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" THE WORLD KNOWN TO ME IS FADING AWAY "

By Dr Paul Craig Roberts 

12.31.2018 - 01.01.2019

ECONOMIST & WORLD EVENTS JOURNALISM

GLOBAL NEWS ARUBA


In a few hours it will be another new year, 2019. I can remember when 1984 seemed far in the future, both as a calendar date and George Orwell’s predicted dystopia, to which 9/11 and the digital revolution gave birth in the 21st century. Now I find myself 35 years past 1984 and a stranger in a strange land. Over these holidays two occurrances brought the strangeness of the present time home to me.

One was the arrival of the memoir, From the Cast-Iron Shore (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) by my friend and onetime colleague, Francis Oakley, an historian of the medieval era and past president of Williams College. The other was the report that a Japanese man had married a hologram. https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/28/health/rise-of-digisexuals-intl/index.html

Little doubt that feminism has made women troublesome, but preference for a hologram indicates a shifting preference for the virtual over the real. Many in the younger generations have friends they have never met face to face. They join together in teams to play Internet games, or they open themselves to the world of strangers on Facebook. It seems that digital interaction with people thousands of miles away is replacing the human interaction of a sports team or a date consisting or male-female face-to-face interaction.

I have read reports that young women pay for their university educations, if education it is, by engaging in digital sex work. They display themselves naked and provocatively in various sexual positions accessible on the Internet while engaging in sexual conversation, and the young men find this form of sexual engagement preferable to face to face contact with a woman. The saying is: “It is cheaper than a date and without commitments.”

On beaches I observe attractive women clothed in little but two shoe strings, a sight that would have driven the young men in my day crazy with lust, totally ignored by guys fixated on their cell phones. I sometimes think that people will stop going to beaches as they will prefer the virtual experience to the real one.

Francis’ memoir reminds me that the world he and I knew is over and done with, and that the kind of education that we got, him more than me, is no longer attainable.

The memoir reminds me that the rise of a poor Irish boy, via a Jesuit education and an Oxford scholarship to the presidency of America’s most prestigious college, and my own rise to Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, normally a post conveyed to members of the financial elite, is something that no longer takes place. The ladders of upward mobility have been taken down. The middle class itself is declining into poverty.

Francis tells of the Irish farms of his relatives. The homes had no running water, and some not even an outhouse. My own grandparents farm did have an outhouse, but no running water. Water was obtained by going outside to the well house and lowering the bucket into the well, and when filled drawing the bucket back up. The only hot water available was obtained by heating it on a wood stove where meals were cooked. The kitchen wood stove was usually the only heat for the house.

Francis, who attended Oxford in the decade following World War II, reports that there was no running water in his rooms. A scout, defined as “a domestic worker at a college at Oxford University,” brought a porcelain basin and a jug of hot water to the rooms in the mornings.

When I was at Oxford, as a rare post-graduate at Merton College, in the second decade after World War II, I could only stay in rooms during summers (as rooms were reserved for undergraduates during terms) when I returned for collaborations with my former professor. If memory serves, there was running cold water, but full bathroom facilities were located outside the rooms. It wasn’t that much different from my undergraduate days at Georgia Tech where bathroom facilities were located at the end of each hall of rooms in the dorms.

If time and events permit, I intend to return to Francis’ memoir, which is full of information about how the past, despite the hardships, produced more successful and more honorable people than we have around us today.


Contact Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

[email protected]

= Paul Craig Roberts is an American economist and former civil servant.
= He was the United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under President Reagan in 1981.
= After his time in government he turned to journalism, holding positions of editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week, the Scripps Howard News Service as well as contributing editor to Harper's Magazine. 

" IF TRUTH CANNOT PREVAIL OVER MATERIAL AGENDAS WE ARE DOOMED "

Dr Paul Craig Roberts Economist & Journalism

Global News Aruba

Throughout the long Cold War Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University was a voice of reason. He refused to allow his patriotism to blind him to Washington’s contribution to the confict and to criticize only the Soviet contribution. Cohen’s interest was not to blame the enemy but to work toward a mutual understanding that would remove the threat of nuclear war. Although a Democrat and left-leaning, Cohen would have been at home in the Reagan administration, as Reagan’s first priority was to end the Cold War. I know this because I was part of the effort. Pat Buchanan will tell you the same thing.

