U.S. — A ‘Democracy Where ‘Both’ Sides Represent ONLY the Aristocracy

Eric Zuesse

The most comprehensive scientific study ever done of the subject has shown that America is ruled only by its few richest, not by the public. How can this be the case if its Government is run by two Parties — Democrats and Republicans? Those are merely competing factions within the aristocracy. America is a two-Party dictatorship. A dictatorship can have any number of parties. An aristocracy can have any number of factions.

The aristocracy are the country’s richest people, and they sometimes influence their government directly by their political donations, but usually they do it indirectly via their corporations — both the profit and the non-profit ones — which they control (and which lobby the government heavily, and which also advertise in the media and so control whatever media that the government and non-profits don’t control). During the prior, agrarian, era, when most property was land or “real property” instead of corporations, the richest people were formally titled as ‘nobles’, but the U.S. Constitution outlawed that, and so by now almost all aristocrats have only corporate titles (CEO, Chairman, Director, etc.), no official titles from the state (other than elected governmental positions, and the appointees of same).

Aristocrats are taught, from childhood, to compete fiercely against others of their class, but not with people ‘below’ them (who are always required simply to obey them). Duels between them, thus, were common — sometimes to the death. The aristocratic way is constant war, against everyone who resists them, even against their own peers, their competitors — sometimes to the death.

A typical example of such aristocratic control of a nation is occurring right now between America’s Republican Party aristocrats versus its Democratic Party aristocrats, and this contest concerns whether or not to impeach and replace the current Republican President of the United States, Donald Trump, by his Republican Vice President Mike Pence. Not all of the participants are local aristocrats. Foreign aristocrats also have clout in such contests. For example: the world’s wealthiest person, and the only clear-cut trillionaire, is the King of Saudi Arabia. (Jeff Bezos is a piker by comparison, around one-tenth as wealthy.) That’s the country which buys far more U.S.-manufactured weapons, such as from Lockheed Martin, than any other nation does, and these American companies (military contractors) depend 100% on sales to governments — to the U.S. and its allied countries (such as Saudi Arabia).

Furthermore, after the U.S. dollar went off the gold standard and onto the oil-standard, in the 1970s, King Saud has largely controlled the value of the U.S. dollar in the foreign-exchange markets. He, in conjunction with the needs of the U.S. Treasury, controls the oil-spigot, so as to serve the goals of both aristocracies.

The U.S. aristocracy — both Republican and Democratic — thus depend heavily on King Saud’s decisions, especially since he’s the main foreign buyer of U.S. weapons. Ever since Trump was elected, Trump has done whatever he can to win the Sauds’ support. But he has competitors in this; he always knows that he might not be doing enough, and that the Sauds could drop him at any time and support a competitor to Trump. Here’s why he must worry about this:

A Saudi agent, Robert Mueller, had worked with James Comey and Louis Freeh in 2001, to rig the investigation of Al Qaeda’s 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, in order to concoct the story (which had been pushed by Saudi Prince Bandar) that Iran had done it, and they alleged that Iran-supporting Shiites and not Saud-supporting Sunnis were to blame for it, and so Iran is officially ‘the leading state sponsor of terrorism’. As Gareth Porter reported, on 26 June 2009, “Freeh Became ‘Defence Lawyer’ for Saudis on Khobar”.

Freeh, when leaving the FBI, recommended Mueller to head the FBI, who then recommended Comey to be his own successor. Furthermore, according to Ryan Girdusky, “New York-based lawyer Jim Kreindler, representing the families of the Sept. 11 victims, said in an interview with me that Mueller and his successor, James Comey, engaged in a systematic cover-up of evidence that the Saudi government aided the terrorists who committed the Sept. 11 attacks.” Furthermore, in October 2017, Andrew Cockburn wrote, “Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me recently that Robert Mueller, then the FBI director (and now the special counsel investigating connections between Russia and the Trump campaign) made ‘the strongest objections’ to Jacobson and his colleagues visiting San Diego. Graham and his team defied Mueller’s efforts, and Jacobson flew west. There he discovered that his hunch was correct. The FBI files in California were replete with extraordinary and damning details,” of money coming from the Saudi Government to the 9/11 hijackers prior to 9/11.

