There were so many lies in Vice President Kamala Harris’ and President Joe Biden’s presentations on guns Thursday that it is hard to know where to start. One thing is certain, though: The media fact-checkers won’t question their claims.
Here are just a few of the false ones:
Since the Brady background checks began in 1994, there have been 3.5 million initial denials. However, it is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. It is quite another to stop a law-abiding citizen from buying a gun just because his or her name is similar to a felon’s. In 2017, for example, there were 112,000 initial denials for supposedly attempted prohibited purchases, but just 12 federal prosecutions by June 2018. The reason is that these weren’t real cases.
The background check system is a mess, with the mistakes primarily born by minorities through no fault of their own. The error rate for black males is three times their share of the population.
Biden says that if there had only been more than three days to check Dylann Roof’s background, Roof would have been stopped from buying a gun, thereby preventing the horrible Charleston, S.C., church shooting. But that is a lie. You can’t buy a gun if you have a felony or certain misdemeanor convictions, or if you are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime with a possible prison sentence of at least one year. Since Roof’s arrest was for a misdemeanor drug offense, which had a maximum possible sentence of six months, a longer waiting period would not have blocked his gun purchase.
If Democrats want to change the law so that any misdemeanor arrest prevents gun purchases, this would at least be related to the Charleston case. But Democrats want to impose up to a 30-day waiting period without explicitly stating that is their real aim. If they want a long waiting period, they should make a case for why this would somehow be desirable. Instead, Democrats pretend that their proposal would have stopped the Charleston shooting when their actual goal is to obtain a long waiting period.
The president claims this is the top change he wants. In fact, however, if gunmakers make defective guns, you can sue them. Likewise, if they break the law (e.g., sell a firearm without a background check), you can sue them. Biden’s proposal is very different from current law. He wants gun manufacturers held civilly liable for misuse of guns they sell. This would allow lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers whenever a crime, accident, or suicide occurs with a gun. The straightforward result would be to put gunmakers out of business.
Imagine what would happen to the car industry if similar rules were applied. The National Safety Council estimates that 39,404 Americans died and 4.5 million were injured from car accidents in 2018. Cars are also frequently used to commit crimes.
Gun control advocates frequently claim that over 90% of Americans support background checks for private transfers of guns. Yet, the last time such laws were proposed to voters, they rejected them. When Michael Bloomberg got universal background check initiatives onto Maine and Nevada’s ballots, for example, he lost in Maine by four percentage points and won in Nevada by just 0.8 percentage points.
This tough sledding wasn’t for lack of money. In Maine, Bloomberg outspent his opponents by over six times. In Nevada, he spent an incredible $35.30 per vote — three times more than his opponents. If over 90% of Americans supported these laws, this type of spending would be unnecessary.
No sudden change in gun control laws caused last year’s spike in homicides. Instead, the real explanation is simple, and something Biden refused to consider: prisons released a large number of inmates because of COVID-19, politicians ordered police to stand down, police department budgets were cut, and prosecutors refused to prosecute criminals.
The president might not follow international news closely, but mass public shootings are much more common and deadly in the rest of the world than they are in the United States. The U.S. contains 4.6% of the world’s population, yet accounts for only 1% of the world’s shooters. Over the last decade, Europe has experienced deadlier mass public shootings than any of those in the U.S. -- ever. In November 2015, for example, 130 people were shot to death at a concert in Paris. In July 2011, 67 people were shot to death in Norway. European countries such as France, Finland, Norway, and a number of Eastern European countries have higher per capita death rates from mass public shootings than the United States does. Yet, all of these countries have stricter gun control laws than we do.
These are just a few of the false claims made on Thursday. No, the rules for buying guns at gun shows are no different than buying them anywhere else. And no, when guns are unavailable neither the suicides nor the suicide attempts drop. Unfortunately, the liberal fact-checkers - as usual - are nowhere to be found.
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Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “Gun Control Myths.” Until last month, Lott was the senior adviser for research and statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. Thomas Massie is a Republican member of the House who has represented Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District since 2012.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to the Sunday talk shows to put Moscow on notice after Ukraine's leaders have alleged a nearly unprecedented Russian forces build-up along the border... bigger than any time since 2014.
Blinken said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Russia faces "consequences" if at any point it acts "aggressively" towards Ukraine:
"I have to tell you I have real concerns about Russia's actions on the borders of Ukraine," Blinken warned. "That's why we're in very close contact, in close coordination, with our allies and partners in Europe. All of us share that concern."
"President Biden's been very clear about this. If Russia acts recklessly, or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences," the secretary of state said further.
But when pressed on potential military options on the table, he responded "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals."
He cited Russian "actions" on the border at a moment of heighted military exercises that's involved the mustering of many thousands of additional troops, far more than normal. Here's more of the Sunday statements in context:
"As we speak right now," Blinken told Todd, "I have to tell you I have real concerns about Russia's actions on the borders of Ukraine. There are more Russian forces massed on those borders than at any time since 2014 when Russia first invaded. That's why we're in very close contact, in close coordination, with our allies and partners in Europe."
He added: "President Biden's been very clear about this. If Russia acts recklessly, or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences."
The Kremlin on Friday had raised the alarm over the potential for broader military conflict in the region which it blamed on Kiev for intentionally stoking tensions and making 'false' allegations of a Russian planned offensive. The Russians are blaming the Ukrainian side for the renewed outbreak of shooting and shelling in Donbass.
WATCH: Sec. State Blinken has "real concerns about Russia's actions on the borders of Ukraine."@SecBlinken: "The question is, 'Is Russia going to continue to act aggressively and recklessly?' If it does, the president's been clear, there'll be costs, there'll be consequences." pic.twitter.com/Qy0aiBkSK6— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) April 11, 2021
"The escalation of tensions in the southeast of Ukraine justifies the measures Russia is taking," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. "The trend in the behavior of the Ukrainian side creates the risk of a resumption of full-scale military action."
Just as US media is now hyping a "what next?!" doomsday scenario over Ukraine, it appears (dangerously) some Russian officials are doing the same, as Rabobank described at the end of this past week:
A senior Russian military official yesterday stated the start of major military action in Eastern Ukraine would mark the beginning of the end for the country(!); and a Russian friend gave me an (unconfirmed) report that a TV channel he was watching last night had talking heads suggesting it was necessary to set off a nuclear bomb in the ocean to send a signal to the US --which is about to send naval vessels to the Black Sea-- that they need to back off. One *hopes* this is all quixotic: markets certainly believe that to be the case, and so continue to rally on the new meme of --a lack of-- windmills.
And of course Putin himself has weighed in, charging that it's Ukraine that's engaged in "dangerous provocative actions" against Russian-speaking separatists in the eastern Donbass region. He made the accusation in a phone call Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, emphasizing that Russian troops are merely responding to initial Ukrainian provocations.
Do your eyes gloss over when you see the words “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act”? Mine do.
Yet the subject of Big Tech’s might — Should Facebook have the power to ban a president? Should Amazon have the power to ban the sale of a controversial book? Should Twitter have the power to permanently bar a user over a single tweet? And if not, what should the government be doing about it? — is both fascinating and incredibly important.
I don’t think there is a group left in America who is happy about the power that companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google have arrogated to themselves. According to a recent poll from Vox and Data for Progress, 59% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans think Big Tech’s economic power is a problem. It’s hard to think of another issue with that kind of bipartisan consensus.
The nature of your anger, of course, depends on where you sit. (Twitter’s decision to ban Trump in January found 87% approval from Democrats and a mere 28% of Republicans in the same poll.) But the point is that this subject touches everyone.
So why is so much of the writing about tech so confusing? One of the reasons it confuses, I think, is that the loudest “progressive” and “conservative” arguments are the opposite of what you’d imagine.
Progressives are supposed to be against corporate power. And yet on this subject, they are the ones pushing for more of it. They are enraged that these companies don’t crack down harder on “disinformation,” arguing that the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world put profit above principle when they allow groups like QAnon to run wild on their platforms. Sure, President Trump was banned, but only after he lost the election. Why didn’t it happen earlier? Private companies are not hamstrung by the First Amendment, so why do they hesitate to ban dangerous people whose online words lead to real-world violence?
Conservatives are supposed to be for small government and allergic to sweeping intervention. And yet some of the country’s most prominent Republicans find themselves arguing against free enterprise. The crux of their argument, pushed most passionately by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, goes like this: The law is handing Big Tech companies a ridiculous and unfair advantage. Section 230 grants companies like Twitter protection from the kind of legal liability that makes a traditional publisher, like a newspaper, vulnerable. Why should tech companies have that privilege, given that they obviously make editorial decisions? Fairness would begin with a repeal of Section 230.
I’m not a person typically accused of being indecisive. But about this issue I feel genuinely torn.
One part of me says: Government should stay the hell away from private companies. Another part of me, maybe the more passionate part, argues back: Yeah, but Google seems much more like a public road than a private club.
The case for the former — government, stay out — has been made powerfully by former Michigan congressman Justin Amash and the libertarians of Reason Magazine. Their argument is the classic one: the solution for bad speech is more speech, not censorship or regulation. If you want a sense of what it would look like to get the government involved in tech, well, just pay a visit to the DMV. Or watch Lily Tomlin’s classic SNL sketch about the phone company: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”
But others, most notably NYU law professor Richard Epstein, have made a strong case for the latter. Epstein has argued that these internet behemoths need to be understood as public utilities or common carriers. Just as a railroad can’t refuse to transport a person because they believe the Earth is flat, or a phone company can’t drop a call if the person is talking about Pizzagate, neither should online monopolies have the power to do so.
It’s a provocative and compelling argument that turns, of course, on whether these companies are, in fact, monopolistic. Those making it would point to some basic numbers. Among them: When Google’s Search engine accounts for 90% of market share can anyone convincingly argue that DuckDuckGo is a real competitor? If Amazon, which has an 80% market share in digital books, blocks the sale of your ebook, do you really have a plausible alternative method of distribution?
The Epstein argument seems to have gotten a powerful boost earlier this week from Justice Clarence Thomas.
In President Joe Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, handed down on Monday, the Supreme Court tossed out a lower court ruling which held that, in blocking people on Twitter, President Trump violated their First Amendment rights. The case doesn’t matter: Trump’s no longer president, so the whole thing is moot. What matters is the concurrence written by Thomas, which laid out a roadmap for possible government regulation of companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter.
The thrust of Thomas’s argument:
Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors. Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.
It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information. A person always could choose to avoid the toll bridge or train and instead swim the Charles River or hike the Oregon Trail. But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.
It is worth reading the whole thing. Justice Thomas clearly wants to see a case on this.
David Sacks, a venture capitalist with a consistently insightful Twitter account, thinks that would be a good thing, not least because the current consensus position among conservatives is misguided.
Republicans like Hawley and Ted Cruz are understandably angry about the status quo, but they’ve latched onto the wrong remedy, Sacks says. “Conservative demands to repeal 230 are basically a rage tweet. It wouldn’t stop Big Tech censorship, it would make it worse,” he told me in a conversation this week. “Ending Section 230 would only make companies like Facebook and Google censor more because more liability would make them even more risk-averse about the speech they allow on their platforms. In the meantime, it would also hurt small, innovative tech companies who would be vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits.”
The Epstein position, Sacks thinks, has it right. “Why try to incentivize good behavior by threatening to punish Big Tech? Just require it. That’s what the common carrier solution does.”
I think Sacks’s view of the big picture here is quite convincing:
“When speech got digitized, the town square got privatized and the First Amendment got euthanized. If you can’t speak online — or if your ability to speak online is controlled by a tiny handful of companies with no due process — how do you really have a free speech right in this country any more?” he said. “Imposing a common carrier obligation on Big Tech would prevent these corporations from doing what they are doing now: discriminating on the basis of creed.”
As Sacks makes his case, I can hear the retort I’ve heard others make so many times: If you hate a platform so much, nothing’s stopping you from making a new one.
That argument feels flimsier than ever these days. When Trump got banned from Twitter, the argument was: So what? It’s Twitter. And Twitter is a private company. Jack Dorsey can boot whoever he wants. And anyway, Trump can go to Parler.
But then Parler got kicked out of the Apple and Google app stores, so the argument became: well, you can still create a website. But then AWS stopped hosting Parler. As Sacks put it: “You shouldn’t have to build a new Internet to post a tweet.”
When Dr. Seuss’s estate discontinued six of his titles over apparent racism, that’s one thing. When eBay decided they would not allow the reselling of those titles? That’s something else.
When 60 Minutes decides to selectively edit an interview with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, that’s one thing. But when YouTube decides to delete a video of the governor criticizing the various Covid-19 policies with physicians and scientists? That’s something else.
Big Tech companies insist that they are just removing “disinformation” and “hate speech” from their platforms, but as we’ve seen, these are terms with ever-evolving definitions. Tom Cotton’s June Op-Ed in The New York Times, for example, was literal violence according to more than 800 New York Times staffers. Never mind that Cotton’s argument was one at least 60% of Americans agreed with.
In the past few months, for example, Amazon updated its content guidelines by adding the following line: “We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech.” In October, the company barred Eli and Shelby Steele’s documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” (After public outcry, the company reversed the decision.) Ryan Anderson, a conservative author and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had his book about transgender issues banned from the online marketplace in March. As of today, it remains impossible to buy on Amazon.
Check out that film and that book. Controversial, perhaps. But do they strike you as anything within the realm of hateful?
Such politically motivated silencing has profound political consequences.
Think, for example, about the Hunter Biden laptop story. In the month before the 2020 presidential election, Twitter locked the New York Post, which broke the story, out of its own Twitter account for weeks and refused to let the paper back onto the platform until it deleted its tweets about its own reporting. Facebook suppressed the story on users’ newsfeeds. The story was, variously, a conspiracy theory, disinformation, misinformation, a Russian plot, or irresponsible because the documents were unverified. (Was the same standard applied to the Steele dossier?)
Fast forward to this week: The laptop story has since been mostly backed up. Jack Dorsey now says how he handled the Post story was a “total mistake.” But should he have the power to censor a story of political consequence, one that could shift the outcome of an election?
More to the point: When every single major tech company is making the exact same decision over who to deplatform and what to ban, doesn’t that seem like the behavior of a cartel? Why should a handful of billionaires have the power to decide that some Americans’ speech rights are more sacred than others?
Alain Finkielkraut l'accusa de conduire une « critique totalitaire ». Edwy Plenel, condamna sa « vision schématique de l'univers médiatique ». Philippe Sollers le jugea « stalinien typique » et « mauvais écrivain ». Olivier Mongin (directeur de la revue Esprit) le peignit en « singe savant militant », chef (...)Editorial
Iran's Atomic Energy commission has announced an "incident" has disrupted the power grid of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility on Sunday, which suspiciously comes after the opening days of nuclear talks in Vienna involving the US "indirectly" negotiating with the Iranians in what have been reported as "positive" engagements.
In an exclusive report The Jerusalem Post has revealed that the mysterious incident appears a deliberate attack by an outside entity and that damage is far more extensive than what's currently being made official by the Islamic Republic. It's "not an accident" - the report emphasizes.
The Natanz facility, it must be remembered, was previously sabotaged in a June 2020 attack which resulted in a major fire - later widely pinned in Israeli intelligence. This latest major blackout at the facility is further already resulting in widespread suspicions that Israel launched another devastating cyberattack on the site.
According to The Jerusalem Post:
Based on reports, it seems that the so-called accident was caused by a cyber attack, possibly by Israel. Natanz has in the past been targeted by Israeli cyber operations, according to foreign reports. In 2010, the Stuxnet virus attacked the facility in a joint operation with the United States, destroying over 1,000 centrifuges. No injuries or pollution were caused by the incident, Kamalvandi said, adding that the cause of the incident is under investigation and further information will be announced later.
There’s been an “incident” disrupting the power grid of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, according to the #Iran Atomic Energy Commission.— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) April 11, 2021
Hardliners in Iranian parliament are also pointing the finger at Tel Aviv:
Malek Shariati Niasar, an Iranian MP and spokesman for a parliamentary energy commission, wrote that the incident is highly suspected as "sabotage," as it occurred on Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day and amid the renewal of talks between Iran and western nations on the JCPOA nuclear deal.
Further suggesting a covert act of sabotage by the Israelis, the Jewish state's leaders including PM Netanyahu have lately doubled down on threats to unilaterally "act" against Iran should the US rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA).
The Vienna talks no doubt make the Israelis highly nervous, and they've appeared quite open about willingness to derail the process by any means. Also important is that Natanz is a key site of restarted and ramped up enrichment activities designed to add pressure on Washington toward rejoining the nuclear deal.