In 1974 a notorious cold warrior, Albert Wohlstetter, absurdly accused the CIA of underestimating the Soviet threat. As the CIA had every incentive for reasons of budget and power to overestimate the Soviet threat, and today the “Russian threat,” Wohlstetter’s accusation made no sense on its face. However he succeeded in stirring up enough concern that CIA director George H.W. Bush, later Vice President and President, agreed to a Team B to investigate the CIA’s assessment, headed by the Russiaphobic Harvard professor Richard Pipes. Team B concluded that the Soviets thought they could win a nuclear war and were building the forces with which to attack the US.

The report was mainly nonsense, and it must have have troubled Stephen Cohen to experience the setback to negotiations that Team B caused.

Today Cohen is stressed that it is the United States that thinks it can win a nuclear war. Washington speaks openly of using “low yield” nuclear weapons, and intentionally forecloses any peace negotiations with Russia with a propaganda campaign against Russia of demonization, villification, and transparant lies, while installing missile bases on Russia’s borders and while talking of incorporating former parts of Russia into NATO. In his just published book, War With Russia?, which I highly recommend, Cohen makes a convincing case that Washington is asking for war.

I agree with Cohen that if Russia is a threat it is only because the US is threatening Russia. The stupidity of the policy toward Russia is creating a Russian threat. Putin keeps emphasizing this. To paraphrase Putin: “You are making Russia a threat by declaring us to be one, by discarding facts and substituting orchestrated opinions that your propagandistic media establish as fact via endless repetition.”

Cohen is correct that during the Cold War every US president worked to defuse tensions, especially Republican ones. Since the Clinton regime every US president has worked to create tensions. What explains this dangerous change in approach?

The end of the Cold War was disadvantageous to the military/security complex whose budget and power had waxed from decades of cold war. Suddenly the enemy that had bestowed such wealth and prestige on the military/security complex disappeared.

The New Cold War is the result of the military/security complex’s resurrection of the enemy. In a democracy with independent media and scholars, this would not have been possible. But the Clinton regime permitted in violation of anti-trust laws 90% of the US media to be concentrated in the hands of six mega-corporations, thus destroying an independence already undermined by the CIA’s successful use of the CIA’s media assets to control explanations. Many books have been written about the CIA’s use of the media, including Udo Ulfkotte’s “Bought Journalism,” the English edition of which was quickly withdrawn and burned.

The demonization of Russia is also aided and abeted by the Democrats’ hatred of Trump and anger from Hillary’s loss of the presidential election to the “Trump deplorables.” The Democrats purport to believe that Trump was installed by Putin’s interference in the presidentail election. This false belief is emotionally important to Democrats, and they can’t let 

go of it.

Although Cohen as a professor at Princeton and NYU never lacked research opportunities, in the US Russian studies, strategic studies, and the like are funded by the military/security complex whose agenda Cohen’s scholarship does not serve. At the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I held an independently financed chair for a dozen years, most of my colleagues were dependent on grants from the military/security complex. At the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, where I was a Senior Fellow for three decades, the anti-Soviet stance of the Institution reflected the agenda of those who funded the institution.

I am not saying that my colleagues were whores on a payroll. I am saying that the people who got the appointments were people who were inclined to see the Soviet Union the way the military/security complex thought it should be seen.

As Stephen Cohen is aware, in the original Cold War there was some balance as all explanations were not controlled. There were independent scholars who could point out that the Soviets, decimated by World War 2, had an interest in peace, and that accommodation could be achieved, thus avoiding the possibility of nuclear war.

Stephen Cohen must have been in the younger ranks of those sensible people, as he and President Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matloff, seem to be the remaining voices of expert reason on the American scene.

If you care to understand the dire threat under which you live, a threat that only a few people, such as Stephen Cohen, are trying to lift, read his book.

If you want to understand the dire threat that a bought-and-paid-for American media poses to your existence, read Cohen’s accounts of their despicable lies. America has a media that is synonymous with lies.

If you want to understand how corrupt American universities are as organizations on the take for money, organizations to whom truth is inconsequential, read Cohen’s book.

