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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.

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?

It’s Time To Rethink 911 | Press For Truth

It’s Time To Rethink 911 | Press For Truth.

March 01, 2014

This September the 11th 2014 will mark the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/01 and since that day the world has changed in ways that we can never have imagined. The NSA is spying on us, our police operate like militarized thugs and multiple wars are both ongoing and on the brink of breaking out in the middle east and this was all made possible because of the false flag operation that was 911. A campaign called “rethink 911″ was launched in an effort to educate the public about the events that transpired on that day with the goal of gaining support for a new investigation. The campaign has gained global attention and in an effort to continue raising awareness Dan Dicks of Press For Truth recently interviewed film and television actor Ed Asner about the use of false flag operations by the US government. Dan also spoke with the former Premier of British Columbia Bill Vander Zalm about the need for transparency in government. Scientist and nano-chemistry expert Niels Harrit also joins the conversation as well as Richard Gage, founder of Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth.

Support independent media by making a contribution:
Donate through Paypal

For more info on the Rethink911 campaign and for tour info visit Rethink911.org

Watch “The Toronto Hearings on 911″

Get “The Toronto Hearings on 911″ on DVD

Produced by Dan Dicks of Press For Truth “The Toronto Hearings on 911″ documents when in 2011, experts and scientists from around the world gathered in Toronto, Canada to present new and established evidence that questions the official story of 9/11. This evidence was presented to a distinguished panel of experts over a 4 day period.
Through their analysis and scientific investigations, they hope to spark a new investigation into the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Support Press For Truth and help us to continue by Making A Donation

We rely on you the viewer to help us continue to do this work. With your help I can continue to make videos and documentary films for youtube in an effort to raise awareness all over the world. Please support independent media by joining Press For Truth TV!

As a Press For Truth TV subscriber you’ll have full access to the site’s features and content including Video Blogs on current news from the PFT perspective and High Quality Downloads of all Press For Truth Films, Music and Special Reports! Subscribe to Press For Truth TV

You can also support Press For Truth and help us continue to do this work by donating or becoming a sponsor at pressfortruth.ca

It’s Time To Rethink 911 | Press For Truth

It’s Time To Rethink 911 | Press For Truth.

March 01, 2014

This September the 11th 2014 will mark the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/01 and since that day the world has changed in ways that we can never have imagined. The NSA is spying on us, our police operate like militarized thugs and multiple wars are both ongoing and on the brink of breaking out in the middle east and this was all made possible because of the false flag operation that was 911. A campaign called “rethink 911″ was launched in an effort to educate the public about the events that transpired on that day with the goal of gaining support for a new investigation. The campaign has gained global attention and in an effort to continue raising awareness Dan Dicks of Press For Truth recently interviewed film and television actor Ed Asner about the use of false flag operations by the US government. Dan also spoke with the former Premier of British Columbia Bill Vander Zalm about the need for transparency in government. Scientist and nano-chemistry expert Niels Harrit also joins the conversation as well as Richard Gage, founder of Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth.

Support independent media by making a contribution:
Donate through Paypal

For more info on the Rethink911 campaign and for tour info visit Rethink911.org

Watch “The Toronto Hearings on 911″

Get “The Toronto Hearings on 911″ on DVD

Produced by Dan Dicks of Press For Truth “The Toronto Hearings on 911″ documents when in 2011, experts and scientists from around the world gathered in Toronto, Canada to present new and established evidence that questions the official story of 9/11. This evidence was presented to a distinguished panel of experts over a 4 day period.
Through their analysis and scientific investigations, they hope to spark a new investigation into the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Support Press For Truth and help us to continue by Making A Donation

We rely on you the viewer to help us continue to do this work. With your help I can continue to make videos and documentary films for youtube in an effort to raise awareness all over the world. Please support independent media by joining Press For Truth TV!

As a Press For Truth TV subscriber you’ll have full access to the site’s features and content including Video Blogs on current news from the PFT perspective and High Quality Downloads of all Press For Truth Films, Music and Special Reports! Subscribe to Press For Truth TV

You can also support Press For Truth and help us continue to do this work by donating or becoming a sponsor at pressfortruth.ca

The risk of reporting US drone strikes – Features – Al Jazeera English

The risk of reporting US drone strikes – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Yemen researcher says he received a death threat after investigating deadly wedding-convoy attack.

 Last updated: 12 Feb 2014 14:17

A photo of alleged victims killed in a December 12, 2013 drone strike in central Yemen [Reprieve]
The disturbing phone call came after Baraa Shiban investigated a drone strike on a wedding party that killed 12 people in central Yemen in December. A clear message was delivered to the human rights researcher over the phone after a major news network reported the story based on his research.

“The caller refused to identify himself and threatened my life if I continued my investigation of the strike,” Shiban told Al Jazeera, noting he conducted similar studies of US drone operations in the past, but had never before received death threats.

Shiban works for the UK-based human rights group Reprieve and interviewed survivors two days after the attack. His investigation ascertained that 12 people were killed after four missiles were fired at the convoy. There were also 14 victims with severe wounds; some lost limbs, others their eyes.

Along with the eyewitness testimony, Shiban gained access to video and still images of the alleged victims of the drone strike. Photos of the aftermath of drone attacks – whether in the tribal regions of Pakistan, or in the deserts of Yemen – are rarely captured. Most occur in obscure regions with hostile terrain, making access difficult for journalists and activists.

I was in the front car and I heard a huge explosion. I went out to see what happened and suddenly another two missiles hit the place. Everyone in the car behind us got killed.

– Mohammed Abdullah al-Taisi,drone victim

 

On December 12, 2013 , about 60 people were traveling in a convoy to attend the wedding near the city of Radda, in Yemen’s central province of al-Bayda. At about 4:30pm, the drivers halted the vehicles when they heard an aircraft approach.

