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Barbados & Britain"s Lost Empire

Barbados & Britain's Lost Empire After almost 400 years under a British monarch, Barbados officially removed the Queen as head of state this week, having initially gained independence from the UK in 1966. In a message to President Dame Sandra Mason of the newly born republic, the Queen wished "good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future". This marks the latest in a long list of countries breaking away from the British empire. While a source of great pride for some Brits, the phrase "The empire on which the sun never sets" is one which has not been applicable to the United Kingdom for a long time now. However questionable the pride associated with this notion may be, it was once a fairly accurate statement to make. As Statista's infographic shows, over the years, 65 countries have claimed independence so far. The first of which was the United States back on July 4, 1776 (although the Declaration wasn't officially recognized by the British government until 1783). You will find more infographics at Statista The most recent was in 1984, when Brunei became an Islamic sultanate. More recently, an attempt at independence in Scotland failed, after a closely fought referendum in 2014 ended with 55% voting to remain a part of the UK. The independence movement is still strong, however, with the Scottish National Party still the largest political force in the country. Tyler Durden Thu, 12/02/2021 - 02:45.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 2nd, 2021

The Double Helix Of Entwined Pandemic And Economic Strategy

The Double Helix Of Entwined Pandemic And Economic Strategy Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation, Three years ago, I said to an American Professor from the US Army War College in Washington, in respect to the campaign to return American lost Blue Collar jobs to Asia, that these jobs would never return.  They were gone for good. He retorted that that was precisely so, but I was missing the point, he said. America did not expect, or want, the majority of those humdrum manufacturing jobs back. They should stay in Asia. The Élites, he said, wanted only the commanding heights of Tech. They wanted the intellectual property, the protocols, the metrics, the regulatory framework that would allow America to define and expand across the next two decades of global technological evolution. The real dilemma however, he said was: “What is to be done with the 20% of the American workforce that would be no longer needed: that was no longer necessary to the functioning of a tech-led US economy?” In fact, what the Professor said was but one facet of a fundamental economic dilemma. From the seventies and eighties onwards, US corporations were busy offshoring their labour costs to Asia. Partly, this was to cut costs and increase profitability (which it did) — but it also represented something deeper.  From the outset, the US has been an expansionary empire ever digesting new lands, new peoples, and their human and material resources. Forward motion, the continuous military, commercial, and cultural expansion became the lifeblood of Wall Street and of its foreign polity. For, absent this relentless expansion, the civic bonds of American unity fall into question.  An America not in motion is not America.  This forms the very essence of US leitkultur. Yet it only added further to the dilemma highlighted by my friend above. The expansion was accompanied by a flood of Wall Street credit expansion across the globe.  The debt burden exploded, and has become top heavy, balancing unsteadily on a pinhead of genuine underlying collateral. It is only now – for the first time since WW2 – that this relentless US strategic expansionary impulse has been challenged by the Russia-China axis.  They have declared ‘enough’. Yet, there was always another side to this dynamic of western structural transition. Its foundations, as the Professor suggested, no longer lay with the socially necessary labour contained in manufacturing drab products such as cars, telephones, or toothpaste. But rather, the core of it largely has come to reside in highly flammable debt-leveraged speculations on financial assets like stocks, bonds, futures, and especially derivatives, whose value is securitised indefinitely.  In this context, the 20% (or more likely 40%) of the workforce, simply becomes redundant to this highly complex, hyper-financialised, networked economy. So, here we have the second dilemma: Whilst the structural shrinking of the work-based economy inflates the financial sector, the latter’s complex volatility can only be contained through a logic of perpetual monetary doping (perpetual liquidity injections), justified by global emergencies, requiring ever greater stimulus. How to face this dilemma?  Well, there’s no going back.  That’s not an option. In this context, the Pandemic regimen becomes symptom of a world so far removed from any real economic self-sufficiency – adequate to sustain its existing workforce – that the dilemma may only be resolved (in the view of the élites) through facilitating the continuing attenuation of the old economy, whilst financial assets must be replenished with regular additions of liquidity. How to manage it? With the gradual abolishing of the traditional labour content to commodities (either from automation, or off-shoring), corporations have used the woke ideology to reinvent themselves. No longer do they produce just ‘things’ – they manufacture social output. They are stakeholders in society, ‘manufacturing’ socially desirable outcomes: diversity, social inclusivity, gender balance and climate responsible governance. Already, this transition has produced a cornucopia of new ESG liquidity flowing through calcified economic arteries. And the Pandemic, of course, justifies the monetary stimulus, whilst the follow-on climate ‘health’ emergency is prepared in order to legitimise further debt expansion, for the future. Financial analyst Mauro Bottarelli summarised the logic of this as follows: “A state of semi-permanent health emergency is preferable to a vertical market crash that would turn the memory of 2008 into a walk in the park.”  Professor of Critical Theory and Italian at Cardiff University, Fabio Vighi, has noted too the “Incurability” of what he calls “the Central Banker’s Long-Covid” condition” — that the injection of such a huge monetary stimulus as we have seen, was only possible by turning the engine of Main Street ‘off’, as such a cascade of liquidity ($6 Trillion) could not be allowed to flow willy-nilly into the Main Street economy (in the view of the Central Bankers), as this would cause an inflationary tsunami à la Weimar Republic. Rather, its’ main thrust has served to further inflate the virtual world of ever more complex financial instruments. Inevitably however, coupled with supply-chain bottlenecks, the gush of liquidity has caused Main Street inflation to rise, and hence imposed further hurt on the ground.  The aim of managing the manufacturing attenuation on the one hand (small business ‘lockdown’), whilst liquidity flowed freely to the financialised sphere (to postpone a market crash) has failed.  Inflation is accelerating, interest rates will rise, and this will bring adverse social and political consequences in its wake: i.e. anger, rather than compliance. At the heart of the predicament for those who run the system is that, should they to lose control of liquidity creation – either as a result of interest rate rises, or from increasing political dissent – the ensuing recession would take-down the entire socio-economic fabric below. And any severe recession would likely wreak havoc on the western political leadership, too. They have opted therefore instead, to sacrifice the democratic framework, in order to roll out a monetary regime rooted in a cult of corporate-owned science & technology, media propaganda, and disaster narratives – as the means to progress towards a technocratic ‘aristocratic’ takeover over the heads of the people. (Yes, in certain ‘circles’, it is thought of as a newly rising aristocracy of money). Professor Vighi again: “The consequences of emergency capitalism are emphatically biopolitical. They concern the administration of a human surplus that is growing superfluous for a largely automated, highly financialised, and implosive reproductive model. This is why Virus, Vaccine and Covid Pass are the Holy Trinity of social engineering. ‘Virus passports’ are meant to train the multitudes in the use of electronic wallets controlling access to public services and personal livelihood. The dispossessed and redundant masses, together with the non-compliant, are the first in line to be disciplined by digitalised poverty management systems directly overseen by monopoly capital. The plan is to tokenise human behaviour and place it on blockchain ledgers run by algorithms. And the spreading of global fear is the perfect ideological stick to herd us toward this outcome”. Professor Vighi’s point is clear. The vaccine campaign and the Green Pass system are no stand-alone health disciplines.  They are not about ‘the Science’, nor are they intended to make sense.  They are primordially connected to the élites’ economic dilemma, and serve as a political tool too, by which a new monetary dispensation can displace democracy.  President Macron spoke the unstated out loud, when he said: “As for the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And we will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy”. Italian PM Draghi similarly has escalated attacks on the unvaxxed, making vaccines mandatory for all the over 50s, and imposing significant restrictions on anyone over 12. Again, though ‘following the science’ is the mantra, these measures make no sense: the Omicron variant predominantly infects the double vaxxed, not the unvaxxed.  Two days ago, a leading Nobel Prize winning Virologist, Dr Montagnier and a colleague, confirmed this “obsolete” aspect of vaccine mandates. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, they write:  ” … mandating a vaccine to stop the spread of a disease requires evidence that the vaccines will prevent infection or transmission (rather than efficacy against severe outcomes like hospitalization or death). As the World Health Organization puts it, “if mandatory vaccination is considered necessary to interrupt transmission chains and prevent harm to others, there should be sufficient evidence that the vaccine is efficacious in preventing serious infection and/or transmission.” For Omicron, there is as yet no such evidence.  The little data we have suggest the opposite. One preprint study found that after 30 days the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines no longer had any statistically significant positive effect against Omicron infection, and after 90 days, their effect went negative—i.e., vaccinated people were more susceptible to Omicron infection. Confirming this negative efficacy finding, data from Denmark and the Canadian province of Ontario indicate that vaccinated people have higher rates of Omicron infection than unvaccinated people”. This is rarely, if ever, admitted. Both Macron and Draghi are desperate: They need to ‘liquify’ their economies – and soon. Indeed, Dr Malone, the father of the mRNA vaccines, wrote of those who point out such inconsistencies and illogicalities – just two months before his Twitter account was suspended – in a rather prophetic Twitter post: “I am going to speak bluntly,” he wrote. “Physicians who speak out are being actively hunted via medical boards and the press. They are trying to delegitimize us and pick us off, one by one.” He finished by warning that this is “not a conspiracy theory” but “a fact.” He urged us all to “wake up.” As the Telegraph has noted, British Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the Covid pandemic have admitted its work was “unethical” and “totalitarian”. The scientists warned in March 2021 that ministers in the UK needed to increase “the perceived level of personal threat” from Covid-19, because “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”. Gavin Morgan, a psychologist on the team, said: “Clearly, using fear as a means of control is not ethical. Using fear smacks of totalitarianism”. Another SPI-B member said: “You could call [it] psychology ‘mind control’. That’s what we do … clearly we try and go about it in a positive way, but it has been used nefariously in the past”. Another colleague cautioned that “people use the pandemic to grab power, and drive through things that wouldn’t happen otherwise … We have to be very careful about the authoritarianism that is creeping in”. The problem goes deeper than a little ‘nudge psychology’ however. In 2019, the BBC established the Trusted News Initiative (TNI), a partnership that now includes many main-stream media. TNI was ostensibly designed to counter foreign narrative influence during election times, but it has expanded to synchronise all elements of messaging, and to eliminate deviation across the broad realm of media and tech platforms. These synchronised ‘talking-points’ are more powerful (and insidious) than any ideology, as it functions not as a belief system or ethos, but rather, as objective ‘science’. You cannot argue with, or oppose, Science (with a capital ‘S’). Science has no political opponents. Those who challenge it are labelled “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vaxxers,” “Covid deniers,” “extremists,” etc. And, thus the pathologized New Normal narrative also pathologizes its political opponents: stripping them of all political legitimacy. The aim obviously, is their forced compliance. Macron made that plain. Separating the population on the basis of vaccination status is an epoch-making event. If resistance is quashed, a compulsory digital ID can be introduced to record the ‘correctness’ of our behaviour and regulate access to society. Covid was the ideal Trojan horse for this breakthrough. A global system of digital identification based on blockchain technology has long been planned by the ID2020 Alliance, backed by such giants as Accenture, Microsoft, the Rockefeller Foundation, MasterCard, IBM, Facebook, and Bill Gates’ ubiquitous GAVI. From here, the transition to monetary control is likely to be relatively smooth. CBDCs would allow central bankers not only to track every transaction, but especially to turn off access to liquidity, for any reason deemed legitimate. The Achilles’ heel to all this however, is the evidence of genuine popular resistance to the suppression by the tech platforms of all dissenting opinion (however well-qualified its source); by the refusal to allow people informed choice about their medical treatment; and by arbitrary restrictions that may involve loss of livelihood being imposed by decree, and underpinned by emergency laws, restricting popular protest. But more significantly and paradoxically, the Omricon variant may cut the legs from under those political leaders intent on doubling-down.  It is quite possible that this mild (barely lethal), yet highly contagious variant, may prove to be Nature’s ‘vaccine’, giving us a wide measure of immunity – ostensibly better than that offered by the ‘vaccines’ from Science!  Already, we observe European states are confused and at odds with each other – taking diametrically opposed policy lines: some ending restrictions, and some decreeing more and more. Other countries, like Israel, are reducing restrictions and shifting to a herd immunity policy. Of course, the corollary to the collapse of the technocratic initiative to liquify the over-leveraged economy might well be recession.  That unfortunately, is the logic of the situation. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/14/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 14th, 2022

America"s Attila The Hun Moment

America's Attila The Hun Moment Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com, In the year 435 AD, after several years of endless menacing from the nomadic Hun tribe, the Roman Empire was ready to make a deal. The Huns were fairly new on the continent; they had originally come from central Eurasia as recently as 370 AD. Yet in the span of a few short decades, they quickly established themselves as the dominant tribe in Eastern Europe, conquering vast territories and threatening the Roman Empire. The Empire was a pitiful shell of its former self at that point. So Emperor Theodosius II sent one of his generals to meet with the Huns in the city of Margus, now called Pozarevac in modern day Serbia. The leader of the Huns was a short, flat-nosed warrior in his mid 30s named Attila who famously remained on his horse during the entire meeting with the Roman envoys. Attila was cunning, and he knew the Romans were weak. So he intentionally made ridiculous demands. Among them, he told the Romans he would leave them alone if they paid a tribute of 700 pounds of gold per year (worth about $13.3 million in today’s money). This was a significant sum back then, especially given that the Roman Empire had lost its most productive gold mines in Hispania to the Visigoths and Vandals in the early 400s. (The region of Andalusia in modern Spain is actually named for the Vandal tribe, derived from the Arabic word al-Andalus.) In addition to the money, though, Attila also demanded that the Romans could not enter into any alliance with any other tribes if the Huns deemed them to be a threat. In making this demand, Attila was essentially giving himself control of Rome’s foreign policy and military affairs. But the Romans were not in a position to negotiate. They were weak… and terrified of what Attila might do. So they agreed. And Roman Consul Flavius Plinta signed the Treaty of Margus with Attila the Hun in 435 AD. The peace didn’t last long. In 440, just five years later, Attila massed his forces on the Roman border once again and declared that the Empire had violated the Treaty of Margus. Emperor Theodosius initially refused Attila’s demands, believing he could defeat the Huns. But at the same time he was busy fighting off other barbarian tribes, including the Vandals that had just conquered Roman provinces in North Africa, which happened to be the Empire’s main source of food. Theodosius put up a fight, and he tried to negotiate. But after a few years he capitulated to Attila once again, and signed a new treaty in 443 AD. This new treaty was nothing short of absurd. Attila required that his annual tribute– already a debilitating cost for Rome– be TRIPLED to 2,100 pounds of gold per year. Plus he demanded an astonishing 6,000 pounds of gold, up front. That was an unimaginable sum of money, and a humiliating embarrassment for the empire. Theodosius and his bureaucrats tried to save face by hiding the payments, or having the imperial accountants write off the money as “services rendered” by the Huns. But everyone knew the truth– Rome was a shattered shell of its former greatness, and only signed the deal because they were too weak to stand up to Attila. This is a simple point that doesn’t require a PhD in International Relations: dominant superpowers don’t need to grovel to their enemies. Dominant superpowers don’t get humiliated in front of the world. And most importantly, when you’re forced to negotiate and make huge concessions– especially military concessions– you cease being a dominant superpower. We’ve seen this now several times with the United States. Some have been major events, like the disgraceful, shameful debacle in Afghanistan several months ago. (And similar to Theodosius, Hunter Biden’s dad acted like the humiliation in Afghanistan didn’t actually happen; his people even tried to dress it up as a logistical success!) Other incidents have been more subtle, like the US submitting to China’s demands and reaffirming America’s commitment to the “one China” policy, i.e. pretending that Taiwan doesn’t exist. (It’s also noteworthy that Hunter Biden’s dad was the one who was inconvenienced and stayed up until midnight talking to his Chinese counterpart during a recent call, due to the time zone differences between Washington and Beijing…) Earlier this year, Hunter Biden’s dad also referred to the Chinese government’s genocide against its Uighur ethnic minority as “different cultural norms”. These are all clear signs of waning dominance. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t leave behind $83 billion worth of military equipment to its sworn enemy in Afghanistan. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t refer to genocide as “different cultural norms”. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t sit up at midnight, smiling politely to the people who have routinely cyberattacked some of your most critical national security infrastructure. But if this point weren’t already completely obvious, just look at what’s happening with Russia right now. Officials from the US State Department are meeting with Russian representatives this week to request that Russia withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. Personally I think the whole thing is a joke; from a military tactics perspective, if Putin were going to invade Ukraine, he most likely would have done it already. The fact that he still has troops massed on the border is nothing more than an attempt to make the West look weak. And job well done. While they’re not quite as ridiculous as the Huns… yet… Russia is making all sorts of wild demands, many of which the US has already indicated it is willing to accept. One of those demands is that the US limit joint military exercises with its European allies. And this one actually is quite similar to what Attila required of the Roman Empire in 435 AD. And just like Rome, once you start groveling to your adversary and allowing them to dictate your foreign policy and military affairs, it seems clear that you’re no longer the dominant superpower. *  *  * We think gold could DOUBLE and silver could increase by up to 5 TIMES in the next few years. That's why we published a new, 50-page long Ultimate Guide on Gold & Silver that you can download here. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/14/2022 - 13:50.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 14th, 2022

Rabobank: Don"t Dilly Dalio On The Way

Rabobank: Don't Dilly Dalio On The Way By Michael Every of Rabobank And don't dilly Dalio on the way “My old man, said be a [insert team name] fan; and I said, 'I disagree, you’re a nasty person, and not in a relationship'” is the safe-for-work version of the classic British football-terrace song. The tune is of an original 1919 music hall number ‘And don’t dilly dally on the way’, which is about (“abaaat”) the hardships of working-class life. Indeed, the easier-to-understand-for-foreigners version, not the one my grandad sang to me, goes like this: My old man said "Foller the van; and don't dilly dally on the way". Off went the van wiv me 'ome packed in it; I walked behind wiv me old cock linnet. But I dillied and dallied, dallied and I dillied; Lost me way and don't know where to roam. Who'll put you up when you've lost your bedstead; And you can't find your way 'ome? This song came to my mind as headline US CPI hit 7% y/y, the highest since 1982, and core CPI hit 5.5%. Moreover, when you look at the composition of the report, it is far higher for many than is being reported. The Owners’ Equivalent Rent component that makes up a huge chunk of the total index was up just 3.8% y/y at a time when Apartment List, with a mere 5m datapoints to draw from, suggests rents are actually up nearly 18% y/y, while CoreLogic said back in September rents were up 10.2% y/y. If anything like the Apartment List data were captured --which of course they won’t be-- then headline CPI would be nearly 10% y/y.   The very beige Fed Beige Book will be seized on by optimists clinging to the view that 2022 will be like 2021, and “inflation will come down again in H2”. After all, it mentioned shortages somewhat less than in recent months, even as China shuts down again, port backlogs are longer, and Twitter suggests many shelves are barer. It also mentioned that pay continues to rise briskly, as do benefits in kind. Yes, this is playing catch-up; but it is also playing ketchup….pat, nothing, pat, nothing, pat, nothing…splurge. On one hand, that could be wage inflation into a supply-constrained US economy; or it could be a supply of goods into a demand-constrained economy. Either way, it isn’t a gradual decline back to a nice median 2% CPI forecast, sorry. As such, governments are nervous. Quinnipiac has President Biden on 33% approval and 53% disapproval; CNN has 33% saying they trust him and 67% saying they don’t. These are numbers that political, and then policy, earthquakes are made of. There are even mutterings that Hillary Clinton might run again in 2024, while we can already assume Trump will: 2016 redux for markets to savour! You don’t want to hear what the British working class are singing about PM Boris in nightclubs or at darts matches, but he’s about as popular as Prince Andrew right now. Indeed, the Spectator sums up what even the right-of-center middle class now think of “BYO BoJo” apparently unable to recognize, or admit, he attended a 2021 boozy party of 100 people in Downing Street’s garden right after telling voters they could only meet one other person in theirs. And if politicians are nervous, try central banks. Fed Chair Powell’s recent attempt to say he understands the pain of those hit by inflation he didn’t predict, and he’s a “diamond geezer” really, was about as believable as Dick Van Dyke’s Cawk-knee act in ‘Mary Poppins’ (which he gave an official apology for in 2017: we are still awaiting reparations). Further, when Powell says he can sort it out (“sortitaaat”) for said inflation-sufferers, he is as convincing as Keanu Reeves in ‘Dracula’, whose Mockney was by far the most diabolical thing in the whole film. The same level of authenticity was evident in this week’s eulogy of China’s ‘common prosperity’ by Wall St’s instant-coffee table intellectual Ray Dalio. Wealth gaps need to be narrowed, says the billionaire; otherwise the US “empire” is over, added the US-based billionaire betting on both sides in what he claims is a battle for global hegemony. He’s completely right about the US; but he’s wrong that China is much better off in that regard, which is why they are embracing common prosperity! What Dalio also misses is that China is not seeing a shift to higher taxation or wealth redistribution, apart from pinpoint pounces on social media influencers and celebrities. Indeed, Beijing stresses that’s a route they don’t want to go down, and nor is embracing more state welfare spending. This makes it unclear how the wealth gap *can* be narrowed except via more upmarket mercantilism, asset prices collapses (“houses are for living in, not speculation” is Beijing sentiment that would win LOTS of votes in the US and UK), or ‘donations’ to social causes. As such, Dalio is free to donate parts of his fortune to the state, like Chinese billionaires. He is free to avoid the “barbaric” growth of private capital by making bad investments and watching wealth gaps narrow that way: “This time next year, Rodney, we’ll [only] be millionaires.” And he is free to prioritize strategic capital investment in the US, not China, to help shift to upmarket mercantilism. But I bet he dilly Dalios on the way, and then dilly doesn’t. This underlines a point I have been making for longer than some billionaires have been eulogizing China. All we hear in market media replete with ads for designer lifestyle goods today is the urgent need to narrow income and wealth gaps. What we never hear are any concrete solutions that don’t cause the same market media to hyperventilate and say “No, not that!” It’s always no to taxation of the rich (because socialism); no to state spending (because socialism and inflation); no to pay rises (because inflation); no to asset price collapses (because markets and ads for designer lifestyle goods); no to breaking up monopolies (because rigged markets); and no to any form of protectionism (because markets and long supply chains in firms running ads for designer lifestyle goods). None of the key policy levers can be pulled for any serious length of time, or at all. And yet now is apparently the right time to pull the rate hikes, QE tapering, and then QT levers, while reassuring markets that asset prices won’t go down, and saying that this will help the working class pay the rent. “Pull the other one. it’s got bells on,” as they mutter in working class London while serving drinks on trays to billionaires publicly worrying about wealth gaps. “Who'll put you up when you've lost your bedstead; And you can't find your way 'ome?” Meanwhile, the key Moscow/NATO meeting ended yesterday with the former saying the situation was “very dangerous” and the way forward was unclear. Some report that the only obstacle to a way forward for Russia in one respect is the warmer-than-normal weather: until the ground freezes hard, their tanks can’t roll even if Putin wants them to. (Ironic, given global warming was supposed to start wars, according to the Pentagon.) Will Vlad dilly dally for much longer? *  *  * Today is light on data, apart from US PPI and initial claims, but is heavy on big picture themes, far-too-early 2022 calls, and instant-coffee table intellectualism Tyler Durden Thu, 01/13/2022 - 10:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 13th, 2022

China"s Banking Assets Are $52 Trillion, Growing By $40 Trillion Since 2008: "This Is What Hyper MMT Looks Like"

China's Banking Assets Are $52 Trillion, Growing By $40 Trillion Since 2008: "This Is What Hyper MMT Looks Like" By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management Thermodynamics “The interaction of inflation-focused monetary policies in the west and China’s mercantilist model created what I call The Refrigeration Mode,” said the CIO, sitting atop his prodigious pile. “The process has been ongoing for twenty years,” he continued. “The inflation-focused policy framework is based on the fallacy that you can model an economy using an equilibrium framework,” he said. “Wicksell was the father of classical equilibrium in economics. He observed that for a pure credit economy - with no external gold backing for money, just credit-backed deposits – there were no clear forces that would drive the system toward equilibrium. To the 19th century Wicksell, a pure credit economy was a fictitious, futuristic concept, but it is effectively what we have today - and it is a path dependent system.” “What is a path dependent system?” asked the CIO, not waiting for my answer. “Take the male driver when lost. Despite all evidence around him, the male believes he is not lost. He is, of course. And yet has no need for a map. The male is merely taking a different route, maybe a better a route to the same inevitable, incorrect destination. That destination being equilibrium. It’s all taking place in the male’s head. The reality on the road, meanwhile, is rather different. He turned left at the fork in the road when he should have gone right. There is, now, no natural force - other than blind luck and a tactful passenger - which can rescue him. Further wrong turns, and his destiny await. His destination is path dependent.” “So now consider a simplified schematic,” said the CIO. “The economy receives a positive supply shock which lowers inflation and allows rates to fall. This brings forward consumption. Consumers borrow and spend. Asset prices go up. Financiers get excited. More intermediation and engineering. We get inevitable excess. Policy tightens. This causes a financial crisis, which the central bank is forced to respond to - with the fear of deflation in mind - and rates fall further. The net effect is that nominal and real rates ratchet lower in a path-dependent fashion. And this leads to a monetary policy that is so lost we’ve had to create a new word to describe our bizarre destination: a world of financialization or more appropriately, hyper-financialization. It is the optimization of the economy around finance and asset prices - the fuel for the Occupy Wall Street manifesto.” “Now let’s look at the other half of this system: China’s mercantile model,” said the CIO. “We all vaguely know the story here - we all tried shorting it at one point or another. China discovered the Magic Money Tree. They used it to build a manufacturing empire and stopped the magic escaping from the capital account. This was MMT used in anger. They repressed the exchange rate to take export market share and accumulated FX reserves in the process. These were recycled into US Treasuries, supporting lower US interest rates. They repressed depositors with negative real returns on deposits to favor investment over consumption. The consumption share of GDP has remained depressed throughout, subjugated to investment exports and government spending. No wonder property became the savings vehicle of choice - and seemed to be an everlasting bubble. Free money allowed a massively accelerated pace of industrial development, especially after China joined the WTO in 2001.” “China’s rapid industrialization and hunger for global market share kept deflationary pressure on durable goods prices for thirty years, helping to keep consumer price inflation and interest rates lower in the West. And the beauty of the Magic Money Tree was that China could insulate its highly cyclical industry from any default cycle. It monetized bad debt and preserved unprotected, deflationary capacity. The stock of money ballooned. Banking assets are now around $52 trillion. They’ve grown by about $40 trillion since 2008. They’re now twice the size of the US banking system and China’s banks have added the equivalent of the US banking systems in just eight years. This is what hyper MMT looks like.” “The net result is that western monetary policy and China’s mercantile model fed off one another to give us this Alice in Wonderland ‘through-the-looking-glass’ transformation of massive monetary growth into a deflationary mechanism: The Refrigeration Mode. Both sides got what they wanted: China leapfrogging industrial development, and the US got low inflation in the great moderation. But it had side effects. A massive monetary overhang in China, hyper financialization in the US. These extremes are now biting back on the system through the political economy.” “The Deflationary D’s may still be with us (debt, demographics, disruption, digitization), but the system dynamic is becoming inflationary and there are some new supply side shocks that aren’t deflationary for a change. Both sides are in (re)flux. On the macro policy side, we are seeing powerful social reactions to the extremes produced by The Refrigeration Mode. These extremes are feeding into the political economy. Whether it’s the ‘Tax the Rich’ dress at the Met Gala, politicians and celebrities at climate change marches around the world, or bipartisan support for China containment, the challenge to the status quo is clear and present. The COVID crisis merely poured petrol on it.” “It means fiscal policy is back in the driver’s seat - just as central banks put an inflationary bias into their reaction functions. Future bailouts are coming via Main Street, as much as Wall Street. And when monetary and fiscal policy combine, policy becomes more directly inflationary in CPI terms, not simply in asset price terms.” “On the China side, the model is pivoting. Common prosperity in its ‘dual circulation strategy’ shifts the emphasis from a reliance on exports to a focus on the domestic consumer in regional markets. A digital currency will be presented as a haven of stability, while other economies appear to be debasing their own currencies. Deleveraging is a goal - so more defaults will be allowed. Profits will take precedence to export market share. So expect to see China continuing to export more goods priced at a premium, leaning against commodity price inflation. Taken together, all these changes transform The Refrigeration Mode into its reverse: A Heat Pump.” Tyler Durden Sun, 12/12/2021 - 22:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 12th, 2021

