Category Archives: History

Fed Policy vs. ECB Policy: A Comparison, by Gunther Schnabl and Thomas Stratmann

Noxious as the Federal Reserve’s cure to the last financial crisis was, it left the US in better shape than Europe, where its central bank has been particularly maladroit. From Gunther Schnabl and Thomas Stratmann at mises.org:

Ten years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, banks in the euro area have not recovered. The Euro Stoxx Financials is only 40% above its March 2009 low, well below its pre-crisis level (Fig. 1). By contrast, the S&P Financials index in the US has risen by 320%. The different fates of European and US financial institutions could be due to the different monetary and regulatory crisis therapies of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Fed.

Fig. 1: US and Euro Area Financial Stock Prices

schnabl1.JPG

Source: Thompson Reuters Datastream.

The Fed lowered its key interest rate faster than the ECB (Fig. 2) and expanded its balance sheet more quickly via quantitative easing (Fig. 3). The Fed dropped its benchmark rate down to an all-time low of 0.25% in December of 2008. The Fed’s asset purchases included risky securitized mortgage loans, which helped prevent a financial meltdown during the crisis. The US Treasury also purchased more than $400 billion worth of securitized mortgage loans and bank shares under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (2009-2012). Thus, the banks were forcibly recapitalized. As asset and real estate prices recovered thanks to the Fed’s monetary policy, banks’ balance sheets were further stabilized.

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Breaking Our Biggest Taboo, by Eric S. Margolis

In Washington polite society you simply don’t talk about the influence of the Israel lobby and its money unless you want to get labelled an anti-Semite. From Eric S. Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

“Tell me who you cannot criticize and I will tell you who is your master”. Attributed to Voltaire.

Saying anything negative about Israel has long been the third rail of US politics and media.  Israel is our nation’s most sacred cow.  Any questioning of its behavior brings furious charges of anti-Semitism and professional oblivion.

I keep in my bookcase a cautionary book, ‘They Dared Speak Out’ written by US senators and congressmen who all lost their positions after rebuking Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians or daring to suggest that Israel had far too much influence in the US.

Journalists learn this first commandment very early.  Criticize, or even question, Israel at your own peril.   Until recently, we journalists were not even allowed to write there was an ‘Israel lobby.’  It was widely considered Washington’s most powerful lobby group but, until lately, mentioning its name was seriously verboten.

Now, young Democratic stars Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a feisty congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, have suddenly broken the taboo and said what dared not be said: there is too much rightwing Israeli influence and there must be justice for Palestine.

Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have come to the defense of Ilhan Omar against the usual charges that she is anti-Semitic.  So have black groups and smaller liberal Jewish groups.  The Democratic Party, that once received half its financial support from Jewish sources, is badly split over the Palestine crisis.  Its old guard is retreating and does not know what to do beyond issuing fiery denunciations of the heretical Miss Omar.  The Democrat Party split comes just at a time when it is trying to bring down President Donald Trump.

Many people seem unaware that Islam is now America’s third largest religion and may soon surpass the number of Jews.  In Canada, Muslims are already the second religion.

Ilhan is not anti-Semitic.  I grew up in New York and New England where vicious anti-Semitism abounded.  I know real anti-Semitism when I see it.  But she is quite right in charging that vast amounts of pro-Israel money have bought Congress and the media.

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What Really Happened in Hanoi? by Mike Whitney

The status quo in North Korea is fine by the military-industrial complex who profit it by it and the neocons who support the idea of US global hegemony and dominance, and loath Eurasian integration. Thus the attempt to subvert negotiations and an eventual peace on the Korean Peninsula. From Mike Whitney at unz.com:

While the western media has written off last weekend’s summit in Hanoi as a failure, the talks did help to burnish Kim Jong-un’s reputation as a sincere statesman committed to peacefully resolving the nuclear issue. This is a significant development for the simple reason that Kim needs to continue to build popular support for his cause if he hopes to prevail in the long-term. In that regard, the lifting of sanctions is not nearly as important as Kim’s broader goal of ending Washington’s military occupation of the Korean peninsula and reunifying the country. In order to achieve those objectives, Kim will need the support of his allies in Moscow and Beijing as well as that of the Korean people. His disciplined performance in Hanoi suggests that he is entirely deserving of that support.