Mueller was, himself, raised as the proud son of a leading agent of the DuPont family, and he knew the way the world works. As Marc Fisher and Sari Horwitz headlined on 23 February 2018, when the impeach-Trump operation finally got into high gear, “Mueller and Trump: Born to wealth, raised to lead. Then, sharply different choices.” This was a typical good-guy versus bad-guy story they were telling. (The myth is that this is democracy functioning.) They wrote: “One turned away from the path to greater wealth, while the other spent half a century exploring every possible avenue to add to his assets.” Here is an important part of their description of the background of the ‘good guy’:

Mueller’s father was an executive at DuPont, part of a family firmly planted in the country’s plutocracy. Mueller, who grew up in Princeton, N.J., and the Philadelphia Main Line, was sent to St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, where the Astor, Vanderbilt and Mellon families educated their boys. At the Episcopal school, Mueller became captain of the soccer, hockey and lacrosse teams. He played hockey with classmate John F. Kerry, a future secretary of state and one of three St. Paul’s alumni who would run for president.

On 30 May 2013, Garret M. Graff had headlined “Forged Under Fire — Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship” and he wrote admiringly of both Mueller and Comey:

Now, after years apart — during which Jim Comey worked at Lockheed Martin and the hedge fund Bridgewater before leaving this spring to teach law in New York — the two men appear destined to reunite this summer as the torch passes on the seventh floor of the hulking J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mueller’s term as director has been seen as largely successful — even amid criticism in recent weeks over the FBI’s handling of the ricin letters sent to government leaders and its investigation of the men responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings — and the Obama White House has been eager for someone who will continue the path Mueller has laid out, transforming the FBI from a 20th century domestic law enforcement agency to a 21st century international intelligence agency. To find that person, the Obama administration evidently didn’t have to travel far — choosing one of Mueller’s most trusted allies as his replacement.

At Comey’s recommendation, the Republican Mueller now represents the Democratic Party’s effort to force Trump out of office, so as to (as the Democrats hope) leave Mike Pence for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nominee to confront before America’s voters. Amongst the aristocracy, even many Republicans have despised Trump as being low class, and so donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Their agents, who run Wall Street, were especially anti-Trump. And these aristocrats, and their agents, especially hate Russia, and were infuriated that Trump seemed not to.

Though Pence has the support of evangelicals like Trump does, Trump’s support is far stronger than Pence’s among non-evangelicals; and so Democratic Party strategists think that in 2020, the incumbent President ought to be Pence, not Trump. Furthermore, every disclosure which comes out during the impeach-Trump campaign will reduce the opposition to the Democratic nominee in 2020, regardless of whom the Republican nominee might be, and thus will be a campaign booster for that Democratic nominee.

The aristocracy, in a ‘democracy’, controls all parties. For almost all aristocrats, political parties aren’t for ideology as much as they’re for business — always private investments. The media, which they also control, refuse to report this key fact about American ‘democracy’ — that the aristocracy control both Parties — but it’s true, nonetheless.

On August 21st, the Democratic Party’s MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow headlined “Cohen more than happy to tell Mueller all that he knows: attorney”, and presented a Democratic attorney, Lanny Davis, saying that, “It’s the truth that so threatens the President of the United States. … Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking, and whether Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and cheered it on.”