Evergrande Has Finally Defaulted: Here"s What Happens Next

Evergrande Has Finally Defaulted: Here's What Happens Next This is the way Evergrande ends: not with a bang but a whimper. Three months after an initial shockwave of fear that China's largest and most indebted property developer was set to default, roiled global markets only to see the company repeatedly kick the can on several occasions even as the final default was always just a matter of when not if (due to billions in interest payments and tens of billions in upcoming debt maturities), overnight ratings agency Fitch (with Moodys and S&P set to follow shortly) officially downgraded insolvent property developers China Evergrande Group and Kaisa Group, saying they had defaulted on offshore bonds. The downgrades to so-called "restricted default" status came days after the companies failed to make an offshore bond interest payment, even though Evergrande and Kaisa have not officially announced defaults that will result in drawn-out debt restructuring processes and potentially nationalization. In its note on Evergrande, Fitch said the developer - which failed to make overdue coupon payments on two bonds by the end of a 30-day grace period on Monday -did not respond to its request for confirmation on coupon payments worth $82.5 million that were due last month, with the 30-day grace period ending this week, and so assumed "they were not paid."  On Tuesday, S&P said that a default by the developer was “inevitable" and is likely to declare a Selective Default event momentarily to keep in line with Fitch. Fitch defines a restricted default as indicating an issuer has experienced a default or a distressed debt exchange, but has not begun winding-up processes such as bankruptcy filings and remains in operation. The non-payment has triggered an "event of default" on Evergrande's bonds and its other U.S. dollar notes will become due immediately and payable if the bond trustee or holders of at least 25% in aggregate amount declare so, Fitch said. The same "cross default" is true for Kaisa, which, according to Refinitiv data, has note maturities totlling $2.8 billion next year, and $2.2-3.2 billion of maturities each year between 2023 and 2025. Fitch said there was limited information available on Kaisa's restructuring plan after it missed $400 million in offshore bonds repayment on Tuesday. Evergrande said last week it planned to forge ahead with a restructuring of its debt. * * * As extensively reported here for the past year, and especially since August, the fate of Evergrande which has more than $300 billion in liabilities, and other indebted Chinese property companies has gripped financial markets in recent months amid fears of knock-on effects around the world, although Beijing has repeatedly sought to reassure investors. "The defaults of Evergrande and Kaisa move us to the second step of this China Property downturn, with systemic risk being gradually replaced by idiosyncratic risk," said Robin Usson, credit analyst at Federated Hermes. He is of course referring to the much bigger risk that is the downturn in China's residential - and in general property - sector, which as Goldman recently showed is the world's largest asset and arguably the most important pillar propping up China's entire economy. Should China's housing market crash, all bets are off. The question now is just how aggressively will the state come to the economy's rescue to avoid a self-reinforcing toxic spiral. After all, just last week the PBOC finally capitulated and reversed on its long-running position of avoiding excess stimulus when it unexpectedly cut RRR and proceeded to hint that more is coming. "It will be interesting to see the role played by SOEs (state-owned enterprises) in the restructuring process, the level of 'control' exerted by the government over this 'marketed-oriented approach'," Usson added. Ahead of the Fitch determination, PBOC Governor Yi Gang said on Thursday that rights of Evergrande shareholders and creditors would be "fully respected" based on their legal seniorities, and the risk caused by a few Chinese real estate companies in the short term would not undermine Hong Kong's capital market. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Kaisa is expected to soon sign a non-disclosure agreement with Lazard, the adviser of a group of bondholders, the source and another person told Reuters. The bondholders hold over 25% of Kaisa's $12 billion offshore bonds. The NDA will lay the groundwork for further discussions on forbearance and financing solutions. But an agreement is unlikely in the next few weeks as the talks are still at an early stage.  Kaisa said it was open to talks on forbearance, but declined to comment on details. The group of Kaisa offshore bondholders, which says it owns 50% of the notes that were due on Dec. 7, sent the company draft terms of forbearance late on Monday. The group previously offered $2 billion in fresh debt to help Kaisa repay its onshore and offshore debts, sources have said. Other financing ideas are also on the table. Kaisa is also in talks with another bondholder group, the first person said. Kaisa's default came after it failed last week to secure the minimum 95% approval needed from offshore bondholders to exchange the bonds that were due Dec. 7 for new notes due June 6, 2023, at the same interest rate. Trading in Kaisa's shares, which have lost 75% this year, was suspended on Wednesday. Evergrande's stock has plunged 88% this year. * * * So what happens to Evergrande next? First and foremost, today's news is not a surprise, with Evergrande bonds having already tumbled to record lows this week, after a flurry of news reports and leaks last week made it abundantly clear that billionaire Hui Ka Yan’s property giant is headed for China’s largest-ever debt restructuring. As Bloomberg notes, barring a last-minute shock, holders of $19.2 billion in Evergrande dollar notes face deep haircuts as the company overhauls its mammoth balance sheet without a government bailout - a process that promises to be long, contentious and potentially risky for Asia’s largest economy. The developments mark the beginning of the end for the sprawling real estate empire started 25 years ago by Hui, setting off a lengthy battle over who gets paid from what remains. Evergrande said in a brief exchange filing on Friday that it plans to “actively engage” with offshore creditors on a restructuring plan. The company is planning to include all its offshore public bonds and private debt obligations in the restructuring, people familiar with the matter said Monday. Evergrande, which had more than $300 billion of liabilities as of June, becomes the biggest victim of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to crack down on the free-wheeling real estate sector and curb property speculation. As Bloomberg notes, "Beijing’s reluctance to bail out the developer sends a clear signal that the Communist Party won’t tolerate massive debt build-ups that threaten financial stability." It's also a signal that billionaires who made their fortunes off unviable businesses will not be spared. But the question now is whether the government can limit the fallout. The bonds of many smaller, lower-rated real estate firms have also plunged in recent weeks, driving Chinese junk bond yields (which mostly cover the property market) to a record yield above 20%, though they were poised for a second day of gains Wednesday after Beijing’s easing signals injected confidence (and liquidity) into the market. No less than 10 firms have already defaulted on onshore or offshore bonds since concerns about Evergrande’s financial health intensified in June, leading to a freeze in the bond market and a collapse in real estate transactions. While Kaisa is already in default, other peers are sure to follow: China Aoyuan Group said last week there’s no guarantee it will be able to pay its debt. Meanwhile, the giant red flag is the continued collapse of home sales and prices as confidence in China's massive housing ponzi scheme evaporates, which has adding another headwind for an economy grappling with sluggish growth. “They’re playing with fire,” said Cathie Wood, the head of Ark Investment Management, which pared its China holdings earlier this year. For now, Chinese authorities are signaling that they plan to ring-fence Evergrande and limit contagion rather than orchestrate a rescue as they’ve done during past crises. Whether and how they can do that, will determine if 2022 is a year of recovery and normalization - as JPMorgan wrote in its year ahead outlook - or a global depression. While the People’s Bank of China reiterated on Friday that risks posed to the economy by Evergrande’s debt crisis can be contained, citing the developer’s “own poor management” and “reckless expansion” for the problems it faces, the reality is that without government backstop it is likely that China's housing market will collapseand Beijing knows this. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said in a separate statement that loans for real estate development and acquisitions should be issued in a “reasonable” manner. But the clearest financial system support measures came on Monday, when China’s central bank released 1.2 trillion yuan ($188 billion) of liquidity via a cut in the reserve requirement ratio for most banks, a move which while expected came too fast and surprised most analysts and prompting the WSJ to write that "Beijing Reins In China’s Central Bank" in which it wrote: Earlier this week, pressured by senior leaders worried about plunging economic growth, the PBOC said it would ease banks’ reserve requirements, effectively making more cash available for bank lending. The move went against policy signals it had sent weeks earlier and came as the central bank and other financial institutions came under scrutiny by Beijing, part of Mr. Xi’s effort to curb capitalist forces in the economy. That was the tipping point. Shortly thereafter, the government pledged to support the housing market to better meet “reasonable” needs, adding to signs it will ease real estate curbs, first discussed here last month. As part of the upcoming nationalization of Evergrande, officials are starting to take a more hands-on role at Evergrande. Chairman Hui was summoned by the Guangdong government last week after the company said it plans to work with creditors on a restructuring plan. Authorities in Evergrande’s home province will send a working group to urge the builder to manage risks, as well as strengthen internal controls and ensure normal operations. The company on Monday said state representatives have taken the majority of seats on a new risk management committee. So far, containment efforts haven’t assuaged investors. While pain has so far largely been contained to China’s smaller offshore credit market, that’s little consolation for developers that have relied heavily on international investors to raise funds. Borrowing costs have spiked for companies with the weakest balance sheets, including Kaisa and Fantasia Holdings Group Co. In total, Bloomberg calculates that Chinese borrowers have defaulted on a record $10.2 billion of offshore bonds this year, with real estate firms making up 36% of that. “There is extreme stress in the market,” with about half the developers in the country in deep financial distress and pricing in high default risk, said Jenny Zeng, co-head of Asia Pacific fixed-income at Alliance Bernstein. That said, China’s bigger, higher-rated developers such as Longfor Group Holdings and Country Garden Holdings are holding up much better than their lower-rated rivals. Country Garden, the largest developer by sales, has seen its 2031 bond rebound to 88 cents on the dollar, after dropping to 73 cents last month. A 2024 note sold by China Vanke Co., the second-biggest firm, has rallied to trade above par. “We expect sector divergence to continue,” said Iris Chen, a credit desk analyst at Nomura Securities Co. “The high-quality survivors of the game will gain despite relatively high cash prices already, as they will have a better chance to restart normal refinancing, which will further strengthen their liquidity.” But most importantly, as noted earlier, China is desperate to limit the fallout on the broader housing market, in a country where real estate accounts for about a quarter of economic output and as much as 75% of household wealth as we have noted for half a decade.  China’s housing slump has intensified in recent months after sales plunged and home prices fell for the first time in six years. Contract sales by the country’s top 100 developers plunged 38% in November from a year earlier to 751 billion yuan, sharper than the 32% drop in the previous month, according to preliminary data from China Real Estate Information Corp. As we explained in detail recently, any slowdown in real estate could have a ripple effect not only on China’s economy but on global growth. China’s growth slowed in the third quarter, with signs there will be more pain to come. The Federal Reserve last month warned that fragility in China’s commercial real-estate sector could spread to the U.S. if it deteriorates dramatically. China’s real estate sector makes up almost half of the world’s distressed dollar-denominated debt. Critically, Beijing has finally realized that its latest doomed attempt at deleveraging and avoiding liquidity injections has been a failure, and on Monday President Xi oversaw a meeting of the Communist Party’s Politburo that concluded with a signal of an easing in curbs on real estate. The leadership panel, gathering in advance of a broader annual economic session that sets goals for the coming year, pledged to stabilize the economy in 2022. Meanwhile, for global bondholders, an Evergrande default is likely to start a prolonged battle for repayment. Chinese authorities have made it clear the company should put homebuyers, suppliers, and retail investors -- who bought the firm’s wealth management products -- ahead of debtholders. Some 1.6 million homebuyers have put down deposits with Evergrande for properties that have yet to be completed. “No matter what the outcome, offshore bondholders are last in line for payment and are certainly going to have to accept haircuts, possibly significant ones,” said Andrew Collier, managing director of Orient Capital Research Inc. in Hong Kong. With Evergrande’s dollar notes trading at about 20 cents on the dollar, the market is already pricing in a haircut of around 80%. The key for bondholders is whether the company can speed up home sales and unload assets to raise cash so it can start settling its liabilities, said Gary Ng, a senior economist at Natixis SA. As Bloomberg reported recently, Evergrande’s offshore noteholders included Ashmore Group Plc and UBS AG, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even as Evergrande’s stock and bond prices have plunged, Ashmore bought another $100 million of bonds issued by the developer or its subsidiaries in the third quarter. The trades brought its holdings to more than $500 million at the end of September, the data show. Further market reaction to Evergrande’s missed payments may be driven by how the restructuring process plays out, said Jim Veneau, head of Asian fixed income at AXA SA.  “An orderly restructuring, where the company can run its operations as normally as possible and refrain from distressed asset sales will substantially help contain further damage across the sector,” Veneau said. The single biggest loser in dollar terms may be Evergrande founder Hui, who once owned more than 70% of the company before recent stock sales. The plunge in Evergrande’s share price this year has cut the chairman’s wealth by 73%, or about $17 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Once the second-richest man in China, Hui now ranks 75th. For years, the son of an impoverished wood cutter who built one of China’s biggest real estate firms and later branched out into electric vehicles, tourism and soccer clubs, has been able to count on the support of Beijing, or other tycoons to bail him out. This time, he appears on his own. The bottom line, however, was summarized best by China Beige Book: "while direct fallout from the Evergrande bankruptcy - which has been telegraphed for months - won't be the problem, the problem is having a billion Chinese watch this play out, then expecting them to spend afterward." Tyler Durden Thu, 12/09/2021 - 09:21.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 9th, 2021

Blain: The Problem With Money Is...

Blain: The Problem With Money Is... Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com, “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” The problem with money is there is just too much of it, and all the wrong people have got it. No particular theme to the porridge this morning. Just some observations on what looks a very confusing market. I’m not in the UK at present, but if I was I’d be shaking my head in horror at the latest noises out of Downing Street. As an Irish chum put it: “If Boris was football team manager, he’d be gone by the weekend,” but this is Politics. Despite all the indications Omicron will not decimate the population, and vaccinations mean we’re most likely to survive, there is nothing like a bit of gold old fashioned panic. It sounds like lockdown is just around the corner to show just how much the Tories care. (Or is it because a furious Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty read the riot act to them?) Working from Home has very clear economic implications – and kills the December party season. Consequences, consequences. More and more the UK feels like a struggling health service with a inefficient nation attached. It’s not a good look. The stalling UK outlook and the political shenanigans explain why Sterling is looking a tad Turkish this morning. Meanwhile global markets take it all in their stride – convinced Omicron is a distraction and central banks will keep the liquidity juice flowing. What’s the problem? Higher, higher, higher scream the pundits! But it’s all noise. Look at the detail – the flows are all into the story stocks, the big tech, the big names, or the latest stocks picked for their Covid resilience, or those that look best placed to benefit from a turnaround. Markets feel frothy and unconvinced – rushing like the ball in a pinball machine between the buffers looking for the high score. The economic reality is markets are no longer functioning to efficiently distribute capital. Headlines about the collapse of small stocks, funding issues for developing nations and the lack of available capital for early stage alternative energy firms sit uneasy with future growth. I suspect the problem with everything, and particularly markets, is there is just far too much money around, and all the wrong people have got it… They are pushing that too-much-money in all the wrong directions. It’s very difficult to be coldly analytical about company fundamentals or the future economic outlook and direction when it would appear the world has lost sight of any value metrics. This morning is no exception. Fantabulous valuations based on an utter absence of reality has changed finance and way economic decisions are made. In the FT I read about how the computing power now expended on bitcoin mining has risen to a record high, with more and more expensive tech dedicated to digging out digital gold to sell to digital marks. China has banned bitcoin mining, and now the miners have moved elsewhere and brought in more powerful machines. The carbon footprint is huge – but hey-ho, that apparently doesn’t matter because it doesn’t. (Yes it does – whatever US miners say about how they’ve built a renewable energy site in Texas to accommodate more green miners. The bottom line is buttcon mining is an obscene waste of energy.) A chum sent me a story from The Byte: Someone paid $650,000 for a nonexistent yacht in the metaverse. The “yacht” is called The Metaflower Super Mega Yacht. It was “built” by a firm called Republic Realm. The buyer bought the digital asset with a digital currency. An imaginary thing buys an imaginary thing… Wow. The porridge readership will be split on this one: A majority of readers will shake their head in disbelief and wonder what madness drives someone to part with the price of a decent home for what is, perhaps, the fugliest yacht ever designed. (Seriously, it’s horrible. Boxy, sharp corners, and straight lines. A 10-year old playing Minecraft, or opening CAD for the first time would have done better.) A smaller number of readers will delve deeper and try to figure out the potential value of the digital asset in Ethereum will perform. Maybe it will be used in a computer game to hold virtual boat parties and earn returns that way? A very small number will twig it. They will be developing a bigger Metaflower II and looking for the greater fool to sell it to. It all sounds a bit bogus to me. The yacht was sold on The Sandbox, which is described as an “also-ran Metaverse platform” in the story. I am sure someone can tell me what it’s all about. Users of the Sandbox metaverse platform can also buy jet skis, speedboats, private islands and all the other paraphernalia a successful Mexican cartel boss requires in the real world.  They all look horrendous – worse than SIMs 20 years ago.. If I want to live out my days in opulence in the Metaverse, I’d like something a little more real please. That is developing… Apparently. As more and more people experience life in a/the metaverse they’ll want to digitally clothe their avatars, have them driving expensive digital cars, and wear expensive digital watches. I bet the most lucrative part of the metaverse will end up being digital sex and porn. Or, maybe I might care to start a digital property empire in Decentraland..? Someone just paid $2.4 million for a 6000 square foot plot of digital land in the Metaverse called Decentreland… whatever it is.. Land? Space? Venue? Our chums Republic Realm (the Metaflower 1 yacht makers) have bought 260 plots to build a virtual shopping mall where buyers can purchase digital wearables. Apparently fashion chains are queuing up to open virtual shops. Sotheby’s has built a digital auction house to auction NFTs! The great attraction of real land, as opposed to digital land, is they really aren’t making much more of it. (Except here in Dubai, where the most luxury hotels are the ones furthest out on the Palm, but that’s a whole different story for another day… !) More to the point a real Aston Martin is expensive because it’s difficult to make and they are a scarce commodity. A digital Aston costs exactly the same to mock up as a Lada. I really can’t get my head around digital possessions except in terms of what they might be worth when I wish to sell. I learnt an important lesson earlier this year when my mother passed away. Her house was full of beautiful things she and Dad collected over their life together. We’ve now emptied the house – and despite all the treasured memories, none of us has the space for it all. Most of it has gone to charity. Treasured and beautiful, but without her they are just things. Appreciate today what you have and treasure… I have a fondness for early 20th Century Scottish Art. I’ve bought paintings I’d fallen in love with. My wife wasn’t so keen. I’ve tried to sell them, and been told.. “ah, these just aren’t fashionable anymore, your mother’s generation bought them..” I bought them for love rather than market value. I wonder who will cherish them when I’ve gone..? I suspect one day a great grandchild will find a Mackintosh-Patrick up in the loft and discover its worth billions…. In contrast, will they bother searching my obsolete hard-drives to see if there might be some NFTs stashed away? Doubt it. Tyler Durden Thu, 12/09/2021 - 09:40.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 9th, 2021

