Category Archives: Blogs

Venezuela, The Neocons are Back!

Yes, the neocons are back, and as matter of fact they were never far away from power through think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations or the Heritage Foundation. Monthly Review Online, 02/19/19.

Elliott Abrams 2Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis.  Politico, 01/25/19.

The United States has a clear objective in Venezuela: regime change and the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. Yet sanctions, international diplomatic isolation, and internal pressure have failed to deliver a breakthrough. Minds are turning to military intervention. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that “all options are on the table.  Foreign Affairs, 03/19/19.

Iterations of Interventionists

Neoconservatives, or neocons, are the hawkish rightwing in the political spectrum. They are fond of regime change, spreading democracy, defending our interest abroad, and protecting oil.

This is not to say that U.S. interventionism or empire building started with the rise of the neocons in the 1960s. Far from it. Neocons just took over where previous iterations of interventionists left off.

Neocons are the liberal internationalists who endeavored to impose U.S. ideals where they saw such ideals lacking. They are the remnants of the Cold War. They are the revolutionaries of the 1960s who became disenchanted with what the liberalism of the day came to mean: hippies and the anti-war protests. Eventually they migrated to a solid hawkish camp and embraced regime change in whatever form.

Certainly there are those who wish to make fine distinctions between iterations of interventionists. But black ops, development aid, building civil society, hard power, and military force all aim toward the same objective – takeover of a sovereign nation.

The U.S., of course, is not alone in its quest for hegemony. Cultural, economic, and military conquest has existed since the beginning of time. Today, as always, superpowers vie with one another as to who can dominate the most people. But here we focus on Venezuela and the U.S. track record in Latin America. Will U.S. taxpayers be once again on the hook for another questionably imperative neocon adventure?

U.S. Intervention in Latin America

Before the Middle East was all the news, there was Latin America. Now, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the U.S. is pivoting towards Venezuela. A look at the U.S. track record in Latin America since the 1960s would give us a rough idea of how useful an intervention in Venezuela would be.

* Fidel Castro’s economic and military alliance with the Soviet Union displeased President John F. Kennedy. In 1961 the U.S. backed an invasion of Cuba intended to overthrow Castro. The “Bay of Pigs Invasion” failed and Castro continued in power.

* When President of Brazil Janio Quadros resigned in 1961 after seven months in office, his vice president Joao Goulart assumed the presidency over the objections of the military, who feared Goulart’s left-leaning tendencies. In 1964 Goulart was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup, which installed a military authoritarian government that lasted until the 1980s.

* Before and after the election of Marxist President Salvador Allende of Chile, the CIA worked diligently first to prevent Allende from getting elected and then to promote a coup to remove him from office. The CIA succeeded when in 1973 troops led by General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende. Pinochet ruled as president of a repressive authoritarian state for the next 17 years.

* In 1979 left-leaning Sandinistas took power in Nicaragua, and were not interested in U.S. influence. The Ronald Reagan administration mounted a covert operation whereby the U.S. would sell arms to Iran, so Iran could continue its war with Iraq, and the money generated from the arms sale would finance the Contras opposition to the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas remained in power for the next decade, while the Regan administration suffered accusations of illegal foreign operations.

* Manuel Noriega was a long-standing CIA informer who became President of Panama. In 1989, the U.S. invaded Panama and arrested Noriega. U.S. President George H.W. Bush cited the need to safeguard the lives of U.S. citizens living in Panama, defend democracy and human rights, combat drug trafficking, and protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaties. This incident marked the first time the U.S. arrested, tried and convicted the leader of a sovereign nation.

* Haiti’s duly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in 1991 by a military coup headed by Lieutenant-General Raoul Cédras. Aristide appealed to the Organization of American States and the United Nation’s Security Council. After many attempts at negotiation with Cedras, in 1994 the U.N. Security Council authorized member states to form a multinational force to use all necessary means to restore Aristide to his post as President of Haiti. A U.S.-led invasion of Haiti did just that. In 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed again. U.N. Missions are still in Haiti.

* Starting in the 1890s U.S.-based banana companies established vast plantations in Honduras, transforming the country into the quintessential Banana Republic. Militarization as a result of the U.S. using Honduras as a base to fight the Nicaraguan Sandinistas added to the country’s problems. In 2005 left-leaning Manuel Zelaya was elected President of Honduras. He attempted liberal reforms and relations with Cuba, and was overthrown by a military coup in 2009, in which the U.S. remained tacit. Today, the dire situation in Honduras contributes to thousands of asylum seekers to flood U.S. borders.

