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Trade Restrictions Are Depriving Our Infants of Formula

For parents who rely on baby formula—whether by choice or due to medical necessity—the nationwide baby formula shortage has become increasingly difficult to ignore. According to the Wall Street Journal, Walgreens, Target, CVS, and Kroger have all begun rationing supplies of formula.

Covid lockdowns, combined with a product recall by formula manufacturer Abbott Nutrition has created a very real shortage in a product that is key for proper nutrition in many children.

With the shortage has come the usual half-baked bromides about “evil corporations” and how baby formula companies are supposedly not regulated enough. Throw in a few references to “late-stage capitalism” and you’ll get a good taste of the usual “blame capitalism” narrative that accompanies every bout of shortages or rising prices.

Formula Is Heavily Regulated and Subsidized

In reality, federal government intervention in the formula market is rampant. Thanks to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), formula companies are heavily subsidized by voucher programs which mean that the U.S. government is “provid[ing] more than half of the formula that is used in the U.S.

Within this voucher programs, funds are funneled to select corporations through programs that grant a formula company “the exclusive right to have its formula provided to WIC participants in the State.” In practice, this means the largest companies with the most lobbyists are able to dominate the subsidized portion of the market. Since the subsidized portion of the market is so huge, that usually means those companies dominate the market overall. This makes it harder for newcomers to break into the market and offer any real competition. This means the marketplace becomes reliant on a small number of large firms.

The anticompetitive nature of federal WIC policy is just one aspect of how little the formula market has to do with anything we might call “the free market.”

Protectionism Prevents Access to Foreign Formula

Another major and important factor is the restriction on foreign imports enforced by federal law.

The U.S. regime overall is very protectionist when it comes to dairy products in general, and formula is certainly no exception. As one pediatric medical journal states flatly “Infant formula in the United States is highly regulated.” This can be seen clearly in protectionist trade law imposed on formula in the guise of protecting consumers.

As Derek Thompson at The Atlantic notes, Food and Drug Administration “regulation of formula is so stringent that most of the stuff that comes out of Europe is illegal to buy here due to technicalities like labeling requirements.”

These bureaucratic requirements fall under “nontariff barriers,” which in many cases present even greater barriers than tariffs.

But tariff barriers are significant as well. Thompson also notes that

U.S. policy also restricts the importation of formula that does meet FDA requirements. At high volumes, the tax on formula imports can exceed 17 percent. And under President Donald Trump, the U.S. entered into a new North American trade agreement that actively discourages formula imports from our largest trading partner, Canada.

However, those products that jump through all those hoops face further restrictions. The FDA mandates that even qualifying formula manufacturers must wait ninety days before marketing any new formula.

As a result, not surprisingly, 98 percent of all formula consumed in the United States is produced domestically. Moreover, if that supply is ever endangered—as it has been by lockdown-induced logistical problems and corporate recalls, American consumers have few other options.

Trade restrictions function to prevent reliable lines of importation of foreign formula. Thanks to that ninety-day delay on marketing, foreign suppliers can’t introduce new products to the market quickly, either.

So, if you have adopted children, a double mastectomy, or some other reason for needing formula for your baby, you can thank advocates of tariffs and other trade restrictions for shortages.

Protectionists and Their Excuses

Naturally, the baby formula protectionists have plenty of excuses for why their preferred form of central planning and big-government intervention in the marketplace is “necessary.” They’ll insist that FDA regulations are necessary to protect children—as if European baby formula is not already heavily regulated. European infant mortality also tends to be lower than U.S. infant mortality, so the claim that protectionism is “for the children” is clearly baseless.

These facts, however, don’t prevent Trump-style protectionists from claiming government regulations are good “because China.”

Secondly, the protectionists are likely to claim that government control of formula—and all other dairy-based imports—are important because they “protects jobs.” What protectionists are really saying is that you and your family must just do without essential goods in order to protect a small number of corporations that dominate the formula marketplace thanks to U.S. regulations.

Protectionism Means Punishing Entrepreneurs

Finally, there is little doubt that if the federal government actually allowed some true degree of freedom in the formula marketplace that entrepreneurs would step in to import formula to meet the need quickly.

This, of course, can’t happen because these entrepreneurs don’t want to be jailed, sued, and otherwise destroyed by federal bureaucrats. After all, protectionism must be enforced by federal police and federal courts, and that means fining and jailing any importers who run afoul of the law. Protectionism is fundamentally about using violence against Americans who try to bring goods to market in ways that the protectionists don’t like.

Once again, the anticapitalist “fair trade” advocates and advocates of WIC corporatism who caused these shortages will likely escape unscathed. Formula industry lobbyists will deploy and ensure nothing is done to endanger the protection-induced profits at the dominant firms. Welfare-state leftists will ensure that the federal government continues to subsidize these corporations as well. Rightwing protectionists will continue to insist that foreign goods must be kept out to make America great.