“I was in the front car and I heard a huge explosion,” recalled victim Mohammed Abdullah al-Taisi. “I went out to see what happened and suddenly another two missiles hit the place. Everyone in the car behind us got killed.”

Equipped with the evidence Shiban went to the media, and a day later he received the call threatening his life.

“Just because the people were in a convoy of trucks, they were assumed to be militants and the decision was made to target them,” he said. “The people who died were shepherds and farmers. There was clearly a wedding party.”

Fear and anger

Drones piloted by the CIA and the Pentagon have operated in Yemen since 2002, killing hundreds of people – mostly members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but also dozens of civilians.

Peter Schaapveld is psychologist who traveled to Yemen to study the programme’s effects. He told British members of parliament in March 2013 that the constant presence of drones in the skies was causing a “psychological emergency” in the country.

“What I saw in Yemen was deeply disturbing,” Schaapveld said . “Entire communities – including young children who are the next generation of Yemenis – are being traumatised and re-traumatised by drones. Not only is this having truly awful immediate effects, but the psychological damage done will outlast any counter programme and surely outweigh any possible benefits.”

Reports of the missile strike, on a seemingly innocent wedding party, have infuriated nearly every sphere of Yemeni society, including many of the country’s top politicians.

Family members of drone strike victim Aref al-Shafee [Abubakr al-Shamahi/Reprieve] 

“The fact that the Yemeni parliament has just passed a resolution banning drones in Yemeni airspace, and that the National Dialogue has criminalised the use of drones for extrajudicial killing, demonstrates that a national consensus has been reached that these brutal and unlawful attacks are unacceptable,” Shiban said.

Reprieve said the US government is now investigating the strike in Radda following Shiban’s work. The human rights group said the Defense Department was targeting Shawqi Ali Ahmed al-Badani , whom the White House accused of organising a bomb plot that led to 19 US embassies being closed last year.

‘US values and policy’

Caitlan Hayden, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, noted that Yemen’s government had stated the targets of the operation were “dangerous” senior al-Qaeda figures. She said she couldn’t comment on this specific attack.

“We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with US values and policy … And when we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly,” Hayden told Al Jazeera .

But one survivor of the December drone attack, Salam al-Taisi, insisted no one from the wedding party was involved in terrorism. “None of the victims had anything to do with al-Qaeda or any other group. They were all from the area and all were poor villagers,” he said.

The deaths in Baydah have more resonance considering President Barrack Obama’s announcement upholding the “highest standard” when conducting operations using unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013.

Yemen’s security forces have also scrutinised Shiban’s work on the US drone programme. But it’s not just the Yemeni police that have shown interest in him.

Baraa Shiban from human rights group Reprieve [Al Jazeera]

On September 23 last year, he arrived in the United Kingdom with the intention of speaking at a conference at Chatham House . But at Gatwick Airport he was stopped by police and questioned under Schedule 7 of the British government’s Terrorism Act 2000.

“I was asked about my investigation of the covert US drone attacks in Yemen. When I asked why the question was relevant, I was threatened with further detention,” Shiban said.

Drone-reporting dangers

Apparent attempts to suppress any kind of criticism of US covert operations are not new.

In Pakistan, an anti-drone campaigner set to testify before European parliaments has gone missing in the city of Rawalpindi. Kareem Khan , whose brother and teenage son were killed in a drone attack in December 2009, was picked up at his home by security forces in the early hours of February 5, his lawyer said. He hasn’t been heard from since.

Shiban said he is also well aware that the path he’s on now could lead to the same fate of Yemen-based journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye .

On December 17, 2009, the Yemeni military announced it had successfully destroyed an al-Qaeda camp in al-Majala in Abyan province. But after travelling to the town, Shaye discovered it wasn’t at all an operation carried out by his government, but in fact a US cruise missile strike. And he discovered the people who died weren’t al-Qaeda fighters but innocent civilians. Among the 41 people killed, more than two-thirds were women and children.

Shaye was arrested on August 6, 2010 by Yemeni security forces and charged that October with aiding al-Qaeda by recruiting new operatives for the group. By January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

International human rights groups condemned his trial as a sham , which couldn’t provide any credible evidence of his alleged al-Qaeda associations. Shaye was being punished for exposing a US covert operation that resulted in a massacre.

After being incarcerated for nearly three years, Shaye was pardoned in July 2013 but one of the conditions of his release is he must not leave the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for two years.

Asked about Shaye’s case, and the threats he’s received to his own life, Shiban said he’s determined to carry on highlighting the impact of drone strikes.

“This is an issue of vital importance to Yemen’s future, and I and other human rights activists will continue to defend the basic rights and democratic wishes of the Yemeni people,” he said.

The Greatest Myth Propagated About The FED: Central Bank Independence (Part 1) | New Economic Perspectives

The Greatest Myth Propagated About The FED: Central Bank Independence (Part 1) | New Economic Perspectives.

By L. Randall Wray

It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence—as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter. [1] While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. For a long time economists presumed those goals to be in conflict but in recent years Chairman Greenspan seemed to have successfully argued that pursuit of low inflation rather automatically supports sustainable growth with maximum feasible employment.

In any event, nothing is more sacrosanct than the supposed independence of the central bank from the treasury, with the economics profession as well as policymakers ready to defend the prohibition of central bank “financing” of budget deficits. As in many developed nations, this prohibition was written into US law from the founding of the Fed in 1913. In practice, the prohibition is easy to evade, as we found during WWII in the US when budget deficits ran up to a quarter of GDP. If a central bank stands ready to buy government bonds in the secondary market to peg an interest rate, then private banks will buy bonds in the new issue market and sell them to the central bank at a virtually guaranteed price. Since central bank purchases of bonds supply the reserves needed by banks to buy bonds, a virtuous circle is created so that the treasury faces no financing constraint. That is what the 1951 Accord was supposedly all about—ending the cheap source of US Treasury finance.