It’s not surprising then that the rising and pervasive violence and deep economic insecurity in Honduras and the region has resulted in unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing to seek safety and security. The awful irony is that many must seek that shelter in a country that has in no small part contributed over the course of decades to the rapidly deteriorating conditions from which they are fleeing – and that is overtly unwelcoming and hostile.  Eight Years After the Coup in Honduras The Struggle Continues, Center for Constitutional Rights, 06/28/17

So, Does Intervention Work?

From the U.S. track record in Latin America (and the Middle East), one might question the long term effects of military intervention. Thousands suffered at the hands of right-wing autocrats like Augusto Pinochet because such leaders were deemed by the U.S. preferable to left-leaning reformers. Thousands suffer today in Haiti, Honduras, and Venezuela. Relatively stable nations like Brazil and Panama are plagued by extreme inequalities of opportunity.

Maybe the Donald Trump Administration should engage in a reality check before intervening in Venezuela.

Why Wage Earners Live on Debt

You keep hearing about free college, free healthcare, and “affordable” housing. Some of which, you might already be getting. But you are still living on credit card debt. Of course there is an infinite number of reasons why anyone might be living on debt or from paycheck-to-paycheck. There is, however, one reason that is shared with a great number of people: stagnant workers’ wages.

Although our grandparents may have lived relatively comfortably on a job that paid them $3 an hour, today we struggle at $15 an hour. That’s because our wages have not kept up with the cost of living. Our wages have been stagnant in relation to what we can purchase with them. Why is that? Depends on whom you ask.

Here is the usual list of reason for stagnant wages:

* Global competition – U.S. wage earners must compete with lower-wage workers outside the U.S.

* Automation – Employers search for the least costly options that will provide the same results for their companies. If cost of human labor raises above the cost of robots, employers will opt for robots.

* Decline in union membership – During our grandparents’ time union membership was around 30% of workers. Today union membership is around 10.5%.

Here is one reason that pundits do not like to talk about:
Wage stagnation and productivity

What’s the most important date on the chart above? 1971 – the year Nixon closed the “gold window.” It was in this year that the US dollar officially become completely fiat. We could no longer exchange our paper money for gold.  Income Inequality and the End of the Gold Standard, SchiffGold, March 2015.

President Richard Nixon drove the final nail on the coffin of the U.S. gold standard in 1971, thereby unleashing the creation of money backed by nothing.  Here is the cascading of events:

* What we call money these days is also popularly called fiat money, funny money, money out of thin air, and debauched currency.

* This kind of money is created at will by the U.S. Treasury when it prints dollar bills. It is also created by banks when they loan out funds to the general population. The balance in your account at your bank represents an IOU the bank issues to you, since your money is not sitting in some vault marked with your name, but has been lent out to other consumers holding mortgages and other loans.

* The amount of funny money in circulation is controlled by the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. The Fed does this mainly by mandating what level of capital banks need to have on reserve (high level of reserves means less money available to lend out, thus less money created), and by manipulating interest rates (high interest rates produce fewer loans.

* Since around 2008, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at near zero. Consumers and businesses have taken advantage of the cheap money, and borrowed.

* Consumers incurred considerable credit card, mortgage, and student loan debt.

* Businesses took advantage of the cheap money to build monopolies. They bought out competitors with cheap borrowed funds. Businesses also learned that they no longer depended on their workers to produce money – if they wanted money for capital investment or other big thing, they just borrowed cheap money.

* As workers became redundant, their wages did not raise in relation to their productivity.

* In the absence of wages that keep up with rising prices, workers rely on debt.

Stacy Herbert reporting on Keiser Report

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss how US workers stopped being compensated for their increased productivity only once the US went off the gold standard and there was no longer any honest way to gauge value.  Something happened in 1971  March 2, 2019.

Addendum:

So, where is money in the economy that used to go workers now going? It is going to investors, those whose income does not depend on wages. Low interest rates encourage those with some money not needed for basic living to buy stocks and other investment assets, thus increasing the prices of such assets. As the prices of assets raise so do the net worth of investors.

It is a commonly held belief that the Fed’s low interest rates have been responsible for inflating stock market values. Because people with more wealth tend to own more stock, to the extent that the Fed has been the cause of higher stock prices, it has worsened wealth inequality. Similarly, low interest rates have meant low borrowing costs for large corporations with direct access to capital markets (through corporate bonds). This cheap money helps to boost corporate profits which, again, flow mostly to the wealthy.  How the Fed;s Low Interest Rates are Increasing Inequality, Forbes, May 2015.

Green Deals and Watermelons

WatermelonThere is a saying among “climate deniers” that “climate alarmists” are like watermelons – green on the outside and red in the inside. The watermelon people might not be entirely red, at least not yet. However, with all their talk of democratic socialism, social justice, income inequality, and 70% taxation, they are certainly getting there.

