Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trump Should Veto Congress’ Foolish New Sanctions Bill - By Ron Paul

This week’s expected House vote to add more sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a prime example of how little thought goes into US foreign policy. Sanctions have become kind of an automatic action the US government takes when it simply doesn’t know what else to do.
No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions. Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.
Why is Congress so eager for more sanctions on Russia? The neocons and the media have designated Russia as the official enemy and the military industrial complex and other special interests want to continue getting rich terrifying Americans into believing the propaganda.
Why, just weeks after the White House affirmed that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the nuclear treaty, does Congress pass additional sanctions anyway? Washington blames Iran for “destabilizing” Syria and Iraq by helping them fight ISIS and al-Qaeda. Does this make any sense at all?
When is the last time Iran committed a terrorist act on our soil? It hasn’t. Yet we learned from the declassified 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report that Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in the 2001 attacks against Washington and New York. Who has funded al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria for years? Saudi Arabia. Yet no one is talking about sanctions against that country. This is because sanctions are not about our security. They are about politics and special interests.
Why is Congress poised to add yet more sanctions on North Korea? Do they want the North Korean people to suffer more than they are already suffering? North Korea’s GDP is half that of Vermont – the US state with the lowest GDP! Does anyone believe they are about to invade us? There is much talk about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but little talk about 30,000 US troops and weapons on North Korea’s border. For Washington, it’s never a threat if we do it to the other guy.
Here’s an alternative to doing the same thing over and over: Let’s take US troops out of North Korea after 70 years. The new South Korean president has proposed military talks with North Korea to try and reduce tensions. We should get out of the way and let them solve their own problems. If Iran and Russia want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda at the invitation of their ally, Syria, why stand in the way? We can’t run the world. We are out of money.
President Trump was elected to pursue a new kind of foreign policy. If he means what he said on the campaign trail, he will veto this foolish sanctions bill and begin dismantling neocon control of his Administration.
Dr. Ron Paul is a former member of Congress and Distinguished Counselor to the Mises Institute.
Copyright © 2017 Ron Paul
Previous article by Ron Paul: Let’s Have More Death and Destruction


Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence

In a memo to President Trump, a group of former U.S. intelligence officers, including NSA specialists, cite new forensic studies to challenge the claim of the key Jan. 6 “assessment” that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails last year. 
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Executive Summary
Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia.
After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device, and that “telltale signs” implicating Russia were then inserted.
Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying and doctoring were performed on the East coast of the U.S. Thus far, mainstream media have ignored the findings of these independent studies [see hereand here].
Independent analyst Skip Folden, a retired IBM Program Manager for Information Technology US, who examined the recent forensic findings, is a co-author of this Memorandum. He has drafted a more detailed technical report titled “Cyber-Forensic Investigation of ‘Russian Hack’ and Missing Intelligence Community Disclaimers,” and sent it to the offices of the Special Counsel and the Attorney General. VIPS member William Binney, a former Technical Director at the National Security Agency, and other senior NSA “alumni” in VIPS attest to the professionalism of the independent forensic findings.
The recent forensic studies fill in a critical gap. Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original “Guccifer 2.0” material remains a mystery – as does the lack of any sign that the “hand-picked analysts” from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the “Intelligence Community Assessment” dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.
NOTE: There has been so much conflation of charges about hacking that we wish to make very clear the primary focus of this Memorandum. We focus specifically on the July 5, 2016 alleged Guccifer 2.0 “hack” of the DNC server. In earlier VIPS memoranda we addressed the lack of any evidence connecting the Guccifer 2.0 alleged hacks and WikiLeaks, and we asked President Obama specifically to disclose any evidence that WikiLeaks received DNC data from the Russians [see here and here].
Addressing this point at his last press conference (January 18), he described “the conclusions of the intelligence community” as “not conclusive,” even though the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 6 expressed “high confidence” that Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the DNC … to WikiLeaks.”
Obama’s admission came as no surprise to us. It has long been clear to us that the reason the U.S. government lacks conclusive evidence of a transfer of a “Russian hack” to WikiLeaks is because there was no such transfer. Based mostly on the cumulatively unique technical experience of our ex-NSA colleagues, we have been saying for almost a year that the DNC data reached WikiLeaks via a copy/leak by a DNC insider (but almost certainly not the same person who copied DNC data on July 5, 2016).
From the information available, we conclude that the same inside-DNC, copy/leak process was used at two different times, by two different entities, for two distinctly different purposes:
-(1) an inside leak to WikiLeaks before Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents and planned to publish them (which he did on July 22) – the presumed objective being to expose strong DNC bias toward the Clinton candidacy; and
-(2) a separate leak on July 5, 2016, to pre-emptively taint anything WikiLeaks might later publish by “showing” it came from a “Russian hack.”
*  *  *
Mr. President:
This is our first VIPS Memorandum for you, but we have a history of letting U.S. Presidents know when we think our former intelligence colleagues have gotten something important wrong, and why. For example, our first such memorandum, a same-day commentary for President George W. Bush on Colin Powell’s U.N. speech on February 5, 2003, warned that the “unintended consequences were likely to be catastrophic,” should the U.S. attack Iraq and “justfy” the war on intelligence that we retired intelligence officers could readily see as fraudulent and driven by a war agenda.
The January 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” by “hand-picked” analysts from the FBI, CIA, and NSA seems to fit into the same agenda-driven category. It is largely based on an “assessment,” not supported by any apparent evidence, that a shadowy entity with the moniker “Guccifer 2.0” hacked the DNC on behalf of Russian intelligence and gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
The recent forensic findings mentioned above have put a huge dent in that assessment and cast serious doubt on the underpinnings of the extraordinarily successful campaign to blame the Russian government for hacking. The pundits and politicians who have led the charge against Russian “meddling” in the U.S. election can be expected to try to cast doubt on the forensic findings, if they ever do bubble up into the mainstream media. But the principles of physics don’t lie; and the technical limitations of today’s Internet are widely understood. We are prepared to answer any substantive challenges on their merits.
You may wish to ask CIA Director Mike Pompeo what he knows about this. Our own lengthy intelligence community experience suggests that it is possible that neither former CIA Director John Brennan, nor the cyber-warriors who worked for him, have been completely candid with their new director regarding how this all went down.
Copied, Not Hacked
As indicated above, the independent forensic work just completed focused on data copied (not hacked) by a shadowy persona named “Guccifer 2.0.” The forensics reflect what seems to have been a desperate effort to “blame the Russians” for publishing highly embarrassing DNC emails three days before the Democratic convention last July. Since the content of the DNC emails reeked of pro-Clinton bias, her campaign saw an overriding need to divert attention from content to provenance – as in, who “hacked” those DNC emails? The campaign was enthusiastically supported by a compliant “mainstream” media; they are still on a roll.
“The Russians” were the ideal culprit. And, after WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, “We have emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,” her campaign had more than a month before the convention to insert its own “forensic facts” and prime the media pump to put the blame on “Russian meddling.” Mrs. Clinton’s PR chief Jennifer Palmieri has explained how she used golf carts to make the rounds at the convention. She wrote that her “mission was to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the DNC, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.”
