more complicated than that. 

J. Edgar Hoover was hiding some important things from everyone but perhaps FDR, and FDR was hiding some important things from everyone, including from the commanders at Pearl Harbor. And the commanders at Pearl Harbor were, unbeknownst to them, being actively set-up by the U.S. President to take the rap for failing to have protected their forces adequately from an attack which FDR’s people were actually doing everything they possibly could to facilitate and even to cause, and which Churchill’s people knew all the details of, including even the planned day and time of the attack. (NOTE: Those commanders were not punished, only retired from further service, so their “Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor,” as the BBC documentary on the subject was titled, was kept to the very minimum that was necessary for the purpose, and the biggest sacrifice at Pearl Harbor was instead actually the 2,403 Americans who died, and the 1,178 who were wounded. Their sacrifices must be measured against the benefits that have been gained by defeating Hitler — benefits for the entire world, which continue to this day.)

The White House decided to transfer some important military assets away from Pearl Harbor in order to make the target more vulnerable to Japan’s attack. U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who was not in on the plan, was earnestly negotiating with Japan the conditions of ending the U.S. oil embargo against Japan, which blockade (aimed actually to force Japan to attack the U.S.) was strangling Japan, but (at 33:00 in the BBC documentary) Hull was shocked when FDR killed the deal, just at the time when Hull thought he had succeeded; Hull was “feeling betrayed” by the President, for whom he had been working so long and so hard on this. The tapped phone call from the Japanese negotiator, back to Tokyo (34:46), said: “I have made all efforts but they will not yield. … I believe it is of no avail. … Something will have to be done to get us out of this situation [i.e., to end the oil-blockade].”

Hull’s ‘negotiations’ with Japan’s Ambassadors were actually intended by Roosevelt to serve merely the purpose of fooling Japan’s high command to think that the U.S. was trying to avoid a war with Japan. It was part of the trap FDR had set up. He succeeded at fooling Japan’s high command. And he did it in such a way that (according to the taped phone-conversation) caused Japan’s high officials to feel “humiliated” by what seemed to them to be the American President’s casual dismissal of their offer. Hull was confused and frustrated by FDR’s response, and was consequently unable to explain or justify it to his Japanese interlocutors. This was precisely what FDR wanted.

So, in this light, we should all become introduced and welcomed into the world of international relations, regarding how mega-history is really made — not the fantasies that are told about it in the cleansed ‘history’ books (such as Republicans and other conservatives insist upon). It’s made by deceptions. And it’s made by strategically sacrificing some of the people on one’s own side, in order to save others of one’s own people, so as to win victory in the greater international conflict.

Mega-history is made by individuals who, even when they are partners and not merely when they are enemies, don’t trust and are not always honest with one-another. It’s made in a murky world, where each individual, if he is intelligent at all, needs to be doing his own investigation and to take the statements even of people on his own side as being possibly intended to deceive or otherwise mislead. This is the world of intelligence, and it’s also the world of national leadership — even in a democracy. It’s not just right values, and right priorities; it’s also right gamesmanship. FDR was a giant.

The press are constantly being lied-to; and any ‘news’ medium that reports, other than with considerable skepticism, anything that its government is saying or doing about international relations, is purely a propaganda-medium, no authentic journalistic medium, at all. That’s just fake ‘news’ ‘reporting,’ but it is the routine and not the exception. It’s nationalistic, but it is not  patriotic. (There is a big  difference.)

On 29 November 1941 (39:00 in the linked-to BBC documentary), Cordell Hull confided to a journalistic friend, Joe Leib, that “Pearl Harbor would be attacked on December the seventh,” and that “if anything should erupt against him, that he would be protected by a friend.” It was his request to Leib, to be  that friend, “which I have been to him.” Leib immediately then issued a news report, to UPI, “which put it only on the foreign wire. Ironically, the only paper to use it was The Honolulu Advertiser. In its watered-down form,” it was ignored even there locally; the news-editors had turned it into nothing, despite its being an exclusive news report from the U.S. Secretary of State. Even the Pearl Harbor command was still being kept in the dark. No one could imagine that the U.S. President would be willing to do such a thing. Even the U.S. Secretary of State did not fully understand FDR’s strategy and the necessity of the tactics. The President played his cards that close to his vest. And this is how Hitler was defeated. Because: otherwise, there seemed to be no other way he even could  have been. (At that time, the defeat by Stalin of Hitler’s invasion of Russia (“Operation Barbarossa”) was hardly even imagined: Stalin’s counteroffensive, which won the war in the East, just started on 5 December 1941, two days before  the Pearl Harbor attack. At the time of Pearl Harbor, Hitler’s fortunes were at their very peak. This is how desperate things were at that time.)

