Category Archives: Other Views

Blowback—–The Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home To Roost, by David Stockman

From David Stockman at

Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. The Berlin Wall—-the symbol of a century of state tyranny, grotesque mass warfare and the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over the planet—-had come tumbling down on November 9, 1989.

It was only a matter of time before the economically decrepit Soviet regime would be no more, and that the world’s vast arsenal of weapons and nuclear bombs could be dismantled.

Indeed, shortly thereafter according to Gorbachev, President George H.W. Bush and Secretary Baker promised that NATO would not be expanded by “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East” in return for acquiescing to the reunification of Germany.

So with its “mission accomplished” there was no logical reason why NATO should not have been disbanded in parallel with the Warsaw Pact’s demise, and for an obvious and overpowering reason: On November 9, 1989 there were no material military threats to US security anywhere on the planet outside of the suddenly vanishing front line of the Cold War.

As it turned out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.

So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (CIA, State, AID etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.

In a word, the real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.

Ronald Reagan had called the dying Soviet Union an Evil Empire, but it was actually a passing freak of history. It had arisen by a fluke 72 years earlier—–almost to the day of the Berlin Wall’s fall—–only because Imperial Russia had been reduced to anarchy by the carnage of the Great War, enabling Lenin to storm the Winter Palace and install his own special Bolshevik brand of hell on earth.

So the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant the world could have reverted to the status quo ante. That is, to a normalcy of peace, liberal commerce and a minimum of armaments that had prevailed in the late 19th century. The 20th century curse of militarism, totalitarianism and global warfare was over.

Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committes, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.

As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.

To continue reading: Blowback–The Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home To Roost

Europe’s Youths Yearn to Move as Prosperity Proves Elusive, by Niklas Magnussen

The real surprise is that only 23 percent of Europeans aged between 18 and 24 are contemplating moving. Europe was an economic basket case before the mass migration from the Middle East and Northern Africa, which will certainly not make thing better. from Niklas Magnusson at

Survey found 23% of people 18-24 years old contemplating move

Intrum Justitia chief says report shows youth `lack hope’

An unprecedented number of migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East have headed for Europe this year in their quest for safety and prosperity. Yet for almost a quarter of its youths, the continent is no wonderland.

On average, 23 percent of Europeans aged between 18 and 24 years old are contemplating moving to another country to escape the financial situation at home, according to a report by Intrum Justitia, Europe’s biggest debt collector.

“What our survey shows is that many young people in several parts of Europe are considering moving to other countries and that is sad since it indicates that many young people lack hope for their economic future,” Erik Forsberg, Intrum Justitia’s acting chief executive officer, said in the report. Still, the refugees who are escaping violent conflicts and coming to Europe “is another, much more acute problem,” he said.

What’s perhaps no coincidence, some of the highest percentages in the survey involve countries that have been the least welcoming of refugees.

Hungary, which built a razor-wire fence along its southern border to keep them out, topped the survey with 60 percent of its young people considering a move. Poland and Slovakia, both unhappy with redistributing refugees across the EU, followed with 41 percent and 40 percent, respectively. The percentage of those considering a move abroad was also well above 30 percent in Italy, Portugal and Greece, according to the company’s European Consumer Payment Report, which surveyed 22,400 people in 21 countries.

Those numbers correlate closely with national youth unemployment rates. They underscore the quandary facing many EU nations — particularly those still grappling with the fallout from Europe’s debt crisis — when it comes to dealing with the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving from Syria and other war zones in the Middle East.

Some of their governments tend to justify their reluctance to welcome refugees by arguing that they already have enough to cope with trying to provide for their own citizens. At about 21 percent, the average unemployment rate for Europeans under age 25 is double the overall jobless rate for the 28-member bloc.

To continue reading: Europe’s Youths Yearn To Move


There Are No Safe Spaces, by James Howard Kunstler

From James Howard Kunstler at

I’m not persuaded that world opinion will ever “make sense” of the Paris attacks. The non-linear rules the day. So-called Fourth Generation Warfare works because there are so many small arms loose in the world and any band of maniacs with a few machine guns and a pound of Semtex plastic explosive can create the equivalent of a war zone in a given locality.

As for the French military, the obvious first move was to bomb the ISIS “stronghold” of Raqqa. But haven’t the US and Russian air forces been doing exactly that for some time now? Either they’ve already bombed the place and everything in it to gravel, or air power is not what it’s cracked up to be — and we have plenty of reason to believe the latter after a decade of selectively pounding jihadists from Afgahnistan to Libya with nothing to show for it except a refugee crisis.