Independent cyber-investigators have now completed the kind of forensic work that the intelligence assessment did not do. Oddly, the “hand-picked” intelligence analysts contented themselves with “assessing” this and “assessing” that. In contrast, the investigators dug deep and came up with verifiable evidence from metadata found in the record of the alleged Russian hack.
They found that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 was not a hack, by Russia or anyone else. Rather it originated with a copy (onto an external storage device – a thumb drive, for example) by an insider. The data was leaked after being doctored with a cut-and-paste job to implicate Russia. We do not know who or what the murky Guccifer 2.0 is. You may wish to ask the FBI.
The Time Sequence
June 12, 2016: Assange announces WikiLeaks is about to publish “emails related to Hillary Clinton.”
June 15, 2016: DNC contractor Crowdstrike, (with a dubious professional record and multiple conflicts of interest) announces that malware has been found on the DNC server and claims there is evidence it was injected by Russians.
June 15, 2016: On the same day, “Guccifer 2.0” affirms the DNC statement; claims responsibility for the “hack;” claims to be a WikiLeaks source; and posts a document that the forensics show was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”
We do not think that the June 12 & 15 timing was pure coincidence. Rather, it suggests the start of a pre-emptive move to associate Russia with anything WikiLeaks might have been about to publish and to “show” that it came from a Russian hack.
The Key Event
July 5, 2016: In the early evening, Eastern Daylight Time, someone working in the EDT time zone with a computer directly connected to the DNC server or DNC Local Area Network, copied 1,976 MegaBytes of data in 87 seconds onto an external storage device. That speed is many times faster than what is physically possible with a hack.
It thus appears that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 (the self-proclaimed WikiLeaks source) was not a hack by Russia or anyone else, but was rather a copy of DNC data onto an external storage device. Moreover, the forensics performed on the metadata reveal there was a subsequent synthetic insertion – a cut-and-paste job using a Russian template, with the clear aim of attributing the data to a “Russian hack.” This was all performed in the East Coast time zone.
“Obfuscation & De-obfuscation”
Mr. President, the disclosure described below may be related. Even if it is not, it is something we think you should be made aware of in this general connection. On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks began to publish a trove of original CIA documents that WikiLeaks labeled “Vault 7.” WikiLeaks said it got the trove from a current or former CIA contractor and described it as comparable in scale and significance to the information Edward Snowden gave to reporters in 2013.
No one has challenged the authenticity of the original documents of Vault 7, which disclosed a vast array of cyber warfare tools developed, probably with help from NSA, by CIA’s Engineering Development Group. That Group was part of the sprawling CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation – a growth industry established by John Brennan in 2015.
Scarcely imaginable digital tools – that can take control of your car and make it race over 100 mph, for example, or can enable remote spying through a TV – were described and duly reported in the New York Times and other media throughout March. But the Vault 7, part 3 release on March 31 that exposed the “Marble Framework” program apparently was judged too delicate to qualify as “news fit to print” and was kept out of the Times.
The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima, it seems, “did not get the memo” in time. Her March 31 article bore the catching (and accurate) headline: “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.”
The WikiLeaks release indicated that Marble was designed for flexible and easy-to-use “obfuscation,” and that Marble source code includes a “deobfuscator” to reverse CIA text obfuscation.
More important, the CIA reportedly used Marble during 2016. In her Washington Post report, Nakashima left that out, but did include another significant point made by WikiLeaks; namely, that the obfuscation tool could be used to conduct a “forensic attribution double game” or false-flag operation because it included test samples in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi.
The CIA’s reaction was neuralgic. Director Mike Pompeo lashed out two weeks later, calling Assange and his associates “demons,” and insisting, “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble Framework, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Digital Innovation Directorate have been with you and with Director Pompeo. These are areas that might profit from early White House review.
Putin and the Technology
We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack.”
“Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”
Full Disclosure: Over recent decades the ethos of our intelligence profession has eroded in the public mind to the point that agenda-free analysis is deemed well nigh impossible. Thus, we add this disclaimer, which applies to everything we in VIPS say and do: We have no political agenda; our sole purpose is to spread truth around and, when necessary, hold to account our former intelligence colleagues.
We speak and write without fear or favor. Consequently, any resemblance between what we say and what presidents, politicians and pundits say is purely coincidental. The fact we find it is necessary to include that reminder speaks volumes about these highly politicized times. This is our 50th VIPS Memorandum since the afternoon of Powell’s speech at the UN. Live links to the 49 past memos can be found at https://consortiumnews.com/vips-memos/.
FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY
William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center
Skip Folden, independent analyst, retired IBM Program Manager for Information Technology US (Associate VIPS)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Air Force Intelligence Officer (Ret.), Master SERE Resistance to Interrogation Instructor
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)
Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, Jr., former NSA Technical Director for the Office of Signals Processing
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and CIA analyst
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Cian Westmoreland, former USAF Radio Frequency Transmission Systems Technician and Unmanned Aircraft Systems whistleblower (Associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat


Of Two Minds - In the Footsteps of Rome: Is Renewal Possibl

Once the shared memories of these values are lost, the Empire ceases to exist; there is nothing left to reform or renew.
Is renewal / recovery from systemic decline possible? The history of the Roman Empire is a potentially insightful place to start looking for answers. As long-time readers know, I've been studying both the Western and Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empires over the past few years.
Both Western and Eastern Roman Empires faced existential crises that very nearly dissolved the empires hundreds of years before their terminal declines.The Western Roman Empire, beset by the overlapping crises of invasion, civil war, plague and economic upheaval, nearly collapsed in the third century C.E. (Christian Era, what was previously A.D.) -- 235 to 284 C.E., fully two hundred years before its final dissolution in the fifth century (circa 476 C.E.).
Meanwhile, the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) faced similar crises in the seventh and eighth centuries, as its capital of Constantinople was besieged by the Persians in 626 C.E. and the Arab caliphate in 674 C.E. and again in 717 C.E. The invasions which preceded the sieges stripped the empire of wealthy territories and the income those lands produced.
In both cases, the Empire not only survived but recovered a substantial measure of its former resilience and stability. Fortune delivered strong leadership at the critical moment: leadership that was able to protect itself from petty, self-aggrandizing domestic rivals, force the reorganization of failed, self-serving bureaucracies, inspire the populace to make the necessary sacrifices for the common good, win decisive military victories that ended the threat of invasion, and generate a moral claim to leadership via personal rectitude and/or participation in a religious revival.
Absent such strong, stable, legitimate leadership, neither empire would have survived their existential crisis.
But strong leadership alone isn't enough. A strong military leader can win battles, and a strong political leader can aggregate power, but these are merely steps to the ultimate goal of strong leadership, which is to reform the Imperial system so it once again serves the needs of the entire Empire rather than just the greed of the few at the top of the wealth-power pyramid.
The system itself must still hold the potential to be reformed. If the systems of communication, trade, control and finance have all eroded beyond the point of no return, then the victories of a strong leader die with that leader.
The army must still have the means to recruit new legions, the Treasury must still have a system to collect tax revenues, the central leadership must have a way to communicate with far-flung commanders and local leaders, and so on.
The collective shared memory of imperial cohesion and competence must still exist in the general populace. Any political group identity, be it tribe, village, nation or empire, is anchored by a shared awareness of membership, i.e. the rights and responsibilities of belonging, and a collective memory of the group / empire as a functioning whole that served the many and not just the few.
Once the shared memory of the Empire as a functioning whole is lost, the entire notion of empire is lost.
The leadership in these existential crises of the third century C.E. in the West and the eighth century in the East could still draw upon a collective memory of a functioning empire. Residents had not yet lost the shared memory of serving in the army, of paying taxes, of stable trade protected by the Empire, of a stable Imperial currency, and so on.
Once the shared memories of these values are lost, the Empire ceases to exist; there is nothing left to reform or renew.
We are far down the road to a system that serves the few at the expense of the many. The collective memory of a system that once served the common good is fading. Strong leadership can still wrest popular political power from the self-serving elites atop the wealth-power pyramid and wield this political power to reform the system so it serves the many instead of just the few, but the window for such reform /renewal is closing fast.
In another decade, a living system that served the common good rather than just the interests of a few will be as distant as the shattered monuments of ancient Rome.