As an investigative historian, I am dedicated to truth as being a historian’s highest and most solemn obligation, and so I was taken aback when finding that many readers have criticized articles that I’ve written that FDR was one of America’s greatest, if not the very greatest, Presidents (a view that is widely shared among historians but not among the public who read only press propaganda), and who were saying of those articles from me, such things as, “that was truly fdr’s ‘we had to kill democracy in order to save it’ moment. it’s not a democracy if the executive uses a false flag attack to manipulate the public into war. he made his choice. he failed to imagine a better way. it’s hard to respect such a person.”

I replied to him: “FDR did what he needed to do there, because otherwise Hitler would have won the war, and we’d subsequently have been ruled by Hitler. You might prefer Hitler to FDR, Harry Truman, etc., but most Americans would not. FDR faced a public and a Congress who opposed our getting into the war; he needed something like a Pearl Harbor in order to get the U.S. into the war in time to prevent Hitler from defeating Britain. Being a nation’s leader entails the making of a few choices that are like this: an injustice sometimes needs to be done in order to prevent there being an even bigger injustice. Abraham Lincoln knew this; FDR knew this, and you are not better than they for your not knowing this or for your denying that it is true. To the contrary.”

Another reader backed up the complainant’s criticism, by saying, “A justified false flag. Amazing.”

To that, I replied: “Yes, a justified false-flag. It was the only remaining hope for the possibility (which is all it was at the time) that Hitler would be defeated. I am amazed at the number of readers at this site who wish that Hitler had succeeded. Go to StormFront, instead: you don’t belong here.”

And, to that, the original complainant responded by linking to this terrific BBC documentary (the one that was linked to in the present article’s first link, and which has been summarized earlier here). That video was their “case.”

So: now you know both sides of this debate, and can fairly judge it. I think that I have adequately presented both sides.

PS: I have intentionally left out of this debate the other enormous achievements of FDR, such as Social Security, Glass-Steagall, and many more, because the complainants against my respect for FDR have focused almost exclusively upon this ‘scandal’ about him — a ’scandal’ which I believe to be instead against the people who find it to be a scandal, not actually against FDR, in any way. But that’s for you to judge, because the essential facts in the debate are now clear, and are accepted by both sides to it.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in General, Media, Politics / World News, propaganda, Science / Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Global Markets to Fed: No Rate Hike, the Strong Dollar Is Killing Us

There are many reasons for global markets to melt down, but one that doesn’t get enough attention is the strong dollar. In effect, global markets are telling the Federal Reserve: don’t raise rates–the strong dollar is killing us.

Here’s the dynamic that’s killing emerging markets’ currencies and stocks, the China Story and U.S. corporate profits. In the glory years of a declining U.S. dollar (USD), a vast global carry trade emerged as speculators borrowed money in USD and invested it in high-yield emerging market assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate.

This carry trade was a two-fer: not only were yields much higher in emerging markets, the appreciation of local currencies against the USD provided a currency gain on top of the higher yield.

As the yuan strengthened against the USD, an enormous river of capital flowed into China to take advantage of the revaluation and higher yields in China. How much of this money was borrowed USD is unknown, but it’s estimated that Chinese corporations alone borrowed $1 trillion in USD to profit from higher yields in China.

The virtuous benefits of a weakening USD extended to U.S. corporations, which reap 40% to 50% of their total profits from sales overseas. As the USD weakened, U.S. corporations reaped the currency gains every time they reported overseas sales in USD.

Everybody won with the weakening dollar, except the U.S. consumer, who paid more for imported goods.

But a funny thing happened in late summer 2014–the USD started rising against other currencies–by a lot. Suddenly all those profitable carry trades reversed.

Emerging markets remained in a trading range for much of 2011-2015, but the strengthening dollar was eating away at the carry trades beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, over in the S&P 500, stocks rose steadily from mid-2011 to mid-2015. But beneath the surface strength of the past year, market technicians noted a deterioration of indicators. Commentators started noting the rising dollar’s negative impact on U,S. corporate profits.

Now the carry trades have been abandoned, and market participants are looking at a Fed rate hike with fear and loathing. Why? The USD has already strengthened by 20%. A tick up in U.S. yields would only make the dollar more attractive globally, as traders would get the currency appreciation and a higher yield.