Mr. Davis is a neoconservative who, since all neocons do, supported a coup in Honduras when Barack Obama came into office; and the coup-regime hired him to win the support of the coup first by Davis’s buddy Hillary Clinton, and then by Barack Obama himself, and Davis also lobbied Democrats in Congress, while other lobbyists worked the Republican side, which were already passionate supporters of the coup anyway, even without whatever bribing might have been on order, regardless of how it was done. The coup overthrew Honduras’s democratically elected and popular progressive President Manuel Zelaya and replaced him by a succession of stooges of the coup’s financial backers, who were Honduras’s aristocracy, the paymasters for the entire operation. Promptly, Honduras surged to the number-one spot as the world’s murder-capital, #1 murder-rate, because the country’s aristocrats were now given carte blanche to hire murderers to get rid of anyone who openly resisted them. But, after a number of years, the murder-rate headed back down again, because the public had become terrified, and leading resisters had been killed. Thousands of poor Hondurans simply escaped to the United States as refugees, because they knew that they were on the local death-lists. But now, under Trump, they’re all being sent back ‘home’, and so the corpse-processing might increase back up, once again. America’s media report about the narcotics traffic as being a cause of Honduras’s record-high murder-rates, but Honduras’s aristocrats are actually skimming heavily from that trade, and they live in heavily guarded compounds, where to kill them would require an army, and those aristocrats control Honduras’s Government; so, they have nothing to worry about. Honduras has become a libertarian paradise (as is described at that last link).

In America, both sides of the aristocracy serve King Saud and hate Vladimir Putin. For some odd reason, nobody is talking about “Saudi infiltration into the American Government” or “Trump’s collusion with the Sauds.”  None of the aristocracy’s media is even asking the question: why aren’t they investigtigating the Sauds instead of Russia’s Government? But perhaps the answer is: Russia doesn’t buy any American weapons, and it doesn’t largely control the value of the U.S. dollar. So, Russia is, for the aristocrats who control the U.S., just a target against which to sell weapons to America’s allies, no friend, at all — and certainly no ally. Instead (and this is bipartisan), the U.S. Government even supports Al Qaeda against Russia.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Is psychopathy needed to reach the top in America?

Eric Zuesse

Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court is just another tip being displayed of America’s top-level-psychopathy iceberg.

On September 16th, the Washington Post headlined “California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault”, and the news-story opened:

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.

Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Despite the headline’s usage of the lesser phrase “sexual assault” to refer to the alleged incident, the article itself makes clear that Mrs. Ford says that she had viewed it at the time as an attempted “rape,” and the article reports that there is extensive record in the files on the case, indicating that it traumatized her, and that for many years afterwards, it harmed her ability to trust any man, and adversely affected her career.

For example:

Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” …

Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.

In an interview, her husband, Russell Ford, said that in the 2012 sessions, she recounted being trapped in a room with two drunken boys, one of whom pinned her to a bed, molested her and prevented her from screaming. He said he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh — then a federal judge — might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.

So: two boys at “an elitist boys’ school” (Georgetown Prep) had traumatized this girl; and, when she escaped, she told no one:

She said she recalled thinking: “I’m not ever telling anyone this. This is nothing, it didn’t happen, and he didn’t rape me.”

Years later, after going through psychotherapy, Ford said, she came to understand the incident as a trauma with lasting impact on her life.

“I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years,” she said. She said she struggled academically and socially and was unable to have healthy relationships with men. …

She married her husband in 2002. Early in their relationship, she told him she had been a victim of physical abuse, he said. A decade later, he learned the details of that alleged abuse when the therapist asked her to tell the story, he said.

The superbly written article in the Washington Post, by Emma Brown, portrays a prep-school culture that has been widely reported elsewhere, in which a lifetime of high society produces privileged people who treat the poor or the weak as objects to be used and thrown away, as waste, not regarded as being centers of importance equal to themselves, but instead their mere property, to use in any way they please. It encourages the growing wealth-disparity in this country, because it devalues the poor as the property of the rich. It devalues women as property of men. As the dominant culture, it encourages oppression and victimization. Victims are viewed as if they were victimizers’ property. This news-story exemplifies that culture — the culture that reigns in America. Supremacist culture.

According to the records from 2012 and from 2002, the other boy, the one who had helped Kavanaugh in the attempted rape, Mark Judge, has also had a nationally prominent career:

Judge is a filmmaker and author who has written for the Daily Caller, The Weekly Standard and The Washington Post. He chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk,” which described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book “Loyola Prep.” Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach one summer makes glancing reference to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car the other night” and “passed out on his way back from a party.”