Somehow, this is all capitalism’s fault.

This article is originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

TGIF: Alito’s Challenge to Libertarians

In his recently leaked first draft of an opinion that would reverse the abortion-rights cases Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gives Americans a choice between judges who read their personal preferences into the Constitution and judges who recognize only rights that they find “rooted in [our] history and tradition” and deem “essential to our Nation’s ‘scheme of ordered Liberty.'”

Is that it? Neither choice seems an adequate safeguard for individual freedom.

Whether one likes the result or not, Alito’s draft in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization raises important issues apart from abortion. Indeed, he unintendedly draws attention to whether the Constitution can be relied on to protect liberty. Unsurprisingly, Alito is not concerned with rights as a philosophical matter. That’s not his job. Rather, he’s concerned only with constitutional rights — liberties that satisfy criteria making them worthy of protection by the government. By that standard, an otherwise perfectly defensible right might not qualify. That would be left to the legislative process. That’s the constitutional game. The framers understood this, though some libertarians do not.

The Constitution may seem to clearly endorse a general notion of liberty in the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, but does it really? Alito, like other conservatives, thinks not:

Historical inquiries … are essential whenever we are asked to recognize a new component of the “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause because the term “liberty” alone provides little guidance. “Liberty” is a capacious term. As Lincoln once said: “We all declare for Liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing” In a well-known essay, Isaiah Berlin reported that “[h]istorians of ideas” had catalogued more than 200 different senses in which the terms had been used.

In interpreting what is meant by the Fourteenth Amendment’s reference to “liberty,” we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy. That is why the Court has long been “reluctant” to recognize rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution.

So, Alito writes elsewhere in his opinion, “[G]uided by the history and tradition that map the essential components of our Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, we must ask what the Fourteenth Amendment means by the term ‘liberty’ when the issue involves putative rights not named in the Constitution” — such as a woman’s putative right terminate a pregnancy.

Note that Alito uses the term ordered liberty. That’s a concept in the case law, apparently first enunciated in 1937, that “sets limits and defines the boundary between competing interests.” Why must the term liberty be so qualified? Because, he writes, “attempts to justify abortion [and other things –SR] through appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to define one’s ‘concept of existence’ prove too much. Those criteria, at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like. None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history.”

If that counts as “proving too much,” libertarians would say let’s do it.

Alito hastens to add that other court-protected rights that are not deeply rooted in history — such as the rights to contraception, interracial marriage, and same-sex marriage — are not jeopardized by his opinion because abortion is unique. How confident can others be about that?

Putting on his historian’s hat, Alito accuses the majority in Roe of misstating history and writes that abortion even at an early stage was never regarded as a right in Anglo-American common or statutory law and was generally illegal throughout the United States. Not everyone agrees with Alito’s historical account.

Alito asserts that when justices ignored history, they engaged in “the freewheeling judicial policymaking that characterized discredited decisions such as Lochner v. New York.” That was the highly influential 1905 case in which the Court struck down a state law limiting the hours that bakers could work per day and per week because the law violated freedom of contract under the 14th Amendment. Progressives hated the ruling from the start, but some conservatives later came to hate it too because it relied on the concept of substantive due process, by which judges could invent rights that conservatives abhorred. Libertarians also ought to have apprehensions about substantive due process. Such seemingly benign legal notions, including “unenumerated rights,” are double-edged swords.

The juridical problem in distinguishing putative rights that are constitutionally protected from those that are not is that no constitution could name more than a few rights. Where does that leave all the rights left out? (We could say there is only one right, namely, the right not to be subjected to aggression, and that anything more specific rights are examples of the principle. But that would incite a never-ending controversy over what constitutes aggression.)

The Ninth Amendment, which says that rights not mentioned were still retained by the people, seemed to be the solution to the problem. That amendment has not played an important role in constitutional law to the frustration of libertarians, but danger lies in that amendment if it were to be taken seriously. The danger is that pseudo-rights could be embraced by Supreme Court justices. Rights theory is like a butterfly. You may lovingly nurture the egg, larva, and pupa, but once the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it will fly where it likes or be blown about by the wind, logic or no logic. (It’s been pointed out that the Bill of Rights has turned out to be a tragic distraction. Instead of the government having the burden of justifying any power it wishes to exercise, the people have had to justify any claimed right by finding supporting text in the Bill of Rights. Maybe we’d have been better off without it.)

It’s tempting for each of us to think that our own theory of rights or liberty just happens to be the one that perfectly aligns with the intent of the framers or with the common understanding of the constitutional text in 1789. But how likely is that? The framers didn’t agree philosophically on everything and people often understand words and sentences differently among themselves. In other words, originalism isn’t a neat solution.