Whether the Earth is getting warmer or not is irrelevant for the purposes of discussing the watermelon people. They have been implementing their plans across the globe since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and have not decreased greenhouse gasses in any meaningful way. But their strategy is to keep ratcheting up what has not worked so far.

What has not worked so far is the reduction of greenhouse gasses in a meaningful way – the green part. What has worked quite beautifully is what critics call the real motives behind the actions of the watermelon people – the red part: raising revenue for social programs, redistributing wealth, and herding people into controllable zones.

The plans of the watermelon people are all handled pretty much in the same way; they are enabled by legislatures and implemented by regional planning agencies. For an example of a powerful regional planning agency, read about Priority Development Areas implemented by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area.  MTC administers transportation and housing through “Plan Bay Area.”

Whether you are convinced that climate action and wealth redistribution in the name of social justice are essential for our survival, or you are still a bit dubious, you might enjoy the transcript of a 2010 interview with Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the United Nations working group Mitigation of Climate Change from 2008 to 2015. This passage is especially interesting:

Edenhofer: First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.  The Daily Signal, Nov. 19, 2010

Loss of Liberty and Who is to Blame

Here is an article worth reading:

The State of the Union: These Are Dangerous Times, and the Government Is To Blame, by John W. Whitehead, published on the Rutherford Institute website on February 4, 2019.

The article is worth reading, especially if you still believe all is well with our nation. Sure, the economy looks good at present, we can still vote for candidates and laws of our choice, we still move relatively freely within our nation and in and out of our nation. However, there are areas of concern. The article in question lists a few of these concerns, such as,

* The tendency to consider all citizens suspect – guilty until proven innocent.

* Invasive strip searches, forceful drawing of blood, intimate probes.

* Militarization of our city police.

* A constitutional right to bear arms that applies to government officials only.

* Spying by government and commerce into private lives of citizens.

* Courts more interested in advancing government’s agenda than seeking justice.

The concerns are serious and the events listed above real. However, is the government to blame, as the title of the article indicates? The subtitle of the website on which the article appears is “It’s our job to make the government play by the rules of the constitution.”

That indeed is the job not only of The Rutherford Institute but of every voter and resident of this nation. If we the people choose to vote for candidates and laws that place security above liberty, we are to blame. If we obediently submit to walking without our shoes on airport floors, we are to blame. If we aid the surveillance state by choosing all manner of “smart” gadgets, we are to blame.

The list of sins we commit against ourselves by far outweigh those committed by government against us.  Government robs our liberties by our own consent.

Democracy - CopyAlexis de Tocqueville signaled how a nation descends into soft despotism in his book Democracy in America.  At the end of the devolution are a childlike populace and a “tutelary” government.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild …

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805-1859, Democracy in America

European Union: No Way A Country

eu flagThe press is all atwitter over the U.S. State Department’s decision made late in 2017 (nobody knows when) to return the European Union to its pre-President Obama status of international organization – a downgrading from “state” (i.e., country). Nobody seems to know whether this downgrade is an error, deliberate, temporary, permanent, etc.
The press is emphasizing that the U.S. did not advise the E.U. powers that be that this downgrade had taken place. Maybe the emphasis should be on what constitutes a state, that is, a sovereign country. Maybe this is a good time to think about what is a legitimate jurisdiction and what is not.

In the view of the Just Vote No Blog, the E.U. is a bureaucracy, not a country, and therefore should be treated as a bureaucracy. Putting lipstick on this little ducky is not going to help make it a swan.

A country has a governing body that reflects choices – beneficial or not — of its residents. The residents’ choices might result in a republic such as the United States, a socialist democracy such as Venezuela, or a theocracy such as Iran. Conversely, a bureaucracy has a governing body that reflects the choices of those who appoint the bureaucracy’s leaders; a bureaucracy does not stand directly accountable to anyone.

The current U.S. Administration could ignore the question whether the E.U. is a country, and that would certainly be a good way to maintain amicable relations and not upset any apple carts. However, the results of ignoring the question of what constitutes a real jurisdiction would bring collateral damage, such as a proliferation of unaccountable bureaucracies at the international, national, and local levels (if you are not familiar with your regions’ Metropolitan Planning Organization, google it, and see how much power over your local land use it has).

One must not underestimate the tenacity of bureaucrats.

A Government by Tweets and Marches

We have a government by Tweets and marches; which is fine, since the right to Tweet and march is absolutely guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. It says right there in Amendment I,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Marches have brought about profound changes to our nation. Suffragette marches forced in 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. The Vietnam War protests were instrumental in ending in 1975 the U.S. “quagmire.” Tweets are a principal arena in which the political and cultural battles for the heart and soul of voters take place – the Tweet platform is free, accessible, and effective.