Returning To Sound Money

Returning To Sound Money Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, With the threat of dollar hyperinflation now becoming a reality it is time to consider what will be required to stabilise the currency, and by extension the other fiat currencies which regard the dollar as their reserve. This article takes its cue from Ludwig von Mises’s 1952 analysis of what was required to return to a proper and enduring gold standard —metallic money, particularly gold, having been sound money for thousands of years, to which everyone has always returned when government fiat currency fails. When Mises wrote his 1952 article the dollar was nowhere near the state it is in today. But Mises had had practical experience of what was involved, having advised the Austrian government during and after its hyperinflation of the early 1920s, making his analysis doubly relevant. As a remedy for the developing collapse of the dollar, this article can do little more than address the major issues. But it shows how an economic and monetary collapse of the dollar can be turned to advantage - the opportunity it creates through the destruction of Keynesian and other inflationist fallacies to secure long-term economic and monetary stability under which economic progress can be maximised. Introduction There are two charts which sum up why the dollar and fiat currencies tied to it will collapse if current monetary policies persist, shown in Figure 1. The growth in the M1 quantity since February 2020 has been without precedent exploding from $4 trillion, already an historically high level, to nearly $20 trillion this September. That is an average annualised M1 inflation of 230%. It is simply currency debasement and has yet to impact on prices fully. Much of the increase has gone into the financial sector through quantitative easing, so its progress into the non-financial economy and the effects on consumer prices are delayed — but only delayed — as it will increasingly undermine the dollar’s purchasing power. The more immediate impact on the High Street is also alarming, shown in the second chart. A combination of the covid lockdowns and Federal Government money ending up in consumers’ pockets has driven their liquidity relative to goods purchases to unprecedented and unaccustomed heights. This is the more worrying chart because it quantifies the immediate fuel for a potential crack-up boom. A crack-up boom is the condition whereby consumers finally discard the currency, spending it to just get rid of it. We are not there yet, but clearly, if consumers take the view en masse that prices will continue to rise, then they will attempt to reduce their cash balances all at once by bringing their future purchases forward, thereby driving prices up even further and more rapidly, and therefore the purchasing power of the currency down. But for the moment, it is mostly creating a scramble for real assets, such as housing, which for the moment can be bought with mortgage finance fixed at deeply suppressed interest rates. Given supply constraints, rising commodity prices, and other production costs rising as well as unaccustomed levels of consumer liquidity, the rise in prices can only accelerate. Unless there is a fundamental change in monetary policy, which requires the expansion of currency to be stopped completely, there will come a point where consumers finally realise that it is not prices rising but the purchasing power of the currency falling. This is a difficult concept for most people to grasp because they are used to regarding currency as always possessing the objective value in their transactions. The history of monetary inflations confirms that ordinary folk have always been reluctant to understand that the currency is declining until too late. But today, a significant minority of the population has already been alerted to this development by their participation in or observation of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. And if the wider population learns the same lesson and acts accordingly all hope for the currency will be lost. The reason that changes in the quantity of currency recorded by narrow measures such as M1 must be closely watched is that it is the underlying base upon which bank credit is expanded. When interest rates inevitably begin to rise, rates paid to bank depositors are likely to lag, improving lending margins for banks. Improved lending margins will encourage the banks to expand credit, for the benefit of government and agency bonds, and for speculators such as hedge fund managers looking to arbitrage the difference between borrowing rates and the dollar’s future purchasing power. The narrow currency quantity therefore has a multiplier effect with respect to bank credit when it begins to expand. A dispassionate consideration of these established facts leads the independent observer to conclude that unless today’s fiat currency system is secured with a sound money regime a collapse of everyone’s circulating medium is inevitable. Putting to one side minor central banks, the most egregious debaser of currency is the Fed, as the charts above attest. But with the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, where the dollar goes, so will all the other western currencies. Fixing the dollar must be the priority. In a revised 1952 edition of his The Theory of Money and Credit, Ludwig von Mises added a section on The Return to Sound Money. Mises, who had cut his teeth as an economist dealing with Austria’s 1920s inflation made proposals which are still relevant. Under the influence of Keynesianism, the monetary situation facing America today is rapidly deteriorating towards the circumstances faced by Austria in 1920-22, but with technical differences. This article attempts to update Mises’s section on the return to sound money for current conditions to provide a framework for the benefit of monetary stability and long-term prosperity. The intractability of current inflationism Central banks and their governments like to say that the reasons for an acceleration of monetary expansion are short-term and justified by being expedient. But these policies, often termed extraordinary measures to validate them, become normal as we have seen with quantitative easing. We can reasonably assume therefore that no meaningful attempt to rein in currency debasement will occur, more extraordinary measures will be invented, and that the explosion in the M1 quantity is far from over. Changing the official mindset is proving an impossible task so long as currency expansion is available. The Federal Government relies on it as a growing source for its funding, which allows it to ignore budget deficits. The state employs bureaucrats who agree with this policy and is advised only by economists who are prepared to justify it. The whole establishment is in groupthink mode and brooks no criticism over its inflationism. Furthermore, the administration has been democratically elected on a platform of continuing to provide free and easy money. This is not a sudden phenomenon, being progressively ingrained in the establishment’s mindset for a century. It commenced with the establishment of the Fed before the First World War, which then fuelled an artificial boom in the 1920s after the brief post-war recession. The American state gradually subsumed control over money, removing it from transacting individuals and finally replacing it with completely fiat dollars in 1971. The course that the state had set itself was bound to lead to where we are now; the expansion of dollar currency getting out of control. Nowhere in the Fed’s regular FOMC statements is there any mention of monetary policy per se. It is as if the quantity of currency in circulation is irrelevant to its purchasing power. It is an important cover-up, because if the relationship between the quantity of money and its purchasing power was admitted, then the Fed would have to exercise control over it. And not only would an admission of the relationship be a public acknowledgement of currency mismanagement, not only would the US Treasury come down on the Fed like a ton of bricks for jeopardising its source of non-fiscal revenue, but inflation of the currency would no longer be freely available as a policy tool. One likes to think that there are policy makers with an understanding that inflation is of the quantity of dollars in circulation and not its effect on prices. But for a long time, it has not been in anyone’s interest to think this way — anyone who did so has been re-educated, sacked, or left the building. This is the essence of groupthink. It is worth noting that elsewhere, Jens Weidmann who is a well-known inflation hawk is resigning from the Bundesbank. And Andy Haldane has resigned as Chief Economist from the Bank of England, with a parting shot on inflation. Both these gentlemen appear to have decided it is a fight they cannot win. The only chance of reform is from circumstances leading to the final abandonment of the neo-Keynesian policies that have promoted statism over free markets. And that is unlikely to occur before economic and currency destruction has become too obvious for anyone in control of economic and monetary policy to ignore. We cannot be certain that this realisation in official circles will occur before the public finally loses all confidence in the currency. But so long as any hope for its recovery lingers, it seems unlikely that monetary policy will be reformed. To statist economists, the argument for sound money and its adoption would not only be a negation of everything they have come to believe, but it will be seen as destroying all their so-called scientific progress, particularly since the adoption of Keynes’s General Theory as the economists’ vade mecum. Additionally, the use of statistics to guide policy, particularly of GDP and CPI, will have been found to have badly misled policy makers and markets. Along with statist management of the dollar, they must be abandoned. They are primarily tools for imposing state control on economic activity. The objective of the reformed approach is to return to free markets and sound money, which means handing responsibility for their actions back to economic actors, those who divide their labour and use money as the bridge between their production and consumption. These are a volte-face from current policies and are sure to be strongly resisted even in the face of contrary evidence. Monetary reform is bound to be delayed until the last possible moment. The state’s preference is always to retain and build on the control it already has. This is why there are plans to introduce central bank digital currencies, which, it must be noted, are designed to continue with inflationary stimulation by other means. But as revolutionary France discovered, the substitution of one fiat (the assignat) by another (mandat territoriaux) merely leads to the more rapid failure of the second. Once public trust in the state to not debauch the first currency is gone, it cannot be restored for a succeeding unbacked state currency. We can only assume that at some point in the dollar’s descent towards worthlessness the US Treasury will be prepared to mobilise its gold reserves to stop it becoming completely worthless. We shall now look at the measures that are required from that point to return to sound money, that is to back the dollar credibly with metallic money, only gold and silver coinage — anything less will not be a permanent solution. Initial actions to stabilise the currency At the time when monetary stabilisation becomes a practical proposition, interest rates and bond yields will have already been driven to previously unimagined levels, reflecting the currency’s collapse thus far. Write-offs from non-performing loans and losses on bond valuations will have almost certainly wiped out all the equity of weaker banks, and the survivability of the stronger ones will have become questionable as well. The Federal deposit insurance limit of $250,000 will have become meaningless and a banking crisis will become integral to the currency collapse as depositors attempt to flee from bank deposits into goods and gold. A collapse of the fiat banking system was not a material factor when Mises tackled the problem in 1952. He was absorbed with preventing the currency’s collapse in the future, a future which was some way off but is now almost upon us. The first action must be for the Fed to cease expanding the quantity of money and to introduce regulations to stop the expansion of total bank credit. The former is a simple task. In practice, controlling bank credit is also not difficult. If one bank increases its balance sheet, the increase must be matched by a decrease in the balance sheets of the other banks. This means that new loans can only be extended with the permission of the central bank centralising the information on bank and other licenced credit providers’ balance sheets. And net drawdowns of existing credit facilities must similarly be matched by repayments of others. This is intended as an interim measure pending further reform of the banking system. But the consequences for surviving banks will be significant and immediate. The stabilisation of the currency will lead to increased savings. The allocation of these increased savings to investment capital will be routed through bond markets instead of across the collective balance sheets of the banking system. It will be up to savers and their agents to decide individual borrowing terms. And all taxes on savings must be removed to enable them to recirculate into productive investment. However, these measures will be consistent with the plans for subsequent bank reform described below. The US Treasury will be competing for savers’ savings and will no longer have unrestricted access to bank credit. A bank wishing to increase its exposure to Treasury stock be able to do so by disposing of other assets, Alternatively, if other banks reduce their balance sheets permission might be obtained from the Fed on the lines described above. Whether buying Treasuries is a sensible commercial decision must be left to the individual bank, and Basel-originated regulations designed to give preference to government bills and bonds over other classifications of assets must be repealed. The objective is to permit the government and its agencies to borrow but only on a non-inflationary basis, with the investment decision purely decided by investors, their agents, and bankers making their own risk assessments without regulatory bias. It is doubtful at this stage of the hyperinflation that economic activity would suffer overall from the loss of state intervention. The economy will already be in the deepest slump in living memory, with interest rates at unimaginable heights and beyond the Fed’s control. Anyone going bust will have most probably done so already. In these conditions there cannot be a better time to ensure the state withdraws from economic and monetary intervention and to introduce plans to stabilise the currency. But on their own measures to halt currency and credit expansion would be insufficient to stabilise the dollar and dollar interest rates beyond a temporary basis without further measures, which must be our next consideration. The return to a gold standard To stabilise the dollar the US Treasury must recognise that gold is money and the dollar an inferior currency. Accordingly, all taxes on physical gold and silver must be removed, and both metals be permitted to be freely exchanged by the public for dollars. Given that the circumstance of the reintroduction of a gold standard are likely to be those of a last resort, we can assume that the market will have already repriced the dollar in gold terms. That being the case, the exchange ratio between gold and the dollar can be fixed along with the arrangements permitting gold coin and the dollar to circulate together, with the dollar and dollar-credit being converted into reliable gold-backed substitutes. Legislation would have to be enacted to enshrine gold convertibility as an inalienable property right, never to be taken away from the public in future. This must also remove future devaluations as a government option, and even in the event of a crisis, such as a war, full convertibility must be maintained. A new body must be established, or the role of the Exchange Stabilisation Fund amended to act only as the custodian for the relationship between dollars and gold, with the nation’s gold reserves transferred to its control. We shall call this fund the Exchange Stabilisation Fund (ESF) hereafter. Dealing in foreign currencies and SDRs by the ESF must cease, and no other government or central bank entity be permitted to deal in gold. After acquiring its initial reserve from the Treasury, the ESF cannot be permitted to initiate gold transactions. Only dealings initiated by the public, exchanging gold for dollars or dollars for gold are to be permitted. Thenceforth, the expansion of dollars in circulation must be backed 100% by gold to be held transparently in a special account for that purpose. The basis of convertibility must be on coins freely demanded by holders of dollars without limitation. Legislation must be passed for gold coins to be struck in suitable currency denominations to ensure their practical circulation. Silver coins must also be reintroduced by law for smaller amounts, and the issuance of paper notes suited for smaller purchases must be rescinded to ensure that silver coins and the smaller gold coins circulate. The purpose of coin circulation is to permit the public to continually vote on the government’s adherence to the new rules. The slightest indication that it is considering breaking them will, in accordance with Gresham’s Law, drive the good money out of circulation: in other words, gold coin will be hoarded, and its paper substitutes disposed through spending. The knowledge that this is so will discourage politicians from considering watering down the standard. The gold/silver ratio should be struck to give silver coins a minor premium over their bullion value to ensure they remain in circulation and are not diverted for industrial use or arbitraged into gold. This will avoid the pitfalls that plagued bimetallic standards in the past. The introduction of a working gold coin standard on these lines will lead to a rapid fall in borrowing rates from their hyperinflation highs. The sooner it is operating and the currency stabilised, the quicker the economy can return to normality, which will be an obvious benefit for those persuading the public the merits of sound money. Interest rates will then correlate with the general level of wholesale prices. The reason for this correlation is that sound money allows producers to calculate for their business plans with a high degree of certainty about final prices. With that certainty in mind, they can then assess the rate of interest they are prepared to pay savers for an enterprise to be profitable. The disciplines of a working gold coin standard will also require other changes to take place. Government reform The time during a currency collapse when it might be adapted into a proper gold standard is also the most dangerous politically. The population will be suffering real hardships and dangerously disaffected from the establishment that steered them onto the economic and monetary rocks. The middle and professional classes will have lost nearly everything. It is a political situation ripe for violent revolution. It drove the French revolution and following the First World War drove Germany into Nazism. It is the setting described by Hayek in his The Road to Serfdom. The departure from proper economics and the move towards increasing state control over the people militates for yet more socialism and violence, with a total monetary collapse being the excuse for total oppression of the people by the state. If that happens, the outcome is a different course of events from the constructive one proposed here. But we must assume that the great American nation, for all its recent faults and having lost its way with economics and socialist drift, pulls back from the brink of the abyss. Unlike Germany following its hyperinflation of the 1920s, America’s population is ethnically diverse, comprised in the main of the descendants of refugees from political and economic oppressions elsewhere. We should accept that when the outlook is darkest, a Hayekian-described dictator might not emerge, but a statesman instead, like an Erhardt, who emerged for Germany in the late 1940s. Paradoxically, public support for a reform of the American currency system probably offers a better chance of success than similar measures taken elsewhere. We must proceed with that assumption. The popular mandate for the role of government in the economy to be radically revised will therefore become available. Without the cover of inflationary financing, an economy based on sound money is more obviously incompatible with a high-spending government, which must then reduce its burden on the productive economy to the minimum possible. At its most fundamental, its obligation to provide mandated welfare must be strictly curtailed. The ambition is to reduce the role of government to framing and upholding the law and maintaining national defence — not to be confused with funding military adventures abroad. Foreign policy must return to that of Britain in the days of Liverpool, Castlereagh, and Wellington following the Napoleonic Wars: never to interfere in another nation’s internal affairs. And regulations must be rescinded to permit free markets to regulate themselves. It will require economic understanding, statesmanship and perhaps a few years to fully achieve all these objectives. But given that the purchasing power of the dollar will have already depreciated substantially, the costs of welfare, such as state pensions and unemployment benefits, will have already degenerated in real terms. Furthermore, the population will be staring into an economic and monetary abyss, reducing their opposition to substantial cuts in state spending. Only in these circumstances will it be possible to take the necessary action, and the opportunity will be there. An initial target of reducing Federal government spending to under 20% of GDP and cutting taxes accordingly should be followed by a target of less than 15% of GDP in due course. Banking reform Following extensive debate between the currency and banking schools, England’s Bank Charter Act of 1844 was the watershed that validated bank credit cycles. The destabilising effect of these cycles led to Walter Bagehot’s concept of the role of The Bank of England being the lender of last resort, the excuse for central banks in the future to increase their powers of intervention. By the time of the 1844 Act, banking law and double entry bookkeeping had established the method of credit creation, which is different from that which is commonly understood. A bank commences the expansion of bank credit by making a loan to a customer, which appears on its balance sheet as an asset. At the same time, double entry bookkeeping demands a contra entry, which is achieved by the bank crediting the customer with a matching deposit, which continues to balance as the loan is drawn down. The bank’s balance sheet has expanded without its own capital being involved. The expansion of credit is monetary inflation, which eventually feeds through to rising prices, leading to increasing interest rates. Economic calculations made earlier in the credit cycle begin to go awry, and bankers eventually become cautious, contracting their balance sheets mindful of the gearing ratio between their equity and total liabilities. Alternatively, carried away by the apparent improvement in trading conditions, banks speculate in areas where they lack expertise or became overexposed and lack an exit. These were the respective reasons that Overend Gurney in 1866 and Barings in 1890 failed. Whatever the cause of their contraction, these cycles of bank credit lasted about a decade on average. A reformed gold coin standard must be complemented by the elimination of bank credit cycles. To eliminate it entirely would require banking to be segregated into two distinct functions, one to act as a custodian of deposits with ownership remaining with the depositor, and the other to act as an arranger of finance for fees or commission. This would eliminate bank credit entirely. The evolution of modern finance has led to the development of shadow banking, some of which has led to the creation of credit off-balance sheet by the banks or by unregulated entities. Measures should be taken to identify and end these practices. But given that shadow banking is the product of the interaction between the growth of fiat money and purely financial activities, shadow banking is likely to decline, or possibly even disappear with the end of fiat and the introduction of a gold standard. Furthermore, the speculative bubble in cryptocurrencies, whose rationale is purely to hedge against the relative expansion of fiat currencies, will lose the reason for their existence beyond the purely technical innovations, such as the blockchain, that they bring. The ending of these speculative activities generally will reduce even further the perceived need for bank credit expansion, particularly for those banks funding purely financial activities. Once the public and foreigners are confident that the dollar’s gold standard is firmly established it is likely that gold will flow back into the Exchange Stabilisation Fund, giving it yet more cover for future dollar redemptions and therefore credibility for the standard. The benefits and workings of a new gold standard With the dollar on a credible gold standard, there can be little doubt that other fiat currencies will develop similar monetary policies. The whole world works with the dollar as the international currency, even Russia whose energy earnings are paid to her in dollars, and China whose raw materials from abroad are sourced nearly entirely in dollars. The replacement of fiat dollars with dollar-denominated gold substitutes will change currency priorities for all other nations. They will confront the same issues that faced the European nations in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Britain with her empire dominated global trade. Not only was there a drift towards free trade (for example, the Cobden-Chevalier Trade Treaty between France and Britain in 1860) but the European nations adopted similar gold standards. If America establishes a credible gold standard, any nation not following suit is likely to see its currency collapse. Critics may say that instead of operating their own gold standards, other nations will simply operate dollar currency boards, throwing the burden on America to provide a global monetary standard. This would not be a problem, so long as the rules of 100% backing are followed by America. A country adopting a dollar standard for its own currency will have to acquire dollars, which it can only do for gold submitted to the Exchange Stabilisation Fund. By providing a simple solution to other national currency problems the ESF would therefore see substantial gold inflows, further securing its domestic and international currency position. The key is for the ESF to administer the new monetary rules, enshrined in law, to the letter. Once the new gold standard is fully established, demand for circulating dollars will be set by markets and can be met by the ESF issuing dollars only on a 100% gold backed basis. Imports must be paid for in gold-backed dollars, and because monetary discipline will force government deficits to become a thing of the past, trade deficits will tend to be as well. Changes to gold’s domestic purchasing power might be expected through changes in the savings rate, being the allocation between consumption and deferred consumption. Variations in the savings rates may be expected to drive price differentials between nations, but this would be an error. This is because a rise in domestic savings will tend to reduce domestic prices and increase exports, leading to an importation of gold. But the extra gold or gold-backed dollars in circulation from an export surplus will have a contrary effect, supporting prices so that there would be little change. By way of contrast, a fall in the savings rate would be expected to lead to a tendency for domestic prices to rise and therefore to an increase in imports, and a corresponding outflow of gold. But the outflow of gold will then tend to act to reduce domestic prices, thus stabilising the effects of increased domestic consumption. In terms of cross-border trade, the benefit of a gold standard and its associated rules is to eliminate trade imbalances and price differentials as a cause of economic disruption, depoliticising global trade and promoting overall price stability. The peoples of individual nations can therefore set their savings preferences without affecting the general price level. It permits producers to make business calculations with a high degree of certainty of output prices, not only for domestic markets, but international ones as well. Gold supply factors Unlike proposed distributed ledger cryptocurrencies acting as the future form of money, the merits of a working gold standard are found in its flexibility. The growth of the amount of above-ground gold has tended to match the increase in the world’s population over time. But not all gold is held for monetary use, with more than half of it being estimated to be in jewellery, and a smaller amount allocated to industrial use. But much of the gold jewellery is quasi-monetary, being regarded as a reserve store of monetary value particularly among the populous Asian nations. There is, therefore, a flexible stock of non-monetary gold available through market mechanisms to support a global monetary standard. The difference between a gold or gold exchange standard and fiat currencies is that the allocation of gold between its uses is determined by people through markets, and not by governments and their monetary policies. This means that the course of prices both generally and for individual products are set only by supply and demand. Price stability is the outcome, with competition, improved production methods and technology tending to reduce prices over time and rising living standards for all. This is the background which encourages savers to put aside some of their earnings, knowing that their savings’ purchasing power will be maintained, and even likely to increase over time. For these savers, financial asset values will no longer be driven by excessive quantities of fiat currency. With the infinite feed of fiat currency removed, outright speculation will become a thing of the past, replaced by genuine risk assessments of individual bond issuers and of equity participations. The expansion of fiat currency will no longer be available as the principal fuel driving financial asset values. It will be a different monetary environment, where capital will be scarce and therefore valued. Capital will be less wasted on spurious projects. It will be the basis for recovering economic progress, so sadly lost at an increasing pace since the dollar became purely a fiat currency. It is apt to end by quoting von Mises’ concluding paragraph to his 1952 addition on currency reform in his The Theory of Money and Credit, the inspiration for this article: “Cynics dispose of the advocacy of a restitution of the gold standard by calling it utopian. Yet we have only the choice between two utopias: the utopia of the market economy, not paralysed by government sabotage on the one hand, and the utopia of totalitarian all-round planning on the other hand. The choice of the first alternative implies the decision in favour of the gold standard.” Tyler Durden Sat, 11/20/2021 - 08:10.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 20th, 2021

How The "Grand Chessboard" Led To US Checkmate In Afghanistan

How The "Grand Chessboard" Led To US Checkmate In Afghanistan Authored by Max Parry via Off-Guardian.org, Nearly as suspenseful as the Taliban’s meteoric return to power after the final withdrawal of American armed forces from Afghanistan is the uncertainty over what will come next amid the fallout... Many have predicted that Russia and China will step in to fill the power vacuum and convince the facelift Taliban to negotiate a power-sharing agreement in exchange for political and economic support, while others fear a descent into civil war is inevitable. Although Moscow and Beijing potentially stand to gain from the humiliating US retreat by pushing for an inclusive government in Kabul, the rebranded Pashtun-based group must first be removed as a designated terrorist organization. Neither wants to see Afghanistan worsen as a hotbed of jihad, as Islamist separatism already previously plagued Russia in the Caucasus and China is still in the midst of an ongoing ethnic conflict in Xinjiang with Uyghur Muslim secessionists and the Al Qaeda-linked Turkestan Islamic Party. At this point everyone recognizes the more serious extremist threat lies not with the Taliban but the emergence of ISIS Khorasan or ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate blamed for several recent terror attacks including the August 26th bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital which killed 13 American service members and more than a 100 Afghans during the US drawdown. Three days later, American commanders ordered a retaliatory drone strike targeting a vehicle which they claimed was en route to detonate a suicide bomb at the same Kabul airport. For several days, the Pentagon falsely maintained that the aerial assault successfully took out two ISIS-K militants and a servile corporate media parroted these assertions unquestioningly, including concocting a totally fictitious report that the blast consisted of “secondary explosions” from devices already inside the car intended for use in an act of terror. Two weeks later, US Central Command (CENTCOM) was forced to apologize and admit the strike was indeed a “tragic mistake” which errantly killed ten innocent civilians — all of whom were members of a single family including seven children — while no Daesh members were among the dead. This distortion circulated in collusion between the endless war machine and the media is perhaps only eclipsed by the alleged Russian-Taliban bounty program story in its deceitfulness. If any Americans were aware of ISIS-K prior to the botched Kabul airstrike, they likely recall when former US President Donald Trump authorized the unprecedented use of a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, informally referred to as the “Mother Of All Bombs”, on Islamic State militants in Nangarhar Province back in 2017. Reportedly, Biden’s predecessor had to be shown photos from the 1970s of Afghan girls wearing miniskirts by his National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, to renege on his campaign pledge of ending the longest war in US history. As it happens, the ISIS Khorasan fighters extinguished by the MOAB were sheltered at an underground tunnel complex near the Pakistani border that was built by the CIA back in the 1980s during the Afghan-Soviet war. Alas, the irony of this detail was completely lost on mainstream media whose proclivity to treat Pentagon newspeak as gospel has been characteristic of not only the last twenty years of US occupation but four decades of American involvement in Afghanistan since Operation Cyclone, the covert Central Intelligence Agency plan to arm and fund the mujahideen, was launched in 1979. Frank Wisner, the CIA official who established Operation Mockingbird, the agency’s extensive clandestine program to infiltrate the news media for propaganda purposes during the the Cold War, referred to the press as it’s “Mighty Wurlitzer”, or a musical instrument played to manipulate public opinion. Langley’s recruitment of assets within the fourth estate was one of many illicit activities by the national security apparatus divulged in the limited hangout of the Church Committee during the 1970s, along with CIA complicity in coups, assassinations, illegal surveillance, and drug-induced brainwashing of unwitting citizens. At bottom, it wasn’t just the minds of human guinea pigs that ‘The Company’ sought to control but the news coverage consumed by Americans as well. In his testimony before a congressional select committee, Director of Central Intelligence William Colby openly acknowledged the use of spooks in journalism, as seen in the award-winning documentary Inside the CIA: On Company Business (1980). Unfortunately, the breadth of the secret project and its vetting of journalists wasn’t fully revealed until an article by Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, whereas the series of official investigations only ended up salvaging the deep state by presenting such wrongdoings as rogue “abuses” rather than an intrinsic part of espionage in carrying out US foreign policy. The corrupt institution of Western media also punishes anyone within its ranks who dares to swim against the current. The husband and wife duo of Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, authors of a new memoir which illuminates the real story of Afghanistan, were two such journalists who learned just how the sausage is made in the nation’s capital with the connivance of the yellow press. Both veterans of the peace movement, Paul and Liz were initially among those who naively believed that America’s humiliation in Vietnam and the well-publicized hearings which discredited the intelligence community might lead to a sea change in Washington with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976. In hindsight, there was actually good reason for optimism regarding the prospect for world peace in light of the arms reduction treaties and talks between the US and Moscow during the Nixon and Ford administrations, a silver lining to Henry Kissinger’s ‘realist’ doctrine of statecraft. However, any glimmer of hope in easing strained relations between the West and the Soviet Union was short-lived, as the few voices of reason inside the Beltway presuming good faith on the part of Moscow toward détente and nuclear proliferation were soon challenged by a new bellicose faction of DC think tank ghouls who argued that diplomacy jeopardized America’s strategic position and that the USSR sought global dominion. Since intelligence assessments inconveniently contradicted the claims of Soviet aspirations for strategic superiority, CIA Director George H.W. Bush consulted the purported expertise of a competitive group of intellectual warmongers known as ‘Team B’ which featured many of the same names later synonymous with the neoconservative movement, including Richard Pipes, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Bush, Sr. had replaced the aforementioned Bill Colby following the notorious “Halloween Massacre” firings in the Gerald Ford White House, a political shakeup which also included Kissinger’s ouster as National Security Advisor and the promotion of a young Donald Rumsfeld to Secretary of Defense with his pupil, one Richard B. Cheney, named Chief of Staff. This proto-neocon soft coup allowed Team B and its manipulated estimates of the Soviet nuclear arsenal to undermine the ongoing Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between Washington and the Kremlin until Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev finally signed a second comprehensive non-proliferation treaty in June 1979. The behind-the-scenes split within the foreign policy establishment over which dogma would set external policymaking continued wrestling for power before the unipolarity of Team B prevailed thanks to the machinations of Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. If intel appraisals of Moscow’s intentions and military capabilities didn’t match the Team B thesis, the Polish-American strategist devised a scheme to lure the USSR into a trap in Afghanistan to give the appearance of Soviet expansionism in order to convince Carter to withdraw from SALT II the following year and sabotage rapprochement. By the time it surfaced that the CIA was supplying weapons to Islamist insurgents in the Central Asian country, the official narrative dispensed by Washington was that it was aiding the Afghan people fight back against an “invasion” by the Red Army. Ironically, this was the justification for a proxy conflict which resulted in the deaths of at least 2 million civilians and eventually collapsed the socialist government in Kabul, setting off a bloody civil war and the emergence of the Taliban. Even so, it was the media which helped manage the perception that the CIA’s covert war began only after the Soviets had intervened. Meanwhile, the few honest reporters who tried to unveil the truth about what was happening were silenced and relegated to the periphery. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould were the first two American journalists permitted entry into the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1981 by the Moscow-friendly government since Western correspondents had been barred from the country. What they witnessed firsthand on the ground could not have contrasted more sharply from the accepted tale of freedom fighters resisting a communist “occupation” disseminated by propaganda rags. Instead, what they discovered was an army of feudal tribesman and fanatical jihadists who blew up schools and doused women with acid as they waged a holy war against an autonomous, albeit flawed, progressive government in Kabul enacting land reforms and providing education for girls. In addition, they learned the Soviet military presence was being deliberately exaggerated by major outlets who either outright censored or selectively edited their exclusive accounts, beginning with CBS Evening News and later ABC’s Nightline. Not long after the Taliban established an Islamic emirate for the first time in the late 1990s, Brzezinski himself would shamelessly boast that Operation Cyclone had actually started in mid-1979 nearly six months prior to the deployment of Soviet troops later that year. Fresh off the publication of his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, the Russophobic Warsaw-native told the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998: Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. Is this period, you were the National Security Advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct? Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujaheddin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention. Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it? B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan , nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today? B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime , a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire. Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War? If this stunning admission straight from the horse’s mouth is too candid to believe, Fitzgerald and Gould obtain confirmation of Brzezinski’s Machiavellian confession from one of their own skeptics. Never mind that Moscow’s help had been requested by the legitimate Afghan government to defend itself against the US dirty war, a harbinger of the Syrian conflict more than three decades later when Damascus appealed to Russia in 2015 for military aid to combat Western-backed “rebel” groups. Paul and Liz also uncover CIA fingerprints all over the suspicious February 1979 assassination of Adolph Dubs, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan, whose negotiation attempts may have inadvertently thrown a wrench into Brzezinski’s ploy to draw the USSR into a quagmire. Spurring Carter to give his foreign policy tutor the green light to finance the Islamist proxies, the timely kidnapping and murder of the US diplomat at a Kabul hotel would be pinned on the KGB and the rest was history. The journo couple even go as far as to imply the branch of Western intelligence likely responsible for his murder was an agent from the Safari Club, an unofficial network between the security services of a select group of European and Middle Eastern countries which carried out covert operations during the Cold War across several continents with ties to the worldwide drug trade and Brzezinski. Although he was considered to be of the ‘realist’ school of international relations like Kissinger, Brzezinski’s plot to engineer a Russian equivalent of Vietnam in Afghanistan increased the clout of neoconservatism in Washington, a persuasion that would later reach its peak of influence in the George W. Bush administration. In retrospect, the need for a massive military buildup to achieve Pax Americana promoted by the war hawks in Team B was a precursor to the influential “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” manifesto by the Project for the New American Century cabal preceding 9/11 and the ensuing US invasion of Afghanistan. Fitzgerald and Gould also historically trace the ideological roots of neoconservatism to its intellectual foundations in the American Trotskyist movement during the 1930s. If a deviated branch of Marxism seems like an unlikely origin source for the right-wing interventionist foreign policy of the Bush administration, its basis is not as unexpected as it may appear. In fact, one of the main reasons behind the division between the Fourth International and the Comintern was over the national question, since Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” called for expansion to impose global revolution unlike Stalin’s “socialism in one country” position which respected the sovereignty and self-determination of nation states while still giving support to national liberation movements. The authors conclude by highlighting how the military overhaul successfully championed by the neoconservatives marked the beginning of the end for US infrastructure maintenance as well. With public attention currently focused on the pending Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to repair decaying industry at home just as the disastrous Afghan pullout has put President Joe Biden’s favorability at an all-time low, Fitzgerald and Gould truly connect all the dots between the decline of America as a superpower with Brzezinski and Team B. Even recent statements by Jimmy Carter himself were tantamount when he spoke with Trump about China’s economic success which he attributed to Beijing’s lack of wasteful spending on military adventures, an incredible irony given the groundwork for the defense budget escalation begun under Ronald Reagan was laid by Carter’s own foreign policy. Looking back, the spousal team note that the ex-Georgia governor did not need much coaxing after all to betray his promises as a candidate, considering his rise to the presidency was facilitated by his membership alongside Brzezinski in the Trilateral Commission, an elite Rockefeller-funded think tank. What is certain is that Paul and Liz have written an indispensable book that gives a level of insight into the Afghan story only attainable from their four decades of scholarly work on the subject. The Valediction: Three Nights of Desmond is now available from Trine Day Press and the timing of its release could not offer better context to recent world events. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/18/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 19th, 2021

The Rittenhouse Case Proves The Establishment Wants To Bring Back Star Chamber Tyranny