As noted, Alito’s alternative to judges who impose their personal views about liberty is judges who stick exclusively to rights deeply rooted in the country’s history and tradition. But this is also unsatisfying because it imprisons us in the thinking of long-dead individuals whose understanding of liberty might have been incomplete. Why assume that the framers understood every implication of the nature of freedom? As Thomas Paine wrote in The Rights of Man:

There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a Parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the “end of time,” or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such clauses, acts or declarations by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void…. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated.

It’s true that constitutions can be amended and the framers’ shortcomings addressed, but that process is always costly and difficult. In the meantime, people suffer from the deprivation of their liberty.

Alito’s choice between the alternatives is clear, but the Constitution contains no guide to interpretation. Even if it did, how would that help? Any guide to interpretation would itself be open to interpretation. We’d end up with an infinite series of guides.

So where does that leave us? Apparently with two choices: an un-elected national super-legislature free to invent rights or a federal court guided by an emaciated, tradition-bound notion of liberty and unchained state legislatures free to grant (revocable) “rights” by majority vote. Neither seems ideal, but the ideal seems not to be on the menu today. I recorded my thoughts on perhaps the short-term second-best solution in “Disagreement without Conflict.”

(See my book America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.)

‘America First’ Means Anti-Bush, Not Antiwar

Donald Trump, despite not being perfect (far from it), was useful in making the idea of chronic interventionism and foreign entanglements unpopular, but as much credit as the New Right is given, they are hardly antiwar. The New Right is largely a rejection of the moderates—the neoconservatives and neoliberals—and their exemplars, the Clintons, Cheneys, Bushes, and Romneys. There is certainly an aversion towards our involvement in the Middle East, with Trump telling Jeb Bush in 2016 that, “Your brother lied,” about WMDs in Iraq.

But while they may not be Middle East hawks like the neoconservatives, the New Right are warhawks in other areas and still kowtowing to foreign lobbies. In the White House Trump continued many conflicts, like his silent war in Somalia, launching missile attacks in Syria over false chemical weapon claims, and his veto of a bill that would end United States support in Yemen. The veto of that Yemen bill? Likely the result of his trade adviser Pete Navarro being lobbied by weapons companies. Like in Syria under Obama, the United States is also funding al-Qaeda extremists as part of arminging the Saudi-UAE Coalition in Yemen,which stands a massive contradiction.

Exempting the obvious contradictions in Donald Trump’s policies as president, the “America First” conservatives are hawks in their own right. Not towards Vladmir Putin’s Russia like the Democrats, or Middle East countries like Syria, but rather towards a power in Asia: the People’s Republic of China. Trump was often at odds with China, mostly on an economic level where he declared a trade war. This anti-Chinese rhetoric rotated around the Middle Kingdom being a threat to the United States and its allies militarily and robbing Americans blind economically.

While that could be an issue in and of itself to tackle, America First conservatives have jumped on the China rhetoric as opposition to anything the Democrats want to pass. Marjorie Taylor Green is fond of opposing Democratic spending plans based on her belief they’ll benefit China. She justified her position of non-interventionism in the Russia-Ukraine conflict by claiming that America needs to focus on possible conflict with Russia. Matt Gaetz has been blunt enough to tweet: “China is not our friend.”

The New Right also continues to call for boycotting prominent Chinese events such as the Beijing Olympics, citing claims of a Uyghur Muslim Genocide via rather flawed statistics. The Republicans have gone so far as to make the claim that America needs to further support Taiwan in case of a Chinese Invasion. Donald Trump continues to fearmonger threats of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He defended his claims and thoughts by saying, “I do because they’re seeing how stupid the United States is run. They’re seeing that our leaders are incompetent. And of course, they’re going to do it. This is their time.” The further demand for economic protectionism and economic isolationism from China would only exacerbate the tension. As economist Frederic Bastiat described, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”

With supposed antiwar voices in a movement that agrees with the State Department assessment, “China being a threat to our Global Hegemony,” perhaps it is time to acknowledge that while it may be an improvement, the populist New Right is not truly antiwar. It is only a matter of time before warhawks are able to make their way into this new faction as they beat the drums to enter another conflict. If the America First conservatives want to be seen as truly antiwar then they must acknowledge the mistakes made by their leader when he was president as well as abandon the rhetoric that only fuels international tensions. To adapt an Ibram X. Kendi quote (to make it far more relevant): It is not enough to not be neoconservative; one must be actively antiwar.

As Military Aid and Intel Sharing Increases, the U.S. Sleepwalks into the Russia-Ukraine War

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the U.S. has significantly escalated its support for Kyiv, both militarily and rhetorically, reflecting a growing mission creep that comes with the risk of provoking Moscow.

Early on in the invasion, the U.S. was wary of confirming details of military aid, intelligence sharing, and training of Ukrainian forces. But now, U.S. officials are speaking openly about how Washington is helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Last week, anonymous U.S. officials speaking to the media claimed U.S. intelligence had helped Ukrainian forces kill Russian generals and sink the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. While the claims aren’t confirmed, the statements alone are a major provocation toward Russia. It was known that the US expanded intelligence-sharing with Ukraine, but U.S. officials had previously been hesitant to detail the increased cooperation.

