Brazilian Military Deployed To Break Up Trucking As State Of Emergency Worsens

A nationwide trucking strike in Brazil entered day six on Saturday, as blocked roads have prevented critical food and supplies from reaching their destinations.

The protests, triggered by a 50% spike in fuel prices over the last year, have resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency across most major cities as shelves run bare and fuel supplies dwindle. Airports have reported running out of fuel, hospitals are running out of supplies, and public transport and trash collection have been reduced or halted across the country. Some food prices have also spiked as supplies dwindle. As we noted on Friday, a lack of livestock feed threatens a billion chickens and 20 million pigs who may starve to death.

Brazilian export group ABPA said that over 150 poultry and pork processing plants had indefinitely suspended production, while Brazil’s sugar industry – the world’s largest – is slowly halting cane harvest operations as their machines run out of fuel.

Despite a Thursday agreement with the truckers and the Friday deployment of the military to physically unblock roads, the government has only reported a few blockades being lifted on major highways. 

In an attempt to end the dispute, oil company Petrobas cut the price of diesel by 10% for two weeks – however all that did was scare investors. The truckers were not impressed, considering that they’ve been subject to fuel price increases of around 50% over the last year.

Petrobras shares plunged after the announcement and are down at least 20 percent this week, leading losses in the Ibovespa index, which has lost 4.3 percent in the period. That pushed the stock market’s monthly drop to 7.7 percent, one of the worst performers among major global benchmarks. –Bloomberg

The main entity representing truckers, ABCAM, said they haven’t changed their stance – and that they will call off protests only after federal diesel taxes are scrapped

truckers say they want a definitive solution, saying they will end the protest only when a decision to eliminate federal diesel taxes is published in the official gazette.

Local TV showed footage of federal forces being deployed over the night to some critical areas to help police remove trucks from highways.

There were no reports of violence, but main roads remained blocked in the morning, including a key transport ring around Sao Paulo, the country’s largest city. –Yahoo

Brazil’s auto production, which constitutes around 25% of industrial output, also ground to a halt on Friday. Authorities say that even after the strike ends, it will take several days to replenish vital supplies. 

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The Dummies Guide To The Russia Collusion Hoax: Who, What, Where, When, & Why

Authored by Roger Kimball via Spectator USA,

For your eyes only: A short history of Democrat-spy collusion

How highly placed members of one administration mobilised the intelligence services to undermine their successors…

Who, what, where, when, why? The desiderata school teachers drill into their charges trying to master effective writing skills apply also in the effort to understand that byzantine drama known to the world as the Trump-Russia-collusion investigation.

Let’s start with “when.” When did it start? We know that the FBI opened its official investigation on 31 July 2016. An obscure, low-level volunteer to the Trump campaign called Carter Page was front and centre then. He’d been the FBI’s radar for a long time. Years before, it was known, the Russians had made some overtures to him but 1) they concluded that he was an “idiot” not worth recruiting and 2) he had actually aided the FBI in prosecuting at least two Russian spies.

But we now know that the Trump-Russia investigation began before Carter Page. In December 2017, The New York Times excitedly reported in an article called “How the Russia Inquiry Began” that, contrary to their reporting during the previous year, it wasn’t Carter Page who precipitated the inquiry. It was someone called George Papadopoulous, an even more obscure and lower-level factotum than Carter Page. Back in May 2016, the twenty-something Papadopoulous had gotten outside a number of drinks with one Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat in London and had let slip that “the Russians” had compromising information about Hillary Clinton. When Wikileaks began releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee in June and July, news of the conversation between Downer and Papadopoulos was communicated to the FBI. Thus, according to the Times, the investigation was born.

There were, however, a couple of tiny details that the Times omitted. One was that Downer, an avid Clinton supporter, had arranged for a $25 million donation from the Australian government to the Clinton Foundation. Twenty-five million of the crispest, Kemo Sabe. They also neglected say exactly how Papadopoulos met Alexander Downer.