The Rittenhouse Case Proves The Establishment Wants To Bring Back Star Chamber Tyranny Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.us, One of the most interesting stories from the early days leading up to the American Revolution involves the events surrounding the Boston Massacre. On March 5th, 1770 the Stamp Act had just been repealed but British Soldiers were ever present in Boston as a show of force against the “rowdy” colonists. The British government, in order to save face, implemented the Townshend Acts instead as a means to continue taxing the colonies (without representation, of course). Anger was growing in the streets. The presence of the Red Coats in the city added to the public fury and protests were sparked. One such protest was raging in front of the Custom House on King Street over a disagreement between wig maker Henry Knox and a soldier. The argument grew into what was later described as a riot. Allegedly, the crowd became violent and started throwing objects at the soldiers. One of the soldiers let off a shot and then someone yelled “Fire!”, causing all the Red Coats to shoot into the crowd killing five of them and injuring others. The colonial justice system could have chosen to use their position to railroad the soldiers in question and make an ideological example out of them. Instead, in the first trial of Captain John Preston, ample legal representation was given (the lawyer was John Adams, who would later become the 2nd President of the US), along with a fair trial. Adams’ position that the soldiers believed they were under imminent danger of bodily harm convinced the jury and a not-guilty verdict was given for the majority of the soldiers, with manslaughter charges for two of them. Adams felt that his victory in the defense of the British soldiers was actually a victory for the colonies and ultimately the Revolution. You see, the British looked upon the colonials as “insurrectionists” and barbarians. They did not think that a fair trial for a soldier in the colonies was even possible. By proving them wrong with grace, logic and objectivity, Adams and the jury destroyed a common lie perpetuated by the monarchy and the British establishment. The colonies had more honor than the British did. This lack of honor among the British establishment became evident before and during the Revolutionary War when the “Star Chamber” became the defacto law of the monarchy in the colonies. The Star Chamber was an elitist-operated “justice system” or tribunal originally designed so that the British aristocracy was assured a fair trial whenever they actually faced a criminal charge. In other words, it was a special court for the power elites that was separate and superior to the courts used for average peasants. Publicly, it was also presented as a means for commoners to redress grievances against aristocrats, but it was well understood that the Star Chamber would rarely go against the nobility UNLESS they had also offended the king. If they went against the king, they would be black-bagged like anyone else. During the unrest in the colonies, however, the Star Chamber was used in a different manner; it became a weapon to crush dissent among subjects that spoke out against the empire and sowed the seeds of “sedition”. The dreaded court was highly secretive and the public was often obstructed from its proceedings. Its rulings were overseen by the establishment rather than a jury and in many cases those people being charged were never given a chance to defend themselves. They were sentenced before they ever entered a courtroom, if they entered a courtroom at all. Silence was often considered an admission of guilt rather than a right of the accused. Punishments were brutal, including torture and imprisonment under the worst possible conditions. The death penalty was not allowed, but the court would instead place defendants in conditions so horrible that they tended to die on their own. All of this was justified under the claim that every person charged was treasonous, and therefore they did not deserve a fair trial among their peers. After the war was over and the British were defeated, the Founding Fathers drafted large portions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in order to counter and prevent the same abuses they saw under the Star Chamber. The 5th Amendment in particular was directly inspired as a way to stop Star Chamber-like abuses of court power. But lets leap ahead to current day, where we find that the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, now nearing its end, has beyond anything else revealed a vicious intention by the establishment to bring back the oppression of the Star Chamber through the media manipulated court of public opinion, mob rule as well as violations of well established constitutional law. The political left could have chosen the path of reason, allowing justice to take its natural course through a display of objectivity and fairness as John Adams and the colonials did during the Boston Massacre trial. They have instead chosen to take the same route as the British, motivated by a “win at any cost” mentality, using lies, strategic omissions, censorship and threats of mob violence to turn the Rittenhouse trial into a political proxy war. Here are just a handful of examples that show the establishment and the media are seeking to undermine centuries of normal constitutional protections including the right of self defense… The Kenosha “Peaceful Protest” Misdirection First, lets be clear that the media’s handling of the entire Kenosha incident was corrupt from the very beginning. Aside from refusing to call the riots that erupted what they were – RIOTS, the media has also consistently mischaracterized the police shooting as brutality against black suspect Jacob Blake. Blake, crippled by the incident, has been painted as a “victim and hero” in the news. In reality, Blake had a warrant out for his arrest including trespassing, disorderly conduct and sexual assault. The police were made aware of this before they attempted to detain him. Blake also had a history of resisting arrest, and of course attempted to do so again in Kenosha. Videos clearly show Blake trying to march away from officers and jump back into his vehicle. The media claimed Blake was unarmed, yet he is also clearly holding a karambit style knife in the same videos, which the police ordered him to drop and he refused. The Wisconsin DOJ confirmed that Blake was armed and Blake himself admitted to having the knife. Officers were already on edge as Blake tried to reach into his car, or use his car to get away, or possibly use the car as a weapon. Frankly, Blake’s history and behavior at the scene make him a criminal, not a hero or a victim. All this information was readily available within about a day of the event. The media attempted to hide these FACTS surrounding his shooting from the public and deliberately sowed seeds of unrest. And the ignorant and reactionary people within the BLM movement ate up the propaganda. When violence broke out, the media portrayed the riots as “peaceful protests” for “racial justice”. Even though, just as with George Floyd, there was no evidence whatsoever that racial motivations had anything to do with it. The riots were based on lies from beginning to end, and this false narrative has bled into and tainted the handling of the Kyle Rittenhouse case – For even if Rittenhouse was defending himself from attackers, the attackers are still presented as the “good guys” because they were fighting for “racial justice”, which again, is simply not true. The Kid Defending Himself Was Actually The Villain Because He Defended Himself? The prosecution in the Rittenhouse case should have watched the widely available video evidence (and the secret FBI evidence) and seen that without a shadow of a doubt Rittenhouse was defending himself from an unprovoked attack by an unhinged mob. It is no coincidence that every person Rittenhouse was forced to shoot had a violent criminal record, including Joseph Rosenbaum who had multiple convictions for pedophilia including 11 counts of child molestation. These people were chasing Rittenhouse because they intended to do him harm just as they had done others harm. The media and the prosecution offer a bizarrely disconnected view, in which Kyle Rittenhouse “provoked” the mob into attacking him simply because he was there and because he had a firearm. Multiple witnesses and FBI surveillance footage indicate Joseph Rosenbaum chased and then attacked Rittenhouse, trying to take his rifle by force, which was why he was shot. But this does not matter in the Star Chamber. Lead Prosecutor Thomas Binger openly argued that Rittenhouse ‘lost his right to self defense because he was carrying a gun.’ Binger apparently overlooks the fact that one of Rittenhouse’s attackers, Gaige Grosskreutz, had a gun (illegally due to his felony record) and admitted in court that he ran at Rittenhouse with the weapon pointed at him when Rittenhouse shot him. But somehow, only Kyle’s gun was the cause of the violence and all his attackers were responding to the threatening presence of his weapon? This has been the overarching crux of the prosecution’s case as well as the media narrative: They say Rittenhouse should be treated as an “active shooter” and that the leftist mob was leaping into action, bravely trying to stop him. This does not translate at all when we watch the video of the event; it is clear that Rittenhouse is being pursued by the mob and and they attack him from behind, causing him to fall to the ground. Only then does he defend himself with the rifle against his attackers, including Anthony Huber who tried to bash Kyle’s head in with a skateboard and Grosskreutz who ran at him with a Glock. To clarify, because this may not be a widely understood factor, if someone is trying to get away from you, you cannot attack them and then legally claim “self defense” was your motive. Only police officers have the right to physically detain a person who is trying to escape. Also, if Rittenhouse was an “active shooter” you would think he would have fired belligerently into the crowd, but he did not; he only fired on the people trying to hurt him. The prosecution and media narratives are a blatant attack on the right of self defense in general. In closing arguments, the prosecution argued that Rittenhouse was a “coward” that should have used his fists to fight off the angry mob instead of using his rifle; displaying a clear intent to attack not just Rittenhouse, but overall gun rights. The case itself is obviously politically slanted against Rittenhouse because he is a conservative. Had this been a leftist shooting a mob of conservatives under the same circumstances at the Jan 6th riot I doubt it would have ever gone to trial. The implications of this are far reaching. If Rittenhouse is found guilty despite all the evidence to the contrary, the assertion will then be that self defense is no longer a protected right for anyone with the wrong politics. It will be seen as open season on conservatives at any such events in the future and all defense law will come into question, especially any defense law that involves gun rights. The 5th Amendment Attack And The Strategy Of Subverting A Trial Various establishment institutions have been trying to undermine the 5th Amendment and the right to remain silent for decades now. Once again, we saw this evidenced in the Rittenhouse trial when prosecutors sought to attack the defendant on potential evidence that was ostensibly dismissed before the trial by the judge. The prosecution asked questions related to the evidence anyway. The judge removed the jury from the room and then chastised Binger, who then proceeded to question Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent on the issue. This may seem to be overly complicated legal jousting, but this action by the prosecution was an aggressive attempt to taint the jury with misconceptions of the defendant as a violent “vigilante” rather than the victim of a mob attack. Also, questioning a defendant’s right to remain silent is belligerent to say the least. But beyond that, the faux pas by the prosecution could have led to an immediate mistrial declared. Keep in mind that the prosecution had already suffered numerous failures and the case was going downhill for them. I suspect that this may have been an attempt by Binger to deliberately cause a mistrial and to retry Rittenhouse at a later date, undoing his many mistakes and getting another opportunity to bury Rittenhouse despite his innocence. This is how the Star Chamber begins – When you can be tried over and over again until the establishment gets the outcome they wanted. Furthermore, if the right to remain silent comes into question, then any refusal to answer questions could become an assumed admission of guilt. Silencing The Alternative Media And Obstructing Honest Reporting Perhaps the most blatant act by the establishment has been to use Big Tech to censor various elements and observations of the Rittenhouse trial. Facebook and Twitter have been policing Rittenhouse related posts, and YouTube blocked the majority of independent streamers covering the live closing arguments of the case. The mainstream media has completely avoided any mention of this decision, but of course they would; it makes them the only source for case coverage and their narrative the only narrative. And how about that thermal surveillance evidence from the FBI that only saw the light of day in the middle of the trail? Withholding evidence is a direct obstruction of justice but also a direct attempt to undermine public insight into the case. The narrative is easier to fabricate if one filters out any evidence that contradicts it. This control of the narrative has led to widespread disinformation in the Rittenhouse case. There are still many leftists out there that actually think the people Kyle shot were black and that Rittenhouse is a “racist.” The media has asserted for the past year that Rittenhouse’s self defense was somehow related to “white supremacy.” Media hacks like CNN’s Don Lemon have also insinuated that the judge in the case is biased and possibly racist. The media has asserted that if Rittenhouse is not found guilty that riots will erupt once again to provide punishment where the courts “failed.” If riots do explode, it will be because of the misleading and poisonous lies constantly spread by the same mainstream media. But let’s think about the consequences of this for a moment… The Star Chamber is an ideal tyrannical tool, but the establishment and leftists do not have it in hand yet. They want it badly, and their behavior during the Rittenhouse case makes this clear. I REPEAT: The Star Chamber is not upon us yet, but it is coming soon if these people get their way. Rule by the mob goes well beyond the effects of the Star Chamber, but this could be by design. Think of it this way: Say Rittenhouse is found Not Guilty, and BLM mobs burn down Kenosha in response. Future courts and future juries in similar cases might then decide it’s easier to ignore facts and evidence so that mob violence is avoided and the leftists are appeased. The Star Chamber will return because it will be seen as a preferable alternative to national riots. The Star Chamber will become a mechanism for the “greater good” and the establishment will get what it wanted all along. This cannot be allowed to happen. The Rittenhouse trial does not represent a singular shooting event and an isolated case for self defense, it represents a fulcrum point for the very fabric of our society and what justice will actually mean in the years to come. If an obviously innocent kid is convicted of murder merely because of his political beliefs, or if the mob is allowed to burn and destroy swaths of a city because the verdict is Not Guilty, then every effort the Founding Fathers made to stop the creation of another Star Chamber will be erased. *  *  * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch.  Learn more about it HERE. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/17/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 18th, 2021

Money, Funny-Money, & Crypto

Money, Funny-Money, & Crypto Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, That the post-industrial era of fiat currencies is coming to an end is becoming a real possibility. Major economies are now stalling while price inflation is just beginning to take off, following the excessive currency debasement in all major jurisdictions since the Lehman crisis and accelerated even further by covid. The dilemma now faced by central banks is whether to raise interest rates sufficiently to tackle price inflation and lend support to their currencies, or to take one last gamble on yet more stimulus in the hope that recessions can be avoided. Politics and neo-Keynesian economics strongly favour monetary inflation and continued interest rate suppression. But following that course leads to the destruction of currencies. So, how should ordinary people protect themselves from currency risk? To assist them, this article draws out the distinctions between money, currency, and bank credit. It examines the claims of cryptocurrencies to be replacement money or currencies, explaining why they will be denied either role. An update is given on the uncanny resemblance between current neo-Keynesian monetary inflation and support for financial asset prices, compared with John Law’s proto-Keynesian policies which destroyed the French economy and currency in 1720. Assuming we continue to follow Law’s playbook, an understanding why money is only physical gold and silver and nothing else will be vital to surviving what appears to be a looming crisis in financial assets and currencies. Introduction With the recent acceleration in the growth of money supply it is readily apparent that government spending is increasingly financed through monetary inflation. Those who hoped it would be a temporary phenomenon are being shown to have been overly optimistic. The excuse that its expansion was only a one-off event limited to supporting businesses and consumers through the covid pandemic is now being extended to seeing them through continuing logistics disruptions along with other unexpected problems. We now face an economic slowdown which will reduce government revenues and, according to policy planners, may require additional monetary stimulation to preclude. Along with never-ending budget deficits, for the foreseeable future monetary inflation at elevated levels is here to stay. The threat to the future purchasing power of currencies should be obvious, yet few people appear to be attributing rising prices to prior monetary expansion. David Ricardo’s equation of exchange whereby changes in the quantity of money are shown to affect its purchasing power down the line has disappeared from the inflation narrative and is all but forgotten. That the users of the medium of exchange ultimately determine its utility is ignored. It is now assumed to be the state’s function to decide what acts as money and not its users. Instead, we are told that the state’s fiat currency is money, will always be money and that prices are rising due to failures of the capitalist system. Central to the deception is to call currency money, and to persist in describing its management by the state as monetary policy. And money supply is always the supply of fiat currency in all its forms. That these so-called monetary policies have failed and continue to do so is becoming more widely appreciated. It is the anti-capitalistic attitude of state planners which absolves them from the blame of mismanaging the relationship between their currencies and economies by blaming private sector actors when their policies fail. Instead of acting as the people’s servants, governments have become their controllers, expecting the public’s sheep-like cooperation in economic and monetary affairs. The state issues its currency backed by unquestioned faith and credit in the government’s monopoly to issue and manage it. Seeming to recognise the potential failure of their currency monopolies many central banks now intend to issue a new version, a central bank digital currency to give greater control over how citizens use and value it. Without doubt, the dangers from fiat currency instability are increasing. Never has it been more important for ordinary people, its users, to understand what real money constitutes and its difference from state-issued currencies. Not only are new currencies in the form of central bank digital currencies being proposed but some suggest that distributed ledger cryptocurrencies, which are beyond the control of governments, will be adopted when state fiat currencies fail, an eventual development for which increasing numbers of people expect. The currency scene is descending into a confusion for which policy planners are unprepared. Fiat currencies are failing, evidenced by declining purchasing power. Not only is it the lesson of history; not only are governments resorting to the printing press or its digital equivalent, but it is naïve to think that governments desire monetary stability over satisfying the interests of one group over those of another. By suppressing interest rates, central banks favour borrowers over depositors. By issuing additional currency they transfer wealth from their governments’ electors. The transfer is never equitable either, with early receivers of new currency getting to spend it before prices have adjusted to accommodate the increased quantity in circulation. Those who receive it last find that prices have risen because of currency dilution while their income has been devalued. The beneficiaries are those close to government and the banks who expand credit by ledger entry. The losers are the poor and pensioners — the people who in democratic theory are more morally entitled to protection from currency debasement than anyone else. The true role of money In the late eighteenth century, a French businessman and economist, Jean-Baptiste Say, noticed that when France’s currencies failed during the Revolution, people simply exchanged goods for other goods. A cobbler would exchange the shoes and boots he made for the food and other items he required to feed and sustain his family. The principles behind the division of labour had continued without money. But it became clear to Say that the role of money was to facilitate this exchange more efficiently than could be achieved in its absence. For Keynesian economists, this is the inconvenient truth of Say’s law. The division of labour, which permits individuals to deploy their personal skills to the greatest benefit for themselves and therefore for others, remains central to the commercial actions of all humanity. It is the mainspring of progress. A medium of exchange commonly accepted by society not only facilitates the efficient exchange of goods produced through individual skills but it allows a producer to retain money temporarily for future consumption. This can be because he has a surplus for his immediate requirements, or he decides to invest it in improving his product, increasing his output, or for other purposes than immediate consumption. Whether it is a corporation, manager, employee, or sole trader; whether the product be a good or a service— all qualify as producers. Everyone earning a living or striving to make a profit is a producer. Over the many millennia that have elapsed since the end of barter, people dividing their labour settled on metallic money as the mediums of exchange; recognisable, divisible, commonly accepted, and being scarce also valuable. And as civilisation progressed gold, silver, and copper were coined into recognisable units. These media of exchange in their unadulterated form were money, and even though they were stamped with images of kings and emperors, they were no one’s liability. Nowadays, humans across the planet still recognise physical gold and silver as true money. But it is a mistake to think they guarantee price stability — only that they are more stable than other media of exchange, which is why they have always survived and re-emerged after alternatives have failed. This is the key to understanding why they guaranteed money substitutes, notably through industrial revolutions, and remain money to this day. Britain led the way in replacing silver as its long-standing monetary standard with gold, relegating silver to a secondary coinage. In 1817 the new gold sovereign was introduced at the exchange rate equivalent of 113 grains (0.2354 ounces troy) to the pound currency. A working gold standard, whereby bank notes were exchangeable for gold coin commenced in 1821, remaining at that fixed rate until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. By 1900, the gold standard had international as well as domestic aspects. It implied that nations settled balance of payment differences with each other in gold, although in practice this seems to have happened relatively little. Many smaller nations, while having domestic gold circulation, did not bother to keep physical gold in reserve, but held sterling balances which, again, were regarded as being as good as gold. The Bank of England had a remarkably small reserve of under 200 tonnes in 1900, compared with the Bank of France which held 544 tonnes, the Imperial Bank of Russia with 661 tonnes, and the US Treasury with 602 tonnes. But even though remarkably little gold was held by the Bank of England, over 1,400 tonnes of sovereign coins had been minted in Australia and the UK and were in public circulation. Therefore, some £200m of the UK and its empire’s money supply was in physical gold (the equivalent of £62bn at today’s prices). The relationship between gold and prices Metallic money’s purchasing power fluctuates, influenced by long-term factors such as changes in mine output and population growth. Gold is also held for non-monetary purposes such as jewellery though the distinction between bullion held as money and jewellery can be fuzzy. A minor use is industrial. The degree of coin circulation relative to the quantity of substitutes also affects its purchasing power, as experience from nineteenth century Britain attests. The economic progress of the industrial revolution increased the volume of goods relative to the quantity of money and money-substitutes (bank notes and bank deposits subject to cheques), so the general level of producer prices declined, even though they varied with changes in the level of bank credit. That generally held until the late-1880s, when bank credit in the economy expanded on the back of increased shipments of gold from South Africa. Furthermore, a combination of rising demand for industrial commodities through economic expansion of the entire British empire and more currencies linking themselves to gold indirectly via managed exchange rates against pounds and other gold-backed currencies all contributed to reverse the declining trend of wholesale prices between 1894—1914. Consequently, wholesale prices no longer declined but tended to increase modestly. This is shown in Figure 1. Figure 1 also explodes the myth in central bank monetary policy circles that varying interest rates controls money’s purchasing power by “pricing” money. Demand for credit is set by the economic calculations of businessmen and entrepreneurs, not idle rentiers as assumed by Keynes who named this paradox after Arthur Gibson, who pointed it out in 1923. The explanation eluded Keynes and his followers but is simple. In assessing the profitability of production, the most important variable (assuming that the means of production are readily available) is anticipated prices for finished products. Changes in borrowing rates, reflecting the affordability of interest that could be paid therefore do not precede changes in prices but follow changes in prices for this reason. While fluctuations in the sum of the quantities of money, currency and credit affect the general level of prices, there is an additional effect of the value placed on these components by its users. History has demonstrated that the most stable value is placed on gold coin, which is what qualifies it as money. It has been said that priced in gold a Roman toga 2,000 years ago cost the same as a lounge suit today. But we don’t need to go back that far for our evidence. Figure 2 shows WTI oil priced in dollars, the world’s reserve currency, and gold both indexed to 1986. Clearly, the dollar is significantly less reliable than gold as a stable medium of exchange. So long as gold is freely exchangeable for currency, this stability is imparted to currency as well. When it is suspected that this exchangeability is likely to be compromised, coin becomes hoarded and disappears from circulation. The purchasing power of the currency then becomes dependent on a combination of changes in its quantity and changes in faith in the issuer. Bank deposits face the additional risk of faith in the bank’s ability to pay its debts. In summary, the general level of prices tends to fall gradually over time in an economy where gold coin circulates as the underlying medium of exchange, and when faith in the currency as its circulating alternative is unquestioned. The existence of a coin exchange facility lifts the purchasing power of the currency above where it would otherwise be without a functioning standard. Even when gold exchange for a fiat currency becomes restricted, the purchasing power of the currency continues to enjoy some support, as we saw during the Bretton Woods Agreement. The distinction between money and currency So far, we have defined money, which is metallic and physical. Now we turn to what is erroneously taken to be money, which is currency. Originally, the dollar and pound sterling were freely exchangeable by its users for silver and then gold coin, so state-issued currencies came to be assumed to be as good as money. But its exchangeability diminished over time. In the United Kingdom exchangeability of sterling currency for gold coin ceased with the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, though sovereigns still exist as money officially today. They are simply subject to Gresham’s law, driven out of general circulation by inferior currency. The post-war gold standard of 1925-32 was a bullion standard whereby only 400-ounce bars could be demanded for circulating currency, which failed to tie in sterling to money proper. In the United States, gold coin was exchangeable for dollars in the decades before April 1933 at $20.67 to the ounce. Bank failures following the Wall Street crash encouraged citizens to exchange dollar deposits for gold, and foreign holders of dollar deposits similarly demanded gold, leading to a drain on American gold reserves. By Executive Order 6102 in April 1933 President Roosevelt banned private sector ownership of gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates, thereby ending the gold coin standard and forcing Americans to accept inconvertible dollar currency as the circulating medium of exchange. This was followed by a devaluation of the dollar on the international exchanges to $35 to the ounce in January 1934. The entire removal of money from the global currency system was a gradual process, driven by a progression of currency events, until August 1971 when President Nixon ended the Bretton Woods Agreement. From then on, the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, commonly used for pricing commodities and energy on international markets. But following the Nixon shock, the dollar had become purely fiat. Unlike gold coin, which has no counterparty risk, fiat currency is evidence of either a liability of an issuing central bank or of a commercial bank. It is not money. The fact that money, being gold or silver coin does not commonly circulate as media of exchange, cannot alter this fact. Since the dawn of modern banking with London’s goldsmiths in the seventeenth century, who deployed ledger debits and credits, most currency entitlements have been held in bank deposits, which are not the property of deposit customers, being liabilities of the banks and owed to them. It started with depositors placing specie with goldsmiths or transferring currency to them from other accounts on the understanding a goldsmith would deploy the funds so acquired to obtain sufficient profit to pay a 6% interest on deposits. To earn this return, it was agreed by the depositor that the funds would become the goldsmith’s property to be used as the goldsmith saw fit. Goldsmiths and their banking successors were and still are dealers in credit. As the goldsmiths’ banking business evolved, they would create deposits by extending credit to borrowers. A loan to the borrower appeared as an asset on a goldsmith’s balance sheet, which through double-entry book-keeping was balanced by a liability being the deposit facility from which the borrower would draw down the loan. Thus, money and currency issued by banks as claims upon them were replaced entirely by book-entry liabilities owed to depositors, encashable into specie, central bank currency or banker’s cheque only on demand. Through the expansion of bank credit, which is matched by the creation of deposits through double-entry book-keeping, commercial banks create liabilities subject to withdrawal as currency to this day. That there is an underlying cycle of expansion and contraction of bank credit is evidenced by the composite price index and bond yields between 1817 and 1885 shown in Figure 1 above. But so long as money, that is gold coin, remained exchangeable with currency and bank deposits on demand, fluctuations in outstanding bank credit only had a relatively short-term effect on the general level of prices. And as explained above, the expansion of the quantity of above-ground gold stocks from South African mines in the late 1880s contributed to the general level of prices increasing in the final decade of the nineteenth century until the First World War. Following the Great War, the earlier creation of the Federal Reserve Board in the United States led to the expansion of circulating dollar currency, fuelling the Roaring Twenties and the Wall Street bubble, followed by the Wall Street crash and the depression. These calamities were the inevitable consequence of excessive credit creation in the 1920s. The error made by statist economists at the time (and ever since) was to ignore what caused the depression, believing it to be a contemporaneous failure of capitalism instead of the consequence of earlier currency debasement and interest rate suppression. From then on, this error has been perpetuated by statists frustrated by the discipline imposed upon them by monetary gold. The solution was seen to be to remove money from the currency system so that the state would have unlimited flexibility to manage economic outcomes. With America dominating the global economy after the First World War, her use of the dollar both domestically and internationally had begun to dominate global economic outcomes. The errors of earlier currency expansion ahead of and during the Roaring Twenties, admittedly exacerbated by the introduction of farm machinery, led to a global slump in agricultural prices the following decade. And the additional error of Glass Stegall tariffs collapsed global trade in all goods. Following the Second World War, secondary wars in Korea and Vietnam led to exported dollars being accumulated and then sold by foreign central banks for American’s gold reserves. In 1948, America had 21,628.4 tonnes of gold reserves, 72% of the world total. By 1971, when the facility for central banks to encash dollars for gold was suspended, US gold reserves had fallen to 12,398 tonnes, 34% of world gold reserves. Today it stands officially at 8,133.5 tonnes, being less than 23% of world gold reserves — figures independently unaudited and suspected by many observers to overstate the true position. The consequences of currency expansion for the relationship between money and currency since the two were completely severed in 1971 is shown in Figure 3. Since 1960 (the indexed base of the chart) above-ground gold stocks have increased from 62,475 tonnes by about 200% to 189,000 tonnes — offset to a large degree by world population growth.[iv] M3 broad money has increased by 70 times, the disparity in these rates of increase being adjusted by the increase in the dollar price of money, with the dollar losing 98% of its purchasing power relative to gold. By basing the chart on 1960 much of the currency expansion which led to the collapse of the London gold pool in the mid-1960s is captured, illustrating the strains in the relationship that led to the Nixon shock. The rival status of cryptocurrencies Over the last decade, led by bitcoin cryptocurrencies have become a popular hedge against fiat currency debasement. Bitcoin has a finite limit of 21 million coins, having less than 2¼ million yet to be mined. And of those issued, some are irretrievably lost, theoretically adding to their value. Fans of cryptocurrencies are unusual, because they have grasped the essential weakness of state-issued fiat currencies ahead of the wider public. Armed with this knowledge they claim that distributed ledger technology independent from governments will form the basis of tomorrow’s money. It has led to a speculative frenzy, driving bitcoin’s price from a reported 10,000 for two pizzas in 2010 (therefore worth less than a cent each) to over $60,000 today. If, as hodlers hope, bitcoin replaces all state-issued fiat currencies when they fail, then the increase in its dollar value has much further to go. In theory there are reasons that bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies can become media of exchange in a limited capacity, but never money, the basis that all currencies referred to for their original validity. Indeed, some transactions following the original pizza purchase have occurred since, but they are very few. The reasons bitcoin or rival cryptocurrencies are unlikely to be accepted widely as currencies, let alone as a replacement for money, are best summed up in the following bullet points. To replace money, as opposed to currencies, bitcoin would have to be accepted as a replacement for both gold and silver. Beyond the imagination of tech-savvy enthusiasts, making up perhaps less than one in two hundred transacting humans, it is impossible to see bitcoin achieving this goal, because they represent a vanishingly small number of the global population. There can be little doubt that if fiat currencies lose their utility the overwhelming majority of transacting individuals will desire physical money, and not another form of digital media, which currencies in the main and cryptocurrencies have become. Despite the advance of technology not everyone yet possesses the knowledge, media, or the reliable electricity and internet connections to conduct transactions in cryptocurrencies. Remote theft of them is easier and more profitable than that of gold and silver coin. Cryptocurrencies are too dependent on undefinable risk factors for transactional ubiquity. The number of rival cryptocurrencies has proliferated. It is estimated that there are now over 6,800 in existence compared with 180 government-issued currencies. They represent both an inflation of numbers and values, which if unsatisfied already makes the seventeenth century tulip mania look like to have been a relatively minor speed bump in comparison. In only a decade they have grown to $750 billion in value based on an unproven concept stimulating unallayed human greed at the expense of considered reason. By way of contrast, gold’s strength as money is its flexibility of supply from other uses combined with its record of ensuring price stability. As we saw in Figure 1’s illustration of the relationship between prices and borrowing costs, assuming the factors of production are available the stability of prices under a gold standard permits an assessment of final product values at the commencement of an investment in production. There is no such certainty with bitcoin or rival cryptocurrencies because a strictly finite quantity would make it impossible to calculate final prices at the end of an investment in production. Without providing the means for economic calculation, any money or currency replacement will fail. Unless they disappear with their currencies, central banks will never sanction distributed ledger currencies beyond their control acting as a general medium of exchange. This is one reason why they are working to introduce their own central bank digital currencies, allowing them to maintain statist control over currencies while extending powers over how they are used. Furthermore, central banks do not own cryptocurrencies, but they do officially own 35,554 tonnes of gold, having never discarded true money completely.[vi] Events have proved that they are even reluctant to allow monetary gold to circulate, not least because it would call into question the credibility of their fiat currencies. But if there is a fall-back position in the demise of fiat, it will be based on central bank gold and never on a private-sector cryptocurrency. We should also consider what happens to cryptocurrencies in the event of a fiat currency collapse. The point behind any money or currency is that it must possess all the objective value in a transaction with all subjectivity to be found in the goods or services being exchanged. It requires the currency to be scarce, but not so much that its value measured in goods is expected to continually rise. If that was the case, then its ability to circulate would become impaired through hoarding. We are left with questioning whether bitcoin can ever possess a purely objective value in transactions. Their potential role as a transacting currency will also evaporate along with fiat because these will be the circumstances where all currencies which cannot be issued as credible gold substitutes will become valueless, because if any currency is to survive the end of the fiat regime it will require action by central banks combined with new laws and regulations which can only come from governments. The nightmare for crypto enthusiasts is that central banks will be forced eventually to mobilise their gold reserves to back credibly what is left of their currencies’ collapsing purchasing power. We are providing an answer to another question over the fate of cryptocurrencies in the event that central banks are forced to mobilise their gold reserves, turning fiat currencies into credible money substitutes. Admittedly, it is unlikely to be a simple decision with the problem beyond the understanding of statist policy advisers and with competing interests seeking to influence the outcome. But, there can be only one action that will allow the state and banking system to retain control over currencies and credit, which is to back them with gold reserves, preferably with a gold coin standard. When that moment is anticipated, cryptocurrencies as potential circulating currencies will become fully redundant. They are then likely to lose most of or all their value as replacement currencies. Furthermore, it is hard to find anyone who currently holds a cryptocurrency who does not hope to cash in by selling them at higher prices for their national currencies. They have been bought for speculation and investment with little or no intention of ultimately spending them. Therefore, we can assume that the demise of fiat currencies, far from inviting replacements by bitcoin and its imitators, will also mean the death of the cryptocurrency phenomenon in a general return towards a money standard, which always has been physical and metallic. The progression towards currency destruction In last week’s article for Goldmoney I suggested four waypoints to mark the route towards the ending of the fiat currency system. The similarity of current events with those of John Law’s inflation and subsequent collapse of the Mississippi bubble and of the French livre so far is striking, but this time it’s on a global scale. The John Law experience offers us a template for what is already happening to financial assets and currencies today — hence the four waypoints. Briefly described, John Law was a proto-Keynesian money crank who operated a policy of inflating the values of his principal assets, the Banque Royale and his Mississippi venture, by issuing shares in partly paid form with calls due later. Ten per cent down translated into fortunes for early subscribers as share prices rose from L140 in June 1717 to over L10,000 in January 1720, fuelled by a bitcoin-style buying frenzy. But when calls became due in January 1720 and a scheme to merge the Banque Royale with the Mississippi venture was proposed, shares began to be sold to pay the calls and take up rights to new issues. Law used his position as controller of the currency to issue fiat livres to buy shares in the market to support prices, measures that finally failed in May. Priced in livres, the shares fell to under 3,500 by November. In sterling, they fell from £330 in January to below £50 in September. After October, there was no exchange rate for livres against sterling implying the livre had lost all its exchange value. By injecting cash into investing institutions in return for government bonds, central banks are following a remarkably similar policy today. Quantitative easing by the US’s central bank, which since March 2020 has injected over $2 trillion into US pension funds and insurance companies to invest in higher risk assets than government and agency bonds, is no less than a repetition of John Law’s policy of inflating asset values to ensure a spreading wealth effect, while ensuring finance is facilitated for the state. Last night (3 November) the Fed was forced to announce a phased reduction of quantitative easing to allay fears of intractable price inflation. The question now arises as to how many months of QE reduction it will take to deflate the financial asset bubble. And what will then be the Fed’s response: will QE be increased again in a repetition of the John Law proto-Keynesian mistakes? There comes a point where the prices of goods reflect the increased quantity of currency in circulation. Increases in the general level of prices inevitably lead to rising levels for interest rates, and the creation of credit in the main banking centres begin to go into reverse. John Law found that share prices could then no longer be supported, and the Mississippi bubble burst in May 1720; a fate which equity markets today will almost certainly face, because price rises for goods and services are now proving intractable. The outcome of Law’s proto-Keynesianism was a collapse in Mississippi shares, and the complete destruction of the livre. The similarity with the situation in financial markets today is truly remarkable. There are now no good options for policy makers. Hampered by similar neo-Keynesian errors and beliefs, central bankers and politicians lack the resolve to stop events leading inexorably towards the destruction of their currencies. The first waypoint in last week’s article for Goldmoney is now being seen: a growing realisation that major economies, particularly the US and UK, face the prospect of a combination of rising prices accompanied by an economic slump, frequently diagnosed as stagflation. Stagflation is a misnomer. Monetary inflation is a con which in smaller doses provides the illusion of stimulus. But there comes a point where the transfer of wealth from the productive economy to the government is too great to bear and the economy begins to collapse. While it is impossible to judge where that point lies, the accumulation of monetary inflation in recent years now weighs heavily on all major economies. The conditions today closely replicate those in France in late-1719 and early 1720. Prices were rising in the rural areas as well as in the cities, impoverishing the peasantry and asset inflation was running into headwinds, about to impoverish the beneficiaries of the bubble’s wealth effect as well. Conclusion If central banks decide to protect their currencies, they must let markets determine interest rates. With prices rising officially at over 5% in the US (more like 15% on independent estimates) the rise in interest rates will not only crash all financial asset values from fixed interest to equities, but force governments to rein in their spending to eliminate deficits. This will involve greater cuts than currently indicated, because of loss of tax revenues. Indeed, mandatory spending will put socialising governments in an impossible position. But even these measures are unlikely to protect currencies, because of extensive foreign ownership of the US dollar. Foreigners hold total some $33 trillion in financial assets and bank deposits, much of which will be liquidated or lost in a bear market. Long experience suggests that funds rescued from overexposure to foreign currencies will be repatriated. Alternatively, attempts to continue the inflationary policies of Keynesian money cranks will undermine currencies more rapidly, but this is almost certainly the line of least policy resistance — until it is too late. It has never been more important for the hapless citizen to recognise what is happening to currencies and to understand the fallacies behind cryptocurrencies. They are not practical replacements for state-issued currencies and are likely to turn out to be just another aspect of the financial bubble. The only protection from an increasingly likely collapse of the fiat money system and all that sails with it is to understand what constitutes money as opposed to currency; and that is only physical gold and silver coins and bars. Tyler Durden Sat, 11/13/2021 - 09:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 13th, 2021

