Category Archives: History

Oops. Sorry We Destroyed Your Country in Error, by Eric Margolis

The US has wreaked far more havoc and destruction on Iraq than ISIS ever has. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

A gathering of rich oil Arabs pledged $30 billion this week at a meeting in Kuwait to start rebuilding war-shattered Iraq.  Sounds nice but these kinds of conclaves are notorious for offering big but delivering little.

The event was billed as helping Iraq repair war damage caused by ISIS.  In fact, most of the damage from that short-lived conflict was caused by US bombing and a few Russian air strikes.   ISIS, as this column has long been crying in the wilderness, was largely a paper tiger confected by the US, Britain and France to justify their military re-entry into Syria.

Iraq’s government says it needs at least $88 billion to rebuild war damage.  What the US-imposed client regime in Baghdad won’t or can’t say is that the damage to Iraq is far greater than $88 billion and was largely inflicted by US air power in 1990-1991 and 2003.

Iraq was ravaged, as I saw myself while covering the wars.  This small nation of 23-25 million souls, a third of whom were in permanent revolt against the Baghdad government, was pounded into rubble by US air power and cruise missiles.  First in 1990-1991, then in 2003, everything of value was blown to bits:  hospitals, schools, food factories, chemical plants making insecticide, bridges, and communications.  In short, all the attributes of a modern state.

Most shocking to me, was the destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants by US air strikes.

Their destruction resulted in epidemics of cholera and other water-born diseases.  Children were the primary victims.  The UN asserted that over 550,000 Iraqi children died as a result of contaminated water.  US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later notoriously asserted that these deaths were ‘a price worth paying.’  I call them a war crime.

In 2003, 900,000 US-directed troops massed in Kuwait, invaded Iraq to finish off, it was claimed, the ‘work that the first president Bush failed to achieve,’ the overthrow and lynching of Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.  If Saddam had any nuclear or broad-area biological weapons, the invader’s buildup in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would have been a dream target.

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State Property, by Robert Gore

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal wrung from the trauma of the 1930s a lasting legacy of economic and social reform, including the Social Security Act, new banking and financial laws, regulatory legislation, and new opportunities for organized labor. Taken together, these reforms gave a measure of security to millions of Americans who had never had much of it, and with it, a fresh sense of having a stake in their country.

From the dust jacket description of Freedom From Fear, The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy, Oxford University Press, (1999)

When one man’s security becomes another man’s chain gang.

The above paragraph concisely sums up conclusions about the New Deal that can be found in thousands of textbooks, histories, and articles. You can guess that the tome (it’s 858 pages, SLL has not read it) reflects the reigning academic ideology, an impression furthered by its Pulitzer Prize. Pulitzers are awarded to fans of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New deal, not critics. If the latter stood a chance, Amity Shlae’s fine critical analysis, The Forgotten Man, A New History Of The Great Depression, might have received one.

Putting food on the table has a large place in human history. So too do governments. More often than not, they’ve worked at cross-purposes. Governments don’t produce, they take. Whatever they take means less food, and everything else, for those from whom they take it.

One man’s government-bestowed security is another’s government-bestowed insecurity. There weren’t enough plutocrats to fund the New Deal. It reached into the pockets of people who were only an economic rung or two above its beneficiaries. The money taken from a taxpayer might have meant deferred truck maintenance or no trip to the doctor for his sick daughter.

Someone always pays, either present taxpayers or, when the government borrows the money and doesn’t default, future ones. During the New Deal many Americans wouldn’t accept assistance from private charities, but would from the government. Voluntary charity was rejected but the proceeds of involuntary forced taking were not.

The “measure of security” created an insecurity among those who funded it that went far deeper than the knowledge that the government now had first claim on their income and wealth. Income and wealth are products of how one spends one’s time and effort, of how one lives one’s life.

Roosevelt reversed America’s fundamental premise, never fully realized, that one’s life is one’s own. It was never explicitly stated, but implicitly each American’s life became state property. That is the fundamental premise of socialism and the true price of that “measure of security.” Freedom from fear for some necessarily means fear of the government for many.

Where has the idea that we are each owned by the government, our lives to be disposed of as it pleases, taken us? President Eisenhower warned of the military-intelligence complex (MIC). What he didn’t foresee, or at least didn’t warn of, was the redistributive complex.