If you want to understand why you could be dead before Global Warming can get you, read Cohen’s book.

Enough said.

Contact Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

[email protected]

This Radical Plan to Fund the ‘Green New Deal’ Just Might Work
by Ellen Brown J.D.

With what author and activist Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. Her plan would give a House select committee “a mandate that connects the dots” between energy, transportation, housing, health care, living wages, a jobs guarantee and more. But even to critics on the left, it is merely political theater, because “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible.

That may be the case, but Ocasio-Cortez and the 22 representatives joining her in calling for a select committee also are proposing a novel way to fund the program, one that could actually work. The resolution says funding will come primarily from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”

A network of public banks could fund the Green New Deal in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt funded the original New Deal. At a time when the banks were bankrupt, he used the publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a public infrastructure bank. The Federal Reserve could also fund any program Congress wanted, if mandated to do so. Congress wrote the Federal Reserve Act and can amend it. Or the Treasury itself could do it, without the need to even change any laws. The Constitution authorizes Congress to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof,” and that power has been delegated to the Treasury. It could mint a few trillion-dollar platinum coins, put them in its bank account and start writing checks against them. What stops legislators from exercising those constitutional powers is simply that “everyone knows” Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation will result. But will it? Compelling historical precedent shows that this need not be the case.

Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has studied the hyperinflation question extensively. He writes that disasters such as Zimbabwe’s fiscal troubles were not due to the government printing money to stimulate the economy. Rather, “Every hyperinflation in history has been caused by foreign debt service collapsing the exchange rate. The problem almost always has resulted from wartime foreign currency strains, not domestic spending.”

As long as workers and materials are available and the money is added in a way that reaches consumers, adding money will create the demand necessary to prompt producers to create more supply. Supply and demand will rise together and prices will remain stable. The reverse is also true. If demand (money) is not increased, supply and gross domestic product (GDP) will not go up. New demand needs to precede new supply.

The Public Bank Option: The Precedent of Roosevelt’s New Deal

Infrastructure projects of the sort proposed in the Green New Deal are “self-funding,” generating resources and fees that can repay the loans. For these loans, advancing funds through a network of publicly owned banks would not require taxpayer money and could actually generate a profit for the government. That was how the original New Deal rebuilt the country in the 1930s at a time when the economy was desperately short of money.

The publicly owned Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) was a remarkable publicly owned credit machine that allowed the government to finance the New Deal and World War II without turning to Congress or the taxpayers for appropriations. First instituted in 1932 by President Herbert Hoover, the RFC was not called an infrastructure bank and was not even a bank, but it served the same basic functions. It was continually enlarged and modified by Roosevelt to meet the crisis of the times, until it became America’s largest corporation and the world’s largest financial organization. Its semi-independent status let it work quickly, allowing New Deal agencies to be financed as the need arose.

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act of 1932 provided the financial organization with capital stock of $500 million and the authority to extend credit up to $1.5 billion (subsequently increased several times). The initial capital came from a stock sale to the U.S. Treasury. With those resources, from 1932 to 1957 the RFC loaned or invested more than $40 billion. A small part of this came from its initial capitalization. The rest was borrowed, chiefly from the government itself. Bonds were sold to the Treasury, some of which were then sold to the public, although most were held by the Treasury. All in all, the RFC ended up borrowing a total of $51.3 billion from the Treasury and $3.1 billion from the public.

In this arrangement, the Treasury was therefore the lender, not the borrower. As the self-funding loans were repaid, so were the bonds that were sold to the Treasury, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The financial organization was the lender for thousands of infrastructure and small-business projects that revitalized the economy, and these loans produced a total net income of $690,017,232 on the RFC’s “normal” lending functions (omitting such things as extraordinary grants for wartime). The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms and much more, and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

The Central Bank Option: How Japan Is Funding Abenomics with Quantitative Easing

The Federal Reserve is another Green New Deal funding option. The Fed showed what it can do with “quantitative easing” when it created the funds to buy $2.46 trillion in federal debt and $1.77 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, all without inflating consumer prices. The Fed could use the same tool to buy bonds earmarked for a Green New Deal, and because it returns its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs, the bonds would be nearly interest-free. If they were rolled over from year to year, the government, in effect, would be issuing new money.