How Ryan Kaji Became the Most Popular 10-Year-Old in the World

In human years, Ryan Kaji is 10. In YouTube views, he’s 48,597,844,873. If, in our digital age, a person’s life can be measured by their online footprint, Ryan’s is the size of a brachiosaur’s, which, as a lot of Ryan’s fans know, is gargantuan. Another way of putting it is that even if every one… In human years, Ryan Kaji is 10. In YouTube views, he’s 48,597,844,873. If, in our digital age, a person’s life can be measured by their online footprint, Ryan’s is the size of a brachiosaur’s, which, as a lot of Ryan’s fans know, is gargantuan. Another way of putting it is that even if every one of Ryan’s YouTube views were just 30 seconds, he has been watched 4,500 times longer than he has been alive. There’s a sacred text that talks about an era of peace and harmony, where lions lie down with lambs. The kicker is that a child is in charge of it all. Except for the part about peace and harmony, we are in an age where a child does indeed rule a significant subsection of the Internet. Ryan has been the highest paid YouTube star for three years straight, partly because he has nine channels on the platform. His revenue last year, according to Forbes, was about $30 million. Most of that was from his far-flung merchandise empire: he (or his parents) has lent his name to 1,600 licensed products in 30 countries, including Skechers, pajamas, Roblox, bedding, watches, sporting goods, water bottles, furniture, toothpaste and, of course, toys. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] As well as a legion of YouTube videos, Ryan has shows on Nick Jr. (the Emmy-nominated Ryan’s Mystery Playdate) and Amazon Kids+ (Super Spy Ryan) and his own streaming channel. His animated superhero alter ego, Red Titan, will appear for the second time as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. “Ryan is bar none the crown prince of YouTube,” says Quynh Mai, founder of Moving Image & Content, a creative agency for digital content. (She does not represent him.) Yuki Iwamura—Sputnik/APThe Red Titan balloon will float in its second parade this Thanksgiving   How did we get to a place where a person can be the linchpin of a media empire before he has armpit hair? And of all the exuberant folks on YouTube, why has this kid raked in the most cash? Part of the answer is that this is no ordinary child, but another part is that Ryan’s rise speaks volumes about the way entertainment, business, technology and family life have changed in the past decade. Ryan’s prominence, and the existence of the genre of human known as “kidfluencer,” is a source of consternation to many parents, authorities and child-development experts. Four of the 10 U.S. YouTube channels with the most subscribers are geared toward young children. Legislation has recently been introduced in the Senate that may curtail the activities of Ryan and his fellow YouTube toycoons. But his ascent has also shown how profoundly childhood has been and is being reshaped, and that it may be too late to put the jack back in the box. One thing that everyone agrees on is that much of Ryan’s fame was a result of timing. He was about 3½ in 2015 when he asked his mom Loann Guan—the family changed its name to Kaji to preserve some anonymity as they got famous—if he could be on YouTube like other kids. Loann, 37, was a science teacher on spring break looking for kid-friendly activities. She and her husband Shion, 34, had watched YouTube in college and had a grasp of the format and how the algorithm worked. Read More: Meet TIME’s First-Ever Kid of the Year At the same time, technological changes were making online video more accessible to kids. “It was like a perfect storm when Ryan came in,” says Mai. Laptop prices had dropped enough that people were moving away from tablets. The YouTube Kids app had launched. “Parents gave their iPads to their children as entertainment devices, and that made it so easy for kids to navigate the Internet,” she says. Feeling stretched in terms of childcare, lots of parents needed to keep their kids occupied. “When young children see lots of colors and sounds and movement on a screen, it’s almost like a mobile above the crib,” says Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan. “They calm down. They focus. Studies have shown that it often leads to less body movement.” The period after 2015 also marked a growth phase for the so-called creator economy. With the advance of digital ad technology, advertisers realized they could get more traction from microtargeting followers of a regular person—an influencer—than from a celebrity. Among the most popular figures when the Kajis began were the unboxers, people who filmed themselves opening shoes or makeup, or kids opening toys. So that’s what Loann and Ryan did. Ironically, Ryan had not really liked playing with toys as a baby, except one: a remote-control car, which, his dad says, he could more or less operate by the age of 6 months. This meant every relative gave him toy cars. When the unboxing trend spun off into the Giant Egg trend, Loann hid those cars in a papier-mâché egg she’d made. The resulting video, “GIANT Lightning McQueen Egg Surprise with 100+ Disney Cars Toys,” shot Ryan’s ToysReview, as the channel was then called, into the stratosphere. “That one video became his most popular video on our channel for the next two years,” says Shion. It currently has more than a billion views. At first, strange comments below the video alarmed them. “It was all gibberish,” says Shion. Then he saw Ryan typing random letters beneath videos and realized other kids were doing that too. Some of them may not have spoken English. “We noticed a huge percentage of the viewership coming from Asia,” says Shion. Ryan’s channel had launched just as YouTube was spreading to Asia, and videos like Ryan’s filled a void that TV had overlooked. Shion was born in Japan, and Loann in Vietnam. “For a lot of minorities,” says Mai, “YouTube was the place where you saw people like you.” Read More: I Raised Two CEOs and a Doctor. These Are My Secrets to Parenting Successful Children Ryan’s ToysReview quickly became one of YouTube’s most popular channels. By 2016, both parents had quit their jobs to make videos full time. Shion is a Cornell-educated structural engineer, which may be why he sensed the danger of having Ryan, just 5, carry the bulk of the show. He beefed up the production team to avoid burnout and had animators create characters based on Ryan’s personality for more content. Shion and Loann also appear in the videos and play with toys and games on their own channel. There may be a place in which one small family can produce so much intellectual property and be left in peace, but that place is not the USA, circa 2017. Ryan caught the eye of Chris Williams, who as a former Disney and Maker Studios executive had watched media habits change in real time. “I saw linear television’s ratings fall off a cliff,” he says. “I saw kids and family audiences flocking to YouTube.” His experience at Disney had also taught him about the power of building a franchise. “There are stars, characters and intellectual property on YouTube that have bigger audiences than the entire Disney Channel network. Why are we not thinking about them in the same way?” In 2017, he started Pocketwatch to do licensing deals with YouTube stars, and the Kajis, who had formed their own production company, Sunlight Entertainment, were among its first partners. Read More: How Dr. Becky Became the Millennial Parenting Whisperer The move came just in time. Merchandisers were not the only ones who noticed how much content was directed at the very young. Parents, child-development experts, media watchdogs and eventually legislators did too, and many didn’t love what they saw. There were videos of adults playing with toys in inappropriate ways. Some of the families on YouTube fell apart. Others seemed to be treating children badly to draw clicks. Advertisers pulled back. YouTube removed comments sections from and kept ads off some videos. It wasn’t enough. In 2019, YouTube and its parent company Google paid $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York State attorney general that it collected data about minors and violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. By 2020, YouTube required creators to specify whether their videos were for kids and stopped feeding personalized ads to those that were. Many kid-centric channels lost the bulk of their revenue. But thanks to the merch deals, the Kajis sailed on. Williams says the franchise is his company’s biggest earner. The reforms may have lessened the problem of advertising to children, but they did nothing to change the thorny fact that watching endless hours of a child opening toys is of dubious—at best—educational or social-development value. There’s not much definitive research on what that kind of media diet does to a developing brain, but the small amount out there is dismaying. In a study out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, 78% of parents reported their kids watched unboxing videos on a regular basis, with almost 17% estimating it at between three and nine hours per week. “The more time a child spends watching unboxing videos,” says Harsha Gangadharbatla, an associate professor of advertising, who presented the paper at a journalism conference in 2019, “the more likely they are to ask for things and throw tantrums if the parents weren’t purchasing those things.” Studies have shown that children form para-social relationships with the media figures they encounter. “They’re dealing with a developing brain that is figuring out the world,” says Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician and the director of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Digital Wellness Lab. “And if one of the very powerful inputs into that developing brain is ‘Look at how happy Ryan is with his toy!’ of course they’re going to say, ‘I want that.’” Read More: I Was Constantly Arguing With My Child. Then I Learned the “TEAM” Method of Calmer Parenting Just before YouTube and Google paid the fine, the nonprofit Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a complaint with the FTC against the Kajis—who then changed the name of their channel from Ryan’s ToyReview to Ryan’s World. The group had found that Ryan played with toys that would appeal to kids 5 years of age or younger in 90% of the channel’s 200 most popular videos. TINA claimed the sponsored videos were not clearly enough delineated. “Sometimes, they weren’t adequately disclosing such that an adult would know, and other times, it’s just the fact that this vulnerable population of toddlers cannot differentiate between organic content and ads,” says Bonnie Patten, TINA’s executive director. (The FTC does not talk about pending investigations.) Richard Drew—APRyan’s family made merchandising deals early and often, with 1,600 products to date Williams says the Kaji family has been unfairly singled out because they offer the biggest target. He points out that they have shifted to more educational content, with science experiments and travel videos. At the same time, he is open to greater research and regulation. “I worry about the effects of all of it. Not just what we see on YouTube and other platforms, but movies and TV,” he says. “Nobody wants to do the work around researching this stuff. They just want to make proclamations: ‘Hey, it’s different from what I grew up on. It must be bad.’” The Kajis maintain that they “follow the guidelines” for labeling their content, but, says Loann, “if I could do it over, I would try to incorporate more of the educational component right from the get-go.” A legal team screens their videos, but they do not have a child-development expert on staff. One solution would be to take down the old unboxing videos and stop putting up new ones. After all, Sunlight Entertainment releases 25 new videos a week across its channels. But surveys show that in the U.S., “the No. 1 thing for our channel is that they still want Ryan playing with toys,” says Shion. In August, however, YouTube announced that it would remove “overly commercial content” from the YouTube Kids app and mark sponsored videos more clearly. And on Sept. 30, as Congress began to take a closer look at social media companies, Democratic Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut reintroduced the KIDS Act, which would force sites like YouTube to stop recommending unboxing videos for kids. YouTube declined to answer specific questions from TIME, but pointed to a raft of policies, developed with child-development experts, intended to keep young viewers safe. Nevertheless, Pandora has already completed her unboxing. Ryan’s branded toys are everywhere. And he’s not alone. There’s a new crop of stars coming, on Tik Tok, Instagram and YouTube. Vlad, 8, and Niki, 6, Russian-born brothers who live in Florida, released their first toy figures in June. Nastya, 7, also a Russian-born Floridian, launches her dolls Nov. 15. Kidfluencers no longer have to hawk toys; they can just become them. Any discerning viewer who watches Ryan’s videos notices within a minute that they don’t offer much in the way of entertainment. The production is amateurish. There’s no narrative arc. This is intentional. The Kajis are not artists; they’re parents. They started making videos, they say, because their kid wanted to and was good at it. “We don’t really do multiple takes,” says Loann. “What I get from him, that’s what I’m going to use.” The DIY nature of the videos also mimics, they hope, what it’s like to go on a playdate. “We don’t want the viewers to watch our videos one after the other,” says Shion. “What we ideally want is kids to watch our video and then that inspires them to have an idea for what they want to do and they put down their iPad.” At the onset of the pandemic, they put up several videos of Ryan doing homework, so kids could feel like they were studying with a friend. Brendan George Ko for TIMERyan-themed products generated about $250 million in retail sales in 2020, according to Pocketwatch It’s difficult to ascertain if kids do indeed go play after watching the videos. The fact that some Ryan’s World videos are hours long suggests that a certain amount of sedentariness is allowed, if not encouraged. Many parents loathe them; they overwhelmingly garner one-star reviews on sites like Common Sense Media. It was Ryan’s World that caused Mike Lutringer, in Houston, to swear off YouTube Kids forever. When his second daughter was born and he and his wife needed to attend to her, he’d put on an educational Ryan video for his older child. “But very rapidly it’ll transition over to marketing and sales and reviews,” he says. “You can see how they’ve designed it to really capture the attention of the child.” Dylana Carlson, in Galesburg, Ill., on the other hand, says that during the pandemic, her two children would watch Ryan or another kidfluencer and then try to play the way they did. Occasionally they’d ask for a playdate with their Internet friend. “I think that they assume that they can just go meet these kids,” she says. “I have thought about this stuff, like, Is that depressing? Or is that weird? But corporations pay to have a dress-up Spider-Man come to the grocery store. How is this different?” Quynh Mai, the marketer, thinks this is one of the secrets of Ryan’s success. “These kids, I think, are really lonely,” she says. “Ryan provides the emotional connection.” As online friends go, Ryan is a Hallmark-level cherub. He appears to have a bottomless vat of enthusiasm for any toy/room/situation he encounters. In interviews, he is cheerful and eager, with an age-appropriate inability to be self-reflective. He loves school, especially math! He swims, plays soccer, does tae kwon do, but gymnastics is his favorite! He hates when he can’t find his lunch box! If he could have any superpower, it would be super speed! When he grows up, he wants to be a “game developer or a comedian who is a YouTuber who makes funny videos!” During the pandemic, Loann homeschooled the kids, and when the Kajis tested Ryan to see if he had fallen behind, they found he was several grades ahead. One of the reasons they moved to Hawaii this year is for a more academically challenging school than his public school in Houston. The other, interestingly, is that they felt the kids were spending too much time on screens. In Hawaii, they take more walks, which Ryan at first found exhausting. He’s also learning piano and Japanese, but he’s not crazy about either. Bea Oyster for TIMEThe Kaji family—Loann, Emma, Shion, Ryan and Kate—moved to Hawaii during the pandemic, partly to get the kids off their screens There are two ways to look at the Kaji parents. One is that they have dragooned their offspring into living out their lives on camera to get rich. The other, the one they present, is that they stumbled into a world where their child became a star and they tried to keep up. Ryan’s onscreen ability, they say, is as big a surprise to them as to anyone. He often takes a video in a new direction during shooting, telling the editors what effects to add as he goes. “On or off camera he is the exact same way,” says Shion. “He genuinely connects with his viewers.” Lest anyone think that’s pure parental boasting, Loann says Ryan’s 5-year-old twin sisters also love making videos, but “it’s not as natural to them.” (Yes, they already have their own line of toys.) The journey hasn’t always been a thrill ride. In 2003, Loann spent a month in jail for shoplifting, and after Ryan got famous, her arrest record became public knowledge. The family did exactly one in-person event with Ryan, in Bentonville, Ark. Thousands of families turned out, and the resulting melee shook them up. They reject the accusation that Ryan is their workhorse. Loann cites an incident on the set of Playdate when Ryan hurt his ankle. The production adjusted the scenes he’d shoot so he could sit and, after a break, kept filming. Loann agreed with the decision, but adds that “if that happens at home, we would not be filming for the next week or two.” The Kajis also say that while the family will go to L.A. for a spell to shoot his shows, Ryan’s YouTube videos take just a few hours a week. He belongs to local sports clubs and goes to school like other kids. Read More: ‘What Do People Want Me to Do? Wear Black Every Day?’: How Child Star JoJo Siwa Built Her Sparkly Empire What most worries Shion are families who try to emulate the Kajis’ success more recklessly. Ryan is the public face of kidfluencers, so any YouTube parent who is less than exemplary might reflect badly on him. Pocketwatch and YouTube issue manuals on how to be both parent and programmer, and Shion hints that he’s trying to start a working group of YouTube families to set industry standards. He won’t go into details, but says he would like more input from YouTube, especially on how families manage their finances, their kids’ time and fame. After all, the platform is taking a healthy cut of the money, and the minors who have made their name on it have few legal protections. The Kajis say a portion of the revenue from the family business goes into trust accounts they’ve established for their children, and they have put all of Ryan’s TV earnings into another trust. There are children on YouTube now with more subscribers than Ryan. His parents seem somewhat relieved. “I don’t want YouTube to be his future career,” says Loann. “We really want him to do something else. We’re continuing right now because he’s enjoying doing it.” The question remains: having found the perfect platform for their child, can they persuade him to leave it? —With reporting by Simmone Shah and Nik Popli.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 12th, 2021

Biden Defied The Military Establishment: Is The Kennedy-Nixon Rule Still In Effect?

Biden Defied The Military Establishment: Is The Kennedy-Nixon Rule Still In Effect? Authored by Paul Ryder via Counterpunch.org, In a 2020 essay, “Removing a president without an election,” I described attempts to remove five presidents in the middle of a term: Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. Kennedy and Nixon, the two presidents whose terms were cut short, had made the mistake of defying the U.S. military establishment, on Cuba and Vietnam respectively. The other eleven modern presidents subordinated themselves and served their full terms in office unmolested. Even Trump, who hurled vulgar insults at the military, ended up doing what they wanted. Every time he signed an order that was out of line, they talked him out of it, delayed it, changed it, ignored it, or lied to him by saying they had carried it out. At the core of the military establishment are the Pentagon, big tech firms and weapons manufacturers led by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. Elsewhere in the government, it includes the Congress, Supreme Court, White House, Departments of Energy, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, and fifteen other intelligence agencies, AID, and the National Endowment for Democracy. Playing supporting roles are big media, foundations, think tanks, universities, consultants, Democratic and Republican parties, and private security services contractors. During the 2020 election, the safe bet was that Joe Biden would join the ranks of obedient presidents. His voting record, platform, contributors, advisers, and staff all pointed to it. His foreign policy decisions as president have been largely consistent with this. Afghanistan was an exception. Year after year, the military establishment had successfully lobbied the White House to continue the U.S. occupation. George W. Bush didn’t need persuasion, Barack Obama was easily overcome, and while Trump talked about getting out, he didn’t succeed. Surprisingly, only months into his presidency, Joe Biden insisted on a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and made it happen. This is the first time in a half-century a president has violated the unwritten Kennedy-Nixon Rule. He defied the military establishment on a significant foreign policy matter. Under the rule, the establishment should now be moving to remove Biden from office. If so, they are off to a good start. In August, Biden found himself under siege from every direction. The New York Times led the way, as Gareth Porter described in “Afghan collapse reveals Beltway media’s loyalty to permanent war state.” During the crucial three weeks in August, producers of the five Sunday talk shows — NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox — scheduled thirty-four appearances by twenty-two U.S. guests to discuss Afghanistan. All were either elected officials who had taken military industry PAC money, consultants or advisors to the military industry, former members of the military, or high administration officials. The result was scathing commentary on Biden’s decision to withdraw (”Afghanistan withdrawal: Sundays with the military industrial complex”,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), October 20, 2021). Attacks also came from Britain and Europe with a notably personal tone. Czech President Milos Zeman called Biden’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan “a betrayal” and “cowardice,” adding that “the Americans have lost the prestige of a global leader.” Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said Biden’s “‘America is back’ suggested a golden age in our relations. But it didn’t happen . . . The complete lack of consultations over the withdrawal has left a scar.” Bill Clinton’s protégé, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote that Biden acted “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’.” Then Blair called for a “respectful exchange of different points of view.” Oxford-graduate Blair must know “imbecilic” is not a respectful word. It comes from Latin, meaning “too feeble to hold a walking stick.” During the heyday of eugenics, it referred to people with an IQ between 26 and 50. People thus labelled suffered hellish mistreatment. “Imbecilic,” long since abandoned, is the word Blair chose to label Biden. In the movies and in real life, just before an assassination the target notices their companions and bodyguards have suddenly vanished. A puzzled look turns to one of doom. That’s how Biden must have felt in August. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Jim Clyburn, Kamala Harris, and Bill Clinton offered perfunctory words of support or said nothing. Hillary Clinton had already publicly split with Biden in May. She told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria the consequences of Biden’s decision included “probably civil war,” “a huge refugee outflow,” and “resumption of activities by global terrorist groups, most particularly Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State [ISIS].” Barack Obama tried to have it both ways. On April 14, he called Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan “bold leadership.” By August, however, when criticisms were flying and Biden needed help, Obama was silent. The least Obama could have done is persuade former high officials in his administration to support Biden’s decision. Instead, a parade of his top officials went on television to attack Biden, including Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense and CIA Director; Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense; John Brennan and David Petraeus, both CIA Directors; Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security; Mike Mullin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; David Axelrod, Senior Advisor; and Ryan Crocker and James Cunningham, both Ambassadors to Afghanistan. Biden’s subordinates turned their backs on him as well. At the end of September, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, and Commander of U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. The three assured the committee they could not and would not discuss their conversations with the president. With that formality out of the way, they made it clear they advised Biden not to withdraw, but he did it anyway. Not even Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan forcefully spoke up for their boss’ decision. On the Sunday talk shows, “in four of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s seven appearances, and three of National Security Adviser Sullivan’s five appearances, they were only asked process questions, and made no statements in support of the decision to withdraw,” according to the FAIR review cited above. The media siege worked. Biden’s job approval rating plunged to 43%, putting him and the Democratic Party in political danger. In modern times, there have been seven midterm elections in which the president’s approval was 45% or less. In these elections, the president’s party lost an average of forty House seats. If Biden’s party loses just three seats next year, their House majority will be gone. It’s hard to tell whether Biden has other decisions in mind that would defy the military. His statements on Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and Taiwan have been incoherent at best. Where is all this headed? The conflict over Afghanistan policy does not reflect a “split in the ruling class.” Every part of the ruling class is united in favoring continued U.S. occupation. Biden is isolated. Only public opinion favors withdrawal. There are no vested interests in peace involved, and no peace movement. That is why the U.S. war in Afghanistan may not be over. The military establishment may decide the only flaw in its media campaign this year was starting too late. If it had begun in February instead of July, they might have been able impress Biden with how alone he was. By July, however, he was too committed to his position to change. With that in mind, the Pentagon is laying the groundwork for reversing Biden’s withdrawal decision. On October 26, Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We could see ISIS-K generate that capability [to launch an attack, ‘including against the United States’] in somewhere between six or twelve months. . . And for al Qaeda, it would take a year or two to reconstitute that capability.” We can expect to see months of dire warnings, incidents, atrocities, false flag attacks, and other pretexts. Then will come a demand for a new U.S. occupation voiced by the same parade of people who flayed Biden in August. Is the Kennedy-Nixon Rule still in effect? What about Biden’s defiance? When Kennedy and Nixon were removed, the U.S. empire was at its apex. Half a century later, the U.S. military establishment is not what it was. Too much money for too long will rot anything. Eventually it becomes unable to enforce obedience from its presidents, and that day may have arrived. If, however, the Kennedy-Nixon Rule is still enforceable, the military establishment will take further steps to remove Biden before the 2024 election. This would create a vacancy for Vice President Kamala Harris to fill. There is nothing in her record to suggest she would defy the military establishment, and the Biden example would serve to remind her who runs Washington. There would be another problem. If Donald Trump runs for president in 2024, he might win. Even though the military establishment always got its way with Trump during his first term, it was chaotic and dangerous. They surely don’t want to go through that again and may well be considering their options. Tyler Durden Fri, 11/05/2021 - 23:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 6th, 2021

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World?

Bitcoin: A Second Chance For The Muslim World? Authored by Asif Shiraz via BitcoinMagazine.com, Bitcoin is the sound money that the Muslim world needs to accelerate into the future... The Ottoman suppression of the printing press is a poster child case of intellectual stagnation in the Muslim world. Although there was no outright ban, there is no denying of a massively missed opportunity here: A civilization’s failure to adopt a groundbreaking technological change happening right next door. In its golden age, this same civilization that gave the world universities and hospitals, optics and algebra, even a precursor to the printing press itself, got so left behind in the later acceptance of technology, that its very own holy book, the Quran, waited for its first mass publication almost 300 years after Johannes Gutenberg chugged out the printed Bible. THE DECLINE But Islam’s Genesis Block was entirely different in character: A spirited but sundry assemblage of women and men whose most remarkable trait was their openness to new ideas. The idea of one God in a multitude of divine contenders. The idea of one bitcoin in a multitude of shitcoins … oops... sorry... mixing up my chronology! So anyway, this fraternity of early Islam, along with its keen aspiration of ushering in a just social and economic order, is also remarkable in a novel way for its time: It represents a death cross of reason’s moving average overtaking that of intuition in religious history. Bringing intellectual inquiry at par with mystical experience, it paved the way for its scions to delve into scientific skepticism, empiricism and experimental inquiry, with Robert Briffault going so far as to say that “Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and method.” But eventually, the music stopped, and the market corrected! There are many explanations for the downfall, most of them partially true, spanning decades and centuries, but if we want to point fingers, as human nature dictates, at some symbolic event, then it must be the Mongol destruction of the House of Wisdom, #SackOfBaghdad. In the age of manuscripts, so many books from Baghdad’s libraries were flung into the Tigris that a horse could walk across on them and the river ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs. As the Muslim Ummah lost so many intellectuals and intellectual capital in this tumultuous period, its reaction has been, (understandably), like that of an intern finding herself in control of mission critical servers, where all the senior sys admins suddenly stepped down, died or disappeared. Your best reaction is this: I’m not touching this system, and the only commands I’ll ever execute are those handed down by the four illustrious system admins — founders of the established schools of jurisprudence. And so Islamic scholarship for hundreds of years has been in a maintenance mode. In Pakistan alone, over 12,000 Madrasa routinely teach the rules and regulations of exchanging gold and silver, centuries after its daily use has been replaced by fiat. SURVIVAL OF CORE TENETS But herein lies a wonderful irony. This code-freeze on innovation, which we otherwise disapprove of, did work to an extent as it was intended: It protected the core principles from being callously compromised or deliberately diluted in the hands of opportunists. Just like the extra caution and consensus in changing the U.S. constitution protected the principles of freedom and equality enshrined in it: Islamic law, too, enshrined core financial principles, that have been a thorn on the side of would-be reformers attempting to legalize fiat and modern banking in the name of Islamic Finance. The 12,000 semi-literate Madrasa students, parroting the provisions of the fair exchange of gold and silver from a 17th century syllabus citing a 9th century scholar, unwittingly become more correct than a Harvard doctorate in finance indoctrinated in the misguided larceny of fiat money! All because Muhammad ﷺ mandated sound money, just like Mises and Hayek after him, a tenet immutably crystallized in Fiqh — Islamic Jurisprudence. A business man himself, the Prophet of Islam possessed a sharp acumen for economics and finance. In modern parlance, he quickly rose the corporate ladder to become one of the youngest CEOs of his time tasked with turning around the failing business empire of the urbane female entrepreneur, Khadija. Impressed with the Prophet’s personality, Khadija quickly proposed to him, creating a power couple that changed the course of history. Just like Jesus turned out the money-lenders from the Second Temple, the Prophet of Islam, too, had a disdain for usury and outlawed most of the accompanying capitalist machinations, that contribute to the gross wealth disparities like 10% owning 76% of the assets. So he created some fundamental rules that constitute the bedrock of Islamic financial principles: Forbade usury (Riba), including interest. Still respecting the time value of money, the prohibition’s intent is to create a financial regime where profit and risk is shared between the entrepreneur and the investor. From a sound money perspective, it prohibits the core operation of issuing interest bearing bonds and T-Bills against which the central bank can inflate the money supply. Forbade uncertainty (Gharar), embodied in his famous quote, “Do not sell a fish which is still in the water.” Eliminates the possibility of fractional reserve, since outstanding debt cannot be monetized and traded further with, unless it’s paid. It also closes the tap on a myriad of derivative instruments that further inflate the money supply. Forbade speculation (Maisir), which includes outright gambling. Some scholars consider speculative market activity, like the Dogecoin phenomena, under the ambit of this ruling. Mandated sound money. The rules of obligatory charity tax in Islam are denominated in sound money. Muslim governments take the market price of gold, convert them to fiat prices, and announce the converted value to the public to pay the religious obligation of Zakat. But from a legal standpoint, it permanently establishes gold and silver (as well as a whole class of other products) as perpetual, religiously recognized money in Islam. These prohibitions are strong enough in Islamic theology that anyone who violates them is technically, “at war with Allah and his Prophet.” Which is why the Madrasa’s syllabus clings to “nature’s money” (Thaman-e-Khalqi): gold and silver. But of course, big governments, Muslim or otherwise, are a chip off the same block: Self-interest reigns supreme over ethical principles. In Pakistan alone, the religious case against fiat banking has been delayed and obstructed for over 40 years in the courts. The politics of deficit financing are so attractive that no one wants to surrender this magical money making wand. Voldemorts, all of them! In spite of these prohibitions, and in countries where religion dominates social values, Muslims still grew comfortable with paper money because it initially disguised itself as “warehouse receipts for gold” which duped the scholars into permitting it, but the jurisprudence failed to catch up with the subsequent thinning of this asset backing into its current meaningless extent. REFORM ATTEMPTS As the domino roll of national independences took place, four different threads of activity around banking spread in Muslim countries. First, the mainstream implementation of modern banking took root in every Muslim State, implemented in toto like its Western counterparts. Second, Islamic banking attempted to reshape things a little. Scholars familiar with both economics and Shariah attempted to “Islamize” banking via the new academic discipline of “Islamic finance.” But instead of faithfully creating platforms for risk-sharing and equity-based financing, it just followed the Medieval Triple Contract–like approach to practically clone existing financial products, accompanied by a plethora of research papers to justify it. Like a comedic quote from the cold war era, “Communism is the longest and most painful road from capitalism to capitalism,” contemporary Islamic finance, too, turned out to become the most painful and circuitous route from traditional banking to traditional banking, decorated with Arabic names! How the professional bankers duped these scholars and hijacked this effort is excellently explained by Harris Irfan in a podcast with our own Saifedean Ammous. Third, a large but silent majority of toothless Islamic scholars continues to exist who view all forms of banking with suspicion, but the growing chasm of knowledge gap between their education and the complexities of modern finance makes them unable to take back the narrative. Lastly, a much smaller band of Islamic scholars exist, like followers of the Sufi order of a British convert and his Basque disciple, as well as a scholar from Trinidad, who successfully identified the fundamental problem with modern banking from a Shariah perspective: its monetary foundation. You cannot “Islamize” a bank if you do not fix the money it operates on! Hence, their attempt to resuscitate the traditional Islamic gold dinar as a sound money alternative to fiat. GOLD DINAR: THE REAL ISLAMIC ALTERNATIVE Fiat money and its permissibility can be viewed through an important concept in Islamic theology, the Maqasid-e-Shariah: the goals or purpose of Shariah law. To illustrate this with a controversial example, consider a Shariah law which says you cannot punish a man or woman for adultery, unless you bring four eye witnesses to the sexual act (which is normally impossible). While Islam abhors adultery, the Maqasid is an attempt by scholars to understand why, instead of having a law that easily and swiftly punishes it, there exists one that makes it practically impossible to prosecute. They rationalized that it must be to shield people’s privacy and one-off slipups from society's nosy interference and appetite for punishment. According to Muhammad Asad, “… to make proof of adultery dependent on a voluntary, faith-inspired confession of the guilty parties themselves.” So the Maqasid points to some socially valuable goal that the law intends to achieve. The rationale of the financial laws of Shariah are similarly explained in terms of their goals: a just distribution of wealth, a money free from devaluation, a business contract free from usurious exploitation, and a regulatory regime that increases people’s wealth and well-being. Through a very elementary intuition, it is obvious that fiat currencies violate this principle of honesty and justice in the society: Money issuers steal the purchasing power of the people and devalue their money. To put a formal Quranic stamp to this reasoning, we can take verse 3:75, “There are some among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) who, if entrusted with a stack of gold, will readily return it.” The modern Islamic bank, if entrusted with money equivalent to a stack of gold, returns you only 90% of its worth in purchasing power, owing to inflationary erosion, thus it’s part of a system that clearly violates the Maqasid. Islamic banks have thus thoroughly failed to espouse the core principle of risk sharing and eliminating interest (since interest exists in the very issuance process of the money they are built on). The only real Islamic alternative ever proposed was the Gold Dinar Movement. Starting in parallel (and in many respects earlier) than Islamic banking, (with the first modern Dinar minted in 1992), it was incisively accurate in its assessment and proposed remedy to the money problem: “The Return to the Gold Dinar.” This was an earlier time, when the golden tool in the fight against fiat was literally gold, which was then popularized by Austrian economics, advocated by upright leaders like Ron Paul, and adopted by grassroots activists like Bernard von NotHaus. The Muslim world saw its own spate of activism for sound money, led by its most vocal proponent, Umar Vadillo, and associated initiatives like Wakala Nusantara, Dinar First and my own Dinar Wakala. The Kelantan State government’s launch of Gold Dinar was our own El Zonte moment, full of euphoria and promise that made waves globally. The passion and courage of this vibrant lot of Warrior Sufis represented the best of modern-day Muslims: Profoundly knowledgeable people, engaged in grassroots activism, to fix the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world. However, the primary strength of gold, its physical indestructibility, came in the way of its adoption: Logistic and regulatory hindrances prevented free flow of physical gold coins across national boundaries. In the words of its founder, Shaykh Abdalqadir, “The defense mechanisms of today’s late capitalism and its crisis management surrounding the buying, moving and minting of gold have surrounded it with prohibitive pricing and taxation.” It continues to serve as a galvanizing symbol of the fight against Riba, but making it a practical inflationary hedge, or a broader Ummah-level movement for sound money, proved an elusive goal. Without the Gold Dinar, the horizon seemed all but bleak, except that a glimmer of hope came from the most unexpected of places: Where scholars, economists and revolutionaries had failed, nerds succeeded! Enter Emir Satoshi! ADVENT OF BITCOIN For us in the Gold Dinar Movement, Bitcoiners are our brothers in arms: fighting the same enemy, securing the same goal. This is what I have always advocated to my fellow activists in the dinar movement, from as far back as 2012. Our Prophetﷺ, as well as the Rashidun Caliphs, never debased money, nor profited from seigniorage, but gave us the right to choose our own mediums of exchange. This is fundamentally antithetical to the monstrosity of legal tender laws, which Islamic scholars have been duped into legitimizing under various pretexts (highlighting the need for increased financial literacy in this lot). This freedom to choose a currency constitutes the common ground that both us and the Bitcoiners can rally around together. “The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust,” writes Satoshi. He recognized the problem with fiat and set out to fix it with Bitcoin, a miraculous epiphany that has let loose this growing, global band of fervid, somewhat bumptious Maximalists, as similar in essence and ethos to us, as they look different in appearance. I see Bitcoiners, not only in their pluck and guile, but also in the sly ingenuity of their weapon of choice, as nothing less than a modern-day David taking on the Goliath of traditional banking! From a Muslim perspective, the operating verse of the Quran in critique of the Bitcoin movement becomes 49:13, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware.” In the realm of monetary matters, the most righteous and noble are those who support sound money. It is appropriate that Allah stresses his own divine attributes in the verse, as a warning that our religiously colored conception of righteousness may not necessarily be the same as that of the knowing, the aware. (The literal term Taqwa, means something that protects you from the wrath of God.) And to the best of my belief, protecting and uplifting the poor, the downtrodden from the entrapments of a prejudiced financial system is surely a winner with the God of Abraham! A SECOND CHANCE We Muslims had set out to establish a just and fair society, and for some time, to quote David Graeber, succeeded: “Once freed from its ancient scourges of debt and slavery, the local bazaar had become, for most, not a place of moral danger, but the very opposite: the highest expression of the human freedom and communal solidarity, and thus to be protected assiduously from state intrusion.” But gradually, as our political and intellectual leadership in the world waned, we now find ourselves economically bankrupt, submerged in a rigged financial system, and enslaved to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A major reason for this impoverishment was the widening gap of modern knowledge. The following vicious cycle of three circularly dependent factors is another way of modeling our current reality: Low capital allocation for education. A generally weak economy leaves little allocation for investment in education of both scientific and humanities disciplines, which is required for a productive human capital. Low human capital. The first factor results in low quality of education in the populace then manifests politically in bad national decisions, engagement in conflicts, economic mismanagement, acquisition of debt and failure to curb corruption. Economically, this unskilled workforce has low productivity, scarce entrepreneurship and ineffective technology adoption. Religiously, it permits violence and extremism to breed along sectarian fault lines. Low economic output. The second factor results in continued economic tribulations, since the whole society is now in KTLO mode, instead of “adding new features.” Which leads us again to item one. It is the standard cycle of poverty played out at a macro scale, which many competing power bases believe they can break. The military, the Mullahs, and the Liberals, far away, even the CIA has prescriptions on how to solve our problems. But such temporary political and economic interventions bear no lasting results, since nations are built by worthy men and women, over a span of many years, who, given a free and peaceful environment, fall back on their innate drive for excellence to create a better world. It is the job of the revolutionary and his meteoric jolt, or at a smaller scale, your social entrepreneur giving a small push, that breaks a segment of society free from this vicious cycle: A closed ecosystem of wealth circulation, comprising of learned individuals, equipped with better technology and empowered with more capital, shielded from outside influence, and stabilized by a fair social contract, to launch the virtuous symbiosis of economic prosperity and human development which prop each other to newer heights. This break can start in many ways: a national independence, some strong leadership, or in case of Islam, the founding of a new religion. Islam’s own trajectory gives us a generalized three-stage pattern on which any revolution can be modeled, an excellent blueprint for our bitcoin adoption. Education: A new world view is conceived, and people are educated toward it for voluntarily placing their faith on it — Iman. Separation: The model is physically deployed, separated from existing systems, so it can grow and thrive without any negative external influences — Hijra. Protection: When the model grows strong enough to threaten the status quo, but still weak enough to be fully destructible, it needs protection, usually requiring armed conflict — Jihad. We in the Gold Dinar Movement believed that the break in this vicious cycle will come from financial empowerment: When Muslim people and governments adopt sound money, free from the shackles of the IMF, it will allow our bankrupt economies to manage enough disposable income that can be invested in other avenues in society, putting us on a path to progress and human development. Gold would bring back the Golden Age, producing men and women who are worth their weight in gold! But it could not. Let me explain why, and how bitcoin makes it possible. BITCOIN: A TOOL FOR REVOLUTION Following our three-stage model of a revolution, let’s review how bitcoin resolves the challenges of each step. 1. Education The common man, humble about his knowledge of finance, expects, like John Galbraith remarked, a “deeper mystery to the process of money creation.” But which really is so simple, he goes on, that “the mind is repelled.” But the chasm in traditional and modern education keeps our scholars from being able to religiously evaluate the fiat system, for which they need three vital credentials: a traditional Mufti qualification, specialized research in the Fiqh of Muamalat, and a study of modern economics. Only a handful achieve this, like the globally revered Usmani, who become thought leaders in Islamic finance: The rest take the easy way out and follow what they posit. I once asked a certified Shariah advisor on LinkedIn, if he knew what fractional reserve banking meant. I expected some abstruse, rule-bending justification for it but was taken aback by his honest admission that he simply didn’t know what it was! So the first challenge was to educate both the people and the scholars about the fiat system. Then to enlist serious academic and industry practitioners to devise a working alternative based on gold and silver. Then to have its demand trickle down into the masses to eventually morph into enough political pressure for the government to adopt it, much to its own detriment. Highly unlikely. Except that with bitcoin, educating the people now becomes much more focused and result oriented. The wider goal of educating people about finance and economics remains indispensable in both gold and Bitcoin-based sound money solutions. But with bitcoin, we don’t have to wait for a third-world academia and archaic-minded scholars to sell the solution to an unwilling government: We take the narrative, and the prerogative of action, back from them. We go tactical, orange pill the masses with an Urdu translation of the bitcoin standard, and focus on what is minimally essential to achieve within our means: Teaching Muggles... sorry…. No-coiners, the very basics of money mechanics, the role of bitcoin in our strategic response, and the know-how to stack satoshis in a cold wallet! The rest will follow! Coming to think of it, my initial printing press analogy is poignantly relevant. The press encapsulated years of knowledge in a simple package easily disseminated to thousands, which could have overcome our knowledge gap had we adopted it earlier. Bitcoin, too, encapsulates the quintessential wisdom of centuries of humanity’s experience in what constitutes good money and allows it to be spread easily across the world. It is both knowledge, and a tool crafted out of that knowledge. If we miss the boat on it, we will not only lose to “usury capitalism,” but the Bitcoin movement, too, will be deprived of huge potential support from a quarter of the world population. We must join the rest of humanity in a last ditch attempt at wealth equality. 2. Separation After educating people about money mechanics and bitcoin, the second step is the Hejira, our separation from the existing system. An Islamic scholar, Abdassamad Clarke defined “usury capital,” as “the use of capital that is both generated by usury and operated according to usurious principles, which permits a tiny clique of individuals, by the principle of fiat money amplified by leverage, to wield extraordinary power and accumulate unheard of wealth in such a manner as to subject the rest of humanity as menial servants in their project of self-enrichment, whether in the tyrannies of the East or the so-called free-market capitalism of the West.” The fundamental philosophical difference between Islamic and Western economics is how we view interest. Islam holds firm to the classical Judeo-Christian prohibition, believing that the time value of money is more fairly accounted for in equity finance style risk sharing of the invested capital, instead of a guaranteed return favoring the capitalist. Among other things, its side effect is prohibiting both the monetizing of our “future income” to issue fiat, and prohibiting the money-multiplier effect of fractional reserve, through the rulings of Riba, Bai-al-Dain and Bai-al-Madum. Bitcoiners and libertarians rely on an entirely different philosophical foundation to reach partially the same conclusion in regards to fiat, that it’s perverse, unjust and socially destructive. The end goal for both is the same: To separate ourselves from the fiat system and carve out an entirely new, independent financial system: The original idea of decentralized finance (DeFi)! Unfortunately, the bubble effect we so dislike in TradFi — traditional finance — is now itself widespread in the non-Bitcoin crypto world, what Ellen Farrington cites as the immense amount of “rehypothecation, leverage, and securitization,” which if misused can cause systemic risks that affect everyone. The practical reality of contemporary DeFi in the non-Bitcoin world is quite far from its theoretical goal. Looking at this aspect of “crypto,” some Islamic scholars took the liberty of invoking the gambling prohibition clause, something whose motivation we can sympathize with, even though we disagree with the conclusion. A lack of regulation at the administrative level cannot be countered by religious pronunciation of Haram status. It’s kind of like declaring cars as Islamically forbidden, merely because some people are driving them too fast and killing others. But presently, we are far less interested in how scholars view “crypto” than we are regarding bitcoin. The DeFi world’s shiny new investments offering unsustainable returns, its shady ICOs and the casino-like frenzy and get-rich-quick dreams of novice retail investors are far removed from what we advocate, from what we are daring to call a second chance for the Muslim world: A Bitcoin-based sound money adoption as a medium of exchange and store of value! But what is nevertheless commendable in the crypto world (led, of course, by Bitcoin) is the attempt to create this entirely new, independent miniverse of alternative, decentralized finance, isolated from the existing system. Building and expanding this decentralization, based on Bitcoin, is the essence of the second step of our revolutionary blueprint: the Hejira. Migrating from the old to the new. As Iqbal would have said, “Blow away this transitory world, and build a new one from its ashes” — khakastar se aap apna jahan paida karay. The only serious prior attempt for sound money among Muslims was the Dinar movement. But it only works in a physical jurisdiction: Where to mint, where to store, how to transport, how to coordinate electronic payments, how to deal with banking regulations, taxes and government interference? Theoretically, it was possible to instantiate an entirely independent ecosystem of issuance, storage, transport and trade using gold, but real progress on it was very slow. At the same time, the Bitcoin ecosystem has matured so much to be classifiable as an independent and isolated system, free from all interference from legacy finance. The Core Bitcoin Timechain, Lightning and Layer 2 smart contract solutions, and the globally distributed miner, node operator and supporter community, all combine to form a platform on which we can build and experiment with truly Islamic financial contracts of the form that are not possible with TradFi. In this ecosystem, we can resuscitate Islamic social and financial institutions like the Bait-ul-Maal, the Suq, the Waqf, the Guilds, the Hawala, the Wahdiya, the Qirad and the Musharaka, free from the restrictions of any government, securities commission or central bank. 3. Protection And once this isolated system is deployed, we need to protect it. A story is told in Islamic lore, that when Abu Dharr Ghifari came looking to meet the Prophet, Ali told him to walk a few paces behind him, and if he senses anyone suspicious he will stoop down to tie his shoelaces and Abu Dharr should continue walking ahead. Kind of like a coinjoin to obfuscate where he was actually going. When you are small, you must remain in stealth mode and operate under the radar. Later on, when the small state of early Islam was established in a nearby city, it needed a number of armed conflicts to defend itself from being nipped in the bud! Deploying a sound money system, too, may need a precarious window in which the sapling would need fierce protection before it grows into a tree. The hellacious powers issuing the yuans and dollars of the world are way too formidable for any third-world nation state to get away with a head-on collision. In fact, we cannot even withstand assaults from individual speculators, let alone a concerted effort by the global financial cabal to preserve its status quo. El Salvador and the like are definitely interesting trailblazers to watch out for here, but it is too early to tell. If a sufficient number of first-world citizens band together to defy their government in adoption of sound money, the response of fiat-powered regimes would (probably) be much more restrained in handling them versus some rogue state from a third-world country attempting to defy the dominant currency. I was told by a prominent Islamic banker that when Mahatir toyed with the idea, he was sent a very stern signal to “cease and desist” by the powers that be! So, can a Muslim government adopt and get away with either the dinar or bitcoin? I believe only in the latter. Only bitcoin has the necessary technological edge in terms of its unstoppability and indestructibility that can substitute for the need of a national military power strong enough to protect a traditional sound money built on gold. THE ISLAMIC STATE VERSUS BITCOIN But many Islamic revivalists believe otherwise and their goal is usually larger in scope than financial reform alone. It is a more holistic quest to resuscitate the political, social and legal structures of precolonial Islamic governments. Encouraged by the spectacular rise of early Islam that dared challenge superior powers like Byzantine and Sassanids, they believe it possible to recreate the traditional theocracy along similar lines, one of whose side effects would be to eradicate fiat currency also. Such ambitious projects downplay the urgency of fixing our financial system: No need to separately struggle for it if it comes as a natural corollary to the larger political renaissance. Now the specter of such pan-Islamic revival has been thoroughly demonized in Western imagination, owing from our own side to violent extremism, owing from their side to a deep-rooted Islamophobia, and owing generally to ideas (or realities?) like the clash of civilizations. But my Bitcoiner friends — whose libertarian ethos is so refined to even self-censure the slightist hint of authoritarian enforcement in El Salvador’s legal tender adoption of bitcoin — will surely agree that it is entirely within the rights of the Muslim world to voluntarily experiment, on their land, with whatever form of government they fancy: caliphates, sultanates or kingdoms! But the reality of this dream in the minds of the majority of modern Muslims is quite different from what the world perceives. The moderate Muslim just wants Islamic principles to be the guiding source of their political and social order. But the strength of this desire is often encashed by opportunists, resulting in two recent distorted models of political Islam: 1.The Iranian model: Somewhat broad-based and sustainable but toothless and symbolic. They are the political twins of Islamic banks, offering no real change to the common man, except moral policing. Financially, there even exists the oxymoronic Central Bank of the Islamic Republic. Why would you have an Islamic bank if you were truly an Islamic republic? 2. Second, is the Taliban and ISIS model: Narrow-based, extremist and unsustainable, divorced from the comity of nations. ISIS did reportedly issue the Gold Dinar but to no one’s avail, except perhaps as a recruitment propaganda. News out of Kabul promises a more restrained and balanced government this time around, but is it a genuine change of heart or just political expediency? So, while the Muslim world waits for a true Islamic reformation, and the world holds its breath on how the next such attempt turns out, my issue with this ubiquitous political quest in the Muslim imagination is just NGMI — it’s not gonna make it! We can’t stall the effort of immediate financial reform on some future promise of a bigger change happening to facilitate it. As an Urdu saying goes, na nau munn tayl hoe ga, na Radha naachay gi: Neither shall the king be able to provision nine gallons of lamp oil, and nor will the stage ever be lit enough for his dancing girl, Radha, to perform! Nevertheless, assuming for a moment that a mature, viable, modern Islamic government does get established by some geopolitical miracle, faithful to Islam’s core tenets, and broad-based in popular support, the next and more pertinent question becomes: Will it have sufficient political, and if necessary, military power, to deploy a gold-based sound monetary system in their country, and then get away with the sanctions and isolation that follow? And this is where bitcoin, once again, outshines other alternatives. The one trait that sets it apart from all “crypto”, and indeed, all monies in human history: true, sovereign-grade censorship resistance, from both your own government and foreign powers. Without needing any battalions or bombs, bitcoin enables us to fight the good fight ourselves and win. And if the broader Islamic reformation materializes, bitcoin can support it, too, for bypassing potential sanctions and increasing national wealth! God has a knack for defeating evil by the simplest of designs — the mighty Goliath with a slingshot, the persecutors of the Prophet with a humble spider — as if to compound the humiliation of defeat by the plainness of its bearer. Who could have thought that the Kremlins, Zhongnanhais and White Houses of the world would be made helpless by the confluence of two elementary ideas: proof of work and difficulty adjustment! But this simple, easily overlooked and less understood killer combination of traits makes bitcoin an undefeatable tool in the hands of us, the 99%. We do not need to wait for anyone. We can do it ourselves with bitcoin. THE WAY FORWARD While the wallet addresses, exchange accounts, market cap, and of course, the hype around crypto is constantly rising in Muslim countries, much of this activity is from the perspective of a shiny new investment vehicle, a get-rich-quick bandwagon to which everyone wants to hitch! This has engendered the animated debate of investor protection, scam avoidance and the whole academic deliberation of whether they are at all Halal owing to a perceived lack of intrinsic value and being free from government control. While all of these objections on bitcoin from the Shariah perspective have been thoroughly refuted by various scholars and are easily searchable on the internet, the continuance of this superfluous debate is dangerously distracting: In the process, we are losing sight of the higher frequencies of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Aye ahle-e-nazar zauq-e-nazar khoob hai laikinJoe shay ki haqeeqat koe na dekhay woe nazar kiya We need bitcoin, not because it’s a great investment (which incidentally it is), but because it’s a great store of value and a medium of exchange: A free medium of exchange, which can uplift us collectively if we just adopt it, en masse, as our money. To my fellow Muslims, here is a parting thought. We love and honor our Prophet to such an extent that even the minutest of his actions, Sunnahs, is recorded, revered and repeated, even if it be as simple as the table manners of cutting some fruit. But here is another Sunnah of bigger import: success. The change that he set out to achieve in the world, he did achieve it. As he breathed his last in the arms of Ayesha, he had already delivered on the promise he had made to his companions in the lowest ebb of their persecution: “... a traveler from Sana to Hadrarmaut will fear none but Allah.” Although bordering a little on logical fallacy, I would point out that he didn’t cite something more symbolic like the establishment of the Caliphate, or the conquests, or the subsequent power. He chose to cite, as evidence of success to what they were suffering for, the establishment of a certain social order: One in which an anonymous citizen would not fear physical or financial insecurity. I say anonymous, not a private citizen, because the choice of the word “traveler” is very telling. While you are known in your city, protected by your identity, and potential clout from a corporation or clan, it is suddenly removed when you are in a strange land. They do not even know your name, unless you tell them: You are just a wallet address. But this traveler is not afraid of loss of wealth, or being robbed, or not having the right passport, or the right vaccine passport! He can move himself, and he can move his money. We Dinarists and Bitcoiners always equate inflation with theft. Whether you snatch 50 rupees from a poor man, or the free fall of your currency leaves him with 50 rupees less of a purchasing power, it is the same. While every ill is not caused by our monetary system, there is the obvious administrative incompetence and a dismal economic performance to account for — but inflation is definitely a huge factor. And all our high talk, slogans, research papers, reform movements, activism and militarism have deviated from this one Sunnah: The success of delivering safety to this traveler again. Bitcoin can help us succeed. Like now! Not 20 years later. Not when some promised leader will part the seas for us again. But now, when the poor illiterate, helpless man on the street looks at us educated and privileged elites and asks: What did you do to level the playing field for me? The Islamic banker may say, “Oh, I developed this intricate Shariah compliant profit and loss sharing contract for you, approved by the council of scholars, and backed by the gold dinar, just wait for it to be deployed.” I will say, “Dude, here, let me help you buy a few satoshis and get you a Lightning wallet so you don’t have to revert back to the rupee when paying for your next meal!” I think you should do the same. Bitcoin deserves a fresh look from us Muslims. Let’s think about it. Let’s use it correctly. Let’s spread it. Let’s understand it. Let’s use Bitcoin. Tyler Durden Sat, 10/30/2021 - 19:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 30th, 2021

Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money

“We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world” At the Black Blockchain Summit, there is almost no conversation about making money that does not carry with it the possibility of liberation. This is not simply a gathering for those who would like to ride whatever bumps and shocks, gains and losses come with cryptocurrency. It is a space for discussing the relationship between money and man, the powers that be and what they have done with power. Online and in person, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., an estimated 1,500 mostly Black people have gathered to talk about crypto—decentralized digital money backed not by governments but by blockchain technology, a secure means of recording transactions—as a way to make money while disrupting centuries-long patterns of oppression. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “What we really need to be doing is to now utilize the technology behind blockchain to enhance the quality of life for our people,” says Christopher Mapondera, a Zimbabwean American and the first official speaker. As a white-haired engineer with the air of a lecturing statesman, Mapondera’s conviction feels very on-brand at a conference themed “Reparations and Revolutions.” Along with summit organizer Sinclair Skinner, Mapondera co-founded BillMari, a service that aims to make it easier to transmit cryptocurrency to wherever the sons and daughters of Africa have been scattered. So, not exactly your stereotypical “Bitcoin bro.” Contrary to the image associated with cryptocurrency since it entered mainstream awareness, almost no one at the summit is a fleece-vest-wearing finance guy or an Elon Musk type with a grudge against regulators. What they are is a cross section of the world of Black crypto traders, educators, marketers and market makers—a world that seemingly mushroomed during the pandemic, rallying around the idea that this is the boon that Black America needs. In fact, surveys indicate that people of color are investing in cryptocurrency in ways that outpace or equal other groups—something that can’t be said about most financial products. About 44% of those who own crypto are people of color, according to a June survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. In April, a Harris Poll reported that while just 16% of U.S. adults overall own cryptocurrency, 18% of Black Americans have gotten in on it. (For Latino Americans, the figure is 20%.) The actor Hill Harper of The Good Doctor, a Harvard Law School friend of former President Barack Obama, is a pitchman for Black Wall Street, a digital wallet and crypto trading service developed with Najah Roberts, a Black crypto expert. And this summer, when the popular money-transfer service Cash App added the option to purchase Bitcoin, its choice to explain the move was the MC Megan Thee Stallion. “With my knowledge and your hustle, you’ll have your own empire in no time,” she says in an ad titled “Bitcoin for Hotties.” Read more: Americans Have Learned to Talk About Racial Inequality. But They’ve Done Little to Solve It But, as even Megan Thee Stallion acknowledges in that ad, pinning one’s economic hopes on crypto is inherently risky. Many economic experts have described crypto as little better than a bubble, mere fool’s gold. The rapid pace of innovation—it’s been little more than a decade since Bitcoin was created by the enigmatic, pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto—has left consumers with few protections. Whether the potential is worth those risks is the stuff of constant, and some would say, infernal debate. Jared Soares for TIMECleve Mesidor, who founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain What looms in the backdrop is clear. In the U.S., the median white family’s wealth—reflecting not just assets minus debt, but also the ability to weather a financial setback—sat around $188,200, per the Federal Reserve’s most recent measure in 2019. That’s about eight times the median wealth of Black families. (For Latino families, it’s five times greater; the wealth of Asian, Pacific Island and other families sits between that of white and Latino families, according to the report.) Other estimates paint an even grimmer picture. If trends continue, the median Black household will have zero wealth by 2053. The summit attendees seem certain that crypto represents keys to a car bound for somewhere better. “Our digital selves are more important in some ways than our real-world selves,” Tony Perkins, a Black MIT-trained computer scientist, says during a summit session on “Enabling Black Land and Asset Ownership Using Blockchain.” The possibilities he rattles off—including fractional ownership of space stations—will, to many, sound fantastical. To others, they sound like hope. “We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world,” he says. The next night, when in-person attendees gather at Barcode, a Black-owned downtown D.C. establishment, for drinks and conversation, there’s a small rush on black T-shirts with white lettering: SATOSHI, they proclaim, IS BLACK. That’s an intriguing idea when your ancestors’ bodies form much of the foundation of U.S. prosperity. At the nation’s beginnings, land theft from Native Americans seeded the agricultural operations where enslaved Africans would labor and die, making others rich. By 1860, the cotton-friendly ground of Mississippi was so productive that it was home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. Government-supported pathways to wealth, from homesteading to homeownership, have been reliably accessible to white Americans only. So Black Bitcoiners’ embrace of decentralized currencies—and a degree of doubt about government regulators, as well as those who have done well in the traditional system—makes sense. Skinner, the conference organizer, believes there’s racial subtext in the caution from the financial mainstream regarding Bitcoin—a pervasive idea that Black people just don’t understand finance. “I’m skeptical of all of those [warnings], based on the history,” Skinner, who is Black American, says. Even a drop in the value of Bitcoin this year, which later went back up, has not made him reticent. “They have petrol shortages in England right now. They’ll blame the weather or Brexit, but they’ll never have to say they’re dumb. Something don’t work in Detroit or some city with a Black mayor, we get a collective shame on us.” Read more: America’s Interstate Slave Trade Once Trafficked Nearly 30,000 People a Year—And Reshaped the Country’s Economy The first time I speak to Skinner, the summit is still two weeks away. I’d asked him to talk through some of the logistics, but our conversation ranges from what gives money value to the impact of ride-share services on cabbies refusing Black passengers. Tech often promises to solve social problems, he says. The Internet was supposed to democratize all sorts of things. In many cases, it defaulted to old patterns. (As Black crypto policy expert Cleve Mesidor put it to me, “The Internet was supposed to be decentralized, and today it’s owned by four white men.”) But with the right people involved from the start of the next wave of change—crypto—the possibilities are endless, Skinner says. Skinner, a Howard grad and engineer by training, first turned to crypto when he and Mapondera were trying to find ways to do ethanol business in Zimbabwe. Traditional international transactions were slow or came with exorbitant fees. In Africa, consumers pay some of the world’s highest remittance, cell phone and Internet data fees in the world, a damaging continuation of centuries-long wealth transfers off the continent to others, Skinner says. Hearing about cryptocurrency, he was intrigued—particularly having seen, during the recession, the same banking industry that had profited from slavery getting bailed out as hundreds of thousands of people of color lost their homes. So in 2013, he invested “probably less than $3,000,” mostly in Bitcoin. Encouraged by his friend Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for trading crypto, he grew his stake. In 2014, when Skinner went to a crypto conference in Amsterdam, only about eight Black people were there, five of them caterers, but he felt he had come home ideologically. He saw he didn’t need a Rockefeller inheritance to change the world. “I don’t have to build a bank where they literally used my ancestors to build the capital,” says Skinner, who today runs a site called I Love Black People, which operates like a global anti-racist Yelp. “I can unseat that thing by not trying to be like them.” Eventually, he and Mapondera founded BillMari and became the first crypto company to partner with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to lower fees on remittances, the flow of money from immigrants overseas back home to less-developed nations—an economy valued by the World Bank and its offshoot KNOMAD at $702 billion in 2020. (Some of the duo’s business plans later evaporated, after Zimbabwe’s central bank revoked approval for some cryptocurrency activities.) Skinner’s feelings about the economic overlords make it a bit surprising that he can attract people like Charlene Fadirepo, a banker by trade and former government regulator, to speak at the summit. On the first day, she offers attendees a report on why 2021 was a “breakout year for Bitcoin,” pointing out that major banks have begun helping high-net-worth clients invest in it, and that some corporations have bought crypto with their cash on hand, holding it as an asset. Fadirepo, who worked in the Fed’s inspector general’s office monitoring Federal Reserve banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is not a person who hates central banks or regulation. A Black American, she believes strongly in both, and in their importance for protecting investors and improving the economic position of Black people. Today she operates Guidefi, a financial education and advising company geared toward helping Black women connect with traditional financial advisers. It just launched, for a fee, direct education in cryptocurrency. Crypto is a relatively new part of Fadirepo’s life. She and her Nigerian-American doctor husband earn good salaries and follow all the responsible middle-class financial advice. But the pandemic showed her they still didn’t have what some of his white colleagues did: the freedom to walk away from high-risk work. As the stock market shuddered and storefronts shuttered, she decided a sea change was coming. A family member had mentioned Bitcoin at a funeral in 2017, but it sounded risky. Now, her research kept bringing her back to it. Last year, she and her husband bought $6,000 worth. No investment has ever generated the kinds of returns for them that Bitcoin has. “It has transformed people’s relationship with money,” she says. “Folks are just more intentional … and honestly feeling like they had access to a world that was previously walled off.” Read more: El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip She knows frauds exists. In May, a federal watchdog revealed that since October 2020, nearly 7,000 people have reported losses of more than $80 million on crypto scams—12 times more scam reports than the same period the previous year. The median individual loss: $1,900. For Fadirepo, it’s worrying. That’s part of why she helps moderate recurring free learning and discussion options like the Black Bitcoin Billionaires chat room on Clubhouse, which has grown from about 2,000 to 130,000 club members this year. Jared Soares for TIMECharlene Fadirepo, a banker and former government regulator, near the National Museum of African American History and Culture There’s a reason Black investors might prefer their own spaces for that kind of education. Fadirepo says it’s not unheard-of in general crypto spaces—theoretically open to all, but not so much in practice—to hear that relying on the U.S. dollar is slavery. “To me, a descendant of enslaved people in America, that was painful,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk about sovereignty, freedom from the U.S. dollar, freedom from inflation, inflation is slavery, blah blah blah. The historical context has been sucked out of these conversations about traditional financial systems. I don’t know how I can talk about banking without also talking about history.” Back in January, I found myself in a convenience store in a low-income and predominantly Black neighborhood in Dallas, an area still living the impact of segregation decades after its official end. I was there to report on efforts to register Black residents for COVID-19 shots after an Internet-only sign-up system—and wealthier people gaming the system—created an early racial disparity in vaccinations. I stepped away to buy a bottle of water. Inside the store, a Black man wondered aloud where the lottery machine had gone. He’d come to spend his usual $2 on tickets and had found a Bitcoin machine sitting in its place. A second Black man standing nearby, surveying chip options, explained that Bitcoin was a form of money, an investment right there for the same $2. After just a few questions, the first man put his money in the machine and walked away with a receipt describing the fraction of one bitcoin he now owned. Read more: When a Texas County Tried to Ensure Racial Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations, It Didn’t Go as Planned I was both worried and intrigued. What kind of arrangement had prompted the store’s owner to replace the lottery machine? That month, a single bitcoin reached the $40,000 mark. “That’s very revealing, if someone chooses to put a cryptocurrency machine in the same place where a lottery [machine] was,” says Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, when I tell him that story. Frankel has described cryptocurrencies as similar to gambling, more often than not attracting those who can least afford to lose, whether they are in El Salvador or Texas. Frankel ranks among the economists who have been critical of El Salvador’s decision to begin recognizing Bitcoin last month as an official currency, in part because of the reality that few in the county have access to the internet, as well as the cryptocurrency’s price instability and its lack of backing by hard assets, he says. At the same time that critics have pointed to the shambolic Bitcoin rollout in El Salvador, Bitcoin has become a major economic force in Nigeria, one of the world’s larger players in cryptocurrency trading. In fact, some have argued that it has helped people in that country weather food inflation. But, to Frankel, crypto does not contain promise for lasting economic transformation. To him, disdain for experts drives interest in cryptocurrency in much the same way it can fuel vaccine hesitancy. Frankel can see the potential to reduce remittance costs, and he does not doubt that some people have made money. Still, he’s concerned that the low cost and click-here ease of buying crypto may draw people to far riskier crypto assets, he says. Then he tells me he’d put the word assets here in a hard set of air quotes. And Frankel, who is white, is not alone. Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who is Black, says Bitcoin should be seen in the same framework as other low-cost, high-risk, big-payoff options. “In the end, it’s a casino,” he says. To people with less wealth, it can feel like one of the few moneymaking methods open to them, but it’s not a source of group uplift. “Like any speculation, those that can arbitrage the market will be fine,” he says. “There’s a whole lot of people that benefited right before the Great Recession, but if they didn’t get out soon enough, they lost their shirts too.” To buyers like Jiri Sampson, a Black cryptocurrency investor who works in real estate and lives outside Washington, D.C., that perspective doesn’t register as quite right. The U.S.-born son of Guyanese immigrants wasn’t thinking about exploitation when he invested his first $20 in cryptocurrency in 2017. But the groundwork was there. Sampson homeschools his kids, due in part to his lack of faith that public schools equip Black children with the skills to determine their own fates. He is drawn to the capacity of this technology to create greater agency for Black people worldwide. The blockchain, for example, could be a way to establish ownership for people who don’t hold standard documents—an important issue in Guyana and many other parts of the world, where individuals who have lived on the land for generations are vulnerable to having their property co-opted if they lack formal deeds. Sampson even pitched a project using the blockchain and GPS technology to establish digital ownership records to the Guyanese government, which did not bite. “I don’t want to downplay the volatility of Bitcoin,” Sampson says. But that’s only a significant concern, he believes, if one intends to sell quickly. To him, Bitcoin represents a “harder” asset than the dollar, which he compares to a ship with a hole in it. Bitcoin has a limited supply, while the Fed can decide to print more dollars anytime. That, to Sampson, makes some cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, good to buy and hold, to pass along wealth from one generation to another. Economists and crypto buyers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve have indicated that they will move toward official assessments or regulation soon. At least 10 federal agencies are interested in or already regulating crypto in some way, and there’s now a Congressional Blockchain Caucus. Representatives from the Federal Reserve and the SEC declined to comment, but SEC Chairman Gary Gensler assured a Senate subcommittee in September that his agency is working to develop regulation that will apply to cryptocurrency markets and trading activity. Enter Cleve Mesidor, of the quip about the Internet being owned by four white men. When we meet during the summit, she introduces herself: “Cleve Mesidor, I’m in crypto.” She’s the first person I’ve ever heard describe herself that way, but not that long ago, “influencer” wasn’t a career either. A former Obama appointee who worked inside the Commerce Department on issues related to entrepreneurship and economic development, Mesidor learned about cryptocurrency during that time. But she didn’t get involved in it personally until 2013, when she purchased $200 in Bitcoin. After leaving government, she founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and is now the public policy adviser for the industry group the Blockchain Association. There are more men than women in Black crypto spaces, she tells me, but the gender imbalance tends to be less pronounced than in white-dominated crypto communities. Mesidor, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and uses her crypto investments to fund her professional “wanderlust,” has also lived crypto’s downsides. She’s been hacked and the victim of an attempted ransomware attack. But she still believes cryptocurrency and related technology can solve real-world problems, and she’s trying, she says, to make sure that necessary consumer protections are not structured in a way that chokes the life out of small businesses or investors. “D.C. is like Vegas; the house always wins,” says Mesidor, whose independently published book is called The Clevolution: My Quest for Justice in Politics & Crypto. “The crypto community doesn’t get that.” Passion, she says, is not enough. The community needs to be involved in the regulatory discussions that first intensified after the price of a bitcoin went to $20,000 in 2017. A few days after the summit, when Mesidor and I spoke by phone, Bitcoin had climbed to nearly $60,000. At Barcode, the Washington lounge, Isaiah Jackson is holding court. A man with a toothpaste-commercial smile, he’s the author of the independently published Bitcoin & Black America, has appeared on CNBC and is half of the streaming show The Gentleman of Crypto, which bills itself as the one of the longest-running cryptocurrency shows on the Internet. When he was building websites as a sideline, he convinced a large black church in Charlotte, N.C., to, for a time, accept Bitcoin donations. He helped establish Black Bitcoin Billionaires on Clubhouse and, like Fadirepo, helps moderate some of its rooms and events. He’s also a former teacher, descended from a line of teachers, and is using those skills to develop (for a fee) online education for those who want to become crypto investors. Now, there’s a small group standing near him, talking, but mostly listening. Jackson was living in North Carolina when one of his roommates, a white man who worked for a money-management firm, told him he had just heard a presentation about crypto and thought he might want to suggest it to his wealthy parents. The concept blew Jackson’s mind. He soon started his own research. “Being in the Black community and seeing the actions of banks, with redlining and other things, it just appealed to me,” Jackson tells me. “You free the money, you free everything else.” Read more: Beyond Tulsa: The Historic Legacies and Overlooked Stories of America’s ‘Black Wall Streets’ He took his $400 savings and bought two bitcoins in October 2013. That December, the price of a single bitcoin topped $1,100. He started thinking about what kind of new car he’d buy. And he stuck with it, even seeing prices fluctuate and scams proliferate. When the Gentlemen of Bitcoin started putting together seminars, one of the early venues was at a college fair connected to an annual HBCU basketball tournament attended by thousands of mostly Black people. Bitcoin eventually became more than an investment. He believed there was great value in spreading the word. But that was then. “I’m done convincing people. There’s no point battling going back and forth,” he says. “Even if they don’t realize it, what [investors] are doing if they are keeping their bitcoin long term, they are moving money out of the current system into another one. And that is basically the best form of peaceful protest.”   —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

SCOTT GALLOWAY: "Squid Game" is a lesson. Streaming services are in a race to the top, and some are getting left behind.

As Netflix invests in "glocal" content across 40 countries, other streaming platforms are fighting to keep up. Netflix's innovation is committing to "glocal" content - content sourced and distributed locally with global scale. Youngkyu Park Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern. The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, that originally ran on his blog, "No Mercy / No Malice." In it, Galloway talks about how "the market of content is infinite," and how streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ are battling to dominate it. Two weeks ago, at the Code Conference, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel claimed "the total addressable market of content is infinite." Netflix is spending $17 billion a year to validate his thesis. So far, they're both right. Since last Friday, Netflix raised subscription prices in 11 countries by as much as 40%. A company's ability to raise prices is a function of the delta between the price and the perceived value. Nothing better illuminates this delta than the below chart: Scott Galloway Glocal"Squid Game" was sourced, written, and produced in South Korea. Within 10 days of its release, the show was No. 1 on Netflix in 90 countries. The Tarantino-meets-Terry-Gilliam take on children's games has the fastest-growing audience of any Netflix original ever, registering a 981% engagement increase in its first week. On TikTok, #SquidGame has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times. The jump in South Korean internet traffic was so great that internet service provider SK Broadband is suing Netflix to pay for the costs it's incurred to deliver the megahit.Q: How did this happen? A: Intentionally. Netflix landed on foreign shores in 2011, when it launched its service in 43 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Now it's available in every country except for China, North Korea, Syria, and the disputed region of Crimea. Four years ago, Co-CEO Reed Hastings estimated Netflix could achieve a 75% to 80% international user base. Currently its non-US streamers make up 65% of its users and generate 56% of total revenue. Netflix is far and away the world leader in distribution. Scott Galloway But expanding distribution globally is nothing new. That's been Hollywood's strategy for generations. Think big production budgets, special effects, and guys in capes. Netflix's innovation was committing to "glocal" content - content sourced and distributed locally with global scale and Nasdaq capital to build an army that's registered historic success. The company is now investing in original programming in 40 countries and has produced original scripted shows in 20 foreign languages. It's spent more than $1 billion on Korean content alone. This year the company has either built or announced plans to build two production facilities in South Korea, offices in Canada, Italy, Colombia, and Turkey, a production hub in Sweden, and a full-service post-production facility in India. In each country, Netflix hires content executives to commission work from the local creative community.The obvious benefit is more local content. South Koreans like "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars," but they have their own cultural traditions and preferences, too, as do the other 189 non-US countries in Netflix's empire. This is true in other industries. Only 10% of Nestlé brands are in more than one country, and fewer than 1% are in more than 10, as it recognizes people want global scale but local products. Consumers in other nations face a choice: the production values of US content or the relevance and connection of local content. Netflix offers both, and it can now provide more home cooking than any other firm. Take HBO Max. Its user interface cannot be changed from English, and it's produced original scripted programming in just two languages other than English. Peacock, Paramount+, and Apple TV+ have all produced none.The secret weapon here is boring and obvious - brute strength. Netflix will spend as much on content this year as Apple, Facebook, or Samsung spend on R&D. Disney and Warner/Discovery can claim they spend more, but their munitions are spent across multiple offerings/brands with different business models. Netflix's investment in glocal content is now paying off at home as well as abroad: US consumption of its non-English-language programming has grown 71% since 2019, and 97% of American Netflix subscribers have watched at least one non-English title in the past year. Read that last sentence again. This is a radical change to the American media landscape. Meanwhile, the number of Americans studying Korean on Duolingo has spiked this month. Should we really have a best "foreign" film award? Scott Galloway Per Ted Sarandos (the other CEO), "Squid Game" is likely to be Netflix's most successful series ever. That means two of its top three series will be internationally produced: "Squid Game" Season 1 (South Korea), "Bridgerton" Season 1 (US), and "Money Heist" Season 4 (Spain). Expect to see more subtitles moving forward.PreyWhile Netflix ascends, the previous prestige television king has lost its crown in a corporate swamp. HBO has demonstrated remarkable resilience, and the case study that still needs to be written is how its culture continues to do more with less. The firm's in late-stage puberty - it's now in its forties - and converting to a streaming platform was as awkward as it sounds.AT&T should never have owned it and, to its credit, recognized this and spun it to Discovery. But Discovery will probably inherit AT&T's legacy shareholder base, which likes dividends and may not have the stomach for the kinds of investments required to muscle up and glocalize. Discovery Inc.'s first-half revenue is up 12% from last year, to $3 billion. That sounds nice until you realize it's a fifth of Netflix's H1 revenue and is still dependent on advertising through linear channels. Put another way, AT&T shareholders may still be in a consensual hallucination that you can have ATT profits with NFLX growth. You can't, and the transition period will likely produce neither. The wild card may be CNN+ - rumor is they've signed up some remarkable talent. Yep, we're talking dragons, bounty hunters, scorching-hot dukes, and sublime chess protégés, all wrapped into one person. So excited for them. But I digress.A scenario: Discovery misses a quarter, as companies do, and the shareholder base realizes this is not the guy they thought they were marrying and bail. Stock takes a hit and invites a new, older suitor, as it's the only media firm with iconic assets that can be acquired - others are too big or have dual-class shareholder structures. The inamorato is from Philadelphia, rough around the edges … and rich. Comcast has the capital and the backbone (see above: Philadelphia) and likely already realizes its homegrown effort (Peacock) is fighting Panzers on horseback.Unleash the mouseDisney had the most impressive launch in OTT history, but its staggering potential is still unrecognized. The company should double down on the rundle (recurring revenue bundle) model and tie all its assets into a tiered subscription offering. Disney² members would get exclusive access to Disney parks, experiences, and merchandise, which today account for 34% of the company's total revenue. Disney is Lebron James in junior high school: It's got unmatched assets but is short on coordination.Our D² rundle vision included a new content feature: edutainment. We suggested the company launch an education product for kids in grades K-12, advice the company seemed to take halfheartedly onboard. In July, Disney licensed its characters to an Indian education company, Byju's, to launch a learning app in the US - a start, but I still think Disney should take matters into its own hands. The synergy of education with parks, merchandise, streaming, and singular IP is a subscription-based motherload the company hasn't tapped.Lieutenant acquirerI correctly predicted Amazon would add healthcare to its ever-accelerating flywheel. I could not have predicted it would pick up James Bond along the way. Amazon announced the acquisition of MGM Studios in May for $8.5 billion (subject to antitrust review), more than double what Disney paid for Marvel or Lucasfilm. Bob Iger's balance sheet used to be his superpower. But $386 billion in annual revenue and a $1.7 trillion market cap make Amazon a formidable force in M&A. It now leads all streamers as measured by number of titles. There are seven times as many movies on Prime Video than on Netflix. Scott Galloway Dark horseRoku has quietly gone door to door through the streaming neighborhood, picking up partnership deals with major distributors. It's now a key operating system for content. In the second quarter, the company registered an almost 20% increase in TV viewing hours year over year, compared to the slight hit other streaming platforms took when we began our slow return to a less-indoor life.The market has provided Roku with the capital to go hunting, even if its first kill is a newborn wildebeest that never learned to walk. Roku acquired Quibi's assets this year for a seventeenth of the funding raised to create its content. It still may have overpaid.The silent generalApple doesn't release any financial data for its streaming product, nor does it report its subscriber numbers. I don't see this as cause for concern. Apple TV+ is Roman Roy - it doesn't matter how badly it fucks up ... it's going to be successful, because Dad owns the railroad. "Ted Lasso" is a good, if not great show. If it was on Hulu, it would be a cult hit getting a fraction of the views and buzz. BTW, if someone showed you "Ted Lasso" a decade ago and told you either Apple or Nike had produced it, you'd have guessed Nike. Nike should and will get into the content game. But that's another post.In sum: Netflix goes global, Disney grows into its content body, HBO ends up with a third owner in as many years, Roku takes off its glasses and becomes the hot girl, the swoosh shows up with sports content, and Amazon and Apple continue to underwhelm but eventually land on their feet, as they were born into privilege.What's the key takeaway, the only thing I'm sure of? I can't wait for Season 3 of "Succession."Life is so rich,ScottRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 15th, 2021

Trump received "undisclosed preferential treatment" on a $170 million loan from Deutsche Bank for his DC hotel, House Oversight Committee says

"Trump did not publicly disclose this significant benefit from a foreign bank while he was President," lawmakers said. The north entrance of the Trump International in Washington, DC. Mark Tenally/AP Deutsche Bank gave Trump "undisclosed preferential treatment" on a $170 million loan for his DC hotel, the House Oversight Committee said. The German bank allowed Trump to delay making principal payments on the loan, the committee said. "Trump did not publicly disclose this significant benefit from a foreign bank while he was President," the committee said. Former President Donald Trump "received undisclosed preferential treatment" on a $170 million loan from the German financial institution Deutsche Bank on his Washington, DC, hotel that he "personally guaranteed," the House Oversight Committee said on Friday. The committee's findings are based on documents obtained from the General Services Administration (GSA), a sprawling agency that helps keep the federal government running.The documents show Deutsche Bank in 2018 provided Trump a "significant financial benefit" by permitting him to delay making principal payments on the loan for a six-year period, the committee said in a statement."Without this deferral, the hotel may have needed to pay tens of millions of additional dollars to Deutsche Bank at a time when it was already facing steep losses. Mr. Trump did not publicly disclose this significant benefit from a foreign bank while he was President," the committee said. The statement also said that while Trump was president the Trump International Hotel received more than $3.7 million from foreign governments between 2017 to 2020, which raises "concerns about possible violations of the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause."Trump in financial disclosures reported over $150 million in income from the hotel.But the hotel lost over $70 million between 2016 to 2020, the committee said, "leading the former President's holding company to inject at least $24 million to aid the struggling hotel."The committee said that Trump "grossly exaggerated" the financial status of the hotel with "misleading" disclosures, and seemingly hid "potential conflicts of interest stemming not just from his ownership of this failing business but also from his roles as the hotel's lender and the guarantor of its third-party loans."The Trump hotel in the nation's capital is located in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion, and the GSA manages the lease. The House Oversight Committee said the GSA failed to comply with its investigation into the hotel during the Trump era, but "finally" produced a "subset of requested documents" in July. Committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and subcommittee on government operations chairman Gerald Connolly sent a letter to the GSA requesting additional information."The documents provided by GSA raise new and troubling questions about former President Trump's lease with GSA and the agency's ability to manage the former President's conflicts of interest during his term in office when he was effectively on both sides of the contract, as landlord and tenant," the letter stated. Collectively, the documents show "that far from being a successful investment, the Trump Hotel was a failing business saddled by debt that required bailouts from President Trump's other businesses," the letter went on to say.Daniel Hunter, a spokesperson for Deutsche Bank, in a statement to Insider said, "The Committee's letter makes several inaccurate statements regarding Deutsche Bank and its loan agreement."Representatives for Trump, the GSA, and the House Oversight Committee did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.Trump's refusal to divest himself from his business empire while president raised myriad conflict of interest concerns. The former president broke from his predecessors by not placing his assets in a blind trust, and scoffed at calls to distance himself from his businesses. In 2019, Trump called the emoluments clause "phony" as legal experts accused him of violating it. The foreign emoluments clause is enshrined in Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 of the US Constitution. The provision prohibits public officials from receiving gifts or cash from foreign governments without congressional approval.It states: "No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."A New York Times review of Trump's tax returns released last year showed he earned $73 million in revenue from the Trump Organization's interests in foreign countries across the first half of his single-term presidency alone.Additionally, there's a domestic emoluments clause that bars the president from receiving money from the US government other than an annual salary.It states: "The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them."In September 2020, The Washington Post reported that Trump's properties raked in $1.1 million in tax dollars from the Secret Service since he entered the White House. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytOct 8th, 2021

Will The China Cold War Unstick America"s Glue?

