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Daily Archives: March 21, 2014

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Last Empire: Protecting the Ponzi Scheme

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Last Empire: Protecting the Ponzi Scheme.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Last Empire: Protecting the Ponzi Scheme

No one trusts the U.S. government. Even Americans don’t trust the U.S. government.

The darkest form of evil always comes falsely packaged as something “good”…

This Ukraine situation shows that NeoCon buffoons still haven’t given up running around telling the world how to run its local affairs. They still somehow believe that Uncle Sam is the last defender of “Freedom” (that’s trademarked *freedom*, not to be confused with the real version). You have to laugh. The only morons who believe that bullshit are the ever-dwindling number of demented geriatrics who haven’t stepped outside the U.S. in the past 50 years and have been watching Faux News 24×7. The NSA situation of course is just the latest example proving that the U.S. government doesn’t respect the rights of its own citizens much less people outside of the U.S. Therefore, trust plays no part in this entire equation.
Uncle Sam’s credibility in overseas matters has been systematically squandered over the course of decades:
Iran
– The CIA orchestrated a coup of Iran’s democratically elected government in order to reinstall the Western-aligned Shah of Iran, at the behest of the oil industry (aka. British Petroleum)
 
“In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”[14]
 
Vietnam:
– Carpet bombing women and children for 10 years straight using cluster bombs, napalm, Agent Orange and every other unholy device invented by the Pentagon, all to support the corrupt crony capitalist South
– Then, cut and run in 1975. A colossal waste of human life, money and environmental resources.
Iraq
Pre-Gulf War
– First install Saddam Hussein
– Support him throughout the Iran War, providing him with access to chemical weapons
Post Gulf War/Iraq Invasion
– Hang him for atrocities he committed during the 1980s while supported by the U.S.
Afghanistan
Pre 9/11:
– Assist the Mujahadeen to drive out the Soviets
– Support Bin Laden
– Support the Taliban
 Post 9/11
– 180 degree reversal
Here is a Who’s who of despotic and oppressive regimes supported by the U.S. government, in addition to the above:
Highlights:
Pinochet, Chile
Batista, Cuba
Marcos, Philippines
Mobuto Seso Seke, Congo
Saudi Government
Mubarak, Egypt
Noriega, Panama
(Too many to list), Pakistan
It goes on and on, the full list is here. It would be easier to list the crony capitalist dictators NOT supported by the U.S., because I don’t know that there are any. 
To Serve and Protect Multinational Corporations
All of this is not to say that Russia doesn’t support despotic regimes as well, not the least being its own. And the Chinese government makes no apology that they will support literally any government anywhere as long as it supports their economic interests. However, the speciously packaged lies and fantasy narrative underlying the NeoCon “Pax Americana” policy are mass delusional, bordering on psychotic. Pretending to be the exact opposite of one’s true intentions is the deepest form of evil. Had they just come out and declared their true agenda i.e. to extend and protect multinational corporate interests in every corner of the globe, the NeoCons would not have commanded any more respect, however, they would at least have a vestige of credibility. Today, they have neither. 
Might is Right
The Faux News sponsored policy may well be “Pax Americana”, but the reality-based policy is the velvet fist known as “Might is Right”. Of course, everyone knows that, except for the self-delusional NeoCon psychopaths running around still pretending otherwise.

Activist Post: Is the NSA manipulating the stock market?

Activist Post: Is the NSA manipulating the stock market?.

image source

Jon Rappoport
Activist Post

Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation dug up a very interesting nugget. It was embedded in the heralded December 2013 White House task force report on spying and snooping.

Under Recommendations, #31, section 2, he found this:

“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate financial systems.”

Timm quite rightly wondered: why were these warnings in the report?

Were the authors just anticipating a possible crime? Or were they reflecting the fact that the NSA had already been engaging in the crime?

If this was just a bit of anticipation, why leave it naked in the report? Why not say there was no current evidence the NSA had been manipulating financial systems?

Those systems would, of course, include the stock market, and all trading markets around the world.

Well, there is definite evidence of other NSA financial snooping. From Spiegel Online, 9/15/13:

“The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL.”

“The NSA’s Tracfin data bank also contained data from the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a network used by thousands of banks to send transaction information securely…the NSA spied on the organization on several levels, involving, among others, the [NSA] agency’s ‘tailored access operations’ division…”

The NSA’s “tailored access operations” division uses roughly 1000 hackers and analysts in its spying efforts.

The next step in all this spying would naturally involve penetrating trading markets and, using the deep data obtained, manipulate the markets to the advantage of the NSA and preferred clients.

img

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The amount of money siphoned off in such an ongoing operation would be enormous.

“Looking over the shoulder” of Wall St. insiders would be child’s play for NSA.

Ditto for predicting political events that would temporarily drive markets down and provide golden opportunities for highly profitable short selling.

Like drug traffickers and other mobsters, the NSA could invest their ill-gotten gains in legitimate enterprises and reap additional rewards.

And if the Pentagon, under which the NSA is organized, requires heavy amounts of money for off-the-books black budget ops, what better place to go than their own NSA?

All in all, when you operate the biggest spying and data-gathering operation in the world, the opportunities abound. Yes, knowledge is power, when the distinctions between legal and illegal are brushed off like like a few gnats on a summer day.

Jon Rappoport is the author of two explosive collections, The Matrix Revealed and Exit From the Matrix, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at www.nomorefakenews.com

British tax authorities just out-mafia’d the IRS

British tax authorities just out-mafia’d the IRS.

hm-revenue-customs

A few months ago, I told you about a bold reportpublished within the IRS that absolutely blasted the agency’s mafia tactics.

In its 2013 annual report to Congress, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate wrote that the IRS shows “disrespect for the law and a disregard for taxpayer rights.”

Further, the report says that the current system “disproportionately burdens those who [make] honest mistakes,” and that “tax requirements have become so confusing and the compliance burden so great that taxpayers are giving up their U.S. citizenship in record numbers.”

We all know the stories. The IRS has nearly infinite power to do whatever it wants, including freezing you out of your own bank account without so much as a phone call, let alone due process.

In the Land of the Free, people think they’re innocent until proven guilty. This is total BS. If you are only suspected of wrongdoing, you can be locked out of your entire savings.

This is an incredible amount of authority to wield.

But the British government has just gone even further.

Buried in its most recent budget package is a curt little paragraph that reads “The Government will modernise and strengthen [the tax agency’s] debt collection powers to recover financial assets from the bank accounts of debtors who owe over £1,000 of tax.”

Read that one more time just to let it sink in.

The British government is setting an absurdly low threshold at £1,000… about $1,650 in back taxes.

And they’re saying that if the tax authorities believe you owe even just a minor tax debt, they will not only FREEZE your assets, they’ll dip into your bank account and TAKE whatever they want.

Judge, jury, and executioner. They get to decide in their sole discretion if you owe them money, and they get to take as much as they want to satisfy the debt.

It’s unbelievable.

I can’t even begin to imagine why any Brit in his/her right mind would continue to hold a substantial amount of savings in UK banks.

You are practically begging for the government to relieve you of your hard-earned savings.

Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, and have paid up everything that you owe, the slightest clerical error could have them plunging their filthy hands into your account.

These issues are worldwide. Whether you’re in the US, UK, France, Cyprus, etc., when governments go bankrupt, these are precisely the sorts of tactics they resort to.

Rational, thinking people need to be aware of this trend. And it behooves absolutely everyone to come up with a plan B. Because at the rate things are going, Plan B may very soon become Plan A.

by Simon Black

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Testosterone Pit – Home – The “Sanction Spiral” Elegantly Spirals Out of Control

Testosterone Pit – Home – The “Sanction Spiral” Elegantly Spirals Out of Control.

The “Sanction Spiral” Elegantly Spirals Out Of Control

THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014 AT 11:41PM

Attorneys with the SEC’s Investment Management Division are exhorting managers of registered investment funds, such as your mutual fund, to disclose their holdings in Russia and warn of the risks associated with them, now that the Crimean debacle has turned into a magnificent sanction spiral. “Several people familiar with the matter” had been talking toReuters. The SEC is apparently fretting that the funds aren’t truthful with investors and aren’t even thinking about how to respond to the possible outcomes of the crisis.

Investment Management Division Director Norm Champ, when contacted by Reuters, didn’t even deny it. “We want to be proactive,” he said.

The Division contacted asset managers on other occasions when civil unrest erupted or when things threatened to blow up; it wanted to make sure managers weren’t omitting or misrepresenting material information – for example, during the uprising in Egypt in 2011, when the Cairo stock market simply shut down. But this time it’s different: the lawyers at the Investment Management Division were joined by another group of SEC lawyers who focus on risk examinations.

Would the White House be trying behind the scenes to give investors second thoughts about plowing money into Russia? Would it be trying to demolish Russian stocks, bonds, and the ruble? Naw.

The efforts by the SEC, which started “over a week ago,” were accompanied by a White House announcement that 5 million barrels would be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. WTI tanked. Russia, a huge energy exporter, depends on its oil and gas revenues, and knocking down the price of oil could wreak havoc on the Russian economy. It was a declaration that commodities would be used as a weapon against the Putin Regime. 

Then on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney launched another attack on the Russian markets at a press briefing. In light of the sanctions the US and the EU were slapping on Russia, its economy would pay the price, he said. “I wouldn’t, if I were you, invest in Russian equities right now, unless you’re going short.”

Shaken to its roots by these threats, Russia annexed the Crimea and picked a new target: Estonia. A Russian diplomat told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that Russia was “concerned” by the treatment of the ethnic Russian minority “in Estonia as well as in Ukraine” … even while Vice President Joe Biden was in Lithuania to calm tattered nerves in the Baltics and the EU.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Merkel announced in Parliament, shortly before the EU summit in Brussels, that the EU would come up with new sanctions, such as expanding the list of Russians subject to travel limitations and freezing assets. And if the situation escalates, there would be “without doubt” economic sanctions, she said. Russia was “largely isolated in all international organizations.” And the G-8, which includes Russia, and whose upcoming shindig has already been cancelled, “no longer exists.”

She was immediately attacked by the parliamentary leader of the opposition Left Party, Gregor Gysi, who accused the government of double standards; the separation of Kosovo too had been a breach of international law, he said, but it had been supported by the German government at the time. The transitional Ukrainian government wasn’t legitimate, he said. “Fascists are part of this government, and we want to give them money?!” Under pressure from the US, Merkel was imposing sanctions on Russia to the detriment of Europe, he said. That’s “moral cowardice.”

The “Putin Doctrine” was what SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann, who is part of Germany’s governing Grand Coalition, was fretting about. Under that doctrine, Russia could intervene if ethnic Russians were perceived to be in danger outside Russia. It would give Russia an automatic right to intervene anywhere, he said. “Such a right does not exist, and such a right cannot exist.”

Hours later, President Obama announced he’d slapped new sanctions on a “number” of oligarchs, additional Russian government officials, and a bank that provides services to them. The White House was working “closely” with the EU “to develop more severe actions that could be taken if Russia continues to escalate the situation.” Then he urged US Lawmakers to approve the aid package for Ukraine and urged the IMF to put its aid package together pronto. Alas, read…. Aid for the Ukraine “Will Be Stolen” – Former Ukrainian Minister of Economy

As Obama’s words were still echoing around the world, the Russian Foreign Ministry shot back: nine US officials, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would be barred from entering Russia. And it published the list on its website.

Delicious irony: that boring list with nine names on it, issued by a Russian ministry whose website rarely gets shared in the social media, lit up a mini-firestorm on VK.com, the second largest social network in Europe after Facebook, and one of the most popular sites in Russia. The list got, as I’m writing this, 538 VK “likes.” Not sure if Obama’s list got anyFacebook likes.

Not to be left out, Standard & Poor’s slammed Russia by lowering its outlook to Negativefrom Stable. “In our view, heightened geopolitical risk and the prospect of US and EU economic sanctions following Russia’s incorporation of Crimea could reduce the flow of potential investment, trigger rising capital outflows, and further weaken Russia’s already deteriorating economic performance.”

The Sanction Spiral works in a myriad ways and performs, as we can see every day, outright miracles. It spirals elegantly higher and higher and takes on grotesque forms. And by the looks of it, no one at the top has a clue how to back out of it. Yet stock and bond markets in the US and Europe, stuffed to the gills with central-bank liquidity and intoxicated by free money, the only thing that really matters anymore these crazy days of ours, are blissfully ignoring the entire drama, and what may eventually come of it.

The first official warning shot was fired. Not by a Putin advisor that can be brushed off, but by Alexey Ulyukaev, Russia’s Minister of Economy and former Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank. A major escalation. Read…. Kremlin: If The US Tries To Hurt Russia’s Economy, Russia Will Target The Dollar System

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Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here's the REAL Economic Threat Washington's Blog

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog.

Russia Could Crush the Petrodollar

Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.

Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.

But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.

Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:

Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status.  Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.

The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar.   Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.

But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.

Zero Hedge argues:

Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As we noted last year:

The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.

But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?

JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2013/10/Reserve%20Currency%20Status.png

As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns.  It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.

Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars.  This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].

And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower

Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)

In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog

Forget Russia Dumping U.S. Treasuries … Here’s the REAL Economic Threat Washington’s Blog.

Russia Could Crush the Petrodollar

Russia threatened to dump its U.S. treasuries if America imposed sanctions regarding Russia’s action in the Crimea.

Zero Hedge argues that Russia has already done so.

But veteran investor Jim Sinclair argues that Russia has a much scarier financial attack which Russia can use against the U.S.

Specifically, Sinclair says that if Russia accepts payment for oil and gas in any currency other than the dollar – whether it’s gold, the Euro, the Ruble, the Rupee, or anything else – then the U.S. petrodollar system will collapse:

Indeed, one of the main pillars for U.S. power is the petrodollar, and the U.S. is desperate for the dollar to maintain reserve status.  Some wise commentators have argued that recent U.S. wars have really been about keeping the rest of the world on the petrodollar standard.

The theory is that – after Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, which had made the dollar the world’s reserve currency – America salvaged that role by adopting the petrodollar.   Specifically, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil and gas would be priced in dollars, so the rest of the world had to use dollars for most transactions.

But Reuters notes that Russia may be mere months away from signing a bilateral trade deal with China, where China would buy huge quantities of Russian oil and gas.

Zero Hedge argues:

Add bilateral trade denominated in either Rubles or Renminbi (or gold), add Iran, Iraq, India, and soon the Saudis (China’s largest foreign source of crude, whose crown prince also happened to meet president Xi Jinping last week to expand trade further) and wave goodbye to the petrodollar.

As we noted last year:

The average life expectancy for a fiat currency is less than 40 years.

But what about “reserve currencies”, like the U.S. dollar?

JP Morgan noted last year that “reserve currencies” have a limited shelf-life:

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2013/10/Reserve%20Currency%20Status.png

As the table shows, U.S. reserve status has already lasted as long as Portugal and the Netherland’s reigns.  It won’t happen tomorrow, or next week … but the end of the dollar’s rein is coming nonetheless, and China and many other countries are calling for a new reserve currency.

Remember, China is entering into more and more major deals with other countries to settle trades in Yuans, instead of dollars.  This includes the European Union (the world’s largest economy) [and also Russia].

And China is quietly becoming a gold superpower

Given that China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil, Saudi Arabia is moving away from the U.S. … and towards China. (Some even argue that the world will switch from the petrodollar to the petroYUAN. We’re not convinced that will happen.)

In any event, a switch to pricing petroleum in anything other than dollars exclusively – whether a single alternative currency, gold, or even a mix of currencies or commodities – would spell the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For that reason, Sinclair – no fan of either Russia or Putin – urges American leaders to back away from an economic confrontation with Russia, arguing that the U.S. would be the loser.

New Executive Order: "Obama Has Just Given Himself the Authority to Seize Your Assets"

New Executive Order: “Obama Has Just Given Himself the Authority to Seize Your Assets”.

Mac Slavo
March 19th, 2014
SHTFplan.com

shredding-the-constitution

On Monday the U.S. government took steps to seize the US-based assets of Russian lawmakers and anyone else that the US government deemed complicit in supporting the Crimean secession movement.

We’ve seen the U.S. government do this in countless cases surrounding drug and financial crimes, and sometimes even against foreign leaders like Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega.

What makes this particular instance so unprecedented and terrifying is that President Obama went so far as to issue a new Executive Order to give himself the authorization to do so, because the laws of the United States are such that our government is not allowed to simply take someone’s bank assets, home or business without due process.

Here’s the kicker.

The new Executive Order doesn’t just apply to just Russians or foreigners. It gets blanket coverage, so even American citizens could now face asset forfeiture if their actions are deemed to be “contributing to the situation in the Ukraine.”

Be careful what you say. Be careful what you write. President Obama has just given himself the authority to seize your assets.

According to the president’s recent Executive Order, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine” (first reported by WND’s Aaron Klein), the provisions for seizure of property extend to “any United States person.” That means “any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.”

Via: The Ron Paul Institute

Like most Executive Orders and government legalese, the definitions for why an individual would have their assets seized under this directive are extremely broad and they could, for all intents and purposes, be used against anyone who supports Russian interests, or simply argues against those of the United States.

You can read the full Executive Order at the White House web site. The key points are noted below:

All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:

(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;

(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or

(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine

This new Executive Order has crossed a very dangerous line. It’s one that turns the notions of property rights and due process upside down by effectively bypassing the U.S. Constitution.

While we’re sure the President and his staff would argue that such a law would never be used against Americans who are protected by free speech, the fact is that the Executive Branch now believes it has the self-manifested authority to target any individual who engages in activities that undermine US interests abroad or at home.

If a President of the United States believes he has the authority to make it illegal for you to provide support to Russia by way of political commentary, charitable donations or other methods, could he also use similar directives to push forward other agendas?

President Obama has already re-authorized an E.O. giving him the ability to seizefarms, food, processing plants, energy resources, transportation, and skilled laborers during national emergency.

The next Executive Order could come in the form of restrictions on firearms advocacy or target those who speak out against policies like government mandated health care. All it would take is the declaration of a national emergency and they can essentially do as they please.

Is it prudent to give a single person the ability to force such actions down the throats of the American people without Congressional oversight or Judicial review?

New Executive Order: “Obama Has Just Given Himself the Authority to Seize Your Assets”

New Executive Order: “Obama Has Just Given Himself the Authority to Seize Your Assets”.

Mac Slavo
March 19th, 2014
SHTFplan.com

shredding-the-constitution

On Monday the U.S. government took steps to seize the US-based assets of Russian lawmakers and anyone else that the US government deemed complicit in supporting the Crimean secession movement.

We’ve seen the U.S. government do this in countless cases surrounding drug and financial crimes, and sometimes even against foreign leaders like Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega.

What makes this particular instance so unprecedented and terrifying is that President Obama went so far as to issue a new Executive Order to give himself the authorization to do so, because the laws of the United States are such that our government is not allowed to simply take someone’s bank assets, home or business without due process.

Here’s the kicker.

The new Executive Order doesn’t just apply to just Russians or foreigners. It gets blanket coverage, so even American citizens could now face asset forfeiture if their actions are deemed to be “contributing to the situation in the Ukraine.”

Be careful what you say. Be careful what you write. President Obama has just given himself the authority to seize your assets.

According to the president’s recent Executive Order, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine” (first reported by WND’s Aaron Klein), the provisions for seizure of property extend to “any United States person.” That means “any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.”

Via: The Ron Paul Institute

Like most Executive Orders and government legalese, the definitions for why an individual would have their assets seized under this directive are extremely broad and they could, for all intents and purposes, be used against anyone who supports Russian interests, or simply argues against those of the United States.

You can read the full Executive Order at the White House web site. The key points are noted below:

All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:

(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;

(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or

(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine

This new Executive Order has crossed a very dangerous line. It’s one that turns the notions of property rights and due process upside down by effectively bypassing the U.S. Constitution.

While we’re sure the President and his staff would argue that such a law would never be used against Americans who are protected by free speech, the fact is that the Executive Branch now believes it has the self-manifested authority to target any individual who engages in activities that undermine US interests abroad or at home.

If a President of the United States believes he has the authority to make it illegal for you to provide support to Russia by way of political commentary, charitable donations or other methods, could he also use similar directives to push forward other agendas?

President Obama has already re-authorized an E.O. giving him the ability to seizefarms, food, processing plants, energy resources, transportation, and skilled laborers during national emergency.

The next Executive Order could come in the form of restrictions on firearms advocacy or target those who speak out against policies like government mandated health care. All it would take is the declaration of a national emergency and they can essentially do as they please.

Is it prudent to give a single person the ability to force such actions down the throats of the American people without Congressional oversight or Judicial review?

The Archdruid Report: American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters

The Archdruid Report: American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

American Delusionalism, or Why History Matters

One of the things that reliably irritates a certain fraction of this blog’s readers, as I’ve had occasion to comment before, is my habit of using history as a touchstone that can be used to test claims about the future. No matter what the context, no matter how wearily familiar the process under discussion might be, it’s a safe bet that the moment I start talking about historical parallels, somebody or other is going to pop up and insist that it really is different this time.
In a trivial sense, of course, that claim is correct. The tech stock bubble that popped in 2000, the real estate bubble that popped in 2008, and the fracking bubble that’s showing every sign of popping in the uncomfortably near future are all different from each other, and from every other bubble and bust in the history of speculative markets, all the way back to the Dutch tulip mania of 1637. It’s quite true that tech stocks aren’t tulips, and bundled loans backed up by dubious no-doc mortgages aren’t the same as bundled loans backed up by dubious shale leases—well, not exactly the same—but in practice, the many differences of detail are irrelevant compared to the one crucial identity.  Tulips, tech stocks, and bundled loans, along with South Sea Company shares in 1730, investment trusts in 1929, and all the other speculative vehicles in all the other speculative bubbles of the last five centuries, different as they are, all follow the identical trajectory:  up with the rocket, down with the stick.
That is to say, those who insist that it’s different this time are right where it doesn’t matter and wrong where it counts. I’ve come to think of the words “it’s different this time,” in fact, as the nearest thing history has to the warning siren and flashing red light that tells you that something is about to go very, very wrong. When people start saying it, especially when plenty of people with plenty of access to the media start saying it, it’s time to dive for the floor, cover your head with your arms, and wait for the blast to hit.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk a bit about the recent media flurry around the phrase “American exceptionalism,” which has become something of a shibboleth among pseudoconservative talking heads in recent months. Pseudoconservatives? Well, yes; actual conservatives, motivated by the long and by no means undistinguished tradition of conservative thinking launched by Edmund Burke in the late 18th century, are interested in, ahem, conserving things, and conservatives who actually conserve are about as rare these days as liberals who actually liberate. Certainly you won’t find many of either among the strident voices insisting just now that the last scraps of America’s democracy at home and reputation abroad ought to be sacrificed in the service of their squeaky-voiced machismo.
As far as I know, the phrase “American exceptionalism” was originally coined by none other than Josef Stalin—evidence, if any more were needed, that American pseudoconservatives these days, having no ideas of their own, have simply borrowed those of their erstwhile Communist bogeyman and stood them on their heads with a Miltonic “Evil, be thou my good.”  Stalin meant by it the opinion of many Communists in his time that the United States, unlike the industrial nations of Europe, wasn’t yet ripe for the triumphant proletarian revolution predicted (inaccurately) by Marx’s secular theology. Devout Marxist that he was, Stalin rejected this claim with some heat, denouncing it in so many words as “this heresy of American exceptionalism,” and insisting (also inaccurately) that America would get its proletarian revolution on schedule.
While Stalin may have invented the phrase, the perception that he thus labeled had considerably older roots. In a previous time, though, that perception took a rather different tone than it does today. A great many of the early leaders and thinkers of the United States in its early years, and no small number of the foreign observers who watched the American experiment in those days, thought and hoped that the newly founded republic might be able to avoid making the familiar mistakes that had brought so much misery onto the empires of the Old World. Later on, during and immediately after the great debates over American empire at the end of the 19th century, a great many Americans and foreign observers still thought and hoped that the republic might come to its senses in time and back away from the same mistakes that doomed those Old World empires to the misery just mentioned. These days, by contrast, the phrase “American exceptionalism” seems to stand for the conviction that America can and should make every one of those same mistakes, right down to the fine details, and will still somehow be spared the logically inevitable consequences.
The current blind faith in American exceptionalism, in other words, is simply another way of saying “it’s different this time.”  Those who insist that God is on America’s side when America isn’t exactly returning the favor, like those who have less blatantly theological reasons for their belief that this nation’s excrement emits no noticeable odor, are for all practical purposes demanding that America must not, under any circumstances, draw any benefit from the painfully learnt lessons of history.  I suggest that a better name for the belief in question might be “American delusionalism;” it’s hard to see how this bizarre act of faith can do anything other than help drive the American experiment toward a miserable end, but then that’s just one more irony in the fire.
The same conviction that the past has nothing to teach the present is just as common elsewhere in contemporary culture. I’m thinking here, among other things, of the ongoing drumbeat of claims that our species will inevitably be extinct by 2030. As I noted in a previous post here, this is yet another expression of the same dubious logic that generated the 2012 delusion, but much of the rhetoric that surrounds it starts from the insistence that nothing like the current round of greenhouse gas-driven climate change has ever happened before.
That insistence bespeaks an embarrassing lack of knowledge about paleoclimatology. Vast quantities of greenhouse gases being dumped into the atmosphere over a century or two? Check; the usual culprit is vulcanism, specifically the kind of flood-basalt eruption that opens a crack in the earth many miles in length and turns an area the size of a European nation into a lake of lava. The most recent of those, a smallish one, happened about 6 million years ago in the Columbia River basin of eastern Washington and Oregon states.  Further back, in the Aptian, Toarcian, and Turonian-Cenomanian epochs of the late Mesozoic, that same process on a much larger scale boosted atmospheric CO2 levels to three times the present figure and triggered what paleoclimatologists call “super-greenhouse events.” Did those cause the extinction of all life on earth? Not hardly; as far as the paleontological evidence shows, it didn’t even slow the brontosaurs down.
Oceanic acidification leading to the collapse of calcium-shelled plankton populations? Check; those three super-greenhouse events, along with a great many less drastic climate spikes, did that. The ocean also contains very large numbers of single-celled organisms that don’t have calcium shells, such as blue-green algae, which aren’t particularly sensitive to shifts in the pH level of seawater; when such shifts happen, these other organisms expand to fill the empty niches, and everybody further up the food chain gets used to a change in diet. When the acidification goes away, whatever species of calcium-shelled plankton have managed to survive elbow their way back into their former niches and undergo a burst of evolutionary radiation; this makes life easy for geologists today, who can figure out the age of any rock laid down in an ancient ocean by checking the remains of foraminifers and other calcium-loving plankton against a chart of what existed when.
Sudden climate change recently enough to be experienced by human beings? Check; most people have heard of the end of the last ice age, though you have to read the technical literature or one of a very few popular treatments to get some idea of just how drastically the climate changed, or how fast.  The old saw about a slow, gradual warming over millennia got chucked into the dumpster decades ago, when ice cores from Greenland upset that particular theory. The ratio between different isotopes of oxygen in the ice laid down in different years provides a sensitive measure of the average global temperature at sea level during those same years. According to that measure, at the end of the Younger Dryas period about 11,800 years ago, global temperatures shot up by 20° F. in less than a decade.
Now of course that didn’t mean that temperatures shot up that far evenly, all over the world.  What seems to have happened is that the tropics barely warmed at all, the southern end of the planet warmed mildly, and the northern end experienced a drastic heat wave that tipped the great continental ice sheets of the era into rapid collapse and sent sea levels soaring upwards. Those of my readers who have been paying attention to recent scientific publications about Greenland and the Arctic Ocean now have very good reason to worry, because the current round of climate change has most strongly affected the northern end of the planet, too, and scientists have begun to notice historically unprecedented changes in the Greenland ice cap. In an upcoming post I plan on discussing at some length what those particular historical parallels promise for our future, and it’s not pretty.
Oh, and the aftermath of the post-Younger Dryas temperature spike was a period several thousand years long when global temperatures were considerably higher than they are today. The Holocene Hypsithermal, as it’s called, saw global temperatures peak around 7°F. higher than they are today—about the level, that is, that’s already baked into the cake as a result of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.  It was not a particularly pleasant time. Most of western North America was desert, baked to a crackly crunch by drought conditions that make today’s dry years look soggy; much of what’s now, at least in theory, the eastern woodland biome was dryland prairie, while both coasts got rapidly rising seas with a side order of frequent big tsunamis—again, we’ll talk about those in the upcoming post just mentioned. Still, you’ll notice that our species survived the experience.
As those droughts and tsunamis might suggest, the lessons taught by history don’t necessarily amount to “everything will be just fine.” The weird inability of the contemporary imagination to find any middle ground between business as usual and sudden total annihilation has its usual effect here, hiding the actual risks of anthropogenic climate change behind a facade of apocalyptic fantasies. Here again, the question “what happened the last time this occurred?” is the most accessible way to avoid that trap, and the insistence that it’s different this time and the evidence of the past can’t be applied to the present and future puts that safeguard out of reach.
For a third example, consider the latest round of claims that a sudden financial collapse driven by current debt loads will crash the global economy once and for all. That sudden collapse has been being predicted year after weary year for decades now—do any of my readers, I wonder, remember Dr. Ravi Batra’s The Great Depression of 1990?—and its repeated failure to show up and perform as predicted seems only to strengthen the conviction on the part of believers that this year, like some financial equivalent of the Great Pumpkin, the long-delayed crash will finally put in its long-delayed appearance and bring the global economy crashing down.
I’m far from sure that they’re right about the imminence of a crash; the economy of high finance these days is so heavily manipulated, and so thoroughly detached from the real economy where real goods and services have to be produced using real energy and resources, that it’s occurred to me more than once that the stock market and the other organs of the financial sphere might keep chugging away in a state of blissful disconnection to the rest of existence for a very long time to come. Stil, let’s grant for the moment that the absurd buildup of unpayable debt in the United States and other industrial nations will in fact become the driving force behind a credit collapse, in which drastic deleveraging will erase trillions of dollars in notional wealth. Would such a crash succeed, as a great many people are claiming just now, in bringing the global economy to a sudden and permanent stop?
Here again, the lessons of history provide a clear and straightforward answer to that question, and it’s not one that supports the partisans of the fast-crash theory. Massive credit collapses that erase very large sums of notional wealth and impact the global economy are hardly a new phenomenon, after all. One example—the credit collapse of 1930-1932—is still just within living memory; the financial crises of 1873 and 1893 are well documented, and there are dozens of other examples of nations and whole continents hammered by credit collapses and other forms of drastic economic crisis. Those crises have had plenty of consequences, but one thing that has never happened as a result of any of them is the sort of self-feeding, irrevocable plunge into the abyss that current fast-crash theories require.
The reason for this is that credit is merely one way by which a society manages the distribution of goods and services. That’s all it is. Energy, raw materials, and labor are the factors that have to be present in order to produce goods and services.  Credit simply regulates who gets how much of each of these things, and there have been plenty of societies that have handled that same task without making use of a credit system at all. A credit collapse, in turn, doesn’t make the energy, raw materials, and labor vanish into some fiscal equivalent of a black hole; they’re all still there, in whatever quantities they were before the credit collapse, and all that’s needed is some new way to allocate them to the production of goods and services.