On Saturday, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s State Duma, said that the intelligence-sharing amounts to the U.S. directly participating in the war. “Today, Washington is basically coordinating and engineering military operations, thus directly participating in the military actions against our country,” Volodin wrote on Telegram, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

President Biden reportedly told senior U.S. officials that the leaks on intelligence-sharing must stop, which Volodin said means the reports were likely true. “By demanding that leaks about intelligence exchange with Ukraine be plugged, U.S. President Biden admitted that Washington had been declassified,” he said.

Besides the increased intelligence cooperation, the U.S. recently resumed training Ukrainian forces on how to use weapons provided by Washington. After the U.S.-backed ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, the U.S. and NATO began training Ukraine’s military. The U.S. pulled out Florida National Guard troops that were stationed in Ukraine for training shortly before Russia invaded, and they have since restarted their mission outside of Ukraine.

Last week, the Pentagon detailed its training of Ukrainian forces, which is taking place in Germany and two other undisclosed locations outside of Ukraine. The Pentagon had previously downplayed the idea of training after President Biden appeared to reveal that U.S. troops were training Ukrainians in Poland. But now, the Pentagon said U.S. forces are teaching Ukrainians how to use drones, radar systems, armored vehicles, and howitzers.

The howitzers are part of the escalation in U.S. military aid that has come over the past two months. In the early days of the invasion, the U.S. was hesitant to confirm it was sending shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine over fears of Moscow viewing the move as escalatory, but now each new military aid package is detailed by the Pentagon.

President Biden has asked Congress for $33 billion in new assistance for Ukraine, which Democrats in Congress have ramped up to $39.8 billion in a draft plan. On Monday, President Biden signed a bill reviving the World War II-era lend-lease program, which allows the U.S. to send weapons to Ukraine free of charge while technically requiring payment at a later date.

The mission creep shows no sign of slowing down as the U.S. and its allies have made it clear they are digging in to support Ukraine in the long-term, and some NATO countries are discouraging any kind of diplomacy with Moscow. The Biden administration’s rhetoric has reflected this as it has stated one of its goals in Ukraine is to weaken Russia.

As the escalatory spiral continues, the question now is if there is a point where Moscow will respond, and if they do, what that response will look like.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Now You Care About the Spilling of Blood?

Actress Megan Fox recently claimed on social media that she and other Hollywood elites enjoy drinking each others blood, exciting those critical of Hollywood culture. In their minds it proves the evil, secret Pagan nature of the liberal American establishment. It’s as though a sub-culture of drinking blood has never existed prior or that the symbolic drinking of blood and eating of the flesh of a body is not an already widely accepted ritual. In any case, a video of a woman boasting of her involvement in the voluntary ritual of blood drinking is upsetting to some. Drinking blood is bad. The spilling of blood however is still very much accepted, especially of the innocent.

It is a peculiar thing, this war of the cultures. At the moment the socially progressive American left has infected most Western political and corporate bodies with its academic-skewered social world view, a mutant form of socialism for the privileged bourgeois aristocrats, the central planner’s world view from the lofty heights of comfort and digital distance. The proletariat and peasants need to be controlled, steered, and lectured by their betters. The “dislike mob” and misogynistic critics who do not enjoy the same entertainment or news services that these anointed elites have created are “problematic” and need to be silenced and controlled. As is the all too real caricature of the ailing culture masters that are slowly losing control of the narrative and their influence in governance and corporate bodies.

It is a particular arrogance that can only be learned inside the highest echelons of academia, so here we are. Such modern day progressivism will likely be the beliefs of tomorrow’s conservatives, at least in part. Much of the eugenics and racialism of the scientific progressive era has wafted in and out of vogue, often shared by the statistics quoting race realists who find themselves in the comfortable embrace of Western right-wing politics and the reactionary anti-white man left which is so anti-racist that it has created an entire tiering system of privilege based entirely on the collectivised concepts of race and gender. The Hitlerian chauvinists agreed with such an approach generations prior. The camps scream at each other, smug and emotional at what the opposition does in the extremes. Each share the common desire to rule, to control, to impose, to have government (as all collectivists do).

After the social media announcement from an actress with a waning career, outrage has stirred among the memers and digitally addicted. The observers of Hollywood condemned and jeered with disdain. Meanwhile in the blood and flesh world, few noticed. For those real victims of left and right policies the world over, the misery of the experts is ongoing. What some elite Hollywood princess fills her golden goblet with is less important than where their next clean water source is or even if they can afford to fill their car for the week’s travel to work. These are the concerns of those who must suffer the culture warrior’s rulership, not what a lady drinks.

In distant, may as well be alien lands, babies cling to the drooping dry breasts of their mothers as flies clench to their sticky skin. Mother and child locked in an exhausted embrace, so desperately hungry that the body has almost shut down the ability to digest and so thirsty that animal urine becomes the nearest clean drinking source. High above them drones and fighter jets circle and zap in, distributing instant death and destruction followed by endless terror and pain. This is the culture war that they must suffer for being poor and non-Western. The left and right of Western politics hold hands fondly to make it possible, spilling the blood of thousands to satisfy the vulgarity of foreign policy. It is unlikely that any Pagan blood drinkers fly those jets or operate those drones. That job is usually reserved for the accepted faithful of the popular religions, both theological and secular.

Liberal democracies the world over will perform their regular rituals of elections, where the partisan bickering will point fingers and stir concerns over moral necessity. Prohibitions and censorship will continue, it just will be performed for other claimed concerns. The left will go after fake news, racist and hateful content and the right will seek to protect national security and ensure that pornographic or violent content does not impinge upon the moral decency of the nation, or world. The support of non-democracies, interfering with foreign elections, and the destruction of civil liberties are all in the name of democracy and freedom, so goes the justification. The same monopoly and legions of amoral mercenaries will enforce either ideals eagerly; it is after all just a job for them.

Overseas on the fringes of empire, new foreign enemies will be found. At present within the sphere of U.S. dominated thinking, the left seems to want the blood of Russians, women, children, athletes, artists, oligarchs, the lot. While the right prefers to focus on the Chinese and those other believers of an Abrahamic God, Muslims. What occurs South of Texas, in Africa, and perhaps someday in space happens outside of popular conversation, but death and imperialism still occurs regardless. That is the one true united culture war.

The outrage and cancel culture is shared by both wings of statism. The trouble is that hypocrisy is a whisper beneath the self righteous screaming. Neither party is willing to acknowledge it. They don’t need to. It is not about being right or wrong, just left and right, imposing ones own standards of morality onto others while seldom abiding by them yourself. It is a lack of imagination to understand that the world is truly complex and full of nuance. Instead it is the insecurities and cowardice of those who need to be wrapped up inside of a mob, to have a powerful nation state that is influenced by ideals that make them happy and secure. It is imperialism, it is religion, it is how government sustains and functions. It is always in need of reform and to be run by the right people, the amoral mercenary class that fill its ranks to enforce, impose, and administrate regardless. So long as perks, pensions, and pay come to them, what they do, who they serve, and who they harm matters little. The rationale being that it can’t be wrong, so long as it’s legal.

The real culture war should be fought against the culture of war, the waging, enabling, and adoration. The culture that celebrates nationalism and the tyranny over the different, the intentional starvation of strangers and the mass murder of the innocent and “guilty” alike. That is the prevalent culture. It is imposed both domestically under the guise of abstracts such as the War on Drugs  and it is often waged abroad in wars that are not even declared. Despite the many real victims of this policy culture, it is the imagined ones that are championed. The culture war has been waged since day one, tyranny and imperialism against peace and voluntary individual interactions.

So for these few minutes, drinking blood is outrageous and proves every conspiracy correct. Perhaps by the time this piece is finished another moral concern would have arisen to be piled upon those long forgotten, but for a time so concerning. Along with planking, Pokemon Go, marbles, Dungeons and Dragons, Tales from the Crypt comics and so on, the vocal moralists will find something else to point to and decry. The lesson once again is spilling the blood of the innocent is apparently morally righteous. Those upset over the drinking of blood tend to find an engorged excitement each time their national military discharges death and destruction from above on some distant family. The civilized hubris to know what is best for others, to force and even murder them to satisfy this need. That perspective is privilege. If God does not will it, the state, the real religion, most certainly does.  After all, what is but a cup of blood compared to the oceans that your government has spilled, likely with your blessings. Bottoms up!

Joe Biden Blames Everyone for Inflation (Except Himself)

Speaking at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, President Joe Biden on Tuesday morning declared inflation to be his top “domestic priority” and insisted that inflation would not be a problem were it not for covid and the war in Ukraine. There was little room, however, for any sound economics in a speech that was little more than a campaign speech for the ruling Democratic Party in an election year in which the party looks to take a beating at the ballot box.

In truth, it is the U.S. regime itself—and the regime’s central bank—that is the real cause of today’s galloping inflation. And even worse, neither the central bank nor the White House will admit its role or reverse course. Last week it was clear that Fed chairman Jerome Powell refuses to admit any role in today’s price inflation, and he apparently has no clue about what to do about it. This week, Biden insists his own government is blameless all while further pursuing regulation and taxes that will only make inflation worse.

It’s Putin’s Fault!

With inflation at forty-year highs, and with wages falling behind, Biden was careful Tuesday morning to spin inflation as the fault of anything and everything except the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve.