Since the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007 these matters have come to the fore in both the US and the European Monetary Union. In the US, discussion of “printing money” to finance burgeoning deficits was somewhat muted, in part because the Fed purportedly undertook Quantitative Easing to push banks to lend—not to provide the Treasury with cheap funding. But the impact has been the same as WWII-era finances: very low interest rates on government debt even as a large portion of the debt ended up on the books of the Fed, while bank reserves have grown to historic levels (the Fed also purchased and lent against private debt, adding to excess reserves). While hyperinflationists have been pointing to the fact that the Fed is essentially “printing money” (actually reserves) to finance the budget deficits, most other observers have endorsed the Fed’s notion that QE might allow it to “push on a string” by spurring private banks to lend—which is thought to be desirable and certainly better than “financing” budget deficits to allow government spending to grow the economy. Growth through fiscal austerity is the new motto as the Fed accumulates ever more federal government debt and suspect mortgage-backed securities.

The other case is in the EMU where the European Central Bank had long been presumed to be prohibited from buying debt of the member governments. By design, these governments were supposed to be disciplined by markets, to keep their deficits and debt within Maastricht criteria. Needless to say, things have not turned out quite as planned. The ECB’s balance sheet has blown up just as the Fed’s did—and there is no end in sight in Euroland even as the Fed has begun to taper. It would not be hyperbole to predict that the ECB will end up owning (or at least standing behind) most EMU government debt as it continues to expand its backstop.

It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.

First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?

Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?

Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?

While this two part piece will focus on the US and the Fed, the analysis is relevant to general discussions about central bank independence. We will limit our analysis to the questions surrounding what we mean by central bank independence. We leave to other analyses the questions surrounding the wisdom of granting independence to the Fed, democratic accountability, and potential problems. We will argue here that the Fed is independent only in a very narrow sense. We have argued elsewhere that the Fed’s crisis response during the global financial crisis does raise serious issues of transparency and accountability—issues that have not been resolved with the Dodd-Frank legislation.[2] Finally, it will become apparent that we do not believe that lack of central bank independence raises significant problems with inflation or insolvency of the sovereign government.

For the US case we will draw on an excellent study of the evolution of governance of the Fed by Bernard Shull, one of the foremost authorities of the history of the Fed.[3] As we will see, the dominant argument for independence throughout the Fed’s history has been that monetary policy should be set to promote the national interest. This requires that it should be free of political influence coming from Congress. Further, it was gradually accepted that even though the Federal Open Market Committee includes participation by regional Federal Reserve banks, the members of the FOMC are to put the national interest first. Shull shows that while governance issues remain unresolved, Congress has asserted its oversight rights, especially after economic or financial crises.

I’ll also include summaries of the arguments of two insiders—one from the Treasury and the other from the Fed—that also conclude that the case of the Fed’s independence is frequently overstated. The former Treasury official argues that at least within the Treasury there is no presumption that the Fed is operationally independent. The Fed official authored a comprehensive statement on the Fed’s independence, arguing that the Fed is a creature of Congress. More recently, Chairman Bernanke has said that “of course we’ll do whatever Congress tells us to do”:  if the Congress is not satisfied with the Fed’s actions, the Congress can always tell the Fed to behave differently.[4]

In the aftermath of the GFC, Congress has attempted to exert greater control with its Dodd-Frank legislation. The Fed handled most of the US policy response to the Great Recession (or, GFC). As we have documented, most of the rescue was behind closed doors and intended to remain secret. (See Felkerson 2012; and Wray 2012)[5]  Much of it at least stretched the law and perhaps went beyond the now famous section 13(3) that had been invoked for “unusual and exigent” circumstances for the first time since the Great Depression. Congress has demanded greater transparency and has tightened restrictions on the Fed’s future crisis response. Paradoxically, Dodd-Frank also increased the Fed’s authority and responsibility. However, in some sense this is “deja-vu” because Congressional reaction to the Fed’s poor response to the onset of the Great Depression was similarly paradoxical as Congress simultaneously asserted more control over the Fed while broadening the scope of the Fed’s mission.

INDEPENDENT OF WHAT?

Most references to central bank independence are little more than vague hand-waves. In the US, the Fed is a “creature of Congress”, established by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which has been modified a number of times. Elected officials play a role in selecting top Fed officials. And while the Fed is nominally owned by share-holding banks, and while the Fed’s budget is separate, profits above 6% on equity are returned to Treasury. Congress also has asserted its authority to mandate that the Fed release detailed information on its operations and budget—and there seems to be nothing but Congressional timidity to stop it from demanding more control over the Fed (indeed, Dodd-Frank sanctions many of the actions taken by the Fed during the GFC, now requiring prior approval by the President, the Treasury Secretary, and/or Congress for various interventions). Further, as we will see, the Fed’s operations are necessarily closely coordinated with the Treasury’s; the Fed, after all, functions as the Treasury’s bank. Finally, as everyone knows, Congress has provided a dual mandate to guide Fed policy although one could easily interpret Congressional will as consisting of four (at least some of which are related) mandates: high employment, low inflation, acceptable growth, and financial stability.