Just Vote No is wondering if any such profound changes will result from this year’s (2019) Tweets and marches. Let’s arbitrarily look at one particular march coming up this month, the Blexit Rally in Los Angeles on January 20.

Change vs. Profound Change

Candace Owens

The leader of the Blexit Rally is Candace Owens, originally a liberal, who morphed into a conservative in 2017. She is currently Communications Director of Turning Point, a student organization established in 2012 to “promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.”

The Blexit announcement says that, “The black community will no longer be patronized; there is no virtue in victimhood and we should no longer buy into the myth that we are somehow separate from the American Dream.”

Blexit, as well as Owens’ current mission, can be viewed on two levels: level 1 – bring voters into the Republican Party, and level 2 – encourage Black Americans to look forwards, not backwards. Level 1 is the kind of party-growing effort practiced by every political party. But level 2 could eventually fall into the category of profound change, change that could lead people to abandon what Owens calls “the plantation.” The plantation is a state of mind, not a physical place.

One important caveat, though, is that the point Just Vote No is making with this article is not Republicans good/Democrats bad. The point is to emphasize the harmful results of any, repeat any, politically-created mantra that aims to indoctrinate rather than enlighten, that aims to restrict thought rather than encourage open discussion, and that aims to keep people trapped in dependence.

The Owens Message

There are many articles on the Internet about Candace Owens. However, the best way to understand her message is to listen to what she has to say first hand. Here are a couple of YouTube links:

In her video blog How to Escape the Democrat Plantation, Owens provided some background information on who were the Klansmen, the segregationists, the ones that set the dogs on the civil rights marchers – their political identities forgotten in favor of remembering forever Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society.

At an American Experiment meeging in Minnesota, Owens discussed the breakup of the American family encouraged by the Great Society and the poor results such event entailed, she mentioned that politics flows from culture not the other way around, and she talked about informed individualism as defense against being trapped into a controlled group or being imbued with a culture of victimhood.

The Liberal Culture

Today, especially in progressive enclaves, culture is dominated by supporters of a Great Society type of world. It all starts with indoctrination in government schools, it continues with the profitable divide-and-conquer drumbeat emanating from the media, and it is perpetrated by legislators at all levels of government who pass laws that curb personal initiative in the name of helping an underclass (the poor) that they themselves helped create.

If Candace Owens succeeds in helping the nation to move away from such a culture, we will all benefit.  However, crucial benefit will come to those who at present find themselves trapped in a politically-created plantation.

Loving The Border Wall – In Spite of Frost

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

Mending Wall by Robert Frost is often quoted in disapproval of walls that separate people. It would not be surprising if that poem helped topple the Berlin Wall and end the Cold War.

“The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made”

We build walls when we want to keep entities out or keep them in – even when we know walls on their own do not work for such purposes. Walls slow unwanted entry or egress, provide places for “checkpoints,” and act as powerful symbols of regime sovereignty. It is possible to abhor force – sometimes deadly force – inherent at checkpoints, while insisting on preserving regime sovereignty.  It is possible to dislike regime sovereignty while needing to protest against some aspect of the status quo.

Thus, according to the GoFundMe website, as of Thursday, December 20, 2018, 5:47 pm,  151,413 individuals have donated $9,189,073 to a GoFundMe campaign that started 3 days ago by a triple-amputee war veteran to fund a U.S./Mexico border wall with private donations.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out”

There are no doubt an infinite number of reasons why 151,413 individuals would donate nearly $10 million dollars to build a border wall. Among those reasons might be the following:

* The rise of regional “governments” at various levels of jurisdictions, led by unelected officials perceived as responding more readily to the United Nations than to residents – witness the current Yellow Vest protests in France – is not universally welcomed. A border wall is a symbol of sovereignty. Donating to build a border wall might be an expression of support for that symbol.

* Calls for open borders that do not take into account economic consequences, inefficient rules regarding asylum seekers, and refusal of legislators to craft workable bipartisan immigration rules are situations displeasing to some. The “Cliftivism” offered by this GoFundMe campaign is a relatively painless call attention to these situations.

* Populous left-leaning states like California and New York have succeeded in establishing a national narrative that Donald Trump is an unwanted President insisting on an unwanted border wall. A substantial volume of voluntary donations to build such a wall would place that narrative in question.

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” – Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No

Trump Wall Go Fund Me 2

If you are a Trump supporter, or if you are not a Trump supporter but fall into one or more of the categories listed above, you might want to consider the campaign.

Fund the Trump Wall GoFundMe Campaign.
https://www.gofundme.com/TheTrumpWall