48% Of Russians Fear Syrian Conflict Will Lead To World War III

A recent Russian polls revealed something disturbing: according to almost half of the respondents, the deteriorating relations between Russia and the West caused by the ongoing crisis in Syria could develop into a global military conflict. As RT reports, the share of those who see the probability of World War III in the near future as high or very high is now at 48% and those who appraise it as low or very low comprise 42% of Russian society, according to the privately-owned public opinion research center Levada. The remaining 10% of respondents said they couldn’t give a simple answer to the question.

Another question revealed that Russians are skeptical there will be a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, with a greater number seeing a non-violent outcome as more likely than not: when poll respondents were asked if they considered it possible that Russia and the West would eventually find a mutually acceptable solution to the crisis, 35% answered that this scenario was likely or very likely. Thirty-nine percent evaluate the probability of such an outcome as low or very low and 26 percent said that they couldn’t answer the question.

Perhaps indicative of Russia’s clinical nationalism, just over half, or 52%, of Russians said they approve of their country’s involvement in the Syrian conflict while 26%  said they had a negative or sharply negative attitude to this. Just under a quarter – 23 percent – couldn’t answer the question about their personal view on the subject. Those who thought that Russia should continue the operation and those who thought that airstrikes should be stopped were divided 49 percent against 28 percent respectively, with 24 percent finding the question too difficult to answer.

A similar poll conducted a year ago by the Levada Center showed that over 70% of Russian citizens supported the air operations against IS terrorists in Syria, and almost a half of them agreed that it was right for Russia to support the government of Syria’s democratically-elected President Bashar Assad.

A different poll conducted earlier this month by the state-run research center VTSIOM showed that 73% of Russians believed that Western criticism of the air force’s counter-terrorism operation in Aleppo, Syria, was ungrounded and prejudiced. Only 6 percent said the allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the Russian military have some basis in reality.

Perhaps Russians don’t watch CNN?

The poll also found that the level of awareness about the situation in Syria and the Russian Air Force operation against ISIS terrorists there remained fairly high. Russia first deployed an air force contingent in Syria in 2015, after receiving a request for military help from the Syrian government, which is currently battling Islamic State and affiliated groups. Russian war planes began launching airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria on September 30, 2015. 

Eighteen percent said they were very closely following developments in Syria and 64 percent revealed partial familiarity with the issue. Just under a fifth – 17%– said that they were not interested in news about Syria.

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Paul Brodsky: “We The People…”

Submitted by Paul Brodsky of Macro Allocation

We the People…

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

     – Gouverneur Morris

The preamble to the US constitution is more familiar to American children than is the body of the constitution to American adults. It was written in 1787 following some very serious drama that threatened liberty and freedom (and profits) – a bloody revolt, not mere political upheaval.1 In fact, since 1776 the US has been at war over 90% of the time (219 out of 240 years); to protect itself and its friends from tyranny or, more recently, to promote democracy (and gain resources) from geopolitical pariahs.

The US found it fitting to adopt The Star Spangled Banner as its official national anthem 144 years later, in 1931. Taken from a poem inspired by the Battle of Baltimore in 1812, the song boasts how the American flag stayed true amid “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”. The anthem captures the independent, take-no-guff nature of the American spirit, the same spirit used by an ad agency a few decades later to sell cigarettes: “I’d rather fight than switch”. The cowboy image promotes a self-reinforcing can-do virility that comes in handy when it comes to preemptive warring.

Americans did not get around to pledging allegiance to the US flag until 1942, during World War II. It was written in 1892 by an avowed socialist. We note that allegiance is pledged to a flag, not to a nation and certainly not to a government, which seems fitting. One wonders whether colonialists would have gone for pledging allegiance to any state, even the one they fought and died to save from foreign imperialism.

And the student became the master. The new nation’s largest trading partner would be England. The US constitution was written originally for a mostly agrarian society of about 3 million white Anglicans and about 800,000 black slaves. American prosperity would be built upon vast resources and immigration. Immigration through forced slavery was coming to be seen as immoral. England abolished the slave trade in 1808 and abolished it altogether in 1833. Labor would have to be attracted to America another way.

Labeling is a complicated matter. The name “United States of America” is a chest-thumping declaration that may be reduced to the word “States” surrounded by two unnecessary modifiers. (Are American states in Mexico or Brazil, or provinces in Canada, not united with others?) It was chosen, no doubt, because the non-native American patriots lacked an indigenous culture. The newly independent nation’s sense of self had to be created, and the brilliance of the founding fathers was that they branded a then-150 year old society into a principle its inhabitants and future immigrants would be expected to embrace.