As it turns out, George Papadopoulos made several new friends in London. There was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor living in London who has ties to British intelligence. It was Mifsud – who has since disappeared – who told Papadopoulos in March 2016 that the Kremlin had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Then there is Stefan Halper, an American-born Cambridge prof and Hillary supporter. Out of the blue, Halper reached out to Papadopoulos in September 2016. He invited him to meet in London and then offered Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a paper on an unrelated topic. He also pumped him about “Russian hacking.” “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?” Halper is said to have asked him. He also made sure Papadopoulos met for drinks with his assistant, a woman called Azra Turk, who flirted with him over the Chardonnay while pumping him about Russia.

Halper also contacted Carter Page and Sam Clovis, Trump’s campaign co-chair. Is Stefan Halper, the “spy” on the Trump campaign, at the origin of the Trump-Russia meme?

Not really. The real fons et origo is John Brennan, Director of the CIA under Obama. As Trump’s victories in the primaries piled up, Brennan convened a “working group” at CIA headquarters that included Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI agent, and James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, in order to stymie Trump’s campaign.

So much of this story still dwells in the tenebrous realm of redaction. But little by little the truth is emerging, a mosaic whose story is gradually taking shape as one piece after the next completes now this face, now another.

There are details yet to come, but here is the bottom line, the irreducible minimum

A cabal of CIA and FBI operatives, including the Director of the CIA, John Brennan, along with other members of the intelligence “community,” prominently including James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, and various members of the Obama administration, colluded to undermine Donald Trump’s campaign.

Like almost everyone else, they assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in, so they were careless about covering their tracks.

If Hillary had won, the department of Justice would have been her Department of Justice, John Brennan would still be head of the CIA, and the public would never have known about the spies, the set-ups, the skulduggery.

But Hillary did not win. For the last 16 months, we’ve watched as that exiled cabal shifted its efforts from stopping Trump from winning to a desperate effort to destroy his Presidency. Thanks to the patient work of Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and a handful of GOP Senators, that effort is now disintegrating.

What is being exposed is the biggest political scandal in the history of the United States: the effort by highly placed – exactly how highly placed we still do not know – members of one administration to mobilise the intelligence services and police power of the state to spy upon and destroy first the candidacy and then, when that didn’t work, the administration of a political rival.

It is banana republic behaviour, but it looks now as if those responsible for this effort to undermine American democracy and repeal the results of a free, open, and democratic election will be exposed. Let’s hope that they are also held to account.

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The Story Behind $17 Billion Booty Found In 300-Year-Old “Holy Grail Of Shipwrecks”

Details have finally emerged surround a 2015 discovery of a 300-year-old Spanish galleon which went down after a battle with British ships off the coast of Cartagena, Columbia – considered the “holy grail of shipwrecks.” 

Using an unmanned underwater vehicle called the REMUS 6000 – funded by the Dalio Foundation and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), researchers discovered the 62-gun, three-masted San José containing chests of gold, silver and emeralds minted in Peru – estimated to be worth up to $17 billion

“The REMUS 6000 was the ideal tool for the job, since it’s capable of conducting long-duration missions over wide areas,” said WHOI engineer and expedition leader Mike Purcell.

To confirm the identity of the San José, REMUS, celebrated for its ability to conduct long-duration missions over wide areas, descended near the suspected wreck, found about 2,000 feet underwater, capturing photos of a key distinguishing feature of the San José: bronze cannons engraved with dolphins, the WHOI said in its release. WHOI said it obtained authorization by Maritime Archaeology Consultants Switzerland AG and the government in Bogotá to release new details. –Marketwatch

Discovered on Nov. 27, 2015, a raging debate ensued over the legal ownership of the Caribbean bounty. Because of this, details of the discovery was shrouded in secrecy until this week. Spain defended their ownership in the vessel, arguing that it is a warship with a State flag that carries sovereign immunity under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Sea – to which Columbia is not a party. 

Spain also argues that the shipwreck is a maritime tomb to 570 Spanish nationals.

 

Columbia, however, says that the San José belongs to them because it’s on their seabed. They plan to build a museum and conservation laboratory to preserve and publicly display the wreck’s contents, including cannons, ceramics, and other artifacts.

The Colombian government has a long-standing disagreement with US-based salvage company Sea Search Armada (SSA) over who has the rightful claim over the treasure. A group now owned by SSA claims it located the wreck back in 1981. 