Will The China Cold War Unstick America's Glue? Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation, Can an America that off-shored much of its manufacturing capacity to China, for short-term profit, afford the de-coupling? Washington isn’t quite sure what to do after the chaotic end to America’s ‘forever’ war. Some in Washington bitterly regret exiting from Afghanistan at all, and advocate for an immediate return; some just want to move on – to the China ‘Cold War’, that is. The cries from the initial Establishment ‘melt down’ and its articulation of pain over the Kabul withdrawal débacle, however, indicates the extent to which the almost obsessive focus on ‘Hobbling China’ nevertheless seems like an humiliating retreat to U.S. hawks, habituated to more global, and unlimited interventions. It is a retreat. ‘Rome’ is relegating its ‘distant provinces’ to their own devices, and even its abutting loyalist inner circle is being downgraded to ‘benign’ indifference. It is a drawing-in towards the ‘hub’, a ‘circling of wagons’ – the better to muster energies for a lunge out at China. There are the acquiescent regions that Americans occupied after WW II (the psychologically-seared Japan and Germany), and then there is the American world empire, which exists chimerically wherever U.S. commercial and cultural power reaches, and more practically in its patchwork of client states and military installations. This third empire is regarded by many Americans as its most remarkable achievement – a triumph of the ‘City of Light’. The post 9/11 era’s final ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ dénouement scene at Kabul Airport did however, clearly convey a strong end-of-the-Roman Empire feel. Yes, failure in Afghanistan may have taken place far from Rome itself, yet something more profound today hangs in the air: a Change of Era. And defeats on distant frontiers, can entail profound consequences – closer to the imperial core – as a sense of accelerating imperial decline bleeds into domestic arguments, widening already yawning ideological rifts. An embedded national consensus can change very slowly, and then, under the right pressure, all at once. And in many subtle and sometimes chaotic ways, that trigger for change came from Trump. No dove or systematiser, he nonetheless made realism and anti-interventionism, quasi-respectable again. Elbridge Colby, who was in Trump’s Pentagon helping devise its national defence strategy, has a new book, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, making the case for a foreign policy that leaves the post-9/11 era clearly and decisively behind. The outer circle of the ‘periphery’ reduces to over-horizon, necro-tech management, and the ‘near provinces of empire’, such as Europe are dismissed as ‘sideshows’ to the main event – China. To focus on Iran or North Korea, he says, is simply misguided. It is “a realist’s book, laser-focused on China’s bid for mastery in Asia as the 21st century’s most important threat”, Ross Douthat writes in the NY Times. “All other challenges are secondary: Only China threatens American interests in a profound way, through a consolidation of economic power in Asia that imperils our prosperity and a military defeat that could shatter our alliance system. Therefore, American policy should be organized to deny Beijing regional hegemony and deter any military adventurism — first and foremost, through a stronger commitment to defending the island of Taiwan”. The Strategy of Denial presents a particularly unsentimental version of a rapidly consolidating Washington consensus. Biden’s speech justifying withdrawal from Afghanistan, in terms of an end to nation-building and focus on counter-terrorism – albeit more softly spoken – said the same as Colby. The contradictions implicit within the 9/11 era’s War on Terror, and coercive westification, may have become only too plain today with 20th anniversary hindsight, but other contradictions within the ‘Hobble China’ pivot are potentially just as fatal to its success – as were the flawed assumptions underlying the 9/11 era zeitgeist. Its’ most basic contradiction is that far from providing the balm around which Americans can gather and unify, the China pivot is likely only to loosen the glue binding a heterogeneous ‘nation’ increasingly turning in upon itself. Firstly, the ‘new consensus’ has it that the best way for America to weaken China is to make it ‘the world versus China’ – confronting it with a broad, transnational coalition, based on the value-struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. Yes, but this repeats the error underlying the 9/11 policy – namely by assuming that the rest of the world still admires and aspires to emulate American liberal democracy. Look what occurred in Afghanistan. The world has changed – deference to western values per se has evaporated. There once was a time when ‘pro-Europeans’ too, were confident that the world would almost inevitably be remade in the image of the West, as it endlessly expanded its rules, and exported its model. Since then, even the Europeans have lost confidence in a world vision, and have become psychotically more defensive (imagining looming ‘threats’ from everywhere and everything). And as the European model has hollowed out, becoming less credible, so too, Europe has and leant into raw mercantilism. The logic of the European situation is clear. It needs China, more than China needs Europe. It would be a huge ‘stretch’ therefore, for Washington to imagine that ‘the world’ might side with its democratic values against China’s ‘authoritarianism’. Just to remind, U.S. democracy was tarnished in the eyes of the world in light of the 2020 Election. And some 70–80 million Americans share that view too. We saw it nightly on our screens. Secondly, it assumes that America’s ‘corporate’, capitalist economic system is a tremendous asset in the Cold War against China. Well, it isn’t. China has its economic problems, certainly; but unlike most western states, it is trying to move away from raw neo-liberalism and endless liquidity – as the hammer set to every ‘nail’. China is deliberately turning away from this model’s distortions, sky-high housing and living-costs, huge inequalities, and collateral social damage. It would be an error to underestimate ‘the pull’ of this alt-vision (even for Europeans). China is, itself, a civilisational pole. Then thirdly, there is the basic contradiction in having a laser-like single focus on ‘Hobble China’, which is brought about only at the expense of feeding Americans’ sense of accelerating imperial decline, bleeding into domestic tensions. This is Pat Buchanan’s argument in a piece entitled, Who and What Is Tearing the U.S. Apart? He answers: “After 9/11, Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. President Barack Obama attacked Libya and plunged us into the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars. Thus, over 20 years, we have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and driven hundreds of thousands more from their homes and their countries. Are Americans really as oblivious? … Many of these peoples want us out of their countries for the same reason that 18th and 19th-century Americans wanted the French, British and Spanish out of our country and out of our hemisphere”. “Unlike previous generations, our 21st-century divisions are far broader — not just economic and political, but social, moral, cultural and racial. Abortion, same-sex marriage and transgender rights divide us. Socialism and capitalism divide us. Affirmative action, Black Lives Matter, urban crime, gun violence and critical race theory divide us. Allegations of white privilege and white supremacy, and demands that equality of opportunity give way to equity of rewards, divide us. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the wearing of masks and vaccine mandates divide us”. “The debate over American national identity is cursed seven times over”, Darel Paul, Professor of Political Science at Williams College, writes: “Does the United States even constitute a ‘nation’? In the sense of common descent (the root of “nation” is the Latin nasci, to be born) – clearly not. Widespread fear of such an ethnic sense of American identity drives considerable hostility to the very idea of nationalism. Most American elites prefer words like ‘patriotism’ … The problem with this conception of patriotism is that it is a weak glue. The recent history of the United States offers ample evidence. Rather than objects of agreement – liberty, equality, individual rights, and self-government are instead [today] the objects of discord. “Here we come to the real glue of America: From the founding of the country in the fires of war, the United States has been an expansionary republican empire ever incorporating new lands, new peoples, new goods, new resources, new ideas. This “empire of liberty,” as Thomas Jefferson called it, knew no limits … Continuous military, commercial, and cultural expansion since Jamestown and Plymouth cultivated the restlessness, vigour, optimism, self-confidence, and love of glory for which Americans have long been known. The glue of America has thus ever been what Niccolò Machiavelli called virtù in service of “a commonwealth for expansion.” Such a republic is always in tumult, yet a tumult that, if well-ordered, finds glory … “Forward motion thus becomes the lifeblood of such a polity. Without it, the purpose of the civic bonds of unity inevitably come into question. An America that is not a glorious republican empire in motion is not America, full stop. This part of the American mythos Lincoln left unsaid at Gettysburg. “Since the 1960s, the glory of the American empire of liberty has tarnished. Since the mid-2010s it has fallen under sustained internal attack. The failures of national purpose in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are amplified by the failure of globalization to generate common wealth for the commonwealth. If Americans are not united for expansionary republican greatness, what then are all these fissiparous races, creeds, and cultures bound together for? While belief that self-government may perish from the earth without American unity may have been plausible in 1863 or 1941, it is a hard sell in 2021”. Does this struggle against China make sense? Can America, whose economic and financial system today is highly precarious, afford to bludgeon China into adverse economic straits also? Can an America that off-shored much of its manufacturing capacity to China, for short-term profit, afford the de-coupling? Do American corporate leaders truly share the view that the (inevitable) consolidation of economic power in Asia imperils American prosperity, and that its consolidation would shatter their imperial outreach, dollar-based order? Possibly they do. They do fear it. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/04/2021 - 23:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 4th, 2021

The 10 nonfiction books on the 2021 National Book Award longlist

This year's finalists for the National Book Award for nonfiction include books by Hanif Abdurraqib, Clint Smith, Grace M. Cho, and Heather McGhee. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. This year's finalists for the National Book Award for nonfiction include books by Hanif Abdurraqib, Clint Smith, Grace M. Cho, and Heather McGhee. Amazon; Alyssa Powell/Insider The National Book Foundation recently published its longlist for the nonfiction National Book Award. Find the complete 2021 longlist of the 10 best nonfiction titles below. Want more books? Check out the 2021 National Book Award longlists for fiction and poetry. Every summer since 1989, five National Book Award judges have spent long sunny days reviewing over 500 nonfiction books to determine the best US nonfiction books published that year. Their top 10 are published in a longlist in September, narrowed to the top five in a shortlist in October. On November 17, one winner is awarded the National Book Award in nonfiction. Past winners include Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking," Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids," Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Between the World and Me," and Ibram X. Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America." The winners receive $10,000, and finalists receive $1,000. Both can expect an uptick in book sales and prestige. The 10 books on the 2021 National Book Award longlist for non-fiction:Descriptions are provided by Amazon and edited lightly for length and clarity. "A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance" by Hanif Abdurraqib Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $15.99At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker was 57 years old, well beyond her most prolific days. But in her speech, she was in a mood to consider her life, her legacy, and her departure from the country she was now triumphantly returning to. "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too," she told the crowd. Inspired by these few words, Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound and lasting reflection on how Black performance is inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture. Each moment in every performance he examines — whether it's the 27 seconds in "Gimme Shelter" in which Merry Clayton wails the words "rape, murder," a schoolyard fistfight, a dance marathon, or the instant in a game of spades right after the cards are dealt — has layers of resonance in Black and white cultures, the politics of American empire, and Abdurraqib's own personal history of love, grief, and performance. "Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains" by Lucas Bessire Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $19.69The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future. "Tastes Like War: A Memoir" by Grace M. Cho Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $16.51Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details — language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was 15, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, "Tastes Like War" is a hybrid text about a daughter's search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother's schizophrenia. In her mother's final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent's childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother's multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her — but also the things that kept her alive. "The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice" by Scott Ellsworth Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $21.49And then they were gone.More than 1,000 homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air. Over the course of less than 24 hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map — and erased from the history books. Official records disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst single incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for more than 50 years. But there were some secrets that would not die.A riveting and essential new book, "The Ground Breaking" not only tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa Race Massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most importantly, it recounts the ongoing archaeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families. "Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America" by Nicole Eustace Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $18.32On the eve of a major treaty conference between Iroquois leaders and European colonists in the distant summer of 1722, two white fur traders attacked an Indigenous hunter and left him for dead near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Though virtually forgotten today, this act of brutality set into motion a remarkable series of criminal investigations and cross-cultural negotiations that challenged the definition of justice in early America.An absorbing chronicle built around an extraordinary group of characters — from the slain man's resilient widow to the Indigenous diplomat known as "Captain Civility" to the scheming governor of Pennsylvania — "Covered with Night" transforms a single event into an unforgettable portrait of early America. "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together" by Heather McGhee Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.90What would make a society drain its public swimming baths and fill them with concrete rather than opening them to everyone? Economics researcher Heather McGhee sets out across America to learn why white voters so often act against their own interests. Why do they block changes that would help them, and even destroy their own advantages, whenever people of color also stand to benefit? Their tragedy is that they believe they can't win unless somebody else loses. But this is a lie. McGhee marshals overwhelming economic evidence, and a profound well of empathy, to reveal the surprising truth: even racists lose out under white supremacy. And US racism is everybody's problem. As McGhee shows, it was bigoted lending policies that laid the ground for the 2008 financial crisis. There can be little prospect of tackling global climate change until America's zero-sum delusions are defeated. Note: This is set to be adapted as a Spotify Podcast series by Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground. "The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War" by Louis Menand Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $20.49How did elitism and an anti-totalitarian skepticism of passion and ideology give way to a new sensibility defined by freewheeling experimentation and loving the Beatles? How was the ideal of "freedom" applied to causes that ranged from anti-communism and civil rights to radical acts of self-creation via art and even crime? With the wit and insight familiar to readers of "The Metaphysical Club" and his New Yorker essays, Menand takes us inside Hannah Arendt's Manhattan, the Paris of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Merce Cunningham and John Cage's residencies at North Carolina's Black Mountain College, and the Memphis studio where Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley created new music for the American teenager. Stressing the rich flow of ideas across the Atlantic, he also shows how Europeans played a vital role in promoting and influencing American art and entertainment. By the end of the Vietnam era, the American government had lost the moral prestige it enjoyed at the end of the Second World War, but America's once-despised culture had become respected and adored. With unprecedented verve and range, this book explains how that happened.Note: Menand's earlier book "The Metaphysical Club" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. "All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake" by Tiya Miles Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $24.99In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis, the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag with a few precious items as a token of love and to try to ensure Ashley's survival. Soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold.Decades later, Ashley's granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the bag in spare yet haunting language — including Rose's wish that "It be filled with my Love always." Ruth's sewn words, the reason we remember Ashley's sack today, evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations. Now, in this illuminating, deeply moving new book inspired by Rose's gift to Ashley, historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women's faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives — and the lives of so many women like them — to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. "How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America" by Clint Smith Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $17.84Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks — those that are honest about the past and those that are not — that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation's collective history, and ourselves.It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation–turned–maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, "How the Word Is Passed" illustrates how some of our country's most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted. "The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship" by Deborah Willis Amazon Available at Amazon and Bookshop from $31.50Though both the Union and Confederate armies excluded African American men from their initial calls to arms, many of the men who eventually served were Black. Simultaneously, photography culture blossomed ― marking the Civil War as the first conflict to be extensively documented through photographs. In The Black Civil War Soldier, Deb Willis explores the crucial role of photography in (re)telling and shaping African American narratives of the Civil War, pulling from a dynamic visual archive that has largely gone unacknowledged.With over seventy images, "The Black Civil War Soldier" contains a huge breadth of primary and archival materials, many of which are rarely reproduced. The photographs are supplemented with handwritten captions, letters, and other personal materials; Willis not only dives into the lives of Black Union soldiers, but also includes stories of other African Americans involved with the struggle ― from left-behind family members to female spies. Willis thus compiles a captivating memoir of photographs and words and examines them together to address themes of love and longing; responsibility and fear; commitment and patriotism; and ― most predominantly ― African American resilience. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 27th, 2021

The 10 best translated books on the National Book Awards" 2021 longlist

The National Book Awards' translated literature longlist includes international works published in Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, Arabic, and more. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. The National Book Awards' longlist for best translated books includes international titles that were originally published in Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, Arabic, German, and Russian. Amazon; Rachel Mendelson/Insider The National Book Awards translated literature longlist for 2021 was recently announced. The books were originally published in 7 different languages including Spanish, French, and Chinese. Want more books? Check out the 2021 National Book Award longlists for fiction and poetry. The best translated literature in 2021, according to the National Book Award's panel of five judges, spans both the globe and genres.The judges announced the translated literature longlist this week, which celebrated international works that were originally published in seven different languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. The books span a multitude of genres too, from fictional short stories to creative nonfiction. In Nona Fernández's "The Twilight Zone", a member of the Chilean secret police walks into a dissident magazine office and confesses to some of the worst crimes committed under the Pinochet dictatorship, kicking off the narrator's lifelong obsession with "the man who tortured people." "An Inventory of Losses" catalogs 12 extinct things - from tigers to islands - while "In Memory of Memory" examines the fallibility and impact of memory, lore, and national history. And history and mythology blend together as a woman named Xiumi campaigns for autonomy in Ge Fei's "Peach Blossom Paradise" during China's Hundred Days' Reform. Below, you'll find all 10 titles that made it onto the 2021 translated literature longlist. The shortlist of the top five will come out on October 5, and the winner will be announced on November 17.The 10 books on the 2021 National Book Award longlist for translated literature:Descriptions are provided by Amazon and edited lightly for length and clarity. "Waiting for the Waters to Rise" by ​​Maryse Condé and translated from French by Richard Philcox Bookshop "Waiting for the Waters to Rise" by ​​Maryse Condé and translated from French by Richard Philcox, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.63Babakar is a doctor living alone, with only the memories of his childhood in Mali. In his dreams, he receives visits from his blue-eyed mother and his ex-lover Azelia, both now gone, as are the hopes and aspirations he's carried with him since his arrival in Guadeloupe. Until, one day, the child Anaïs comes into his life, forcing him to abandon his solitude. Anaïs's Haitian mother died in childbirth, leaving her daughter destitute ― now Babakar is all she has, and he wants to offer this little girl a future. Together they fly to Haiti, a beautiful, mysterious island plagued by violence, government corruption, and rebellion. Once there, Babakar and his two friends, the Haitian Movar and the Palestinian Fouad, three different identities looking for a more compassionate world, begin a desperate search for Anaïs's family. "Winter in Sokcho" by Elisa Shua Dusapin and translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins Bookshop "Winter in Sokcho" by Elisa Shua Dusapin and translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $13.75It's winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, and beyond the beach, guns point out from the North's watchtowers. A young French-Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: A French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an "authentic" Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows ― the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she's pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen. "Peach Blossom Paradise" by Ge Fei and translated from Chinese by Canaan Morse Bookshop "Peach Blossom Paradise" by Ge Fei and translated from Chinese by Canaan Morse, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.51In 1898, reformist intellectuals in China persuaded the young emperor that it was time to transform his sclerotic empire into a prosperous modern state. The Hundred Days' Reform that followed was a moment of unprecedented change and extraordinary hope — brought to an abrupt end by a bloody military coup. Dashed expectations would contribute to the revolutionary turn that Chinese history would soon take, leading in time to the deaths of millions."Peach Blossom Paradise," set at the time of the reform, is the story of Xiumi, the daughter of a wealthy landowner and former government official who falls prey to insanity and disappears. Days later, a man with a gold cicada in his pocket turns up at his estate and is inexplicably welcomed as a relative. This mysterious man has a great vision of reforging China as an egalitarian utopia, and he will stop at nothing to make it real.It is his own plans, however, which come to nothing, and his "little sister" Xiumi is left to take up arms against a Confucian world in which women are chattel. Her campaign for change and her struggle to seize control over her own body are continually threatened by the violent whims of men who claim to be building paradise. "The Twilight Zone" by Nona Fernández and translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer Bookshop "The Twilight Zone" by Nona Fernández and translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $13.99It is 1984 in Chile, in the middle of the Pinochet dictatorship. A member of the secret police walks into the office of a dissident magazine and finds a reporter, who records his testimony. The narrator of Nona Fernández's mesmerizing and terrifying novel "The Twilight Zone" is a child when she first sees this man's face on the magazine's cover with the words "I Tortured People." His complicity in the worst crimes of the regime and his commitment to speaking about them haunt the narrator into her adulthood and career as a writer and documentarian.Like a secret service agent from the future, through extraordinary feats of the imagination, Fernández follows the "man who tortured people" to places that archives can't reach, into the sinister twilight zone of history where morning routines, a game of chess, Yuri Gagarin, and the eponymous TV show of the novel's title coexist with the brutal yet commonplace machinations of the regime.Note: Author Nona Fernández and translator Natasha Wimmer were also made the National Book Award longlist in 2019 with "Space Invaders." "On the Origin of Species and Other Stories" by Bo-Young Kim and translated from Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell Bookshop "On the Origin of Species and Other Stories" by Bo-Young Kim and translated from Korean by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.39Straddling science fiction, fantasy, and myth, the writings of award-winning author Bo-Young Kim have garnered a cult following in South Korea, where she is widely acknowledged as a pioneer and inspiration. "On the Origin of Species" makes available for the first time in English some of Kim's most acclaimed stories, as well as an essay on science fiction. Her strikingly original, thought-provoking work teems with human and non-human beings, all of whom are striving to survive through evolution, whether biologically, technologically, or socially. Kim's literature of ideas offers some of the most rigorous and surprisingly poignant reflections on posthuman existence being written today. "When We Cease to Understand the World" by Benjamín Labatut and translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West Bookshop "When We Cease to Understand the World" by Benjamín Labatut and translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.16Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger — these are some of the luminaries into whose troubled lives Benjamín Labatut thrusts the reader, showing us how they grappled with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, alienate friends and lovers, descend into isolation and insanity. Some of their discoveries reshape human life for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.At a breakneck pace and with a wealth of disturbing detail, Labatut uses the imaginative resources of fiction to tell the stories of the scientists and mathematicians who expanded our notions of the possible.Note: This book was also shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. "Rabbit Island: Stories" by Elvira Navarro and translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney Bookshop "Rabbit Island: Stories" by Elvira Navarro and translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.79These 11 stories combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called "non-inventor" brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results.In "Myotragus" a privileged man's understanding of the world is violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere in these stories that map dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards, an unsightly "paw" grows from a writer's earlobe and a grandmother floats silently in the corner of the room. "An Inventory of Losses" by Judith Schalansky and translated from German by Jackie Smith Bookshop "An Inventory of Losses" by Judith Schalansky and translated from German by Jackie Smith, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.95Each disparate object described in this book ― a Caspar David Friedrich painting, a species of tiger, a villa in Rome, a Greek love poem, an island in the Pacific ― shares a common fate: It no longer exists, except as the dead-end of a paper trail. Recalling the works of W. G. Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, or Rebecca Solnit, "An Inventory of Losses" is a beautiful evocation of 12 specific treasures that have been lost to the world forever, and, taken as a whole, opens mesmerizing new vistas of how we can think about extinction and loss.With meticulous research and a vivid awareness of why we should care about these losses, Judith Schalansky, the acclaimed author of "Atlas of Remote Islands," lets these objects speak for themselves: She ventriloquizes the tone of other sources, burrows into the language of contemporaneous accounts, and deeply interrogates the very notion of memory. "In Memory of Memory" by Maria Stepanova and translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale Bookshop "In Memory of Memory" by Maria Stepanova and translated from Russian by Sasha Dugdale, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $16.91With the death of her aunt, the narrator is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: A withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century.In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, "In Memory of Memory" is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms ― essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue, and historical documents ― Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.Note: This book was also shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. "Planet of Clay" by Samar Yazbek and translated from Arabic by Leri Price Bookshop "Planet of Clay" by Samar Yazbek and translated from Arabic by Leri Price, available on Amazon and Bookshop from $15.63Rima, a young girl from Damascus, longs to walk, to be free to follow the will of her feet, but instead is perpetually constrained. Rima finds refuge in a fantasy world full of colored crayons, secret planets, and "The Little Prince," reciting passages of the Qur'an like a mantra as everything and everyone around her is blown to bits. One day while taking a bus through Damascus, a soldier opens fire and her mother is killed. Rima, wounded, is taken to a military hospital before her brother leads her to the besieged area of Ghouta ― where, between bombings, she writes her story. In "Planet of Clay," Samar Yazbek offers a surreal depiction of the horrors taking place in Syria, in vivid and poetic language and with a sharp eye for detail and beauty.Note: Leri Price was previously recognized by the National Book Award in 2019 for translating "Death Is Hard Work" by Khaled Khalifa.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 27th, 2021

Meet Hui Ka Yan, the billionaire at the head of Evergrande, the massive Chinese property development company in danger of defaulting on $300 billion in loans

The property giant's founder grew up in a rural family and worked in the steel industry. Now, he's one of China's richest men. Bobby Yip/Reuters Hui Ka Yan is the founder and chairman of property giant Evergrande. He was born in a rural village and worked in the steel industry before founding Evergrande in 1997.While his company is now $300 billion in debt, Hui has made $5.3 billion in dividends over the last four years.See more stories on Insider's business page. Evergrande, China's second biggest property developer, is $300 billion in debt - the largest amount of debt of any company in the world. An Evergrande housing complex. STR/ Getty images Property giant Evergrande is teetering on the edge of defaulting on $300 billion worth of loans that it took to build projects it can't sell off.With over 1,300 real estate projects and 7.3 billion square feet of contracted land, Evergrande's possible collapse has experts worried that it could rattle the entire Chinese economy in one fell swoop.Some are calling it China's potential "Lehman Brothers" moment.But while the company continues to sag under the weight of its liabilities, its chairman and founder, the billionaire Hui Ka Yan, has been earning billions from Evergrande.Keep scrolling to find out more about Hui Ka Yan.  Hui Ka Yan was worth $27.7 billion in March, though he's lost a substantial amount of that wealth since. China Evergrande Group Chairman of the Board Hui Ka-yan attends China Evergrande Group 2016 Annual Results at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong in Admiralty. Xiaomei Chen/South China Morning Post via Getty Images Hui Ka Yan, 62, was worth $27.7 billion in March, according to a Forbes billionaire list that placed him as the 53rd richest man in the world.But after Evergrande's stock plunged 80% this year, he lost a significant amount of his wealth.Accounts vary at the total loss. Forbes estimates he's now worth $11.1 billion. Meanwhile, Bloomberg's billionaire index puts his net worth at $7.5 billion after losing $15.8 billion of his fortune this year.Either way, he's still exceedingly rich. Hui, whose name is Xu Jiayin in Chinese Mandarin, has also been a professor at his alma mater, the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, since 2003. He's currently married to Ding Yumei, a woman from a well-off family whom he met while working one of his first jobs at an iron and steel company, according to local media outlet Sports QQ. The couple has two children and lives in Shenzhen, China. He grew up in a rural village in the Chinese province of Henan and came from a working-class family. Evergrande Group Chairman Hui Ka Yan (C) attends Evergrande New Energy Auto Global Strategic Partners Summit on November 12, 2019 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China. VCG/VCG via Getty Images Hui was born on October 9, 1958, in a rural village of 50,000 people in China's Henan province. His father was a retired soldier who fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s to 1940s and later worked in a warehouse, according to an article posted to the news arm of Sina.After graduating high school, he worked at a cement factory and his father's warehouse, before starting his university education at the Wuhan Institute of Iron and Steel in 1978, where he studied metallurgy, the outlet reported.    Hui worked for 10 years at a steel factory in the 1980s, before founding Evergrande. A worker monitors next to an oven during a government organised tour at a Tiangong International plant, makers of high quality steel and tools, in Zhenjiang in China's eastern Jiangsu province on October 12, 2020. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images After graduating from college, Hui was assigned to work at a heat treatment shop in Wuyang Iron and Steel Company, where he met his wife. He rose quickly through the ranks and was promoted to director of the company in 1985, according to Sports QQ.After working ten years there, Hui resigned in 1992 and moved to Shenzhen, where he took up leadership positions in a trading company.In 1996, he moved to Guangzhou and founded the Evergrande Group, as China began its rapid urbanization, and its housing market started to grow. In 2020, Evergrande drew in around $76 billion in revenue. Workers walk in front of the Evergrande headquarters in Shenzhen, southeastern China on September 26, 2021. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images Hui focused his company mostly on building high-rise apartments, taking loans to build at low costs, and then selling them off-plan, meaning investors and buyers could purchase the properties before they're built. Under Hui, Evergrande was raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue a year when it went public in 2009 on the Hong Kong stock exchange.By 2020, Evergrande was hauling in $76 billion a year in revenue and $18 billion in gross profit and had expanded its real estate empire to 280 cities, per its annual report. It currently has around 200,000 full-time employees, and according to its website, claims to have generated approximately 3.8 million jobs in China.But its debts also piled up. The company started borrowing more, racking up $200 billion worth of liabilities from 2014 to 2020 alone, according to company reports. In the same time frame, Hui grew his fortune by $30 billion, partially off dividends while his company became more indebted. Hui Ka Yan, a member of the CPPCC National Committee and chairman of Evergrande Group, attends a press conference at the fifth session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee on March 9, 2017 in Beijing, China VCG/VCG via Getty Images As Evergrande's liabilities started accelerating in 2014, so did Hui's wealth. He grew his fortune to a peak of $36.2 billion in 2019, according to Forbes. That same year Evergrande's debts jumped $42.8 billion.Hui, who owns 71% of Evergrande's shares, has been paid $8 billion in dividends in the last ten years, reported Forbes. He received $5.3 billion of these dividends from 2017 to 2020, when Evergrande's debt started burgeoning to the $300 billion it is today.Even if the value of his shares in Evergrande reaches zero, the fortune he has made from his dividends would still make him one of the 100 richest men in China, noted Forbes reporter Hank Tucker. Hui diversified Evergrande, diving into soccer, bottled water, and an amusement park. Guangzhou Evergrande FC playing its opponents in the AFC Champions League. Xinhua/Nikku via Getty Images Hui's ambitions didn't stop at real estate. He acquired a soccer team from Guangzhou in 2010, and hired World Cup-winning managers Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe Scolari.The team, called Guangzhou Evergrande FC, has won the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League twice — in 2013 and 2015 — and has gotten first place in the Chinese Super League eight times in the last decade. It was also the first Asian club to be listed for an IPO in China in 2015, but has recently been hit with losses and plans to delist itself, reported Bloomberg. Earlier this year, it also attempted to distance itself from Evergrande by removing the company's name from its name. Evergrande has also made forays into the bottled water market, and owns a 49% stake in Evergrande Spring, which sells water in 500,000 locations around China, according to its 2020 annual report.Among its other investments, including stakes in tourism, healthcare, and finance, it's building an amusement park that Hui said in Evergrande's report combines "physical amusement and online entertainment." Called Evergrande Fairyland, it's meant to cater to kids under 15. He wants to beat Tesla on the new-energy car market. The Hengchi car launched by Evergrande in April. Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images Hui might also be looking to challenge Elon Musk's Tesla as a leader in the energy vehicle market. In 2019, Evergrande spent billions in research and development to create 14 car models, per its annual report.A year later, it unveiled six electric car models, vowing to become the world's leading electric vehicle producer within five years.Dubbed the "Hengchi" line, the cars range from SUVs to sedans. But Evergrande Auto hasn't actually sold any cars, Bloomberg reported in April.On Monday, it announced it would put on hold its plans for a listing on the Chinese market, while Evergrande as a whole deals with its debt issues, according to Nikkei."It's a weird company," Bill Russo, the founder and CEO of Automobility Ltd., told Bloomberg. "They've poured a lot of money in that hasn't really returned anything, plus they're entering an industry in which they have very limited understanding." Hui's Evergrande group has been rebuked by Chinese officials, but he doesn't seem to be under fire at the moment. Professor Hui Ka Yan (centre), Chairman of the Board, Evergrande Real Estate Group, attends the Company's interim results announcement 2015 press conference at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, Central. Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty Images According to Evergrande's annual report, Hui is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference — an official group of Communist party members who advise the Chinese government and its legislative bodies. As such, he's generally avoided trouble with Beijing.When Evergrande's debt problems started to surface, and the company began making headlines, China's top regulators sent out a rare reprimand to the real estate company in August, telling it to fix its loan issues and stop spreading "untrue" information.But just a month before that, Hui was photographed posing at Tiananmen Square at China's 100th anniversary, a sign that he remains in good standing with the ruling party.Still, Montreal-based researchers who study Chinese elite politics told The Financial Times that being extended an invitation to the anniversary meant that Hui is on leader Xi Jinping's "radar," which usually bodes bad news.Evergrande and Hui Ka Yan's representatives did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 27th, 2021