The US brand would not be a culture based on the ways of ancient peoples like Saxons or Gauls. Rather, the brand would be individual rights and social, economic and political freedom. The brand reflected reality, which had developed since the pilgrims first arrived in 1620 or maybe even since Columbus first searched for gold in 1492. The US brand would attract the ambitious and mostly decent from around the world, which in turn would grow its economy and raise living standards for all.

The US brand still reflects its basic principle – unfettered ambition, in all its forms, within the context of common decency. The reality is that the United States is neither a nation of laws, as strict constructionists would have us believe, nor a nation where government is supposed to equalize the living standards of all inhabitants, as broad constructionists argue. In this regard, the sociological meaning of fair is equal opportunity to succeed or fail and the expectation that one would be supported after failing so that he or she may try again. Common decency has never meant mandated state support for not trying.

The United States was never meant to be and is not understood today to be a nation defined by its government. Yes, there is a constitution written and emended by legislators, but the US is supposed to be ultimately governed by its people. Nor is the US meant to be bullied by its economic policy makers or banking system. Yes, nearly infinite credit creation has sped social advancement and brought economic and military foes to their knees, but broadly distributed, inextinguishable debt owed to future generations is explicitly antithetical to the most basic tenet of American society. It is right there in the preamble: “to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”.

Today, the “United States of America” is more than a color on a map and a legal jurisdiction. Its name is a 240 year-old phrase that still elicits the notion of ambition in all its forms within the context of common decency. The United States of America is a state of mind.

As technology, communications and connectivity advance, Americans no longer have to live within its borders. Indeed, “Americans” – those hewing to the principles first set forth by American pilgrims, formalized by the founding fathers, advanced by the Union army, and defended by the Greatest Generation – are all over the world and carry passports from all countries. They may never have stepped foot in the US but share the same state of mind.

A better name for the United States of America and all people and entities around the world engaging peacefully with each other to form a more perfect union, pursue justice, insure global tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity, might be something like Democratia. (How about a state of mind naming contest?)

To be clear, we do not endorse state-led globalism or private sector globalization driven by artificial, uneconomic means. We reject the trend towards coordinated global oversight of social, economic, political and financial dimensions, and the coordinated global manipulation of trade and exchange rates by financial and political dimensions. State-led globalism and state-subsidized private sector globalization create hostilities between governments, mal-investment across nations, and, most depraved, a distorted and uneven global pricing mechanism that removes the ability of an individual to control his or her destiny.

We whole-heartedly endorse naturally occurring globalism in which peoples and individuals around world connect directly and use market-driven forces to arrive at global economic equilibriums for goods, services and trade, and in which mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers arrive at a range of understanding about what constitutes common decency. Yes, this may be naïve and idealistic, but we believe such naiveté and idealism capture the growing mood of the masses in the US and around the world.

Is it wise to endorse nationalism? While we acknowledge the emotional pull towards a simpler time when clans and then more diverse peoples were able to control their own social, economic and political destinies, doing so in today’s world on a sustainable basis seems impossible. We know and have direct access to too much real-time information.

Nevertheless, elected officials (and media) still seem to see government as the necessary agent to negotiate a sovereign’s place in the world. They are wrong and will fail. Sovereignty is becoming a common understanding among peoples connected by the World Wide Web, not connected by proximity. States, as in governments, seem to be in the process of using the considerable rope the masses lent them to hang themselves.

The US government and its citizens are going to have to accept a less influential role in the world. The American people seem to be getting it and accepting it quicker than the US industrial political complex. At least ten percent of voters on the right naturally lean libertarian, which is more a laissez-faire attitude than a preference for isolationism. The same is true of millennials on the left, who overwhelmingly took the same position by backing Bernie Sanders. The burgeoning conflict is located at the point where the changing preference of the crowd is meeting the rigid preference of established agents to keep power.

To many of us, it is regrettable that one of the two major candidates will be elected president next week. It is not an oversimplification to suggest that the choice reduces to deciding between a person with a consistent history of corruption representing the old, decaying order, and an ignorant sociopath who wants to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Neither should be rewarded with the presidency. The election of either candidate will not threaten the American state of mind unless the winner succeeds in undermining the US brand and overarching principle of unfettered ambition, in all its forms, within the context of common decency. In option parlance, we have the right, but not the obligation, to vote.