Global markets are puking at the prospect of higher yields in the U.S. The damage delivered by the rising dollar has been severe; a move higher from here might prove fatal to emerging markets and faltering U.S. corporate profits.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Raping of America: Mile Markers on the Road to Fascism

By John Whitehead, constitutional and civil rights attorney, the Rutherford Institute.

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases—these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

Indeed, on a daily basis, Americans are being forced to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States.

In other words, we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Charnesia Corley after allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. They found nothing in the car.

As the Houston Chronicle reported:

Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then…Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.

As shocking and disturbing as it seems, Corley’s roadside cavity search is becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity.

For instance, 38-year-old Angel Dobbs and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, were pulled over by a Texas state trooper on July 13, 2012, allegedly for flicking cigarette butts out of the car window. Insisting that he smelled marijuana, he proceeded to interrogate them and search the car. Despite the fact that both women denied smoking or possessing any marijuana, the police officer then called in a female trooper, who carried out a roadside cavity search, sticking her fingers into the older woman’s anus and vagina, then performing the same procedure on the younger woman, wearing the same pair of gloves. No marijuana was found.

David Eckert was forced to undergo an anal cavity search, three enemas, and a colonoscopy after allegedly failing to yield to a stop sign at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Cops justified the searches on the grounds that they suspected Eckert was carrying drugs because his “posture [was] erect” and “he kept his legs together.” No drugs were found.

Leila Tarantino was subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic during a routine traffic stop, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. Nothing illegal was found. Nevertheless, such searches have been sanctioned by the courts, especially if accompanied by a search warrant (which is easily procured), as justified in the government’s pursuit of drugs and weapons.

Meanwhile, four Milwaukee police officers were charged with carrying out rectal searches of suspects on the street and in police district stations over the course of several years. One of the officers was accused of conducting searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his fingers into their rectums and leaving some of his victims with bleeding rectums. Halfway across the country, the city of Oakland, California, agreed to pay $4.6 million to 39 men who had their pants pulled down by police on city streets between 2002 and 2009.

It’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Florence v. Burlison, any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include: individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, making an improper left turn, engaging in an antiwar demonstration (the individual searched was a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years). Police have also carried out strip searches for passing a bad check, dog leash violations, filing a false police report, failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn, having outstanding parking tickets, and public intoxication. A failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.

Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state—whether or not we’ve done anything wrong—don’t end with roadside strip searches. They’re just a foretaste of what is to come.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods, less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering, of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives. As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

If there is any hope to be found it will be found in local, grassroots activism. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s time for “militant nonviolent resistance.”

First, however, Americans must break free of the apathy-inducing turpor of politics, entertainment spectacles and manufactured news. Only once we are free of the chains that bind us—or to be more exact, the chains that “blind” us—can we become actively aware of the injustices taking place around us and demand freedom of our oppressors.

Posted in Politics / World News | 6 Comments

Visual of Global Military Expenditures

How did the US propel itself so far ahead, to the point that it could, alone, comprise about half of global military spending?

Professor of history at Cornell University: “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

Even divided in half, the two halves of the US would still be tied for the lead in global military spending, 89 billion dollars each ahead of the number two spender, China.

Also notice how North Korea’s spending is represented by a pin-prick dot above South Korea, and that Iran’s budget is not high enough even to be given a number on the chart (it was under 10 billion in 2009).

It would take 16 billion dollars to clean up the un-exploded bombs the US left in Laos, which continue to kill thousands of people, mostly children.  But the US won’t pay it.

@_DirtyTruths

Posted in General, Politics / World News | 5 Comments

Government Spying “Worse than Orwell”

The United Nations privacy chief says that government spying is “worse than Orwell”.

He’s right …

The editor of the Guardian newspaper said:

Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time.

Edward Snowden said in 2013 that NSA spying was worse than in Orwell’s book 1984.

Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge writes:

We are already far, far past the point of Stasi or “1984”.

And Bill Binney – the highest-level NSA whistleblower ever, the senior technical director within the agency who managed thousands of NSA employees and created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information – told Washington’s Blog:

Current surveillance is far beyond an Orwellian state.

Posted in Politics / World News | 7 Comments

Why the Bear of 2015 Is Different from the Bear of 2008

It’s tempting to see similarities in last week’s global stock market mini-crash and the monumental meltdown that almost took down the Global Financial System in 2008-2009. The dizzying drop invites comparison to the last Bear Market that took the S&P 500 from 1,565 in October 2007 to 667 on March 9, 2009.