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Monday, July 24, 2017

Restoring the Republic Means Reimposing ‘Regular Order’ - By Angelo Codevilla

The Republican congressional leadership’s failure to repeal Obamacare has led to suggestions that, perhaps, they should have approached their task through “regular order.” Since Congress has not operated under “regular order” at all since 2006, and with decreasing frequency in the decades before that, younger readers, especially, may be excused for not knowing what these procedures are. Far from being arcane ephemera, they are the indispensable catalyst that makes American government responsible to the people. Casting aside “regular order” was essential to the rise of the unaccountable administrative state and the near-sovereignty of party leaders, lobbyists, and bureaucrats.
Herewith, a summary of what “regular order” means, what purpose it once served, why and how it was shunned, and of what has ensued.
More than a half century ago, Daniel Berman’s college-level text, A Bill Becomes a Law, the template for K-12 civics courses, described more or less how Congress had operated since the 1790s. Bills introduced in House or Senate would be sent to the relevant committee, and thence to the proper sub-committee. The ones thought worthy—including those funding the federal government’s operations—would be the subject of public hearings.
The committees’ partisan majorities and minorities would try to stage manage the hearings to make the best case for the outcomes they desired on each point. In the process, public support would strengthen or wane for particular items and approaches. Then, each subcommittee’s public “mark up” of its portion of the bill would reflect the members’ votes and compromises on each item.
Once the several subcommittee products had made their way to the full committee, the same process would repeat. Votes on contested items, and on the whole bill, would end the full committee’s “mark up” and send the bill to be scheduled for action on the House or Senate floor.
Just to get to this point, every element of every bill had to be exposed to public scrutiny. Senators or congressmen on the committees offered amendments and had to vote on the record for each part of the bill. On the House floor, amendments would be limited. But in the Senate, there could be—and often were—“amendments by way of substitution.” By the time the “yeas and nays” were tallied on the final bill, just about all members had had as much of a crack at it as they wanted. The final product would be the result of countless compromises “on the record.”
In 2017, it is useful to recall that this process used to apply to each and every government activity that required a dollar from the U.S. treasury, each and every year. For the past 11 years, however, all the money drawn from the treasury have come from single “continuing resolutions” (CRs) or “omnibus” bills, drafted in secret by “leadership” staffers, executive branch officials, and lobbyists, on which there have been no hearings and which few members have ever read, and on which few if any amendments have been allowed. These “Cromnibuses,” served up as the government runs out of spending authority, end up being passed by the majority party’s near unanimity.
While this is consistent with the Constitution’s words, “no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law,” it wholly reverses their intent. Individual congressmen and senators are cut out of the legislative process. The voters can no longer hold each accountable. When Republican leaders make common cause with the Democratic Party against Republicans who won’t go along, whom they accuse of “shutting down the government,” they create a bipartisan ruling party. That makes both parties equally responsible, and ensures that changing your vote from D to R or R to D won’t make a difference.
Senators and congressmen abandoned regular order because it hinders their craving for power and flight from responsibility. Voters elect them to vote accountably on important matters. But since such matters are almost inevitably divisive, they do their utmost to avoid voting on them.
Associating with the pleasant and avoiding the opposite, they prefer exercising influence and making compromises privately. Regular order had forced them to be small-r republicans—alone, responsible to the voters. They prefer to be safe, indistinguishable, comfortable among courtiers.
Regular order’s death came about in this way. For over a century, congressmen and senators’ procrastination had pressed legislative business into the last weeks before the end of congressional sessions. Members had noted that they could slip items into bills in frenzied times, which would not have survived regular order’s scrutiny. In the 1970s, some committees started to procrastinate on purpose, so that the end of the government’s fiscal year would come without an appropriation for one or more department of government. The Appropriations Committee would then prepare a “continuing resolution” to substitute for the uncompleted appropriations. These were supposed to just “keep thing going next year as in the previous year,” thus avoiding all issues. At the very least, they obviated whatever major changes anyone might want to make. But it was never that simple: from the beginning, these CRs always had riders. The more influence you had, the more you could slip into the CR.
This proved to be catnip for politicians. Party leaders grasped the more that legislation was done by continuing resolution, the more influence they would have on their members. Presidents—and above all their bureaucrats—saw that direct, private contact with the CR drafters was a far more effective means of getting their way than through “regular order.”
The Democrats’ control of the Senate and Harry Reid’s control of the Senate following the 2006 elections changed American government radically. In fiscal years 2007 and 2008, by preventing any committee from producing any appropriation bill for any government agency, Reid made sure that all of the U.S government’s business would be compressed into one CR, the contents of which would be negotiated strictly between himself and President George W. Bush, whom Reid had over the proverbial barrel. Between 2009 and 2015, the same tactic yielded a federal government that was the “cosa nostra” of Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi.
The crumbs for which Republicans scrambled in those years were enough to addict their leaders to the new way of American government. Envying Reid and Pelosi, they yearned to imitate them. Hence, when John Boehner replaced Pelosi as Speaker of the House, his vow to enforce “regular order” amounted to nothing. Same for Paul Ryan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since 2015 has been a Harry Reid wannabe—minus the competence, plus the pretense.
Understanding the Republican leadership’s addiction to government without regular order is all too easy. We have so much to do. We have tools to do it expeditiously. Why not use them? This, the standard procedural argument for Progressivism, is as valid today as it was when Woodrow Wilson made it in the 1880s.
In fact, Reid and Obama used these tools effectively. But neither Donald Trump nor Mitch McConnell possess the personal or ideological purposefulness to match their predecessors. Most important, while Reid and Obama enjoyed wholehearted support from the bureaucracy, the media, the corporations, and so forth, Republican congressional leaders get only opposition from the establishment.
Merely holding the line against the establishment’s continuously mounting claims on the rest of America—never mind reversing them—will require re-involving the American people in their own business. That means restoring Congress as the American people’s primary representative institution. Making Congress work according to regular order, and only through regular order, is a prerequisite.
Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com
About the Author: Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014