Above I have argued that the Fed is a creature of Congress. MacLaury has put the relationship this way:

Ultimately the [Federal Reserve] System is accountable to congress, not the executive branch, even though Reserve Board members and the chairman are president-appointed. The authority and delegated policy powers are subject to review by the congress not the president, the Treasury Department, nor by banks or other interests. (p. 4)

While many supporters and critics alike have stressed the Fed’s nominal ownership by member banks as evidence that it is somehow independent of government, the Fed’s Bruce MacLaury interprets the independence as follows[6]:

First, let’s be clear on what independence does not mean. It does not mean decisions and actions made without accountability. By law and by established procedures, the System is clearly accountable to congress—not only for its monetary policy actions, but also for its regulatory responsibilities and for services to banks and to the public. Nor does independence mean that monetary policy actions should be free from public discussion and criticism—by members of congress, by professional economists in and out of government, by financial, business, and community leaders, and by informed citizens. Nor does it mean that the Fed is independent of the government. Although closely interfaced with commercial banking, the Fed is clearly a public institution, functioning within a discipline of responsibility to the “public interest.” It has a degree of independence within the government—which is quite different from being independent of government. Thus, the Federal Reserve System is more appropriately thought of as being “insulated” from, rather than independent of, political—government and banking—special interest pressures. Through their 14-year terms and staggered appointments, for example, members of the Board of Governors are insulated from being dependent on or beholden to the current administration or party in power. In this and in other ways, then, the monetary process is insulated—but not isolated—from these influences. In a functional sense, the insulated structure enables monetary policy makers to look beyond short-term pressures and political expedients whenever the long-term goals of sustainable growth and stable prices may require “unpopular” policy actions. Monetary judgments must be able to weigh as objectively as possible the merit of short-term expedients against long-term consequences—in the on-going public interest.

We can take that as our starting point: the Fed is part of government–a public institution–but is insulated from day-to-day politics and other types of special interest pressures. Let’s explore this independence in more detail, beginning with an historical perspective.

Fed Governance: Historical Perspective

Shull[7] (2014) offers a detailed history of the evolution of Fed governance. He notes that the Fed is an independent government agency like the Federal Trade Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Each of these has substantial discretion in implementing laws through rules and regulations and in formulating policies. Most independent agencies have an Inspector General and are subject to Congressional oversight. The Fed is somewhat unusual in that it is self-financing and in that there is a widely held belief that if its formulation of monetary policy were not independent, the policy outcome would be worse. In other words, good monetary policy supposedly depends on independence (from Congress and the Administration).Thus, the Fed’s monetary policy is not subject to audit by the General Accountability Office—and courts have refused to hear suits that accuse the Fed of policy mistakes. In recent decades, the Administration has been reluctant even to criticize the Fed’s monetary policy. However, as we will see, that has not always been the case.

The movement to create a central bank strengthened after the Panic of 1907. Rival plans were put forward, which ranged from a bank-supported plan which would create a privately-owned central bank (like the Bank of England), to a proposal to house the US central bank within the Treasury. The Glass-Owen bill split the difference, with private ownership and a decentralized system, but with the Treasury Secretary and the Comptroller of the Currency sitting on the Board. The decentralized system was supposed to ensure “fair representation of the financial, industrial and commercial interests and geographic divisions of the country,” (quoted in Shull p. 4). The Board was to be “a distinctly nonpartisan organization and was to be wholly divorced from politics.” (ibid p. 5) According to Paul Warburg, governance was to be maintained by a “system of checks and counter-checks— a paralyzing system which gives powers with one hand and takes them away with the other.” (ibid) In other words, the idea was that by ensuring broad representation of interests, the Fed would be stymied by a “clash of interests” that would reduce the damage it might do; as Shull puts it, “The checks and balances thus constituted a form of internal governance.” (ibid p. 5) That of course sounds somewhat familiar as a typically American approach to governance.

When WWI came along, however, the Fed turned its attention to supporting the Treasury’s debt issue. In the inflationary period at the end of the war, the regional Feds raised discount rates sharply (up to 85%) and a deep retraction followed that led to deflation of farm prices. Congress revisited the governance issue as some critics wanted to force the Fed to seek Congressional approval in advance of future rate hikes. One of the Board members, Adolph Miller, understood the implication:

“The American people will never stand contraction if they know it can be helped. Least of all will they stand contraction if they think it is contraction at the instance, or with the consent of an institution like the Federal Reserve System….The Reserve System cannot ‘make’ the business situation but it can do an immense deal to make its extremes less pronounced and violent….Discount policy…should always address itself to the phase of the business cycle through which the country happens to be passing.” (quoted in Shull, p. 7)

As Shull argues, the governance by paralyzing checks and balances conflicted with the need to cooperate to use monetary policy to stabilize the economy. Congress tightened the reins on the Fed but also centralized decision-making at the Board in Washington. The GAO began to audit the Board and there were a number of Commissions and Committees that investigated new guidelines to control the Fed. However, the 1927 Pepper-McFadden Act replaced the Fed’s original 20 year charter with an indefinite charter, and a Congressional report at the time declared that the Fed had demonstrated its usefulness. In the end, Congressional anger dissipated and not much was done to constrain the Fed’s discretion.

Governance issues again came to the forefront during the Great Depression, with serious consideration given to government ownership of the Fed, to be housed in the Treasury. President Roosevelt (who seemed to have supported such a move) as well as many in Congress were concerned that the Fed was not sufficiently attune to the national interest. Title II of the Banking Act of 1935 was a compromise that preserved private ownership but moved to ensure the Board would be more responsive, focusing on the national interest. (Shull, p. 10)  As power was further centralized in Washington, the “checks-and-balances” approach to governance continued to fade.

As in WWI, WWII saw the Fed cooperating with Treasury, in the national interest to keep rates on national debt low. That ended in the famous Accord of 1951, restoring “independence” of the Fed to formulate monetary policy. However, policy was still to be undertaken in the national interest, with the Fed keeping rates very low until the mid 1960s; the Fed mainly operated in short-term Treasury bills so as to have minimum effects on other financial markets. Monetary policy remained on the backburner until the inflation-recession cycle of the early 1970s. In 1975, Congress decided to exert greater control, in House Resolution 113.