According to the BBC, the SSA has been claiming billions for breach of contract from Colombia, but four years ago a US court decided that the galleon was the property of the Colombian state. Further, the wreck is reported to fall within the UN’s definition of an underwater cultural heritage site. Nonetheless, a CNN report suggests that the SSA may demand half of the value of the ship’s sunken treasure. –Gizmodo

Upon its discovery, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted “Great news! We have found the San Jose Galleon!” followerd by a press conference in which he said that the find “constitutes one of the greatest—if not the biggest, as some say—discoveries of submerged patrimony in the history of mankind.”

The rescue operation to raise the booty, announced in March, will cost around $71 million USD. 

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Californians Are Willing To Repeal The Gas Tax, But…

Authored by Jazz Shaw via HotAir.com,

A massive new gas tax passed by the California state legislature appeared to finally be a bridge too far for most residents of the state.

A movement began to repeal the tax by referendum and a petition to do so quickly amassed far more than the needed number of signatures. Now, a new poll indicates that support for the repeal measure has reached majority numbers. But there’s more going on here than just the removal of a set of taxes and fees.

As a new poll found a majority of California voters want to repeal increases to the state’s gas tax and vehicle fees, Gov. Jerry Brown has begun campaigning to preserve them, arguing the sacrifice is needed to fix long-neglected roads and bridges and improve mass transit.

Repeal of the higher taxes and fees was supported by 51% of registered voters in the state, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times statewide poll.

The survey found 38% of registered voters supported keeping the higher taxes, 9% hadn’t heard enough to say either way and 2% said they wouldn’t vote on the measure.

The tax package looks like it’s about to be taken off life support, but Republicans in the state hope that the referendum delivers for them in another way. With some marginal House seats being considered in play this November, campaigning on support for the repeal measure should, in theory, boost GOP voter turnout, possibly turning back some of the “blue wave” that Democrats are looking for.

It’s also left the Governor in the unenviable position of having to defend taxing his constituents more. He fumbled the first attempt at that when he resorted to name calling in an apparent fit of pique. At one news conference, he was quoted as saying,

The test of America’s strength is whether we defeat this stupid repeal measure, which is nothing more than a Republican stunt to get a few of their losers returned to Congress.”

“Stupid repeal measure?” Does the governor read the news anymore? He just called more than half the people in his state “stupid.” Let’s see how well that plays five months from now.

Some of my hopes for California were dashed, however, when another set of poll numbers came out. For a time, I’d actually begun to think that Californians were waking up and realizing that the Democrats they keep electing were taxing them to death and perhaps a new course needed to be followed. Sadly, while they oppose the gas tax, those same voters seem to be fine with jacking up taxes on the businesses who employ them.

A majority of California voters back a potential 2020 ballot measure that would increase property taxes on businesses, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

Of the 691 registered voters surveyed, 54% said they supported a measure that would ease property tax protections established by the landmark 1978 ballot measure Proposition 13. Under the proposed 2020 initiative, local governments and schools could tax larger commercial and industrial properties based on their market values rather than the values based on when the properties were purchased, resulting in as much as $10 billion annually in new revenue.

The economy in California works out fabulously for celebrities and the mega-wealthy. But for most rank and file workers, it’s virtually impossible to afford a house anywhere in the state that’s even marginally habitable. Businesses and workers are already fleeing the state in the more expensive areas, yet residents still seem to be fine with the idea of taxing “somebody else” as long as their gas prices don’t go up further.

There’s an old saying credited to Russel B. Long, which goes, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!” There’s some wisdom there which Californians should look into.

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As Russia’s Gold Hoard Soars, Putin Warns “US Sanctions Hurt Trust In Dollar As Reserve Currency”

Despite his absence from Vladimir Putin’s annual economic showcase – which included such US allied luminaries as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Emmanuel Macron, China’s Vice President Wang Qishan and IMF chief Christine Lagarde – the conversation kept coming back to President Trump.

Led by an unusually outspoken Putin, Macron – who seemed more enamored with Putin than the rest, agreed with the Russian president’s concerns over the erosion of trust and the specter of a global crisis brought on by Washington’s disruptions.