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“I Feel Like Pablo Escobar” – Venezuelans Resort To Weighing Cash As Hyperinflation Builds

Having thrown in the towel on hyperinflation by printing banknotes with 200-times-higher denominations, Bloomberg reports that things in Venezuela have continued to get worse with the currency now so devalued (with even simple purchases requiring so many bills) that instead of counting bills, they are weighing them.

Once one of the world’s strongest currencies, the bolivar has been reduced to a nuisance. Basic purchases require hundreds of bills. Shoppers shove piles of them into gym bags before venturing into crime-plagued streets and shopkeepers stash thousands in boxes and overflowing drawers. In the absence of official data, economists are left to guess what the inflation rate is. Estimates for this year range from 200 percent to 1,500 percent.

At a delicatessen counter in eastern Caracas, Humberto Gonzalez removes slices of salty white cheese from his scale and replaces them with a stack of bolivar notes handed over by his customer.

“It’s sad," Gonzalez says. "At this point, I think the cheese is worth more.”

Bloomberg continues…

It’s also one of the clearest signs yet that hyperinflation could be taking hold in a country that refuses to publish consumer-price data on a regular basis. Cash-weighing isn’t seen everywhere but is increasing, echoing scenes from some of the past century’s most-chaotic hyperinflation episodes: Post-World War I Germany, Yugoslavia in the 1990s and Zimbabwe a decade ago.


“When they start weighing cash, it’s a sign of runaway inflation,” said Jesus Casique, financial director of Capital Market Finance, a consulting firm. “But Venezuelans don’t know just how bad it is because the government refuses to publish figures.”


Read more here…

Meanwhile, as we concluded previously, the central bank remains stuck in denial and hasn’t published price statistics for almost two years. Instead, Mr. Maduro has blamed the skyrocketing prices on the “economic war” waged against his government by shopkeepers and financiers. This has forced people to brave one of the world’s highest crime rates by shopping with backpacks full of cash and spend hours lining up outside ATMs, which give out less than $10 per withdrawal. Many provincial banks have reduced daily withdrawals to 30,000 bolivars, which would buy a Venezuelan couple a lunch at a mid-scale restaurant.

Amusingly, as we reported last year, the high demand for nearly worthless currency notes has also presented a financial burden for the cash-strapped government, which also lacks raw materials to print its own money. Since last year, Venezuela has had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to printing companies to feed its economy with bolivar currency. The shipments arrived to Venezuela from private printing presses around the world on several dozen windowless Boeing 747 jets. Given the crime risks, the air shipments arrive at the Caracas airport at night before the notes are loaded onto armored trucks and transported to the central bank vaults in Caracas, protected on the 18-mile route by soldiers.

Indicatively, a fully stocked ATM is emptied in just three and a half hours on average now, according to the Venezuelan Banking Association.

The good news for the insolvent nation is that all local denominated debts are now just as worthless as the currency, which incidentally is what the BOJ's Kuroda would call: mission accomplished.

Sadly, Venezuela is the canary in the coalmine for what will happen to all currencies in a world where there is now simply too much debt.


And, as Bloomberg concludes, people like Bremmer Rodrigues, 25, who runs a bakery on Caracas’ outskirts, are at a loss over what to do with their bags of bills. Every day his business takes in hundreds of thousands of bolivars, which he hides around his office until packing them up in boxes to deposit at the bank. He says if someone looked in on him, he might be mistaken for a drug dealer..

“I feel like Pablo Escobar,” he said. “It’s a mountain of cash, every day more and more.”

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Dennis Gartman: “Zero Hedge Needs To Cut Me A Break”

In an interview posted on Kitco, Dennis Gartman said gold prices are moving higher, but he is not willing to give an exact price forecast. He then explained his reasons why:

“If I put a price number on it, and I miss it by $5, I’ll look like an idiot and the guys at Zero Hedge, they’re always out to get me,” he told Kitco News on the sidelines of the New Orleans Investment Conference.

“The best that one can get in the business of trading, is to get the direction right.” The publisher of the Gartman Letter said he is also bullish on the U.S. dollar, and therefore remains more optimistic for gold in euro or yen terms.

“Why would I want to buy something using a strong currency when I can buy something using a weak currency?”

Perhaps because weak currencies sometime get strong again? In any case, we wish Dennis Gartman the best of luck with his directional gold trade, and sincerely hope that he is right this time.

Fast forward to 4:50 in the interview.

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