There have been so many men who have been nationally prominent in America who have later been outed as attempted rapists, if not as rapists, if not as serial rapists, but who were, like Kavanaugh and like Judge, publicly endorsed by others of their class, and only extremely few of them become incarcerated in our prisons, which are instead overflowing with the lower classes, who get imprisoned for lesser crimes. Anyone who would say of the United States, that it’s a country of “Equal Justice Under Law” — a real democracy — is either a liar, an ignoramus, or a fool, because it’s so clearly false.

This is not to say that other countries are better. This problem, of top-class psychopathy, seems to be the norm everywhere. However, not every nation calls itself a ‘democracy’, but America does; and so America’s example of pervasive rot at the top, is especially important. As regards the social-sciences evidence concerning whether the U.S. actually is a democracy, that evidence is now extensive, and it is consistent: America is a dictatorship. The Washington Post would never report that fact, however, because it’s at the top and it is owned by and serves the purposes of America’s richest person, Jeff Bezos; it’s one of America’s leading news-media; but the scientific evidence is clear and consistent on this: America is a dictatorship, by the richest.

Regarding the other social-sciences evidence on psychopathy, that also is rather clear and consistent, and it shows that in American society, the more psychopathic one is, the more successful one is likely to be, and psychopathy is more normal at the top of American society than it is at the bottom. Furthermore, the luckier a person is, the worse he or she becomes. So: contrary to the social-science theoreticians who have hypothesized that the causal relationship between psychopathy and success is uni-directional, it’s actually bi-directional and therefore actually a vicious circle, self-reinforcing, which leaves at the top of society a class of extremely rich extremely evil individuals. I call them “the aristocracy.”

Competency is almost a pre-requisite to extreme success, but so too is psychopathy. One without the other won’t get a person to anywhere near the top, except as freak occurrences, which might exist.

Though this WP news-report contains more than mere hints of that broader social-science reality, that broader reality itself is prohibited from being published in America’s major news-media (including the aristocracy’s think-tanks and foundations), because it implicates themselves. So you read about it here instead (in the last three links above). It’s the news behind the news. Unfortunately, not many people are interested in that. The public’s unconcern, with what causes the phenomena they learn of in the news, assists that vicious circle to continue. Perhaps nothing can change it. Anyway, it’s the reality. And this news-report in WP well reports a typical example of it.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Weakness of Science

In a recent interview on National Pentagon Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed the interactions between (1) the U.S. military and (2) astrophysics. The former is an enterprise that I consider evil and Tyson seems to consider mildly worthy of discomfort but the necessary producer of the research for which he lives. The latter is a field of human endeavor that Tyson apparently considers supremely noble, and I consider absolutely inexcusable. Both are areas into which much energy is driven by irrational delusion.

I consider astrophysics inexcusable because it diverts us from protecting the environment of the one inhabitable planet we have, as well as because it contributes to weaponry, but also because it fuels the insane idea of moving on to another planet once this one is destroyed — something very clearly not possible at least in the time period in which this one is being destroyed. Astrophysics is additionally a piece of the broader view that people need to know as much information as possible, even information that doesn’t concern them.

In the course of deGrasse Tyson’s interview, he comments: “holding aside denial of climate change and other things that could be the end of civilization – hold that (laughter) aside for the moment.” But he never comes back to that topic at all; or if he does it was edited out.

deGrasse Tyson wants a Space Force, even claims to have come up with the idea, and wants to use it for both wars and things like defense against asteroids, and cleanup of space garbage. But nobody has a way to blow up an asteroid, and dumping trillions of dollars into developing a way to do that will certainly do much harm in exchange for a highly improbable benefit. And a gang of weapons dealers (which is who will make up the “troops” in a space force) are not the only or best people to clean up space garbage. (Nor is the cessation of creating space garbage even mentioned.)

deGrasse Tyson seems to think, as most people perhaps do, as millions of non-scientists perhaps do, a little too much like a scientist. That is to say, even while he declares future scientific breakthroughs to be radically unimaginable, he hunts for scientistic laws in politics rather than acknowledging that politics is something that changes and can be changed — can be reimagined. After noting that the U.S. space program came out of militarism, he adds: “That’s the war cry for going into space, and ultimately that’s what dislodged the money necessary to accomplish it, not, oh, we’re explorers, and we’re Americans, and this is the next step. No, that would have been insufficient to make the investment we actually did to go into space.”