“The free market and fair competition are being squeezed by confiscations, restrictions, sanctions,” Putin said.

“There are various terms but the meaning is the same — they’ve become an official part of the trade policy of certain countries.”

The “spiral” of U.S. penalties is targeting “an ever larger number of countries and companies,” undermining “the current world order,” he said.

Macron replied: “I fully share your point of view.”

Such warnings only confirm Mr Putin’s world view. Without mentioning the US, he complained that the multilateral economic world order was being “crushed” by a proliferation of exceptions, restrictions and sanctions.

The “darkest cloud” on the economic horizon is the “determination of some to actually rock the system,” Lagarde said, prompting Wang, a new point-man for Chinese foreign policy, to agree.

“Politicizing economic and trade issues, and brandishing economic sanctions, are bound to damage the trust of others,” he said.

Putin also expressed frustration at having little contact with Trump and faulted the investigation into whether there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia and whether Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election.

“We are hostages to this internal strife in the United States,” Putin said. “I hope that it will end some day and the objective need for the development of Russian-American relationships will prevail.”

As Bloomberg reports, the panel had its prickly moments. After Putin suggested that Europe depended on the U.S. for its security, and told Macron there was “no need to worry” because Russia would help, the French president shot back:

“I’m not afraid, because France has an army that knows how to protect itself.”

However, the most ominous and direct messages were from Putin himself about changes to the unipolar order.

In his opening statement at the plenary session, Putin says the global economic order is being undermined and that breaking the rules is becoming the rule of the game.

Coming a day after Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that settlements in US currency could be dropped by Russia in favor of the euro

“As we see, restrictions imposed by the American partners are of an extraterritorial nature. The possibility of switching from the US dollar to the euro in settlements depends on Europe’s stance toward Washington’s position,” said Siluanov, who is also Russia’s first deputy prime minister.

“If our European partners declare their position unequivocally, we could definitely see a way to use the European common currency for financial settlements, such as payments for goods and services, which today are often subject to restrictions,” Siluanov added, dangling the bait in front of Merkel and Macron.

The global economy is facing a threat of a spiraling protectionist measures that can lead to a devastating crisis, Vladimir Putin warned. Nations must find a way to prevent this and establish rules on how the economy should work.

The Russian president spoke out against the growing trend of using unilateral restrictions to achieve economic advantage, as he addressed guests of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday.

“The system of multilateral cooperation, which took years to build, is no longer allowed to evolve. It is being broken in a very crude way. Breaking the rules is becoming the new rule,” he said.

Putin sharply criticized the sanctions, saying they signal “not just erosion but the dismantling of a system of multilateral cooperation that took decades to build.”

Putin called for a change of course, for free trade to be defended, and for rules-based regulation of the global economy, which would alleviate the chaos resulting from the rapid technological transformations arising from the development of digital technology.

“The disregard for existing norms and a loss of trust may combine with the unpredictability and turbulence of the colossal change. These factors may lead to a systemic crisis, which the world has not seen yet,” he said.

Simply put, Putin concluded:

“US sanctions hurt trust in the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.”

All of which appears to confirm many conspiracy-theorist’s reasoning for why Russia is stockpiling gold faster than any other nation on earth

Feels good, ha Vlad?

 

 

 

 

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Ron Paul: On War, Gold, & My Years In Congress

Via The Mises Institute,

JEFF DEIST: What makes you optimistic, what makes you pessimistic about what you see in the US?

RON PAUL: Well, if I look at the big picture including a long span of time, I would say conditions aren’t that bad, even though I often talk about all the bad things I anticipate and how it could get worse in terms of the economy and foreign policy.

When you think about it, I was born in 1935, in the middle of the Depression. I remember my early life. I remember when I was 3 years old and 5 years old and the Depression lasted through World War II and the conditions were such as I remember very clearly, but it wasn’t a big deal for me even though we lived in close quarters and we didn’t have a lot of shoes and were just skimping by.

So, we went through a Depression and World War II. Those were pretty tough times and since that time — since the war issue’s always been a big issue with me — I remember the tragedies of World War II. We had relatives in Germany, so it always caught my attention. Then we had the Korean War. I could remember my mother saying, “another war this soon?” We just got over one, so she was negative on that and then we had the Vietnam War and I knew that I probably would be drafted and that was one of the reasons that helped me move toward medicine.