It’s true that Eisenhower’s complex, to which we’ll add the intelligence agencies, accounts for spending of around $1 trillion and runs a global empire. However, that’s only about one-fourth of the federal budget. The redistributive complex spends most of the other three-fourths. Also keep in mind that a substantial, but hard to quantify, portion of MIC spending is nothing more than redistribution to military and intelligence personnel and contractors that neither defends the US nor projects its power.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the three largest programs in the federal budget and account for just under half of total spending. Perhaps because its trust funds are mislabeled, many people believe that Social Security is set up like a private pension fund (Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund) or a private insurance fund (Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund).

Nothing could be further from the truth. Private pension and insurance funds take in contributions and invest them. If their contributions and investment returns are sufficient, they can pay their obligations. The Social Security Trust Funds are strictly pay as you go: this year’s taxes fund this year’s payments. Taxes in excess of obligations go into general government funds in exchange for interest-bearing government IOUs. Without changes in existing law, payments are projected to exceed taxes in fiscal year 2020.

Taxpayers do not “earn” their Social Security benefits any more than they “earn” a refund towards the end of their life on their income taxes. Legally, Social Security taxes are indistinguishable from income taxes. They both fund the government, are not invested to earn a return, and are certainly not kept in trust for the benefit of the taxpayer.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Social Security benefits are a revocable promise from the government, not a contract like a pension or insurance policy. (Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960)). Contracts are a hallmark of freedom. Reciprocal obligations would put a crimp in the government’s ownership of your life. Slaves don’t get contracts.

Slave might be a distasteful term for some, so they may use serf. However, medieval serfs usually only had to turn over about a quarter of what they produced. Local, state, and the federal government income, property, sales, and inheritance taxes take far more than that from many of the nation’s most well-compensated and wealthiest taxpayers.

One can quibble over actual percentages, but that obscures the most important point: the government can take 100 percent if it wants. Presumably at that point most people would call it slavery. Even with first call on the nation’s income, the government is still over $20 trillion in debt.

Nothing says state property like putting people’s health and lives at the mercy of the government. Socialized medicine gives the government life or death power. The “single payer” calls the shots. Doctors and nurses become government functionaries, practicing “medicine” in accordance with bureaucratic decree. These procedures will be followed, these vaccines administered, these treatments allowed, and these drugs prescribed. These surgeries are “necessary” and will be performed when we can schedule one of our overworked surgeons. These surgeries are “elective,” go to the back of the line. These surgeries are “cosmetic,” you’re shit out of luck. And so on…

No surprise that socialized medicine is the Holy Grail for the redistributive sect or anyone bent on bankrupting the country (there’s quite a bit of overlap). Need justifies theft, the proceeds of which are redistributed to the government and its voter beneficiaries. The producers who complain, resist, or stop producing are greedy. The politicians and bureaucrats are altruists. The beneficiaries are blameless victims. When it all falls apart, nobody saw it coming.

Here’s an eleven-word summary of the thousand-plus pages of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: collectivism and the morality of coercive altruism are destroying the world. Rejecting that morality is the necessary first step for reversing the trend. Each individual’s life is his or her own property, not the state’s. Establishing that right means intellectual and physical battles that are quintessentially self-defensive: defending the inviolable right to one’s own soul, mind, body, and productive effort—a defense of self.

Don’t fight those battles and some day there might be another class of surgery: mandatory surgery. As you’re wheeled into the operating room, just before the anesthetic kicks in, you’re told that your vital organs are being harvested for transplantation. You’re getting on in years, there’s a shortage of transplantable organs, and yours will save the life of someone who can make a greater contribution to the collective good. If you bought into the collectivists’ morality, you have no right to complain or resist. Someone else needs your organs, after all, and it’s your duty to accept your fate.

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America’s Most Deified Politician . . . by Thomas DiLorenzo

Thomas DiLorenzo sees no reason to deify Abraham Lincoln, and a number of reasons to villify him. From DiLorenzo at lewrockwell.com:

. . . has a birthday today that is celebrated throughout the land, especially at neocon think tanks and tabloids.  I speak of course of the man the “Straussian” wing of neoconworld refers to as “Father” Abraham Lincoln.  So I thought I’d offer some reading suggestions as part of today’s birthday celebration.

Lincoln was by far the most hated, despised, and reviled of all American presidents during his lifetime, as historian Larry Tagg documents in The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled PresidentHis deification was the posthumous work of the Republican Party propaganda machine.