But this Bear is beginning in circumstances quite different from 2007-08. Let’s list a few of the differences:

1. Then: Markets and central banks feared inflation, as WTIC oil had hit $133 per barrel in the summer of 2008.

Now: As oil tests the $40/barrel level, markets and central banks fear deflation.

2. Then: China had a relatively modest $7 trillion in total debt, considerably less than 100% of GDP.

now: China’s debt has quadrupled from $7 trillion in 2007 to $28 trillion as of mid-2014, an astonishing 282% of gross domestic product (GDP)

3. Then: Central banks had a full toolbox of unprecedented monetary surprises to unleash on the market: TARP, TARF, BARF (OK, that one is made up) rescue packages and credit guarantees, quantitative easing (QE), zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and direct purchases of mortgages, to name just the top few.

Now: The central bank toolbox is empty: every tool has already been deployed on an unprecedented scale. Every potential new program is simply a retread of QE, yield curve bending, asset purchases, etc.–the same old bag of tricks.

4. Then: Central banks had a relatively clean slate to work with. Interventions in the market and economy were limited to suppressing interest rates in the post-dot-com meltdown era.

Now: Central banks have never stopped intervening since 2008. The market is in effect a reflection of 6+ years of unprecedented central bank interventions. Rather than a clean slate, central banks face a global marketplace that is dominated by incentives to speculate with leveraged/borrowed money established by 6 years of central bank policies.

5. Then: Interest rates had rebounded from the post-dot-com lows in 2003. The Fed Funds rate in 2006-07 was above 5%, and the Prime Lending Rate exceeded 8%.

Now: The Fed Funds Rate has been screwed down to .25% for 6+ years–an unprecedented period of near-zero interest rates.

6. Then: The average 30-year mortgage rate was above 6% from October 2005 to November 2008.

Now: Mortgage rates have been under 4% in 2015.

7. Then: The U.S. dollar only soared in financial crises as capital flowed to safe havens in late 2008-early 2009 and again in 2010.

Now: The U.S. dollar began a 20% increase in mid-2014, in the midst of what was generally perceived as a solid global expansion.

8. Then: The U.S. dollar fell sharply from 2006 to 2008, and again in 2010 to 2011, boosting the overseas profits of U.S. corporations that account for 40% to 50% of total multinational corporate profits.

Now: The rising dollar has crushed the overseas profits of U.S. corporations. The soaring USD has also crushed emerging market currencies and stock markets, and forced China to devalue its currency, the the RMB (yuan)–a devaluation that triggered the current global meltdown in stocks.

9. Then: The global boom 2003-2008 was widely viewed as a tide that raised all ships.

Now: Central bank policies are recognized as engines of inequality that have widened income and wealth inequality for 6+ years.

Are there any conditions now that are actually better than those of 2008? Or are conditions now less resilient, more fragile and more dependent on unprecedented central bank interventions?

 

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US withholding Chilcot Inquiry docs as they may discourage future wars US is interested in

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The REAL Reason China’s Economy Is Crashing

China 2015 = U.S. 2008

We noted in 2009, in a piece titled “China 2009 = America 2001 = Rome 11 BC“:

One of the top experts on China’s economy – [economics professor] Michael Pettis – has a very long but interesting essay arguing that China is blowing a giant credit bubble to avoid the global downturn.

Pettis documents reports and statistics from modern China, of course. But he ends with a must-read comparison to ancient Rome:

Let me post here a portion of Chapter 15 from Will Durant’s History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to AD 325

The famous “panic” of A.D. 33 illustrates the development and complex interdependence of banks and commerce in the Empire. Augustus had coined and spent money lavishly, on the theory that its increased circulation, low interest rates, and rising prices would stimulate business. They did; but as the process could not go on forever, a reaction set in as early as 10 B.C., when this flush minting ceased. Tiberius rebounded to the opposite theory that the most economical economy is the best. He severely limited the governmental expenditures, sharply restricted new issues of currency, and hoarded 2,700,000,000 sesterces in the Treasury.

The resulting dearth of circulating medium was made worse by the drain of money eastward in exchange for luxuries. Prices fell, interest rates rose, creditors foreclosed on debtors, debtors sued usurers, and money-lending almost ceased. The Senate tried to check the export of capital by requiring a high percentage of every senator’s fortune to be invested in Italian land; senators thereupon called in loans and foreclosed mortgages to raise cash, and the crisis rose. When the senator Publius Spinther notified the bank of Balbus and Ollius that he must withdraw 30,000,000 sesterces to comply with the new law, the firm announced its bankruptcy.