So, those were pretty bad times. Think of the people that were dying over those first 30 or 40 years. Things weren’t great economically either. In America, we were not even allowed to own gold.

Those were conditions that existed that changed for the better to some degree. Philosophically, I think, we’re still on the wrong track overall, although some things have improved. Once again, we’re able to own gold. The United States government and I pushed it along when I was in Congress to mint gold coins again and talk about monetary policy.

Philosophically, we are making progress in some areas, though, and I give a lot of credit to the institutions that do this, like the Mises Institute and FEE. And of course, I want to participate in changing foreign policy and we keep working on that through the Ron Paul Institute.

But, on the downside of all this, I see we’re on a disastrous course even though the official economic indicators look great and wonderful. Everybody’s practically euphoric and Trump is a good cheerleader. But, there is a lot of weakness behind the numbers, and we’re engaging in self-deception and unsupported hopefulness that things will be all good, there will be no inflation or high unemployment, and there’ll be no major war. I think when I look at the seeds that have been sown, the future looks rather bleak in many ways, even compared to what it was like as we finished World War II and Vietnam.

We’re in a mess partly because our major universities are still very Marxist-oriented and they’re very anti-liberty and therefore, I think for people who care about liberty, we have a big job ahead of us.

JD: You talk about this in your book, Swords into Ploughshares. Is there a particular moment or recollection from your childhood during the Great Depression, or World War II, that started you on the path to being liberty-minded?

RP: Not at that young age. I think I had a natural instinct — and I claim everybody has a natural instinct — to be an individual. I think we express that when we are 2 years old and when we are 4 years old, when we’re teenagers and it’s always a struggle of being independent-minded and minding our own business and taking care of ourselves. And then, we have that beaten out of us. Of course, discipline is very necessary and good. But it depends on where it’s coming from. If it’s coming from some wise parenting, I think this is very, very good.

But, there was never one moment I started down that path of being liberty-minded. I think, more or less, it was an evolution. Back then I’d read newspapers and listened to the radio, listened to my dad talking about the war issues and going to school and it was a mixed bag. And then, I guess the serious introduction came probably in the early 1960s. I got interested in reading Austrian economics. I read almost everything that Ayn Rand ever wrote and that’s when I found Leonard Read and got to know him. It seems like when Goldwater was running — that would have been ’64 — I had already been thinking about it. If you read everything Goldwater was talking about back then, he would throw out some names. So, somewhere along the way, I came across the name Hayek because he was known because of The Road to Serfdom. So, I was inquisitive enough to look into it.

By the way, when I talk to college students today, I say the most important thing you can leave this place with is being inquisitive, checking out, finding out, and ask the question and seek the truth and do your best to be truthful to yourself and then come up with these answers. I am fascinated, that on the campaign trail in the last 10–15 years, where people would listen and come up to me and they would say, “I get it. It’s just common sense.” They’d put the whole picture together and they seemed to have sort of a moment where a light bulb goes on.

JD: Part of this evolution affected your decision to be a doctor, didn’t it? Deciding you wanted to help people. You saw a world full of hurt.

RP: I had an exceptionally good male teacher that taught biology and I got fascinated with that and got an A. So, when I went to college, I sort of leaned in the direction of science. I already felt comfortable with biology and the chemistry teachers and physics teachers weren’t as good. So I majored in biology, so that sort of set the stage, but even up until my third year in college, I was uncertain. But by the time I was finished in college, I had made a decision that’s what I wanted to do and fortunately, I was able to do that. I considered myself very fortunate that I was able, over my lifetime, to be able to do medicine, to a large degree and stuck with that a lot more than people realize as well as getting involved in the issues. People say, “when did you get involved in politics?” I say I never did. “When did you decide to go into politics?” I never did. But, I wanted to talk about the issues that were important to me and the vehicle was politics because I wasn’t an economics professor. I wasn’t writing great books and things like that, I was more inspired to try to convince other people of a different way of doing things. And I think I picked up some of the wisdom on how to do that from Leonard Read because he had some special ideas on how you converted people. Yet, I ended up talking, and being impressed and amazed that I could get 5,000 or 10,000 people out on a college campus, but being a member of Congress was what I used that one thing to do and that is to change people’s minds.