Specifically, Biden placed the blame of price inflation on COVID-19 and on “Mr. Putin” for the war in Ukraine. Biden claimed the covid disease itself—i.e., not the forced government lockdowns—has been to blame for logistical problems and shortages that have contributed to rising prices. Moreover, Biden blamed the war in Ukraine for increasing prices given Ukraine’s role as a grain-exporting nation and the current difficulty of exporting from war-torn regions.

Biden is correct in that these events have a role in raising some prices, but it is a straight-up lie to imply or state that logistics and grain-export problems are the main reasons for price inflation in the United States today.

The real cause of price inflation is monetary inflation, and monetary inflation has been on overdrive for more than a decade. Over the past two years, moreover, monetary inflation has accelerated to even more remarkably high levels.

Since 2009, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. regime’s central bank, has printed more than $8.9 trillion to buy up mortgage securities and government debt. This increased after 2020 as the Fed again accelerated purchases of government bonds in order to keep interest rates low on a national debt exploding upward.

In addition to that $8 trillion created out of thin air, the Fed also set the target federal funds rate to historic lows to add liquidity into the banking system. This encouraged commercial banks to further accelerate monetary inflation through the mechanisms of fractional reserve banking.

Today, $12 trillion of the existing $21 trillion was created after 2009. That means 60 percent of today’s entire M2 money supply was created in only the past fourteen years.

This wave of monetary creation has grown so immense that even International Monetary Fund economists can no longer deny the role of central banks in surging prices. IMF director Kristalina Georgieva last month admitted central banks globally “printed too much money and didn’t think of unintended consequences.”:

I think we are not paying sufficient attention to the law of unintended consequences. We take decisions with an objective in mind and rarely think through what may happen that is not our objective. And then we wrestle with the impact of it.

Take any decision that is a massive decision, like the decision that we need to spend to support the economy. At that time, we did recognize that maybe too much money in circulation and too few goods, but didn’t really quite think through the consequence in a way that upfront would have informed better what we do.

Without all this new money creation, the inflation we’re witnessing today would be impossible. This isn’t to say that we wouldn’t see some rising prices considering wars and China’s ongoing lockdowns. Those events certainly do drive up some prices.

But in an environment without constant monetary inflation perpetrated by central banks, inflation would not be general in the way it is now. Some prices would increase, but other prices would decline, as would make sense when the money supply is limited. There would only be so much money to go around so price inflation in some areas would be balanced by price deflation in others. But with monetary inflation running rampant, price inflation can do the same throughout the entire economy: more money is chasing goods and services.

Biden Is Making Price Inflation Worse by Hobbling Production

But even in time periods when monetary inflation is rampant, the effect on price inflation can be tempered by increased production and increased worker productivity. Specifically, improved technology, innovation, and international trade are all disinflationary forces that can make price inflation less bad.

The Biden administration, however, is currently waging war on innovation, productivity, and trade, and thus making price inflation even worse. In his Tuesday speech, Biden called for even more regulation on businesses and higher taxes. He wants more power to coerce businesses into higher fuel economy, and to mandate more electric vehicles. He wants to increase fees on oil and gas producers. He wants higher taxes on employers.

This will all only serve to cripple production and thus will put further upward pressure on price inflation.

As far as foreign production goes, the Biden administration has largely preserved the Trump administration’s antitrade innovations. Biden’s anti-Russia policies have also only served to further cripple international trade by imposing economic sanctions on nations—including those that have friendly relations with the U.S.—who consume critical Russian goods. This will be most disastrous for the poorest countries of the world, but American consumers will be impacted as well. (Gas prices in the US on Tuesday hit a new high.) As a result, the US has done much to raise energy and food prices worldwide while taking no steps at all to seek a diplomatic solution to the end of the war in Ukraine.

Americans now have the misfortune of living under a regime that relentlessly inflates the money supply while working to cripple production. This is a recipe for ongoing inflation in both assets and consumer goods.

But you won’t hear anything about this from the White House. Last year, the inflation culprit was “greed,” which supposedly prompted corporations to raise prices. (Why inflation-casing greed suddenly became far worse in 2021 is never explained.) Now, Putin provides a convenient scapegoat. For the past six months, the regime has repeatedly groped around for whatever bogeyman could be blamed—so long as the central bank remains blameless.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

The War in Ukraine and the ‘Star Wars Effect’

The American media’s Ukraine narrative is a vast deception that functions as a reassuring fantasy. The facts on the ground in Ukraine have overwhelmed the narrative being deployed in the West, but the American media simply ignores those facts. The effect is to placate the American people in service to the American state.

The American state has learned well the lessons of Hollywood. The blockbuster film Star Wars (1977) allowed the American people, disillusioned from the recent defeat in Vietnam, to project onto and root for a victorious rebel insurgency. The state-driven media presentation of the Russian war in Ukraine allows the American people, disillusioned from the recent defeat in Afghanistan, to once again root for a courageous and likable insurgency.