One thing seems assured: hard-line governments are coming soon. Politically, the West had boundary problems that go way beyond the question of national borders to the core psychology of modern liberalism. When is enough of anything enough? And then, what are you really willing to do about it? The answer lately among the Western societies is to do little and do it slowly.

The behavior of college administrators and faculties in the USA these days is emblematic of this cowardly dithering. Intellectual despotism reigns on campus and the university presidents roll over like possums. They don’t have the moral strength to defend free speech as the campus witch-hunts ramp up. The result will be first the intellectual death of their institutions (brain death), and then the actual death of college per se as a plausible route to personal socioeconomic development. The financial racketeering that has infected higher education — the engineering of the gargantuan college loan scam in tandem with the multiplication of “diversity” deanships and tuition inflation — pretty much guarantees an implosion of that system.

The cowardice in the college executive suites is mirrored in our national politics, where no persons of real standing will dare step forward to oppose the juggernaut of Hillary-the-Grifter, or take on the clowning Donald Trump on the grounds of his sheer mental unfittedness to lead a government. In case you haven’t noticed, the center not only isn’t holding, it gave way some time ago. The long emergency is showing signs of morphing into something like civil war. The Maoists on campus apparently want to turn it into race war, too.

So many forces are in motion now and they are all tending toward criticality. The European Union may not survive the reestablishment of boundaries, since it was largely based on the elimination of them. Spain and Portugal are back to breaking down politically again. The Paris bloodbath has discredited Angela Merkel’s plea for “tolerance” — of what is proving to be an intolerable alien invasion. The only political figure on the scene who doesn’t appear to be talking out of his ass is Vlad Putin, who correctly stated at the UN that undermining basic institutions around the world was not a good idea.

To continue reading: There Are No Safe Spaces

Meet The Family That Just Spent Half Its Annual Income Paying For Obamacare, by Tyler Durden

From Tyler Durden at

Not a week passes without some incremental revelation showing precisely what happens when Congress passes a bill just to see what’s in it.

Well, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as the Obamacare tax, we have watched in horror as shocker after shocker are revealed.

Some examples: [link to original articles for below links]

• In Latest Obamacare Fiasco, Most Low-Income Workers Can’t Afford “Affordable Care Act”
• The Stunning “Explanation” An Insurance Company Just Used To Boost Health Premiums By 60%
• Your Health Insurance Premiums Are About To Go Through The Roof -The Stunning Reason Why
• Obama Promised Healthcare Premiums Would Fall $2,500 Per Family; They Have Climbed $4,865
• Largest Health Insurer On Colorado Exchange Abruptly Collapses
• Co-Op Insurers Across America Are Collapsing, And Now There Is Fraud
• “$19,000 Premiums, Up 4x Since Passage”: The ‘Crippling Effect’ Of Obamacare On The Middle Class

Now we can add one more thing that “was in it”: soaring deductibles, which give the fake impression of contained, low all-in costs… until one actually needs expensive medial help (and these days there is no other kind).

The latest expose against Obamacare comes not from its usual nemesis, but the hard-left NYT, suggesting that even the ideological supporters of Obama’s “crowning achievement” are losing faith. To wit:

Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces.

But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage.

“The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor,” said David R. Reines, 60, of Jefferson Township, N.J., a former hardware salesman with chronic knee pain. “We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it.”

In many states, more than half the plans offered for sale through, the federal online marketplace, have a deductible of $3,000 or more, a New York Times review has found. Those deductibles are causing concern among Democrats — and some Republican detractors of the health law, who once pushed high-deductible health plans in the belief that consumers would be more cost-conscious if they had more of a financial stake or skin in the game.

“We could not afford the deductible,” said Kevin Fanning, 59, who lives in North Texas, near Wichita Falls. “Basically I was paying for insurance I could not afford to use.” He dropped his policy.

In other words, Obamacare’s “affordable care” is affordable, as long as one doesn’t actually have to use it!

To continue reading: Meet The Family That Just Spent Half Its Annual Income on Obamacare

The Four-Wheeled Bubble, by Eric Peters

From a guest post by Eric Peters on

Bubbles are always obvious … in retrospect.bubble lead

Here’s one you might not see coming.

The Car Bubble.

People are taking out eight-year car loans.

This is – or ought to be – alarming. The automotive equivalent of the zero-down, no-doc, adjustable rate mortgage on a $500,000 McMansion circa 2004.