Through this sort of observation, deGrasse Tyson suggests that the only way to get good space research is through militarism, and the only way to develop all kinds of technologies is through militarism. But, of course, that’s not a law one can establish the immutable mechanics of. deGrasse Tyson claims that war is essentially a drive for survival, which inevitably drives innovation. In reality, war is today a drive for collective suicide, peace is the only means to survival, the diversion of resources from militarism into environmental protection is the only path open. Both now and historically, periods of peace have driven all kinds of good intellectual and artistic innovation (and the good lack thereof).

deGrasse Tyson claims that astrophysicists are “liberal antiwar – overwhelming, 90-plus percent, no doubt about it.” But when do we hear about them supporting the abolition of war? Where do we see them organizing to reject military funding (a closer connection in reality than deGrasse Tyson’s depiction of the military and academia as two separate places)? Has anyone heard from them in support of the push by many nations, and not the United States, for a new treaty to ban weapons from space (or to uphold the old one)? Are they perhaps “opponents” of war in the sense in which Congress Members who fund and oversee wars call themselves “opponents” when they utter certain mild criticisms?

deGrasse Tyson mocks the space weapons treaty of 1967. Then he claims that it includes a U.N. Charter-like “defensive” weakness, permitting the “defensive” and even “preemptive” use of weapons in space — a weakness well worth discussing because neither deGrasse nor of course NPR suggests the idea of questioning it or opposing it, but a weakness not actually anywhere to be found in the text of the treaty, which includes these words:

“States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner. The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.”

One can read this to allow weapons of non-mass destruction, whatever those are. One cannot read it to allow WMDs used preemptively. But deGrasse Tyson goes beyond that reading. He rejects the law as not a real law, in the manner people use for laws they don’t want, as is very common with the Kellogg-Briand Pact. deGrasse Tyson says: “I viewed it not so much as something that everyone will obey to the letter. I viewed it as a hopeful gesture that maybe when we all go to space, we’ll all get along. That’s how I really viewed it, as a – that we are capable of signing a document that we’ll never fight again.”

I thought scientists were supposed to be more precise, less dreamy than that.

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We’re All Speculators Now

One of the most perverse consequences of the central banks “saving the world” (i.e. saving banks and the super-wealthy) is the destruction of low-risk investments: we’re all speculators now, whether we know it or acknowledge it.

The problem is very few of us have the expertise and experience to be successful speculators, i.e. successfully manage treacherously high-risk markets. Here’s the choice facing money managers of pension funds and individuals alike: either invest in a safe low-risk asset such as Treasury bonds and lose money every year, as the yield doesn’t even match inflation, or accept the extraordinarily high risks of boom-bust bubble assets such as junk bonds, stocks, real estate, etc.

The core middle-class asset is the family home. Back in the pre-financialization era (pre-1982), buying a house and paying down the mortgage to build home equity was the equivalent of a savings account, with the added bonus of the potential for modest appreciation if you happened to buy in a desirable region.

In the late 1990s, the stable, boring market for mortgages was fully financialized and globalized, turning a relatively safe investment and debt market into a speculative commodity. We all know the results: with the explosion of easy access to unlimited credit via HELOCs (home equity lines of credit), liar loans (no-document mortgages), re-financing, etc., the hot credit-money pouring into housing inflated a stupendous bubble that subsequently popped, as all credit-asset bubbles eventually do, with devastating consequences for everyone who reckoned their success in a rising market was a permanent feature of the era and / or evidence of their financial genius.

Highly volatile speculative bubbles are notoriously humbling, even for experienced traders. Buy low and sell high sound easy, but when the herd is running and animal spirits are euphoric, only the most disciplined speculators and the lucky few who have to sell exit near the top of the bubble.

The “safety” of investments in housing, commercial real estate, stocks, corporate bonds, emerging markets, etc., is illusory: these are now inherently risky markets, and it’s difficult to hedge these risks. (Not many participants knpw how to hedge housing, commercial real estate, etc.)

In an environment in which participants have been richly rewarded for believing that “the Fed has our backs,” i.e. central banks will never let risk-assets drop because they understand pension funds, insurers, banks, etc. will implode if the risk-asset bubbles pop, few see the need to bother with hedges, as hedges cost money and reduce yields.

As a result, few participants are fully hedged. Most participants are buck-naked in terms of exposure to risk, and once the tide goes out we’ll find out how few are hedged against bubbles popping.

Financial markets are not linear by nature, so predictably rising markets are atypical. Financial markets are intrinsically non-linear, meaning that the dynamics are inter-connected and prone to asymmetric events in which a small input triggers an outsized output such as a crash.

In the fantasy world conjured by central bank stimulus, markets never go down and economies never slide into recession. Financial engineering has eradicated risk. But the dynamics interact in ways that can’t be controlled. As inflation heats up globally, central banks are being forced to “normalize” interest rates and yields, and political pressure to stop saving banks and the super-wealthy is mounting.

All speculative markets deflate, slowly or suddenly, depending on the marginal buyers and sellers. The shakier the marginal participants, the greater the likelihood that the speculative bubble will pop with a suddenness that surprises the vast majority of participants.

Take a look at stock valuations as a percentage of GDP, i.e. the real economy: stocks are clearly in a bubble.

The national Case-Shiller housing price index: bubble.

The Seattle Case-Shiller housing price index: super-bubble.

The Dallas Case-Shiller housing price index: super-duper-bubble.

You get the point: virtually every supposedly low-risk asset class is actually a super-risky, super-dangerous bubble. Speculation drives valuations far beyond financial rationality because we’re herd animals and unearned gains supercharge our greed, especially when we see all sorts of undeserving people making fortunes for doing nothing but running with the herd.

So when the herd thunders off the cliff, most participants are trapped in the stampede. Very few exited far from the cliff, and even fewer will wait patiently for the dust to settle before moving cash into assets.

Risk has a knack for hiding in plain sight. Few people look for it, and even fewer recognize it. Only a handful act on it. 

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What If Governments Obeyed Laws?

Do we need new laws or adherence to the old ones?

Yes.

Both.

The United States has an ancient Constitution. It doesn’t ban slavery as punishment. It doesn’t ban bribery as campaign funding. It doesn’t protect the natural world. It doesn’t guarantee basic human rights to food, shelter, education, healthcare. Its system of “representative” government doesn’t fairly represent. New laws are needed.

On the other hand, the United States has numerous laws on the books that just aren’t enforced. Antitrust laws are treated more as suggestions. Laws against torture are routinely erased from memory by re-banning torture again and again. Perjury by someone powerful is a crime if sex-related. (Clinton.) Otherwise it’s a factoid for use in arguments over any allegation that is sex-related. (Kavanaugh.) Often crimes by the powerful are occasions for “investigations” rather than prosecutions — so that crimes that only the powerful can commit cease to be crimes and become topics for “investigations.” (Destroying Yemen.)

There are borderline cases. Written law, as visible to the human eye, doesn’t give corporations human rights. Mostly it’s been reimagined bizarrely to do so. But creating new laws that deny corporations human rights would be a very welcome addition.

There are thousands of mixed cases. For example, one would like to see existing tax laws applied to the wealthy, and minimum wage laws adhered to by employers, but a maximum wage law would be a great new addition.

When it comes to war and law — the subject of a conference this week in Toronto and online — I think we understandably incline toward the idea of new laws: disarmament treaties, world parliaments. But I think we should start from an understanding of what the world would look like if existing laws were complied with. One reason is that we need to know what sorts of laws are most easily and least easily violated. Another reason is that compelling compliance with existing laws and/or creating new laws that build on existing laws may prove far easier than creating new legal standards from scratch.

The obvious example is this: If we try to imagine the big war-making nations of the world creating a new treaty to ban all war, the task seems enormous. If we try to imagine legislative and other ways of compelling awareness of and compliance with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the task seems noticeably less enormous.