There’s no way to know whether Kim expected President Trump to put the kibosh on the deal or not. But with uber-hawks like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton at the bargaining table, he must have figured that there was a high probability of failure. Was that why Kim made such a generous offer during the negotiations? Was it part of a plan to make him look good because he knew Trump would throw a wrench in the works?

It’s hard to say, but it’s clear that Kim emerged from the confab looking much more amenable and statesmanlike than Trump. From the very beginning, Kim appeared to be fully committed to working with his American counterparts to hammer out a deal that was mutually acceptable. He basically showed the world that he was willing to offer up the bulk of the DPRK nuclear weapons-ballistic missile programs on a silver platter in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions. It was an extraordinarily generous offer which should have led to a real breakthrough, but it didn’t. Instead, the offer was breezily rejected without debate or counter-offer. Why? Why would Trump shrug off an offer to permanently halt all long-range rocket and nuclear tests and to “completely dismantle all the nuclear production facilities” at Yongbyon, the DPRK’s primary nuclear enrichment facility? Isn’t that what Washington wanted from the get go?

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Why Won’t Maduro Let US Humanitarian Aid Into Venezuela? History. by Ted Snider

The American government gives aid to get what it wants. In Venezuela, it wants regime change, so the regime resists. From Ted Snider at antiwar.com:

The mainstream media is full of images and stories of Venezuela’s inhumanely authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro pushing American offerings of humanitarian aid away from Venezuela’s border with Columbia.

The mainstream media serves us up our offerings of news as if each headline story was an isolated event, floating alone on an ahistorical sea, unmoored from the events that came before it. Severed from its causes and context, the event can be created for the public in an original, but misleading, way. Restoring the history can clarify the story and prevent its misappropriation.

In the current case of U.S. aid to Venezuela, the restoration of the picture requires at least four pieces of history being painted back into the picture.

The Bridge: Pictures Don’t Lie. People Do.

The story of Maduro’s neglect of his people and his rejection of American aid begins on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge that connects Venezuela to Columbia.

US officials and the mainstream media cried the same complaint in unison. America had tried to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela, and their illegitimate ruler had blocked the bridge and kept it out. But the cry and the photos of the bridge had been manipulatively severed from history. Maduro didn’t block the bridge because it was already blocked, and he couldn’t close the bridge because it had never been opened. Most of the barriers have been there for years because, after the bridge was built in 2015, it has never been opened.

And yet, that image of a stone hearted Maduro was used to cement public opinion against him. The images join a long history of pictures being presented out of historical context to mold public opinion and justify intervention.

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Pakistan in the Crosshairs of New US Aggression, by Tom Luongo

The US just can’t stay out of the Middle East and central Asia. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:

With events escalating quickly in Kashmir it’s incumbent to ask the most pertinent questions in geopolitics.

Why there?

And, Why Now?

Why Kashmir?

India and Pakistan are both making serious moves to slip out from underneath the US’s external control. India has openly defied the US on buying S-400 missile defense systems, keeping up its oil trade with Iran and developing the important Iranian port at Chabahar to help complete an almost private spur of the North South Transport Corridor.

Pakistan, under new Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to square accounts with China over its massive investment for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It has also been at the forefront of multiple rounds of talks spurred by the Russians and Iranians to forge some kind of peace in Afghanistan.

And the Trump administration cut off US aid to Pakistan for not being sufficiently helpful in the fight against terrorism. This opened up a war of words between Trump and Khan who reminded Trump that the little bit of money the US sent Pakistan nothing compared to the losses both economic and personal.