Le fondateur de WikiLeaks, dont les travaux lui ont valu de nombreux prix de journalisme à travers le monde, est incarcéré dans une prison de haute sécurité depuis le 11 avril 2019. Le calvaire qu’il traverse se poursuit depuis plus d’une décennie. Ce 11 avril 2021, un ciel gris recouvre la banlieue est de Londres, où se trouve la prison de haute […]
L’article Aujourd’hui, cela fera 2 ans que Julian Assange est en prison et les médias n’en parlent toujours pas est apparu en premier sur Le Média pour Tous.
It seems like it was just last week that we were talking about adding exposure to portfolios. To wit:
“I suspect we may have some additional quarter-end rebalancing risk early next week. However, buying on Thursday next week, as second-quarter positioning gets underway, would not be surprising. As such, hold positions early next week and look for weaknesses to add to exposures as needed.
Such turned out to be the case as the markets slopped around early in the week. That changed as markets exploded to new highs on Wednesday and Thursday as portfolio managers charged back into the stocks sold off during the Archegos debacle.
With this understanding, you can appreciate why we increased our equity exposure last week. Currently, we are at full equity allocations, with a slight increase in the duration of bonds. Such leaves our portfolios at model weights in cash with bond durations shorter than our benchmark.”
While the rally was strong with the breakout to new highs, it also sent our “money flow buy signal” back to levels that previously coincided with market congestion (blue shaded area)
Importantly, the market is trading well into 3-standard deviations above the 50-dma, and is overbought by just about every measure. Such suggests a short-term “cooling-off” period is likely. With the weekly “buy signals” intact, the markets should hold above key support levels during the next consolidation phase.
However, risks are building that has preceded more significant market declines in the past (5-10%.) As I noted in this week’s “3-Minutes” video, we suspect the timing of that correction will be mid-summer. Such a correction could indeed occur sooner, particularly if hopes for further Government spending fade, tax rates increase, or inflation surges more than expected.
Regardless, investors are more exuberant about markets than we have seen since the “Dot.com” craze.
There are two critical aspects to markets currently which keep us concerned near term. During “bear markets,” valuations are reversed from extremes as prices decline. However, “market corrections” do not reverse valuations as multiple expansions continue.
That was the case following the “economic shutdown.” Due to the Federal Reserve’s extreme interventions, prices quickly reversed from long-term bullish trend lines, and valuations were never reset from extremes. As such, all valuation metrics remain near or at historical extremes. A case in point is the historical “price to sales” ratio.
Furthermore, during “bear markets,” investors generally exit markets only to return several years later. Given one of the worst economic recessions since the “Great Depression,” individuals still carry higher levels of equity allocations than at the “Dot.com” peak. Talk about F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out.)
More importantly, over the past 5-MONTHS, more money has poured into the equity markets than in the last 12-YEARS combined.
As Bob Farrell once quipped:
“Individuals buy the most at the top, and the least at the bottom.”
Combine that market exuberance with more extreme overbought conditions, and the ingredients for a near-term correction are in place.
Given that everyone expects an “economic boom” over the next several months, there is a lot of room for disappointment.
So, what could disappoint market participants? Earnings growth is weaker than expected. Or, more importantly, downward revisions to earnings expectations in the months ahead. Neither would be surprising given that economists and analysts always overestimate outcomes.
Next week, I am publishing a more detailed report on earnings versus expectations. The critical point is that investors are currently paying record prices for year-end earnings that are significantly lower than initially estimated. As noted, given the analysts’ history of overestimating future earnings, it is likely next year’s earnings will be revised down rather markedly.
In a recent note, Jesse Felder pointed out our concerns about rising interest rates and inflationary pressures. (Higher corporate tax rates will also significantly reduce forward earnings estimates.)
“Part of the runup in stock prices over the past year is due to the rebound in earnings we will see over the next few quarters. However, now that interest rates, oil prices and the dollar index have each been rising for some time, earnings growth will almost certainly peak and rollover next year, falling back into negative territory. As the stock market discounts fundamentals roughly 18 months into the future, according to Stan Druckenmiller, this bearish reversal in fundamentals could begin to affect stock prices relatively soon.”
As we have discussed previously, rising rates have historically been a trigger for poor outcomes in markets. Jesse touches on our concerns as well.
“Finally, as Mehul Daya has demonstrated, history shows that rising interest rates regularly act as a bearish catalyst for both markets and the economy. To the extent that low-interest rates and easy money have encouraged and incentivized the unprecedented amount of leverage supporting risk assets today, the reversal in rates, which is already more dramatic than anything we have seen in decades, threatens to reveal just how fragile markets and the economy have now become.”
As I have discussed in the past, in a heavily indebted economy, changes in rates have an almost immediate negative impact on consumption which is 70% of the GDP calculation. As stated, while there are incredibly optimistic expectations of booming economic growth, to support current valuations, higher rates and inflationary pressures will undermine that outlook.
With markets trading at extreme deviations from long-term means, the risk of disappointment remains elevated. Such is why we suggest managing for “risk” rather than “returns.”
Such brings me to an interesting point by Doug Kass on Thursday.
“The market’s momentum has accelerated recently. That said, in yesterday’s, “There is Never Just One Cockroach,” I highlighted the market headwinds I see:”
Coincident with above-expected growth, and arguably fiscal and monetary excesses, are higher interest rates and inflation.
As we lap the excessive fiscal and monetary stimulation, the U.S. economy will revert to subpar growth.
Recent, current, and prospective stimulative fiscal and monetary policies will likely create a relatively short-lived (economic) sugar high. However, there will be little in the way of sustained gains in productivity or our labor force’s reskilling.
The consequences of rampant fiscal spending are rising corporate and individual tax rates, which are a cold headwind for stocks.
With the national debt at over $28 trillion, compared to $9 trillion 10 years ago and only $5 trillion 20 years ago, a 20 basis-point rate increase today is equivalent to about a 100 basis points rise two decades ago!
Investor sentiment is moving back to an extreme along with valuations that, based on historical metrics, are ALL above the 95th percentile.
You get the idea. The market remains very lopsided. Currently, with investors chasing momentum in a highly illiquid and leveraged market, there is a rather extreme risk of a price dislocation.
What would cause such an event?
No one knows. While markets quickly dismissed the recent collapse of Archegos Capital, so were the collapses of Bear Stearns hedge funds that warned of systemic problems leading to the financial crisis.
Maybe Archegos was an isolated event. Maybe not.
But as Doug warns, “there is never just one cockroach.”
As I concluded last week, there is only one fact to remember:
“All bull markets last until they are over.” – Jim Dines
Currently, we are maintaining our equity exposures with an ultrashort duration in bonds for the moment. With our “buy signals” returning to more extended levels, along with the overbought conditions of the market, it is likely we will need to start reducing risk as soon as next week.
Importantly, this does not mean “sell everything” and go to cash. We remain in the seasonally strong period of the year, psychology remains extremely bullish, and liquidity is still flooding markets. As such, we could well see the market consolidate within a range over the next few weeks.
As noted above, there are more significant concerns around mid-year. We will likely see peaks in both earnings and economic data as year-over-year comparisons become more challenging. Also, by that point, we will have a better understanding of potential tax increases, reductions in liquidity, and just how “sticky” the employment picture is.
With valuations elevated, prices well deviated from long-term means, and investor allocations very aggressive, there is no margin for error.
Over the next few weeks, there is little reason to “bearish.”
Looking out over the next 12-24 months, we find it increasingly challenging to be “bullish.”
Diana Johnstone est l’auteur de La croisade des fous: Yougoslavie, première guerre de la mondialisation, Le Temps des Cerises, Paris, 2005. Son dernier livre est Circle in the Darkness : Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press). Les mémoires du père de Diana Johnstone, Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, ont été publiées par Clarity Press, avec ses commentaires. Vous pouvez la joindre à […]
As the S&P 500 and DJIA soared to new closing records on Monday even as New York State is reportedly on track to adopt a groundbreaking state wealth tax (the latest effort by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to distract from the twin scandals over sexual harassment of female aides and his office's efforts to cover up the number of COVID deaths in the state's nursing homes), the Institute for Policy Studies has published the results of its latest review of billionaire wealth.
Unsurprisingly, given the tremendous rally in asset prices over the past year, the 2,365 billionaires living on planet earth have seen their wealth increase by a collective $4 trillion - a 54% increase over the span of a year. Put another way, total wealth held by billionaires ballooned to $12.39 trillion, up from $8.04 trillion.
270 billionaires were added to the Institute's billionaires list - ie the tres commas club - during the past year, while 91 names were removed for - for a net increase of 179 (we wish the 91 individuals removed from the list the best of luck on "re-billionizing".
Of the nearly 2.5K billionaires tracked by the Institute, 13 billionaires saw their wealth soar by more than 500%. The Institute grouped these lucky individuals in its "500% Club". It noted that all of them had investments and connections to companies that benefited the most (in terms of market capitalization) from the pandemic.
Members include Elon Musk, Dan Gilbert and a handful of Chinese entrepreneurs:
1. Zhong Shanshan (3300 percent/$66 billion gain), China. Saw his wealth rise an eye-popping 3,300 percent during the pandemic year, from $2 billion to $68 billion. The wealth surge was the result of two of his companies going public in 2020, Nongfu bottled water and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy.
2. Tatyana Bakalchuk (1,200 percent/$12 billion gain), Russia. Founded the e-commerce apparel company, Wildberries. Her wealth increased by $12 billion over the pandemic, rising from $1 billion to $13 billion.
3. Zuo Hui (714 percent/$15.9 billion gain), China. Chair of Homelink, China’s largest real estate brokerage company. Wealth increased $15.9 billion, from $2.2 billion to $17.9 billion.
4. Bom Kim (670 percent/$6.7 billion gain), U.S. Wealth has increased 670 percent, from $1 billion to $7.7 billion over the pandemic year. Founder of the e-commerce giant Coupang, the Amazon of South Korea. Kim’s fortune surged as high as $11 billion after the company’s IPO in early March.
5. Dan Gilbert (642 percent/$41.7 billion gain), US. Owner of Quicken Loans, which capitalized on cloistered citizens tapping online financing. His wealth increased 641.5 percent, from $6.5 billion to $48.2 billion over the pandemic year.
6. Cheng Yixiao (614 percent/$13.5 billion gain), China. Co-founder of Kuaishou, a video platform based in Beijing. His wealth increased $13.5 billion, from $2.2 billion to $15.7 billion during the pandemic year.
7. Su Hua (583 percent/$16.9 billion gain), China. Also a co-founder of video platform and live-streaming app, Kuaishu. Hua’s wealth increased $16.9 billion during the pandemic year, from $2.9 billion to $19.8 billion.
8. Ernest Garcia II (567 percent/$13.6 billion), US. Wealth increased 566.7 percent, from $2.4 billion to $16 billion during the pandemic year. Biggest shareholder of Carvana, the online car sales and auto-financing giant.
9. Elon Musk ($559 percent/$137.5 billion gain), US. Musk is now the third wealthiest person in the world as his shares in Tesla, Space-X and other companies that he owns continue to climb. His wealth increased $558.9 percent, from $24.6 billion to $162.1 billion during the pandemic year (down $9.9 billion from March 17, 2021, so fluctuating wildly).
10. Brian Armstrong (550 percent/$5.5 billion gain), US. Chief executive of Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the country. Wealth increased 550 percent, from $1 billion to $6.5 billion during the pandemic year.
11. Chan Tan Ching-Fen (540 percent, $8.1 billion gain), Hong Kong. Wealth comes from Hang Lung Group, a large real estate founded by her late husband. Wealth increased $1.5 billion to $9.6 billion, an increase of $8.1 billion over the pandemic year.
12. Bobby Murphy (531 percent/$10.1 billion gain), US. Wealth increased 531 percent, from $1.9 billion to $12 billion during the pandemic year. Co-founder of Snapchat, with his Stanford fraternity brother, Evan Spiegel (490 percent/$9.3 billion gain).
13. Forrest Li (500 percent, $9.5billion gain), Singapore. Li’s wealth increased $9.5 billion, from $1.9 billion to $11.4 billion during the pandemic year. He is owner of the online gaming and e-commerce platform, Sea.
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Unsurprisingly, the lions' share of the gains accrued to the world's wealthiest billionaires. At the global level, the wealthiest 20 billionaires sported a combined $1.83 trillion in wealth in 2021, an increase of $742 billion, or 68%, over the past year.
In comparison, the 2019 GDP of Spain was $1.3 trillion. While billionaires were getting richer, even as the pandemic caused the global economy to shrink by 3.5% in 2020 (according to data from the IMF).
The IMF, along with myriad other nonprofits and NGOs, has warned that the pandemic caused economic inequality around the world to explode. The adverse impact was felt particularly acutely by women, the young, the poor and minorities.
Using the "Ultra-Millionaire Tax" proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, billionaires would have paid roughly $345 billion in wealth taxes, combined. What's more, a more modest wealth tax could raise $4.14 trillion over the next decade. This is worth keeping in mind as President Biden promises that he won't raise taxes on American families earning less than $400K per year, while progressive Dems have managed to garner more support for wealth taxes.
Read the full report below:
Any firm that approaches $1T in value has tapped into a basic human instinct. Consuming, signalling, loving, and praying have been the fuel of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google’s ascents, respectively. That the crypto asset class universe has reached $2T reveals, I believe, that it taps into two attributes we instinctively pursue: trust and scarcity.
Our superpower as a species is cooperation, which requires trust. It’s the reason banks, traffic lights, and anesthesiologists exist. Even before crypto, creative minds have been drawn to finance, as trust creates opportunities for leverage and securitization. In 1997, seeking more control over his songwriting catalog, David Bowie raised $55 million with Bowie Bonds. The bonds paid 7.9 percent interest over a 10 year-long term — a scant premium to a U.S. 10 Year Treasury Note at 6.4 percent. What made Bowie Bonds unique was the collateral, or source of trust: future royalties on Bowie’s music, which the bondholder felt people would continue to value. Moody’s rated the bonds A3 and Bowie used the proceeds to buy out his former manager, shoring up the bonds and securing long-term control of his music.
Though innovative in its collateralization, the Bowie Bond was on its face a vanilla financial instrument, no different in form than a bond issued by GM or P&G. In order to connect his art and potential investors, Bowie had to rely on the (expensive) apparatus of traditional gatekeepers in finance and entertainment to imbue his bonds with the essential attributes of trust and scarcity. The royalty stream (trust) was mediated by lawyers and accountants in big publishing houses, and the legitimacy of each individual bond (scarcity) was dependent on the financial powers of Wall Street.
What if Sir David Bowie (note: he declined knighthood in 2003, but it’s my blog) fell to earth in 2021? What might Bowie have done … with crypto?
People like scarcity — a lot. Owning something scarce makes one feel unique, and signals success and worthiness as a potential mate. Scarcity is also an instinctual trigger for obsession — when we sense a scarcity of something, be it food or a mate, we are programmed to become obsessed with finding it. Art auctions, the (pre-pandemic) lines outside Supreme, and the margins on a Panerai Tourbillon prove this point.
A Van Gogh and a Rothko are both unique, and therefore scarce, because they are made of atoms, and it is impossible to arrange a second set of atoms in an identical configuration. Print artists, whose lithographs are made to be reproduced without alteration, use a small “17/100” written in the corner, to distinguish each print and bestow scarcity upon it.
To hold value, scarcity must be credible. The dirty (not-so) secret of the art world is that art buyers, and even professional art appraisers, struggle to discern originals from forgeries. A well-made forgery provides the same practical value as an original — you can hang it on your wall and bask in its profundity. Yet the art world invests millions of dollars in identifying the “real” version of valuable works; once unmasked, forgeries are nearly worthless.
Digital art suffers from perfect reproducibility, and hence, a lack of scarcity. There is no “real” version — even in the artist’s studio, copies proliferate in backups, on shared drives, and in cache files. For decades, we have experimented with watermarks and anti-piracy tech to try and enforce a physical, world-of-atoms scarcity on digital goods. By contrast, non-fungible tokens, (NFTs) reflect a digital-native approach to credible scarcity.
Attaching an NFT to a digital artwork gives the NFT owner discretion to designate any digital copy of that artwork as the sole authentic copy at any point in time. This approach jettisons our world-of-atoms obsession with a specific physical object, and acknowledges that scarcity has always been a function of bits, not atoms. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
On March 11, digital artist Beeple collected $69.3 million (minus the hefty fee of his gatekeeper, Christie’s) from the auction of an NFT associated with a collage of his 13 year-long project of daily digital artworks. The media has made much of the fact that the buyer of Beeple’s NFT, crypto investor Vignesh Sundaresan, did not obtain any tangible “thing” for his money. The art itself is available for anyone to view — for free — on Beeple’s web site. But collecting art has rarely been about the thing. It’s about credible scarcity.