This is not just theory. Japan is actually doing it, without creating even the modest 2 percent inflation the government is aiming for. “Abenomics,” the economic agenda of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, combines central bank quantitative easing with fiscal stimulus (large-scale increases in government spending). Since Abe came into power in 2012, Japan has seen steady economic growth, and its unemployment rate has fallen by nearly half, yet inflation remains very low, at 0.7 percent. Social Security-related expenses accounted for 55 percent of general expenditure in Japan’s 2018 federal budget, and a universal health care insurance system is maintained for all citizens. Nominal GDP is up 11 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2013, a much better record than during the prior two decades of Japanese stagnation, and the Nikkei stock market is at levels not seen since the early 1990s, driven by improved company earnings. Growth remains below targeted levels, but according to Financial Times, this is because fiscal stimulus has actually been too small. While spending with the left hand, the government has been taking the money back with the right, increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Abenomics has been declared a success even by the once-critical International Monetary Fund. After Abe crushed his opponents in 2017, Noah Smith wrote in Bloomberg, “Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has figured out a novel and interesting way to stay in power—govern pragmatically, focus on the economy and give people what they want.” Smith said everyone who wanted a job had one, small and midsize businesses were doing well; and the Bank of Japan’s unprecedented program of monetary easing had provided easy credit for corporate restructuring without generating inflation. Abe had also vowed to make both preschool and college free.

Not that all is idyllic in Japan. Forty percent of Japanese workers lack secure full-time employment and adequate pensions. But the point underscored here is that large-scale digital money-printing by the central bank to buy back the government’s debt, combined with fiscal stimulus by the government (spending on “what the people want”), has not inflated Japanese prices, the alleged concern preventing other countries from doing the same.

Abe’s novel economic program has done more than just stimulate growth. By selling its debt to its own central bank, which returns the interest to the government, the Japanese government has, in effect, been canceling its debt. Until recently, it was doing this at the rate of a whopping $720 billion per year. According to fund manager Eric Lonergan in a February 2017 article:

The Bank of Japan is in the process of owning most of the outstanding government debt of Japan (it currently owns around 40%). BOJ holdings are part of the consolidated government balance sheet. So its holdings are in fact the accounting equivalent of a debt cancellation. If I buy back my own mortgage, I don’t have a mortgage.

If the Federal Reserve followed suit and bought 40 percent of the U.S. national debt, it would be holding $8 trillion in federal securities, three times its current holdings from its quantitative easing programs. Yet liquidating a full 40 percent of Japan’s government debt has not triggered price inflation.

Filling the Gap Between Wages, Debt and GDP

Rather than stepping up its bond-buying, the Federal Reserve is now bent on “quantitative tightening,” raising interest rates and reducing the money supply by selling its bonds into the market in anticipation of “full employment” driving up prices. “Full employment” is considered to be 4.7 percent unemployment, taking into account the “natural rate of unemployment” of people between jobs or voluntarily out of work. But the economy has now hit that level and prices are not in the danger zone, despite nearly 10 years of “accommodative” monetary policy. In fact, the economy is not near true full employment nor full productive capacity, with GDP remaining well below both the long-run trend and the level predicted by forecasters a decade ago. In 2016, real per capita GDP was 10 percent below the 2006 forecast of the Congressional Budget Office, and it shows no signs of returning to the predicted level.

In 2017, U.S. GDP was $19.4 trillion. Assuming that sum is 10 percent below full productive capacity, the money circulating in the economy needs to be increased by another $2 trillion to create the demand to bring it up to full capacity. That means $2 trillion could be injected into the economy every year without creating price inflation. New supply would just be generated to meet the new demand, bringing GDP to full capacity while keeping prices stable.

This annual injection of new money can not only be done without creating price inflation, it actually needs to be done to reverse the massive debt bubble now threatening to propel the economy into another Great Recession. Moreover, the money can be added in such a way that the net effect will not be to increase the money supply. Virtually our entire money supply is created by banks as loans, and any money used to pay down those loans will be extinguished along with the debt. Other money will be extinguished when it returns to the government in the form of taxes. The mechanics of that process, and what could be done with another $2 trillion injected directly into the economy yearly, will be explored in Part 2 of this article.