Lincoln was very careful with his language when he explained to the world in his first inaugural address and other speeches that he was willing to enshrine slavery explicitly in the text of the Constitution (with the “Corwin Amendment”), but that he would invade any state that refused to collect the newly-doubled federal tariff tax and send the proceeds to Washington, D.C.  So-called “Lincoln scholars” lie though their teeth about this, in other words.

Lincoln’s invasion of the “free and independent” Southern states, as all states are called in the Declaration of Independence, was the very definition of treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution,which defines treason as “only” levying war upon the United States, or giving aid and comfort to “their” enemy.  The word “their,” signifying the states in the plural, means treason is waging war against South Carolina, Virginia, etc.

Lincoln was the biggest enemy the First Amendment ever had, even worse than John Adams, who enforced the Sedition Act that made criticizing his administration a crime.  Adams only imprisoned a few critics, whereas Lincoln illegally suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus and had his military imprison tens of thousands of Northern-state critics while shutting down over 300 opposition newspapers.  He imprisoned newspaper owners and editors, deported Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, his harshest congressional critic, most of the Maryland legislature was imprisoned, as was the mayor of Baltimore, and he declared that anyone who merely remained silent while his administration was being discussed was guilty of “treason.”

To continue reading: America’s Most Deified Politician . . .

BREAKING: Gravity Works, by Robert Gore

Are you ready for the inevitable?

Why did the stock market fall? The usual suspects are finding all sorts of “causes.” How about this one: when everyone is on the same side of the boat, driven by hope and greed or fear and loathing, the boat capsizes, no matter the economic “fundamentals” or political climate.

Since 2009 the world’s central bank’s have blown up their balance sheets and much of that newly created fiat debt found a home in equity and bond markets and cryptocurrencies. With few interruptions, most asset prices have rallied ever since.

Virtually every stock market sentiment and positioning indicator has, like the stock market itself, gone from new extreme to new extreme for months. Numerous commentators, including SLL, have been warning for months, even years. Pick a valuation measure and stocks, even after the last two weeks, are at peak valuations rivaled only by 1929, 2000, and 2007.

The only mystery was when they would give way. If they are now in fact giving way, then there’s no mystery about how bad it’s going to get. Very bad.

With the world more indebted than it’s ever been on both an absolute basis and relative to the world’s productive capacity, economies and markets are extremely sensitive to interest rates. The Treasury debt market has been the dark cloud on the horizon since short-term bill rates made their low in mid-2015. The Fed followed, as it almost always does, raising the federal funds rate target (from zero) for the first time in seven years December 2015.

That markets lead, not follow the Fed, is an inconvenient truth for the legions of commentators and analysts who routinely assert the Fed controls interest rates. It shoots a hole in a lot of theories and models. (For substantiation that the Fed follows the market, see The Socionomic Theory of Finance, Chapter 3, Robert Prechter.)

The ten-year note made its high in July 2016 and has been trending irregularly lower—and interest rates irregularly higher—since. Higher interest rates raise the cost of leveraged speculation, production, and consumption. Yet, leveraged speculators in the stock market only seem to have noticed rising yields the past couple of weeks.

Given that the government will be borrowing close to $1 trillion this year, yields are still absurdly low. Markets have been conditioned by interest rate suppression, negative yields, governmental debt monetization, QEs, central bank puts, and central banker public pronouncements to think absurdly low yields are forever. A competing hypothesis is that it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature or markets, and after nine years of this nonsense, when they blow they’re really going to blow. SLL endorses the competing hypothesis.

Small coteries of central banking bureaucrats can’t regulate or control multi-trillion dollar, yen, yuan, and euro economies and financial markets. Super-volcanic financial eruptions will expose other truths as well. Watch as rising interest rates and crashing equity markets and economies reveal central, core truths: governments are bereft of real resources, are desperate to acquire same, and will be inconceivably—by today’s standards—rapacious in doing so. That’s quite a statement, because even today they’re pretty damn larcenous.

A generalized crash will also clarify the central conflict of our time: government and it’s string-pullers, minions, beneficiaries, and cheerleaders versus everybody else. Such a characterization suggests a deepening of today’s polarization. Unfortunately, as order breaks down, it will be everybody else versus everybody else, too. Good-bye polarization, hello atomization.

And order will break down. Government always and everywhere rule by force, fraud, and intimidation, but force, fraud, and intimidation need to be paid, preferably in something that can be exchanged for groceries or shoes for the kids. History suggests that the government and central bank will depreciate (speaking of fraud) their fiat debt instruments—Federal Reserve Notes, US Treasury debt, and central bank credit balances—to their marginal cost of production, or zero.

