Ambassador Stevens Died in Vain

September 29, 2012

Ambassador Christopher Steven’s assassination on September 11th in Benghazi, Libya, needless to say, stirred a wide array of reactions from different sources.  There were those that instantly called for war against Libya.  Others, realizing that the deed was a planned attack by a smaller subgroup in that country were more conciliatory by eulogizing the ambassador as a man who gave his very life to make the lives of others better.  And then there was the clumsy and irresponsible reaction of the leader of the Republican party and its current presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.  For his part, the former Massachusetts’ governor reacted by blasting the Obama Administration for “sympathizing with those who waged the attack” because its U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a statement during the attacks meant to quell any potential violence.

Whatever the case, the death of Christopher Stevens was needless and wasteful.  He died in vain for two reasons: his inappropriate involvement in the affairs of a country not his own and the fact that he should not have been in Benghazi on September 11.

Last year when President Obama decided unilaterally to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, he appointed Stevens to work closely with anti-Gadhafi fighters on the ground in Benghazi and serve as a conduit between them and the U.S. military.  At first, NATO involvement was just supposed to include imposing a U.N. sanctioned “no-fly zone” over Libya so Gadhafi could not use his air force to brutalize Libyans on the ground.  However, in very short order, the mission morphed into an all-out air invasion complete with bombings of Gadhafi’s fighters on the ground.

What was lacking of course was any congressional debate whether or not American forces should be employed in Libya and ultimately a declaration of war from Congress as required in the Constitution.  After all, U.S. forces were engaged in direct combat in the Libyan Civil War for months.  Just because no Americans died in the conflict until Ambassador Stevens is beside the point.  Congressional debate could have resulted in a vote not to declare war on a country that posed no national security to us.

So, in essence, the Obama Administration used the pretext of saving lives to commit regime change.  Chris Stevens was the point man on the ground in Benghazi that helped to make that happen.  The regime was Gadhafi’s and chances are good Stevens was killed either by a pro-Gadhafi militia or a fringe militia looking to gain support from pro-Gadhafi forces.  Either way, this is what is called blowback.  Stevens paid for his deeds directly in Libya.  The bottom line is that Americans will continue to experience this phenomenon as long as their government continues to meddle in the affairs of other countries, even if the goal is noble.

The second reason Chris Stevens died in vain was because he shouldn’t have been in Libya on September 11th.  No American should have been.  Since the end of the civil war, Libya has been reduced to a Somalia like haven.  Without a legitimate centralized authority, heavily armed militias operate freely on the streets of Libya’s major cities.  Assassination attempts, shootouts, car bombings, arson, and threats against foreign diplomats are commonplace.  In August, in Tripoli, armed men tried to commandeer a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying American diplomatic personnel.  Stevens and the American diplomatic corps should have been evacuated out of Libya a long time ago.  It was and is simply too dangerous a place for them.

Shortly after Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted asking, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”  The answer is easy – American intervention in other countries makes all Americans unsafe.  When Washington picks sides in a conflict there are other sides that are slighted.  When America attempts to militarily or politically dominate another country folks in that country become resentful.  Clearly, these are lessons that Secretary Clinton needs to learn.  If Ambassador Stevens understood them, he would still be alive today.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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Bernanke is Killing the Working Class

September 21, 2012

It is really quite amazing that anybody would believe anything that emanates from the mouth of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.  Quite frankly, the fact that Barack Obama nominated him for a second term as Fed chairman and the Senate confirmed him is proof that our leaders are either as incompetent as all get out or proof for at least one conspiracy theory – namely that the Anglo-American power elite really does run the world and wanted him to continue being their front man.

Let’s be honest.  Bernanke’s statements and predictions since assuming the helm at the Fed in 2006 have been, to be harsh, full of mistruths, to be polite less than stellar.  His absurd statements range from “At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained”, on March 28, 2007 to “The Federal Reserve will not monetize the debt”, on June 3, 2009.  His predictions have been even more remarkable.  Just two months before their collapse he predicted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “…will make it through the storm.”  And as the economy was spiraling into recession on January 10, 2008 he indicated incredibly that, “The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

Well, old habits do die hard.  Last week Bernanke gave a press conference to answer questions about the Federal Open Market Committee decision to purchase $40 billion of mortgage backed securities per month into the indefinite future.  What was astonishing was not his defense of the purchases, but his addressing of three concerns that have been expressed about Fed policy since the Great Recession started in 2008.