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Trump Considers Replacing Fed Chairman Powell?

by Stephen Lendman Freelance Journalist

According to Bloomberg News, Trump is furious about Powell’s rate hikes while financial markets are slumping badly. More on this below.

In 2016, presidential aspirant Trump said Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen should be “ashamed” of herself for keeping short-term interest rates too low.

Months earlier, he said low rates are “the best thing going for us,” calling any increase “scary.” In December 2008, the Fed cut its benchmark interest rate to near-zero (a range of zero to 0.25%). From then to December 2015, the Fed funds rate remained at near-zero. After seven years of unprecedented accommodative monetary policy, including a tsunami of quantitative easing (QE easy money) for years, an October 29, 2014 Fed press release said the following:

The Open Market Committee (FOMC) “decided to conclude its (QE) asset purchase program this month.”

It’s “maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.” “This policy, by keeping the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.” Months earlier, former Reagan-era Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director David Stockman called QE “high grade monetary heroin,” adding “(o)ne day, it’ll “kill the patient,” adding:

Over the last quarter of a century, “(w)hat has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway, and the sway of the three great branches of government which are domiciled there – that is, the warfare state, the (corporate) welfare state and the central bank.”

“What is failing…is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority has experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate any material savings, rapidly approaching old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut.”

“And what is positively falling is the lower ranks of society whose prospects for jobs, income and a decent living standard have been steadily darkening.”

The above remarks describe the dystopian new normal. Wall Street, other corporate favorites, and high-net-worth individuals never had things better – while ordinary Americans struggle to get by, a few missed paychecks from possible homelessness, hunger and despair, what years of thirdworldizing the nation is all about.

Monied interests run things. The president, Congress, and the courts serve them. Until rolling back QE began, along with raising interest rates, years of unrestrained monetary heroin showed how far off the rails the Fed strayed. Money printing madness doesn’t stimulate growth or create jobs when used for speculative investments, mergers and acquisitions, high salaries, and big bonuses – while wages for ordinary Americans fail to keep pace with inflation and vital benefits erode.

Helicopter Ben Bernanke dropped lots of money on Wall Street and into the pockets of wealthy investors. Virtually none went to Main Street where it’s vitally needed.

When people have money they spend it. A virtuous cycle of prosperity follows. America once was sustainably prosperous growth. Today the nation is in decline. It’s heading for third world status. It’s more a kleptocracy than democracy. America’s super-rich got fabulously richer by investing their wealth to create more of it. During the height of the 2008-09 financial crisis, a popular slogan was: “Banks got bailed out.” Ordinary people “got sold out.” Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke were maestros of misery, creating financial bubble conditions. America’s 1% profited hugely at the expense of the vast majority of ordinary people. As Fed chairman, Bernanke handed speculators over $20 trillion, mostly interest-free, amounting to legalized bank robbery, creating unsustainable bubble conditions. From December 2015 under Fed Chairwoman Yellen to December 19, 2018 under Jerome Powell, succeeding her on February 5, 2018, the Fed raised its benchmark short rate nine times. It’s currently at 2.25 – 2.50%, historically low, no drag on economic growth. Powell signaled fewer hikes in 2019, perhaps two instead of four this year. According to Bankrate’s chief financial analyst Greg McBride, “(t)he Fed downshifted (its) projections of 2019 economic growth, inflation, and interest rate hikes – not in a big way but enough to remove the urgency of repeated rate hikes.”

Powell signaled that future moves will be data-dependent. When economic contraction occurs, rates will be cut, perhaps along with resumption of QE.

Trump railed against Powell’s latest rate hike. According to Bloomberg News, he “discussed firing (him) as his frustration with the central bank chief intensified following this week’s interest-rate hike and months of stock-market losses, according to four people familiar with the matter,” adding:

“Advisers close to Trump aren’t convinced he would move against Powell and are hoping that the president’s latest bout of anger will dissipate over the holidays, the people said on condition of anonymity.”

“Some of Trump’s advisers have warned him that firing Powell would be a disastrous move. Yet (he) privately spoke about firing Powell many times in the past few days, said two of the people.”

