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Guest Post: Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia And U.S. On Diverging Societal Paths | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia And U.S. On Diverging Societal Paths | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by L. Todd Wood, a former special operations helicopter pilot and bond trader.  


Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia and U.S. on Diverging Societal Paths

As the State of the Union address highlighted, both the Russia Federation and the United States have leaders that lean toward various degrees of autocratic government to achieve their agendas.  President Putin rules with an iron fist and treats the legislative branch as an afterthought to use as needed but otherwise ignores.  President Obama declares he will use executive action to get what he wants and quietly uses government agencies to intimidate and stifle his opposition in flagrant abuses of power.  Putin has dismantled the Russian free press and imprisoned vocal opponents.  The majority of the American press does Obama’s bidding for him while the administration puts movie makers in jail.

Underneath the tyrannical policies of the two Presidents, American and Russian society are diverging.  First let’s look at welfare – it really doesn’t exist in Russia.  If you’re a single mother raising your child alone, the state will pay you less than $50 a month.  Unemployment insurance is also miniscule.  The minimum wage is around $200 a month.  I recently asked a Russian friend what they would receive if they lost their job.  Her answer was, “It’s my problem, why should the government pay?”  Health care is free but of very low quality.  Russians with money typically choose private care and buy their own private health insurance.

In the United States, we are seeing an obscene explosion of the nanny-state.  Obamacare has been exposed as a huge wealth redistribution scheme.  The CBO states that the ACA is a disincentive to work.  Disability payments are skyrocketing.  The number of Americans receiving food stamps has doubled and is spiraling out of control.  Welfare work requirements have been weakened.  The left continuously pushes to add more immigrants to the government dole and refuses to enforce current immigration law.

The difference in the tax code between the two countries is also striking.  If you live in New York, the combined government tax bite is above sixty percent.  It is a safe bet that any Democratic state government will continue to try and raise taxes.  Obama raised rates on the top earners in America and would boost them across the board if he could.  In Russia, the individual tax rate is a flat thirteen percent.  There is an eighteen percent VAT and the corporate rate is twenty-four percent.  If Russia could remove her corrupt barriers to entry, her economy would explode higher.

The difference between the two nations when approaching geopolitical challenges cannot be more extreme.  The United States has shown a willingness to abandon long standing allies time and time again on the global chessboard.  Whether it be Israel, Poland, or Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has shrank from global leadership and left a gigantic vacuum for President Putin to happily fill.  Russia has shown a willingness to ignore Western political correctness and stand up for Russian long-term interests.  One only has to look to the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian situation, or the Snowden embarrassment to see evidence of Putin schooling the American government.  The American position seems to consist of avoiding conflict and appeasing adversaries rather than standing up for historical American values, our allies, and our way of life.

One of the most interesting differences that has been inconveniently obvious in the international press is the Russian refusal to embrace the religion of global warming.  While the American government strives to shut down energy economic engines of power, Russia uses energy to achieve its national goals.  Putin has been quoted as describing the climate change alarmist agenda as a marketing scheme.  Putin has not bought into the madness of crowds to the benefit of Russia.

Perhaps the most curious cavern between the United States and Russia is their approach to religion.  The church was effectively shut down during the Soviet experiment.  However, in the last few decades, the Russian Orthodox Church has roared back to favor in Russian government opinion.  President Putin has even felt emboldened enough to accuse the West of being morally decadent.  The Democratic Party in the United States has largely morphed into an atheistic, anything goes, hedonist entity.  One only has to look at the refusal of the Obama administration to enforce marijuana laws in America to find evidence of this fact.

I recently had a conversation with a young urban professional in Moscow.  Their comment to me was that most young Russians were embarrassed of the communist revolution in Russia.  “They killed our best people,” this person commented.  I find it curious that the Rolling Stone recently published an article extolling the benefits of the teachings of Karl Marx and echoing the mindset of many of the current millennial generation in America.  When the youth of American are yearning for communism, I fear America must relearn the very harsh lessons of the past.  If Russia can ever deal with the specter of corruption, her society may leap to the future.

Guest Post: Running Away From Reality | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Running Away From Reality | Zero Hedge.

From Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo, published originally in Expansion

View from Spain: Running away from reality (pdf)

In a society that’s incessantly pulling all sorts of rights out of its hat, the right to not suffer is the father of them all. We feel entitled to keep our jobs, our health, our home and our leisure, demanding in fact to be carefree. We don’t want our lifestyle to depend on how hard we work or how much we save, and neither do we want our wrong decisions to have any consequences. In our delirium, we feel we have the right to know the future or even to decide when life should start (that of others, of course) and also when death should come (usually that of others as well). In brief, we want the security that we will be able to avoid pain. The problem is that, in life, pain is as undesirable as it is inevitable, and security, in the words of Helen Keller, is “a superstition that does not exist in nature”. However, man persists in his chimerical search for the security that will keep him free from suffering. Citizens demand that from their ruling classes, who promise ever more extravagant rights and certainties, constantly fleeing reality and truth. And in this hysterical, unbridled race to reach an evanescent security, liberty is thrown into the dust like a bothersome burden.

The free man must be responsible for his behavior without being able to blame anyone else when things go wrong. He must live in discomfort and uncertainty and accept the authorship of all his decisions. This is hard. That’s why as soon as the sweet illusion of freedom gives way for the bitter taste of responsibility and effort which that very freedom bears with it, man revolts against the latter. Some 3500 years ago, the Jewish people, having been oppressed for generations by slavery, was freed by Moses, who took them out of Egypt in order to lead them to the Promised Land. But just a few short days after their last minute’s escape from Pharaoh’s claws in the Red Sea, as the harshness of the desert started to put a dent in their spirit, the Jews forgot the humiliations, whippings, hardships and indignity of their slavery, cursed their freedom and blamed their liberator for freeing them, to the extent that Moses was nearly stoned: “Why did we not die at Yahweh’s hand in Egypt, where we used to sit round the flesh pots and could eat to our heart’s content!”. The security of a hot meal and a loaf of bread seemed worth more than the recently recovered freedom.

It goes without saying that throughout History all power seekers and power holders have taken good note of this story. They have come to realize that all they need to have the people surrender their liberty is to promise them security: a certainty – liberty – in exchange for a promise – security; an extremely valuable good in exchange for a chimera. And over and over again, the people have fallen into the same trap.

Today, under the disguise of a promise of physical security, governments treat each of us as if we were suspected criminals and not free citizens with rights: they record our conversations, intercept our mails, take our fingerprints and as many pictures as they deem necessary, do body searches and leave us half naked when we travel as if it were business as usual, and ruthlessly hunt down as traitors those who uncover these practices.

As far as economic security is concerned, totalitarian communism was an extreme of this barter: the people lost their liberty and never found any security, except for the certainty of being poor under a merciless tyranny. The fraudulent Welfare State proposed something similar (do you believe that the wording of Social “Security” is casual?): it promised a paradise of “free” pensions, healthcare and education in exchange for giving up our freedom to save (thus relieving us off the uncomfortable responsibility of doing so). We surrendered our savings to the politicians, those incurable squanderers, well known for anything but respecting either their word or other people’s money! And now that, even after burying us under a mountain of taxes and perpetual debts, public money is scarce and nearing extinction, where is the promised security to be found? We must understand once and forever more that security is not only liberty’s enemy, but an impediment to prosperity. In fact, security and prosperity are antonyms.

The 2008 financial crisis was mostly caused by politicians and central bankers wanting to avoid the suffering caused by economic cycles. Due to the irritating fact that pained voters tend not to reelect incumbent governments, what better promise could they make than that of trying to end recessions and live in a plateau of permanent prosperity? We still believe the charlatans who, in politics or in central banking, assure us that they can get rid of the uncertainty that terrifies us so much. We long for a control that simply does not exist, and these are the consequences: perversely, the chimeric search for security brings much more suffering than what it pretended to avoid in the first place.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII prophetically forewarned us in his wise Encyclical Rerum Novarum about the evils that are now upon us: “To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently – who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment – they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present”.

We have to accept insecurity and pain as something inherent to human nature and promptly mistrust anyone promising the opposite, in the conviction that that promise only seeks to fool the unsuspecting. An economic and political system focused on avoiding the inevitable, promising an inexistent security, is due to fail and headed for poverty. That’s why we should make peace with the reality of uncertainty and suffering and not try to escape from both. Only from the deep acceptance of these realities, will the trembling, fragile ember of hope that has always raised the human being up from his falls catch fire again. The history of man is the successful story of a flexible adaptation to an ever changing, ever insecure environment. As a country, we should look suffering in the eye, without fear, and dedicate all our energies to adapting to the new reality instead of continuously running away from it.

H1N1 flu surge in B.C. Lower Mainland lands people in ICUs – British Columbia – CBC News

H1N1 flu surge in B.C. Lower Mainland lands people in ICUs – British Columbia – CBC News.

Fraser Health says an outbreak of H1N1 flu has sent over a dozen people into intensive care in Lower Mainland hospitals. Officials say that H1N1 flu vaccines are effective but previous vaccinations against H1N1, which many people sought in 2009, may not help anymore due to mutations in the virus.Fraser Health says an outbreak of H1N1 flu has sent over a dozen people into intensive care in Lower Mainland hospitals. Officials say that H1N1 flu vaccines are effective but previous vaccinations against H1N1, which many people sought in 2009, may not help anymore due to mutations in the virus. (Chuck Stoody/The Canadian Press)

 

More than a dozen patients are in intensive care, some on ventilators, because of the H1N1 flu virus, according to the chief medical officer for a B.C. Lower Mainland health authority.

Dr. Paul Van Buynder, with Fraser Health, said Friday that 15 patients, many of them otherwise healthy, young people, were recently admitted to hospitals in the region.

“It is a lot for us at this particular time, especially because there is not a lot of circulating disease in the community at this point, and so we’re worried that this has happened to so many people so quickly,” he said.

He says the ages of the patients turning up with H1N1 flu span the spectrum, and include those in their 30s. He also said at least one of the patients is pregnant, and also that one person may have died from this flu strain.

“I have one person who hasn’t been confirmed, but I’m pretty sure did pass away from this,” Van Buynder told CBC News.

Van Buynder said medical officials are seeing small pockets of H1N1 breaking out across the region, in a pattern mirroring the flu’s spread in Alberta, Ontario and Texas.

Alberta’s Health Minister Fred Horne says there have been 965 lab-confirmed cases, another 251 people have been hospitalized due to influenza and five people have died so far this flu season.

The H1N1 flu outbreak of 2009, which the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, prompted mass immunizations across Canada.

Van Buynder said anyone visiting a hospital or health facility in B.C. will either need to wear a mask, or be vaccinated against the flu — and he said that previous vaccinations against H1N1 may not help anymore due to mutations in the virus.

“Certainly we don’t think everybody should be reassured by previously being vaccinated, and we’d like them to make sure that they go out and get it again,” he said.

Fraser Health serves more than 1.6 million people from Burnaby to Hope, to Boston Bar.

Greece Has One Month To Plug A €1.2 Billion Healthcare Budget Hole | Zero Hedge

Greece Has One Month To Plug A €1.2 Billion Healthcare Budget Hole | Zero Hedge.

 

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