In the Federal Reserve Reform Act of 1977, the Senate insisted on the requirement that it confirm the President’s appointment of the Fed’s chairman and vice-chairman. In addition Congress required that Class B Reserve bank directors had to be “elected to represent the public”. (Shull p. 12) The 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins full Employment and Balanced Growth Act clarified the Fed’s mandates and required semi-annual reports to both the Senate and the House. Later, after Chairman Greenspan got caught in “white lies” provided to Chairman Gonzalez, the Fed was required to release its transcripts of FOMC meetings (albeit with a five year lag).[8] The Fed also voluntarily agreed to measures designed to increase transparency (including announcing its explicit interest rate target).

The final big changes to governance occurred after the GFC, when Dodd-Frank tightened limits on what the Fed can do in response to a crisis. This was a surprising turn of events, as Chairman Greenspan had become the darling of Congress and the media and his replacement, Chairman Bernanke, had declared the era of the New Moderation in which central bankers could do nothing wrong. However, in the aftermath of the crisis, many elected representatives as well as the media and the population at large blamed the Fed for the crisis and for bungling a response that made the downturn worse than it should have been. As we’ve argued elsewhere, even many of those directly involved agreed that the Fed’s crisis response “stunk” and that it should never be repeated.[9] The Dodd-Frank legislation was designed in part to ensure it would not happen again.

However, yet again, Congress actually extended Fed responsibility, to include authority over large, systemically important non-bank financial institutions. Still, the Act restricted application of Section 13(3) in future crises, and for some actions required approval from the Treasury. It also mandated increased transparency (including a review by the GAO of all the Fed’s emergency assistance after the GFC). Congress also created the Financial Stability Oversight Council that is chaired by the Treasury Secretary and includes heads of agencies involved in overlooking the financial sector—including the Fed. In that manner it diluted the Fed’s power somewhat. Exactly what difference all this will make for the response in the next crisis cannot be foreseen in advance.

Next time, in Part 2, we look at the Fed’s supposed independence from our elected representatives. We’ll see that that is a fabricated myth.

 


[1] Thorvald Moe examines the role of Marriner Eccles and the discussions and events that led up to the 1951 Accord. Eccles was a dominant figure in the transformation of the Fed from the relatively weak and decentralized institution that had been created in 1913 to the modern central bank we know now. Moe makes a strong case that the vision of Eccles was instrumental in that evolution; as we will see, modern theories of central banks, however, deviate sharply from the Eccles vision in quite illuminating ways. See: Thorvald Grung Moe “Marriner S. Eccles and the 1951 Treasury – Federal Reserve Accord: Lessons for Central Bank Independence” Working Paper No. 747, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College January 2013.

[2] See two annual reports of research conducted with the support of Ford Foundation Grant no. 1110-­‐0184, administered by the University of Missouri–Kansas City. See: L. Randall Wray, 2012. “Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crises,” Research Project Report, April 9.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/rpr_04_12_wray.pdf; and L. Randall Wray, 2013. “The Lender of Last Resort: A Critical Analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Unprecedented Intervention after 2007”, Research Project Report, April http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1739.

[3] Bernard Shull, who made a great presentation at the annual ASSA meetings in Philadelphia. His paper, “Financial crisis resolution and Federal Reserve governance: economic thought and political realities”, Jan 4 2014, is forthcoming as Levy Institute Working Paper.

[4] See his statement here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7XV3vS1hAM.

[5] See James A. Felkerson, 2012 “A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Crisis Response by Funding Facility and Recipient.” Public Policy Brief No. 123. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_123.pdf; and L. Randall Wray, 2012. “Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crises,” Research Project Report, April 9.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/rpr_04_12_wray.pdf.

[6] See Bruce K. MacLaury; “Perspectives on Federal Reserve Independence – A Changing Structure for Changing Times”;  Published January 1, 1977, The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Annual Report 1976, http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/pub_display.cfm?id=690, which examines Fed independence with respect to Congress, the Executive branch (including the Treasury), member banks, and within itself (ie, for example relations between the Board of Governors in Washington and the District banks). I will use several quotes from this comprehensive survey.

[7] Bernard Shull, “Financial crisis resolution and Federal Reserve governance: economic thought and political realities”, Jan 4 2014, forthcoming as Levy Institute Working Paper.

[8] See L. Randall Wray, “The Fed and the New Monetary Consensus: The Case for Rate Hikes, Part Two”, Public Policy Brief No. 80, December 2004, p. 14 for a discussion of this episode.

[9] See Wray 2013, the second report of this Ford Foundation-funded project, cited above.

After the Taper: The Fed’s Non-Plan Is Unchanged – Frank Hollenbeck – Mises Daily

After the Taper: The Fed’s Non-Plan Is Unchanged – Frank Hollenbeck – Mises Daily.

As an economist, it is getting more difficult to understand the logic underlying current monetary policy in the U.S. There are two main channels by which economists think monetary policy can influence growth and employment. The first is to lower interest rates to spur investment and consumption spending. The second is to induce inflation so real wages drop, spurring output and employment.

Since 2008, the central bank has reduced interest rates to almost zero with little to show for it. You can bring a horse to water in a trough, pond, or lake, but you cannot make him drink. Most of the added liquidity has found its way into excess reserves. Banks are not lending because they have few creditworthy customers who want to borrow. The household sector is still deleveraging and has less appetite for more debt, and the business sector is careful about making future investments in a financial and economic environment on unstable footing. Businesses are keenly aware of the malinvestments never cleaned up after the last bubble and of the price distortions of current monetary policy. Why would businesses stick their necks out if they suspect a painful adjustment is around the corner?