When governments are bankrupt, their praetorians forage—a nice word for theft and extortion. They’ll be competing with hordes of foraging civilians, many of whom will be armed. In such a scenario, one identifiable group has a fighting chance, and it will involve fighting and lots of it. That, of course, is the group who have either been preparing for such a scenario for years or have the skill set and mental fortitude necessary to adapt to it. Much scorned, this group may get the last laugh, but it will be a grim one.

They overwhelmingly supported Trump. It will be a disappointment, but not a surprise, that one man is unable to reverse a collapse long in the making. However, their support for Trump indicates ideological cohesion, which will be absent from the rest of the population.

Take away the undeserved from the undeserving and you get a tantrum. Steal the earned from those who earned it and you get righteous rage. One’s a firecracker, the other a volcano. The game has been to impress upon the useful a moral obligation to support the useless, but the volcano’s about to blow, burying that obscene morality in lava and ash. Given the staggering levels of accumulated debt and promises, the useful know their talents, skills, hard work, productivity and futures have been mortgaged for the useless. This is the salient and intractable social division. No reconciliation is possible between the useful and those who believe themselves entitled to their enslavement.

The Useful and the Useless,” SLL, 3/23/17

When the government implodes, those on the receiving end of its largess are going to be united by only two things: their outrage and their inability to do anything about it. They’ll have all the solidarity of cannibals trying to eat one another.

Against that backdrop will be the group who wants to provide for itself…and knows how to do so. Individualism, self-sufficiency, and a love of freedom and inviolable liberties are not dead in America, but those who support them have been driven underground. They’ll stay underground come the collapse—advertising abilities and provisions will be an invitation to brutalization, robbery and murder—but they’ll fend off the rampaging hordes, survive, and reemerge.

Do they have to reemerge, can’t they just emerge to set things right without all the collapse and carnage? Unfortunately not. For those pinning their hopes on political education and action, what are the chances of convincing the half of the country that’s riding the government gravy train to hop off to prevent insolvency and ruin? The question answers itself. They’ll have to be pushed off.

Trump’s election was a cry of protest, and he’s ruffled some feathers. However, eight years of around-the-clock, 24/7 presidential effort couldn’t undo decades of ruinous policies, many of which Trump has actually embraced: out of control spending, deficits, debt, and empire.  Trump will be battling falling equity markets, rising interest rates, and swamp vermin.

Things have to get much worse before they can get better, but just as nothing goes up forever, nothing goes down forever. Collapse’s silver lining may be that it offers a chance for freedom and inviolable liberties to finally emerge from underground.

In the meantime, Doug “Uncola” Lynn’s recent article on The Burning Platform, “BABY STEPS: You’ve Been Woke. Now Exit the Matrix.” is an excellent wake up call and has a lot of useful information and links to other sources about preparing for the inevitable. Nobody is going to be 100 percent prepared, but there’s no excuse for being 0 percent prepared.

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Our Enemy, Ourselves, by William J. Astore

The US has 800 military bases in 172 countries, and 291,000 personnel deployed in 183 countries. Surely each and every one of those bases and personnel are completely necessary for the defense of America. Actually, we’re long past the point when the US military’s mission was confined to defending America. From William J. Astore at tomdispatch.com:

Ten Commonsense Suggestions for Making Peace, Not War

Whether the rationale is the need to wage a war on terror involving 76 countries or renewed preparations for a struggle against peer competitors Russia and China (as Defense Secretary James Mattis suggested recently while introducing America’s new National Defense Strategy), the U.S. military is engaged globally.  A network of 800 military bases spread across 172 countries helps enable its wars and interventions.  By the count of the Pentagon, at the end of the last fiscal year about 291,000 personnel (including reserves and Department of Defense civilians) were deployed in 183 countries worldwide, which is the functional definition of a military uncontained.  Lady Liberty may temporarily close when the U.S. government grinds to a halt, but the country’s foreign military commitments, especially its wars, just keep humming along.

As a student of history, I was warned to avoid the notion of inevitability.  Still, given such data points and others like them, is there anything more predictable in this country’s future than incessant warfare without a true victory in sight?  Indeed, the last clear-cut American victory, the last true “mission accomplished” moment in a war of any significance, came in 1945 with the end of World War II.