NFTs create and capture the value of scarcity cred in a massively dispersed fashion that bypasses gatekeepers and taps into capital anywhere. At the high end, digital art sold for millions doesn’t really need an NFT, just as Bowie didn’t need crypto to securitize his royalties in 1997. Christie’s could have just as easily sold an embossed paper certificate, and entered the buyer’s name in a leather bound book securely held at Christie’s headquarters. But that sort of infrastructure isn’t available to the vast majority of digital artists, whereas anyone can create an NFT. Nyan Cat, a pop culture meme, isn’t likely to appear at Christie’s any time soon, but as an NFT it sold for nearly $600,000.
Scarcity cred explains more than NFTs. The entire $2T crypto asset class rests on scarcity cred. Bitcoin’s attractiveness as a store of value is a function of its scarcity cred, as it has a built-in limit of 21 million coins. Compare that to the USD: Almost 30 percent of the U.S. money supply has been created since 2020.
There’s a variety of crypto technologies/products/platforms evolving new means of creating and capturing value in a network: Ethereum, Ledger, Uniswap, Hedera, Cardano — a soup of innovation that is, similar to other tech innovations, not doing anything new … just doing it better.
It remains to be seen if this approach will take hold. Crypto’s energy use is a source of real concern, but the hardware and software are evolving quickly to become far more energy efficient. Even Beeple thinks the current mania is a bubble, as he told my podcasting partner Kara Swisher. But the history of the art market is a history of bubbles, as are the histories of finance and the internet. All are still with us.
Crypto is firing on the walls of the world’s financial citadels. Naturally, the generation of leaders behind those walls is not inclined to acknowledge the Wildlings outside. But scoffing at novel technology, be it a mangonel, black powder, or blockchain, rarely ends well for the legacy asset holders. Bigger castles are already being erected on the hill just above the naysayers … in this case, in mere years vs. generations. It’s likely that on the day of its imminent public listing, Coinbase will be more valuable than Goldman Sachs. A reasonable question in the JPMorgan and Goldman board meetings:
How the fuck did we/you let Coinbase happen?
But that’s another post. Unencumbered by regulation, reticence to destroy legacy assets, or boomer brains that just don’t “get it,” crypto is a $2 trillion disruptive force. I can validate that anybody over 50 has trouble understanding this stuff, and am fairly certain that the number of candles on the CEO’s office party birthday cake is inversely correlated to their understanding of crypto.
Of course, in a system that is still heavily skewed in favor of older, white men, “getting it” for that cohort can be worth billions. Crypto investors Michael Novogratz and Michael Saylor, both over 50, have a combined net worth approaching $10 billion. But they are the exceptions.
Bowie himself was 50 when he issued Bowie Bonds. A prolific art collector, Bowie was also famous for championing young creators, and being enamored of technology: In 1998, he launched his own internet service provider, BowieNet, an interactive music community a decade ahead of its time, and the next year, he launched an online bank (BowieBanc). “If I was 19 again, I’d bypass music and go right to the internet,” he said at the time. In a prescient 1999 interview, he is a time traveler explaining the future to our skeptical past.
RIP Bowie, you would have loved crypto.
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P.S. I’ve got a side hustle (#fakemillennial). In 2019, I founded Section4 with the intention of lowering the barriers to receiving an elite business education: letters of recommendation, the GMAT, the time away from work, and the cost. We’re addressing these barriers with Section4 Sprints – 2-3 week intensive courses taught by the best professors from top MBA programs. Next up from Section4 is NYU Stern Professor Adam Alter’s Product Strategy Sprint (I also make an appearance as a guest lecturer). Sign up now.
P.P.S. Esther Perel, one of the leading voices on modern relationships and the New York Times bestselling author of “The State of Affairs” and “Mating in Captivity,” joins us on the Prof G Pod this week. We discuss why eros is the antidote to deadness, the pain points cofounders have experienced throughout the pandemic, and parenting tips to ensure your children grow up to be great partners.
Any government efforts to ban Bitcoin would be “foolish,” said Hester Peirce (aka “Crypto Mom”), a very Bitcoin-friendly commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), during a MarketWatch virtual conference earlier this week, according to Cryptoslate reporter Liam Frost.
"I think we were past that point very early on because you’d have to shut down the Internet,” Peirce said, adding, “I don’t see how you could ban it. You could certainly make the effort. It would be very hard to stop people from [trading Bitcoin]. So I think it would be a foolish thing for the government to try to do that.”
Not only that, but the government would immediately wipe out $2 trillion in net wealth - the market cap of the crypto sector - an event that would have profoundly deleveraging consequences, and since much of that wealth is now backed by debt, for example all those debt-funded purchases of bitcoin by Microstrategy, such a move by the government would immediately destabilize the all important debt market.
The statement came on the heels of Ray Dalio, a billionaire investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates, arguing that there’s “a good probability” that governments around the world would ban Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Dalio told Yahoo Finance:
“Every country treasures its monopoly on controlling the supply and demand. They don’t want other monies to be operating or competing, because things can get out of control. They outlawed gold, that’s why also outlawing Bitcoin is a good probability.”
However, according to Peirce, the main issue for authorities—at least when it comes to cryptocurrencies—is to find an approach to regulation that would be productive and non-restrictive at the same time. She noted:
“We’ve seen other countries take, I would say, a more productive approach. We really need to turn that around. And I’m optimistic, with a new chairman coming in with a deep knowledge of these markets, that is something we could do together—build a good regulatory framework.”
At the same time, Peirce also pointed out that she doesn’t know when—or if—a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) will finally be approved in the U.S. Recently, we’ve seen a new wave of major investment companies, such as Fidelity Investments, SkyBridge Capital, and VanEck, filing their applications for Bitcoin ETFs with the SEC.
The regulator, however, never approved a single filing of this kind so far, which as discussed earlier, may be a good thing for not only bitcoin but the entire nascent DeFi ecosystem where hundreds of billions in very real money is now intertwined.
There is another reason why the government may have no intention of (ever) banning bitcoin: as Artemis Capital's Christopher Cole wrote recently echoing what we said back in 2016 and 2017, "Bitcoin has emerged as a "shadow" monetary tool, a type of liquidity overflow to prevent even bigger asset bubbles in conventional assets such as commodities, stocks and housing.
As Cole tweeted, "right now [bitcoin] helps Gov by serving as a vol buffer for the middle class so money devaluation flows into a purely speculative asset and less into home prices or other goods."
Bitcoin is a "shadow" monetary tool— Christopher Cole (@vol_christopher) March 31, 2021
Right now, it helps Gov by serving as a vol buffer for the middle class so money devaluation flows into a purely speculative asset and less into home prices or other goods
Explains lack of regulation, which will come concurrently w/inflation pic.twitter.com/SQQQql7p4P
Said otherwise, cryptos now represent some $2 trillion in excess liquidity that would otherwise be invested in housing or stocks, making both of these respective asset bubbles that much more prone to bursting, and bringing the entire asset-bubble dependent socia-economic and financialsystem closer to collapse. However, thanks to bitcoin, there is a substantial buffer allowing Powell to keep printing indefinitely.
This benign side effect of bitcoin which paradoxically allows the Fed to perpetuate its ultra-easy monetary policy for much longer, "explains lack of regulation" although once we hit hyperinflation and bitcoin goes offerless, regulation will come for one simple reason: it will be tantamount to deleveraging the system by trillions in a heartbeat (recall the market cap of all crypto assets is now above $2 trillion) and rising.
Regulation of crypto is a structural risk to investors/speculators
Regulation of crypto can be seen as 2nd order monetary tightening tool by Gov to tame inflation
All of the above doesn't invalidate ownership of the asset but requires deep thought on risk-reward
My point— Christopher Cole (@vol_christopher) March 31, 2021
Regulation of crypto is a structural risk to investors/speculators
Regulation of crypto can be seen as 2nd order monetary tightening tool by Gov to tame inflation
All of the above doesn't invalidate ownership of the asset but requires deep thought on risk-reward
This is a sound warning for bitcoin bulls, but it only applies when inflation gets truly out of hand, but that is unlikely to happen until lat 2022 or early 2023 assuming the Fed keeps rates at zero and barely tapers as it has been predicting it will do. That's nearly two years of upside potential for the best performing assets of the year, decade, century and millennium.
The co-founder of the polarizing Black Lives Matter movement is under fire for buying a $1.4 million home in a posh California neighborhood that’s 88 percent white.
It’s an interesting decision for Patrisse Cullors, a self-professed Marxist and race-baiting activist who has paid lip service to promoting black pride.
According to Dirt.com, the home is located in Topanga Canyon, an idyllic rustic neighborhood about 48 minutes outside of Los Angeles and less than 30 minutes from tony Malibu.
Cullors’ new home has three bedrooms and two baths and sits on one-quarter of an acre. The property also has a separate one-bedroom, one-bathroom guest house.
But what is most interesting is that the BLM co-founder chose to live in Topanga, where less than 2 percent of the population is black.
Sports journalist Jason Whitlock, who’s himself black, sarcastically called out Cullors for her blatant hypocrisy.
“Black Lives Matter founder buys $1.4 million home in Topanga, which has a black population of 1.4%. She’s with her people!” he tweeted Friday.
Black Lives Matter founder buys $1.4 million home in Topanga, which has a black population of 1.4%. She’s with her people! https://t.co/HIGZsV7Cj4
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) April 9, 2021
Whitlock's tweet was removed by the Twitter police and his account suspended...
But not before Whitlock pointed out that Cullors could have lived anywhere, and in fact, she could’ve made an important political statement if she had chosen to live in a predominantly black neighborhood. But she didn’t.
And that says something about whether she truly believes that “black lives matter.”
“She had a lot of options on where to live. She chose one of the whitest places in California,” Whitlock said.
“She’ll have her pick of white cops and white people to complain about. That’s a choice, bro.”
Others on Twitter also pointed out the hypocrisy.
For somebody that claims to love Black people, it's kinda strange that she chose a place to live that's practically devoid of Black people🤔 pic.twitter.com/UluZTLfxNs— Sheikh Judd Hashisho (@glubokiy_boy) April 9, 2021
This backlash is reminiscent of when former President Barack Obama - who perfected the art of sowing racial division - purchased an $11.8 million mansion on a sprawling 29-acre property on Martha’s Vineyard, which is only 3 percent black.
Some on social media said Cullors exploited the Black Lives Matter movement to enrich herself.
She capitalized on that “Injustice against Black People” bag. They’ve been scamming since day 1
— Ryan Lee (@LTM_RBG_321) April 9, 2021
Not only that. Why is she getting rich off BLM movement? Shouldn’t this money be going to black neighbourhoods and struggling black families?— •FATE• (@meloncollie46) April 9, 2021
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors just purchased a million dollar mansion. She pimped the murders of Black folks, especially Black men and boys to get that mansion. BLM founders are after the bag. They don’t care about Black people. That’s why it’s time to purge— Quinton Blanton 🇺🇸 (@blanton_quinton) April 9, 2021
Black Lives Matter said it raked in a staggering $90 million in donations last year.
However, there’s mounting criticism that the movement — which fomented riots across the United States — has not shared its massive haul with the black community.
Last month, the father of Michael Brown — whose 2014 shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, was the catalyst for the 2016 BLM riots — demanded that the group fork over $20 million to him.
What is Black Lives Matter doing with all the money they’re accumulating if not helping their local chapters and Black-owned businesses to advance?— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) March 4, 2021
They seem to be fundraising for the sake of fundraising.
All talk, all woke. https://t.co/8KSKvJHoq3
Similarly, BLM chapters nationwide have demanded more transparency from the centralized umbrella organization for the group.
In a December 2020 statement, the local chapters said:
“Since the establishment of [Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation], our chapters have consistently raised concerns about financial transparency, decision making, and accountability … we believe public accountability has become necessary.”
The local chapters also said the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation appointed Cullors as its executive director against their wishes and without their knowledge, rendering her leadership illegitimate.
“We, the undersigned chapters, believe that all of these events occurred without democracy, and assert that it was without the knowledge of the majority of Black Lives Matters chapters across the country and world,” the statement read.
“Patrisse Cullors … became Executive Director against the will of most chapters and without their knowledge.”
Considering how much havoc BLM wreaked nationwide over the past few months, you can only imagine how ugly the group’s in-fighting will get.
Conservatives, grab your popcorn.
Late Tuesday morning, a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber took off from Edwards Air Force Base (located in Kern County in Edwards, California) carrying the US Air Force's AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, and encountered a technical issue.
The highly anticipated test, something we mentioned was "imminent" just last week, failed to air launch:
"B-52H Stratofortress took off Monday over the Point Mugu Sea Range intending to fire the first booster test vehicle for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program. Instead, the test missile was not able to complete its launch sequence and was safely retained on the aircraft which returned to Edwards AFB," the Air Force said in a statement.
The test failure is a major blow for the US locked in a hypersonic weapons race against China and Russia. Hypersonic weapons, like the ARRW, can fly at Mach 5, or about 3,836 mph. The missiles are designed to travel at super-fast speeds and can penetrate the world's most advanced air defense shields.
"The ARRW program has been pushing boundaries since its inception and taking calculated risks to move this important capability forward. While not launching was disappointing, the recent test provided invaluable information to learn from and continue ahead. This is why we test," said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, Armament Directorate Program Executive Officer.
The push for hypersonic weapons occurred in the Trump era where America was reasserting its military dominance across the world.
Our recent coverage on ARRW's progression from development to testing suggests it could soon become the US' first operational hypersonic weapon:
The US is attempting to field the ARRW in the early 2020s, but technical and engineering challenges surround the missile's development.
If the US ever fields these super fast weapons, besides air-launching from B-52s, the McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle could be the fighter jet (non-stealth) for rapid air launches.
It has been recently estimated that global debts stand at $284 trillion equivalent, representing 355% of global GDP. Estimates such as these must be treated with caution, and they probably underestimate financial sector debt. Furthermore, no allowance in these figures is made for OTC derivatives, which according to the Bank for International Settlements have a gross value of $15.48 quadrillion(!), netting out at $609 trillion.
This article comments on the different debt sectors: government, finance, non-financial corporate and consumer debt. It finds the dangers of excessive corporate debt have had the least attention, and that systemic risk in commercial banks is grossly underestimated.
The rapid growth of emerging market corporate debt is a recipe for a repeat of the Asian crisis in the late-1990s.
Ultimately, the whole debt burden will fall on government shoulders in their threefold attempt to protect the banks, stop a recession and to continue puffing up a wealth effect by inflating increasing amounts of currency into financial markets.
The trigger to end the debt crisis is almost certainly rising bond yields.
Times of monetary expansion generate a shift in wealth from bank depositors to borrowers. Given that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the Nixon shock, when the world’s currencies finally came out as fiat, it is hardly surprising that each successive crisis led to the easier path of increasing debt instead of letting failing businesses and banks go to the wall. Kicking the can down the road has been the way to deal with every economic or financial blip. After all, it is argued, inflation reduces debt obligations over time.
Maybe, but it increases the net present value of future obligations to the ultimate destruction of welfare-driven states. This is why, if for no other reason, kicking cans down the road just ends up at some point with a pile of cans that can no longer be kicked. But politicians aware of mounting obligations and still doing the can-kicking believe that will be their successors’ problem, and you never know, something might turn up. After all, optimists argue, we survived higher levels of debt following the Second World War.
While most people are aware there was a financial crisis in 2008, they will surely fail to link it with the next one. For many reasons, they could be right. The Lehman crisis was driven by an excess of residential property speculation, liar loans and their securitisation. The next one is likely to be a bond, stock and currency crisis triggered by rising bond yields undermining the debt pile and weakening the dollar. It is only philosophising observers who notice that these crises happen regularly and have done so for a long time, approximately once every decade. The common link is debt, flowing and ebbing in periodic expansions followed by sudden contractions of bank credit.
It even occurred under a proper gold standard. Other than differences between successive crises the basic factors were the same, alternating between bankers’ caution evolving gradually towards carelessness, greed and then panic. But this last cycle, starting from the aftermath of the Lehman failure, has been totally different. State intervention in the form of previously unheard-of interest rate suppression has continued throughout the credit cycle. It is unsurprising that the can-kicking in the form of debt creation never paused and has accelerated with renewed vigour. Estimated to have been $175 trillion when Lehman failed, today the global debt bubble has increased to $284 trillion, according to a Bloomberg report, citing figures prepared by the Institute of International Finance. And with global GDP estimated at about $80 trillion a ball-park figure for debt to GDP of 355% is a workable assumption. Put another way, $3.55 dollars of debt are required for every dollar of GDP output.
It has always been reasonable in capitalistic markets for an entrepreneur to borrow working capital to cover the period between the initiation of a project and eventual sales of the final product, but in doing so he calculates carefully with a view to paying back his creditors out of profits. He continues to evolve his product to respond to competition and his reassessments of consumer trends. Research and development are funded by the business out of profits. Then came the financiers, who saw that a clear profit margin of, say 10%, could be turned into 20%, or even 30% by borrowing, not to finance anything but just to give leverage to profits, much of which they extract in dividends. They called it private equity, a misnomer for a process which at its base was and still is a means to gain advantage from the wealth transfer from bank depositors.