Since the first channel has failed, only the second channel remains. Economists are generally in agreement, however, that there is no long-run trade-off between inflation and unemployment. The Keynesians and monetarists believe that there may be a short-run trade-off. If people have adaptive expectations, (based on the recent past) then monetary policy that creates inflation will reduce unemployment by lowering a worker’s real wages. Of course, once a worker realizes he has been fooled, he will demand an increase in nominal wages to bring his real wages back up to previous levels. The gain in employment is only temporary. If, instead, people base their expectations rationally and are not fooled, the neo-classical position, there is no short- or long-run trade-offs between inflation and unemployment.

In a capitalist economy, relative prices play a crucial role in sending information to producers about what society wants. When one price goes up and another goes down, these are signals that tell producers to make more of the first good and less of the second. It is a complex system of signals with price changes reflecting the urgency of the needs within the reality of the law of scarcity. The most important aspect of a price system is the information it conveys to guide production.

Inflation causes an “information extraction” problem. When all prices are going up by different degrees, it is very difficult for an entrepreneur to distinguish between a relative and an absolute price change. Is a rising price a reflection of greater demand or inflationary pressure? That is, does it reflect a society’s changing needs or simply reflects a changed measuring stick (i.e., the value of money)? The same information extraction problem holds true with the prices of resources and labor. We have different labor markets with a wage gradient established along the production process. The printing of money interferes with this wage gradient and the information it conveys about the right proportion of capital and consumption goods to produce. Overall employment may initially improve but the gain is not worth the cost from the adjustment that must occur once the printing stops.

Looking at historical evidence, inflation leads to higher, not lower, unemployment. This should not be surprising. Inflation is like a wrench thrown into the workings of a capitalist system.

If economists agree that there is no long-term trade-off between inflation and unemployment, and the current Fed strategy to lower interest rates has failed miserably to boost growth, then we must ask, why is the Fed, even after this week’s taper, in effect printing $75 billion a month? It’s likely the goal is to induce inflation for a short-term gain in employment. Things are no better if the Fed’s strategy is to raise asset prices to induce an imaginary wealth effect. Yet multiple bubbles may pop before any wealth effect takes place. The Fed should not be playing the economy as a stake in a poker game.

Through multiple bubbles, Alan Greenspan’s monetary policy was responsible for massive human suffering worldwide. Yet Greenspan is living high on the hog with a comfy government pension, spending his spare time penning op-ed articles and dispensing his expert advice on the lecture circuit. He informs us that he was only human and that no one saw the bubble coming. This is less than ingenuous. If you play with fire, and you burn down the forest, it is criminal to say “I did not realize that playing with matches was dangerous.” The sad situation is that we recently replaced him with even bigger arsonists!

One can be certain that interest rates will shoot up once inflation picks up. Since most of the U.S. debt is short term, it is going to be very difficult to inflate prices to reduce the real value of the debt. How will the U.S. government react if it has to refinance at interest rates of 12 percent or more, like in 1981? Yellen is no Volker; will she be able to tame the inflation beast as Volcker did? The independent German central bank was powerless to stop the German government from using the printing presses during 1921-23.

Napoleon and Hitler, both responsible for millions of deaths, rode to power on a wave of discontent that followed periods of excessive monetary printing. Why are we taking such risks?

 

» Nazi Counterfeiters and the Fed Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!

» Nazi Counterfeiters and the Fed Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!.

What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940's and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940′s and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

During the Second Word War, Germany devised a secret plan to undermine the British economy by flooding the country with counterfeit Bank of England notes.

Codenamed Operation Bernhard, in recognition of its mastermind, SS Major Bernhard Krüger, the plan involved a team of 142 counterfeiters, drawn primarily from the inmate populations at Sachsenhausan and Auschwitz concentration camps. Beginning in 1942, the dragooned engravers and artists worked feverishly, forging huge quantities of £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes. By the time of Germany’s surrender in May of 1945, the operation had produced 8,965,080 banknotes worth a total value of £134,610,810, an amount exceeding all the reserves in the Bank of England’s vaults.

The original plan called for the dropping of the forged notes from aircraft flying over Great Britain in the expectation that they would be picked up and eagerly circulated but that part of the scheme was never put into effect. By 1943, the Luftwaffe lacked the capacity to deliver the “economic weapon” in sufficient quantities and the operation was taken over by SS foreign intelligence agents who laundered the counterfeit currency, using it to finance their own espionage activities and pay for strategic imports.

Although Operation Bernhard failed to meet its primary objective (the collapse of the British wartime economy), it was successful in flooding the European black markets with counterfeit pounds, thus undermining confidence in Britain’s currency abroad, and causing its value to plummet.

The Nazi plot may have been the most ambitious counterfeiting racket in history but it pales in comparison to the recent exploits of the world’s central banks, especially those of the Federal Reserve.

The Fed is currently creating, ex nihlio, more than a trillion dollars a year and using the funny money to buy U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities and then taking them out of circulation. These purchases have propped up the bond market and kept banks solvent. But they have also caused the Fed’s balance sheet to quadruple, growing from just under $1 trillion in 2008 to nearly $4 trillion today.

And there appears to be no end in sight to the reckless money creation. Janet Yellen, a “monetary policy dove” by all accounts, is about to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next head of the Federal Reserve. Were Messrs. Bernanke and Greenspan “monetary policy hawks?”

Now if a Nazi plot to flood Great Britain with counterfeit currency was a considered a serious threat to that nation’s economy, what are we to make of our own central bank’s policies? What is the fundamental difference between the SS pumping “liquidity” into the British economy via black markets in the 1940′s and the Federal Reserve pumping “liquidity” into the US economy today?