You know – just before the housing bubble popped.

New car loans used to be 36 months (three years) and then 48 months (four years). Back when the economy was sane.

Today, the typical new car loan is 72 months (six years). This is almost double the formerly typical length of a new car loan.

But even that is not – apparently – enough to keep the music playing.

Enter the eight-year loan.

Which might be ok, if cars were not appliances.

Very expensive toasters, basically.

Though modern cars are longer-lived than the cars of the past, they are – like any other appliance – something you eventually throw away because eventually, it will wear out. Or cost too much to fix – relative to the value of the car itself.

This is why cars always decline in value over time. It is the nature of the thing.

With an eight-year loan, the odds are high that it will begin to wear out – and cost you money to fix – before you’ve paid the thing off.

Then you’ll have a car payment and repair payments.

On a car that’s not worth very much anymore.

Are people stupid?


Or, on dope?

Actually, they are on credit – and debt.

Just like before.

Stretching out the loan from four to six (and now eight) years is a way to make a car you can’t afford seem affordable. To hide from view just how much a new car really costs.

To continue reading: The Four-Wheeled Bubble

U.S. Steel Yield Surges as Metal Rout Imperils Turnaround, by Sonja Elmquist

And the beat goes on. From Sonja Elmquist at

Notes due 2020 capped a fifth straight weekly decline

Hot-rolled steel coil is at the lowest since June 2009

U.S. Steel Corp. bonds plunged, sending yields to record highs, as slumping metal prices hinder its efforts to return to profitability after three consecutive quarters of losses.

The Pittsburgh-based company’s $600 million in notes due 2020 capped a fifth straight weekly decline, pushing up yields to 20 percent. That’s a record 12 percentage points above an index of high-yield debt sold by materials companies. U.S. Steel is the index’s worst performer in the past month after Essar Steel Algoma, which filed for bankruptcy protection this week.

“Folks are beginning to question the viability of the business, just given how weak steel fundamentals are,” Matt Vittorioso, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York, said by phone Friday.

The company has repurchased $197.7 million of convertible bonds due in 2019, it said in a filing Friday.

U.S. Steel, the country’s second-biggest producer, declined to comment on its bond performance.

The metal extended a plunge this month, trading only $5 above the lowest price seen in the commodity crash following the global financial crisis. Hot-rolled steel coil — the benchmark form of the metal used in car parts, buildings and appliances — fell to $387 a ton, the lowest since June 2009. Last week, ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest producer, said global steel consumption will fall by as much as 2 percent in 2015 with only a “slight” improvement in demand expected next year.

To continue reading: U.S. Steel Yield Surges as Metal Rout Imperils Turnaround

Syria Is Fixed! Kerry Devises Farcical “Transition Plan” With Russia, Others, by Tyler Durden

From Tyler Durden, at

As those who follow Syria’s nearly half decade-old civil war are probably aware, John Kerry, Sergei Lavrov, and their counterparts from other “interested” countries including of course Saudi Arabia recently began holding Friday meetings in Vienna in an attempt to work out a “political” solution to the conflict which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and precipitated the worst migrant crisis in Europe’s history.

Thus far, the results of the talks have been predictably underwhelming with all sides agreeing to little more than to keep talking.

The main sticking point: the fate of Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this month, Washington and Riyadh begrudgingly allowed Tehran to have a seat at the table in the negotiations which of course makes sense considering the Iranians (along with various militias backed by Tehran) are doing most of the fighting on the ground and considering that when it comes to the political future of Syria, no country is more keen on preserving its interests than Iran.

Predictably, things didn’t go so well. Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian accused Saudi Arabia of playing a “negative and unconstructive” role, while Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir accused the Iranians of being an “occupying force” in Syria. The spat culminated with Tehran telling Riyadh that is “none of Saudi Arabia’s business how Iran fights terrorism.”

A few weeks went by and Russia began to circulate a “draft” document that was a kind of “trial balloon” for a possible political solution to the conflict, but because it did not specifically call for Assad’s departure, it was promptly shot down by the Saudis and the Syrian National Coalition (which, as an aside, has fallen into virtual irrelevancy on the battlefield).