JD: I know you’ve written about it, but talk briefly about your involuntary time, of a sort, in the Air Force during the 1960s.

RP: Right. I always assumed I would be drafted. I thought being a doctor was a better way to go, because I just dreaded the thought of people just shooting at each other and killing each other. In October of ’62, I was almost finished with my second year of residency, and during the crisis, I got a draft notice. Fortunately I was able to finish out the year, but I went into the Air Force in January of ’63 and was stationed at Kelly in San Antonio and that’s how we originally got to Texas. But, back then, there were a few people resisting the draft. There was a doctor that was in the news and I sort of looked at that and I paid attention, but I didn’t say, “that’s what I ought to be doing.” But resistance to the war grew, and as time went on I sort of admired what boxer Mohammad Ali did, to give up his career in a way for three years, because he was arrested and prosecuted for resisting the draft. That, to me, was very impressive. I was disturbed by that, but I expected it. That’s what governments do to you.

I was disturbed that my medical training was going to be messed up. But, I was pretty stoic about it and I liked the idea of flying. I remember going through flight medical school. It was not a big education, it was 3 months schooling, but I remember it was in the early 60s, they were just talking about the space program. I said, in my mind, I wonder if I ever could be the first doctor that could go into space. That technology fascinated me and of course, that wasn’t to be, but I just made a decision that I would make the best of it. During the Air Force period, I had a lot more time to read and that’s when the Randians were very active and it was at that time, I subscribed to The Objectivist Newsletter and remember specifically reading “Gold and Economic Freedom” by Alan Greenspan, which I kept a copy of all those years. That’s the activity I was involved with. I’m not a Randian, and I’m not an Objectivist. I have my critique of that, but it was sort of inspiring reading.

Even today, I don’t read hardly any novels, but I read hers because they were sort of inspirational and yet, she forced me to sort things out because she was so negative on Christianity and generosity, at least she came across that way with her attack on altruism and compared it to communism and that didn’t make sense to me. I had to figure that out, that there was a difference, that they weren’t identical.

But, so I had more time off while in the Air Force and enjoyed it. I learned how to fly an airplane and got my pilot’s license, but had to travel around the world frequently as part of my duty. I went to the Far East on a couple trips and I went to the Middle East and every place from Spain, Italy, Turkey, Ethiopia, Pakistan, the whole works. Iran, I was in, I don’t think I was in Iraq. In Iran, I had been there in Tehran, but that was back when we owned it, with the Shah.

I referenced those trips over the years because they became so significant in my activity in foreign policy. I especially remember how we weren’t allowed to go into Afghanistan. We were in Pakistan and we went up to Peshawar, which was not too far from the Khyber Pass, which was historic and remains historic. It was right on the border and it turned out that was the area where that whole Bin Laden episode happened. And I can visualize that place very, very well as I was driving with the military people up in a truck, to visit the border. I can remember the captain that was with us in the truck, who had been there before and he said, “Ron, do you see that place up there?” It was a place of totally bare and rocky mountains. He said, “there are thousands of people that live up there. They are tribal and they’ve been there for a long, long time and they’ve never been conquered.” And he gave me a little history lesson and so, once we started thinking about this, in the foreign policy, I was able to visualize.

So, my military experience turned out to have some value.

JD: After the Air Force you were back in South Texas. You now have several kids. You’re reading Austrian economics, getting more and more involved in your thinking. In the early 70s, you go to the University of Houston and see Ludwig von Mises, only a year or two before he died.