Of Two Minds - When We Can No Longer Tell the Truth...

Lies, half-truths and cover-ups are all manifestations of fatal weakness.
When we can no longer tell the truth because the truth will bring the whole rotten, fragile status quo down in a heap of broken promises and lies, we've reached the perfection of dysfunction.
You know the one essential guideline to "leadership" in a doomed dysfunctional system: when it gets serious, you have to lie. In other words, the status quo's secular goddess is TINA--there is no alternative to lying, because the truth will bring the whole corrupt structure tumbling down.
This core dynamic of dysfunction is scale-invariant, meaning that hiding the truth is the core dynamic in dysfunctional relationships, households, communities, enterprises, cities, corporations, states, alliances, nations and empires: when the truth cannot be told because it threatens the power structure of the status quo, that status quo is doomed.
Lies, half-truths and cover-ups are all manifestations of fatal weakness. What lies, half-truths and cover-ups communicate is: we can no longer fix our real problems, and rather than let this truth out, we must mask it behind lies and phony reassurances.
Truth is power, lies are weakness. All we get now are lies, statistics designed to mislead and phony reassurances that the status quo is stable and permanent. The truth is powerful because it is the core dynamic of solving problems. Lies, gamed statistics and false reassurances are fatal because they doom any sincere efforts to fix what's broken before the system reaches the point of no return.
We are already past the point of no return. The expediency of lies has already doomed us.
Honest accounts of hugely successful corporations that implode share one key trait: in every case, managers were pressured to hide the truth from top management, which then hid the truth from investors and clients.
This is the key dynamic in failed oligarchies as well: if telling the truth gets you sent to Siberia (or worse), then nobody with any instinct for self-perservation will tell the truth.
If obscuring the truth saves one's job, then that's what people do. That this dooms the organization is secondary to immediate self-preservation.
A distorted sense of loyalty to the family, community, company, institution, agency or nation furthers lying as the "solution" to unsavory problems. Daddy a drunk? Hide the bottle. Church a hotbed of adultery and thieving? Maintain the facade of holiness at all costs. Company products are failing? Put some lipstick on the pig. The statistical truth doesn't support the party's happy story? Distort the stats until they "do what's needed." The agency failed to fulfill its prime directive? Blame the managerial failure on a scapegoat.
Pathological liars and cheats rely on self-preservation and misplaced loyalty to mask their own failure and corruption. A hint here, a comment there, and voila, a culture of lying is created and incentivized.
Obscuring the truth is the ultimate short-term expediency.Now that it's serious, we have to lie.We'll start telling the truth later, after everything's stabilized.
But lying insures nothing can ever be truly stabilized, so there will never be a point at which the system is strong enough and stable enough to survive the truth.
We are now an empire of lies. The status quo--politically, socially and economically- depends on lies, half-truths, scapegoats and cover-ups for its very survival. Any truth that escapes the prison of lies endangers the entire rotten edifice.
In an empire of lies, "leaders" say what people want to hear. This wins the support of the masses, who would rather hear false reassurances that require no sacrifices, no difficult trade-offs, no hard choices, no discipline.
The empire of lies is doomed. Lies are weakness, and they prohibit any real solutions. Truth is power, but we can no longer tolerate the truth because it frightens us. Our weakness is systemic and fatal.



