Even before the Covid-19 crisis had slashed stock prices nearly in half since it erupted in January, financial markets were in an inherently unstable condition. Years of quantitative easing had loaded so much money into stock and bond prices that stock price/earnings multiples and bond prices were far too high by any normal and reasonable historical standards. Risk premiums have disappeared, with only a few basis points separating U.S. Treasury bills and corporate bonds.
The Fed’s Quantitative Easing since 2008 plus large companies using their earnings for stock buybacks drove the prices of financial assets into a realm of unreality. The result was that markets already were teetering on the brink of fragility. Any rise of normal interest to more normal conditions, or any external shock, was bound to crash the artificial values at which financial markets were priced. The Fed’s policy was to perpetuate this situation for as long as possible by pumping in yet more credit. But at near-zero interest rates, there was little that could be done.
A close parallel to this situation was the state of Third World debt in the mid-1980s. Mexico’s announcement that it could not meet its foreign debt service was the shock that brought ugly financial reality into conflict with the assumption that somehow any government debt could be paid – even debts denominated in a foreign currency. (Mexico and other countries had denominated their bonds in dollars in order to obtain lower interest rates than bonds denominated in their own currencies would have to pay. The assumption was that export earnings would provide hard currencies with which to redeem the bonds.)
The international financial system was rescued by the issue of Brady bonds – “good” new bonds for old “bad” ones. The capital value of these bonds was still far below the original debt, but they had the virtue of setting realistic levels by bringing the debt balance more in line with the actual ability of debtor countries to earn the dollars or other hard currencies needed to service bonds denominated in foreign currencies, mainly the US dollar.
The current crisis requires a similar write-down and recognition that fictitious price levels must give way to reality at some point. In fact, we have reached the end of an illusion – the illusion that bond (and stock) prices could be sustained indefinitely simply by financial engineering,
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After the supposed US “withdrawal” from Syria – Western media outlets have causally reported on US troops now preparing to occupy Syria’s oilfields east of the Euphrates River.
Articles include carefully selected “experts” who avoid any mention of how illegal or indefensible the presence of US forces in Syria is to begin with, let alone any mention of “why” US troops are preparing to “claim” Syria’s natural resources.
The Guardian in its piece, “US plans to send tanks to Syria oil fields, reversing Trump troop withdrawal – reports,” illustrates a voluntary dereliction of due diligence in investigating or questioning Western actions in Syria.
One is left to assume what the US would claim as its excuse for remaining in Syria – likely based on a narrative of denying terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda or the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) and their affiliates access to resources to “fund” their return to the region.
The most obvious and sustainable solution would be to transfer control of Syria’s oilfields to Syria itself. Syria has overcome terrorist organizations in all areas Damascus has now restored order to, and with the restoration of its oilfields and related industries, would be in an even better position to both rebuild the nation and defend against the very elements who destroyed it in the first place.
But this assumes that the US is interested in preventing the resurgence of terrorist organizations in the region – ignoring the fact that the US deliberately created them in the first place and deliberately used them to both trigger, then fuel the Syrian war from its very beginning in 2011.
The US is the Source of Syria’s War
As early as 2007, real journalists warned of US plans to bolster opposition groups linked to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda in a bid to undermine Iran and its ally Syria.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007 New Yorker article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?,” would provide an ominous, but crystal-clear warning of what awaited both Syria and the wider region.
Hersh would warn:
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Op-Ed by Atilla Sulker
Individuals from all corners of the political spectrum have been stirred up by the recent bans of various figures including Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan. Some have praised these bans for providing good constraints on what they deem “fake news” or “hate speech.” Others have attacked these bans for being influenced by nefarious motives that are contra free speech. The debate regarding the extent to which social media sites may regulate speech has been going on for years now. Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.
The Fallacy of “Social Media Homogenization”
One of the biggest fallacies people fail to avoid in these debates is that all social media sites are homogenous goods. The successful entrepreneur understands the importance of differentiation in marketing their product, for it is differentiation that allows the entrepreneur to narrow down his market and attract consumers.
Just as in any other market, the social media titans, Facebook and Twitter, have developed very differently from each other, and each has its own distinctive features. Facebook has developed best for allowing like-minded people to connect with each other, while Twitter has become a bully pulpit for various figures in the political and pop culture world.
It would thus be wrong to compare all social media sites as if they were the same. The various consumer ends each social media site serves to satisfy determines its overall development. Many different factors will influence these ends. Among one of these factors is the extent to which speech is regulated.
If a given social media site aims to assist individuals and firms in networking with each other, they will likely not have any role in the market of sharing controversial opinions. Conversely, the social media platform that aims at giving a voice to those on the fringes of society will likely have no interest in entering the market of business networking. If we step back and look at the bigger picture, it is a fallacy to paint all social media sites with a broad brush stroke. Each one of them serves a unique purpose, and this purpose has a huge impact on how the site will develop in the longer run.
So perhaps the solution does not lie in calling for state interventions and boldly proclaiming that social media sites are ruthless monopolies trampling on free speech.
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On February 24th the residents of Okinawa voted in a “symbolic referendum”, i.e. one which is purely an expression of opinion, with no obligation on anyone to take any notice of its outcome. In this, they voted heavily against the relocation of the Futenma base, despite the fact this had been agreed twenty years ago.
There are many stories which are rarely covered in the media because they can’t be compressed into easy soundbites. The whole world was told about the Afghan mujahideen kicking out the Soviet-backed government in 1989, as this was the culmination of a narrative everyone understood and most wanted to hear. When those same mujahideen pursued a prolonged civil war against each other Afghanistan quickly slipped from the front pages, as few had the time or the inclination to understand who was who or why they should be interested..
The relocation of the US military base at Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa has once again made the news. This is not because something newsworthy has suddenly happened, but because something specific enough has happened to enable the media to put a spin on this controversial issue.
Futenma has been described as the most dangerous military base in the world, and it would be even if it were located in a relatively open space. Instead it is right in the middle of a built-up area, surrounded by homes and businesses. All US airbases are obliged to have clear zones at the end of runways, and Futenma doesn’t, and couldn’t create them if it wanted to without knocking down an unfeasible number of buildings and rehousing their inhabitants.
There should therefore be no question that Okinawans would want to be rid of the base for this reason, quite apart from the other factors in play, such as the ongoing incidents of military personnel misconduct
Nevertheless, the 1996 agreement to move the base has not been implemented, largely because Okinawans themselves have seen the need for the base. Additionally, it’s been noted that its presence supports many local businesses.
There have also been many other factors complicating the picture. The objective has never been to close the base down but to relocate it to another site on Okinawa.
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