What unfolds in the post-holiday period remains to be seen. Presidents, congressional members, their appointed bureaucrats, and the courts are servants of money power running America. The Federal Reserve isn’t federal. It’s privately owned and controlled by major Wall Street bankers. They decide who runs it.

It’s been this way since enactment the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, creating the Fed, a coup d’etat by powerful Wall Street bankers. The same year’s Revenue Act imposed a federal income tax for the public to pay interest on the federal debt. As long as giant Wall Street banka control the nation’s money, ordinary people will be entrapped in a “web of debt,” Ellen Brown explained – amounting to permanent debt bondage, the national wealth increasingly transferred from the public to private bankers, most people none the wiser.

If Congress controlled the nation’s money as mandated under the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8, none of this would have happened. Bankers choose Fed chairmen and governors. It’s always been this way. Presidents have no say. They announce pre-selected choices while pretending otherwise. Wall Street bankers chose Powell as Fed chairman. They’ll decide if he stays, goes, and who’ll replace him one day. Longterm speculative excess is mainly behind current market turbulence, not current interest rates, still historically low, hugely benefitting investors at the expense of savers, the nation’s elderly harmed most. It’s unclear whether sharp equity price declines signal a more protracted erosion of valuations, or if the current selloff is short-term – the fullness of time to tell. What’s going on now will be best be understood in hindsight. Before his untimely passing in June 2012, International Forecaster owner and editor Bob Chapman said America is in terminal decline. Powerful interests went too fair, and they know it, he stressed, adding they’re waging a losing rear guard action. It never worked before and won’t now. Money printing madness assures bad endings. Chapman’s advice to investors was sound. He predicted a major day of reckoning ahead, its timing to be determined by events. If the moment of truth arrived, Chapman’s warning will be borne out. If not now and coming later, the fullness of time will explain what’s only guesswork now.


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Holiday Season US Government Shutdown

by Stephen Lendman Freelance Journalist

Trump, other Republicans, and undemocratic Dems share blame for the latest government shutdown, especially over the holiday period – a bah humbug message to ordinary Americans, especially hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers. Shutdowns occur when Congress fails to pass a measure funding government operations or the president refuses to sign appropriations legislation. When this happens, non-essential federal personnel are furloughed until the issue is resolved. Under Trump, it happened three times – from January 20 – 22, 2018, on February 9, and again post-midnight December 21. With Dems controlling the House in January, further shutdowns over the next two years may happen. On Friday, Trump blamed Dems for what both sides of the aisle share blame, DLT most of all. This time it’s over his fortress America demand along the US southern border with Mexico – wanting over $5 billion wasted on a wall, unable to stem the tide of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from coming to America, no matter its length or height if fully built. Walls don’t work. A previous article explained they’ll be breached, tunneled under, or gone around by water or air to reach America.

The only partially possible way to keep out unwanted aliens is by walling-in the entire country and putting an impenetrable roof over it. Even that won’t likely work. Trump’s scheme is hugely ill-conceived – solely for political reasons, nothing else. Responsible legislators should overwhelmingly reject his scheme. If money poured down a black hole of waste, fraud, and abuse for walls, militarism, endless wars, and corporate handouts were used for vital homeland needs, especially healthcare, education, and other essentials, America would be safe and fit to live in unlike now. It’s a nation run by dark forces, operating by their own rules, no others – waging war on humanity at home and abroad, serving privileged interests exclusively at the expense of most others. Trump wants lots more than a border wall. He wants nationals from the wrong countries and religions banned from entering America. He wants the nation more militarized than already at a time America’s only enemies are invented one. No real ones exist – not Russia, China, Iran, or jihadist groups the US created and supports, using them as proxy imperial forces. He wants over a trillion dollars to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal – instead of ordering vital denuclearization to save humanity from possible armageddon that may happen as long as these weapons exist, along with long-range ballistic missile delivery systems able to strike anywhere globally with pinpoint accuracy. His belligerent agenda supported by the vast majority in Washington is polar opposite what just societies cherish. Partially shutting down federal operations is symptomatic of governance thumbing its nose to the citizenry. Occurring during the holiday season makes Trump, other Republicans, and Dems a collective scrooge – a pox on them all. The shutdown affects about one-fourth of federal operations. Congressional funding for 75% of the government was already approved. Yet nine of 15 federal agencies began furloughing employees, hundreds of thousands of workers affected. Over 400,000 essential workers remain on the job. They include FBI, CIA, NSA, and other intelligence community operatives, personnel involved in special counsel Mueller’s probe, air-traffic controllers, prison guards, weather service forecasters, food-safety inspectors, Forest Service firefighters, border patrol and TSA employees, the postal service, some national parks, federal courts – along with the Education, Health and Human Services, War Department and military forces, the Energy Department, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health. Federal agencies affected by shutdown include the Treasury, State, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Labor, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture Departments. The IRS will largely shut down, a small percentage of its staff kept on the job. Shutdown can end if Republicans and Dems agree on some kind of appropriations compromise, pass a continuing resolution to fund government at its current level, or a combination of the two for a stated period, providing more time for final resolution before Congress adjourns sine die. Otherwise, things could be more uncertain under the new Congress in January – Republicans controlling the Senate, Dems with majority House control, a prescription for more intense wrangling than during Trump’s first two years in office. As long as he insists on full funding for his border wall Dems reject, shutdown could extend through the holidays, potentially well into the new year. The longest previous shutdown lasted 21 days in 1996. This one could be resolved quickly or drag on for weeks without compromise – the way most all disagreements are resolved.