RP: I think it was his last lecture tour. We saw a little clip in the paper — very, very small — in the Houston Chronicle and it said he would be a speaker at the University of Houston. There was only one other person I knew in the whole town that knew who Mises was and that was Dr. Henry May and so, I called him, I said, “Henry, Mises is coming to town. Why don’t we go up and hear him?” And it was a major decision for us because we had to drive about 50 or 60 miles and find where he was giving this lecture. At the same time, we both had office hours, so we had to get coverage, for somebody to come in and take care of our patients because it would take us the afternoon to do this. So, we went up and his lecture was on socialism. I sort of read the book and knew a little bit about it. It was just the experience of hearing him lecture. He had a German accent with a lot of lisping, whistling. He spoke English, of course, but there was a strong accent, but it still was an experience. The venue, it was a room, probably a classroom that might have held 40 to 50 students, maybe more and they had to bring extra chairs in and that room was packed. We got there a little late and we stood at the door so we could at least see him for the experience. I don’t know whether you ever heard the other part of the story.

JD: Dr. Michael Keller.

RP: Do you know the story?

JD: Our friend, Dr. Keller, was responsible for having the event there as a young member of UH student council.

RP: One time we were talking many, many years later, to Keller and I told him this story. He said, “Guess what? I was the one that got Mises to come.” It was probably decades later that we crossed paths and that’s how one person, doing something — like bringing Mises in — can make changes and I found that fascinating.

JD: So, when you ultimately decided to run for Congress, the first time around in the Houston area, I wonder if people understand how beneficial it was that you were known as a medical doctor and an OB — it was a political asset for you in running for Congress.

RP: Yes, it was, as a matter of fact. We used it in our advertisements and our media person did an ad which was just, the lights coming on at my house. It was dark and I go out and get in the car and drive off and they show me going off and then me coming back home in the middle of the night. I got up and went and delivered a baby. Matter of fact, [Congressman and medical doctor] Michael Burgess was a medical student back then and after we got to know each other he said, “I saw your ads. That’s when I went into OBGYN. The ads were so impressive.” It had nothing to do with anything foreign policy or gold standard or anything else. It was just that I was an OB doctor and it was image making. When he told me that story, I said, “It’s too bad you just went into OB. I thought you’d become a libertarian.” But, he probably wouldn’t mind me saying that.

JD: Carol was a little astonished when you won? It changed your life, not always in great ways, in terms of family.

RP: Well, she wasn’t astonished. I was probably more astonished. It’s when I told her I was going to run. She said, it was risky, dangerous because you might win. I said no, I can’t possibly because I wasn’t involved in that. I was trying to get rid of Santa Claus and you don’t win doing that. She said, yeah, but you’re going to tell them the truth and they’re going to like that and they’re going to vote you in. So, yes, we had some adjustments to do. And that was one reason why after I had four terms, I came back to medicine for 12 years.

JD: One of the great things that came out of your first stint in Congress was your minority report, with Lewis Lehrman on The Case for Gold. You were part of the Minority Commission appointed by Ronald Reagan. Reagan is someone you saw through maybe more than a lot of conservatives did.

RP: Oh, yeah. Reagan was a nice guy and I think he believed in some good things, but he also was able to rationalize a lot of things. Deficit spending, big government, militarism. I didn’t like what he did in Libya, bombing Libya.

Also, he really had less to do with the gold commission than it sounds because it was passed under Carter the year before Reagan was in. So when Reagan was elected and it came up, it looked like they were just going to ignore it. We had to make sure that they did it and my involvement came about, interestingly, because I had talked about gold.

The most important outcome of that whole thing was that we legalized private ownership of gold again for the first time since the 1930s. The legislation was brought up under the IMF bill in 1983 and Jesse Helms and I sort of worked it together. But he was ahead of me on having it done. I think he was getting ready to do it in the Senate and they came to me and I was able to introduce it in the House.

The bill’s passage was a significant event, but that was a reflection of what was going on in ’79 and ’80. I mean, we went from gold not being owned by Americans and fixed at $35 an ounce at Bretton Woods, which was a disaster. It collapsed and then we had a decade of massive inflation and 15 percent interest rates then 21 percent and people were very, very concerned about the dollar and so, the purpose was to study the role of gold in the monetary system, domestic and international.

We had our first meeting and it was held in secret and [Donald] Regan was the chairman. He was Treasurer and he said, “we have to keep this secret because we don’t want to mess up the gold markets and all.” And guess who came to our rescue? Several people did, but [syndicated columnist and journalist] Bob Novak did. Novak was a gold guy and he started writing about it and he got enough people to pester them and then they turned the commission’s documents over. Few people in Washington wanted an open discussion.