The answer, of course, is there really is no difference. Economic law applies regardless of political circumstances. If you print money faster than the rate of production, you will have more money chasing fewer goods and sooner or later you will have price inflation. It really is just that simple.

An important distinction, however, between the Nazi counterfeiting scheme and the Fed’s current monetary policy is that the US dollar is still the dominant international reserve currency. This “exorbitant privilege” enables US monetary authorities to engage in periodic devaluations without being immediately confronted with a balance of payments crisis or domestic price inflation.

Right now the Fed’s inflationary policies have yet to show up in the Consumer Price Index though there are those who claim the rate of price inflation has been purposely understated by the US government. And indeed consumer prices have gone up in the last five years.

It should also be taken into consideration that the consequences of currency devaluation can manifest themselves in ways other than overt sticker shock. For instance, producers anticipating consumer resistance to price inflation can reduce the quality or quantity of their goods rather than raise prices. This is happening today as many products are now being packaged in smaller amounts yet are being sold at the same price.

Moreover, when you’re measuring price inflation, your baseline is crucial to your analysis. Absent intervention by the US government and the Fed, the Crash of 2008 would have precipitated widespread deflation. This did not happen as the US Treasury and central bank pumped in trillions of new dollars to arrest the panic. The new money has created relative “price stability” in the past few years but this itself is evidence of inflation because otherwise prices would have fallen.

And we can look at bond prices as evidence of inflation. The bond market is an enormous bubble that has been intentionally created by the Fed in order to forestall the inevitable reckoning for decades of overspending by the Congress.

That said, the dreaded hyperinflation that many predicted would happen has yet to occur. Why?

It appears the inflationary deluge is being held back by the Fed’s policy of paying banks not to lend money. Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff elaborated on this very point in Forbes last September. He wrote:

But why haven’t prices started rising already if there is so much money floating around? This year’s inflation rate is running at just 1.5 percent. There are three answers.

First, three quarters of the newly created money hasn’t made its way into the blood stream of the economy – into M1 – the money supply held by the public. Instead, the Fed is paying the banks interest not to lend out the money, but to hold it within the Fed in what are called excess reserves.

Since 2007, the Monetary Base – the amount of money the Fed’s printed – has risen by $2.7 trillion and excess reserves have risen by $2.1 trillion. Normally excess reserves would be close to zero. Hence, the banks are sitting on $2.1 trillion they can lend to the private sector at a moment’s notice. i.e., we’re looking at an gi-normous reservoir filling up with trillions of dollars whose dam can break at any time. Once interest rates rise, these excess reserves will be lent out.

But, and this is point two, other things aren’t equal. As interest rates and prices take off, money will become a hot potato. i.e., its velocity will rise. Having money move more rapidly through the economy – having faster money – is like having more money. Today, money has the slows; its velocity – the ratio GDP to M1 — is 6.6. Everybody’s happy to hold it because they aren’t losing much or any interest. But back in 2007, M1 was a warm potato with a velocity of 10.4.

If banks fully lend out their reserves and the velocity of money returns to 10.4, we’ll have enough M1, measured in effective units (adjusted for speed of circulation), to support a nominal GDP that’s 3.5 times larger than is now the case. I.e., we’ll have the wherewithal for almost a quadrupling of prices. But were prices to start moving rapidly higher, M1 would switch from being a warm to a hot potato. i.e., velocity would rise above 10.4, leading to yet faster money and higher inflation.

So, if commercial banks began lending at a rate resembling the historical norm, we would soon be experiencing hyperinflation. That is hardly a comforting thought. I suppose the only saving grace at that point would be in an economy already laden with massive debt, there might be very little demand for more credit and thus the money multiplier effect may not kick-in, at least not with the vengeance foreseen by Mr. Kotlikoff.

The Fed’s massive intervention into the market has been defended by the usual Keynesian suspects as a necessary measure to spur economic recovery. And yes, the Fed’s overheated printing presses have fueled a stock market boom. Unfortunately, this latest bubble has not lifted the real economy which remains in the doldrums. Private sector investment remains low and unemployment high.

The problem with this situation is the moment the Fed takes away the easy money, the market will collapse. Indeed, we have reached a point where just the suggestion of the Fed “tapering off” sends financial markets into a panic.

So the Fed has painted itself, and the entire U.S economy, into a corner. There is no way the Fed can stop creating money and liquidate its bloated balance sheet without reaping a deflationary whirlwind. And with an economy addicted to perennial trillion-dollar budget deficits and consumer debt, the political will to stomach such a painful yet necessary correction is not likely to be manifested anytime soon.

Vladimir Lenin is reported to have said, “the best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.” He was right. So why is the Fed following the advice of a deceased communist revolutionary?

No, I don’t think it is because the Federal Reserve Board has been infiltrated by communist moles, or Nazi agents for that matter. Although it is difficult to imagine commie saboteurs doing more damage to the U.S. economy than the monetary commissars now in charge at the Eccles building.

Perhaps the famed economist and alleged Fabian socialist John Maynard Keynes provided the answer when he wrote:

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

That ratio has probably improved somewhat lately. A greater portion of the public appears to be catching on to the Fed’s monetary sleights of hand. The increasing demand for physical gold and silver as well as the various state initiatives to re-monetize those precious metals are auspicious signs of such an awakening.