This, in turn, governments promptly provide. In 1933, for example, faced with the most severe credit collapse in American history, Franklin Roosevelt temporarily nationalized the entire US banking system, seized nearly all the privately held gold in the country, unilaterally changed the national debt from “payable in gold” to “payable in Federal Reserve notes” (which amounted to a technical default), and launched a flurry of other emergency measures.  The credit collapse came to a screeching halt, famously, in less than a hundred days. Other nations facing the same crisis took equally drastic measures, with similar results. While that history has apparently been forgotten across large sections of the peak oil blogosphere, it’s a safe bet that none of it has been forgotten in the corridors of power in Washington DC and elsewhere in the world.
More generally, governments have an extremely broad range of powers that can be used, and have been used, in extreme financial emergencies to stop a credit or currency collapse from terminating the real economy. Faced with a severe crisis, governments can slap on wage and price controls, freeze currency exchanges, impose rationing, raise trade barriers, default on their debts, nationalize whole industries, issue new currencies, allocate goods and services by fiat, and impose martial law to make sure the new economic rules are followed to the letter, if necessary, at gunpoint. Again, these aren’t theoretical possibilities; every one of them has actually been used by more than one government faced by a major economic crisis in the last century and a half. Given that track record, it requires a breathtaking leap of faith to assume that if the next round of deleveraging spirals out of control, politicians around the world will simply sit on their hands, saying “Whatever shall we do?” in plaintive voices, while civilization crashes to ruin around them.
What makes that leap of faith all the more curious is in the runup to the economic crisis of 2008-9, the same claims of imminent, unstoppable financial apocalypse we’re hearing today were being made—in some cases, by the same people who are making them today.  (I treasure a comment I fielded from a popular peak oil blogger at the height of the 2009 crisis, who insisted that the fast crash was upon us and that my predictions about the future were therefore all wrong.) Their logic was flawed then, and it’s just as flawed now, because it dismisses the lessons of history as irrelevant and therefore fails to take into account how the events under discussion play out in the real world.
That’s the problem with the insistence that this time it really is different: it disables the most effective protection we’ve got against the habit of thought that cognitive psychologists call “confirmation bias,” the tendency to look for evidence that supports one’s pet theory rather than seeking the evidence that might call it into question. The scientific method itself, in the final analysis, is simply a collection of useful gimmicks that help you sidestep confirmation bias.  That’s why competent scientists, when they come up with a hypothesis to explain something in nature, promptly sit down and try to think up as many ways as possible to disprove the hypothesis.  Those potentials for disproof are the raw materials from which experiments are designed, and only if the hypothesis survives all experimental attempts to disprove it does it take its first step toward scientific respectability.
It’s not exactly easy to run controlled double-blind experiments on entire societies, but historical comparison offers the same sort of counterweight to confirmation bias. Any present or future set of events, however unique it may be in terms of the fine details, has points of similarity with events in the past, and those points of similarity allow the past events to be taken as a guide to the present and future. This works best if you’ve got a series of past events, as different from each other as any one of them is from the present or future situation you’re trying to predict; if you can find common patterns in the whole range of past parallels, it’s usually a safe bet that the same pattern will recur again.
Any time you approach a present or future event, then, you have two choices: you can look for the features that event has in common with other events, despite the differences of detail, or you can focus on the differences and ignore the common features.  The first of those choices, it’s worth noting, allows you to consider both the similarities and the differences.  Once you’ve got the common pattern, it then becomes possible to modify it as needed to take into account the special characteristics of the situation you’re trying to understand or predict: to notice, for example, that the dark age that will follow our civilization will have to contend with nuclear and chemical pollution on top of the more ordinary consequences of decline and fall.

If you start from the assumption that the event you’re trying to predict is unlike anything that’s ever happened before, though, you’ve thrown out your chance of perceiving the common pattern. What happens instead, with motononous regularity, is that pop-culture narratives such as the sudden overnight collapse beloved of Hollywood screenplay writers smuggle themselves into the picture, and cement themselves in place with the help of confirmation bias. The result is the endless recycling of repeatedly failed predictions that plays so central a role in the collective imagination of our time, and has helped so many people blind themselves to the unwelcome future closing in on us.

Oil Limits and the Economy: One Story, Not Two

Another great article by Gail Tverberg:

Our Finite World

The two big stories of our day are

(1) Our economic problems: The inability of economies to grow as rapidly as they would like, add as many jobs as they would like, and raise the standards of living of citizens as much as they would like. Associated with this slow economic growth is a continued need for ultra-low interest rates to keep economies of the developed world from slipping back into recession.

(2) Our oil related-problems: One part of the story relates to too little, so-called “peak oil,” and the need for substitutes for oil. Another part of the story relates to too much carbon released by burning fossil fuels, including oil, leading to climate change.

While the press treats these issues as separate stories, they are in fact very closely connected, related to the fact that we are reaching limits in many different directions simultaneously. The economy is the…

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