Well, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks (which themselves came on the heels of the Russian passenger jet disaster over the Sinai Peninsula and bombings in Beirut that killed 43), everyone involved apparently felt compelled to send some kind of message to the public regarding a collective desire to work towards a solution in Syria and so, the foreign ministers have now produced an amorphous “transition plan” for the country that calls for a meeting between Assad and “recognized” opposition groups followed by a cease fire within 6 months. Ultimately, there would be a new constitution and elections by the the end of 2017. Here’s Bloomberg with more:

Seventeen nations, spurred on by Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris, overcame their differences on how to end Syria’s civil war and adopted a timeline that will let opposition groups help draft a constitution and elect a new government by 2017.

As a first step, the United Nations agreed to convene Syria’s government with opposition representatives by Jan. 1, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday at a joint press conference in Vienna. A cease-fire between the government in Damascus and recognized opposition groups should be in place within six months, according to their statement.

“It is time to deprive the terrorists of any single kilometer in which to hide,” Kerry said. “There can be no doubt that this crisis is not Syria’s alone to bear.”

Assad has “cut his own deal” with Islamic State, buying oil from the group and failing to attack militants, Kerry said. Assad’s allies have conveyed that he’s prepared to be serious and engage in talks, but the “proof will be in the pudding,” he said.

Diplomats meeting in the Austrian capital also decided to place Islamic State, along with the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front terrorist group, on a list of those subject to military strikes even when a cease-fire is in place. The list, managed by the Kingdom of Jordan, may later be expanded to include other groups in Syria, Kerry and Lavrov said.

The Paris attacks “show that it doesn’t matter if you’re for Assad or against him,” said Lavrov, “ISIS is your enemy.”

Well, maybe. Unless of course you view ISIS as a valuable destabilizing element that helps not only to keep Assad off balance but also to undercut Iranian influence in Iraq, in which case ISIS wouldn’t be your enemy. “Strategic asset” gone rogue, maybe. “Frankenstein” turned on its creators, maybe. But not exactly your “enemy.”

France’s Far-Right Party Calls For Nation To “Re-Arm Itself”, Revoke Muslims’ Passports, “Eradicate” Radical Islam, by Tyler Durden

From Tyler Durden at

If there is one ‘winner’ from last night’s terrible events in Paris, it is France’s anti-EU, anti-immigration far-right wing Front Nationale party leader Marine Le Pen. Having already ascended to the lead in yet another poll ahead of France’s 2017 elections, Le Pen came out swinging this morning call for France to “re-arm itself,” stating that radical Islam must be “eradicated” from France. She further demanded that border controls be made “permanent” and binational Islamists must be depreived of their French passport.

As Bloomberg notes:


Which is all fine if this was some extreme and unpopular party, but in fact…

Marine Le Pen Tops Another French Presidency Poll

The Front National party in France are moving one step closer to seriously challenging for the country’s presidency. A new opinion poll reveals that their leader, nationalist firebrand Marine Le Pen, has topped yet another poll ahead of the elections in 2017.

The IFOP poll in conjunction with Sud Radio and Lyon Capitale gives Ms. Le Pen a lead under three different scenarios, reflecting the panic setting into the French political establishment which is considering a ‘grand coalition’ of centre-left and centre-right parties to keep the Front National out.

According to IFOP, if centrist politician Francois Bayrou and centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy ran, Ms. Le Pen would top the first choice in the multi-round election with 28 per cent of the votes. In second, the Republican Party’s Sarkozy (23), and in third, current president, socialist Francois Hollande (21).

As John Rubino noted previously, there are two reasons for the rise of National Front and other anti-euro parties:

1) The adoption of a common currency hasn’t delivered the broad-based prosperity that was promised. Instead, Germany has entered a golden age of soaring exports, massive trade surpluses and balanced budgets while most other eurozone countries have been unable to function with a currency they can’t devalue at will.

2) The European Union’s decision to counter falling birthrates with rising immigration from Africa and the Middle East has, in the opinion of a growing number of Europeans, produced a two-tiered society in which a shrinking layer of liberal, pacifist, aging “natives” sits atop a growing, restless layer of newcomers who instead of assimilating are trying to impose their culture on traditional Europe.

And then came the Paris attacks. The perps are Middle Eastern though it’s not clear what group they’re affiliated with. But no one seems to care whether it’s ISIS or al-Qaeda. Their ancestry is all that will matter in the next election, and any politician with an anti-euro, anti-immigrant platform will find a suddenly very receptive audience.

The Saudis Are Stumbling – They May Take the Middle East With Them, by Conn Hallinan

From Conn Hallinan at

America’s leading Sunni ally is proving how easily hubris, delusion, and old-fashioned ineptitude can trump even bottomless wealth

For the past eight decades Saudi Arabia has been careful.