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" Bringing God And Finding Death: A Christian Missionary On North Sentinel Island – OpEd "

DR BINOY KAMPMARK

JOURNALIST AND GEO-POLITICAL ANALYST

WORLD EVENTS SCHOLAR



Curiosity for the undiscovered last tribe, that tantalising moment when eyes are cast upon the previously unseen, remains the anthropological Holy Grail. But to do so would lead to the natural consequences that come with contact and invasion: the foisting of an alien divinity upon others, most probably a monotheistic Sky God, whose grammatically challenged  invocations are found in a holy text. Then would come the introduction of terminal disease, the mod cons, and ultimate extinction.

For the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island, part of India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, isolation is both conservation and vulnerability. Encounters have been recorded, though these are unflattering for modern audiences reared on sanitised words. Marco Polo wrote, around 1296, of “a very large and wealthy island called Angaman” populated by men with “heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes also like dogs. I assure you that, as regards their heads, they all look like big mastiffs”. An inventive man, was the cheeky Dalmatian.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four adds to the exotica of terror, with his Dr. Watson describing a villainous Andaman Islander sporting “murderous darts” and a “face [that] was enough to give a man a sleepless night.” He had “features so deeply marked with all bestiality and cruelty.” Never to be outdone, Sherlock Holmes, plucking a volume from his shelf, finds it describing a people, after Polo’s fashion, as “naturally hideous having large misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted features.”

Contact with the shy locals has proven fatal, though not always. In 1867, the passengers and crew of the wrecked Indian merchantman, the Nineveh, managed to survive attacks launched by, in the description of the captain’s report, “perfectly naked” men “with short hair and red painted noses… making sounds like pa on ough”.

A more recent display was at hand in August 1981, when the crew of the Panamanian-registered freighter, the Primrose, ran aground on a reef near North Sentinel after enduring heavy weather. Initial relief turned to terror. “Wild men, estimate more than 50, carrying various homemade weapons are making two or three wooden boats,” came the wired distress call from the captain, sent to the Regent Shipping Company’s offices in Hong Kong. “Worrying they will board us at sunset. All crew members’ lives not guaranteed.” The crew, armed with piping, axes and a flare gun – kept up a week long vigil till the arrival of both a tugboat and helicopter, courtesy of the Indian Navy.

In 2006, two apparently intoxicated Indian fishermen, Sunder Raj and Pandit Tiwari, were less fortunate in their poaching ventures, meeting their gruesome end after straying into the island’s proximity. Efforts by an Indian Coast Guard helicopter to recover the bodies was foiled by Sentinelese armed with bows and arrows.

The dangers were just as grave to the tribes ringed by the Andaman Sea. Colonialism, fuelled by the penal experiments pioneered by such vessels as the East Indian Company steamer Pluto, put pay to the culture of the Great Andamanese people, their people perishing to measles and syphilis.