The first concern he sought to ease was that Fed purchases of long-term securities are comparable to government spending.  He claims they are not because the Fed is buying financial assets, not goods and services and ultimately the Fed will sell them off when unemployment eases.  He may be technically correct, but does it matter?  The buying and selling of assets is one means the Fed uses to manipulate the money supply.  When it wants to inflate the supply of money it exchanges new money for assets and when it seeks to slow the growth of money it sells assets to mop up excess reserves in the economy.  In the end, Fed asset purchases are comparable to the Fed monetizing the debts of the federal government which of course are required because of deficit government spending and both will ultimately cause higher prices generally.

Next, Bernanke addressed the concern of those receiving very low returns on interest bearing accounts.  While he acknowledged that the Fed’s “accommodative” monetary policies were responsible, he stated that, “Americans will ultimately benefit most from the healthy and growing economy that low interest rates help promote.”

Two points need to be made about Bernanke’s comment.  First off, when are those low interest rates going to produce a healthy and growing economy?  The Fed Funds Rate has been at 0-.25 percent since December 2008 and unemployment is higher now than it was then.  Secondly, is Bernanke suggesting that older Americans on fixed budgets who are getting extremely low returns on their savings just need to be patient until the values of their homes come back so they can sell them to eat? Or is it that he thinks borrowing against equity on one’s house is a sign of prosperity?  The fact is Bernanke’s policies discourage savings and those that have saved are seeing their wealth eroded and their standard of living diminished.

Which brings us to the last concern addressed by Chairman Bernanke, namely that the Fed’s “accommodative policies” will produce higher price inflation down the road.  To quell fears of price inflation he indicated that overall price inflation has been about “2 percent per year for quite a few years now, and a variety of measures show that longer-term inflation expectations are quite stable.”

All one has to do is venture to the supermarket or fill their tank with gas to know that the chairman’s claim about price inflation is hogwash.  Gas prices alone are up 7 percent year over year.  Higher energy prices mean the cost of other goods has increased as well.  Bernanke’s inflation number is absurd.  John Williams at Shadow Government Statistics produces inflation numbers based on the way they use to be calculated.  According to his calculations, if the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) were figuring inflation like it did in 1980 the rate would be 9 percent.  If the BLS were using the 1990 method the rate would be 5 percent.  The point is that both calculations are much higher than Bernanke’s figure and with the Fed about to embark on infusing $40 billion per month more into the economy for an indefinite period of time, price inflation will go even higher.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a long history of making absurd predictions and statements.  His attempt to ease concerns about Fed policies at last week’s news conference was no exception.  Perhaps he is out of touch with reality or maybe there is something else at play.  At the end of the day, his policies have hurt and will continue to hurt the middle and lower classes in America.  What’s startling is that these groups are the very constituencies that President Obama and members of the Senate claim to care about, yet both gave Bernanke a second term as Fed chairman.  Perhaps the president and those 70 senators that gave Bernanke a second term are incompetent or perhaps the Anglo-American power elite wanted him to continue as their front man?

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina


A Lack of Judgment and Hypocrisy

September 14, 2012

Mitt Romney’s behavior in the last 24 hours has been repulsive.  Faced with an attack from a crowd of angry protestors in Cairo over the release of an anti-Muhammad film in the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released the following statement in an attempt to appease the mob and prevent violence:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Romney apparently sensing a political opening attacked the Obama Administration over the statement claiming it was “sympathizing with those who waged the attack”.  Back on the offensive the next morning, Romney reiterated his criticism of the Administration’s handling of the attack and stated, “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

That Mitt Romney would play politics while an attack on an American Embassy was in progress is more than disgusting; it is indicative of his unfitness to hold the office of the presidency.  It shows impulsiveness and a readiness to shoot first and ask questions later that we can ill afford in a president.

But, Romney’s actions frankly did not surprise this commentator.  Those advising him on his national security team are basically retreads from the George W. Bush years – renowned neoconservatives, and Zionists.  All are itching to reacquire the reins of power in order to involve America in more foreign military adventures, namely Syria and Iran.  So, when Romney went on the offensive, it became clear that the same gang that gave us the “axis of evil”, and the “you are either for us or against us” campaigns and over a decade of continuous war was at it again.  Apparently they are willing to stoop to any depth in an effort to score political points to win this election so as to recommence their murderous rampage specifically through the Islamic World.

There is no question that Governor Romney has surrounded himself with dangerous advisors on national security.  But, through his recent actions he has proven himself to be a hypocrite as well.

On Wednesday morning, he went to great lengths to claim that the Obama Administration had failed to defend our values with the Embassy’s statement.  Specifically, he accused them of “effectively apologizing for the right of free speech”.