Financing for financing’s sake has taken over from honest capitalism, which is to compete to provide consumers with what they desire and need. It is no less than a corruption fully facilitated by fiat currencies issued by central banks in increasing quantities and at heavily suppressed interest rates. Micawber’s aphorism about debt being misery has been superseded by a leverage-based mantra that debt is good.
This loss of original purpose has been a bad thing, because consumption is never static, with consumers demanding progress. An entrepreneur delivers it by being flexible in his plans using debt as a temporary financing bridge. But when he is already loaded up with unproductive debt his commercial flexibility is compromised, and a needless proportion of enterprises end up as eviscerated zombie businesses. The smarter PE boys will have moved on and created similar problems elsewhere.
Then there is the legacy debt of major corporations who have become dependent on crony capitalism — the persuasion of politicians for preferential and monopolistic advantages. The replacement by lobbying of focusing on customer satisfaction has gradually driven them into a zombie state as well. Nearly half of the world’s debt is corporate, and if that’s not bad enough governments have also encouraged consumers to borrow to spend and ditch their savings.
Broadly, there are four debt categories: government, financial, non-financial corporate and consumer. Table 1 shows an approximation of global debt distribution.
Within these debt categories, there is significant variance. In government debt relative to their GDPs we see Greece at over 200% and Italy at 170%. These simple ratios do not take account of the fact that tax revenues, upon which a state’s financial credibility is based, are raised by governments entirely from their private sectors.
Taking a global average of general government spending at 40% of GDP, government sector debt is 172% of its tax base. A government debt to private sector GDP for Italy stands at 314%, Greece at 324% and France works out at 264%. In fact, the socialising EU nations’ government spending, being an average of almost 50% of their economies, means that their indebtedness relative to their tax bases can be doubled from the comparison with total GDP to give a more relevant assessment of their financial sustainability.
It is against this background that government spending is now rising sharply driven by the economic consequences of the covid pandemic. With new lockdowns across the Eurozone, financial and systemic failures will have to be bought off by national governments. And government debt to private sector GDP ratios of over 400% are likely in some member states by the year-end.
For the moment, the ECB has sustained government finances by negative interest rates and heavily suppressed term rates. But interest rates are beginning to rise; some say because of the prospect of economic recovery and others due to the implications for prices as accumulated lockdown savings are spent against an anticipated shortage of consumer products. Whatever the reason, clearly, higher borrowing costs are likely to lead to higher risk premiums for these nations entrapped by their debt.
At an estimated $83 trillion and 104% of global GDP, non-financial corporate debt is paid less attention while analysts have focused on government debt and the implications for their currencies. But as pointed out in the introduction, private sector production has become increasingly zombified, making a significant proportion of corporate debt unproductive in the sense that it no longer finances products genuinely demanded by consumers. Furthermore, with economic prospects owing much to hope rather than realistic assessments and the seemingly never-ending extensions of pandemic limitations on economic activity, business bankruptcies are bound to be on the increase. And with rising bond yields in prospect, bond financing is likely to become increasingly expensive for corporate survivors and will disrupt the soundest of business plans.
Even without an extension to pandemic troubles, there are signs that the post-Lehman crisis expansion of corporate debt was getting long in the tooth over a year ago. Major US bank balance sheets had run up to their regulatory ceilings and were increasingly restricted in their lending activities. Financial sector debt in Table 1 had actually declined by ten per cent relative to global GDP in the ten years following Lehman (but despite this represented a nominal increase of $8.2 trillion). The repo crisis combined with American tariffs aimed predominantly at Chinese imports were reminiscent of events in October 1929 behind the Wall Street Crash when the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was passed by Congress. And obligingly, stock markets commenced 2020 by replicating the October 1929 collapse with high precision before the Fed stepped in with a reduction in the funds rate to zero and quantitative easing at $120bn monthly on 23 March, both aimed at shoring up financial markets.
Since the Lehman crisis, the increased zombification of large corporate entities has been accompanied by economic stagnation — with the notable exception of tech industries which is not relevant to our story. The general stagnation is even worse when the underreporting of price inflation by standardised CPI method is taken into account. Furthermore, trillion-dollar annual US deficits being matched by substantial US trade deficits led to the expansion from 56% to 96% of GDP of non-financial corporate debt in emerging economies, while non-financial corporate debt in developed economies grew at a slower, similar pace to their GDPs.
While some of the boost to emerging market corporate debt was down to an increase in offshoring production, the general level of risk in this fast growing, emerging market category of debt has increased due to the far lower rate of global economic growth and declining corporate earnings. In the words of the paper referenced above, “The ability of emerging markets to pay back their debts deteriorated”. This would certainly have been picked up by banks providing working capital and to an extent must be reflected in the decline in the financial sector’s share of global debt allocation.
It is against this background that the covid-19 pandemic shut down affected substantial elements of economic activity at the worst possible time. The supply chains linking emerging markets and Chinese production with advanced economies were disrupted, with goods not being shipped one way, and importantly, payments not travelling the other. The disruption continues today. Through a collapse in revenues, non-financial corporates in emerging markets now face a major crisis. Ironically, with the US budget deficit spiralling into the trillions, if only the logistics could be sorted out, demand for production from non-financial corporates in emerging markets is set to soar. But by then they could be facing a new emerging market crisis with capital flight killing business activity.
And now global bond yields are on the rise. If you look at commodity prices and non-fixed interest financial assets, the consequences of unprecedented global and dollar monetary inflation are clear to see. Fiat currencies are beginning to lose their purchasing power at an alarming rate. Markets are demanding higher interest rates and bond yields as compensation, and there is nothing that can practicably be done to stop it. Governments will be faced with a stark choice: do they debase their currencies even more in an attempt to rescue the entirety of their non-financial economies, or do they accept the reality of decades of debt-fuelled malinvestment? Will those tin cans be kicked down the road just one more time?
According to a recent World Bank report on borrowers under the International Development Association scheme, more than half of them are in distress, a situation which is worsening under the pandemic, if for no other reason. These are low-income countries, and their domestic debt relative to GDP also doubled on average between 2011 and 2019.
Figure 1 shows the World bank’s estimate of external debt distress and how it has deteriorated in recent years. The list of countries appears unimportant in the greater scale of things, including most of Africa, some in Asia and a bunch of Pacific Ocean states. They are less important in terms of production than they are in resources. It serves to remind us that China will benefit through greater control over these debt slaves, which are already the focus of its international political and economic expansion.
Consumers in the developed nations now fall into two categories. There are the professional and middle classes, who through the pandemic have generally retained their employment and income, while some of their spending has been curtailed by lockdowns. It is this class which has been buying residential property, having accumulated income for the necessary deposits and have ready access to mortgage finance. And there are the low paid, particularly in the hospitality and tourist industries, who have lost their jobs and have little or no savings to fall back upon.
We hear a disproportionate amount about the fortunate, who when lockdowns end will release a tsunami of pent-up demand. They are the targeted market for the media and their advertisers; the educated who read newspapers in print and online. They are those who watch television news and have political and other opinions based on a degree of applied thought. Forecasts of economic growth are based almost entirely on this minority group of consumers. But while it includes both employees and business folk, this cuts across surveys over the years in both America and the UK that some 80% of employees in these consumption-driven economies live from paycheck to paycheck. And it is this group which has been hit hardest by the pandemic and government mandated lockdowns.
In America and the UK, for many of them foodbanks and government cheques paid into their bank accounts have been a lifeline. But read the headlines in the financial media, and they hardly exist. The consequences are that after an initial surge in consumer demand from the haves, the follow-through is bound to be muted, due to the larger number of have-nots. In the EU, any post-lockdown surge in demand is also being deferred by third waves, and given the outlook for non-financial sector bankruptcies, the future of the euro zone’s highly leveraged banking system (see below) is under dire threat.
Initially, rising interest rates might not be a major factor increasing credit card delinquencies, but as the purchasing power of the dollar and therefore global fiat currencies decline, they are sure to increase. The immediate and far larger consumer problem is over mortgage finance. As a subset to wider problems, the US and UK will face increasing defaults due to rising mortgage rates and the recent rise in house prices will then almost certainly reverse, perhaps to the point where even eighty per cent loan to value mortgages become uncovered and therefore a crisis for the lenders.
In short, a significant element of the $54 trillion of consumer debt will end up as losses to be borne by the financial sector.
Banks act as the intermediary between central banks and the non-finance private sector categories. They are highly leveraged ham in the sandwich between the state’s economic and monetary planners and their indebted borrowers. In troubled times it is not a pleasant place to be. Table 2 shows the capital gearing incorporating book values (market capitalisations) of the world’s global systemically important banks (G-SIBs).
With Société Generale, Deutsche Bank, Group Credit Agricole, Unicredit and Santander, the Eurozone has the most leveraged banks by far with price to book ratios between 29%-56%, market ratings that question their survival. And it only takes one of these banks to fail to put all G-SIBs at risk.
Another point — a mystery, is how the estimate of global financial sector debt is only $65 trillion, when the G-SIBs total liabilities (i.e. total assets less total equity) currently amount to $54.6 trillion, leaving all the other banks and shadow banks having liabilities of $10.4 trillion. A better assessment would probably put financial sector debt at closer to $80 trillion.
With an average ratio of assets to equity of 11.7, US G-SIBs are significantly less leveraged than most of their foreign counterparts, which might explain why so little attention is paid to systemic banking risk in the American financial press. But even at this level, mounting bad debts from the covid crisis amplifies them nearly twelve times for balance sheet equity. China’s four G-SIBs are similarly geared at an average of 11.8 times, Japan’s 21 times, the UK’s 16.8 times, and the Eurozone’s 20.5 times. The leverage ratios in Table 2 additionally take into account market capitalisation, and the three Eurozone banks heading the list tells us that markets already rate them as walking dead.
It is in the nature of things that when a bank fails, its net indebtedness is revealed to be significantly greater than balance sheet analysis indicates when it is a going concern. An obvious source of the difference is valuations of illiquid assets and collateral which are marked-to-myth. But a further avalanche of bad debts can arise from counterparty failure in derivative markets. For this reason, AIG, a non-bank insurer with a substantial credit default swap position was quickly bailed out in 2008. According to the Bank for International Settlements, OTC derivatives reported by banks totalled $609 trillion with gross values of $15,481 trillion at June 2020.
So, the banking ham in the sandwich between central banks and industry is extremely thinly cut – only molecules thick. A banking failure almost anywhere, must be bailed out for fear of triggering a global banking collapse the likes of which have never been seen before. The slightest hesitation in any advanced jurisdiction is bound to lead to widespread failure.
According to Table 1 in the Introduction, total government debt stands at $82 trillion, being 103% of global GDP. But that does not take into account future liabilities, whose net present value has been estimated at over $200 trillion for the US alone (Kotlikoff, 2011). This enormous figure arises principally due to future welfare obligations, and similar considerations apply to all welfare-driven states. NPV calculations end up with wildly different answers depending on inputs. A debate about these obligations is beyond the scope of this article.
The overriding problem faced by governments and their central banks are their commitments to ensure 1) that their banking systems continue to function, providing working capital to industry as needed, 2) that any economic recession is shallow, and 3) that financial asset values continue to spread a wealth effect. Any one failure of these three objectives undermines the whole raison d’être for modern socialising democracies.
It has been decades of pursuing these objectives that have led to today’s global debt position. In the wake of the pandemic, it is leading to an accelerated increase in government debt for fear of failing in the three objectives. And the longer the crisis goes on, the greater the amount of government debt creation. This is particularly relevant for government debts in US dollars and euros. With broken supply chains both feeding into the US economy from abroad and also domestically, the Fed is tasked with supporting gross output in the region of $38 trillion in the domestic economy alone, and also an unknown external liability extending far beyond simplistic import figures.
The emphasis for the ECB is different. Failure to finance escalating budget deficits in the PIGS and France as much of the Eurozone enters yet another lockdown will lead to escalating political instability in its member states. As pointed out above, the debt situation in France, Italy and Greece when comparing government debt to its private sector tax base is extremely precarious. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the whole future of the euro, the Eurozone and of the EU Commission itself is weighing on the ECB’s shoulders.
But things are coming to a head, with rising bond yields. The realisation that prices, particularly of essentials, will rise well beyond CPI targets of 2%, is leading to losses on government bonds — a process that has only just started. The ECB is now trapped with increased fiscal revenue ruled out. Globally, it has been agreed that to raise taxes in the current economic environment would be counterproductive. Even the Keynesians sense their beliefs have led to a crisis in state finances, and the modern monetary theorists have suddenly gone quiet.
Selecting one of the three problems listed above is pointless, because they are all dangerous, and the failure of one will guarantee to trigger the others. But perhaps the least talked about is a failure of corporate debt. Some comment has been passed and generally ignored. The IMF urged policy makers to address it as it increased financial stability risks (IMF, 2017,2019). The UN weighed in similarly (UN, 2019). Some analysts predicted the corporate debt boom could trigger a financial crisis comparable to the great financial crisis (FT, 2017; Bloomberg 2019, Guardian 2019; World Economic Forum, 2019).
But the imminent failure appears to be that of using monetary inflation to puff financial markets. Once they stall on the back of rising bond yields all these debt obligations will end up being wiped out in a collapse of the fiat currencies along with the financial markets with which their fortunes have become firmly linked.
According to the latest ONS figures, over one million people were estimated to be suffering from 'Long COVID' in the UK in the four weeks ending 6 March.
As this chart shows, while 420 thousand say that this does not restrict them in their daily activities, 674 thousand are experiencing some degree of problems in this regard.
You will find more infographics at Statista
Note that these figures represent symptoms "as experienced by study participants, rather than clinically diagnosed ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome."
The source adds that while "there is no universally agreed definition of long COVID, it covers a broad range of symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, and difficulty concentrating."
All people of the world should hope that a multipolar world vision prevails and the destructive American ideology fails – definitively.
There is a close parallel in the way the Biden administration is riling up dangerous tensions with Russia and China. The proxy in both cases are the Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively.
Washington is citing claims that Russia and China are threatening its allies which, in turn, provides a pretext for the United States to step up its own provocative actions. It’s a vicious cycle that is at grave risk of spinning out of control into an all-out war between nuclear powers.
In just three months after his inauguration as the 46th U.S. president, Joe Biden’s administration has embarked on a reckless course of belligerence toward Russia and China. This dynamic was predicted by Strategic Culture Foundation in several of our commentaries and interviews before Biden was inaugurated on January 20.
However, this systematic hostility from the United States has been underway from several past administrations, including the previous Trump White House and before that the Obama administrations in which Biden served as vice president. Now as president, Biden is taking up a continuous policy of aggression with even more gusto. This invariable direction of belligerence tends to prove the real nature of U.S. politics. Presidents come and go, elections take place periodically, but the power and policymaking resides with deep state planners whose loyalty is not to any particular party but rather to the furtherance of imperial objectives regarding America’s presumed global position and privileges.
The current president and his top aides, like before, bring a certain stylistic image to the underlying thrust of power. Team Biden have sharpened the rhetoric of adversity, repeatedly labelling Moscow and China as “existential threats”. Practical acts of hostility have followed, including imposing sanctions on Russia over its Nord Stream 2 gas project with Europe; and on China over baseless claims of “genocide” against its Uyghur ethnic population in Xinjiang.
The Biden administration is turning reality on its head, either through cynical deception or from its own cognitive dissonance regarding the real world. (Most certainly the former for the deep state planners, maybe the latter for the politician puppets.)
It accuses Russia of aggression by building up military forces on the border with Ukraine. This is while the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev has been serially violating a shaky ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, shelling civilian centers and escalating a humanitarian crisis. Russia has every right to deploy military forces wherever it deems within its borders. Moscow has rejected claims that it is posing a threat to any other country. Nonetheless, this week the Kremlin said the deteriorating security conditions in Eastern Ukraine (the Donbass) may oblige it to defend ethnic Russians facing a criminal offensive. That offensive is being waged by the Kiev regime which has the full support of the United States and the NATO military alliance. Only last month, the Biden administration released a further $125 million in lethal weaponry to the Ukraine. That can be seen as a green light for the regime in Kiev to reject the 2015 Minsk peace accord and to push for more conflict in what has already been a seven-year war, causing more than 13,000 deaths. (The war was instigated after the U.S., EU and NATO backed a coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 which brought to power an anti-Russian regime with historic links to Nazi Germany.)
Yet in the Alice-in-Wonderland view of Washington, as well as the European Union and NATO, the aggression is being instigated by Russia.
