Judges’ Level of Empathy Correlated with Time of Day

Tired, Hungry Judges Are Mean

We’ve previously noted that – contrary to the naive belief of many – judges are political animals.  See this, this, this and this.

But they’re also just plain animals … like everyone else. Yes, they have minds and souls, but they also have bodies with physical sensations, needs and urges which effect their decisions.

Specifically, behavioral researchers documented in a 2010 edited by famed behaviorist Daniel Kahneman that judges’ level of empathy rises right after they’ve had a snack and a break … and plummets when they haven’t had either for some time

Randal Olson summarizes:

The researchers analyzed 8 experienced judge’s decisions on parole requests as a function of time of day. The judges reviewed about 35 cases per day, spending about 6 minutes on each case. On average, the judges approved only 36% of the parole requests presented to them each day, so the chances of having a positive judgement on your case are already bleak.Now, we’d expect judges — of all people — to be the best at making impartial decisions. If no external factors were affecting their decisions, we’d expect to see them consistently approving about 36% of the parole requests throughout the day.

Let’s take a look at what the researchers found.

judge_decisions_fig1
Proportion of parole requests approved as a function of what order they were reviewed in.

Each tick on the x-axis denotes every third case.
Circles denote when the judges took a food break….

Shockingly, the judges appear to be much more inclined to approve a parole request when they’ve just come off a break. In contrast, they reject far more requests than usual the closer they get to break time — and nearly 100% of the requests just before they take a break.

***

In the judges’ case, once a sufficient number of cases had worn them down, they started defaulting to rejecting every case put in front of them until it was break time. That means that perfectly eligible prisoners had to spend even more time in prison because the judge hadn’t eaten his mid-morning snack.

Yet more proof that humans don’t make decisions in a vacuum ….

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 1 Comment

Why Does the U.S. Support a Country which was FOUNDED With Terrorism … and Is Still the MAIN SOURCE of Islamic Terrorism Today?

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America Has Sold Its Soul for Oil

A U.S. congressman for 6 years,  who is now a talking head on MSNBC (Joe Scarborough) says that – even if the Saudi government backed the 9/11 attacks – Saudi oil is too important to do anything about it:

This is not an isolated incident. It is a microcosm of U.S.-Saudi relations.

By way of background, former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke notes that Saudi Arabia was founded with terrorism:

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

***

Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.

***

Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.

Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner of jihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.

***

Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”

Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”

In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.

***

With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world … to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.

***

It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.

***

The more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS?

Frontline notes:

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of “Wahhabism,” an austere form of Islam, arrives in the central Arabian state of Najd in 1744 preaching a return to “pure” Islam. He seeks protection from the local emir, Muhammad ibn Saud, head of the Al Saud tribal family, and they cut a deal. The Al Saud will endorse al-Wahhab’s austere form of Islam and in return, the Al Saud will get political legitimacy and regular tithes from al-Wahhab’s followers. The religious-political alliance that al-Wahhab and Saud forge endures to this day in Saudi Arabia.

By the 19th century, the Al Saud has spread its influence across the Arabian Peninsula, stretching from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and including the Two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.

***

By 1945, the U.S. urgently needs oil facilities to help supply forces fighting in the Second World War. Meanwhile, security is at the forefront of King Abd al-Aziz’s concerns. President Franklin Roosevelt invites the king to meet him aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, docked in the Suez Canal. The two leaders cement a secret oil-for-security pact: The king guarantees to give the U.S. secure access to Saudi oil and in exchange the U.S. will provide military assistance and training to Saudi Arabia and build the Dhahran military base.

U.S. presidents have been extremely close to the Saudi monarchs ever since.

The Progressive notes:

The ideology of the Saudi regime is that of ISIS even if the foreign policies differ,” California State University-Stanislaus Professor Asad AbuKhalil tells The Progressive.

***

Wahhabi Islam [the official ideology of the Saudi monarchy] is fully in sync with ISIS.”

But instead of isolating the Saudi regime from the global mainstream, President Obama paid a visit there earlier this year, meeting with King Abdullah. He reportedly did not discuss the regime’s dubious conduct.

“I can’t think of a more pernicious actor in the region,” British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid told me in an interview last year. “The House of Saud has exported this very pernicious form of militant Islam under U.S. watch. Then the United States comes in repeatedly to attack symptoms of this problem without ever addressing the basic issue: Where does it all come from? Who’s at the heart of this thing? It would be like saying that if you have skin rash because of cancer, the best option is to cut off your skin. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Yet, the United States continues with this approach.

Even establishment opinion is recognizing the dimensions of the Saudi problem.

“It can’t be exporting extremism and at the same time ask the United States to protect it,” Retired General (and onetime presidential contender) Wesley Clark recently told CNN.

“Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings,” Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations recently wrote in the New York Times. “For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism [another term for Wahhabism] across the globe.”

Such entities “have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism,” he adds.

***

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a December 2009 leaked diplomatic cable that entities in Saudi Arabia were the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

***

Yet the United States keeps mum because the Saudi monarchy serves U.S. interests. Due to its pivotal role in OPEC, it makes sure that crude oil prices don’t rise above a certain level. It is a key purchaser of American weapons. It invests in U.S. government bonds. And it has acted in the past as proxy for covert U.S. actions, such as funneling arms and funding to the Nicaraguan contras.

***

Until Saudi Arabia stops sponsoring the most reactionary brands of Sunni Islam, this U.S. ally will remain responsible for much of the mayhem in the Muslim world.

The Independent headlines “Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country”:

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

***

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

***

Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

***

Dearlove … sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

***

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.”

***

Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq.

***

For all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

***

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open.

As we’ve extensively documented, the Saudis and the U.S. backed the radical “madrassas” in which Islamic radicalism was spread.

Indeed, the U.S. is backing the most radical Muslim terrorists in the world: the Salafis, who are heavily concentrated in Saudi Arabia, while overthrowing the more moderate Arabs.

Postscript: And you know the barbaric beheadings by ISIS? The Saudis do that in spades. In the first half of August, there were 19 beheadings, including one for “sorcery”. The 345 reported executions between 2007 and 2010 were all carried out by public beheading. Sometimes, Saudi courts order the accused to be beheaded … and then have the severed body be crucified.

Posted in Politics / World News | 9 Comments

Can a National Quasi-Religion (Pro Sports) Go Broke?

Attending costly games is on the margins of the household budget. When the credit card gets maxed out, attending is no longer an option.

Please understand I’m not suggesting professional sports isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread: I’m simply asking if attending pro sports games has become unaffordable to the average American.

Who cares as long as we can watch the games for free on television, right? That raises another issue: in the next recession, will advertisers still pay billions of dollars for broadcast TV ads on sports channels when ads on mobile devices distributed via Big Data analysis can directly target the (shrinking) populace who still has disposable income to spend?

Before we look at the money side of pro sports, let’s note the glorious shared experience of “our team” winning and hated rivals losing.Sports is one of the few experiences that unites a remarkably diverse populace, and one of the few spheres of life that isn’t politicized to ruination.

We all get to live vicariously through sports, and the stranger cheering beside us is suddenly a “friendly” in a largely hostile world.

With apologies to Dallas Cowboys fans: Joe Montana to Dwight Clark– The Catchin January 1982: (Cowboys fans have many memorable moments to savor, including a number in this game)

Montana to Clark – The Catch (2:24)

The problem is that attending a game is prohibitively expensive. A seat in the nosebleed section might only be $15, but there’s parking (or train fare), and the $10 beer and the $10 hotdog. That’s $40 – $50 for one fan or $80 for two people.

Given that the average wage is $44,000, $80 for “cheap seats at the game” is not inconsequential. Given that many clubs are now pricing tickets by demand, it’s easy for two people to spend $200 to attend a game.

How many people can afford to attend games on a regular basis without maxing out a credit card or drawing on a home equity line of credit (assuming there’s home equity to tap)?

Cities desperate to retain pro franchises are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars spent building $1+ billion stadiums. Many claim that they’ll recoup the money from hotels and shopping malls built adjacent to the stadium, but this gargantuan cash flow has yet to actually materialize.

The winner take all dynamic of our pop culture has driven salaries and team overhead costs into the stratosphere. This pushes costs so high that teams literally can’t afford a losing season. Alas, not every team can win the conference, much less the championship.

The assumption that TV ad revenues will continue to support the enormous costs of the system is rarely questioned. The ads have to work to make sense, and in an economy in which the average wage earner is making less money every year (measured by purchasing power rather than nominal dollars), and more and more of the dwindling income is devoted to healthcare, taxes, debt service and essentials, there are two questions here:

1. What good is an ad if the viewers have no disposable money to spend?

2. Rather than pay to broadcast an ad to every viewer, few of whom are in the market for whatever item you’re selling, why not target the core audience directly with mobile ads?

If an advertiser is marketing beer that (in Mike Royko’s memorable phrase) tastes like it’s been strained through a horse, where’s the most bang for the ad buck–a broadcast ad to sports fans who have seen hundreds of beer ads and are either already fans of the swill being advertised or consumers who will never buy the product, regardless of ads, pricing, etc.?

The typical ad-industry justification is that if Swill A can capture 1% of market share from SWill B, spending tens of millions of dollars on TV network ads is a wise investment.

But does this argument hold up when advertisers can target beer buyers with a history of buying Swill A and B directly via their mobile phones as they enter the supermarket? Which ad do you reckon has a higher probability of modifying consumer choice, another beer ad that viewers mute/ignore, or a coupon delivered to the beer buyer at the point of purchase?

In short, the mobile ad revolution has barely begun, and while broadcast ads on TV, radio and the Internet will all still attract advert money, it seems highly likely we’ve reached Peak Broadcast TV Advertising income.

Take a glance at this chart of household income: every sector from wealthy to low-income is bringing home less money. What does that tell you about the future of advertising?

Based on anecdotal evidence submitted by readers and correspondents, it seems that much of the discretionary spending on things like attending sports events and concerts is being funded with debt or drawdowns of savings/equity. In other words, people are charging big-bucks tickets on their credit card, not paying for them out of weekly earnings.

There may be a generational component as well. Most of the people in the top 10% of household income are Baby Boomers in their peak earning years. On the face of it, they can easily afford to pay for costly tickets, parking, beer, etc. at one of the sports industry’s new secular cathedrals (i.e. stadiums).

But these same people are often also paying for kids’ college and funding care for their aging parents. $200,000 a year looks great until you subtract taxes, college costs, assisted living costs for a parent, a big mortgage and rising costs for essentials.

My point is: going to games is now like going to concerts or a fancy restaurant: each consumes a major chunk of dwindling discretionary income. As credit and income tighten, it’s getting easier to decide to forego the concert, game or high-end dining experience.

In other words, attending costly games is on the margins of the household budget. When the credit card gets maxed out, attending is no longer an option.

I haven’t found any studies on this question, but I also wonder if Gen Y is as committed to the idea of investing so much time and money in sports as their elders. If they are indeed less invested, this adds additional weight to the idea that we’ve reached Peak Pro Sports.

I confess I’m jaded. I don’t have the time or emotional surplus to invest in following sports, and I tend to see the sports industry as just another bloated cartel that rips off its customers because it can, enriching a handful of super-wealthy owners who bask in the reflected glory of a secular religion.

Put the trends together and it certainly looks like the sports cartel has already sucked up all the oxygen in the room. In the next recession, we may find that pro sports will no longer be able to support the sky-high costs of its overhead and secular cathedrals.


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The Fed, Elites and the Islamic End-Times

Preface by Washington’s Blog: We have no idea about whether or not the author’s theory is correct. Even he acknowledges that it’s speculative. It is interesting, however.

By D. Senti

The development of ISIS, to anyone paying attention to the Middle East, is a growing concern. It is a difficult situation to understand on multiple levels. I attempted earlier, by using Sutton’s Theory of Elite Action, to explain its rise and use by the elites of the world for the purposes of synthesis and movement toward a one world government. There is another side to the story, however, and that is the Muslim side.

Some believe that the development of ISIS is the intentional product of Israeli or American action. This is certainly true in at least the broadest sense; these radicals would not have gained the power and arms that they currently possess were it not for the support provided them by these states, both overtly and covertly. Yet this alone is not enough to incite such a strong reaction in Iraq and Syria. A great many Muslims have offered their support to the organization, vocally, financially and in their very person. I have seen no media coverage, unsurprisingly, attempting to explain exactly why this is.

I am by no means an expert on Islam, nor am I suggesting that all Muslims are supportive of ISIS – far from it. Nonetheless the existence of ISIS plays suspiciously well into certain traditions regarding the Islamic pre-End Times period. And the Federal Reserve was partially behind this.

First, I would note that exploiting religious beliefs of groups to accomplish political and military agendas is par for the course for the US in the last sixty years. Getting the Emperor of Japan to submit to US forces at the end of World War II was absolutely essential; the Japanese went from willing participants in kamikaze attacks to a relatively complacent people in a mere decade, all thanks to their Shinto religious beliefs in the Emperor. Zbigniew Brzezinski can be seen easily on Youtube talking to the mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 80s to wage their insurgency against the USSR, the same group of people that later caused 9/11 (according to the standard theory, at least, though STEA finds the distinction unimportant for assigning blame to the elites). The CIA during Operation Mongoose once planned to fake the Second Coming to get the Cuban people to revolt against Castro. And so on. So it should not come as a surprise that they would attempt this type of maneuver again.

Islamic End Times

The view that we are nearing the End Times, common among certain American Christians today, is also shared by a number of Muslims, albeit with differing events. Islamic eschatology says that the final age of the world will begin with the appearance of two figures, the Mahdi and Masih ad-Dajjal. The Mahdi will be a sort of temporal savior, who will fight against the False Messiah (ad-Dajjal) with the assistance of Isa (Jesus), who will have returned around the same time. Afterwards comes your typical apocalyptic imagery – wars and death, a period of deep unbelief, a final resurrection and so on. There is another figure, Sufyani, distinct from ad-Dajjal and (likely) prior to him, who is an evil tyrant who rules over Syria and persecutes the faithful Muslims. The allegiances of the Islamic peoples will also be divided among different rulers (Abqa’, As’hab, etc.) (See this: http://www.mahdiwatch.org/2013.09.01_arch.html)

Much of this is taken from Hadith, oral religious traditions from Muhammad’s followers whose words were later recorded in different collections held in different levels of esteem. These same traditions supposedly foretell what will happen in the time between the death of Muhammad and the coming of the Mahdi:

“The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: The Prophethood will remain amongst you for as long as Allah wills it to be. Then Allah will raise it when He wills to raise it [meaning the prophet will die]. Then there will be the khilafah upon the Prophetic methodology. And it will last for as long as Allah wills it to last. Then Allah will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be biting kingship, and it will remain for as long as Allah wills it to remain. Then Allah will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be tyrannical (forceful) kingship and it will remain for as long as Allaah wills it to remain. Then He will raise it when He wills to raise it. Then there will be a khilafah upon the Prophetic methodology. Then he (the Prophet) was silent.” (Musnad Imam Ahmad (v/273)

Many Sunnis see this as an apt description of events leading up to today. The Four Just Caliphs (those right after Muhammad) are seen as the most glorious rulers, but the Umayyad dynasty (and perhaps the Abassid) can also be included in that. Afterward, the Ottomans are seen as the biting kingship. The last period is one of tyranny over dar al Islam (the House of Islam, primarily the Middle East), which covers the dictatorial rulers in the Middle East since the first World War. And finally comes the restoration of the Caliphate.

Lastly, I would add that many Shiites – particularly in Iran – have a different view of the Mahdi, who they believe lived in the past and went into hiding so as to emerge in the End Times.

Islamic Manipulation

The Caliphate is no minor thing to Islam. Its closest analog in Christendom would be the papacy for Catholics. It’s an institution divinely ordained and integral to the designs of God for the faithful. Its dissolution under Ataturk in Turkey was a substantial political and religious blow to traditional Islam. Muslims, or at least a great many of them, would feel obliged to submit themselves to a true Caliph. The two conditions for this are that they be founded upon Islamic principles of Sharia Law and that they actually function as a state, not merely as a warzone. (See this for more info: http://abdullahalandalusi.com/2014/06/30/has-the-caliphate-been-restored-under-isis/)

Given the above prophecy from Muhammad, it’s easy to see that the Muslim world would be more than happy to overthrow their dictatorial rulers, if given the opportunity, as many believe this would herald a golden age under Mahdi. And, as I mentioned in Sutton’s Theory of Elite Action, setting up opposing forces to create a synthesis is the modus operandi of the elite; if a particular group plays a potentially threatening role toward global unity under their rule, they will eventually need to be subjected to the Hegelian dialectical process. Historical materialism, in their view, guarantees that the outcome will be superior to the previous state and will inevitably progress toward unity.

Because of the petrodollar’s world reserve status, our inflation can be essentially exported to other parts of the world. In addition, since nearly all goods are indirectly priced in US dollars, there is an inflationary impact on other countries. In recent years, that has hit the most impoverished nations particularly hard – like for instance the Muslim world – because such a large portion of their income goes toward food, which doubled in price. When people are unable to feed their children, they tend to lose it. In fact, it’s the only circumstance where revolution is all but guaranteed. Knowing this, it should have come to no one’s surprise that our exported inflation caused widespread revolution across the Middle East.

But there’s more. The above-mentioned prophecy means that, as soon as it appears that the dictators around the Muslim world are falling like dominoes, other dictators in the Middle East are guaranteed to be threatened. The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling; the people finally realize they have the power to overthrow their wicked rulers, yet they think this only because they believe prophecy is being fulfilled. This was certainly a contributing factor to the Arab Spring, and it also shines a light on the events that have followed. After all, Muslims tolerated poverty and dictatorship in the Middle East for years. Why the sudden change? Now you know why.

If the elite are attempting to apply the Hegelian dialectical process to the Muslim world, they could not have envisioned a more ideal circumstance. These revolutions would inevitably lead to some attempt to restore the Caliphate; this, too, is a product of the same prophecy. By aiding that effort, the US and Israel can guarantee that such a movement will gain popular support and succeed. And having it arise in Syria and Iraq is truly the best thing they could have imagined! No other claim, at no other location, could possibly have a greater dividing effect on the Muslim world.

Why? Because the prophecies simultaneously mention BOTH the coming of the Mahdi who restores the Caliphate AND the precursor to the Islamic equivalent of the Antichrist, Sufyani, who is supposed to appear in Syria! This is either an ASTOUNDING coincidence, a proof of Muhammad’s divine gifts, or a well-orchestrated plan. My money is on the latter. The very same person and organization can provide the Muslim world with its prophesied messiah and monster. ISIS can claim that Assad is Sufyani (or some other foe) while those against ISIS can claim al-Baghdadi is Sufyani. It’s perfect.

By including Iraq in the conflict, the Sunni-Shia division is guaranteed to come into play as well. Iraq, which has gradually come under Iran’s thumb through its eastern Shiites, would inevitably see ISIS as a false messiah. The Iranian theocrats believe in Twelver Shia Islam, and think that the Mahdi must return in the flesh as he was an actual historical figure. Extremists like ISIS, moreover, don’t consider Shiites to be Muslims at all. The Shiites are in the severe minority, yet a good portion of Sunnis will not accept ISIS. And just like that, you have a recipe for full-scale war across the Middle East.

A few things that happened recently could have disrupted the growing conflict. Had ISIS pushed east too quickly, they could have secured too much power for other Muslims to put up a real resistance. So we bombed them. Yet nothing could be more damaging to the anti-ISIS position than to see both the Great and Little Satans (Israel and the US) attacking them. So we’re contemplating bombing BOTH SIDES of the war in Syria, which would even the playing field. Bombing both sides in a war would make zero sense unless you’re either a bomb manufacturer or trying to orchestrate a conflict.

Conclusion

This is all speculative, of course, but no other explanation seems to make any sense, and I’ve never seen this covered by any other media venue. One couldn’t possibly orchestrate a better method to stoke an intra-Islamic war across the Middle East. Every side is being played; every role is cast; any disruption caused by our interference is later balanced (arm them, bomb them, hand them Iraq on a silver platter and bomb their enemies…). That’s not to say they’ll succeed. No small number of people have noticed that the situation is being manipulated by outside forces, even if they can’t put their finger on it.

For the elite, Islam is a problem that must be solved. Creating an End Times schema allows them to dictate the outcome with little direct interference, and either way the problem is closer to being solved. An ISIS-run Middle East makes a perfect boogeyman, while their defeat by a moderate coalition of Sunnis and Shiites will be the first cooperative endeavor by these two sects in a thousand years. Unity through war.

Posted in Politics / World News | Leave a comment

The Day Tokyo Got Blasted by Fukushima Radiation

3/15/2011

On March 15, 2011, the winds shifted …

The Fukushima radiation which had been blowing out to sea suddenly turned and hit Tokyo:

The image is a screenshot we took from a video released by the French government radiation agency, IRSN.

As we’ve reported for over 3 years, Tokyo got nailed by radiation. For example:

We knew what happened.  Now we know when …

 

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 7 Comments

Scientists Drastically Underestimated Amount of Fukushima Radiation Worldwide

Fukushima Radiation Has Spread Worldwide

We noted 2 days after the Japanese earthquake that radiation from Fukushima could end up on the West Coast of North America. And see this.

We started tracking the radioactive cesium released by Fukushima within weeks of the accident.

In fact, U.S. nuclear authorities were extremely worried about the West Coast getting hit by Fukushima radiation … but publicly said it was safe.

We reported that Fukushima radiation spread worldwide.

And we’ve documented for years that the failure to test the potentially high levels of radiation hitting North America is a scandal.

Sadly, we were right to be worried …

The Journal Environmental Science & Technology – published by the American Chemical Society – reported last year that airborne levels of radioactive cesium were raised by 100 to 1,000 times (what scientists describe as two to three “orders of magnitude“):

Before the FDNPP accident, average 137Cs levels were typically of 1 μBq m−3 in Central Europe and lower average values (<0.3 μBq m−3) were characteristic of northern, western and southern Europe.

***

During the passage of contaminated air masses from Fukushima, airborne 137Cs levels were globally enhanced by 2 to 3 orders of magnitude.

Indeed, even hot particles and nuclear core fragments from Fukushima were found to have traveled all the way to Europe.

The French government radiation agency – IRSN – released a video of Fukushima cesium hitting the West Coast of North America.  EneNews displays a screenshot from the IRSN video, and quantifies the extreme cesium spikes:

  • Cesium-137 levels in 2010: 0.000001 mBq/m³ of Cs-137 (blue writing)
  • Cesium-137 levels in Mar. 2011: 1 to 10 mBq/m³ in Western U.S. (orange plume)
  • Cs-137 levels increased 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 times after Fukushima

Levels on the West Coast were up to 500 times higher than estimated.  Cesium levels from Fukushima were higher than expected worldwide, including in the arctic region of Europe:

Radioactive cesium bioaccumulates in large fish and animals.

The radioactive half life of cesium 137 is usually 30 years. But scientists at the Savannah River National Laboratory say that the cesium at Chernobyl will persist in the environment between 5 and 10 times longer – between 180 and 320 years.

And the Fukushima accident has pumped out some entirely new forms of radioactive materials … in “glassy spheres“, buckyballs, ball-like spheres, and bound to organic matter.  Scientists don’t really know how long these new forms will last …

Posted in Energy / Environment, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 5 Comments

New Technology Could End The Debate Over Pipeline Safety

Who could have ever imagined that North America would surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas liquids? A decade ago, that would have seemed laughable.

Yet that’s exactly what has happened; and it’s not just Saudi Arabia that has been left in North America’s dust — Russia has, too.

The surge in North American oil and gas production is arguably the most important development in energy over the last decade. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that North America doesn’t have nearly enough oil and gas pipelines to accommodate its 11-million-barrel-a-day output level.

The famously unresolved proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, but its future is in legal and political limbo. The controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed as an alternative to Keystone XL, would connect Canada’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast, allowing greater volumes of oil to be shipped to Asia, but it, too, is still on the drawing board.

Both are good examples of how pipelines – considered the safest way to move oil and gas – have become politicized and scrutinized, and not without reason. Despite their reliability, pipelines still lead to an unacceptable rate of safety mishaps. They corrode and rupture, which threatens workers and nearby communities. In 2013 alone, over 119,000 barrels of oil were spilled in 623 incidents.

America’s existing pipelines are getting older and more prone to corrosion, and over the next five to 10 years, there will be a significant increase in the number of new pipelines.

And that is creating a huge opportunity for better pipeline safety technology.

Monitoring and detecting corrosion in pipelines is still a crude affair (no pun intended). Pipeline companies tend to underspend on safety, concerned only with meeting the minimum regulatory requirements.

One of the major ways pipeline operators detect corrosion is with a “pig,” a machine that travels down the inside of a pipeline looking for problems.

Pigs are not new — the industry has long relied heavily on them—and the newest generation of pigs, known as “smart pigs,” is considered an improvement over the pigs of yesterday. Smart pigs give a read on the state of the pipeline, such as cracks, corrosion, and metal loss. Operators receive this information in a control room and can then dispatch crews to fix the problem. As of 2012, 93 percent of pipeline inspections were conducted using smart pigs.

But smart pigs might not be enough. Enbridge (NYSE: ENB), a major Canadian pipeline company, has spent over $4.4 billion to upgrade pipeline safety. It is spending big bucks after one of its pipelines spilled oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 – a corrosion breach that Enbridge’s smart pigs failed to detect ahead of time.

And that’s the problem: despite recent advances, smart pigs aren’t terribly accurate. They also require pipeline operations to shut down (you can’t pump oil through a pipeline if there is a machine in the way), and analyzing the data smart pigs gather can take some time. The Wall Street Journal ran an article last year that talked about the pitfalls of smart pigs, even as pipeline companies continue to depend heavily on them.

So alternative methods to detect trouble spots are needed. One method for detecting corrosion uses a device from outside the pipeline. A series of sensors placed on the outside of the pipeline can search for corrosion without interfering in operations.

Pipeline safety company Fox-Tek, a subsidiary of Augusta Industries (CVE: AAO), uses such a system to detect corrosion, as well as a fiber optic system to detect bends, strains and stress in pipelines.

Related Article: Has Ukraine Shot Itself in the Foot With Gas Pipeline Deal?

But the real innovation in Fox-Tek’s system is its data analytics package. Companies that use smart pigs usually need to spend months doing post-inspection analysis, but Fox-Tek has developed proprietary software that does continuous and automatic analysis.

Fox-Tek’s sensors gather information and automatically send back confidential reports on everything the company needs to know – temperature, pressure, strain, rates of corrosion, etc. in the form of handy graphs, charts and diagrams. It eliminates the need for an army of people to go out and inspect pipelines and then come back to do the analysis.

The pipeline safety market is massive and growing, but one of the major hurdles for new technologies like advanced sensors and software will be reluctance by pipeline companies to proactively invest in corrosion management and maintenance. In the past, they have largely focused on the bare minimum and viewed safety as a regulatory requirement.

However, there seems to be a sea change in the pipeline industry, particularly since operators are running into an environmental backlash. The blocking of several high-profile pipelines may have finally gotten the attention of the industry. Bringing local communities onboard and acquiring permits from regulators will require pipeline operators to demonstrate improved safety throughout their networks.

But above all, pipeline companies will see dollars saved by using cost-effective monitoring systems to reduce pipeline leaks. Enbridge has been forced to spend around $1 billion to clean up its mess in the Kalamazoo River, which was the result of a corrosion breach. It could spend a fraction of that to have better information on pipeline corrosion to prevent a growing problem from getting worse. That could reduce the frequency of future pipeline spills.

This could be a game changer in terms of how oil and gas pipelines are viewed in North America. If operators use smart software to catch small problems before they can turn into big ones, the common view of pipelines as accidents waiting to happen could be erased. Instead of seeing them as an environmental risk, the public may grow to see them as just another piece of modern infrastructure that facilitates commerce.

Source: https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/New-Technology-Could-End-The-Debate-Over-Pipeline-Safety.html

By. James Stafford of Oilprice.com

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment | 6 Comments

Monty Python State Department

Scene:  A cafe.  One table is occupied by a group of Vikings wearing horned helmets.

Whenever the word “war” is repeated, they begin singing and/or chanting.

A man and woman enter.  The man is played by Eric Idle, the woman is played by Graham Chapman (in drag), and the Secretary of State is played by Terry Jones, also in drag.

Man:   You sit here, dear.

Woman:          All right.

Man:   Morning!

Secretary of State:     Morning!

Man:   Well, what’ve you got?

Secretary of State:     Well, there’s sanctions and prosecutions; sanctions drone strikes and prosecutions; sanctions and war; sanctions prosecutions and war; sanctions prosecutions drone strikes and war; war prosecutions drone strikes and war; war sanctions war war prosecutions and war; war drone strikes war war prosecutions war cyber war and war;

Vikings:           War war war war…

Secretary of State:     …war war war sanctions and war; war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war…

Vikings:           War! Lovely war! Lovely war!

Secretary of State:     …or a United Nations resolution combined with infiltration, a USAID fake Twitter application, a CIA overthrow, trained enhanced interrogators and with crippling sanctions on top and war.

Woman:          Have you got anything without war?

Secretary of State:     Well, there’s war sanctions drone strikes and war, that’s not got much war in it.

Woman:          I don’t want ANY war!

Man:   Why can’t she have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes?

Woman:          THAT’S got war in it!

Man:   Hasn’t got as much war in it as war sanctions drone strikes and war, has it?

Vikings:           War war war war… (Crescendo through next few lines…)

Woman:          Could you do the sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war then?

Secretary of State:     Urgghh!

Woman:          What do you mean ‘Urgghh’? I don’t like war!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!

Vikings:           Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can’t have sanctions prosecutions war and drone strikes without the war.

Woman:          I don’t like war!

Man:   Sshh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your war. I love it. I’m having war war war war war war war targeted assassinations war war war and war!

Vikings:           War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war!

Secretary of State:     Shut up!! Targeted assassinations are off.

Man:   Well could I have her war instead of the targeted assassinations then?

Secretary of State:     You mean war war war war war war… (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)

Vikings:           (Singing elaborately…) War war war war. Lovely war! Wonderful war! War w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-r war. Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! Lovely war! War war war war!

 

 

No actual diplomats were harmed in the making of this production.

Posted in General | 4 Comments

More Than Twice as Many Americans “Strongly Disapprove” of Obama as “Strongly Approve”

Americans Have Lost Faith

Polls have previously shown:

  • Congress is less popular than zombies, witches, dog poop, potholes, toenail fungus, hemorrhoids, cockroaches, lice, root canals, colonoscopies, traffic jams, used car salesmen, Genghis Khan, Communism, North Korea, BP during the Gulf Oil Spill, or Nixon during Watergate

A new Gallup poll shows that more than twice as many Americans “strongly disapprove” as “strongly approve” of Obama:

President Barack Obama's Approval Ratings, by Intensity

The poll also shows that almost twice as many Americans strongly approved of Obama in July 2009 as do today … his “strongly approve” rate plummeted from 32% to 17%.

Why is Obama so unpopular?

Because – as horrible as Bush was – Obama is worse than Bush in favoring the super-elite, bailing out the big banks, protecting financial criminals, targeting whistleblowers, keeping government secrets, trampling our liberties and starting military conflicts in new countries.

Obama is even worse than Bush in redistributing wealth from the American people to a handful of fatcats and spying on Americans.

Obama is also worse than Bush in appointing cronies to powerful government positions.

Americans now realize that Obama is not following the will of the people.

Moreover, having a sell-out president Obama after a sell-out president Bush has shown the people that neither mainstream parties represents them.

Indeed, both the mainstream Republican and Democratic parties are virtually identical regarding core issues including:

Any apparent difference is just a scripted show.

Under both Republican and Democratic politicians, both the rule of law and free market capitalism have been trashed.

In reality, we no longer have free market capitalism. Instead, we have socialism for the rich and sink-or-swim capitalism for everyone else.   Conservatives see the socialism half of this equation, and liberals see the laissez faire free market half. Both liberals and conservatives hate crony capitalism. Look here, here, here.

People have lost faith in the 2 party system.

Posted in Politics / World News | 4 Comments

The Housing Echo-Bubble Is Popping

There is nothing remotely “normal” about the echo-bubble’s rise, and we can anticipate that its deflation will be equally abnormal.

Conventional wisdom on the resurgence of the housing markets takes one of two paths:

1. Housing is not in a bubble, it is merely returning to “normal”

2. Housing is bubbly in some markets, but prices will continue to rise

Here’s an alternative view: housing is in an echo-bubble that’s popping.Courtesy of the excellent Market Daily Briefing, here are some charts that make the case that the housing echo-bubble was just another Federal Reserve-induced speculative asset bubble that’s popping, like every other speculative bubble in recorded history.

First up: home prices, as measured by the Case-Shiller Price Index. Note the near-perfect symmetry of the echo-bubble: it has taken roughly the same time-span to inflate and reach a top as the first housing bubble from January 2004 to its peak 2+ years later.

The echo-bubble has topped out at about 50% of the decline from the primary bubble top to the trough in 2012.

The distorted fundamentals of the echo-bubble are revealed in this chart of mortgage debt to wages. Current levels of mortgage debt are double historic levels, and 35% above the level of 2001, when the primary housing bubble lifted off.

The third charts tells us the echo-bubble is popping. Note that housing sales lead price by about six months: sales started falling in late 2005, and prices rolled over in mid-2006.

Housing sales rolled over in December 2013, and sure enough, prices are starting to weaken in many markets.

The echo-bubble doesn’t pass the sniff test as a “normal” housing recovery.Exhibit #1: who’s buying and who’s not buying:

1. Marginal buyers using 3% down-payment FHA/VA loans who wouldn’t qualify for conventional mortgages. The risk of marginal borrowers defaulting is high, a reality reflected in FHA’s default rate:

When lending sources dried up during the financial crisis, the FHA propped up the housing market by insuring the lenders it works with against losses and enticing them back into the market. But the FHA’s default rate shot up as its loan volume expanded, depleting its cash reserves to levels below what is required by law. In September 2013, the FHA tapped taxpayer money to cover its losses for the first time in the agency’s 80-year history.

2. Who’s not buying: Upper-Income, Educated, Married with Children, and Still Not Buying:Declining Homeownership among “Prime” First-Time Home Buying Candidates (Fannie Mae Housing Insights, Volume 4, Issue 4)

3. The dominance of all-cash buyers–generally investors (those close to the money spigots of the Fed’s free money for financiers) and foreign buyers.

Note the difference between mortgage credit expansion, which has lagged price gains. This suggests many of the sales (about 35% in many hot markets) were all-cash purchases that did not require a mortgage

Take away the Fed’s zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP), its free money for financiers and foreign buyers seeking a safe haven for their hot money, and what’s left of the supposedly “normal” housing recovery? Not much.

There is nothing remotely “normal” about the echo-bubble’s rise, and we can anticipate that its deflation will be equally abnormal.

How do we know when an asset class is in a bubble? When everyone who stands to benefit from the continuation of the expansion declares it can’t be a bubble.


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I Blame The Central Banks

For the coming bond bubble disaster

By Chris Martenson. Cross-Posted from Peak Prosperity.

The current bubbles in financial assets — in equities and bonds of all grades and quality — raging in every major market across the globe are no accident.

They are a deliberate creation. The intentional results of policy.

Therefore, when they burst, we shouldn’t regard the resulting damage as some freak act of nature or other such outcome outside of our control. To reiterate, the carnage will be the very predictable result of some terribly shortsighted decision-making and defective logic.

The Root of Evil

Blame can and should be laid where it belongs: with the central banks.

They were the “experts” who decided to confront the excesses of decades past (which saw borrowing running at roughly 2x the rate of real economic growth) with even easier monetary policies designed to spur even more borrowing.

Rather than take stock of the simple fact that nobody can forever borrow at a faster rate than their income is growing (no matter how large that entity may be), the Fed, the ECB, the BoJ and the BoE have conveniently overlooked that simple fact and then boldly claimed that the cure is identical to the disease.  If the problem is debt then the solution is even more debt.

If the Fed, et al. were doctors, they would prescribe alcohol to the alcoholic. They would administer more lead to the lead-poisoned patient. They would call for more water to put in the pool where a drowning individual is floundering.

The bottom line is that the Fed and its ilk made the disastrous decisions that gave us the first two burst bubbles of the new millennium. And the wonder of it all is that, instead of being met at the gates with torches and pitchforks and held to account for their errors, they have instead been granted even greater powers, less oversight, and practically zero blame.

And now they’ve given us a third and, I suspect, final bubble. By which I mean I think the effects of this bursting bubble will be so horrendous that a hundred years might pass before people will again be in the mood to speculate on fantasy wealth.

My hope is that, when this third bubble pops, the figurative (and, perhaps, literal?) torches and pitchforks come out. Finally forcing the central banks to answer to the public for their grievously poor decisions.

And yes, the investing public also bears a portion of the responsibility for playing along with the central banks. For years, some have consoled themselves with stories about how This Time Is Different, and many have ignored many obvious warning signs as they’ve enjoyed stock market and bond gains fueled by seemingly limitless liquidity.

But in the end, it’s the central banks that  set the tempo and the melody at the dance hall.  When they flood the world with liquidity and set interest rates to 0%, they enforce a Hobbesian choice: either play along in the risk markets, or sit in cash earning less than nothing as inflation eats away at your purchasing power.

The central banks are entirely to blame for mis-pricing money and that is the fundamental error that drives every bubble and betrays capital into hopeless investments.

So let’s all remember to place blame where it is due when the bubble bursts. We shouldn’t act surprised because there’s really no honor in being caught unawares by something so obvious.

The Biggest Bubble(s) Of All Time

We’ve covered the equity bubble in the past, but today we’re going to cover the bond bubbles (yes, plural) because the current excess in the bond market is the granddaddy of them all, and is far larger than anything ever recorded in history by a very wide margin.

But for the sake of completeness, regarding equities, if you ever wanted to get the willies about the stock market in a single chart, I think this one from Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives which plots the relationship between equity prices and margin debt is about as good as it gets:

(Source)

Margin debt is simply money borrowed to buy equities.  Typically speaking, an average investor with $100,000 in an account can buy up to $150,000 worth of stock. Margin debt is fuel to a rising market and a lead anchor for a falling market.

Yes, perhaps this time is different, or perhaps it’s exactly the same with speculators borrowing more and more as stock prices rise, sure in the knowledge that they will be smart enough to get out of the way of a falling market (this time).

But, enough of material we’ve covered here recently. Back to bonds.

When the bond bubble bursts, so much that people believe to be true will be revealed to be obvious and distressingly ordinary illusions.

When there’s simply too much debt, in the period leading up to a debt bubble’s bursting, everyone is counting on getting paid his or her money back, both the interest and the principal. After the bubble bursts, it’s plainly obvious that no such thing will be happening.

As is always the case with bubbles (of any sort), the only important question that needs to be answered is: Who will take the losses?

One simple answer to that question is: Whoever is holding the bonds when the bubble bursts.

Bubbles are structured like a game of hot potato. When the timer finally dings, the person holding the potato loses. It doesn’t matter one whit whether the ‘hot potato’ was a tulip bulb, swamp land, a house in Las Vegas, or a paper financial security.

The really striking part about the global bond markets today is that the potatoes have never been more numerous, or hotter.

I suppose this would be a good time to revisit how Einstein defined insanity: trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Unfortunately for those hoping for a different outcome, history is 100% consistent on the matter: Bubbles always burst. And when they do, what people thought was fabulous wealth is proven illusory, and it simply vanishes.

Not that this clear historical record is keeping humans from trying to cheat the odds.

Given that the Fed has engineered three increasingly larger bubbles within an unprecedentedly-short fifteen-year time span, perhaps we shouldn’t persecute them. After all, they may easily be able to plead ‘not guilty’ by reason of insanity.

$100 trillion – is that a lot?

We frequently throw around big numbers in our analysis. We even try to explain them in terms that help us mentally grasp an appreciation of their enormity (watch the video How Much Is A Trillion?, as an example). But the size of the bond market across the developed world defies even our best efforts.

After all, if $1 trillion dollars is a stack of $1,000 bills 68 miles high, then I guess $100 trillion would be a stack 6,800 miles high:

Global Debt Exceeds $100 Trillion as Governments Binge, BIS Says

Mar 9, 2014

The amount of debt globally has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis as governments borrowed to pull their economies out of recession and companies took advantage of record lowinterest rates, according to theBank for International Settlements.

The $30 trillion increase from $70 trillion between mid-2007 and mid-2013 compares with a $3.86 trillion decline in the value ofequitiesto $53.8 trillion in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The jump in debt as measured by the Basel,Switzerland-based BISin its quarterly review is almost twice the U.S.’sgross domestic product.

Note that global debt climbed by $30 trillion between 2007 and 2013, a 42% increase while global equities actually declined a few trillion (to $54 trillion), yielding a global debt-to-equity ratio of almost 2. [Note: Global equities are now valued at $66 trillion and are pouring on almost $1 trillion/week lately. Of course, they have a habit of going down, from time to time, even more quickly than they rise.  Something that is easy to forget in today's environment]

So, a 42% increase in just 6 years. Did global GDP advance by 42% during this same period? No. Not even close.

Did private companies borrow all that money planning to plow back into productive enterprises? Nope. Companies borrowed relatively little of $30 trillion, and even then, they mainly used that newly-borrowed money to buy back shares and/or stash it on their balance sheets.

Who did borrow all that money then?

Why, nations did. Sovereign entities that were desperate to keep things afloat and borrow heavily (because private concerns weren’t able to take on new debt fast enough).

Why? Because the world’s debt pile must keep expanding. That’s the world we live in today. If the pile should start to contract, the game of Who Will Take The Losses? begins. And governments know (sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously) that the debt bubble has become so monstrous, and so interconnected globally, that even a moderate correction will wipe out so many players that the world financial system will be brought to its knees. Or worse.

In Part 2: Something Very Wicked This Way Comes, we provide great detail into why sovereign and corporate (both high-grade and junk) debt markets simply and mathematically must contract. Current prices are so historically divorced from fundamentals at this stage that this ‘prediction’ is about as elementary as counting on gravity to bring a tossed stone back to earth.

Given the excesses of the stock and bond markets I am increasingly concerned that this next bubble burst will be far worse than any that has yet come since I’ve been alive. Countries will fail financially and economically, political upheaval will follow, fortunes and dreams will be shattered, and lots of people will lose their jobs.

In short, lots of things will break and cease to function as the greatest wealth transfer in all of history plays out.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 4 Comments

Dangerous Crossroads: US-NATO To Deploy Ground Troops, Conduct Large Scale Naval Exercises against “Unnamed Enemy”

By professor Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research.

nato3

 The World is at a dangerous Crossroads.

The Western military alliance is in an advanced state of readiness. And so is Russia.

Russia is heralded as the “Aggressor”. US-NATO military confrontation with Russia is contemplated.

Enabling legislation in the US Senate under “The Russian Aggression Prevention Act” (RAPA) has “set the US on a path towards direct military conflict with Russia in Ukraine.” 