This is outrageous coming from a man whose campaign just conducted a party gathering in Tampa described by one political commentator as a “Brownshirt Convention”.  At the Republican National Convention, Brown shirted guards and police cordoned off a large section of downtown Tampa to keep protestors out of sight.  Anything not specifically approved by the Romney people, including signs of rival factions within the party, were confiscated on the streets inside the cordoned off area and on the floor of the RNC.  Lastly, leaving nothing to chance, all speakers were censored by the Romney campaign and those that refused were denied a platform to speak.  This all makes Romney’s criticism that the Administration did not defend the right to free speech hypocritical given his personal squashing of the same in Tampa.

At the end of the day, Governor Romney’s political attack on the Obama Administration while Americans were in harm’s way shows a lack of judgment on his part.  His criticism of the Administration that it did not defend the right of Americans to freedom of speech was pure hypocrisy in light of his campaign’s abuses at the RNC.   It is these traits that make him unfit to be our president.

Article first published as A Lack of Judgment and Hypocrisy on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina


The End is Nigh

September 4, 2012

According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia we are about to enter another recession.  Of course, one would be hard-pressed to convince the over 20 million Americans who remain unemployed or underemployed that the last recession ever ended.  But, I suppose, according to economists it technically did.

Given the circumstance we are in, what can be concluded firmly is what this commentator has maintained all along, namely that Keynesianism is a complete and utter failure.  Yes, it made many Americans feel like the political class cared about them because it spent so much money on their behalf in an attempt to “stimulate” the economy back to good health.  And all the money infused into the economy either by government appropriations, monetized debt, or artificially low interest rates did indeed forestall an economic collapse.  But, like the old Chiffon margarine commercial which warned its viewers that impending doom would befall those that fooled Mother Nature, doom is now ours because Bush, Bernanke, Geithner, Obama, and many members of Congress dared to fool the Free Market.

Naturally, Keynesian diehards will claim that the problem is that not enough money was spent to revive the declining economy.  Well, that is an easy out given that more money could always be spent.  In any event, more money spent would have probably forestalled the next recession even farther into the future, but it wouldn’t have solved the systemic problems in the economy – namely price fixing by the Fed, government spending crowding out private investment, and overregulation.  In fact, with the spending we have had an even worse recession than the last is on the horizon; if more money had been spent the next downturn would be that much larger.

The fact of the matter is that since 2008 we have racked up close to six trillion dollars more in debt with nothing to show for it.  The big spenders responsible will blame the greedy rich who they say do not pay their “fair share” of the tax burden.  But, according to the IRS, in 2007 the richest one percent earned 22 percent of national income while paying 40 percent of all personal income taxes; the top five percent earned 37 percent and paid 61 percent of all income taxes; and the top 10 percent earned 48 percent and paid 71 percent of all income taxes.  Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent earned 12 percent of the nation’s income but only paid three percent of the nation’s income tax.  So, I am not sure what the President and his coterie are talking about when they claim the rich need to be taxed more in order for them to pay their “fair share”?

I know one thing and that is that the disastrous policies of the U.S. government are responsible for not only the loss of our industrial base, but the current trend of America’s young enterprisers leaving for greener pastures overseas.  High taxation, overregulation, inflation, and the prospects of even higher healthcare costs through Obamacare are the reason for the exodus.

With all of these productive entities fleeing our borders and given that the federal government is close to $16 trillion in debt and unfunded future liabilities, specifically for Social Security and Medicare, adds 10s of trillions more to that total, how is America ever going to meet her future obligations?  To make matters even worse, should interest rates rise to their historic long-term average the annual interest payment on the national debt would more than double.  Using current numbers, the total would eat up 41 percent of revenues collected.  The massive increase in that line-item would require even larger annual budget deficits at a time when America can least afford it.

The problem is that Americans want their Social Security, Medicare, and all the other goodies politicians promise them.  And they don’t seem to mind the endless wars and corporate favoritism coming out of Washington either.  This can be concluded because they continue to reelect the same policymakers that have produced the mess we are in.

On the eve of another recession, leading policymakers in Washington are not discussing what needs to be done to turn the economy around.  Very few are talking seriously about addressing the debt crisis.  Lastly, most Americans who will vote this November are poised to send these same politicians back to Washington.

And that is why the end is nigh.  The end of what you ask?  The end of everything we have come to expect as Americans since the 1970s.  It will be the end of militarism and endless wars.  This time it will truly be the end of welfare as we know it.  It will be the end of political favors to every special interest group under the sun.  Finally it will be the end of living off accrued wealth by producing less and less while at the same time spending like drunken sailors to acquire cheap Chinese goods.  All these things will end because we simply can no longer afford them.  The real question is can we afford what will come after the end?

Article first published as The End is Nigh on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina