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New Research Shows Promise In Cannabis Fighting Dementia
The Weed Blog (blog)
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. The most promising research for Alzheimer's disease? Marijuana, but sadly, cannabis is illegal in most places. EVERYONE SUFFERS BECAUSE OF DEMENTIA (WELL ALMOST EVERYONE).
Soccer champion Brandi Chastain delivers crucial assist in son's fight against Crohn's
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First West Nile case reported in Harris County
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Source: ABN AMRO Website
One of the largest Dutch banks, ABN Amro, has now warned its business clients a negative interest rate on the business accounts is in the works. The bank is currently updating its terms and conditions and will more specifically include its right to reduce the interest rates below zero as the bank wants to ‘protect itself’ against the continuously changing market circumstances.
Even though this is a very interesting development, this isn’t really completely unexpected as the company’s CEO has released some ‘test balloons’ in the past. But this where it gets really interesting. ABN AMRO still is a government-owned and government-run bank. The bank’s CEO , Gerrit Zalm, wasn’t someone from the financial sector, but used to be the Netherlands longest-serving Minister of Finance being in office for no less than 12 years (or three complete terms).
Not only is it intriguing to see the bank that is being led by a bureaucrat rather than a banker being the first one to formally start talking about charging customers to park their money at the bank, it’s also very interesting to see it’s a government-owned bank taking the first step.
Source: quarterly report
Indeed, ABN AMRO was nationalized during the Global Financial Crisis in the previous decade and after floating less than a quarter of the share capital, a government-owned investment vehicle still owns approximately 77% of the bank’s shares (see the previous image) and thus stands to benefit from trying to get as much cash as possible out of the pockets of its clients.
But perhaps there’s a bigger picture here.
In our column last week, we expressed our surprise to see ABN AMRO had suddenly become very bullish on the previous metals after having bearish for the past several years. It does look a little bit like a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ scenario. The gold market didn’t crack and the gold price consistently traded above the $1000/oz mark and ABN AMRO’s target price of $800 per ounce was definitely out of reach.
On top of that, people might have forgotten (but we haven’t) that ABN AMRO was –as far as we know- the first bank which defaulted on its obligation to deliver physical gold to some of its clients. Even those clients had the right to redeem a certain investment in physical gold, ABN didn’t honor this commitment and offered those clients a payout in cash rather than delivering the metal which it originally promised to do.
So we have a bank controlled by a government that wanted to repatriate its gold, which is now proposing to reduce the interest rate below zero? We don’t believe in coincidences.
Secular Investor offers a fresh look at investing. We analyze long lasting cycles, coupled with a collection of strategic investments and concrete tips for different types of assets. The methods and strategies are transformed into the Gold & Silver Report and the Commodity Report.
An interesting observation in the weekly note by Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management, who points out something we have touched upon recently: while stocks continue to soar in the face of one crisis after another, propelled by an endless amount of de novo liquidity...
... and yet with crises not "big enough" to push the world to the next - and final - level in monetary policy just yet, namely helicopter money, what is an investor to do next if, suddenly, there is no further crisis?
This is precisely what we hinted at a month ago in "Wanted: Policy Panic" - Why The Biggest Investors Are Praying For A Market Crash"
It is also the key topic discussed by Eric Peters in the excerpt below.
“This uprising is a gift from God,” exclaimed the autocrat, ebullient. “They’ll pay a heavy price,” continued Erdogan, unleashing his purge of political opponents. 10,000 were arrested, 60,000 civil servants dismissed, hundreds of schools closed. “It looks as if something had been prepared, the lists are available, which indicates they were to be used at a certain stage,” said EU commissioner Hahn, overseeing Turkey’s EU bid, referring to the purge, “It’s exactly what we feared.” But Erdogan is simply doing what every opportunistic leader does; not letting a good crisis go to waste.
“There’s no need and no possibility for helicopter money,” said Kuroda in a BBC program (the quote dated June 17), explaining that existing monetary tools are sufficiently powerful. The BOJ leader faces a dilemma. How to introduce a new and more radical policy in the absence of acute crisis? You see, as excited as bearded Bernanke is by the prospect of freshly-printed Yen raining like confetti, the economy isn’t sufficiently bad for grey-haired voters to willingly risk runaway inflation, destitution.
“We are ready, willing, and able to act if needed,” stated Draghi at the ECB press conference, where he had done nothing new. With stock and bond markets rallying in the aftermath of Brexit, and the Euro stable, there’s no European crisis to justify more radical action. Just an uneasy feeling.
Because no one knows whether the accumulation of all this extraordinary stimulus is solving our problems, or simply staving off a crisis that will reappear soon after we stop. And with so much of this new money leaking to America and emerging markets, it’s not just a question for Europe and Japan.
Which leaves investors facing a dilemma all their own: In a world awash in stimulus, how should you invest in the absence of a crisis?
One simple answer: keep creating lots and lots of small crises, which push the market higher, dislocating ever more from reality, until the inevitable "drawdown" (in Goldman's words), which in turn will be sufficient to prompt just the "policy panic" to unleash even more stimulus, and send global risk assets soaring to never before seen levels. Rinse, and repeat. Just pray that in the meantime the natives don't get too restless...
By Chris at www.CapitalistExploits.at
About 3 months ago I decluttered. Not the horrible kitchen cupboard which has everything from screw drivers to toothpicks, sea shells, and a hairbrush the dog chewed. I decluttered mentally. For the uninitiated or curious, you can read the background here.
The results so far have shocked me.
My productivity has quite literally blown through the roof.
For a start. Focus! When I shared "Wild" with you I was very focused.
And so, as part of creating better habits, I'm disengaging with people who waste my time and I strongly recommend it. It's been blissfully liberating.
In a world littered with information, it’s imperative to be discerning. You can't cover everything, nor should you try. Time is the one thing you're never getting back unless Elon Musk invents a time machine. But given his disastrous mess with Tesla and Solar City I'm not hanging around waiting.
Let's run through typical things which happen every day in business but are a complete and utter waste of time. You may recognise them.
So, how do people waste your time?
Here I'm talking almost exclusively about business-related interactions, though they can certainly apply to social communications.
Workmates forwarding you that article about Kim Kardashian snogging a donkey or some equally stupid and pointless event. Pure distraction porn.
Or sending you emails which have no meaningful outcome attached to them but on the face of it fall into the theme of work. I can honestly say that over 80% of the business emails you're getting are likely a complete waste of time.
It gets worse.
You get sent an email that the sender, in their misguided, knee-jerk, reactionary multi tasking and thoughtless mind, sent you and you reply, copying someone else and now 3 people or more are involved.
Remember: the original topic is ultimately valueless.
Then the questions start flying to identify if there is an outcome and who, if anyone, should do anything.
This goes back and forth a few times and more people get dragged into the fray before another email which is deemed more important arrives in your inbox. You begin to ignore the first email thread (still going but running out of steam) but annoyingly, because it remains unresolved, it is still seeking your attention.
In your gut you know it's going nowhere but you keep engaged, partly due to the fact that you need to spend more than a few minutes to determine why it's been sent to you and how it fits into your outcome.
And then there is a part which is due to social etiquette. It gets left in your inbox - in that no man's land where it's neither dead nor alive but importantly there is never any outcome because it should never have been sent in the first place.
But along its journey, it managed to chew up a good 10 to 20 minutes or more of your time and 10 to 20 minutes of 3 other people, amounting to a collective 30 minutes to an hour of wasted time.
This happens dozens of times a day every single day. It amounts to a colossal and exhausting waste of time.
Here's how to deal with them.
Screw social etiquette. Tell the person kindly but firmly to please think about what they're sending you before hitting send. Explain why it's offensive (wasting your time) and if they persist, block them from future engagement. Your life is at risk, quite literally. Don't be shy about this. I mean it. You have no idea how much they are suffocating you until you rid yourself of them.
Fail to kill this and you risk getting dragged into doing the same thing yourself. It's like a digital water cooler where all the laziest and stupidest people in the office linger, munching on potato chips and Mars bars.
I guarantee you that you're cementing your life into one of mediocrity and leading to a retirement blessed with cat food and bad hips because, of course there isn't going to be any government pensions to pay for them; something you'd know and understand, had you been forwarding useful articles like those on Capitalist Exploits and of course you'd have done something about, instead of forwarding pointless pictures of obese people in mankinis.
The reason people mindlessly forward information around like hyperactive 5-year olds is because they fail to think for themselves. It’s sheer laziness and should be punished harshly for the massive waste of time that it brings down on everyone that is unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of it.
I vote for the digital death penalty and I've instituted it myself already. In all seriousness, you have no idea how much they are suffocating you until you rid yourself of them.
If you’re one of those people who does this. Here is a cure.
Ask Better Questions
With every single email sent, article forwarded, or text message sent, make sure you know what is being stated cold.
Ask yourself what the value to the receiving party is. Think not only about the message being sent but what the receiving party will think of it and what the next step to the interaction is. Is there an outcome? Is that outcome realistic? Is that outcome achievable and is it in line with what you're working on?
If you can't think through the entire process then you've not given due consideration to the person whose time you're about to encroach on and you should be beaten with a stick.
Do this and you'll find that your speed and quality of decision making will be greatly enhanced. And because it takes time to think through these processes you'll be far more discerning about how you spend your time in future.
One of the reasons people forward useless information around is because they are multi tasking - checking their Twitter feed, writing a report, and clicking on every email that pops up on their screen. Multi tasking is bullshit. At its core is a failure to concentrate and in order to concentrate we need to slow down, engage and be deliberate, thoughtful, and logical.
So when you’re tempted to engage in today's default of rapid fire, shoot first, think later trigger responses and forward a workmate some article, which on the face of it seems harmless but upon reflection provides zero benefit to either you or your workmate, realize that you’re destroying value. You’re actively pushing two parties further and further away from making productive decisions.
And so in conclusion. Think hard about it and then share this email with anyone that could use it and let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. I'm not alone on this, am I?
"Remember that your goal is to find the best answer; not to give the best one you have." — Ray Dalio
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There are three key findings to emerge from yesterday's dump of leaked DNC emails released by Wikileaks:
- There had been a plot designed to smear Bernie Sanders and to hand the Democratic nomination to Hillary on a silver platter
- There has been repeated collusion between the DNC and the media
- There has been questionable fundraising for both Hillary Clinton and the DNC
First, a quick recap for those who missed the original report, yesterday Wikileaks released over 19,000 emails and more than 8,000 attachments from the Democratic National Committee. This is what the whistleblower organization reported:
WikiLeaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the top of the US Democratic National Committee -- part one of our new Hillary Leaks series. The leaks come from the accounts of seven key figures in the DNC: Communications Director Luis Miranda (10770 emails), National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails), Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3095 emails), Finanace Director of Data & Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish (1472 emails), Finance Director Allen Zachary (1611 emails), Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails) and Northern California Finance Director Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails). The emails cover the period from January last year until 25 May this year.d
Subsequently, the Romanian hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 (who has denied he works with the Russian government), who has already released hundreds of hacked DNC emails previously, told The Hill he leaked the documents to Wikileaks.
An initial read of the thousands of emails in the data dump reveals top officials at the Democratic National Committee privately plotting to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, confirming a long-running allegation by the Sanders campaign who has claimed that the DNC and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had tipped the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton during the party’s presidential primary. They also reveal instances of media collusion as well as various questionable instances of fundraising.
Plotting Against Bernie Sanders
In an email from early May, DNC CFO Brad Marshall wrote about a plot to question Sanders’s religion. While not naming the Vermont senator directly, it talks about a man of “Jewish heritage” Marshall believes to be an atheist. It makes reference to voters in Kentucky and West Virginia, two states that were holding upcoming primary elections.
“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” the email says.
“AMEN,” DNC Chief Executive Officer Amy K. Dacey replied.
Marshall did not respond to a request for comment. But he did tell The Intercept, which first noticed the email, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate."
* * *
In an email that concerned Sanders out-polling Clinton in Rhode Island, where the state reportedly only had a fraction of voting stations open, one staffer took a contemptuous tone of Sanders’ supporters, speaking about them more as a nuisance than an arm of the party. “If she outperforms this polling, the Bernie camp will go nuts and allege misconduct,” the staffer writes, “They’ll probably complain regardless, actually.”
* * *
Another email shows similar 'us and them' language being directed at Sanders supporters. “We have the Sanders folks admitting that they lost fair and square, not because we 'rigged' anything,” the email said. “Clinton likely to win the state convention with a slim margin and we'll send a release with final delegate numbers.”
* * *
An email titled 'Bernie narrative' sent by DNC National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach to Miranda indicates that top officials in the party were trying to find an angle to disparage the Vermont senator in the media.
“Wondering if there's a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” Paustenbach wrote in the May 21 message. “Specifically, [Debbie Wasserman Schultz] had to call Bernie directly in order to get the campaign to do things because they'd either ignored or forgotten to something critical.”
“It's not a DNC conspiracy, it's because they never had their act together,” Paustenbach suggested.
* * *
Wasserman Schultz seemed to have already counted Sanders out of the race in a May 21 email, when there were still nine primaries to go. “This is a silly story,” the chairwoman said. “He isn't going to be president.”
* * *
In another email, Paustenbach informed her that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the candidate should continue to the convention, Wasserman Shultz said: “He is an ASS,” referring to Weaver. The chairwoman made her opinion clear about Sanders in an message concerning the candidate alleging that the party hadn’t been fair to him.
“Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do,” she said.
Collusion with Clinton and the media
A communication from late May laid out the pros and cons of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz accepting an invitation to CBS’s 'Face the Nation', and indicated that the DNC was plotting its moves based on what would be amenable to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“Clinton campaign is a mess, they’re afraid of their own shadow and didn’t like that we engaged,” DNC communications director Luis Miranda wrote. “But they’ll be unhappy regardless, so better to get out there and do some strong pivots and land good punches on Trump. They can’t tell us NOT to do TV right now, we shouldn’t pull ourselves out until they actually do.”
“It’s clear that Bernie messed up and that we’re on the right side of history,” Miranda wrote in another bullet point, referring to the Nevada convention.
“Let's take this offline,” Wasserman Schultz said in response. “I basically agree with you."
Wasserman Schultz and Miranda brainstormed ideas to attack Sanders’ position on the Israel/Palestine conflict with her communications team in one thread, with Wasserman Schultz saying that "the Israel stuff is disturbing” in reference to Sanders’ platform committee appointees attempts to include language denouncing the occupation of Palestinian territory in the Democratic platform.
The chairwoman says that the idea “HFA,” or Hillary For America, originally proposed the idea of using Israel/Palestine as “an ideal issue to marginalize Sanders on,” suggesting that the DNC were exchanging communications about anti-Sanders strategies with the Clinton campaign.
* * *
The DNC also made a secret “agreement” with Kenneth Vogel, an influential report for Politico. An email from late April with the subject line "per agreement... any thoughts appreciated" shows that Vogel sent an advanced copy of a story about Hillary Clinton’s fundraising to the DNC even before his editor even saw it.
“Vogel gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors as long as I didn't share it,” DNC press secretary Mark Paustenbach wrote to Miranda. “Let me know if you see anything that's missing and I'll push back.”
The published version of the story did not appear to have any significant edits from and was not favorable to the Clinton campaign, but the sending of a full, advanced copy to the subject of a story is considered to be a violation of journalistic ethics.
A source with familiar with the interaction between Politico and the DNC told RT America that the message was sent to officials to ensure accuracy in the story, and that it would have been difficult to ask for piecemeal clarifications due to its complexity. The “agreement,” in fact, referred to the DNC promising not to pass the story to a more favorable news outlet who might publish before Politco.
* * *
Another email released in the Friday leak indicates that the DNC was in close contact with news websites on articles related to the Democratic Party. A Real Clear Politics article said that Sanders supporters were causing a lack of unity at the Nevada Democratic Convention.
“This headline needs to be changed,” Wasserman Schultz wrote to Miranda.
“We need to push back... Patrice, what happened, DNC had nothing to do with this, right?” Miranda replied, referring to DNC Director of Party Affairs Patrice Taylor. Taylor responded saying that the article should be changed the event was run by the state party and the disorder “sounds like internal issues amount [sic] Sanders supporters.”
“Walter, please connect with Stewart and get him to push back,” Miranda wrote. The last email on the thread says: “Done. Article has been updated.”
* * *
Further evidence of the DNC's extensive "content control" over mass media was revealed when Wasserman Schultz sent an email to NBC anchor Chuck Todd with the subject line "Chuck, this must stop," and set up a time for the two to talk about MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski calling on Wasserman Schultz to step down.
In another email chain, Miranda said Brzezinski was willing to talk with Wasserman Schultz. "She's already served as a judge and jury without even bothering to talk to me. Not sure why I should trust having a conversation with her would make any difference. Or that she even matters, to be frank," Wasserman Schultz wrote back after a brief exchange.
In response to a New York Times story about Sanders's defiance in the wake May's unruly Democratic state convention in Nevada, Wasserman Schultz wrote: "Every time they get caught doing something wrong, they use the tactic of blaming me. Not working this time."
* * *
To be sure, there has been a long trail of instances that confirmed Wasserman Schultz's clear and repeated bias, as noted most recently in "DNC Head Threatened To Kick Michigan Mayor Out Of Debate For Cheering Bernie Sanders", however this is the first time primary sourced evidence has justified such allegations.
There seems to be clear bias in the aggregate as well. Searches of the database shows an apparent bias by DNC officials against Sanders just by how closely either campaign was monitored. A search of “Sanders supporters” yields 306 messages, while a search of “Clinton supporters” shows only 65 results. A search of “his campaign” yields 780 messages, while “her campaign” only brings up a paltry 120 results.
According to the Daily Beast, the DNC blocked Roy Black from hosting a potential Barack Obama fundraising event. Black is the lawyer of billionaire and level-three sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, after reports on Epstein’s trial from The Daily Beast and other outlets. The email states the DNC would still allow Black to donate and attend future events.
In an email thread from May 12th of this year, titled “Host for POTUS in Miami,” DNC finance assistant Karina Marquez originally asked the committee’s vetting team to “vet the following folks for POTUS please.” The list of six possible hosts for the event included Black and his wife Lea, who is a star on Real Housewives of Miami.
“We were also asked to vet the following for POTUS hosting. The only issue is Roy Black,” DNC Deputy Compliance Officer Kevin Snowden wrote back. “New issues have come up since his last vet in February 2016.”
In a third email, DNC deputy finance director Laura Lopez clarified: “Roy Black has been submitted to potentially attend meetings with (Jim) Messina—there isn’t an event code yet. He and his wife co-hosted a fundraiser for POTUS in 2007, all the stories are new since then.” Messina is the CEO of the Messina Group political strategy firm and led President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.
“All the stories” refer to, in part, a 2011 Daily Beast investigation called “Behind Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s Sweetheart Deal” which was cited in a follow-up story in the New York Daily News, and other articles that are later embedded into the email thread. To close off the chain, White House political advisor Bobby Schmuck responded that he agreed with DNC compliance director Alan Reed. “No hosting, fine to attend,” he wrote.
President Obama attended a Miami fundraiser at the home of Robert Rubenstein, one of the five other names listed in the vetting email, on the weekend of June 3rd, and Black was allowed to attend.
Black’s client Epstein was convicted of soliciting sex from an underage girl in 2008 and paid out settlements to “scores of alleged victims who said he serially molested them." President Bill Clinton was said to have flown on Epstein’s private jet, dubbed the “Lolita Express,” up to 26 times, sometimes eschewing Secret Service protection.
* * *
There were further revelations.
An internal email from DNC spokesman Eric Walker mocked a Buzzfeed news report analyzing the DNC and the Republican National Committee’s potentially weak cybersecurity.
Another email shows DNC staffers’ fake craigslist job posting made for women who wish to apply to jobs at one of Trump’s organizations. The fake position, titled a Honey Bunny, requires the prospective applicant to, among other tasks, refrain from gaining weight, be open to public humiliation and be alright with groping or kissing by her boss.
Another email between DNC national finance director Jordan Kaplan and DNC’s Northern California finance director Erik Stowe has Kaplan coarsely describing a conference call with President Barack Obama on National Small Business Week as related to “small business sh*t.”
* * *
With the leaks coming just days before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia it may reignite controversy over the DNC's handling of Sanders as well as media "objectivity" and Democrat fundraising, three of the most sensitive issue plaguing the Democratic party, and could potentially lead to an exodus of disappointed Bernie supporters into Trump's camp.
Authored by Eric Zuesse,
On July 20th, a Republican U.S. Senator lost his main financial backers for having urged Republicans to vote for Donald Trump instead of for Hillary Clinton.
The Koch brothers speak with their words, which can’t be trusted, but they also speak with their money, their investments, which are always honest expressions of their actual beliefs and desires. This time, the Kochs spoke with their money, just a day after that Senator spoke with his words.
They spoke with their investments on July 19th, when they yanked their money from a U.S. Senator whom they had always financially backed, until now; and they did it immediately after that Senator not only went to the Republican National Convention where Donald Trump was to be nominated, but he gave there a powerful argument for Republicans to vote for Trump.
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, from Wisconsin, told the assembled Convention (and the far larger number of people outside the Convention), on July 19th (and this is what the Kochs abandoned him over):
Let me repeat that — RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISTS — slaughtering and brutalizing their innocent victims.
So the question is, when will America actually confront this terrible reality?
We certainly won’t if Democrats win in November. ...
Hillary Clinton is asking America to give her Obama’s third term.
The world is simply too dangerous to elect either of them [either Democrat Russ Feingold who is running to win the Republican Johnson’s Senate seat, or Hillary Clinton].
Instead, America needs strong leadership. Leaders who will jumpstart our economy, secure our borders, strengthen our military, and accomplish the goal President Obama set over twenty-two months ago [but failed to fulfill]: We must defeat ISIS, and then remain fully committed to destroying Islamic terrorists wherever they hide. ...
It is a fight we absolutely must win.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence understand that these must be America’s top priorities. They will be strong leaders, working with Republicans in the House and Senate to achieve a goal that can unite us all: A safe, prosperous, and secure America.
Our future hangs in the balance. We must unify, work tirelessly, and together, save this great nation.
Unlike John Kasich, who had refused even to attend the Convention at all, or Ted Cruz, who did attend but refused to say anything at all in favor of Trump, Johnson was now actually campaigning for Trump against Hillary.
The next day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel bannered "Koch brothers pull ad buy backing Ron Johnson”, and reported that, "A day after U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin spoke at the Republican National Convention, a group affiliated with the conservative Koch brothers pulled more than $2 million in ad time in the Badger State.”
In other words: immediately after one of their owned Senators campaigned for Trump, they cut off his main monetary lifeline.
This is a warning to any other Republican who might still be considering to campaign for Trump; it says, loud and clear: If you do that, you lose us.
The Koch-led contingent of Republican billionaires and centi-millionaires is one of two Republican financial-backer contingents. The other is led by Karl Rove.
The Koch-led network of billionaires (who rely upon hiring academia and media for manipulating voters), and the Rove-led network of billionaires (who rely far more heavily upon garnering Wall Street money and Evangelical clergy for manipulating voters), have long been the two financial mainstays of the Republican Party. The Kochs have now made unmistakably clear that they want Hillary Clinton to become the next President (and, thus, academics and the media will overwhelmingly support Hillary). Previously, there was question as to whether the Kochs would go so far as to help a Democrat; but, now, there is no serious doubt about it: they already do (though as quietly as possible, and not in their own — often lying — mere words).
The Rove-led billionaires’ faction are also strongly inclined to prefer Hillary, but can’t afford to alienate the Republican electorate, and so they will continue to support other Republicans but not Trump. (Consequently, Ron Johnson, for example, still can get their money.) They aren’t as emphatic about their backing of Hillary as the Koch-led faction is. They won’t withdraw their financial support from Republicans (such as Johnson) who campaign for Trump. They aren’t really pro-Hillary; but the Koch-contingent now are.
And then, of course, there’s Rupert Murdoch. On 17 May 2016, Gabriel Sherman headlined in New York magazine, “Why Rupert Murdoch Decided to Back Trump”, and he wrote: “According to one Fox News producer, the channel's ratings dip whenever an anti-Trump segment airs. A Fox anchor told me that the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump. ‘It’s, ‘Make sure we don't go after Trump,’ the anchor said. ‘We’ve thrown in the towel.’” However, Sherman also noted that Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal was supporting Hillary. Murdoch has long been fond of her; and, in the pages of the WSJ, he still enjoys the freedom to shape the ‘news’ to favor her (something that would lose him audience if he were to do it at Fox). (He also supports both Obama and the Bushes. In one photo at a lobbyists’ dinner, he’s surrounded at his left by Obama’s longtime aide Valerie Jarret, and at his right by Jeb Bush, all three smiling like friends; but, in any case, all three are supporters of that same far-right Republican lobbying organization. At the top in American society, there is real bipartisanship. Another photo displaying such bipartisanship is of Donald and Melania Trump, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, warmly socializing together. These people aren’t at all enemies of one-another; they just play that on TV, in print, and etc. Those are the roles they play, not really who they are.)
Even as early as October 2015, it was clear that the Republican Party’s mega-donors were already contributing more money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign than to Donald Trump’s. They also were contributing more than they were to Clinton’s campaign, to each the Republican Presidential campaigns of: John Kasich, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and (the most of all, to) Jeb Bush. So, in the ultimate 17-candidate Republican field, Hillary was already getting more of the 2012 Romney donors’ money than was each campaign of Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and (the least of all, they donated to) Jim Gilmore. So, if she were added to that 17-candidate Republican-candidate list, she’d have been #7 out of the 18 recipients of Republican money. (And that’s not even counting the money from Democratic-Party megadonors — virtually all of whom donated and donate only to Clinton.)
Perhaps Trump is hoping to get lots more contributions from Democratic donors than previous Republican Presidential nominees have. But he certainly won’t be able to come even close to matching Hillary’s campaign warchest, which is widely expected to break all previous records — and for good reason. (In fact, Hillary as the State Department chief, was, behind-the-scenes, ferociously assisting the Koch brothers, regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline project and other government-policy matters. She’s a proven dynamo for the super-rich.)
The question regarding Trump as President would be: would he sell the government (perhaps at low prices to his friends and at high prices to his enemies) for various prices (as Clinton already has done — sold it to both her friends and her ‘enemies’ — but which sales she now only needs to deliver on); or would he, instead, refuse to sell it, and actually try to run the U.S. government for and on behalf of the American public? He has no actual record in public office; so, there’s no way of answering that question, unless and until he becomes President. But if Hillary Clinton becomes President, then the outcome would be much more certain, because she already has a lengthy record in ‘public’ service. It’s one that the Kochs probably appreciate very much. (And especially Hillary’s record as the U.S. Secretary of State is informative about the type of President she would make. Her real priorities are clear by her actions, though not at all by her words. By contrast, Trump’s priorities are, and might long remain, a mystery.)
* * *
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
And so it seems, after all the talk, The Koch Brothers would prefer not to place their hardly-earned money with an unknown entity like Trump, preferring instead to bet on the known entity supporting their status qup... even though even her own staff admit "she's often confused"...
Presumably that's an even better bet for The Kochs as it enables the puppet-mastery.
An 18-year-old German-Iranian believed to have acted alone killed nine people in a shooting spree with a pistol at a busy shopping center in Munich on Friday evening. This is just the latest in a spree of 'mass shootings' which have prompted increasingly zealous calls for 'gun control' from President Obama and his supporters. With 2 dead and 16 wounded in Chicago (which is among America's most-gun-controlled cities), we thought some facts about acquiring and owning a gun in Germany (which has the "most stringent" rules around gun control in Europe) might be useful in the forthcoming debate about how this 'mass shooting' epidemic will be solved if we all just hand our guns over.
1. Germany has some of the "most stringent" rules around gun control in Europe, according to the U.S. Library of Congress. (https://www.loc.gov/law/help/firearms-control/germany.php#t1)
2. To own a gun in Germany, it is necessary to obtain a weapon licence for which applicants must generally be at least 18 years old and show they have they have a reason for needing a weapon.
3. German authorities can prohibit anyone who is dependent on drugs or alcohol or is mentally ill from obtaining a gun license. People under 25 have to undergo a psychiatric test. (https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/waffg_2002/BJNR397010002.html)
4. After a teenager shot 15 people dead at a school in the southwestern town of Winnenden in 2009, Germany tightened the rules around firearms. Among other things, authorities were given greater authority to check whether guns were stored securely when not in use, and can make spot checks. (http://www.bmi.bund.de/DE/Themen/Sicherheit/Waffenrecht/Aenderungen-Waff...)
5. Almost 5.5 million firearms are owned privately in Germany by around 1.4 million people, according to data from the German Firearms Register in early 2013. Germany's population is about 82 million. (http://www.bva.bund.de/SharedDocs/Kurzmeldungen/DE/BVA/Sicherheit/NWR/20...)
6. There are up to 20 million illegal firearms in Germany, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cited experts in Germany as saying in January. (http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/in-deutschland-gibt-es-bis-zu-...)
By comparison, website GunPolicy.org says between 270 million to 310 million legal and illegal firearms are owned by civilians in the United States, where the population is about 324 million. (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states)
7. The Federal Criminal Police Office said in its 2015 annual report that the use of firearms had been on a downward trend for years. In 2015 there were 4,289 cases of people being threatened with firearms - the lowest level since 1993. There were 4,711 cases of people or things being shot at in 2015, it said. (file:///C:/Users/U0148792/Downloads/pks2015Jahrbuch.pdf)
8. There were 57 gun homicides in Germany in 2015, up from 42 the previous year - compared with 804 in 1995, according to website GunPolicy.org (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/germany)
And yet... mass shootings still happen? Inconceivable! Nevertheless, we are sure 'gun control' in America makes much more sense because a defenseless populous will be somehow safer?
Submitted by Erico Matias Tavares of Sinclair & Co
A Post Western World? An Interview with Prof. Harry Redner – Part I
Prof. Harry Redner was Reader at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, as well as visiting professor at Yale University, University of California-Berkeley and Harvard University. He postulates that the world is now transitioning to “beyond civilization” – a new and unprecedented condition in Human History known as globalization. This in turn has major implications for societies across the world, and in particular developed nations.
He is the author of several articles and fourteen books, including a tetralogy on civilization: “Beyond Civilization: Society, Culture, and the Individual in the Age of Globalization”, “Totalitarianism, Globalization, Colonialism: The Destruction of Civilization since 1914”, “The Tragedy of European Civilization: Towards an Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century” and “The Triumph and Tragedy of the Intellectuals: Evil, Enlightenment, and Death”.
PART I: GENERAL TRENDS AND THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
The political and economic issues broadly discussed in the media usually revolve around political cycles, terrorism, foreign policy, rising debt levels, sluggish economic performance, academic underachievement, environmental problems, ageing demographics and so forth.
In our view, this all ties into a major cycle of history that has been with us for some time, and which has been gaining traction since the 1990s: the end of Western Civilization and the transition towards a globalized society. There is some confusion between the two terms, where the latter is often perceived as the continuation of the former, but in reality the two have been in conflict for almost 100 years.
We are delighted to get Prof. Harry Redner’s views on this topic, which he has studied and written about extensively. The political, social and economic ramifications are likely to be life changing in the years to come. Politicians, investors and citizens all over the world should take note.
E. Tavares: Prof. Redner, thank you for being with us today. Let’s start with a basic yet difficult to define concept: what is civilization?
H. Redner: How and why it originated and how it developed further are extremely contentious issues, about which the views of specialists from at least half a dozen disciplines are frequently at odds. It has been debated for centuries and will continue so for the foreseeable future. My own views on these matters carry no special weight and everything I have to say can be disputed and, indeed, will be so, as there are no final conclusive answers to these ultimate questions. But for what they are worth, I will present a few of my provisional thoughts.
Civilization is a necessary and inevitable stage in human development. When human societies increase in number and productive capacity, when they become more integrated through communication, trade and authority systems and, above all, when higher cultures and mentalities above those of primitive shamanistic cults, spirit worship and fetishist symbolism arise, civilization takes off as the next stage of human development.
This happened at different times and places all over the globe, first along the river valleys of Mesopotamia and the Nile, later along those of the Indus and Yellow Rivers; later still, and completely autonomously, under different conditions in Mesoamerica and in the Andes. There is a syndrome of features, most of which these early civilizations display, more or less completely in each case, such as the rise of cities, the formation of states, class differentiations, the invention of methods of writing and organized religion, together with a mythological creed or pantheon.
However, my interest is not in these early civilizations but only in the later, more developed ones, those that survived until the start of the twentieth century. These are the so-called post-Axial Age civilizations. The idea of an Axial Age, which occurred approximately between 700 and 300 BC, was developed by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers to refer to this period when the first philosophies and universal religions arose that have persisted till now. It is a curious and still unexplained historical coincidence that many of the great thinkers and sages, such as Zoroaster, Pythagoras, deutero-Isaiah, the Buddha, Confucius and Lao-Tse all lived around 500BC in widely dispersed places. The post-Axial civilizations are based on their teachings.
In each case what was crucial for the rise and development of these civilizations was the construction of a higher form of literacy embodied in a set of canonical texts and, stemming from these, a higher form of ethical conduct. The figures of the philosopher, prophet, sage, saint, ascetic monk, scholar, rabbi and mandarin, as bearers of the highest values of literacy and ethics, arose respectively in each of the resulting civilizations. Invariably, but with some crucial exceptions, empires were founded by conquerors and rulers based on these values, which were given an organized form in schools of philosophy or law, monastic orders or churches or other types of scholarly or religious institutions. These have mostly lasted till our time. But since the start of the twentieth century at the very latest they were undermined and came under attack from many quarters in a general disruption of established traditions all over the world.
ET: Can you briefly summarize what makes Western Civilization different? Was the Greek classical tradition what made it take root across Europe, or was there something else at play?
HR: The term “Western Civilization” is used ambiguously in two somewhat different senses: it can refer to the whole development of civilization in the West from its Greek origin to its European culmination, or alternatively, it can refer only to the latter, namely to the civilization of Europe that began to flourish around 1000AD. This is a distinct form of civilization different from the Classical or Greco-Roman civilization based on the Mediterranean that lasted approximately till 500AD, as well as from the Byzantine civilization, located largely in what is now Turkey and the Balkans that followed. Clearly, there were strong historical, cultural and religious continuities between these three civilizational stages, which is the reason that they can be collectively called Western Civilization in the broad sense.
Western Civilization in the narrow sense, namely European civilization, had one of its roots in the Classical Greco-Roman tradition, but its other crucial root lay in Judaism, as developed and enlarged by Christianity. The key text of this civilization is and remains the Judaeo-Christian Bible, which is why it is often referred to as a Judaeo-Christian Civilization.
What made European civilization different was its capacity to absorb all earlier Western civilizational forms, which manifested itself in numerous Renaissances and Reformations. During the Renaissances, the first of which took place in the 12th century, it went back to its roots in classical civilization; during its Reformations and counter-Reformations it went back to its biblical roots, back to the prophets, the Gospels and the Church Fathers. Each time it gained renewed cultural vigor.
Politically, what made European Civilization so unusual was that it never unified into a single empire, as all the others had done at one time or another. But Europe always remained divided and resisted all attempts at imperial unification and domination. Instead of a single empire, it evolved politically into a system of kingdoms, principalities and semi-autonomous cities, together with a Church, also vying for power, which itself broke up during the Reformation. This meant that no single authority could ever maintain complete control over all of Europe and no single orthodoxy in respect of anything could prevail everywhere.
This is the secret source of European freedom and individualism. It gave rise to the conditions that fostered competition and contention that proved immensely conducive to creativity and innovation. Its dark obverse side was continual strife and wars which proved most damaging when they irrupted as religious wars and persecutions, and which eventually in the twentieth century turned into ideological wars that almost destroyed European Civilization.
ET: It can be said that Western Civilization reached its pinnacle just before the First World War. Clearly the subsequent loss of entire generations of would-be scientists, teachers, civil servants, doctors, priests, engineers, patriots, mothers, fathers and children in devastating conflicts was something the West never really recovered from. The peace and prosperity that Europeans have achieved since then masks this fact, certainly in relative terms. What are your thoughts here?
HR: Certainly the First World War was the proximal inciting cause for a process of civilizational destruction in Europe and the rest of the world that is still going on.
It was not so much the killing in itself, though that was bad enough – a large part of a generation of young men was sacrificed – as the demoralization and loss of faith in the enlightenment values of liberalism and democracy by which Europe had been guided in the nineteenth century and towards which most countries were moving.
This was particularly virulent in the countries on the losing side, beginning with Russia, where it led to the Bolshevik Revolution, which briefly spread to much of central Europe; and in Italy, which was on the winning side but in danger of a Bolshevik takeover, and where a Fascist reaction ensued. Soviet totalitarianism in Russia devastated its culture and society, in a process started by Lenin and Trotsky and concluded by Stalin. This upheaval might have been contained and stopped from spreading to the rest of Europe were it not for the Great Depression, which destroyed any hope for democracy and led almost inevitably to the Second World War with all its devastating consequences.
After that war, Europe lay prostrate and divided by the Cold War into two mutually closed off spheres. With American aid, Western Europe rebuilt itself materially remarkably quickly; in Eastern Europe under Soviet domination this happened much more slowly. However, there was no moral or cultural recovery. European Civilization did not rise like a phoenix from the ashes. It languished for a while and now seems to be petering out.
ET: As you argue persuasively in your books, totalitarianism ended up being a major force behind the destruction of European Civilization. However, the likes of Mussolini and Hitler rose to power by promising their nations that they would regain the commanding role in its progression – at the expense of others through the use of extreme violence. Are there inherent conflicts within Western Civilization or was totalitarianism an accident of history?
HR: Totalitarianism was an accident of history only to the extent that the First World War was an accident of history – a very tragic accident with calamitous consequences. There was nothing in European Civilization as such, or as it was developing during the nineteenth century, necessitating the First World War. On the contrary, everything seemed to point to the impossibility of such a war.
However, the war was no accident in so far as the disposition of the great power alliances was concerned. This was bound to lead to some kind of war, though not necessarily to the First World War, a war of great duration and unprecedented ferocity. The two sides were too evenly matched for either to quickly defeat the other. Had Germany won the war during the first or even second year there would have been no revolution in Russia and no totalitarianism there or in Italy. Europe would have been saved the worst, at least for a long while, though it would have fallen under German domination, but that would have been by far the lesser evil.
Hitler’s rise to power and Nazi totalitarianism was the direct consequence of the outcome of the First World War together with the Great Depression. In a sense, the latter, too, was the outcome of an accident of economic history, just like the Global Financial Crisis we have recently experienced. Nevertheless, there were robust historical causes behind both events. The idea of an “accident of history” is a relative one, for what is accidental in relation to one set of developments, generally of a broad type, is causally necessitated in relation to another set. There is no such thing as a “historical accident” in any absolute sense.
In the case of totalitarianism we cannot discount the role of individuals of exceptional ability, especially when this is conducive to evil, such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao and others such as Mussolini and Franco to a lesser extent. Are they accidents of history or rather men that rise to great heights when history provides them with the opportunities for doing so? Do they make history or does history make them? These are the kinds of issues that need to be considered when accounting for so-called “accidents of history”.
ET: You also talk about the role that some prominent European philosophers played in the formation of these destructive ideologies, something which is seldom discussed. Which ones do you believe made the biggest contribution to the development of European and Soviet totalitarianism?
HR: Totalitarianism could not have arisen without political ideologies; and such ideologies could not have emerged without philosophers and other types of intellectuals, some of them men of great genius. Behind Bolshevism there stands the great social theorist Marx and behind Nazism the almost as great thinker, Nietzsche. However, neither Marx nor Nietzsche is directly responsible for Bolshevism or Nazism; a long chain of mediating accessory figures had to be active in transitioning from the philosophical thought to the political ideology. These intermediaries were themselves intellectuals of a lesser kind, and there were literally hundreds of them.
Prior to the First World War, Marxism was being successfully adapted to the needs of democratic workers’ movements of socialist parties throughout Europe. Only in Czarist Russia, where the Marxist party was illegal, did a splinter movement of those calling themselves Bolsheviks arise under the leadership of Lenin, in opposition to the majority of moderate Marxists who called themselves Mensheviks. Lenin’s Bolshevik ideology was a far cry from classical Western Marxism being in large part inspired by Russian insurrectionist traditions.
Hitler’s Nazi ideology, based on virulent anti-Semitism and nationalistic imperialism, was also far removed from the classical German philosophies of Fichte, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, on which it based itself. But there were many German intellectuals who applied these philosophical ideas in ways which, at their most extreme and crudest, led to the Nazi ideology as Hitler enunciated it, and as the German people subsequently accepted it.
Again it needs to be stressed that this could not have happened were it not for the demoralizing effects of the First World War and the Great Depression that followed. The role of the intellectuals in these complex processes of creation, distortion and political application of theoretical ideas, I have studied in my latest publication entitled The Triumph and Tragedy of the Intellectuals.
ET: We are all familiar with the destructive results of revolutionary communism, particularly as it matured under full totalitarianism under Stalin and Mao. However, there were other political thinkers which advocated a much more subversive approach for the implementation of communism in the West, such as Gramsci for instance.
Shocked that during World War I workers ended up fighting other workers instead of the “maleficent” bourgeois, these thinkers reasoned that this was because Europeans were too conditioned by their own nationalism, families and religion – all of which broadly formed the basis of their civilization. So to achieve communism these institutions had to be eradicated from society, not necessarily by force like in Russia or China, but by progressive infiltration and ideological replacement of the media, education, politics, unions and even the religious institutions themselves.
However, European political elites post-Second World War also supported the replacement of these institutions in society by the state, or more specifically, the superstate which is now known as the European Union. So there was a curious confluence of interests in this process, all under the guise of eliminating the “evils” that supposedly led to the disasters of twentieth century Europe and creating a more egalitarian society. What are your thoughts here?
HR: Marxism is a very broad church which can accommodate a huge variety of thinkers, social movements and political parties. Some of these were close to the political ideology of Russian Bolshevism, whereas others were far removed from it and closer to the enlightenment ideas of Marx himself, at least in his early humanistic works. Where a thinker like Gramsci stands in this Marxist line-up is difficult to determine, because he wrote his works in the relative “freedom” of Mussolini’s jail, where he was not subject to the immediate Comintern pressure; but at the same time he had to write in code and could not express himself openly on all issues. Had he escaped to Moscow, as his colleague, the later Italian leader Togliatti did, he would have been compelled to become a Stalinist and could not have developed his ideas. Much later, Gramsci’s ideas became the basis of the Italian Communist Party, and thereby of Euro-Communism.
As Euro-Communism demonstrates, there is nothing in Marxism as such that precludes it from being tolerant and accepting towards religion, family and other such personal traditional values, even though in fact, most Marxists were atheists. However, some Christians were Marxists, including those within the Catholic Church itself who preached liberation ideology or took part in worker-priest movements. The relation between Marxism and Christianity is an extremely complex historical issue that went through many phases from outright hostility to mutual accommodation.
The role of the state in relation to traditional values, social institutions and culture in general is an overwhelming topic that can only be treated in a book-length work. By the state, we mean, of course, the nation-state, the prevalent European form. Prior to the First World War, the nation-state had by and large a positive social and cultural effect. It enabled new nations to flourish, particularly Germany and Italy, and led to national revivals throughout Europe, especially in the East. But at the same time, the nation state was a militaristic institution that led to the disasters of the First World War and what followed with the totalitarian states, the very worst manifestation of the nation-state.
Since the Second World War, the state in Western Europe has become increasingly a welfare state. It has had some remarkable successes but also incurred some failures. Its greatest achievement has been to bring about a considerable degree of economic social justice, especially in class-ridden societies like Britain. The kind of grinding poverty prevalent before the First World War is now no longer in evidence.
On the other hand, state education seems to have been largely a failure and has led to considerable miseducation in many respects: in the case of schools for the poor being barely able to instill the rudiments of the three Rs (“Reading”, “Writing” and “Arithmetic”). In Britain, private schools and the ancient universities are still the bulwarks of the class system. Of course, there are some European countries, generally the smaller ones, where state education has achieved a much better outcome.
The inception of the European Union has so far neither improved nor worsened this general condition to any great extent. Imposing a single model for all of Europe in some respects, such as in university education, is very likely a backward step. On the other hand, enabling regions with ethnic or cultural minorities to partially escape the iron grip of the nation-state is a positive step. Much more could be said about this of course.
ET: In addition to developing its own brand of destructive political philosophies, the West unleashed upon the world the Forces of Modernity, as you call them. These are generally perceived as an extension of Western Civilization, but you contend that they are now destroying it. Can you describe these forces and why they are problematic for civilization?
HR: By the term “Forces of Modernity” I mean the crucial economic, political, cognitive and technical respects, according to which nearly all societies in the world are now organized and managed, namely modern capitalism, the modern state, science and technology.
These arose unequivocally only in the European West from approximately 1500 onwards. There were other variants of these both in the Greco-Roman world and in other non-Western civilizations, particularly in China, but they do not approach what Europe achieved in these respects. The causes that made Europe alone to embark on this course, which during the nineteenth century was called “Progress”, are many and varied and are generally disputed among the major theorists on these matters, such as Marx, Weber and many subsequent thinkers. We no longer regard it as progress in any ameliorative sense, for we recognize its many drawbacks and consequences that are inimical to civilization.
During the nineteenth century up to the First World War, the Forces of Modernity were still largely in keeping with the main trends in Western Civilization, especially in America. But in non-Western societies they were having a disastrous effect on all the still surviving civilizations. Their introduction undermined traditional authorities, religions, cultures and values. They gradually prevailed all over the world, either being imposed by colonialism or through the desire to ward off colonialism by emulating the Western powers. America forced Japan to open its doors and accept the Forces of Modernity, and when the Japanese realized they had no choice about it they did so very successfully. It was a much more fraught and conflict-ridden matter in China and the Ottoman Empire.
In the West itself, the situation began to change drastically following the First World War. The nature of this war and all subsequent ones was the direct outcome of the development of the Forces of Modernity in all European societies during the nineteenth century. The huge expansion of the state power since the French Revolution, the introduction of universal conscription and a state sanctioned education system provided millions of trained and ideologically enthused soldiers ready to sacrifice themselves at the behest of their nation state. The vast expansion of mass production that capitalism brought about enabled such mass armies to be armed, equipped and supplied for many years. Science and technology invented new weapons for mass slaughter and new machines of war, some already developed before the war, but many arising out of war-time research itself. The world has made enormous progress in these respects since and it is possible that the latest discoveries and inventions will bring civilization to an end and perhaps wipe out humanity itself. It almost happened a number of times, and it was only sheer luck that saved us in the nick of time.
This is where the Forces of Modernity have brought us. But at the same time, humanity cannot do without them, for only the combination of capitalism, the state, science and technology can provide for, order, control and organize the mass of humanity, swollen to huge numbers, now inhabiting the world, without completely despoiling the natural environment and bringing disaster in another way. This is at least our hope and what we must endeavor to achieve.
ET: And the outcome of these forces is “globalization”? If they prevail, how does a post civilization world looks like?
HR: What we now call globalization is a condition where the Forces of Modernity are prevailing in all societies all over the world; they are becoming increasingly more integrated precisely through the prevalence of these forces. We are increasingly being faced with a uniform and homogenous world, in which all particularities and identities are gradually being eroded. This bodes ill for social relations, for cultures, for spiritual aspirations, for individuality, indeed for everything that civilizations offered in the past to make human life meaningful. There is still a long way to go before any such negative conditions might eventuate, for there is still much left of the old civilizations, especially Western Civilization and its cultural heritage. There is no inevitability about any outcome and much we can do to forestall the worst.
Nevertheless, we must now recognize that humanity is now entering a new and dangerous historical condition unlike any of those it ever encountered in the past. It is no longer a matter of one civilization falling, to be replaced by another, such as happened when Europe arose after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Now all civilizations are endangered and none can survive as autonomous, independent entities as in the past. It is in this sense that we are now moving to a historical stage that is beyond civilization.
This does not mean that we must abandon any further thought of civilization. On the contrary, we must do all we can to save what is left of civilization and prevent it from vanishing completely, as is now happening. This will require a coordinated human effort on the part of all major societies in the world. Whether this will ultimately succeed or fail or what the future holds for a globalized humanity is, of course, for us unpredictable.
Hence, I have no idea what a post-civilizational world will look like, except to surmise that unless some way is found to counter the worst of the present trends towards soulless uniformity, it will not be a world which I would like our children and grandchildren to inherit.
ET: But by suppressing European identities, national democracies and centralizing political power, isn’t the European Union an offshoot of those Forces of Modernity? As such, do the British people have a point in saying that getting out in the recent referendum is a necessity to regain their country and even their culture back?
HR: I do not altogether agree that the European Union is “suppressing European identities, national democracies, and centralizing political power.” I hold that it is a far more limited undertaking made necessary by the collapse of Europe after the Second World War, the Cold War and since then, by the ever increasing economic competition from the new giants of Asia, first Japan, then China and now India emerging as a global power.
In response to such multiple pressures, and with the encouragement of America, Europe did move towards economic and, to a limited extent, political integration, starting with France and Germany and bringing in more and more countries, eventually after the fall of Communism also those of Eastern Europe. But how far it will proceed is not yet decided. Everything in Europe’s past speaks against a “United States of Europe”. But that need not forestall a very open European common market with considerable labor mobility. There are centripetal forces for unity and centrifugal forces for dispersion: how these opposed tendencies will work themselves out in the future is also impossible to predict.
Thus far, I believe, the benefits have been considerable and the adverse consequences as yet not disastrous. This could reverse itself if the Mediterranean countries in the Eurozone prove unable to escape the poverty trap of a strong currency that prevents them devaluing and trading their way out of trouble. Their present levels of unemployment, especially among the young, are unsustainable. On the other hand, incorporating and integrating the former communist countries of Eastern Europe has been an enormous achievement, but one that has also had some unintended bad consequences for other countries in Europe.
The free movement of labor that brought millions of Eastern Europeans, especially Poles, into Britain was undoubtedly one of the main causes for the working-class revolt and vote for Brexit. The open-borders policy that brought a million refugees from the civil wars in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as economic migrants from all parts of Africa and Asia in an uncoordinated and uncontrolled flow was obviously mismanaged. This gave many Europeans, including those who were less affected, a fright. It was such a concatenation of incidental factors that had unexpectedly arisen in the last few years that brought Brexit about, rather than any thought-through dissatisfaction with the European Union. Cameron should never have allowed the matter to be decided by one referendum. It was a political misjudgment on his part.
I predict – always a foolhardy matter – that the effects of Brexit will be far smaller than those who advocate it wish. Theresa May and Angela Merkel, two very astute politicians, will reach a deal whereby Britain will remain close to Europe and any disruptions minimized on both sides. This could easily go awry if there is a huge exodus of multinational firms from Britain sinking the British economy; if Scotland and Northern Ireland vote for independence; or if the Conservative Party and the Labor Party break up and some other more Right wing, or, less likely, more Left wing political party comes to power. All these are possible, but, I believe, unlikely from our present point of view.
ET: As mentioned above, the state has gradually replaced the role of traditional Western institutions, a tendency which has accelerated in recent decades. As a result, there is now a complete dependency on the state to care and provide for large segments of the population, which in turn requires enormous, ever growing resources to sustain.
A byproduct of all this is a huge incentive for the misallocation of resources and even corruption, since politicians now command huge portions of the economy and society. In a democracy votes can be bought by promising all sorts of free goodies to the electorate, who in turn will never vote for anyone that will change the system they depend on, even if it is demonstrably on an unsustainable trajectory.
Has the growth of the state along these lines further corroded European values and morals? As a result, can any European government be truly reformed at this point via the ballot box?
HR: It is true that dependence on the state is increasing in European countries and that states are consuming a considerable proportion of their society’s resources. But the reasons for this vary and are not the same everywhere. The two most contrasting countries are Sweden and Greece.
Sweden is the great success story of the Welfare State and its effects on society. A century ago, it was a poor country, but in the course of the twentieth century it has gone from strength to strength, economically, socially and politically. High taxation rates have not affected its productive capacity; its firms flourish as never before. Its political system is a byword for democracy and popular consultation. Corruption is minimal.
Greece is just the opposite in all these respects. Apart from exploiting its sunshine, beaches, and building hotels, it has failed to develop economically. Tax evasion is rife. The state has been completely mismanaged, as political parties vied with each other by bribing the electorate with borrowed funds. Corruption is rife. Now the country is bankrupt and will most probably never fully recover.
Most European countries are somewhere between these two extremes; generally the further north they lie the closer they are to the Swedish model; the further south, closer to the Greek one. For those in the south, how to achieve reforms so as to make the economy more productive, increase work participation and bring expenditure to affordable limits is the big problem. Resistance to reforms, as evidenced most recently in the strikes and riots in France, is fierce from those that wish to hold on to what they have and fear losing it.
These are the fundamental concerns that will determine whether the European Union survives or goes under. They are the kinds of issues that are prominent in every major capitalist society. America has to face analogous problems due to departure of industries, outsourcing and the influx of illegal migrant labor.
The backlash from the working class and sections of the middle class is what partly accounts for the popularity of Trump. Trumpery is the direct outcome of the degeneration of American Civilization and the decline of its political culture which is now all pervasive. Another recession would bring the overheated political situation to the boil with very dangerous consequences.
ET: The most advanced – or civilized – countries in the world have the lowest birthrates. In recent years Germany (along with other beacons of civilization like Japan and Singapore) has had birthrates even lower than China with its draconian one-child policy. Is civilization bad for babies, or is something else at play here?
HR: The truth of the matter is that high standards of living and female emancipation are responsible for low birth-rates. The more educated women become and the more economically independent, the fewer babies they tend to have. Hence, countries with high birth-rates, such as India, those of the Muslim world and Africa south of the Sahara urgently need to educate and emancipate their women, for otherwise the pressures of population growth will be too much for them to cope with in the long term.
It is only in highly developed countries, such as Europe, Japan, America, and now also China that low birth-rate is a problem. It is a measure of their productivity and success in managing the Forces of Modernity. It has nothing to do with civilization as such.
Various solutions will have to be tried in addressing this problem. Immigration from poorer, overpopulated areas was, until recently, the favored option, as this provided cheap labor power. But that is increasingly becoming less of an option, as recent events have demonstrated. Japan has refused to accept mass immigration all along and is taking the technological route to maintaining productivity. Raising the retirement age is another partial solution.
Lower birthrates might be bad for these countries in the present, but it is good for the world as a whole. Ultimately, the human population cannot just increase without limit; it must sooner or later reach its maximum possible level, and gradually begin to decline.
ET: As you point out, several European governments have opened their borders and welfare systems to mass immigration, particularly from the Third World. The hope is that they will help pay those burgeoning state bills over time. After a few decades these inflows now account for a sizeable percentage of their populations, and particularly so in the larger cities.
Some immigrant communities have brought very different cultures with them, and as their numbers grew this created many social tensions within European societies. Responses to this have differed by country, but a general tendency towards “multiculturalism” is now observable throughout much of the Old Continent. Sweden even made it part of its constitution.
But by definition multiculturalism means the dilution of a nation’s own culture. In fact, liberal Europeans can’t seem to get rid of it fast enough these days. Irrespective of any benefits associated with immigration, is this seemingly unstoppable migration wave and the resulting transformation of Europe’s cultures a symptom or cause of the present demise of Western Civilization?
HR: To answer the last part of this complex question first, the mass immigration of people, generally from the Muslim world, is neither a symptom nor a cause of the present plight of European civilization. It proceeds in the first place from factors internal to the Muslim world itself; from the failure of the Muslim world to modernize, that is, to introduce and institute the Forces of Modernity in a way that is acceptable to and consonant with their culture. Neither capitalism, nor the rational-legal state, nor science, nor technology functions at all well in Muslim countries, with very few partial exceptions. The inability of these countries to modernize, indeed, the opposition to modernization, has produced all the manifestations of lack of development, instability, corruption and civil war. This, coupled with a high birth rate, generates tens of millions, possibly as many as a hundred million, mainly young people who are eager to migrate to the developed world, and Europe is their nearest and easiest destination.
Until now, Europe has been willing to accept them for many reasons. The primary reason has been economic; a young workforce of immigrants was desirable when Europe was growing at a rapid rate. The other reasons had more to do with Europe’s post-Second World War adhesion to enlightened values of liberalism, anti-racism, providing refuge for victims of intolerance and ultimately a belief in multiculturalism, namely, in all the respects in which Europe had failed prior to the war.
The absorption of those who had already arrived over the past half century or so has not proved easy, especially in a climate of economic decline when jobs have become scarce. Apart from these factors, there has been a tendency among many of these new arrivals to settle in ghettoes, where they maintain their own cultural patterns, some of which are at odds with the prevailing host cultures, especially in such matters as the treatment of women. This has led to mutual misunderstanding and resentment. Given satisfactory economic conditions, the readiness of accommodation and compromise on both sides, such problems might in time be overcome. However of late the situation has become critical due to the rise of militant Islam and the resultant civil wars in most Muslim countries. This has generated hordes of refugees and even larger numbers of economic migrants who look to life in Europe as the only chance they will ever have, because they completely despair of their own societies. If Europe continues to practice uncontrolled entry, it will be overrun in no time, with all the adverse consequences of social unrest and illiberal regimes arising.
The only solution to this staggering global problem is two-fold. On the one hand, Europe will have to bite the bullet and adjust its liberal principles, so as to reduce immigration to numbers it can absorb, as my own country, Australia, has done. On the other hand, Europe will have to tackle the problem at its source – in the Muslim world itself. Pacification, development, a brake on corruption and general enlightenment are the fundamental measures Europe will have to promote and be willing to spend the resources necessary. In the long term, this will prove cheaper than letting the current situation fester.
ET: America has always been regarded as the great hope for Western Civilization – indeed, even its prime driving force post Second War War. But you argue that “Americanism” is destroying American civilization. What do you mean by this?
HR: America escaped the civilization-destroying onslaught of totalitarianism that ravaged Europe, Russia, China and other parts of the world. In fact, America profited from the self-inflicted destruction of Europe to emerge as the leading world power in all respects. However, America has not escaped the civilization-reducing propensity of the Forces of Modernity, which it had itself developed and brought to a pitch of perfection.
Thus, American capitalism has been a tremendous success in terms of production, the generation of wealth and the rise of the standard of living of its own people, as well as all those, such as Europeans, where the American-promoted global market operated. There is no known economic system that leads to greater and more rapid GDP growth than American capitalism. China has had to learn this painful lesson after Mao.
However, there has been a high cost to pay in cultural and social terms for this tremendous economic success. American capitalism is the goose that lays the golden egg, but in the process it generates plenty of crap that somehow has to be cleaned up. This has been so in America itself, as well as in the rest of the world where American capitalism has operated, eventually almost everywhere after the Second World War.
Most of the social and cultural problems that America has had to face, especially after the Second World War, can be traced directly or indirectly to its economic success. For example, the social integrity and cultural cohesion of its cities was destroyed by the huge influx of rural migrants when its industries were booming, especially during and after the Second World War. This, in turn, led after the war to the exodus of the middle class from the cities to the burgeoning suburbs, which completely hollowed out city centers. When industries declined, this produced inner-city impoverishment and, even worse, the creation of racial ghettoes. The social problems that these ups and downs of capitalism caused are now all but insuperable.
Culturally, much damage was done by the huge advertising industry that was a necessary adjunct to mass production. It promoted a hedonistic life-style of envy, exhibitionism, status flaunting and other kinds of behaviors, which were formerly considered vices, or at least bad manners. Thus, the moral fiber of American people was weakened and in extreme cases, such as in respect of the Protestant work ethic, it was corrupted.
The Culture Industry dispensing mass entertainment and the media in the hands of big moguls, whose only interest was profit and nothing else, also played a role in the stupefaction of the American public. How this was achieved through free-to-air television is something that a number of major studies have demonstrated. Little wonder that the TV set was referred to in common parlance as the idiot box. One could continue this catalogue of adverse consequences of capitalism almost indefinitely.
This is how “Americanism”, of which capitalism is a most prominent part, is destroying American civilization. One could similarly study other aspects of “Americanism”.
ET: Like their European counterparts, Americans are also becoming increasingly dependent on the state. US government spending is projected to reach stratospheric levels in the not too distant future driven by primarily by healthcare and social expenditures. Federal debt has doubled in each of the last two administrations, and is now over 100% of GDP. Is this also a symptom of civilizational decay?
HR: The rise of the federal debt to over 100% of GDP is due to many causes, most of which are a combination of economics and politics, which has little to do with civilizational decay. However, even if these problems were overcome and expenditure reduced to more tolerable levels this may not necessarily matter to civilization, which is largely a cultural issue.
The main factor driving the federal debt is the diminution of the tax base due to the rapid erosion of American industry, which in the past generated well-paid full-time employment. Now the poor, even when they have work, pay little or no tax. The very rich have also found ways, legal, semi-legal and illegal, of avoiding tax. Hence, the tax burden is being born increasingly by a shrinking middle class. Wholesale tax reform is mandatory, but that cannot be carried through for political reasons. Vested interests of all kinds have a stranglehold on Congress and the major parties are usually in deadlock on this matter.
It is also the case that social expenditure is growing, because casual jobs and low minimum wages can no longer afford a living for poor people without aid from the state. Healthcare expenditure is also growing, because people live longer and because modern medicine is becoming increasingly more costly.
I do not believe that all these major difficulties are insoluble, given decisive political leadership. This is, however, lacking at present for reasons that I cannot go into in this context. Hence, though the burden need not be left to future generations to bear, given things are as they are at present, it most probably will be.
ET: What role do declining education standards play in all this? The US strikingly lags the developed world in academic achievement below the graduate level. And it’s their young who will end up footing the bill for all that government largesse.
HR: The declining education standards in America are, indeed, both a symptom and a cause of the decline of American Civilization. Before the Second World War, American schools and universities were among the best in the world. They continued to function extremely well for a period after the Second World War. Then the schools began to fail and some decades later, so, too, did the universities.
The rot in the schools began with the so-called “life adjustment movement” based very loosely on the educational philosophy of Dewey. From then on, for a majority of American youth, schooling became at best a social and not a learning experience. As the social critic, Richard Hofstadter in his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, published in 1963, pointed out: what this approach aims to do (and here I quote from memory) is not for students “to become a disciplined part of the world of production and competition, ambition and vocation, creativity and analytic thought, but to teach them the ways of the world of consumption and hobbies, of enjoyment and social compliance – to adapt to the passive and hedonist style summed up by the significant term adjustment”. At the same time, what was taking place in the blackboard jungles of the inner city schools was much worse than that. All this was aggravated by the poor salaries of teachers relative to other professions and the lack of respect for the work they were doing. This made teaching a last resort as a career choice, into which mainly women were pushed.
In the universities, things did not begin to go bad until the late 1970s. Having poorly prepared students to work with, much of university courses had to be devoted to remedial teaching. The student insurrections of the previous period made university teaching something of a hazardous profession, and teachers naturally preferred to placate students rather than challenge them intellectually. High grades became the norm. The effect of this was felt much more severely in the humanities and social sciences than the natural sciences and the professional faculties. Increasingly fewer students chose to study humanities and social science subjects. Many of these were undermined by the “radical” theoretical fashions and the rise of various kinds of “critical” studies that catered to narrow self-selected groups, made up of those whose mind was closed and no longer open to real critical debate.
All these deleterious intellectual developments are apart from the sheer economic fact that universities charge increasingly high fees, especially the elite schools, which only the very rich can afford. But the bulk of that extra income is being spent not on teaching and research, but on administrative costs, as students are being provided with all kinds of life-style services, and as the general bureaucratization of the university grows in leaps and bounds. Officials now outnumber professors.
Nevertheless, the good American universities are still the best in the world. They are attracting the wealthiest, though not necessarily the best students from all over the world. But for how long this situation will continue remains to be seen.
ET: Technology appears to play a role here as well. For instance social media, instant messaging and all the rest create an environment where we feel we are much less effective and productive. We can only imagine how young students struggle to concentrate on learning anything these days.
This reminds of how the use of lead in plumbing and all types daily artifacts poisoned many Roman leaders, to the point of where perhaps they completely made the wrong decisions on where their society should be heading. Could technology be the twenty first century equivalent? This might explain some of the seemingly irrational decisions of Western societies of late…
HR: The parallel you draw between lead plumbing in the Roman world and modern technology is a good one, except that lead poisoning was probably not as prevalent as some of the poisonous effects of some modern technologies. One of the most beneficial technologies in our societies has, indeed been plumbing, largely introduced in the nineteenth century. It is likely that plumbers and sanitation workers have done more for human health and well-being than doctors. This is evident in Third World countries, where the building of drains and toilets should be given higher priority than the building of hospitals.
In short, some technologies, often very simple ones, have been extraordinarily beneficial. But this is not true of all technologies. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to distinguish between good and bad technologies before they have been introduced. Every technology that is taken up on a large scale serves as a social experiment; it transforms the whole of society in ways that are unpredictable in advance, for it always has unintended consequences either good or bad that cannot be foreseen.