Using its vast oil wealth, it’s quietly spread its ultra-conservative brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world, secretly undermined secular regimes in its region, and prudently kept to the shadows while others did the fighting and dying. It was Saudi money that fueled the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, underwrote Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran, and bankrolled Islamic movements and terrorist groups from the Caucasus to the Hindu Kush.

It wasn’t a modest foreign policy, but it was a discreet one.

Today that circumspect diplomacy is in ruins, and the House of Saud looks more vulnerable than it has since the country was founded in 1926. Unraveling the reasons for the current train wreck is a study in how easily hubris, delusion, and old-fashioned ineptness can trump even bottomless wealth.

Oil Slick

The kingdom’s first stumble was a strategic decision last fall to undermine competitors by scaling up its oil production and thus lowering the global price.

They figured that if the price of a barrel of oil dropped from over $100 to around $80, it would strangle competitors that relied on more expensive sources and new technologies, including the U.S. fracking industry, companies exploring the Arctic, and emergent producers like Brazil. That, in turn, would allow Riyadh to reclaim its shrinking share of the energy market. There was also the added benefit that lower oil prices would damage oil-reliant countries that the Saudis didn’t like – including Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Iran.

In one sense it worked. The American fracking industry is scaling back, the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands has slowed, and many Arctic drillers have closed up shop. And indeed, countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Russia have taken serious economic hits.

But it may have worked a little too well, particularly with China’s economic slowdown reducing demand and further depressing the price – a result that should have been entirely foreseeable but that the Saudis somehow missed.

The price of oil dropped from $115 a barrel in June 2014 to around $44 today. While it costs less than $10 to produce a barrel of Saudi oil, the Saudis need a price between $95 and $105 to balance their budget. The country’s leaders, who figured that oil wouldn’t fall below $80 a barrel – and then only for a few months – are now burning through their foreign reserves to make up the difference.

While oil prices will likely rise over the next five years, projections are that the price per barrel won’t top $65 for the foreseeable future. Saudi debt is on schedule to rise from 6.7 percent of GDP this year to 17.3 percent next year, and its 2015 budget deficit is $130 billion.

The country is now spending $10 billion a month in foreign exchange reserves to pay the bills and has been forced to borrow money on the international financial market. Recently the International Monetary Fund’s regional director, Masood Ahmed, warned Riyadh that the country would deplete its financial reserves in five years unless it drastically cut its budget.

The First Amendment Is Dying, by David Harsanyi

From David Harsanyi at

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

Unless we’re talking about a white chocolate-paneled cake for a gay wedding or perpetual funding for “women’s health” clinics because it’s the “right thing to do.”

“or abridging the freedom of speech;”

Unless that speech is used by boorish climate change denialists to peddle dirty fossil fuels and run capitalist death machines that wreck the Earth, by anyone engaging in upsetting hate speech or other forms of “aggression,” by a wealthy person supporting candidates who undermine “progress,” by a pro-life protester who makes people feel uncomfortable about their life decisions, by a cisnormative white male who displays insufficient appreciation for the “systematic oppression” that minorities experience in places of higher learning or by anyone who has a desire to undermine the state-protected union monopolies that help fund political parties.

“or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,”

Unless the press invades safe spaces designated by mobs or writes about incorrect topics at incorrect times.

“and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Unless someone is a member of a predesignated special interest group, he should report to the IRS before doing so.

That’s pretty much the state of the First Amendment today. Climate change, abortion, gay marriage, race, taxes, what have you, even in mainstream political debate, these interests outweigh your piddling concerns about the First Amendment. So the notion that a bunch of students and leftist professors would agitate to shut down free expression in a public space in Missouri because they feel their special issue trumps your antiquated list of rules is not particularly surprising.

Now, we shouldn’t overstate the problem. Most of us are able to freely engage in arguments and express ourselves without worrying about the state’s interfering. This will not end tomorrow. But it is difficult to ignore how creeping illiberalism has infected our discourse and how not many people seem to care.

The thousands of other University of Missouri students, for example, could have held a counter-protest against dimwitted fascists cloistered in safe spaces. Where are those student groups? Why was there no pushback from those kids—and really, there was none as far as I can tell, at either Missouri or Yale—against the bullies who want administrators fired for thought crimes? It can mean that students are too intimidated, too uninterested or not very idealistic about these freedoms. None of those things bodes well for the future.

To continue reading: The First Amendment Is Dying