Creating a new treaty banning war would be extremely difficult to get any war-loving governments to join. I’m in favor of it, just as I’m in favor of an immediate ban on oil, meat, and reality television. But is it the place to start?

Building on the existing treaty offers other possibilities. We could produce educational materials. We could lobby a non-party nation to join. We could create model domestic legislation penalizing individual violators. We could work to democratize the ICJ and ICC, to create prosecutions, and truth and reconciliation proceedings. We could work — again involving democratization of the U.N. — to impose sanctions on government violators. We could treat both the Hague Convention of 1907 detailing procedures for nonviolent dispute resolution and the Kellogg-Briand Pact requiring nonviolent dispute resolution as (what they are) existing law, and — in combination — requiring the procedures outlined.

There are three main reasons for ignoring the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

1. “I’ve never heard of it.”

That one is remedied through education.

2. “There’s still war, so it didn’t work.”

This raises the question of what it means for a law to work. Almost no legal bans work by this standard. We ban murder and there is murder. We ban public indecency and there is Congress. Etc. Perhaps a ban on war has to achieve complete success in order to have worked because of the “defensive” arguments so widely, if misguidedly, used to justify war. But do you get a ban to achieve complete success by rejecting it and normalizing its violation, or by upholding it and constructing systems of decision making around it?

3. “The U.N. Charter replaced that.”

There’s a variation on this in which one claims that the Kellogg-Briand Pact included (in secret invisible ink) the sanctioning of “defensive” war found in the U.N. Charter. But more commonly the claim is that the U.N. Charter opened up the “defensive” and the “U.N.-sanctioned” loopholes for legal wars, and there’s nothing that Kellogg-Briand can do about it. That second loophole (“U.N.-sanctioned”) introduces the supposed correction of the Peace Pact’s supposed central failure, namely its lack of “teeth,” “enforcement,” or — in plane language — the use of war as a tool with which to eliminate war.

For believers in that long-failed approach, we don’t need a new war ban; we’ve got the U.N. Charter. It just needs to be democratized. And we need to figure out, just as with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, how to create compliance with the existing ban. Most wars, of course, do not fit into the U.N. Charter’s loopholes.

For disbelievers in using war to end all war, we need to turn the standard of the Peace Pact, as understood by the activists who originated the outlawry movement, namely a total ban on war, into actual practice.

Imagine for a minute if that were accomplished. Compliance with the 1928 Pact of Paris would mean no more wars. Compliance with the Hague Convention of 1907 would mean nonviolent arbitration.

Beyond that, imagine compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

For the nations possessing nuclear weapons to comply with the NPT, which most of them are party to, they are obliged to sign onto the new ban on nuclear weapons, which the nations lacking nuclear weapons have created.

Beyond that, imagine the Pentagon complying with an open audit as required by law. Imagine the U.S. government ceasing to do business with companies that defraud it. Imagine the U.S. government complying with the Leahy Law by not waging war with other nations that violate human rights during or separate from their commission of mass murder. (Saudi Arabia.)

Beyond that, imagine U.S. presidents compelled by the threat of impeachment to revert to the practice of signing or vetoing bills, rather than signing them and announcing which parts they will feel free to ignore. One can even imagine presidents compelled by the use of impeachment to cease committing the crime of war.

Note that the 42 Democrats who just wrote to Trump to tell him that he cannot commit the supreme international crime in Syria unless he consults with Congress first, can make a strong case for having done something better than nothing. But they cannot claim to be doing no harm. Conditioning the public to believe that the Congress can sanction crimes now has members of the British Parliament proposing a law to allow only the Parliament and not a Prime Minister to commit the crime of war.

Now, I want to ban weapons from space. I want to ban armed drones that don’t require humans to push the kill buttons. I want to ban armed drones that do require humans to push the kill buttons. I want to close bases. I want to create national and global programs of mandatory conversion to peaceful and pro-environmental industries. I want to move lots of power to the local level. I want plenty of new laws. But if we don’t uphold the ones we’ve got, we render less valuable any new ones we may get.

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