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Is It Folly To Hold Cash? - by Adam Taggart

Have you moved a material percentage of your financial portfolio to cash? Have you become so concerned about the meteoric ramp upwards in asset prices that you find it wiser instead to move to the sidelines, build "dry powder", and wait to re-enter the markets at saner valuations?
If so, you have my sympathies.
The past 5+ years have been brutal for savers pursuing this strategy. I know this well, as I'm one of those folks, too.

The Mother Of All Financial Bubbles

As we've chronicled for years here at PeakProsperity.com, the global central banking cartel started flooding the world with liquidity (aka, money printed from thin air) in response to the arrival of the Great Financial Crisis in late 2008. And they never stopped.
The chart below shows how the combined balance sheets of the major world central banks (Fed, ECB & BOJ) are 3.5x higher today than their pre-crisis levels less than a decade ago. (And if we included the PBOC in this chart, the cumulative total would be 18.8 Trillion!): 
All that liquidity has to go somewhere. And, as hoped by the central banking cartel, it has found its way into the financial markets, pushing the price of nearly every asset class to record extremes. And then higher still.
Equities have shot the moon, and are now nearly twice as high as they were at the apex of the past two stock market bubbles, as this below chart of the S&P 500 shows (in fact, the S&P price/revenue ratio just hit the highest level in history, aside from the week of the March 2000 bubble peak):
Similarly, bond prices have continued their 30-year march higher, powered by record-low interest rates around the world:
And home prices have returned back to the same level seen right before the last housing bubble viciously burst (in many high-demand markets, home prices are well in excess of those 2007 highs):
We've written numerous articles about the dangers of the current central banking policies responsible for today's nosebleed asset prices. But the gist is this: we are currently living within the mother of all financial bubbles. These prices are in no way sustainable.
Why not? While the reasons are legion (and we've spilled plenty of ink writing about them all), the big reason is revealed in this chart:
To support the current level of asset prices, we have been growing our debts more than twice as fast as our national income (GDP). Any household knows that you can't do this for long before insolvency occurs. Nations -- even those with a printing press -- can't escape this same fate in the long run.
See that little wiggle in the debt line from 2008-2009? That's the wiggle that almost destroyed the world during the Great Financial Crisis. Look at those asset price charts above again. See how much higher we are today than we were back in 2008?
So... are you one of those people wondering how much more painful the next downturn will be, when we fall from even loftier heights this time? Are you one of the few folks who haven't already forgotten that the S&P declined over 50% in the short time between the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2009?
If you are, and you've decided not to participate in today's Ponzi scheme markets and instead build cash, it's been a painful ride watching the prices of nearly every other asset vault higher year-over-year while your cash pile simply sits there.
And if the feeling of "missing the rally" isn't bad enough with the mainstream media and your brother-in-law constantly rubbing your nose in it, there's a host of new threats besieging cash these days.