As for China and Taiwan: Biden is advancing the same policy under the previous Trump and Obama administrations of military buildup near China’s territory. This week saw the fourth U.S. guided-missile destroyer passing through the Taiwan Strait since Biden took office. That narrow sea separates the breakaway island from China’s mainland. Beijing has sovereign territorial claim to Taiwan which is recognized by the vast majority of nations, including up until recently the United States under its so-called “One China” policy. Biden, like his predecessor Donald Trump, is deliberately eroding the One China policy by sending delegates to the island on official visits, increasing weapons sales and most provocatively making public declarations that the U.S. will “defend” Taiwan in the event of “an invasion” by Chinese forces.
Similar to the Ukraine, the Biden administration’s rhetoric and conduct is serving to fuel an ever-more provocative stance by the Taiwanese leaders. This week, a senior official warned that the island’s forces would shoot down Chinese aircraft that approach the territory. This is nothing but a flagrant challenge to China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. As in the case of the Ukraine and Russia, it is Washington’s words and actions that are inflaming the tensions between Taiwan and China. Yet the Americans accuse others of “aggression” and claim to be providing “defense”.
The bigger picture for all of this is, of course, the geopolitical great game which Washington sees as a zero-sum challenge. Strategists in Washington have made it abundantly clear that the American imperative for pursuing its ambitions for global power and dominance is to prevent the rise of Russia and China and a multipolar world order. Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly called for a peaceful coexistence among nations based on partnership, mutual respect and above all adherence to international law. In short, the manifestation of the United Nations Charter.
Such a multipolar world of equals is anathema to the United States and its imperialist pursuit of unipolar dominance. The latter configuration is essential for maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency which, in turn, is vital for propping up the U.S. economy. For historical reasons, American capitalism is waning from its previous formidable prowess as the world’s engine for growth. The tide is shifting to China and Eurasia which offer an alternative model of socialistic planned economies, based on a mix of public and private ownership, which are directed at progressing societal development. China’s success in lifting millions of its people out of poverty while millions of Americans fall into poverty indicates the end of an “America Century”. The United States, under its prevailing corporate capitalist system, cannot compete with the emerging multipolar order. By way of trying to reverse the historic decline, the U.S. is compelled to resort to increasing militarism against what it perceives as its nemesis – Russia and China – the two main proponents of a multipolar vision.
It is therefore logical, if not execrable, that Washington appears to be accelerating on a collision course against Russia and China. The speed and recklessness is correlated with the growing sense that the American Empire is in terminal demise. The Ukraine and Taiwan are providing the U.S. with a two-prong attack against Russia and China and what Washington views as its last chance to grasp on to a world that is disappearing before its eyes. America’s reckless and delusional gambling is placing the world in an extremely dangerous situation. Its rulers and their political flunkies are flicking matches at a powder-keg.
All people of the world should hope that a multipolar world vision prevails and the destructive American ideology fails – definitively.
L'auteur démontre l'efficacité des législations américaines en matière d' « export control » d'armements mais souligne que différentes solutions de contestations existent. Encore faudrait-il oser les mobiliser.- Amérique du Nord / Monde, Etats-Unis, Défense, Puissance, Lois et normes, Technologies, Exportations, Concurrence, Stratégie, Autorisation d'exportation, 2021
Source : CNN, Brad Lendon
Traduit par les lecteurs du site Les Crises
Hong Kong (CNN) En 2018, le président chinois Xi Jinping a enfilé un treillis militaire et est monté à bord d’un destroyer de la marine de l’Armée populaire de libération en mer de Chine méridionale. Ce jour d’avril, déployée devant lui, la plus grande flotte jamais mise en mer par la Chine communiste s’étend devant lui : 48 navires, des dizaines d’avions de chasse et plus de 10 000 militaires.
Pour Xi, le dirigeant le plus puissant du pays depuis Mao Zedong, cette journée était le point de départ d’une grande ambition : une force qui montrerait la grandeur et la puissance de la Chine sur les sept océans du monde. « La tâche de construire une marine puissante n’a jamais été aussi urgente qu’aujourd’hui », a déclaré Xi ce jour-là.
Agriculture d’aujourd’hui et de demain, extension du domaine des tensions en Ukraine, du bon et du mauvais en justice, du beau, du bon, du Lordon, et des dîners qui restent en travers de la gorge (autre marqueur de la macronerie ? cf. le Dôme, les homards ou le dîner covid positif des cadors de la majorité…) pour cette revue de presse très gastronomique. Bonne lecture.
The U.S. now has an official regime of lies, supported by an almost worthlessly dishonest media, and scores of millions of Americans brainwashed into the false view that they live in an evil country...
Not every aspect of the onslaught of self-hate that has broken over America, warped its media, and turned most of the academy - and even apparently, most of its elementary and secondary schools - into centers of reorientation designed to convince Americans their national past is loathsome hypocrisy, is bad. Every country has a national mythos, and the larger, more complicated countries have relatively elaborate, conventionally agreed-upon versions of the raison d’être of their nationalities. In the case of the United States, there have always been some soft points in this rationale, and to a slight extent, there may be some merit in addressing them.
Despite the brilliant opening and ending of the Declaration of Independence, the indictment of King George III as a virtual Nuremberg Trial defendant who was trying to destroy America and indiscriminately kill its people, while dabbling in other atrocities such as the propagation of the Roman Catholic faith throughout the 13 colonies (an insane allegation—Jefferson was referring to the Quebec Act, which assured that population the practice of their language, religion, and civil rights) was an outrage. George III was a limited monarch who suffered from porphyria, but he was far from an evil man (and he was an arch-Protestant papaphobe).
The facts were that Americans really had no more civil rights after the Revolution than before, nor measurably more civil rights than citizens of England, Switzerland, most of the Netherlands, and parts of Scandinavia. But they had a resident government. Unlike almost all the nations of Europe and East Asia, in a world of only about 25 sovereign countries, the United States did not have a language of its own, and its founders, with great ingenuity, and eloquence invented for it the vocation of freedom and opportunity. The lore was not of the past but of the future. And with the dramatic emergence of the Americans, facilitated by Franklin’s stupendous feat in persuading the absolutist French monarchy to go to war on behalf of secessionism, democracy, and republicanism, the eyes of the world were on America and have never ceased to be on America these 245 years.
There was from the start the terrible problem of slavery, which belied the assertion that “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The Civil War was conducted in the North to preserve the Union, and only the immense political dexterity of Abraham Lincoln achieved the approval of the emancipation of the slaves as a war aim, in part to stir unrest within the Confederacy.
Segregation continued to be enforced with an iron fist in the South and not infrequently in parts of the North as well, for over a century. The South was completely defeated but had received credit for 60 percent of the slave population in establishing their congressional and Electoral College representations before the war and henceforth received 100 percent credit for the African Americans who, though nominally emancipated, still could not vote in the South.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was hassling Winston Churchill in the midst of World War II about granting independence to India and suggesting texts from the founding of America as models to use, Churchill was well within his rights in saying to his entourage (although, unfortunately, he did not say it to Roosevelt) that he would take his solicitude for the vast masses of India more seriously if he could pass an anti-lynching law in his own Congress.
If the Americans had resisted the temptation to revolution, then as Benjamin Franklin had predicted, by approximately the time of the Civil War, Americans would have been preeminent in the entire British world: a vast expanse of South Asia, Australasia, Africa, and all of North America north of the Rio Grande. There would have been much less pressure for independence from such a formidable empire, and the power and influence of the Americans this past century would have been much greater even than it has been. It is also doubtful that Germany or Japan would ever have dared warfare with such an immense power.
Even to those who wish America well, the whole argument of American exceptionalism became threadbare and tiresome decades ago, and is entirely now a question of scale, a measurement by which China threatens the United States more seriously than has any other country in over a century.
One of the most nauseatingly persistent American delusions is that the American justice system is one of the best in the world. As I have written here and elsewhere, it is an appalling, disgraceful, terribly unjust 360-degree cartel for the avaricious legal profession, and on the criminal side, it has been so undermined by the corruption of the plea bargain system that it is essentially the right of prosecutors to suborn false inculpatory testimony with no danger of sanctions for their misconduct.
The result is that the United States has six to 12 times as many incarcerated people per capita as other comparable large prosperous democracies: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Its conviction rates are much higher than almost all of these countries and so are its crime rates. Millions of innocent people are convicted and millions of innocent people are over-sentenced and millions are ground to powder in the conveyor belt to the bloated and corrupt American prison system. Everyone who is acquainted with the facts is aware of this.
The Bill of Rights guarantees of due process, a grand jury as assurance against capricious prosecution, an impartial jury, no seizure of property without just compensation, access to counsel of choice, prompt justice, and reasonable bail have been practically expunged.
But with all that said, the flag-waving, anthem-singing, traditional pride in America was and remains substantially justified.
All nations have somewhat delusional self-images and though the American star system elevates many who are not stars, the current eruption of Americophobia is vastly excessive, utterly despicable, cannot remotely be sustained, and is propagated, not just by the faddishly and aggressively ignorant, but also by disturbed and often wicked people.
America’s exceptionalism has been diluted by America’s success: once the United States realized that it was in a Cold War, it defined this as a life and death struggle between totalitarian communism and the free world, never mind that the free world included the dictatorships of Latin America, the House of Saud, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Syngman Rhee’s South Korea and many other dubious claimants to the title of champions of freedom. Most of them became democracies and the world must never forget nor fail to be grateful for the fact that the United States is chiefly responsible for the spread of democracy and the free market.
No nation in history has made the effort the United States has to eliminate racial discrimination and to assist minorities bootstrapping themselves up to parity. Whatever liberties may have been taken in national rhetorical puffery, there has never been anything remotely like America’s rise from a few million colonists in two long lifetimes after the Revolutionary War to, as Churchill said in his eulogy of President Roosevelt to a position of “might and glory . . . never attained by any nation in history.”
Possessed of a nuclear military monopoly and half the GDP of the world, the United States turned its energies to putting western Europe and Japan back on their feet. The attempt of the American enemy within to portray the United States as an evil racist enterprise based on slavery is a blood libel on the same level of pernicious mendacity as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The right of educators to teach falsely sourced self-hatred and of the media’s righteous replacement of reporting with subversive and defamatory advocacy is now proclaimed as a long-repressed virtue. It does not fall far short of treason and Joe Biden will pay for his endorsement of the false charge against his country of “systemic racism.”
The United States now has an official regime of lies, supported by an almost worthlessly dishonest media, and scores of millions of Americans have been brainwashed into the false view that they live in an evil country. This lie will not succeed because everyone in America can see that it is not true.
Most Americans are reasonable and fair-minded people most of the time, and their numbers, their patience, and the righteousness of their not-uncritical faith in and love for their country will ultimately prevail. There was no excuse for the secretary of state to turn a meeting with the Chinese on American soil into a confessional for a cringe-worthy recitation of America’s faults. Despite everything, America remains a proud country with much to be proud of, and no person nor any nationality can stand unlimited, unjustified, self-loathing. It will end sooner than we dare think, and it will take down its ghastly and contemptible preceptors with it, including the dismal Pharisees of this administration.
Il se confirme désormais que la Russie est sortie relativement épargnée de la crise provoquée par la Covid-19. La récession y a été moins forte que dans les principaux pays développés et en particulier en Europe. Le rebond des prix des hydrocarbures depuis le quatrième trimestre de 2020 a indiscutablement aidé. Mais, le gouvernement semble plus pressé de reprendre rapidement une politique d’austérité que de continuer à soutenir l’économie, un choix dont les conséquences pourraient être néfastes sur la croissance.
La Russie a donc nettement moins souffert des effets de la COVID-19 que les pays du G-7. Si la différence est faible avec les Etats-Unis, elle est nettement plus importante avec les autres pays, et en particulier les pays européens.
Par Claude Robert.
Il y a du bon dans le projet d’Emmanuel Macron de fermer l’École Nationale d’Administration et de la remplacer par une école plus ouverte en matière de variété de profils et d’expériences. Quelle que soit l’appellation, ENA ou ISP, le principe de la filière unique contient néanmoins deux poisons auxquels le Président se garde bien de mettre fin :
Il ne s’agit pas de critiquer pour critiquer, mais de rappeler qu’une vraie réforme libérale redonne de la flexibilité, c’est-à-dire de la liberté individuelle, là où celle-ci fait défaut. Le nec plus ultra étant justement d’embarquer dans une réforme digne de ce nom les anticorps suffisamment dissuasifs à toute tentative de retour à la situation fermée et centralisée précédente.
Car dans toute organisation, il existe une énorme inertie culturelle et procédurale qui fait que tout nouveau changement tend à disparaître sous les coups de boutoir du passé. Or, troquer l’ENA pour l’Institut du Service Public en lui instillant au passage une moindre rigidité en matière de recrutement des élèves ne garantira toujours pas à la nouvelle école de se libérer de ses démons technocratiques historiques. Pour y parvenir, il faudrait beaucoup plus, énormément plus…
Donner ses chances à tout le monde est à l’origine même du libéralisme, lorsqu’il s’agissait de considérer la valeur et les droits des individus indépendamment de leur appartenance à la noblesse ou pas. Héritage de la Révolution française, ce libéralisme représente un magnifique progrès en matière de droits de l’Homme.
À ce jour, dans le monde de l’entreprise, les voies qui permettent de réussir professionnellement sont nombreuses et très disparates. Bien que cela soit nettement moins courant qu’en Allemagne, il est même possible pour un ouvrier talentueux de gravir les échelons hiérarchiques les uns après les autres.
Ainsi, trouve-t-on dans la maîtrise et dans l’encadrement des entreprises et des grands groupes une étonnante diversité de profils : scientifiques, littéraires, techniques ou simplement basés sur une expérience professionnelle construite de réussite en réussite.
Qui oserait appeler de ses vœux une filière unique d’accès aux responsabilités en entreprise, une espèce d’École de la Maîtrise et de l’Encadrement comme passage obligé ?
Pourtant, cette diversité constatée dans les entreprises n’a pas du tout cours au sommet de l’État. La création de l’ENA en 1945 a été le signal d’arrêt de toute possibilité de diversité. En traçant officiellement une voie royale et unique de sélection de l’élite politique, tout en voulant pourtant professionnaliser l’accès aux postes d’encadrement public et empêcher toute cooptation, le gouvernement d’alors a pris une décision probablement bénéfique à très court terme, mais dont le pays paie aujourd’hui le prix fort.
L’ENA est en effet l’école qui a administré la chute de 50 % de l’industrie française pendant ces dernières années, qui a laissé croître à la fois le chômage et une redistribution qui nous valent le record des prélèvements obligatoires de l’OCDE, qui a instauré la semaine des 35 heures dans un monde concurrentiel qui n’en veut pas, qui a laissé dégringoler le niveau scolaire dans les classements comparatifs internationaux, qui n’a toujours pas su prévenir les inégalités injustes entre public et privé, qui au contraire a laissé augmenter les effectifs de l’État à des niveaux ruineux, qui n’a que très insuffisamment réformé les retraites malgré le déséquilibre entre le nombre d’actifs et de retraités, qui a laissé se développer une violence syndicale abusive, qui n’a pas su maîtriser les flux migratoires ni juguler l’accroissement de l’insécurité…
En réalité, injecter de la variété dans le recrutement des hauts fonctionnaires constitue en soi une contradiction. Il est en effet antinomique d’élargir la base du recrutement d’une élite politique tout en affirmant que le profil de cette élite doit rester identique.
Comment espérer une révolution mentale chez ces hauts fonctionnaires, alors que leur statut protégé garantit des avantages quasiment discriminatoires vis-à-vis des travailleurs du privé, auquel s’ajoute une espèce d’impunité en cas d’échec ?
L’efficacité d’une organisation est d’autant plus élevée que les acteurs économiques qui y travaillent sont responsabilisés et comptables de leurs réussites et de leurs échecs. Les statistiques le démontrent régulièrement : fraude, absentéisme et gabegie atteignent des sommets dans les monstres étatiques impersonnels, tandis que l’efficience, c’est-à-dire le rapport maximisé entre les efforts1 et les résultats, est une obsession quotidienne des entreprises privées et de leurs responsables…
Continuer d’alimenter le sommet de l’État en profils de hauts fonctionnaires revient à donner toutes les chances à l’étatisme technocratique centralisateur français actuel de poursuivre son expansion, car il est toujours en expansion2, et ceci jusqu’à l’asphyxie du pays.
Certaines réformes laissent augurer un progrès qui n’a que très peu de probabilités de se concrétiser, tout simplement parce que le domaine sur lequel porte ce progrès n’est qu’anecdotique et donc insuffisamment structurant. La décision annoncée par Macron comporte tous les ingrédients de ce genre de mesure.
Mais après tout, n’est-ce pas la rançon d’un système dont nous sommes complètement prisonniers ? Comment celui-ci pourrait-il se réformer alors qu’il a survécu sans difficulté aux 40 années de déclin que l’Hexagone vient d’encaisser ? Comment pourrait-il se réformer alors que ses membres partagent les mêmes profils centralisateurs, technocratiques et planificateurs ?
Comment ce profil-là pourrait-il se contenter de fermer la filière officielle, et de « laisser faire » – laisser les gens libres, un impensé socialiste -, en s’appliquant à ne recruter que des individus ayant fait leurs preuves et à faire en sorte que les mauvais résultats soient sanctionnés, alors que ce profil-là n’a jamais connu cet inconfort ?
Par Gabriel Lacoste.
La nouvelle récente de la mort d’un adolescent de 16 ans de la Covid-19 est une opportunité de questionnement du rôle toxique que peut jouer notre empathie dans les drames collectifs.
Hier, j’ouvre mon fil d’actualité. Je tombe sur cette histoire qui a fait le tour des médias québécois. « Le virus fait sa plus jeune victime au Québec ».
Mes sentiments ? Peur et découragement. Peur de qui ? Des personnes empathiques qui utiliseront cette nouvelle pour convaincre les décideurs de nous séquestrer encore plus longtemps.
Je sais que leur attente est de me voir exprimer de la peine pour cette très jeune personne, puis éviter de rencontrer mes amis pour que cela ne se répète pas. Je devine que ma réponse les choque. Ils détestent les personnes sans cœur et je semble en être une. Je les comprends, mais…
J’ai été responsable d’une équipe d’intervenants sociaux et je suis intervenu quotidiennement dans des situations de crise. Or, une règle de base pour bien gérer une crise est d’en éloigner ceux qui sont envahis par leurs émotions, car ils vont éteindre l’incendie avec des bidons d’essence.
À titre d’illustration : j’occupe un poste de responsable dans un centre d’hébergement où résident des hommes impulsifs, agressifs et judiciarisés. Un référent X suit de près Bob, mais pas Gilles. Bob a une altercation avec Gilles. Le ton monte. Les deux s’insultent et se menacent. X écoute la version de Bob. Il est bienveillant à son égard et pense qu’il a bien agi en s’affirmant ainsi. Il insiste pour que Gilles soit expulsé du centre.
Je demande à X de prendre en compte la globalité de la situation, d’entendre le point de vue de Gilles, puis de ses voisins, mais aussi de comprendre que le juge exigera un rapport sur l’évolution de Bob, des risques qu’il peut présenter. X, toujours envahi par ses émotions, se sent jugé par mes questionnements, a l’impression que je ne défends pas son point de vue dans ce conflit, et s’en plaint à son syndicat.
Dans cette situation, comprenez-vous les risques engendrés par l’empathie que X éprouve envers Bob ?
Maintenant, supposez qu’au lieu d’éloigner X de la situation afin qu’il prenne du recul, davantage de personnes émotives soient invitées à se mêler de l’affaire. Des journalistes, des groupes de défense des droits, des activistes viendraient opiner, prendre position, se battre pour un camp ou pour un autre. Quelles seraient les conséquences ?
Vraisemblablement, une affaire gérable à un niveau personnel deviendra une crise d’ampleur nationale.
Eh bien, lorsqu’il est question d’un jeune de 16 ans qui meurt de la Covid-19, c’est ce qui se passe.
Les médias s’invitent. Chacun se mêle de l’affaire et y va de ses commentaires. Les demandes de resserrer les règles sanitaires, les insultes envers les dissidents augmentent. Certains perdent leur commerce et leur emploi. Des individus isolés le sont davantage. Des jeunes voient leur parcours scolaire gravement perturbé.
Des personnes apeurées annulent leur rendez-vous médicaux, et ne sont pas dépistées à temps d’autres pathologies. Les gestionnaires des hôpitaux multiplient les tracasseries administratives et alourdissent le travail des infirmières. D’autres, épuisés, s’absentent de leur travail.
Bref, la société se désorganise et la production de biens et de services cruciaux en pâtit.
Au final, ce sont les gens comme moi qui seront pointés du doigt et rendus responsables de la situation, pas les journalistes qui ont utilisé le décès d’un adolescent de 16 ans pour souffler un vent de panique.
Un drame individuel se transforme en conflit national. Et tout ça pour sauver des vies ? Probablement pas.
Comprenez-moi bien : l’empathie est essentielle. Cependant, elle doit être guidée par la raison, sinon elle devient arbitraire et discriminatoire.
Sans la raison, une trop grande compassion entraînera une réponse impulsive, sourde aux conséquences en termes de coûts/bénéfices ; sans la raison, le sort de la personne dont la souffrance s’offre à nos yeux influera davantage nos décisions. Finalement, tous ceux qui, comme moi, chercheront à brider cette sympathie au nom d’un bien plus grand seront rangés rapidement dans la catégorie des méchants et seront insultés ou ridiculisés en public.
Voilà qui est dangereux.
Durant cette crise, l’emphase est de mise chez les experts, les médias ou les gouvernements du monde entier. Cependant, le rôle des foules empathiques à l’excès qui transforment ces drames individuels en arène nationale mérite d’être pointé du doigt.
À d’autres époques, ce sont ces foules que les démagogues haranguaient pour réveiller une réponse guerrière. Le courage du pauvre soldat qui risque sa vie a été l’étendard facile à agiter devant les pacifistes contestataires. De nos jours, les guerres ne sont plus aussi populaires.
Aujourd’hui, partir en croisade contre les interactions sociales constitue aussi une agression importante à l’encontre de la société civile. Or, ce n’est plus du courageux soldat qui risque sa vie dont il s’agit, mais de la pauvre infirmière épuisée ou du jeune de 16 ans décédé du Covid-19.
Je suis attristé de cette mort, mais je déteste l’usage qui en est fait.
L’industrie médiatique, les compagnies pharmaceutiques, les chaires de recherche et les organisations politiques vendent leur produit grâce à un public qui carbure à cette compassion belliqueuse. Ils capitalisent dessus pour prospérer.
C’est à eux de prendre une pause, de réfléchir, se remettre en question et s’améliorer, car le dommage, la colère et la peur qu’ils génèrent doivent clairement leur être attribués.
Par Nicolas Lecaussin.
Un article de l’Iref-Europe
Lorsqu’il s’agit de parler d’inégalités, l’unanimité règne. Elles ne cesseraient de se creuser et pour les diminuer, il n’y a que deux solutions : augmenter l’impôt des riches et redistribuer encore plus. L’État est là pour compenser les écarts de revenus et répondre aux chiffres alarmistes lancés par les politiques, les médias ou les organisations non-gouvernementales comme Oxfam.
L’étude attentive des données peut néanmoins fournir des informations différentes. C’est ce qu’a fait l’IREF plusieurs fois en attirant l’attention sur le caractère pernicieux des statistiques publiées par Thomas Piketty, pourtant reprises telles quelles par les journalistes.
Et c’est ce que font ces jours-ci deux économistes, Phil Gramm et John Early qui, eux, décortiquent en détail les données officielles du Census Bureau, l’institut de statistiques américain. Leurs conclusions vont complètement à l’encontre du discours à la mode sur l’augmentation des inégalités.
Ils montrent que les données du Census Bureau ne comptabilisent pas toutes les aides gouvernementales dans les revenus des bénéficiaires. En 2017, le gouvernement fédéral, les États et les villes ont redistribué 2800 milliards de dollars, soit 22 % des revenus de l’ensemble des ménages du pays. Plus des deux tiers de ces transferts sociaux sont allés à ceux des deux quintiles de revenus inférieurs.
Mais le Census Bureau choisit de n’inclure que 900 milliards de dollars dans le calcul des revenus des bénéficiaires. Les quelque 1900 milliards de dollars restants de transferts gouvernementaux ne sont pas pris en compte.
Or il s’agit d’aides importantes, notamment Medicare, Medicaid, crédit d’impôt sur le revenu du travail (les bénéficiaires reçoivent un chèque du Trésor) bons d’alimentation (qui permettent d’acheter de la nourriture avec des cartes de débit délivrées par le gouvernement), et de nombreux autres programmes incluant des prestations payées directement par le gouvernement.
De plus, les impôts devraient être déduits du montant des revenus, ce que ne fait pas le Census Bureau. Les Américains paient 4400 milliards de dollars par an en impôts fédéraux et locaux. Les ménages des deux quintiles supérieurs y contribuent à hauteur de 82 %.
Il semblerait logique d’en tenir compte dans les données censées mesurer les inégalités. Si tel était le cas, ces inégalités, n’auraient augmenté, de 1967 à 2017, que de 2,3 % au lieu des 21,4 % qui figurent dans les statistiques officielles : une différence de près de 90 % !
Lorsque toutes ces données sont corrigées et prises en compte, les inégalités se réduisent considérablement. Comme on peut le voir sur le graphique ci-dessous qui reflète la fameuse courbe de Gini : la courbe en bleu, officielle, mesure les inégalités sans les transferts (les aides) et sans les impôts et taxes payés par les deux quintiles les plus riches. La courbe en noir les traduit en tenant compte des transferts sociaux et des impôts payés. En réalité, les inégalités n’ont jamais aussi faibles depuis… 50 ans (en 2017 par rapport à 1967).
Les disparités entre les revenus s’accentuent, c’est un fait. Mais selon les deux chercheurs, le revenu réel du quintile inférieur (ajusté en fonction de l’inflation, et compte tenu de la valeur de tous les paiements de transfert, déduction faite des impôts payés) a augmenté, depuis 50 ans, de 300 % ; contre 213 % pour celui du quintile supérieur, également après impôt. Ce sont des chiffres comptables, pas idéologiques.
D’ailleurs, à mesure que les transferts gouvernementaux aux ménages à faible revenu ont explosé, le taux de participation au marché du travail de ces ménages a baissé. Désormais, les aides d’Etat peuvent atteindre 90 % du revenu du quintile inférieur.
Ce n’est pas forcément une très bonne chose mais il faut le savoir. Et fausser les chiffres sur les inégalités n’est certainement pas une manière responsable d’aborder le sujet.
Par Damien Theillier.
L’Institut Coppet vient de publier un abrégé de La Démocratie en Amérique d’Alexis de Tocqueville. Le texte original de plus de 1000 pages a été condensé en 200 pages, pour ne retenir que les meilleurs morceaux, les développements les plus dignes d’être lus.
Cette sélection de Benoît Malbranque est judicieusement accompagnée de notes ajoutant des éléments supplémentaires, puisés dans les deux recueils documentaires de première importance que sont les Carnets tenus par Tocqueville lors de son voyage en Amérique, et les Brouillons de son livre.
On y voit ainsi la pensée de Tocqueville cheminer librement et compléter les idées du texte qu’il avait choisi de livrer à la postérité. Ont aussi été joints des extraits d’ouvrages contemporains, récits de voyage ou examens du peuple américain, pour expliciter le contexte de rédaction.
De la démocratie en Amérique se présente sous la forme de deux livres :
– Le premier est consacré au principe de la souveraineté du peuple, son mode de fonctionnement. Tocqueville analyse les institutions politiques américaines, l’équilibre des pouvoirs, le suffrage universel etc.
– Le second livre est consacré à la société démocratique c’est-à-dire aux nouvelles manières de penser et d’être engendrées par l’égalisation des conditions. Il y est question notamment de l’individualisme, de l’étatisme, de leurs conséquences et des moyens de les combattre.
Tocqueville s’inscrit dans une tradition intellectuelle libérale française aussi brillante que méconnue : de Montaigne à Revel en passant par Quesnay, Montesquieu, Condillac, Turgot, Condorcet, Constant, Say, Bastiat, Molinari, Rueff, Aron et j’en passe.
Les idées libérales ont joué un rôle majeur dans les phases de modernisation accélérée de notre pays. Mais paradoxalement, à l’exception de la Troisième République, elles ont été mises en œuvre par des pouvoirs autoritaires, par exemple lors du Second Empire ou des débuts de la Cinquième République.
Or tel n’était pas le projet de Tocqueville, qui privilégiait l’ordre spontané et l’action des corps intermédiaires. Il faut, écrit-il « éparpiller la puissance afin d’intéresser plus de monde à la chose publique ».
Et en conclusion du premier livre de De la démocratie en Amérique, comparant le Russe et l’Américain, il affirme :
Pour atteindre son but, le premier [l’Américain] s’en repose sur l’intérêt personnel, et laisse agir, sans les diriger, la force et la raison des individus. Le second [le Russe] concentre en quelque sorte dans un homme toute la puissance de la société.
Un thème d’actualité traverse également cette œuvre : l’homo democraticus est un homme contradictoire. Il refuse de s’appuyer sur la tradition ou la raison d’hommes supérieurs mais il n’ose pas s’appuyer sur sa propre raison. Il éprouve au fond la difficulté d’assumer sa liberté.
Chaque être humain tend alors se soumettre à une autorité supérieure. Cette soumission, qui apporte la sécurité, est plus facile à vivre que la liberté.
Dans un passage fameux de La démocratie en Amérique, Tocqueville décrit les hommes en démocratie comme un « troupeau d’animaux timides et industrieux, dont le gouvernement est le berger ». Les partis qui s’opposent partagent en réalité les mêmes choix idéologiques et les électeurs croient encore exercer leur pouvoir en votant tantôt pour l’un puis pour l’autre, explique Tocqueville.
Ils se consolent d’être en tutelle, en songeant qu’ils ont eux-mêmes choisi leurs tuteurs. […] Dans ce système, les citoyens sortent un moment de la dépendance pour indiquer leur maître, et y rentrent.
En ces temps de planification sanitaire et d’interventionnisme à outrance, Tocqueville nous rappelle que la liberté a un prix et qu’il faut un certain courage pour l’assumer.
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The purchasing power of a currency is the amount of goods and services that can be bought with one unit of the currency.
For example, one U.S. dollar could buy 10 bottles of beer in 1933. Today, as Visual Capitalist's Govind Bhutanda notes, it’s the cost of a small McDonald’s coffee.
In other words, the purchasing power of the dollar - its value in terms of what it can buy - has decreased over time as price levels have risen.
In 1913, the Federal Reserve Act granted Federal Reserve banks the ability to manage the money supply in order to ensure economic stability. Back then, a dollar could buy 30 Hershey’s chocolate bars.
As more dollars came into circulation, average prices of goods and services increased while the purchasing power of the dollar fell. By 1929, the value of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 73% higher than in 1913, but a dollar was now enough only for 10 rolls of toilet paper.
Between 1929-1933, the purchasing power of the dollar actually increased due to deflation and a 31% contraction in money supply before eventually declining again. Fast forward to 1944 and the U.S. dollar, fixed to gold at a rate of $35/oz, became the world’s reserve currency under the Bretton Woods agreement.
Meanwhile, the U.S. increased its money supply in order to finance the deficits of World War II followed by the Korean war and the Vietnam war. Hence, the buying power of the dollar reduced from 20 bottles of Coca-Cola in 1944 to a drive-in movie ticket in 1964.
By the late 1960s, the number of dollars in circulation was too high to be backed by U.S. gold reserves. President Nixon ceased direct convertibility of U.S. dollars to gold in 1971. This ended both the gold standard and the limit on the amount of currency that could be printed.
Money supply (M2) in the U.S. has skyrocketed over the last two decades, up from $4.6 trillion in 2000 to $19.5 trillion in 2021.
The effects of the rise in money supply were amplified by the financial crisis of 2008 and more recently by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, around 20% of all U.S. dollars in the money supply, $3.4 trillion, were created in 2020 alone.
How will the purchasing power of the dollar evolve going forward?
Par Sean Lang1.
Un article de The Conversation
La mort du prince Philip, duc d’Édimbourg, marque la fin d’un chapitre non seulement pour la famille royale britannique, mais aussi pour la monarchie européenne elle-même. Philip appartenait à ce monde cosmopolite de rois interdépendants qui avait régné sur l’Europe avant la Première Guerre mondiale et qui a été largement balayé par le temps, la guerre ou la révolution.
Né à Corfou du prince Andrew, d’origine grecque et danoise, et de la princesse Alice de Battenberg, d’origine anglaise et allemande, il aurait pu vivre comme un prince européen obscur si sa famille n’avait pas été prise dans la politique révolutionnaire de l’après-guerre et bannie de sa patrie. Philippe a été affecté toute sa vie par le fait que ses parents Romanov avaient été assassinés par les bolcheviks : en 1993, son ADN a été utilisé pour identifier leurs corps.
S’installant d’abord à Paris puis à Londres, Philip a fait ses études en Angleterre, en Allemagne et enfin à la Gordonstoun School, fondée par le réfugié juif allemand Kurt Hahn. C’est à cet enseignement rugueux et sévère de Gordonstoun que Philip a toujours attribué son approche pragmatique et non sentimentale de la vie, alors qu’il a parfois frappé les autres comme étant dur ou insensible.
Pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, il a servi avec distinction dans la Royal Navy, mais c’est après la guerre qu’il a été projeté dans le rôle royal qui a défini son existence. Tombé amoureux de sa lointaine parente, la princesse Elizabeth, il l’épousa en 1947 dans le premier d’une série de mariages royaux très médiatisés qui allaient ponctuer l’histoire britannique d’après-guerre.
À l’occasion du mariage, Philip, qui avait renoncé à ses titres étrangers en prenant la nationalité britannique, reçut le titre de duc d’Édimbourg. Cependant, à sa grande irritation, sa femme conserva son nom royal de Windsor pour elle-même et leurs deux premiers enfants, au lieu de prendre le nom de son mari, Mountbatten. Un compromis constitutionnel a finalement été trouvé : le prince Andrew et le prince Edward ont reçu le nom de Mountbatten-Windsor.
Philip semble alors représenter une bouffée d’air frais, en entrant à Buckingham Palace en pantalon et chemise à col ouvert, dans une monarchie qui apparaît guindée et déconnectée. Mais lorsque la princesse Elizabeth succède au trône en 1952, il découvre les ambiguïtés et les frustrations du rôle de consort du monarque britannique. Contrairement au Prince Albert, il ne reçoit pas le titre officiel de prince consort, même si, en 1957, il reçoit le titre de courtoisie de prince Philip.
Comme son prédécesseur victorien, il se lance dans des projets caritatifs, scientifiques, sportifs et éducatifs, notamment à la tête de la National Playing Fields Association et du Worldwide Fund for Nature. Son héritage le plus durable est peut-être le Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, un programme d’aventures et d’efforts en plein air pour les jeunes, basé sur les mêmes principes d’enseignement que Gordonstoun.
Philip a rapidement développé une réputation pour ce qu’il a un jour appelé « la dentopédologie – la science d’ouvrir la bouche et d’y mettre le pied ».
Ses « gaffes » étaient typiques de l’humour des officiers britanniques – bien que moins appréciées, parfois même offensantes, pour d’autres oreilles.
Un humour que l’on peut considérer comme mal placé comme quand il dit au président du Nigéria, qui portait la tenue nationale : « Vous avez l’air d’être prêt à aller vous coucher ». Ou comme quand il donne conseil aux étudiants britanniques en Chine de ne pas y rester trop longtemps sous peine de se retrouver avec des « yeux bridés ».
Dire à un photographe de « juste prendre la putain de photo » ou déclarer « ce truc ouvert, quel qu’il soit », représentaient aussi des expressions d’exaspération ou de lassitude que l’on peut apprécier ou pas.
Il était également capable d’un esprit direct et terre-à-terre, disant par exemple de sa fille, la Princesse Anne, et de son amour des chevaux : « S’il ne pète pas ou ne mange pas de foin, elle n’est pas intéressée. » Beaucoup de gens ont pu le penser mais peu ont osé le dire.
Si les célèbres gaffes du prince Philip ont provoqué autant d’amusement que de colère, c’est peut-être parce qu’elles semblent exprimer la perplexité et les frustrations refoulées auxquelles nous faisons tous face.
C’est dans son rôle familial que Philip a été le plus critiqué. La Reine ne manquait jamais de rendre hommage à son soutien – pendant de nombreuses années, elle commençait ses déclarations publiques par les mots « Mon mari et moi ». Et leurs enfants semblaient, selon les apparences, équilibrés et heureux.
Pourtant, la série de scandales et de divorces qui a englouti les plus jeunes membres de la famille royale dans les années 1980 semblait clairement pointer vers une éducation parentale pour le moins inadéquate.
Le prince Charles en particulier, personnage plus sensible que son père mais que Philip avait néanmoins soumis aux rigueurs de Gordonstoun et de la marine, a souffert de l’approche sans états d’âme de son père.
C’est Philip qui a forcé Charles à mettre fin aux spéculations publiques et à épouser Lady Diana Spencer en 1981 et, lorsque le mariage s’est soldé par un divorce, on a beaucoup reproché au duc la rigueur et l’intransigeance avec lesquelles il avait élevé son fils aîné.
La crise provoquée par la mort de Diana en 1997 a fait ressortir les critiques à l’égard de la monarchie, mais par son rôle dans l’organisation des funérailles et sa décision de marcher à côté de ses petits-fils, le duc avait su s’attirer la sympathie du public.
À la fin de sa vie, le duc d’Édimbourg a commencé à se retirer de son énorme éventail de rôles publics – il a occupé plus de 800 présidences et patronages – y compris la chancellerie des universités de Cambridge, Salford, du Pays de Galles et, comme il se doit, d’Édimbourg.
Il a reçu de nombreux éloges en 2012 lorsqu’il est resté debout pendant trois heures sous la pluie aux côtés de la Reine lors de son spectacle fluvial du Jubilé de diamant, avant de souffrir d’une infection de la vessie. Cependant, son insistance à continuer à conduire a attiré des critiques lorsque, en 2019, il est entré en collision avec une autre voiture près du domaine de Sandringham.
Alors que sa santé se détériorait, il a maintenu néanmoins son calendrier de fonctions publiques, ne se retirant finalement qu’en 2017, à l’âge de 96 ans.
Comme il se doit pour un militaire de la marine, son dernier devoir public a été de transférer son rôle de colonel en chef du régiment des Rifles à sa belle-fille Camilla, duchesse de Cornouailles, en juillet 2020.
Par Yves Montenay.
Le président Senghor a traversé tout le XXe siècle à une époque et un endroit très riche : l’histoire de l’Afrique francophone coloniale et post coloniale. Elle donne un éclairage globalement positif des rapports avec la France contrairement à l’analyse catastrophique et anachronique qui se diffuse aujourd’hui.
Nous lui devons notamment le lancement de la francophonie.
Ma « traversée du siècle », dont vous avez en fin d’article un sommaire, est une collection de souvenirs personnels resitués dans l’histoire et reflétant les opinions de l’époque.
Léopold Cedar Senghor est né en 1906 au Sénégal dans le pittoresque delta du Siné Saloum.
Son nom évoque l’histoire d’un Sénégal aujourd’hui souvent oublié :
Il est élevé en français dans l’enseignement catholique sénégalais. Son brillant résultat au baccalauréat grâce au français et au latin lui vaut d’être envoyé faire ses études supérieures en France.
Mes premiers souvenirs du futur président ne datent que des années 1950 lorsque j’étais assez grand pour comprendre les aventures de guerre racontée par ma mère, que j’espère ne pas trop déformer par le double prisme de sa mémoire puis de la mienne.
La première carrière du futur président Senghor fut tout ce qu’il y a de plus française. Il était en Khagne (classe préparatoire littéraire) à Louis-le-Grand aux côtés de son camarade Georges Pompidou et de l’écrivain Pham Duy Khiem, futur ambassadeur du Vietnam à l’Unesco et fils adoptif de mon grand-père. Ma mère était donc en quelque sorte la sœur de ce dernier et fit connaissance de son ami Senghor.
Devenu agrégé de grammaire en 1935, et pour cela naturalisé français, il fut nommé professeur de français à Tours où résidait ma mère.
Les Allemands l’internèrent en 1940 dans un camp à Poitiers, contrairement aux autres prisonniers français envoyés en Allemagne. En effet, le racisme obsessionnel des nazis avait décidé qu’il ne fallait pas qu’un Africain souille la terre allemande.
Ses camarades et lui échappent à l’exécution en criant « vive la France, vive l’Afrique Noire », un officier français expliquant alors aux Allemands que ces exécutions terniraient l’image de l’Allemagne.
Je ne sais pas si cette péripétie a un rapport avec ce qui ressort de très nombreux témoignages de l’époque : les officiers allemands qui n’étaient pas sur le front étaient souvent des réservistes cultivés, francophones et très réservés envers le nazisme.
Ses amis se mobilisèrent, ma mère, devenue poitevine, lui apportant parfois à manger.
On finit par apprendre que le directeur du camp était un spécialiste des langues africaines. On lui parla de son collègue et il participa à sa libération. On improvisa un dossier disant qu’il souffrait d’une maladie dangereuse et contagieuse impliquant son départ du camp.
Il profita de son séjour derrière des barbelés pour rédiger plusieurs de ses poèmes.
Devenu communiste, ce qui était fréquent à la Libération, il occupe la chaire de linguistique à l’école de la France outre-mer et continue ses recherches sur la langue sérère.
Il est parallèlement élu député du Sénégal et Mauritanie au Parlement français dans le cadre de l’Union française. Il est alors socialiste, à la SFIO (Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière), qui était le nom du parti socialiste jusqu’à Mitterrand.
Il quittera le parti pour fonder le Bloc démocratique sénégalais et sera réélu, puis sera deux fois ministre dans un gouvernement français. Il poursuit parallèlement son œuvre littéraire.
En 1960 il devient président de la République du Sénégal.
En 1962, il lance intellectuellement la francophonie avec son article « Le français langue de culture », qui sera juridiquement lancée en 1969 avec Habib Bourguiba (Tunisie), Hamani Diori (Niger) et Norodom Sihanouk (Cambodge).
Je ne développe pas, car je suis ici pour évoquer mes souvenirs.
Nous sommes en 1975, j’ai 34 ans, je reçois un appel du président Senghor à qui ma mère avait plus ou moins clairement expliqué que j’étais enseignant et démographe.
En fait je suis directeur des ressources humaines et directeur financier d’une entreprise de gestion d’énergie, mais également enseignant d’économie à Sciences-Po et démographe amateur, ce qui fut probablement la source de la confusion.
Le président m’explique qu’il est sous pression américaine pour lancer le planning familial au Sénégal, que l’idée est bonne mais sera rejetée parce qu’américaine : « Monsieur le professeur, il faut que ce soit une idée française. Venez ! » Cela ne se refuse pas, même sur un malentendu !
Nous établissons un plan de bataille. Mon accroche sera « Vous pensez être 5 millions mais en fait vous serez rapidement 15 millions, et vos difficultés actuelles, notamment de scolarisation, seront accrues d’autant ».
Il s’agit maintenant de convaincre les corps intermédiaires : les infirmières, les sage-femmes, les médecins et… la faculté des lettres puisque nous avons un président écrivain et poète.
Je fais une synthèse des discussions et présente l’idée à la télévision sénégalaise.
Tout cela fut fait dans la bonne humeur africaine si sympathique. Les résultats ne furent pas immédiats du fait des traditions et de ce que la majorité de la population était hors d’atteinte des sites médicaux.
Néanmoins la fécondité est passée à 4,6 enfants par femme en 2017 en partant de 7 ou 8 à l’époque pour une population qui n’est maintenant « que » de 16 millions, 43 ans après.
« Que voulez-vous en échange ? » me demanda le président. « Une voiture et un chauffeur pour 8 jours avec accès aux préfets pour discuter développement, dont, bien sûr, le planning familial ». « Accordé ! » me répond le président.
Plus de 40 ans ont passé, mais je me souviens encore de certains détails.
L’architecture de Saint-Louis, très ancienne ville française cédée au Sénégal à l’indépendance et surtout l’audience accordée par le préfet, tout fier d’être dans le bureau de Faidherbe. Tellement fier qu’il le fait astiquer vigoureusement au risque d’en faire disparaître les sculptures de cuivre.
Il reprend l’histoire de Faidherbe, connu en France comme un homologue de Lyautey, c’est-à-dire envisageant la colonisation comme étant dans l’intérêt indissociable de la France et du pays colonisé, et ayant pour cela gardé une bonne réputation sur place.
J’en profite pour lui dire que sur le cercueil de Lyautey aux Invalides figure, en arabe, l’inscription « Je suis fier d’avoir servi le grand peuple marocain ».
Le préfet illustre cette ambivalence par l’histoire de « l’école des fils de chefs », dans laquelle Faidherbe envoyait les fils des notables locaux pour les faire bénéficier d’une bonne formation mais peut-être aussi implicitement comme otages pour dissuader une éventuelle rébellion des parents.
Les photos des promotions de cette école ornent d’ailleurs le bureau préfectoral.
Le président m’invite à discuter et partager son repas dans sa résidence de Popenguine. Il est avec sa deuxième femme, une Normande, la première, Ginette Éboué ayant illustré le décalage culturel entre cette génération de responsables africains instruits et des femmes qui l’étaient moins (je résume diplomatiquement ce qui se disait côté masculin).
Il n’est d’ailleurs pas le seul dirigeant africain de sa génération à avoir une femme française. Il adore son dernier fils issu de ce mariage qui se tuera bientôt dans un accident de circulation.
La conversation roule sur l’économie du pays et la culture des Sénégalais. Il constate l’échec de l’étatisation et de la sénégalisation sans faire le lien avec ses convictions socialistes. Il s’enthousiasme sur les capacités intellectuelles des Sénégalais « une fois le système scolaire mis sur de bons rails » et prévoit de grands succès en mathématiques pour les générations à venir. Il rêve d’un grand Centre Pompidou accueillant les intellectuels sénégalais de toutes les disciplines.
Je m’arrête là, car l’objet de ce récit n’est pas de décrire la vie économique et politique du Sénégal.
Disons seulement que cette dernière fut infiniment plus paisible que celle de la plupart des autres pays africains. Le président prit calmement sa retraite en 1980, là aussi contrairement à beaucoup d’autres ayant prolongé leur mandat jusqu’à un âge avancé malgré les limites constitutionnelles.
Revenu à ses premières amours, il entra à l’Académie française en 1983 et passa sa retraite en Normandie.
J’ai toujours regretté d’avoir été à l’étranger lors de ses obsèques en 2001.
Je fulmine contre l’aveuglement du gouvernement français qui n’envoya à la cérémonie de Dakar que le président de l’Assemblée et le secrétaire d’État à la francophonie.
Ni Lionel Jospin ni Jacques Chirac ne se dérangèrent, ce dernier se fendant du moins du message : « la poésie a perdu un maître, le Sénégal un homme d’État, l’Afrique un visionnaire et la France un ami ».
Si vous avez manqué les épisodes précédents :
#1 – De la Corée au Vietnam (1951-54) : la géopolitique vue par mes yeux d’enfant
#2 – Algérie, Hongrie et Canal de Suez : 1954-56, tout se complique !
#3 – L’école, les Allemands et les Anglais des années 1950
#4 – Des gouvernants calamiteux et l’affaire algérienne achèvent IVe République
#5 – URSS, 1964 : un voyage rocambolesque
#6 – 1963 et la francophonie américaine
#7 – Le Sahara
#8 – Le Laos
#9 – Les années Chirac
Gun sales have been wildly up all year. He just pushed them to a new level.
It’s almost as if he were marketing director for Smith & Wesson.
(As America’s president he might have made that clear to prevent people from running out to buy yet more Austrian-made Glocks when the locally-produced version is arguably as good.)
The hypocrisy of this doddering man who threatened to punch out Donald Trump is nothing short of monumental.
Any sentient being—not a slavish, ultra-conformist Democrat who no longer thinks for him or herself—has been alarmed at the escalating violence in our streets.
Murders are way up. Assaults are way up. Police protection way down.
This is all thanks to our Democrat friends many of whom seek to defund and/or handcuff the police, even, in some cases, after the latest group of self-described revolutionary maniacs has decided to torch their house.
But the president wants to disarm us. Hello, Germany 1938.
The measure of this hypocrisy can be seen in the treatment of those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6—many of whom are still incarcerated without bail, including those with no criminal record whatsoever, none of whom (nota bene) had guns of any sort, not even a Derringer tucked in a boot—compared with the treatment of Antifa and Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
The latter, always thugs in the Antifa case and too often thugs in the BLM case, almost always get off and got off “Scot Free” after committing true acts of violence and mayhem that dwarf anything that happened in the Capitol.
We can easily mock the usual liberal virtue signaling about guns going on here, but one of Mr. Biden’s proposals is particularly alarming because superficially attractive to many.
He has directed the Department of Justice to publish model “red flag” legislation for the states. Those are laws that allow family members, police, and possibly others to ask a court to bar an individual from possessing firearms if he or she seems to be dangerous to themselves or others.
We might call this the “Stasi Law” because it encourages us to snitch on each other in the manner of East Germany under their Stasi, the most ruthless of all communist intelligence agencies before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
If you have seen the brilliant German film “The Lives of Others,” you know how it worked. (If you haven’t, download this movie now. It’s the most relevant political film made in the last twenty-five years.)
And speaking of the cinema, it used to be in the old Hollywood movies the snitch was considered an oily villain who got his just deserts. Unamerican, really. Nowadays, we’re headed in the opposite direction, not just in film, but in our society.
This “snitchery” is already here. I recently heard the story of some Tennessee people who were warned by their own parents not to visit them in Pennsylvania because the parents’ neighbor would report a Tennessee license plate in their driveway—such interstate fraternization being verboten (I assume we all know that German word from World War II flicks) in Pennsylvania because of COVID.
The possibilities for similar behavior with “red flag” legislation are endless—children ratting on their parents and so forth—just as are the ramifications from vaccination passports.
We live in a different world.
In case you want to buy Smith & Wesson stock, it trades on the NASDAQ as SWBI. It’s down today a touch. You know what they say—buy on the dip.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on Parler as @rogerlsimon.
Video of an abandoned Missouri resort town filled with dilapidated mansions has gone viral on TikTok as local law enforcement warns people to stay away.
Near Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, is a 900-acre project, called Indian Ridge Resort, which held huge promises when it was partially constructed a little more than a decade ago. The ambitious $1.6 billion resort went bankrupt around the Great Recession of 2008 and has been dormant ever since.
However, the deserted resort has come back to life after a TikTok user posted a video of what appears to be a spooky ghost town.
The video has gained so much attention on the internet that people from all over are checking it out.
This prompted the Stone County Sheriff's Office to warn potential thriller seekers inspired by the viral TikTok video to stay away from the private property.
"A recent Tik-Tok video went viral about the Indian Ridge development that went bankrupt. This has caused this location off of 76 Highway to become a tourist attraction. THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND YOU CAN BE CITED FOR TRESPASSING!Our Deputies are very busy handling calls for service and really do not want to write people tickets for trespassing. Please do not enter the property. Please do not trespass on the property. It has been a constant flow of people walking down in the development all weekend. Please go visit our many other tourist attractions in Stone County including Table Rock lake! Thank you! Sheriff Doug Rader"
The viral TikTok video, posted by user "carriejernigan1," has more than 15.6 million views.
What's impressive is how easily popular social media users can influence the masses. It only took one user to turn an abandoned resort town into a popular tourist attraction
Canada’s climate strategy to significantly cut emissions and become a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 will create a seismic shift in the large oil and gas sector, where up to three-quarters of the workers, or up to 450,000 people, are at risk of displacement, TD Bank said in a new report on Tuesday.
Canada aims to become a net-zero emissions economy within three decades, and to cut emissions by between 32 percent and 40 percent by 2030.
While those commitments could be critical to staving off the worst effects of global warming, Canada needs to take significant action, including coming to terms with the effect of climate policies on the oil and gas workers, the bank said.
“According to Natural Resources Canada, roughly 600,000 Canadians, located mostly in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador are either directly or indirectly employed in the oil & gas sector. We estimate between 50-75% of those workers are at risk of displacement in the transition through 2050, equivalent to 312,000 – 450,000 workers,” TD Bank said in the report.
“The belief is that many of those displaced will find a home in the clean energy sector, but we should not assume that the transition will absorb all displaced workers,” the bank said, noting that it is critical that Canada do not repeat past mistakes and ensure a just transition for energy sector workers.
“The clean-energy transition will create many new job opportunities, but there is no guarantee or automatic market mechanism to ensure these benefits accrue to where the costs will be borne on the displacement,” according to the bank.
South of the border, in the United States, thousands of oil and gas jobs disappeared during the oil price and demand crash last year, and more and more former oil workers moved to jobs in the clean energy business. However, they have also taken a pay cut moving to renewables as the industry still pays lower than oil and gas.
In the aftermath of last week's historic snub, when the female president of the European Commission was left speechless - and chairless - during her controversial visit to Turkey's president, diplomatic relations between Europe and Turkey has once again fallen off a cliff.
As a reminder, the European Commission president, Von der Leyen was clearly taken aback when she and her male partner, European Council President Charles Michel, met Erdogan in Ankara last Tuesday, only to find just two chairs prepared, which were quickly occupied by the men. Erdogan and Michel quickly seated themselves while von der Leyen, whose diplomatic rank is the same as that of the two men, was left standing. Official images later showed her seated on a sofa opposite Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
In response, former Goldman partner, ECB head and current Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, told reporters on Thursday that “I absolutely do not agree with Erdoğan’s behavior towards president Von der Leyen … I think it was not appropriate behavior and I was very sorry for the humiliation Von der Leyen had to suffer.”
He then said that “with these dictators, let’s call them what they are – who however are needed – one must be honest in expressing one’s diverging ideas and views about society."
We would love to know more about what Draghi meant by "dictators who are needed" and how Europe treats them compared to dictators who are unneeded... like perhaps having Europe's unelected money-printing dictators pushing their bond yields to double digits overnight? But we digress.
Predictably, Turkey was furious with the Italian Prime Minister for calling Erdogan a “dictator" and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Italian ambassador to Ankara to condemn the remarks. According to a foreign ministry statement, the ambassador was told that Draghi’s remarks were against the spirit of the Turkey-Italy alliance.
The ministry said Draghi should “immediately” take back his “impudent and ugly remarks”. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu also slammed the remarks in a tweet.
“We strongly condemn the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi’s unacceptable, populist discourse and his ugly and unrestrained comments about our elected president,” he wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Thursday, Çavuşoğlu said that the seating at the meeting was arranged in line with the bloc’s demands and international protocol and that Turkey was being subject to “unjust accusations“.
Turkey has insisted that the EU’s own protocol requests were applied but the EU Council head of protocol said his team did not have access, during their preparatory inspection, to the room where the incident happened.
“If the room for the tete-a-tete had been visited, we should have suggested to our hosts that, as a courtesy, they replace the sofa with two armchairs for the president of the commission,” Dominique Marro wrote in a note made public by the EU Council. He added that the incident might have been prompted by the order of protocol established by the EU treaty.
Of course, Erdogan's excuse was BS: the incident came only weeks after Erdoğan pulled Turkey out of a key European convention aimed at combating violence against women. The move was a blow to Turkey’s women’s rights movement, which says domestic violence and murders of women are on the rise. During her visit to Ankara, Von der Leyen called for Erdoğan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the Istanbul convention – named after the Turkish city where it was signed in 2011.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but with the world so deep inside the rabbit hole, we would not be surprised if WWIII broke out over some seating arrangement.
A documentary film about an African American lawyer who rose from poverty and oppression in the Deep South to the highest court in the land would seem a natural for Black History Month. Yet, in February, at the very time its Prime Video service was featuring films highlighting black history makers, Amazon without explanation stopped offering digital streams of “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.”
While the film was pulled despite having at one time reached No. 1 on Amazon’s documentary charts, the world’s largest online retailer continued to make available streams of less-popular documentaries, including a favorable one on Anita Hill, the former Thomas colleague who nearly derailed his Supreme Court confirmation.
That was frustrating to Michael Pack, writer-director of “Created Equal” and a documentary filmmaker for decades. But it was no surprise to him and the small but growing cadre of other conservative documentarians, who say they face obstacles because of their politics and are starting to fight back against the long odds of "cancel culture." Black conservative scholar Shelby Steele saw Amazon initially refuse to carry his documentary “What Killed Michael Brown?” last year because it challenged the liberal narrative about the 2014 shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement. Amazon, which relented after a public outcry, did not respond to a request for comment.
Justin Folk, director of “No Safe Spaces,” which focuses on college-based attacks on free speech and features prominent liberals including Dr. Cornel West and Van Jones, along with conservatives such as Dennis Prager, Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro, said he had a hard time finding a traditional distributor for his documentary because Hollywood saw the film as conservative.
“Despite having big names in our film, a big audience, and a very relevant topic, we were mostly ignored,” said Folk, who said his film, which eventually grossed $1.3 million, was rejected by the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. “In one case, a major distributor actually admitted to us that they think our film is a winner but they can’t get behind it because Dennis Prager is in it.”
Conservative filmmakers faced little discrimination in the past because there were so few of them. That started to change in 2012, when conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016: Obama’s America” became the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time ($33 million).
The years since have been a golden age for documentaries. Streaming services such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have created major distribution channels, matching content with massive, algorithmically targeted audiences. This, in turn, has led to explosive growth in filmmaking. Documentaries that in the past might never have seen the light of day -- since their economic viability would be tied to packing movie houses -- can flourish today, particularly lately with people more homebound due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Typically it was liberal activists, not conservative polemicists like D’Souza, who made documentaries. As Thom Powers, who runs America's largest documentary festival, DOC NYC, told CBS News, the best documentaries try to make a difference. “There have been films that have gotten people out of prison, like the 'Paradise Lost' series, or Errol Morris' 'Thin Blue Line.' 'Super Size Me' totally changed the conversation around fast food. 'Inconvenient Truth' totally changed the conversation around climate change. So all over the world, you can see documentaries having an effect.”
But the idea of “making a difference” has generally trended in one direction politically, illustrated lately by Barack and Michelle Obama's film production deal with Netflix, which has already yielded a best documentary Oscar. Virtually ignored is an underserved niche in the market. “More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in the November election,” the Hollywood Reporter noted in a March 11 story. “And, at the moment, there's little Hollywood content that directly appeals to them. That leaves a big opening for those willing to risk ostracization from the rest of the industry.”
Industry support is crucial because it helps in raising money, in earning film festival slots to persuade a distributor to get a film in front of an audience, and enticing journalistic outlets to cover and review it.
“If you’re on the left, there’s a whole infrastructure that enables you to make things very easily,” said D’Souza, who illustrated his point by citing what he calls the “charmed life” of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. Each new Moore film is considered a pop-culture moment. They are featured at the top festivals, where they often win prizes – to go along with his Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine.”
“He’s on the ‘Today’ show and ‘The View.’ … There’s a whole apparatus of publicity in place,” D’Souza added.
D’Souza has succeeded without enjoying such support. But he said the odds against conservatives have worsened in recent years because of suppression by both Big Tech and woke corporations. His 2020 film, “Trump Card,” scrapped its planned theatrical release for a video-on-demand slate due to COVID-19, but the hurdles didn’t stop there.
“The radioactive connection wasn’t me, but Trump,” D’Souza says. “Trump Card” hit video-on-demand services several weeks before the 2020 presidential election, by design. D’Souza says Amazon placed a large order of “Trump Card” DVDs, which his company met. But some Amazon customers were told the product was “out of stock” and wouldn’t be delivered until after Election Day.
“I’m not used to these kinds of obstacles,” he says. “I never thought of Amazon as a left-wing company.” He’s changed that view after seeing it take part in a concerted takedown of Twitter alternative Parler as well as it removing books such as “When Harry Became Sally,” which criticized elements of the trans movement.
“What Killed Michael Brown?,” produced by filmmaker Eli Steele in tandem with father Shelby, faced similar discrimination. Amazon initially rejected the handsomely mounted, jazz-filled work, saying it didn’t meet the streaming giant’s quality standards and that no appeal would be heard. That news brought attention from the Wall Street Journal editorial page and other media outlets, and Amazon quickly reversed course. Eli Steele says that opened his eyes to how much sway Amazon holds over the film marketplace.
“The numbers between Amazon and other platforms are not even comparable,” Steele says of its sizable audience reach. He says most film festivals “lack the backbone to show perspectives outside of their echo chambers,” but he doesn’t want ideological diversity to be forced into the current system.
“Anyone can start their own film festival and they program it however they wish,” he says. “So why not plan a prestigious film festival that crosses all sorts of lines and invites healthy dialogue and debate?”
The conservative film sub-genre is attracting some unlikely participants. Radio talk show host Larry Elder made a splash in 2020 with “Uncle Tom,” a documentary letting black conservatives like him share their views and discuss how they’re treated by select liberals. The title captures the latter sentiment.
Elder, a best-selling author and nationally syndicated talk show host, says right-leaning documentaries often turn to private sources, like affluent Republicans, to fund their work. His film got little attention outside of conservative outlets at a time when the media invested heavily in telling black stories by black creators.
“It was ignored by the Hollywood ‘we want diversity’ community, including all the film reviewers of the major newspapers and trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter,” says Elder, who co-wrote, co-produced and appears in the film. “Uncle Tom” boasts only three official reviews at RottenTomatoes.com, and no critics'-average "Tomatometer" score, in contrast with a robust 96% “fresh” rating from users.
Neither The Hollywood Reporter nor Variety would comment on the matter.
Yet none of that stopped Elder’s documentary from turning a tidy profit. The film's virtual opening weekend last June grossed $400,000. Elder notes the film quickly recouped its costs and ended up earning multiples of its budget of some $450,000 including post-production. It helped that Elder has a hearty social media presence – 859,000 followers on Twitter alone -- along with a syndicated radio show to promote the project.
Its commercial success was also aided by the development of alternative distribution platforms, showing that markets can punish discrimination, and that discrimination may serve as the mother of innovation.
Initially, "Uncle Tom” was sold exclusively through a partnership with SalemNOW, part of the conservative media company that distributes Elder's radio show. Following that 70-day exclusive with SalemNOW, the film’s website (UncleTom.com) became the primary sales location, with additional platforms added over the ensuing few months, including iTunes, Amazon and, later, Amazon Prime.
Elder says his team unsuccessfully approached Netflix about carrying “Uncle Tom,” a platform that features a crush of original, left-leaning documentaries including “13th” and “Miss Americana,” a film that honored Taylor Swift’s progressive awakening.
The team behind the film didn’t submit it to most major film festivals, save for the boutique USA Film Festival in Dallas. The documentary’s conservative bent helped shape that decision, as did restrictions in place from the ongoing pandemic.
RealClearInvestigations reached out to multiple documentary groups for comment on this story, including DOC NYC, the Southern Documentary Fund, the Center for Independent Documentary, Docs in Progress and the International Documentary Association. None responded to those queries. Neither did several major film festivals, including Sundance, Telluride, Slamdance and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Other conservative filmmakers are going outside traditional channels. SalemNOW began streaming Pack’s “Created Equal” on March 30 in response to Amazon’s decision to pull the film. (It's listed on Amazon as a DVD but often out of stock.) Christopher Rufo has used YouTube to distribute his short films, including “Chaos by the Bay: The Truth About Homelessness in San Francisco” and “Mob Rule in Seattle.”
“I can immediately inject it into the bloodstream of the national conversation,” Rufo said. But, he added, coming out as a right-leaning storyteller in the documentary field is “complete poison to your career.”
“People tell me, ‘You’re now conservative. I can’t even work with you,’” says Rufo, who adds documentary organizations that once collaborated with him suddenly stopped returning his calls. “It’s kind of shocking. … They can’t even process how anyone would have another opinion.”
Documentary producer Nadia Gill of Encompass Films noted the industry’s allegiance to identity politics in a recent column for Persuasion.com:
First-hand experience of a subject has always been considered helpful in documentary filmmaking. But this has traditionally been a genre in which creators are free to engage with material that lies far beyond the boundaries of their own lives. Now, during the entire process — from access to financing and distribution — the filmmaker’s identity is at least as closely scrutinized as that person’s filmmaking aptitude.
Gill, who describes her political philosophy as “center left,” says modern documentaries can be broken down into two categories – classic and commercial, the latter fueled in part by Netflix’s robust documentary lineup. The former, Gill says, isn’t just liberal in nature but “fringe left,” while the commercial market offers some room for right-of-center storytelling. Either way, conservative documentaries rarely grace the film festival circuit.
“The vast majority of submissions [to film festivals] are, in fact, going to be from the left perspective,” she says. “It would be good for our industry to hear those voices [from the right] … and have an honest conversation.”
That won’t happen unless more independent funders show up to support this brand of art. Left-of-center storytellers can lean on a variety sources, including the Ford Foundation (2017’s “Whose Streets?”) and the MacArthur Foundation (2010’s “How Democracy Works Now”) to finance their work, Gill says.
“Progressive institutions have set themselves up for years to make these films,” she says. So far, few non-left groups have copied that approach.
Amanda Milius agrees. “The donor class of the right has to start acting like the donor class of the left,” says Milius, director of the 2020 documentary "The Plot Against the President," based on the book of the same title by Lee Smith, a freelance contributor to RealClearInvestigations. “Put that money into issue-based culture … and creators that hold the same values you do. Make something that lives forever.”
“You’re probably gonna make your money back and more,” she adds, “plus, you’re investing in actual change of the culture.”
About 1.5 years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted UPS Flight Forward the ability to start a drone airline business, UPS Flight Forward announced Wednesday plans to purchase electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies.
The first ten BETA aircraft are scheduled to enter UPS Flight Forward's fleet by 2024, with an option to purchase an additional 150 more. Each eVTOL aircraft can carry upwards of 1,400 pounds of cargo and take off and land at UPS facilities in small and mid-size markets.
Ideally, the BETA aircraft will transport time-sensitive packages that would otherwise fly on small fixed-wing planes. The aircraft has a distance of 250 miles and can cruise at 170 mph. UPS will integrate the fleet of eVTOL aircraft for short routes that will ultimately speed up delivery times.
"This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment," said UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer Juan Perez.
Perez continued: "These new aircraft will create operational efficiencies in our business, open possibilities for new services, and serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce the emissions profile of our air and ground operation."
BETA's eVTOL is designed to fly autonomously as UPS Flight Forward received the first FAA Part 135 Standard air carrier certification to operate a drone airline in 2019. The FAA certification will allow UPS to eventually fly payloads up to 7,500 lbs. with an operator or autonomously.
UPS Flight Forward's future plans appear to be riveting as the package delivery and supply chain management company will soon begin to integrate large unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace to improve the delivery of time-sensitive packages across metro areas and regions.