Any US-Russian war is likely to quickly escalate into a nuclear war, since neither the US nor Russia would be willing to admit defeat, both have many thousands of nuclear weapons ready for instant use, and both rely upon Counterforce military doctrine that tasks their military, in the event of war, to preemptively destroy the nuclear forces of the enemy. (See Steven Starr, Global Research, August 22, 2014)

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act (RAPA) is the culmination of more than twenty years of US-NATO war preparations, which consist in the military encirclement of both Russia and China:

From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.  (Steven Kinzer, Boston Globe, March 3, 2014, emphasis added)

NATO's top commander in Europe General Philip Breedlove (AFP Photo / John Thys)

NATO’s top commander in Europe General Philip Breedlove (right) (AFP Photo / John Thys)

On July 24, in consultation with the Pentagon, NATO’s Europe commander General Philip Breedlove called for “stockpiling a base in Poland with enough weapons, ammunition and other supplies to support a rapid deployment of thousands of troops against Russia”.(RT, July 24, 2014). According to General Breedlove, NATO needs “pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces”:

“He plans to recommend placing supplies — weapons, ammunition and ration packs — at the headquarters to enable a sudden influx of thousands of Nato troops” (Times, August 22, 2014, emphasis added)

Breedlove’s “Blitzkrieg scenario” is to be presented at NATO’s summit in Wales in early September, according to The London Times.  It is a “copy and paste” text broadly consistent with the  Russian Aggression Prevention Act (RAPA) which directs President Obama to:

“(1) implement a plan for increasing U.S. and NATO support for the armed forces of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, and other NATO member-states; and

(2) direct the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO to seek consideration for permanently basing NATO forces in such countries.” (S.2277 — 113th Congress (2013-2014))

More generally, a scenario of military escalation prevails with both sides involved in extensive war games.

In turn, the structure of US sponsored military alliances plays a crucial role in war planning. We are dealing with a formidable military force involving a global alliance of 28 NATO member states. In turn, the US as well as NATO have established beyond the “Atlantic Region” a network of bilateral military alliances with “partner” countries directed against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

File:Map of NATO countries.png

Major US-NATO Naval Exercises

War preparations are invariably accompanied and preceded by major military exercises.

US-NATO multi-warfare naval exercises are to be conducted off the Florida coastline under operation FLEETEX, with the participation of the US, Canada, Germany and Turkey.

The underlying premise of these war games is “global warfare”. All four NATO member states are adjacent to strategic sea corridors, which are contiguous to Russian maritime areas, respectively the Bering Sea and straits (US), the Arctic Ocean (Canada), the North Sea (Germany) and the Black Sea (Turkey).

The Florida war games are predicated on multi-country integration and coordination of naval operations directed against an unnamed enemy:

FLEETEX are multi-warfare naval exercises designed to promote force integration and test multiple war fighting skill sets. Ships from the U.S., Canadian, German and Turkish navies will participate in the exercises. This port visit and FLEETEX are part of a series of training exercises in which SNMG2 will participate during its deployment to the Western Atlantic. This is the first time in several years that a NATO task force has conducted transatlantic operations in North America. These events offer multiple opportunities for training at the highest levels of maritime operations.

FLEETEX will feature anti-air, anti-submarine, live fire and ship handling scenarios designed to provide high-end warfare training and valuable experience through integrated task group training. SNMG2, CSG8 and Canadian forces will train together as a force to learn how to work as a cohesive unit in response to a variety of threat scenarios.

SNMG2 ships currently deployed to North America include the U.S. flagship, USS LEYTE GULF (CG 55), the German ship FGS NIEDERSACHSEN (F 208), and the Turkish ship TCG KEMALREIS (F 247).

….

During the port visit, SNMG2 will coordinate with representatives from the Canadian navy and Carrier Strike Group 8 (CSG8) to prepare for the exercises…

“Any opportunity we have to train with multiple NATO navies simultaneously is extremely valuable,” said Rear Adm. Brad Williamson, Commander SNMG2. “This period will allow us to build integration and teamwork, and I’m excited to train with and share experiences between Allied shipmates.”

SNMG2 is permanently available to NATO to perform a wide range of tasks, from real world operations to exercise participation. Composition of the force varies as allied nations contribute assets on a rotational basis. SNMG2 will be led by a U.S. Navy admiral and flagship until June 2015. (For further details see North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Allied Maritime Command HQ MARCOM Public Affairs Office, http://www.aco.nato.int/snmg2-is-in-florida-to-prepare-for-fleetex.aspx,  August 18, 2014, emphasis added)

Black Sea War Games

It is worth noting that FLEETEX is one among several US-NATO naval war games directed against an unnamed enemy. In July, NATO conducted naval exercises in the Black sea, in an area contiguous to Russia’s maritime borders.

NATO’s “Breeze” formally hosted by Bulgaria took place from July 4 to July 13, with the participation of naval vessels from Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.

The underlying scenario was the “”destruction of enemy ships in the sea and organization of air defense of naval groups and coastal infrastructure.”

The exercises were “aimed at improving the tactical compatibility and collaboration among naval forces of the alliance’s member states…” (See Atlantic Council , see also Russia, U.S. ships sail in competing Black Sea exercises, July 7, Navy Times 2014)

Ironically, NATO’s July Black Sea games started on exactly the same day as those of the “unnamed enemy”[Russia], involving its Crimea Black sea fleet of some 20 war ships and aircraft:

Russia has made it clear they don’t welcome NATO’s presence in the Black Sea. Russia’s navy let it be known that it is following the exercises with reconnaissance aircraft and surveillance ships.

“The aviation of the Black Sea Fleet is paying special attention to the missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf which, though not formally the flagship of the ‘Breeze’ exercises, effectively is leading them,” a Russian naval source told NTV. (Ibid)

Deployment of Ground Forces in Eastern Europe

Since 2006, the US has been building up its weapons arsenal in Poland on Russia’s Western border (Kalingrad). The deployment of US forces in Poland was initiated  in July 2010 (within 40 miles from the border), with a view to training Polish forces in the use of US made Patriot missiles. (Stars and Stripes, 23 July 2010).

In recent developments, the Pentagon announced in early August the deployment of US troops and National Guard forces to Ukraine as part of a military training operation. US-NATO is also planning further deployments of ground forces (as described by NATO General Breedlove) in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as well as in Georgia and Azerbaijan on Russia’s southern border.

These deployments which are envisaged in the draft text of the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act” (RAPA) (S.2277 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)) are also part of a NATO “defensive” strategy in the case of a “Russian invasion”:

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine have alarmed Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – like Ukraine, former Soviet republics with Russian-speaking minorities.

NATO’s 28 leaders are expected to discuss plans to reassure Poland and the Baltics at a summit in Wales on Sept. 4-5.

Germany’s Angela Merkel, during a short visit to Latvia on Monday, pledged NATO would defend the Baltic states, although it would not send permanent combat troops.

“Any country, including the Baltic states, also Poland, have to strengthen their infrastructure … so they can host additional troops for training and crisis situations,” Latvia’s Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis told Reuters.

In Latvia’s case that would mean investments in Adazi base for ground troops, Lielvarde air base and Liepaja naval base, he said, adding he hoped NATO would contribute to the spending.

Latvia and Lithuania spend respectively just 0.9 and 0.8 percent of GDP on defense but have pledged to meet the alliance’s target of 2.0 percent by 2020.

“There is no direct military threat at the moment, but we have to develop our armed forces, we have to create infrastructure, we have to be ready to host representatives of NATO countries if there suddenly is a military aggression,” the minister said. Baltics and Poland need more military infrastructure. (Reuters, August 22, 2014)

Deployments on Russia’s South Border with Azerbaijan and Georgia

Deployment on Russia’s Southern border is to be coordinated under a three country agreement signed on August 22, 2014 by Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan:

Following the trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian defense ministers, Tbilisi announced that the three countries are interested in working out a plan to strengthen the defense capability.

“The representatives of the governments of these three countries start to think about working out a plan to strengthen the defense capability,” Alasania said, adding that this is in the interests of Europe and NATO.“Because, this transit route [Baku-Tbilisi-Kars] is used to transport the alliance’s cargo to Afghanistan,” he said.

Alasania also noted that these actions are not directed against anyone. (See Azeri News, August 22, 2014, emphasis added)

Russia and Obama’s “Pivot to Asia”

In the Far-east, Russia’s borders are also threatened by Obama’s “Pivot to Asia”.

The “Pivot to Asia” from a military standpoint consists in extending US military deployments in the Asia-Pacific as well as harnessing the participation of Washington’s allies in the region, including Japan, South Korea and Australia. These countries have signed bilateral military cooperation agreements with Washington. As US allies, they are slated to be involved in Pentagon war plans directed against Russia, China and North Korea:

Japan and South Korea are also both part of a grand U.S. military project involving the global stationing of missile systems and rapid military forces, as envisioned during the Reagan Administration. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Military Alliance: Encircling Russia and China, Global Research, October 5, 2007)

This Pentagon strategy of military encirclement requires both centralized military decision making (Pentagon, USSTRATCOM) as well coordination with NATO and the various US regional commands.

While Russia is formally within the jurisdiction of US European Command (USEUCOM), US war plans pertaining to Russia are coordinated out of US Strategic Command Headquarters (USSTRATCOM) in Omaha, Nebraska, which in turn is in liaison not only with US European Command (USEUCOM) but also with USPACOM and USNORTHCOM, both of which would play a key strategic role in the case of war with Russia.