Unfortunately, while Hollywood film sets occasionally get someone killed, the state’s productions always involve mass death and destruction. The media’s narrative can be reduced to the Evil Empire (Russia) vs. the Rebel Alliance (Ukraine). This deception, of course, is made possible by an actual war in Ukraine. It is a war the American state helped provoke and is helping to prolong. Thousands have been killed. Millions have been displaced. And there is no end in sight.

Putin’s Desire: The Evil Empire

The Americna media would have us believe that former KGB agent and professional liar Vladimir Putin (the most dangerous man in the world) is an unhinged, paranoid, aggrieved, insecure, manipulative, unpredictable bully who runs the Kremlin like a royal court and desires to reconstitute the Russian Empire with himself as a New Tsar. Hence his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24 of this year.

“Russia without Ukraine is a country. Russia with Ukraine is an Empire,” said Daniel Fried, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from 2005-2009.

This idea, popular with our foreign policy elite, is often attributed to the Polish-American political scientist Zbigniew Brzeziński. Sadly, it is a tellingly vulgarized version of what Brzenzinski actually said:

“Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state…. (Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard (p. 46). Basic Books. Kindle Edition)”

Don’t expect accuracy and/or coherence from the D.C. foreign policy establishment. But at least they get close to what Brzezinski said. Their narrative of Russia’s war in Ukraine is pure fantasy.

Fuck Around and Find Out: The Insurgency

Now don’t lose hope, the American media assures us. What Putin didn’t count on was the heroic resolve of the Ukrainian people and its noble, democratic, pro-Western, U.S.-backed government. From a “gun toting granny” to newlyweds taking up arms, all of Ukraine has joined the fight aginst the Evil Empire.

“Ukraine citizens have continued to show incredible signs of resistance, proving that they truly are the ‘fuck around and find out’ country of Eastern Europe,” said comedian John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight.

Putting aside the fact that Ukraine is east of what was called Eastern Europe during the Cold War, the D.C. elite have been planning for Russia to “find out” for months, maybe even years.

On Dec. 19, 2021, the journalist David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post, said:

When U.S. troops were poised on the border of Iraq in 2003, U.S. officials didn’t consider the grinding, enervating war of counterinsurgency that lay ahead. The Biden administration believes that Putin may be on the verge of making a similar mistake in Ukraine. They hope he doesn’t make the wrong choice, but if he does invade, they want to make it hurt.

On Jan. 9, 2022, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, chairman of the Center for Defence Strategies and former Minister of Defense of Ukraine (2019–2020) wrote for the The Atlantic Council that:

Recent polls indicate very little appetite among the Russian public for a major war against Ukraine. This absence of enthusiasm could soon turn to outright opposition if large numbers of coffins began returning to Russia from Ukraine.

And on Jan. 14, 2022, journalist Helene Cooper, in The New York Times, said:

In Afghanistan, the United States showed itself to be dismal at fighting insurgencies. But when it comes to funding them, military experts say it is a different ballgame.

Cooper then quoted a D.C. insider:

If Putin invades Ukraine with a major military force, U.S. and NATO military assistance — intelligence, cyber, anti-armor and anti-air weapons, offensive naval missiles — would ratchet up significantly,” said James Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who was the supreme allied commander at NATO. “And if it turned into a Ukrainian insurgency, Putin should realize that after fighting insurgencies ourselves for two decades, we know how to arm, train and energize them.

All of this reveals a deep political psychosis within our foreign policy establishment. In 2020, news broke that Russia was (possibly / maybe / rumored to be) paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops. The accusation was never corroborated with reality, but the outage it elicited in D.C. was fierce.

Yet here is our foreign policy elite openly talking about arming Ukrainians with billions of dollars worth of weapons to kill Russian troops. Do they not think Russia will be outraged? Do they not care? They should care, because Russia is a nuclear power with enough hydrogen bombs to destroy our entire nation in an afternoon.

The Star Wars Effect

It has been more than two months since Russia invaded Ukraine and we have not yet reached the insurgency stage. Watching CNN has been more confusing than usual, and I would suggest this is because its reporters and anchors want to deploy the noble insurgency narrative, but do realize Russia hasn’t actually won the war yet. The Soviet Union conquered Afghanistan and the United States also conquered Afghanistan (and then Iraq) before those respective insurgencies could begin to bleed them.

But that’s merely inconvenient facts on the ground.

The West wants its Rebel Alliance. The West will have its Rebel Alliance. It’s been less than a year since the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan. We spent almost 20 years and more than $2 trillion dollars toppling the Taliban government, conquering and occupying the country, as well as creating and propping up its new government. More than 2,000 U.S. soldiers and more than 3,000 U.S. contractors were killed. More than 20,000 U.S. soldiers were wounded, most of them suffering multiple limb loss and many suffering traumatic brain injuries. Tens of thousands of veterans of the war came home and committed suicide. With 775,000 troops sent to fight in Afghanistan, perhaps hundreds of thousands of veterans silently suffer from moral injury.