 

Hypocrisy as a Weapon-Washington’s Blog

Washington’s Blog. (source)

Hypocrisy as a Weapon

U.S. leaders have long:

  • Labeled indiscriminate killing of civilians as terrorism.  Yet the American military  indiscriminately kills innocent civilians (and see this),  calling it “carefully targeted strikes”.   For example, when Al Qaeda, Syrians or others target people attending funerals of those killed – or those attempting to rescue people who have been injured by – previous attacks, we rightfully label it terrorism.  But the U.S. government does exactly the same thing (more), pretending that it is all okay
  • Scolded tyrants who launch aggressive wars to grab power or plunder resources. But we ourselves have launched a series of wars for oil (and here) and gas

Can you spot a pattern of hypocrisy?

Indeed, the worse the acts by officials, the more they say we it must be covered up … for “the good of the country”.

For example, Elizabeth Goitein – co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice – writes:

The government has begun to advance bold new justifications for classifying information that threaten to erode the principled limits that have existed — in theory, if not always in practice — for decades. The cost of these efforts, if they remain unchecked, may be the American public’s ability to hold its government accountable.

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The government acknowledged that it possessed mug shots, videos depicting forcible extractions of al-Qahtani from his cell and videos documenting various euphemistically termed “intelligence debriefings of al-Qahtani.” It argued that all of these images were properly classified and withheld from the public — but not because they would reveal sensitive intelligence methods, the traditional justification for classifying such information. The government did not stake its case on this time-tested argument perhaps because the details of al-Qahtani’s interrogations have been officially disclosed through agency reports and congressional hearings. Instead, the government argued that the images could be shielded from disclosure because the Taliban and associated forces have previously used photos of U.S. forces “interacting with detainees” to garner support for attacks against those forces. Even more broadly, the government asserted that disclosure could aid in the “recruitment and financing of extremists and insurgent groups.”

***

The government’s argument echoed a similar claim it made in a lawsuit earlier this year over a FOIA request for postmortem photographs of Osama bin Laden. A CIA official attested that these images could “aid the production of anti-American propaganda,” noting that images of abuse at Abu Ghraib had been “very effective” in helping Al-Qaeda to recruit supporters and raise funds. The appeals court did not address this argument, however, resting its decision on the narrower ground that these particular images were likely to incite immediate violence.

The judge in al-Qahtani’s case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because “it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani … to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists.” When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that “it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government’s intelligence agencies.” In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones.

This approach is alarming in part because it has no limiting principle. The reasons why people choose to align themselves against the United States — or any other country — are nearly as numerous and varied as the people themselves. Our support for Israel is considered a basis for enmity by some. May the government classify the aid we provide to other nations? May it classify our trade policies on the basis that they may breed resentment among the populations of some countries, thus laying the groundwork for future hostile relations? May it classify our history of involvement in armed conflicts across the globe because that history may function as “anti-American propaganda” in some quarters?

Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government’s conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad. Indeed, the judge in the al-Qahtani FOIA case noted that “the written record of (al-Qahtani’s) torture may make it all the more likely that enemy forces would use al-Qahtani’s image against the United States” — citing this fact as a reason to uphold classification.

Using the impropriety of the government’s actions as a justification for secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. To prevent this very outcome, the executive orderthat governs classification forbids classifying a document to “conceal violations of law” or to “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.” However, a federal judge in 2008 interpreted this provision to allow classification of information revealing misconduct if there is a valid security reason for the nondisclosure. Together, this ruling and the judge’s opinion in the al-Qahtani FOIA case eviscerate the executive order’s prohibition: The government can always argue that it classified evidence of wrongdoing because the information could be used as “anti-American propaganda” by our adversaries.

Human rights advocates cannot rely on al-Qahtani to tell us what the photos and videos would reveal. The government asserts that his own knowledge of what occurred at Guantánamo — knowledge he gained, not through privileged access to government documents but through his personal experience — is a state secret. The words that Guantánamo detainees speak, once transcribed by their attorneys, are “presumptively classified,” and the government determines which of those words, if any, may be released. Legally, the government may classify only information that is “owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government.” Because the detainees are under the government’s control, so, apparently, are the contents of their memory.

That’s why high-level CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was prosecuted him for espionage after he blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture.*

Obviously, the government wants to stop whistleblowers because they interfere with the government’s ability to act in an unaccountable manner. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

It should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration – including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush – to plug all leaks. It’s because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

But whistleblowers also interfere with the government’s ability to get away with hypocrisy.  As two political science professors from George Washington University (Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore) show, the government is so hell-bent to punish Manning and Snowden because their leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a weapon:

The U.S. establishment has often struggled to explain exactly why these leakers [Manning, Snowden, etc.] pose such an enormous threat.

***

The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with itTheir danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

***

As the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches. Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power — its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions — yet few Americans appreciate its role.

***

American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one. This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning.

***

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel’s nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India’s right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there’s the “war on terror”: Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

***

Manning’s and Snowden’s leaks mark the beginning of a new era in which the U.S. government can no longer count on keeping its secret behavior secret. Hundreds of thousands of Americans today have access to classified documents that would embarrass the country if they were publicly circulated. As the recent revelations show, in the age of the cell-phone camera and the flash drive, even the most draconian laws and reprisals will not prevent this information from leaking out. As a result, Washington faces what can be described as an accelerating hypocrisy collapse — a dramatic narrowing of the country’s room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interest. The U.S. government, its friends, and its foes can no longer plausibly deny the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and will have to address it head-on.

***

The era of easy hypocrisy is over.

Professors Farrell and Finnemore note that the government has several options for dealing with ongoing leaks.  They conclude that the best would be for the government to actually do what it says.

What a novel idea …

* Note: That may be why Guantanamo is really being kept open, and even prisoners that the U.S. government admits are innocent are still being blocked from release: to cover up the widespread torture by keeping the evidence – the prisoners themselves – in a dungeon away from the light of day.

 

 

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