Source: historyfuturenow.com

US-Australia Military Agreement

On August 12, the US and Australia signed a military agreement allowing for the deployment of US troops in Australia. This agreement is part of Obama’s Pivot to Asia:

The U.S. and Australia signed an agreement Tuesday [August 12] that will allow the two countries’ militaries to train and work better together as U.S. Marines and airmen deploy in and out of the country.

“This long-term agreement will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday. He described the U.S.-Australia alliance as the “bedrock” for stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since 2011, the number of Marines there has grown from about 250 to more than 1,100 now. Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said the northern territory looks forward to the Marine presence growing to the 2,500 limit.

Ironically, coinciding with the announcement of the US-Australia agreement (August 12), Moscow announced that it would be conducting naval exercises in the Kuril Islands of the Pacific Ocean (which are claimed by Japan):

“Exercises began involving military units in the region, which have been deployed to the Kuril Islands,” Colonel Alexander Gordeyev, a spokesman for Russia’s Eastern Military District, told news agency Interfax. (Moscow Times, August 12, 2014)

The Dangers of a Third World War

While this renewed East-West confrontation has mistakenly been labelled a “New Cold War”, none of the safeguards of The Cold War era prevail. International diplomacy has collapsed. Russia has been excluded from the Group of Eight (G-8), which has reverted to the G-7 (Group of Seven Nations). There is no “Cold War East-West dialogue” between competing superpowers geared towards avoiding military confrontation. In turn, the United Nations Security Council has become a de facto mouthpiece of the U.S. State Department.

US-NATO will not, however, be able to win a conventional war against Russia, with the danger that military confrontation will lead to a nuclear war.

In the post-Cold war era, however, nuclear weapons are no longer considered as a  “weapon of last resort” under the Cold War doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD).  Quite the opposite. nuclear weapons are heralded by the Pentagon as “harmless to the surrounding civilian population because the explosion is underground”. In 2002, the U.S. Senate gave the green light for the use of nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater.  Nukes are part of the “military toolbox” to be used alongside conventional weapons.

When war becomes peace, the world is turned upside down.  In a bitter irony, nukes are now upheld by Washington as “instruments of peace”.

In addition to nuclear weapons, the use of chemical weapons is also envisaged.

Methods of non-conventional warfare are also contemplated by US-NATO including financial warfare, trade sanctions, covert ops, cyberwarfare, geoengineering and environmental modification technologies (ENMOD). But Russia also has  extensive capabilities in these areas.

Western leaders in High office are Involved in a Criminal Undertaking which Threatens the Future of Humanity

The timeline towards war with Russia has been set. The Wales NATO venue on September 4-5, 2014 is of crucial importance.

What we are dealing with is a World War III Scenario, which is the object of the Wales NATO Summit, hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron. The agenda of this meeting has already been set by Washington, NATO and the British government. It requires, according to PM David Cameron in a letter addressed to heads of State and heads of government of NATO member states ahead of the Summit that:

“Leaders [of NATO countries] must review NATO’s long term relationship with Russia at the summit in response to Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine. And the PM wants to use the summit to agree how NATO will sustain a robust presence in Eastern Europe in the coming months to provide reassurance to allies there, building on work already underway in NATO.” (See PM writes to NATO leaders ahead of NATO Summit Wales 2014)

It is essential to undermine the “military timeline”, namely to:

1) block the holding of the upcoming NATO Summit meeting at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales (image right) on September 4-5, through political pressure and mass protest. The objective of this NATO venue, is to “build a political consensus” for a war directed against the Russian Federation, which could potentially lead the World into a Third World War. It is therefore essential to break this “political consensus”.

2) In addition to the 28 NATO member states, represented by their respective heads of State and heads of government, NATO “partner” countries will also be represented. In all, the governments of 60 countries will be in attendance. It is therefore crucial to initiate a vast Worldwide antiwar campaign in all 60 countries to stall the NATO Summit meeting in Wales.*

3) block the adoption of the “The Russian Aggression Prevention Act” (RAPA) in the US Congress, through pressure on senators and members of Congress, it should be understood that the text of the NATO Summit communique (which already exists in draft form) is broadly similar to that of “The Russian Aggression Prevention Act”. RAPA is currently blocked at the committee level. Whether it is adopted or not, the substance of the proposed legislation is what is important because it sets the stage for establishing a ”political consensus”.  

4) initiate a broad anti-war debate and protest movement throughout the US and NATO member states.

5) undermine the legitimacy of the US-NATO-Israel military agenda through counter-propaganda directed against mainstream media coverage;

World public opinion must be made aware of these impending war plans.

Spread the word far and wide.

Note

*Further details: Summit Meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government, Newport, Wales, United Kingdom – 4-5 September 2014

Posted in Politics / World News | 8 Comments

Could Obama’s Legacy Be Destroyed by His Ukraine Policy? What to Do About It –

Eric Zuesse

The Ukrainian Government that the Obama Administration installed after Obama’s successful coup d’etat in Ukraine is now crashing and burning in the process of the newly installed Government’s ethnic-cleansing program to get rid of the people in Ukraine’s southeast, the area of Ukraine that had voted overwhelmingly for the President whom the Obama Administration (the State Department and the CIA) had overthrown in February. The residents there rejected this new Government; this new Government is trying to exterminate them; and the local rebel-fighters against that are winning, and are decimating thousands of troops who were sent in to kill them and their families, and are shooting down many of the bombers that have been sent in to bomb them.

The Ukrainian Government prior to the coup had been economically sustained by borrowing both from Russia to the east, and also from the EU and U.S. to the west (with a substantial portion of the U.S. portion of that debt consisting of IMF loans — the U.S. Government is the major donor to the IMF). These loans were, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, largely being pocketed by the well-connected former communist nomenklatura or insiders who had been given formerly state-owned industries during the Harvard-designed privatization program throughout the former U.S.S.R. These new oligarchs (such as the current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who received the Leninska Kuznya shipyard and some state-owned chocolate factories, as well as a few other companies in retailing and news-media) got the benefits of those loans and socked away much of their consequent accumulating wealth in offshore tax-havens, so that the mounting sovereign debt of Ukraine is already crushing the Ukrainian population by severe cutbacks in Government expenditures for social services, road maintenance, and other government services, while those oligarchs have palatial residences in Western Europe. The public, in other words, suffer the debts, while the “oligarchs” or aristocrats (the former communist insiders) are now multi-billionaires; and one of them, Ihor Kolomoysky, was assigned a crucial Governorship, from which post he has largely masterminded and overseen the ethnic-cleansing campaign, which is clearing away the local residents in the land-area of the gas-fields  Furthermore, in order for Ukraine to pay its debts, it is selling off the assets that had formerly produced income for Ukraine (largely for Ukraine’s skimming oligarchs) such as selling off the gas pipelines that carry gas from Russia to Europe. The biggest portion of Ukraine’s income was the transit-fees from these pipelines, and now these fees will go to investors in Europe and America, instead of to Ukraine. But Ukraine needs this money desperately right now, because the EU won’t extend more credit, and the U.S. is already beginning to wake up to its disaster in Ukraine.

So: this costly war will leave behind a failed-state in northwestern Ukraine, and a separatist southeast, which will likely seek and receive membership in the Russian Federation. The perhaps more than a million refugees from Obama’s ethnic-cleansing program in the southeast will probably return to and rebuild their bombed-out land, and likely receive a kind of Russian Marshall Plan to assist in that effort.

Looking back, it won’t be any sort of feather in Obama’s cap, but instead a black mark that will be comparable to, and perhaps even bigger than, George W. Bush’s catastrophe in Iraq.

Already, Obama’s economic legacy is economic stagnation for all but America’s richest 1%, who gained in income 31.4% while the bottom 99% flatlined a mere 0.4% during the Obama Administration’s first three years. To call that flatlining for the bottom 99% an “economic recovery” is to lie, which is what Obama and professional economists routinely do. And, normally, in an economic recovery after a crash, the bottom 99% do far better than do the top 1%, not far worse. This was the direct result of Obama’s continuing Bush’s policies of a bailout for the banksters, and a failout for the borrowers and investors. Also, the peddle-to-the metal at the Fed was and is a huge upward redistribution of wealth. So, President Obama’s liberal rhetoric on his claimed concern about “equality in America” rings hollow, if not fraudulent.

A President like this will be rated at or near the bottom by historians. Perhaps he’s just a less honest version of George W. Bush, the latter having made no bones about his conservatism. At least Bush was honest about that. Obama has lied about the most basic things of all: what he believes, what he actually cares about, as shown by the decisions that he has made in office. His policies display him as being like George W. Bush but a better liar from the standpoint of liberals, who have been taken in by his lies.

The disaster of his Presidency is now likely to produce electoral losses for the Democratic Party in November, which result will then be a certain kind of poetic justice for a Party whose principles are so fraudulent that not even a single  Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill of impeachment to remove him from office. That failure is equivalent to the entire Democratic Party accepting the deep stain on the Democratic Party’s progressive brand, a stain that means: “We’re all fakes. Obama’s policies, his actual record, reflect our conservative values. He’s not a Republican-in-verbal-disguise. He really is  one of us, even after his having been the first U.S. President to place outright nazis into control of a foreign government.”