The All-Out War On Savers (aka Financial Repression)

Again, as we've written about often here at PeakProsperity.com, those running today's economy are doing their utmost to keep prudent savers like you from keeping their cash safely on the sidelines. They desperately want your savings pushed out into the economy so that their over-leveraged casino can continue operating a little bit longer.
We discuss this in depth in our recent report Less Than Zero: How The Fed Killed Saving, which explains how the Financial Repression playbook is very intentionally designed to transfer the burden of the government's orgy of debt onto the public. It seeks to do so in a way that is just opaque enough to just enough people that the general public doesn't catch on to what's happening.
The key elements of Financial Repression are:
  • Negative interest rates: These reduce the servicing costs of debt, allowing the system to take on even more. They also destroy any incentive to save, as cash parked in the bank actually loses purchasing power on a real basis. This pushes capital out of savings and into the riskier assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc) that all the built-up debt is supporting.
  • Capital controls: These "ring fence" domestic capital, making it difficult for prudent money to avoid the measures of financial repression. Restrictive legislation on international holdings like FATCA and the higher taxes placed on "safe haven" assets like precious metals are examples of these. Other manifestations are bank bail-ins, banking restrictions on withdrawing more than $10,000 (and oftentimes substantially less), civil asset forfeiture, and outlawing bank notes as part of the "war on cash" and the move to a "less cash" or "cashless" economy -- all of these serve to thwart and/or penalize savers who would just rather sit out the current insanity of the markets and accept no return over the risk of substantial loss.
So, with the reckless investors all around us gloating at their returns, with our banks paying us nearly 0.0% on our savings and treating us like criminals if we have the temerity to ask for access to it, and with the government talking about taking it all from us eventually anyways (replacing with Fedcoin, perhaps?) -- is it time for us cash savings holders to throw in the towel?

Hussman's "Choice"

In a word: No
We have to remember that we are living through a massive bubble market that has no precedent in history. Bubble markets are nefarious, as they prey on our mind's hard-wired greed/fear drivers. It is very easy for us be manipulated into thinking "it's different this time". Even the genius Isaac Newton fell victim to the mania of the South Sea Bubble:
John Hussman has done perhaps more work than anyone else demonstrating that today's elevated market pricing is due to pulling future value into today (through debt), and that the BEST investors can hope for going forward is a decade of 0% gains:
Hussman 12-year projected return chart
But I think his real masterwork is his very succinct summary of the situation we are all in at this moment in history:
The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. 
2008 is not so far in the past that we can't clearly remember the panic in people's eyes as they watched their retirement portfolios and home prices get cut in half within a matter of months. That's what looking like an idiot after the peak feels like.
As oddball as it may seem to others, as uncomfortable as it may feel as the central bank liquidity party rages on, as painful as it may feel as the system tries its best to separate you from your hard-earned savings, there will come a time when this unsustainable system will falter and then proceed in collapsing on itself.
When that happens, those who decided to look like an idiot early on and refuse to join the party (i.e., positioning their capital defensively), are going to look like geniuses. They will avoid the heartbreak of loss, and they will have capital to deploy when the dust settles, purchasing quality assets at (potentially historic) bargain prices.
It's not an easy choice to make, or to remain steadfast in. It takes foresight, courage, and resolve. But it's a smart choice.
Of course, cash savings is just one of a number of options for positioning your financial wealth defensively right now. For those looking to learn more about other ways to do so, we recommend the following progression:
  1. If you haven't yet ready it, read our free report The Mother of All Financial Bubbles to understand the full nature of the situation we're living through today
  2. Read our report How To Hedge Against A Market Correction, to understand the most common strategies for protecting your portfolio from downside risk
  3. For those interested, I've shared how my own personal portfolio is positioned (Note: this is not intended as personal financial advice, but as an example to evaluate)
  4. Schedule a review focused on downside risk management with your financial adviser. If you're having difficulty finding one experienced on this topic, we can suggest one to consider.
It's unknowable exactly how much longer our unsustainable markets can remain at their record levels. But there is one thing we know for certain: we're closer to their day of reckoning than we've been at any point over the past seven years. A recession is due soon by historical standards, and long overdue by fundamental ones.
When it happens, do you want to look like an idiot? Or would you rather choose to look like one now, so that you can look brilliant then?
Choose wisely.

~ Adam Taggart