We have learnt this lesson in nearly every case and even more so with advanced technologies. The introduction of the private motorcar on a mass scale gave people unparalleled freedom of mobility, but it also had all kinds of far from desirable consequences. It polluted the air. It destroyed public transportation. It enabled people to desert the cities, which became hollowed out shells, and so on for countless other effects, among which, moral puritans will argue, was the loss of sexual restraint among the young. How one balances the good and bad consequences is an extremely difficult issue of judgment. But it is now too late to do much about it, as the car is here to stay.
It is similar, though perhaps even more complex, with the new information technologies. This, too, is a massive social experiment, the results of which might not be known for a few generations. The benefits of computers, the Internet, social media, etc. are obvious and are being touted by all those with a vested interest in the matter: by the computer and software manufacturers, by their advertisers, the media and by state agencies, including by many education authorities who should not have been as eager to embrace these new technologies. This has been going on for nearly a generation. And already some adverse unintended consequences are becoming apparent, especially among children.
Perhaps the most dangerous of these are changes in brain function starting to appear among children who are heavy computer users. These children and youth are still too young to make any “of the irrational decisions of Western society”, but one day they will be in a position to do so. What future generations of children brought up on computers will do as adults cannot be now predicted. But we should be careful how we handle the social changes which will ensue.
It is evident even now that computers have not fulfilled their promise in education, for there are strong indications that they have been detrimental to some kinds of learning. If this can be conclusively demonstrated, then the removal of computers from schools, or their restriction to special technical centers might be one drastic move to be contemplated. This is obviously a huge issue, which will continue to be debated for the remainder of this century as more of the long-term effects become apparent.
ET: Looking at the bigger picture now, so what if Western Civilization is going the way of the dodo? We have had peace and progress over the last five decades. The nefarious Soviet Union was vanquished in the interim. And globalization and technology have brought new opportunities and interactions. Investors seem to believe in that, given that the US stock market is at record highs while global bond yields near record lows. It seems all is good…
HR: It is true, human life continues regardless of the state of human civilization. It might even be said that life is becoming better and better for greater numbers than ever before. Standards of living are rising and will continue to improve for people in their billions all over the world. The Chinese have lifted themselves out of poverty. Now it is the turn of the Indians, after that there will be others as well. The world is at peace as never before. I am not unduly troubled by the few incidents of terrorism that are so exaggerated by the media, or even by the few sputtering civil wars. So who needs civilization? Isn’t life better off without it?
Unfortunately, things are not as rosy when we look at the global situation as a whole. Many of the major problems of humanity are no nearer to being solved. The issue of nuclear annihilation still hangs in the balance; we could still destroy ourselves through some political miscalculation or some technical error. A clash of interests between the major powers could still bring on a global war. Our present peace is still precarious.
Global warming and all the other environmental problems are far from being solved. It is possible they will not be overcome, unless a majority of human beings change their way of life and cease to strive for ever greater levels of affluence and the possession of material goods. A new ethical orientation might be called for, drawing on the values of past civilizations, as adapted to contemporary conditions.
In brief, human life based on material considerations alone might not be sustainable in the long run. Man does not live by bread alone – not even by bread and circuses in their latest electronic form. Masses of people crammed into huge metropolises that cities are now becoming all over the world is hardly a pleasant prospect to contemplate for the future of humanity. Without civilization we are faced with the kind of brave new world scenario, outlined long ago by Huxley.
This is the reason we must strive to maintain as much of our various civilizations and their cultures as are still viable. Cultural conservation is as crucial as conservation of Nature. Indeed it is hard to envisage how the one can work without the other, as I have explained in my books.
ET: If Western Civilization is so important, what are investors missing given how far up asset prices have gone in recent years? Are they just too myopic?
HR: As far as investors go, it is not Western Civilization as a whole that is important, what is crucial for them is that the minimal norms of international affairs governing economic activity should obtain, above all, the rule of law and the security of contracts, because without that none of their investments are safe. As for human rights, that is important in so far as they do not wish to profit from slave labor or any other grossly exploitative conditions. If they are more ethically minded than that, as they should be, they should also insist that individual rights are implemented before they undertake business dealings in any country. Whether they should also insist on other freedoms is a moot point, unless they wish to be ethical investors and are prepared to forego some profit opportunities.
ET: What about the unique contributions of Western Civilization to human rights, rule of law, democracy, healthcare and general progress. Can these not be sustained and indeed enhanced with globalization?
HR: Western Civilization is the one that brought about the present conditions of humanity. It is, therefore the one most responsible for its problems and drawbacks, and the one charged with the task of remedying them. Indeed, it is the only one at present that has the capacity for doing so. The Forces of Modernity – capitalism, the state, science and technology – arose out of Western civilization, and the difficulties for humanity that they have brought about can be best understood and addressed within the context of that civilization.
An example of this fact is that it is the West that is forging the universal standards, which the whole of humanity can accept, and on the basis of which all civilizations can coexist, regardless of how they differ in other respects. The United Nations and its various agencies, the World Bank and many other such organizations, indeed the whole system of cooperating, as well as peacefully competing states, was the creation of Western Civilization, based primarily on its principles and values.
These organizations mandate a minimum of norms of international behavior that all states, regardless of their origins, must now accept, if relations between them and even meaningful communication are to be maintained. What this minimum of necessary norms is to be is the subject of interminable disputes. Americans tend to see it in the maximalist terms of their own traditions, as well as their national interests, and press for full democratization, as well as free market liberalism; other nations with other traditions and interests have naturally resisted this. Some basic human rights and the rule of law, no matter how interpreted, seem to be such basic minimal provisions for belonging to the international order. Democracy, healthcare and general progress is perhaps asking too much of many societies, which are unwilling or incapable of entertaining such things. Whether further globalization will alter this is dubious. We see this in the case of China, which has globalized at a rapid rate, but is no nearer to democracy or liberalism in most respects.
ET: In Part II of our discussion we will look at what is happening in the Chinese, Islamic, Indian and Russian spheres, and how they fit within the aforementioned trends. Anything else you would like to add before we conclude this part of our discussion?
HR: I would like to stress that my general theoretical analysis of the state of civilization and humanity be distinguished and separated from my detailed diagnosis of specific conditions and problems or my proposals for dealing with them. I stick to my theories, which I believe are correct. I am far less sure of my practical analyses. Someone agreeing with my general point of view might easily offer quite different accounts of things or solutions to problems than the ones that I suggest. I am quite prepared for such disagreements, for theory and practice do not necessarily entail each other.
Indeed, I welcome debate on the theoretical, practical and evaluative aspects of everything I have said here, or written in my books. I am sure I have made many errors and contravened many other worthy thinkers, present or past and expect that these sins will, in time, be exposed. But this can only happen if my views are subjected to the acid test of stringent criticism. Hence, I hope that it will be said of me, as was once said of another notorious writer: “his sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”
ET: Thank you very much.
Seemingly not satisfied with the domestic blowback from their interventionist-driven Washingtonian foreign policy, Francois Hollande - lagging badly in the polls - has decided to double-down following the recent terror attack in Nice. As Sputnik News reports, France will send artillery to Iraq and its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to assist the US-led coalition’s efforts in Syria and Iraq in the coming months.
The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will be sent to the region in September, the President added.
"The Charles de Gaulle airacrft carrier will arrive in the region by the end of September. It and our Rafale aircraft will allow to intensify our strikes against Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq," Hollande said in a televised statement.
France will also send artillery to Iraq in August to help the Iraqi army fight Daesh terrorists, the President added.
"The Defense Council and I made a decision this morning to provide Iraqi forces with artillery as a part of anti-Daesh efforts. The artillery will be delivered in August," Hollande said.
However, France "will not deploy ground troops," Hollande said.
"We support the operations in Syria and Iraq, but will not send our troops. We have advice to give, training to provide, but we will not deploy men on the ground," Hollande stressed.
The US-led coalition of more than 60 nations, including France, has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014, with the US alone having recently reached the questionable milestone of dropping 50,000 bombs on ISIS.
Do you feel more of less safe?
Life is full of examples where folks make bad choices for noble reasons. Not every decision is a winner: sometimes you make the right call, sometimes you don't.
- In 1962, Decca Records passed on signing a young new band because it thought that guitar-based groups were falling out of favor. That band was The Beatles.
- Napolean Bonaparte calculated he could conquer Russia by assembling one of the largest invading forces the world has ever seen. He marched towards Moscow in the summer of 1812 with over 650,000 troops. Less than six months later, he retreated in failure, his forces decimated down to a mere 27,000 effective soldiers.
- 1985 217 separate investors turned down an entrepreneur trying to raise the relatively modest sum of $1.6 million to fund his vision of transforming a daily routine shared by millions around the world. That company? Starbucks.
In these cases, those making the decision made what they felt was the best choice given the information available to them at the time. That's completely understandable and defensible. Fate is fickle, and no one is 100% right 100% of the time.
But what's much harder to condone -- and this is the focus of this article -- is when people embrace the wrong decision even when they have ample evidence and comprehension that doing so runs counter to their welfare.
Really? you might be skeptically thinking. Do people really ever do this?
Yes, sadly. Absolutely they do.
Because decision-making isn't just based on data. It's also influenced by beliefs. And when our beliefs don't align with the data, we humans can be woefully stubborn against changing our behavior, even in spite of mounting evidence that our beliefs are incorrect and possibly even detrimental to us.
The fascinating field of behavioral economics is dedicated to studying why people are capable of making bad decisions despite have access to good data (if you've got the time, listen to our past interviews with behavioral economist Dan Ariely here. They're riveting.)
So, yes, we humans are easily capable of being our own worst enemies.
For a prime example, let's turn to one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
The Curious Case Of Wilt Chamberlain's Free Throws
Gladwell's podcast tackled this same topic of Why do smart people make dumb decisions?, and it featured Wilt Chamberlain's free throw career to make its point.
Wilt Chamberlain is widely cited as the best forward to ever play the game of basketball. At 7' 1" and 275 pounds, with a ferocious attitude and athletic grace, he was a dominating force on the court during the 1960-70s. He won seven scoring titles, including the game he is best known for in which he single-handedly scored 100 points -- a record that still stands today.
That record 100-point game is even more interesting than most people realize, Gladwell points out. It's significant not just for the total number of points that Chamberlain scored, but also for the number of free throws that he made during the game: 28.
Chamberlain was on fire with his free throws that night. He made 88% of them (28 of 32). That's a very high percentage versus the league average, and amazingly high given Chamberlain's career average of roughly 50%.
In fact, Chamberlain was widely regarded as a horrible free throw shooter. His overall stats certainly say he was, but this short video clip below does an even better job of hitting home how poorly he typically shot from the line:
So how did Chamberlain's free throw conversion get so much better?
To answer that, we need to look at another basketball great...
Rick Barry & The 'Granny Shot'
A contemporary of Wilt Chamberlain was Rick Barry, who played much of his career for the Golden State Warriors. Barry was a phenomenal free-throw shooter -- at the time he played he was the best in history.
His career percentage? 90%
That's over a 15-year pro career. Amazing. (His best year was in 1979 when he completed a freakishly high 94.7% of his shots from the line).
Why was Barry so successful at free throws? Why was he so much better than Wilt?
He shot his free throws underhanded.
Yep, that's right. This 12-time NBA all-star made 'granny shots'.