And what did we get for it? We hadn’t even completed our withdrawal last August when the Afghan government and its military (both of which we had created) completely collapsed. The Taliban took most of the country back, including the capitol city Kabul.

Americans had to wait more than two years after the “Fall of Saigon” to root for the rebels in the original Star Wars. They only had to wait a little less than six months for Russia to invade Ukraine following the catastrophic Afghan exit. And the America media was hyping the invasion for months before that.

Star Wars and the War in Ukraine

When Star Wars was released in 1977, critics didn’t view it as a Vietnam allegory. Writing in The New Yorker, film critic Pauline Kael said:

There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus.

Kael’s view is representative of the initial critical response to Star Wars. However, film critics did begin to view the movie allegorically. In his article “Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster,” Joseph Sartelle said:

The Star Wars trilogy imagined the Cold War as a battle in which the Rebel Alliance, composed of white heroes and their differently speciesed helpers in a pastiche of American liberal pluralism, prevails over the evil Galactic Empire, whose military men wore uniforms that looked suspiciously like those of the Soviets.

Sartelle was onto something. Unfortunately for him, Gareth Porter had not yet published The Perils of Dominance. The Soviets were never at Galactic Empire level and the U.S. National Security elite knew it.

The American historian Daniel Immerwahr, author of the book How to Hide An Empire, has provided an allegorical reading of Star Wars that aligns with the facts on the ground: The United States is the Galactic Empire. The Rebel Alliance is the Vietnamese.

Vietnam was depressing for the American people. Star Wars was fun. Likewise, last year’s defeat in Afghanistan was deeply upsetting. Ukraine is fun. We get to be mad and root for the good guys. (And they’re winning!) We get to tag our social media posts with the Ukraine flag emoji and fly the Ukraine flag in our yards. We might not know how to defeat an insurgency, but we sure know how to project our psyche onto one. Star Wars taught us that.

The state, through its compliant media, is committed to keeping the “show” going. The Western consensus appears to be that, at some point, Kiev will fall. Then we’ll get to unleash our heroic insurgency on the Russians. If that means we fight the Russians to the last Ukrainian, then fight them we will. And God forbid peace breaks out too soon.

On April 5, 2022, less than a month into the war, Michael Birnbaum and Missy Ryan, writing in the Washington Post, in an article called “NATO says Ukraine to decide on peace deal with Russia — within limits,” said:

Even a Ukrainian vow not to join NATO — a concession that Zelensky has floated publicly — could be a concern to some neighbors. That leads to an awkward reality: For some in NATO, it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost to Kyiv and the rest of Europe.

Ben Afflek, speaking about Argo (2012), his film about the CIA working with Hollywood to create a fake film as cover to rescue diplomats trapped in Iran, said:

One of the themes of Argo is about storytelling and how powerful it is. From political theater to the way we kind of communicate to our children to the way that we inspire people, you know. And it’s interesting that Hollywood and uh, you know, the clandestine services both spend most of their time convincing people that something that’s not true is in fact true.

How true that is.

Released FBI Document Asserts Saudi Embassy Employee Connected to 9/11

Over the past several months, the FBI released thousands of pages of material relating to its investigation of Saudi government links to the 9/11 attacks.

This wave of declassifications was pursuant to Executive Order 14040, which President Biden issued on Sept. 3 under pressure from more than 1,800 survivors, family members and first responders who threatened to protest his presence at memorial events if he didn’t make good on a 2020 campaign promise to boost 9/11 transparency.

The published documents are riddled with redactions, but a Stark Realities review of the trove has uncovered two instances in which the FBI neglected to redact names of interest to FBI investigators—and to attorneys representing 9/11 victims and insurers in their civil suit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The first inadvertently-published name is “Mana.” A sworn declaration from a former FBI agent suggests the full name is of this individual is Ismail “Smail” Mana, who worked at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles at the time the first two 9/11 hijackers arrived in the city.

The FBI concluded that, on February 1, 2000, Mana met at the consulate with a Saudi man, Omar al-Bayoumi, who would—later that same day—meet Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, the first two hijackers to arrive in the United States, take them under his wing and facilitate their transition into American residency in San Diego.

The second mistakenly-published name is “Johar,” who’s described as having been “tasked” by Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy to pick up the same two hijackers at the airport and “take care of them during their time in Los Angeles.” The same former FBI agent’s declaration suggests the full name of this person is Mohammed Johar.

Each name is concealed on the first reference in a paragraph about them, but then left unredacted on a single subsequent reference.

According to the redaction key that accompanies the released documents, both names were to be withheld as “information restricted from public release under the Privacy Act of 1974.” The names were, however, to be produced in the 9/11 civil suit, with attorneys bound to maintain their secrecy. The Department of Justice has yet to respond to a request for comment; this story will be updated if it does.

Read the rest of this article at Stark Realities


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