The only thing that can significantly reduce the mounting cynicism in this country is for a House Democrat to introduce a bill of impeachment against perhaps the worst President in American history. It would be to say: “He’s not really a Democrat, at heart; he’s just a very effective liar.” If Democrats want to retain control of the Senate, they’ll need to disown and remove this stain upon it. For the 2014 elections, and the 2016 Presidential election, this will signal the end of the corrupt Clinton-Obama “Democratic” Party, and the rebirth of the FDR Democratic Party, a Party that truly was  progressive and anti-fascist.

It would end the Clinton-Obama one-Party, conservative-Party, corporate-Party, U.S. political system. But without that change, the U.S. has no realistic hope. If Obama continues to be accepted as a Democrat, then the final two years of his Presidency will be spent signing into law numerous far-right bills that have passed both houses of Congress — a Republican House and a Republican Senate. He’ll have a field day signing so many fascist bills into law. It will be the most conservative Government in American history. The Democratic Party will be dead. And democracy in America will be just a nostalgic memory for Americans who are old enough to remember what it was like. What it was like was progress for and in America. What we will have ever afterwards is dictatorship for and in America. The choice is up to each and every current Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even before the Ukrainian junta-Government’s collapsing, Americans are more favorable toward impeachment of Barack Obama than they ever were toward impeachment of Bill Clinton, or even of George W. Bush – and no House Democrat even introduced a bill to impeach even him. (Does the Democratic Party not stand for anything at all?) The demand for Obama’s impeachment will only grow, if there turn out to be two Republican-controlled Houses of Congress — and, then, the bill to impeach will inevitably be a Republican one, with Republican (not Democratic) reasons. The only opportunity for the Democratic Party to restore itself and America, will have been missed.

At present, Democrats are so despondent, Gallup headlined on August 27th, “Republicans’ ‘Thought’ to 2014 Election Exceeds Democrats’: GOP advantage more similar to those in 2002 and 2010 than in 2006,” and reported that, “Republicans (42%) are much more engaged than Democrats (27%) in the election at this point.” Whereas Republican voters feel that they have an ideology (conservatism) to vote for, Democratic voters feel that they have only an ideology to vote against (conservatism) — and little even remains to distinguish between congressional Republicans and the “Democratic” President Obama on it. If Democrats in Congress support a President who is the first one ever to install outright nazism in a foreign country, then why vote at all?

November 2014 is shaping up to be a bloodbath for the Democratic Party. (See this ”Over the past two cycles, the president’s job approval has explained 58 percent of the variance in competitive Senate races in any given state,” and also the 6-to-1 odds of Republicans taking over the Senate; so, there will probably be two Republican houses.) There’s only one way to avoid it. Is there even a single House Democrat who will stand up and do what must be done to avoid an electoral bloodbath for the entire Party? We’ll soon know.

———-

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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Shuttered Nuclear Plants Means U.S. Will Miss Climate Targets

The floundering U.S. nuclear industry just got a bit of good news: Utah is considering building two new nuclear reactors.

Blue Castle Holdings Inc. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse that could eventually lead to the construction of two AP1000 nuclear reactors. The two reactors have an estimated cost of $10 billion and an estimated operational date of 2024.

If constructed, Blue Castle says the reactors will increase Utah’s electricity generation capacity by 50 percent, which would replace the power lost with the retirement of a few coal plants in the state.

The announcement is important because building new nuclear reactors in the United States has been a struggle, to say the least. There are five other reactors under construction – two in South Carolina, two in Georgia, and one in Tennessee. All have suffered delays and unexpected cost increases.

Demonstrating the ability to build new advanced nuclear reactors like the AP1000 is critical for the industry’s long-term health. But it is also important for the U.S. as a whole because nuclear power is the largest source of carbon-free electricity in the country.

And unless the nuclear industry can deploy more reactors, greenhouse gas emissions will rise as natural gas replaces some lost nuclear capacity. Consider this: there are 100 nuclear reactors currently in operation in the United States, and 95 of them are more than 25 years old. More than half are approaching the end of their original 40-year licenses, although many are being extended for another 20 years.

Related Article: As Radioactive Water Accumulates, TEPCO Eyes Pacific Ocean As Dumping Ground

Still, the U.S. is going to have to figure out a way to replace around 100 gigawatts of nuclear generation by 2050. As it stands, only 5.6 gigawatts are slated to be completed before 2030, with perhaps another 2 gigawatts if the Utah plants move forward.

Unless the nuclear industry can pick up the pace in swapping out old reactors for new ones, a massive wave of carbon-free power could be lost over the next several decades.

For sure, much of that will be replaced by renewables, like solar and wind. Renewables are rapidly gaining favor as costs come down, and they will be a driving force in the decades to come. That is the good news.

But meeting certain climate objectives – reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 was a White House goal put forward in 2009 – becomes exceedingly difficult if a substantial portion of American nuclear capacity goes offline.

To put it another way, in order to reduce emissions to the goal level, renewable energy will largely have to replace coal and natural gas over the next several decades, which combined make up two-thirds of the country’s electricity generation. That’s a tall order. But if renewables also have to cover for lost nuclear capacity – an additional one-fifth of total generation – it becomes that much more difficult to achieve. Non-hydro renewables only account for 6 percent of electricity right now.

The problem grows worse when you consider the fact that natural gas is already eating into nuclear’s share. Natural gas saw 6.8 gigawatts of new capacity added in 2013, and has already added another 2.1 gigawatts so far this year. Over the same period, the nuclear industry lost almost 4 gigawatts. The San Onofre reactors were forced to shut down due to safety issues. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee plant shutdown because of its inability to compete with cheap natural gas, and the Vermont Yankee plant is slated to be shuttered at the end of 2014 for the same reason.

That’s not to say that these plants should have remained open. Nobody should be arguing that a plant leaking radioactive water should be kept in operation.

But the trend is clear. Despite the few reactors under construction and the Utah announcement about two additional reactors in the works, many more will be closed. There is just too much fracked gas out there. Unless the industry can turn things around, the U.S. will fail to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions in any reasonable timeframe.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Shuttered-Nuclear-Plants-Means-U.S.-Will-Miss-Climate-Targets.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Posted in Energy / Environment | 9 Comments

Why Artifice Rules the World: We Have No Choice

There’s only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven’t actually fixed what’s broken in the real world.

As I noted yesterday, we now game dysfunctional systems rather than actually repair them. Rather than fix the dysfunctional system of higher education, for example (as I proposed in my book The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy), students and their parents go to extraordinary lengths to game the Ivy league university admissions system.

Rather than actually address the structural causes of unemployment, we lower interest rates to zero and reckon the resulting financial bubble will fix unemployment (and everything else).

To avoid having to deal with unemployment as an issue, the unemployment rate is heavily gamed by counting marginal jobs (working 1 hour a week–you’re employed!) and removing tens of millions of unemployed people from the work-force.

The primary tool of increasing prosperity is the expansion of asset bubbles that supposedly boost the wealth effect, an internalized belief that one is wealthier. This internal belief is presumed to encourage more borrowing and spending which is then presumed to lift all boats in the economy.

This is of course all artifice: the elaborately choreographed applications to the Ivy League, the massaged statistics designed to manage our perceptions of reality rather than address reality itself, and the selling offree money for financiers as a policy that magically helps everyone, even those far from the money spigots of the Federal Reserve.

How did we arrive at a systemic dependence on contrivance and artifice to manage problems? We have no choice. Why do we have no choice?

Because any attempt to actually fix dysfunctional systems necessarily steps on the toes of deeply entrenched vested interests that profit from the dysfunctional Status Quo– interests who will devote every resource in their command to water down, co-opt, divert or defeat any reforms that lessen their share of the national income or their political power.

As a result, true reform of hopelessly dysfunctional systems is politically impossible. Since politicians are elected to give everyone more of what they want, politicos have no choice to but to game the dysfunctional systems via perception management and statistical sleight of hand to make them appear to give everyone more of what they want. Meanwhile, the politicos collect personal fortunes from the Elites and insiders benefiting from the dysfunctional Status Quo.

Artifice and perception management appear to be win-win: everybody seems to win if they see dysfunction as not just “the way the world works,” but as a positive approach that benefits everyone in some fashion.

There’s only one small problem with relying on artifice: we haven’t actually fixed what’s broken in the real world, and those dysfunctions continue to fester beneath the glossy surface of gamed statistics and happy stories we tell ourselves about how well everything is working.

At some point–the actual date is unpredictable, but 2021-2025 is as good a guess as any–the dysfunctional systems will break down and no amount of artifice, bogus statistics or perception management will mask the rot.

Once reality crashes through the thick constructs of artifice, faith in the Status Quo will be lost. At that fragile juncture of destiny, the opportunity to fix what is broken will finally emerge.


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