Barry approached the free throw as a physics problem, and had a willingness to "do whatever it takes" to improve his accuracy and precision:
"Physicists have done all kinds of testing and said it's the most efficient way to shoot because there are fewer moving parts. It's so much more natural to shoot this way," he says. "Who walks around with their hands over their head?"
As Barry has often explained, the primary benefits of Granny style are that it increases the likelihood of a straight toss, and it produces a much softer landing on the rim. [Shooting underhand] is also able to generate more backspin, which gives him more breaks on errant throws.
Here's a clip of Barry in action:
He didn't always shoot this way. Barry started as an overhand shooter like everybody else. But when he realized that his completion percentage improved by adopting the underhand toss, he switched over and the rest is NBA history.
Which brings us back to Chamberlain.
As a notoriously bad foul-line shooter, Chamberlain was advised to adopt the granny shot. He did, and his free throw percentage soon rose to a career high 61% in 1961-62, the same season as his famous 100-point game. So, the change worked. His stats improved, his team won more games, and his amazing consistency helped him set a single-game scoring record that remains untouchable to this day.
But then something unexpected happened: Chamberlain stopped shooting underhanded.
Making The Wrong Choices For The Wrong Reasons
When Wilt gave up the granny shot, his free throw percentage proceeded to decline, plummeting to a career low of just 38% by the 1967-68 season.
So, the big question here is: Why? Why would Chamberlain willingly abandon a superior form of shooting, especially when he had already experienced direct personal gain from its benefits?
The answer goes back to beliefs: he felt "like a sissy" shooting that way.
Sure, in the early days of the NBA, underhanded foul shots were common. But by the time of Chamberlain's career, pretty much only female basketball players shot that way anymore.
Given the machismo of professional sports, it's understandable that a star like Wilt cared what the other guys thought of him. But was it important enough to abandon a solution that improved his quality of play so much? After all, isn't the most respected teammate the one who can be counted on to put the most points on the board?
Gladwell notes that it has been estimated that Chamberlain could have scored over 1,000 additional points in his career had he shot underhand from the foul line throughout.
In addition to that, he likely would have scored even more points by playing more minutes. Because he was such a poor free thrower, Wilt was often benched in the final minutes of play during close games -- as a poor foul shooter is a big liability under those conditions. The opposing team can foul him with confidence that he'll miss his shots and they'll then get possession of the ball.
Gladwell marvels that somebody so driven to win would deliberately abandon such an easy and advantageous solution as Chamberlain did the granny shot. Even after he had personally experienced its superiority. But he did, thus proving how belief can trump reason.
Later, in his autobiography Wilt: Larger Than Life, Chamberlain admits that switching back to an overhanded free throw was a clear mistake:
"I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now, the best one in the NBA, Rick Barry, shoots underhanded. I just couldn't do it."
What's amazing is that even though both Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain very visibly demonstrated the advantages of the underhanded free throw, half a century later almost nobody -- not in the NBA and not in college ball -- has adopted it. Think of all the additional points that could have been scored over that time, all the additional minutes played, all the additional team wins. It's not like players haven't had a powerful incentive to consider changing their behavior -- these are the very stats their contracts are based on. In great likelihood, many $millions ($billions?) of additional player compensation have been forfeited over the past 50 years simply because the athletes didn't want to look a tiny bit 'girly' at the line.
Later on in his podcast, Gladwell concludes that Chamberlain -- like virtually everbody else in professional basketball -- had a high threshold for overcoming conventional opinion. He wasn't comfortable being a maverick when it came to bucking social mores. Rick Barry, on the other hand, clearly had a lower threshold -- famously not caring what others thought of him (Barry was widely disliked across the league for his disregard of other's feelings).
He ends the podcast with this observation:
I know we've really only been talking about basketball, which is just a game in the end. But the lesson here is much bigger than that. It takes courage to be good, social courage, to be honest with yourself, to do things the right way.
A Lack Of Courage To Be Good & Honest
Which brings us back to the point of this article. Chamberlain's willful blindness to the ramifications of his clearly inferior choice is not unique. In fact, when we look at many of the decisions being made by world leaders in recent years, we see a depressing abundance of intentional bad choices.
Most emblematic of this, in my opinion, are the ZIRP/NIRP interest rate policies the world's central banks are implementing. As discussed many times here at PeakProsperity.com, the endgame of these policies is easy to predict. History is replete with examples of similar attempts of governments attempting to print their way to prosperity. It's simply not possible. As Chris says, if it were, the Romans would have figured it out and today we'd all be speaking Latin.
The head central bankers are not morons (although a number of them may indeed be ivory tower academics too out-of-touch with the real world). Many of them realize that they have painted themselves into a corner by easing too much for too long, by flooding the world with too much cheap debt-based money. Many understand, perhaps today more than ever, Ludwig von Mises' rule that:
"There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved."
But, like Chamberlain, they do not have the courage to re-evaluate their beliefs and chart an alternative course.
To 'voluntarily abandon further credit expansion' means letting natural market forces bring down stock, bond and real estate prices from their current bubble highs -- thereby vaporizing a lot of paper wealth. It means widespread layoffs as inefficient companies that have been kept alive by nearly free access to nearly unlimited credit have to start actually generating profits if they can. It means living below our means today, so that we can sustainably live within them tomorrow.
Instead, they simply double down on the policies that got us into this mess in the first place, claiming that their efforts to date just haven't been big enough yet to succeed. And they do this with the full support of our politicians, who want to avoid any unpopular austerity measures because they care much more about getting re-elected than the hard work of actually addressing our nation's structural problems. So interest rates go even lower, asset bubbles grow even higher, the wealth gap extends even wider, and the risks of a "total catastrophe of the currency system" become even more extreme.
The coming economic/financial/monetary reckoning can't be avoided at this point; only managed. But we can't position ourselves to manage it gracefully if we don't have to courage to even recognize its existence. And our current leaders do not have that courage.
Which is why we need to ready ourselves, as individuals. Charles Hugh Smith recently penned an excellent report Investing For Crisis which is an essential read for any investor who shares the concern that we will continue to see more wrong choices being made for the wrong reasons -- until the entire systems fails. If you haven't read it yet, you really should.
The pending Brexit has, not surprisingly, caused a shakeup in the investment world, particularly in the UK. Of particular note is that, recently, asset management firms in Britain began refusing their clients the right to cash out of their mutual funds. Of the £35 billion invested in such funds, just under £20 billion has been affected.
For those readers who live in the UK, or are invested in UK mutual funds, this is reason to tremble at the knees.
So, why have these investors been refused the right to exit the funds? Well, it’s pretty simple. The trouble is that quite a few of them made the request at about the same time. Of course the management firms don’t keep enough money on hand to pay them all off, so, rather than spend all their money paying off as many clients as possible, then going out of business due to a lack of liquidity, they simply announce a freeze on redemptions.
Those who are outraged may read the fine print of their contracts and find that the fund managers have every right to halt redemptions, should “extraordinary circumstances” occur. Who defines “extraordinary circumstances?” The fund managers.
Across the pond in the US, investors are reassured by the existence of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has the power to refuse this power to investment firms…or not, should they feel that a possible run on redemptions might be destructive to the economy.
Countries differ as to the level of freedom they will allow mutual fund and hedge fund management firms to have on their own, but all of them are likely to err on the side of the protection of the firms rather than the rights of the investor, as the firms will undoubtedly make a good case that a run on funds is unhealthy to the economy.
The Brexit news has created a downward spike in investor confidence in the UK – one that it will recover from, but, nevertheless, one that has caused investors to have their investment locked up. They can’t get out, no matter how badly they may need the money for other purposes. This fact bears pondering.
Presently, the UK, EU, US, et al, have created a level of debt that exceeds anything the world has ever seen. Historically, extreme debt always ends in an economic collapse. The odiferous effluvium hasn’t yet hit the fan, but we’re not far off from that eventuality. Therefore, wherever you live and invest, a spike such as the one presently occurring in the UK could result in you being refused redemption. Should there then be a concurrent drop in the market that serves to gut the fund’s investments, you can expect to sit by and watch as the fund heads south, but be unable to exit the fund.
As stated above, excessive debt results in an economic collapse, which results in a market crash. It’s a time-tested scenario and the last really big one began in 1929, but the present level of debt is far higher than in 1929, so we can anticipate a far bigger crash this time around.
But the wise investor will, of course diversify, assuring him that, if one investment fails, another will save him. Let’s look at some of the most prominent ones and consider how they might fare, at a time when the economy is teetering in the edge.
Stocks and Bonds
Presently, the stock market is in an unprecedented bubble. The market has been artificially propped up by banks and governments and grows shakier by the day. Bonds are in a worse state – the greatest bubble they have ever been in. This bubble is just awaiting a pin. We can’t know when it will arrive, but we can be confident that it’s coming. Rosy today, crisis tomorrow.
Cash on Deposit
Cyprus taught us in 2013 that a country can allow its banks to simply confiscate (steal) depositors’ funds, should they decide that there is an “emergency situation” – i.e., the bank is in trouble. Unfortunately, the US (in 2010), Canada (in 2013) and the EU (in 2014) have all passed laws allowing banks to decide if they’re “in trouble”. If they so decide, they have a free rein in confiscating your deposit.
Safe Deposit Boxes
Banks in North America and Europe have begun advising their clients that they cannot store money or jewelry in safe deposit boxes. Some governments have passed legislation requiring those who rent safe deposit boxes to register the location of the box, its number and its contents with the government.
Each year, the storage of valuables in a safe deposit box is becoming more dubious.
Pension plans tend to be heavily invested in stocks and bonds, making them increasingly at risk in a downturn. To make matters worse, some governments have begun to attack pensions. Others, such as the US, have announced plans to force pensions to invest in US Government Treasuries – which, in a major economic downturn could go to zero.
These are amongst the most preferred stores of wealth and are all very much at risk. In addition, there are two choices that, if invested correctly, promise greater safety.
The Mutual funds in the UK that are presently in trouble are heavily invested in real estate. But real estate that you invest in directly does not face the same risk. However, any real estate that’s located in a country that’s presently preparing for an economic crisis, such as those mentioned above, will be at risk. Real estate in offshore jurisdictions that are not inclined to be at risk is a far better bet. (An additional advantage is that real estate in offshore locations is not even reportable for tax purposes in most countries, because it cannot be expatriated to another country.
Precious metals are a highly liquid form of investment. They can be bought and sold quickly and can be shipped anywhere in the world, or traded for metals in another location. Of course, storage facilities in at-risk countries may find themselves at the mercy of their governments. However, private storage facilities exist in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and other locations that do not come under the control of the EU or US. Precious metals ownership provides greater protection against rapacious governments, but storage must be outside such countries.
The lesson to take away here is that, if you can’t touch it, you don’t own it. Banks and fund management firms can freeze your wealth, so that you can’t access it. Governments and banks can confiscate your wealth. If you don’t have the power to put your hands on your wealth on demand, you don’t own it.
This evening, take account of all your deposits and investments and determine what percentage of them you do truly own. If you decide that that percentage is too low for you to accept, you may wish to implement some changes... before others do it for you.