A British naval officer, Maurice Vidal Portman, gave the world a highly conventional demonstration about how a new civilisation treats another: You kidnap their members, and observe them in captivity. Essentially incarcerating a select few, adults and offspring, Portman witnessed the adults ail and die. The orphaned children were returned to their abode. He did, at least, have the grim sense to observe in 1899 that, “We cannot be said to have done anything more than increase their general terror of, and hostility to, all comers.”

Efforts to engage the islanders, propelled by insatiable curiosity, have never stopped. As late as 1975, the efforts by a documentary maker for National Geographic attempting to cover North Sentinel resulted in an arrow in the leg. In 2000, historian Adam Goodheart got the bug and ventured to North Sentinel, observing, from a safe distance along the shoreline, figures “facing us, and one of them was holding something long and thin – a spear? A bow? Impossible to tell.” The title of his contribution to The American Scholar was predictably inelegant and suggestive: “The Last Island of the Savages.”

The Indian government has banned travel to the island on penalty, a situation that has had the unintended effect of turning the surviving individuals in question into residents of an open air, inaccessible zoo. That zoo, a natural entrapment of hunter-gatherers, is written about as an existence of finite contingency, a curiosity that must surely meet its demographic, if not cultural reckoning. Sita Venkateswar, writing in The Scientific American, asks how long this “window to our past” will remain open.

A degree of added exoticism that accompanies such moves has also been accentuated by a 2017 ban on the taking of photographs or the making of videos of the protected Jarawa and other tribal communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, including the Andamanese, Onges, Sentinelese Nicobarese and Shom Pens. As the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) outlined in a statement last year, “removal of these objectionable video films from YouTube and initiate action on those who uploaded these video clips on social media platforms” was an imperative. Penalties of up to three years imprisonment apply.

John Allen Chau fell for the temptation, wishing to bring his own variant of the Sky God to this population numbering anywhere between 50 to 150 people. Had he been a more cognisant student of the island’s history, he would been aware that those bringing gifts, however well intentioned, are bound to be met by more arrows than sympathy. The crew of anthropologists, armed police and a photographer for National Geographic met just that in 1974 despite, wishing to, according to one of the scientists, “win the natives’ friendship by friendly gestures and plenty of gifts.” History is replete with instances where the gift-giving foreigner ends up doing far more than simply being generous; disease, alcohol, land theft tend to follow, almost always with the god of Christianity thrown in. Chau’s own gifts were more modest: a small soccer ball, fishing line, a pair of scissors.

On North Sentinel Island, the hopeful Chau envisaged, according to his notes, a “kingdom of Jesus” springing up in the community, a proselytising language all too reminiscent of those missionary forebears described by Edward Andrews in 2010 as “ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them”. All Nations, an international Christian missionary group, merely confirmed this sentiment: “John was a gracious and sensitive ambassador of Jesus Christ.”

An unimpressed Dependra Pathak, director general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, steadfastly denied any tourist label for the intrepidly foolish Chau, feeling that he had gotten there under false pretences. (God bothering types can be economical with motives when required.) “We refuse to call him a tourist. Yes, he came on a tourist visa but he came with a specific purpose to preach on a prohibited island.”

The 26 year old from Washington State became a twenty-first century victim of an old curiosity. He had done so before, some four times, always with the assistance of local fishermen who gave him unheeded warnings. Accounts of these visits, both in terms of frequency and how he got to the island, vary: he is said to have also ventured to North Sentinel by canoe from November 15 on a few occasions, having made contact with the inhabitants. On those occasions, he returned safely, though he was attacked.

Chau showed the quizzical nature of the confused faithful. Why would these tribesmen be aggressive? He, as any truly paternalistic invader, had “been so nice to them”. His faith was sufficiently strong to excuse any death he might suffer. “Do not blame the natives if I am killed.” And killed he was, his dragged body seen on the beach on November 17 by the fishermen who warned him. With a globe now choked by the mantra of mandatory interconnectedness, being an untouched island community is not only a heresy but a crime for the curious. “They are not wanting anything from you,” explained the Indian anthropologist T.N. Pandit, who had made visits to North Sentinel between 1967 and 1991. “They suspect that we have no good intentions.” How logically prescient.


Picture Courtesy of NASA