At the same time the failure of an Alexandrian firm, Seuthes and Son due to their loss of three ships laden with costly spices and the collapse of the great dyeing concern of Malchus at Tyre, led to rumors that the Roman banking house of Maximus and Vibo would be broken by their extensive loans to these firms. When its depositors began a “run” on this bank it shut its doors, and later on that day a larger bank, of the Brothers Pettius, also suspended payment. Almost simultaneously came news that great banking establishments had failed in Lyons, Carthage, Corinth, and Byzantium. One after another the banks of Rome closed. Money could be borrowed only at rates far above the legal limit. Tiberius finally met the crisis by suspending the land-investment act and distributing 100,000,000 sesterces to the banks, to be lent without interest for three years on the security of realty. Private lenders were thereby constrained to lower their interest rates, money came out of hiding, and confidence slowly re-turned.

Except for the exotic names … and the spice-bearing ships, this story has a remarkably contemporary ring to it, as do nearly all historical accounts of financial crisis, by the way. This story is not totally relevant to China today except to the extent that it indicates how difficult it is for banking systems flush with cash to avoid speculative lending, and how the very fact of their speculative lending then creates the conditions that can bring the whole thing crashing down. Hyman Minsky told us all about this kind of thing. There has never been a political or economic system in history that has been able to avoid the consequences of excessive liquidity within the banking system. Even the Romans learned this, and they learned it the hard way, as we always do.

America’s easy credit bubble started in 2001. Rome’s prior to 10 BC. We know the results of both.

Is China now blowing a huge credit bubble which will lead to a giant crash down the line?

Pettis thinks so …

Last week, economics professor Steve Keen explained:

[During the 2008 crash] private debt [in China] was effectively constant at 100% of GDP.

All that changed after the financial crisis. In just 6 years, private debt grew by over 80% of GDP—and that’s using official figures as submitted to the Bank of International Settlements (see Figure 2) when there’s every reason to expect that this particular figure is likely to understate the actual level.

Figure 2: Private debt in China exploded as it sidestepped the Global Financial Crisis

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Why does the level of private debt in China matter? If you believe conventional economics and finance theory, it doesn’t—which is why I find myself having to repeat the (expletive deleted) obvious so often that it does. [Background.]

***

From 2009 on, growth in private credit went into hyperdrive as a deliberate government policy to boost the economy.

Figure 3: China avoided the Global Financial Crisis by boosting credit growth

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In 2010, the increase in private debt in China was equivalent to 35% of GDP. That dwarfs the rate of growth of credit in both Japan and the USA prior to their crises: Japan topped out at just over 25% per year, and the USA reached a “mere” 15% of GDP per year—see Figure 4.

Figure 4: China’s credit bubble is the biggest ever

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As I have argued for a decade now, crises begin when the rate of growth of credit slows down in heavily indebted countries. China was not heavily indebted in 2008, which is why it could take the credit growth path out of the Global Financial Crisis. But now it is more heavily indebted than America was when its crisis began—even relying on official statistics which undoubtedly understate the real situation—and the momentum of debt may well carry it past the peak level reached by Japan after its Bubble Economy collapsed in the early 1990s (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: China is on course to reach Japan’s Private Debt to GDP peak

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***

So China is having its first fully-fledged capitalist crisis. To date its response to it has been to try to sustain the unsustainable: to transfer the bubble from housing to the stockmarket, and to keep the stockmarket rising like some production target for wheat from the bad old days before the fall of the Gang of Four. It can’t be done. At some point, the Chinese government is going to have to make the transition from generating a credit bubble to trying to contain its aftermath.

And economics professor Michael Hudson notes:

Most of the Chinese stocks went down because small Chinese investors were borrowing from, let’s say, the equivalent of payday loan lenders to buy stocks. There was a lot of small speculation in Chinese stocks pushing it up.

***

In China, it’s largely small borrowers who borrowed from intermediate lenders, that have borrowed from the big banks. So a lot of individuals in China that tried to get rich fast by riding the stock market all of a sudden find out that they have a lot of debt to intermediate, you know, non-bank lenders, insiders, people who banks will lend to. It’s like the British banks lending to real estate speculators to lend out to homebuyers. So this is essentially the attempt to get rich by riding the stock market in China went way overboard. Chinese stocks are still above what they were at the beginning of the year. This is not a crisis. This is not very much. It’s just that the artificial increase in the market has now ended some of the artificial push-up. And it’s still artificial, and it will still go down some more.

For confirmation that individual Chinese investors borrowed too much to buy stocks – leading to a bubble which inevitably had to burst – see this, this, this and this.

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