Yet the lack of clear victories since then seems to faze no one in Washington.  In this century, presidents have regularly boasted that the U.S. military is the finest fighting force in human history, while no less regularly demanding that the most powerful military in today’s world be “rebuilt” and funded at ever more staggering levels.  Indeed, while on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised he’d invest so much in the military that it would become “so big and so strong and so great, and it will be so powerful that I don’t think we’re ever going to have to use it.” 

As soon as he took office, however, he promptly appointed a set of generals to key positions in his government, stored the mothballs, and went back to war.  Here, then, is a brief rundown of the first year of his presidency in war terms.

To continue reading: Our Enemy, Ourselves

 

America’s Cascading Disaster in Afghanistan, by Pamela

Eliminate on Taliban leader in Afghanistan and you’re probably going to get someone who is even worse. From Pamela at antiwar.com:

William J. Astore’s Intro: I asked Pamela if I could highlight a recent comment she made at this site about the U.S. military’s approach to Afghanistan. Not only did she give me her permission: she elaborated on her point in an email. Pamela, a former aid worker with a decade’s worth of on-the-ground experience in Afghanistan, worked with the Afghan people in relationships characterized by trust and friendship. Her words should be read by all Americans, especially our foreign policy “experts.”

A U.S. government promotional photo. Pamela notes, “Look closely at the expressions on the faces of the Afghans.”

Cascading disaster is an apt term for the US military’s strategy in Afghanistan, which involves the indiscriminate killing of terrorist leaders, whether Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS or whatever else.

In addition to heavily underreported civilian casualties, US military strikes increase the ferocity of those terrorist outfits. Not just because those outfits want to show the world how strong they are. There is another element which arguably is even worse, as it is virtually impossible to reverse. Each “neutralized” leader leaves a power void within his organization and a number of usually younger and more ruthless members start fighting among each other to take over – with cruelty and spectacular attacks obviously being stronger “election” arguments than a “softy” willingness and capacity for peaceful dialogue.

Thus in Afghanistan the original Taliban – the ones who were ousted in 2001 – probably could have been convinced to take part in negotiations. They were an unsavory lot to have as a government, with medieval habits, but they were not terrorists like the ones nowadays. Few people know that in 2000 the British charity Christianaid (yes, with such a provocative name) had an office there, run by a female Australian doctor with her husband and little Sam, their six-month-old son. They enjoyed it very much and the Taliban had no objection against a foreign woman providing medical care to women and children, despite the obvious need for careful diplomacy.

Since then, however, there have been so many cascading series of eliminations of Taliban leaders at all levels – all for the purpose of PR spin rather than any coherent strategy – that we now have the umptiest generation, which has lost whatever dignity and humanity their predecessors may have had.

To continue reading: America’s Cascading Disaster in Afghanistan

Intensified Bombing for Victory in Afghanistan, by Brian Cloughley

Nobody bombs better than the US, but that hasn’t guaranteed US military victories. From Brian Cloughley at antiwar.com:

The TV series, The Vietnam War, is absolutely riveting. The ten discs in the DVD set provide over 17 hours of viewing, and there is hardly a moment wasted. It is evenhanded to the most admirable degree, and presents the points of view of war-supporters in the US and Vietnam as well as doubters, protesters and those who now bitterly regret the years of hellish slaughter. (To declare an interest: I served there in the Australian army in 1970-71 although, as a staff officer, did not see combat.) The producers and presenters of this masterpiece are to be congratulated, as are the US Public Broadcasting Service and those who contributed the 30 million dollars it took to make it.

Being balanced and admirably impartial, there is no leitmotif as such, no recurrent theme that might guide us to move to a particular stand, because, in the words of one reviewer, it “carries with it a sense of trustworthiness; of a project undertaken with humility, but without an agenda beyond the truth.”

Yet there is one particular feature of the war that does recur: the bombing. The ceaseless, pounding, massively destructive, relentlessly thundering bombing, rocketing and napalming in north and south Vietnam – and also in bordering Laos and Cambodia.

In Laos alone the US flew 580,344 bombing missions, dropping 2.5 million tons of munitions, or seven bombs for every man, woman and child in the country, “a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years.” When President Obama visited Laos in 2016 he acknowledged it as the most heavily bombed nation in history and accepted that “the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal.” I doubt that Mr. Trump will endorse such sentiments about Laos or any other country.

To continue reading: Intensified Bombing for Victory in Afghanistan