If there was ever the possibility of peace breaking out between India and Pakistan it would be in the context of stitching the two countries together through China’s regional plans as well as solving the thorny problem of continued US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Anything that can be done to flare up tensions between these two adversaries then serves the US’s goals of sowing chaos and division to keep the things from progressing smoothly. Khan was elected to, in effect, drain the Pakistani Swamp. His, like Trump’s, is a tall order.

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The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange, Part 3 – Wikileaks and Russiagate: Trust Us, We’re The CIA, by Dr. Lissa Johnson

The psyop behind the presecution of Julian Assange, from Dr. Lissa Johnson at newmatilda.com:

In the third of her special investigative series on Julian Assange, clinical psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson sheds a little more light on the ways the world’s most consistently dishonest state has co-opted so many otherwise intelligent people into shooting the messenger.

Tomorrow, March 3rd, a rally calling on the Australian Government to protect its citizen, Julian Assange, from US extradition and prosecution will be held in Sydney, at the Martin Place Amphitheatre from 2pm. Acclaimed journalist and film-maker John Pilger will speak at the rally, along with respected human rights advocate Professor Stuart Rees.

The demonstration has been endorsed by musician Roger Waters and by Terry Hicks, father of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks, Australian teachers, Disobedient Media Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Lea Vos, and Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Chris Hedges.

The following Sunday, March 10th, a second rally will be held in Melbourne on the steps of the State Library at 1pm.

Julian Assange is in his ninth year of UN-declared arbitrary detention, now under effective solitary confinement, with his health failing. He faces extradition to the United States and prosecution for journalism should he step outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Rally organiser James Cogan has described Assange’s persecution as the “spearhead of a global offensive against freedom of speech and… censorship of oppositional voices on the internet.” Consistent with this, when he was CIA director Mike Pompeo pledged to pursue, with “great vigour”, “small” media outlets in Wikileaks’ wake.

The rallies in Sydney and Melbourne will demand that the silence and collaboration of the Australian government in Assange’s persecution must end. Terry Hicks said of the rallies, “the fight to gain Julian’s freedom depends on ordinary people speaking out.”

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Dollar Hegemony, Again, by Michael Doliner

Having the world’s reserve currency has allowed the US to amass a gargantuan debt. The debt won’t be paid with anything but hyperinflated dollars, and the dollar will lose its reserve currency status. From Michael Doliner at counterpunch.org:

The United States Entity lost the war in Iraq. That fact determines the Entity’s position in the Middle East today. After having destroyed Saddam’s army and dispossessing the Sunnis in favor of the Shi’ites, after Abu Ghraib and it’s indelible pictures, after the total destruction of Fallujah, in short after a victory achieved with the utmost brutality, contempt and humiliation of Iraq and Iraqis, the Entity was in charge. Then the “insurgents” appeared. They put improvised explosive devices along the roads so, with a phone call, they could destroy patrols of the Entity. They made car bombs so that every vehicle approaching a check-point might spell doom. They donned suicide vests to blow themselves and any nearby Entity soldiers up. Entity soldiers couldn’t go into the streets. Every move they made could be their last. The enemy was everywhere and nowhere. These people would rather die then be ruled by these idiotic mechanized barbarians. Everything seemed peaceful, but at any moment, out of nowhere, they could be blown to pieces. That kind of thing wears on you. Their patrols, pointless bouts of Russian roulette, ended up as parked “search and avoid” missions. Life went on without the clanking monsters. Entity bases were like Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients. The Entity’s attempts at reconstruction were comically inept – roads to nowhere and chicken processing plants for chickens no one wanted. In short the Entity’s occupation of Iraq after the victory, other than being a disaster of comical incompetence, was non-existent. Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric, had much more power than the Entity. Eventually Iraq rejected the Entity’s status of forces agreement (SOFA). In other words the Iraqi puppets the Entity had installed unceremoniously kicked the Entity out of the country.

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