JD: A lot of people may not know the story about President Reagan calling you to vote for funding for a bomber program. Tough call for a young congressman.

RP: Yeah, I was in the House restaurant and I think Carol was with me because usually when we had someone come from home, a guest, we’d go there. So, they came over and said, the president’s on the phone. I went to take the call and matter of fact, over the years, he did that I think twice, but this was the one on the B-1 bomber, that was controversial and he asked me — I was very, very polite and he was very polite — and I said, well I’m sorry, Mr. President because you know, I campaigned against that and I said I don’t think I can break my word. He said, okay, I understand. There wasn’t any badgering or anything like that, but then I went back and I told Carol.

JD: That’s a great story. He was a little more gentlemanly than Tom DeLay.

RP: DeLay was something else. He’s being rehabilitated.

JD: Yes. Do you have any thoughts on running against Phil Gramm in 1984 for US Senate in Texas?

RP: I was looking for a graceful way out of Congress and the Senate run was it because I did have a lot of supporters then and I didn’t want to insult them by just quitting. It was very, very clear that the establishment Republicans didn’t want me and they ganged up real fast to support Gramm. I don’t know of any other way that I could have done it, but it was sort of my desire to get home because in spite of all the stories you hear about Congressmen, back then I was probably making $40,000 or $50,000 a year and I had kids in school and it was not financially easy to go back and forth and have a couple homes and get kids through college. I decided that if I was going to go back to Congress, I had certain rules that I had. I was not going to have any kids still in school and I wouldn’t owe any money. I’d have my house and all my properties paid off and then I could be more relaxed in going back and not have to worry about the finances.

JD: So, when you decide to run again in 1996, people might not know how arrayed against you the GOP was. Then Governor George W. Bush of Texas and his man, Karl Rove, were not fans, and actually Newt Gingrich as speaker had the Democrats switch parties to run against you. So they didn’t want you back.

RP: They worked very, very hard. Matter of fact, that race is probably the most fascinating that I was involved in. It’s been written up in detail because when I decided I was going to run, I went and talked to the Republican delegation and I said, “I want to run.” I want to get another Republican seat for Texas because Greg Laughlan was the sitting Democrat in the 14th district where I lived.

I said I could get the seat. But, what shocked me is I didn’t know how quickly I could change it to a Republican seat a month later. With the backing of the Republican establishment, Laughlan became a Republican. He was on the Ways and Means Committee and the GOP promised him a million dollars and Newt Gingrich came on and he supported him. He got 56 — maybe, a large number, I think it was around 56 — other members of Congress to cough up and donate to his campaign and both Bushes, Senior and Junior, supported him. They didn’t want me in Congress.

But, it all backfired. We were tipped off at times when they were trying to bring somebody in to tell local voters to vote for Laughlan. I think it was somebody from the Reagan administration that they sent in. I can’t think of his name right now but he had been in the cabinet. We would know that he was coming in and then we had our press release ready the day before he arrived. The thing that we could use on this was, “why are they sending people from Washington to tell people in Texas how to vote?” And that was a powerful message.

And also, I knew for sure that the reason that race was so interesting was that they would use the drug issue. I was very clear about the War on Drugs and how could anybody be against the War on Drugs in a Bible Belt conservative Republican district in Texas? You can’t be elected like that.

So lo and behold, the Republican Party spent a million dollars or more, which was a lot of money then, and they did the most vicious ugly ads against me claiming that I’m giving drugs to kids and children, drug dealers and all this trash. And it didn’t work. I think most people didn’t believe it could possibly be true because they knew me more as a doctor taking care of and delivering babies. In fact, we answered it with an ad showing me delivering a baby. So, we had to combat this image. I ended up winning the primary.

But then the Democrats did the same thing, used the drug issue and I finally concluded that I thought I was absolutely alone, but I think the people are way ahead of Congress because there probably were a lot of families that had been touched by somebody because they smoked a marijuana cigarette and got thrown in prison. It was horrible. It still is bad and we’re seeing this today. I think the people either didn’t believe it or they weren’t going to hold it against me or they think the drug war was bad and I think time has proven that that was a good assessment, even though now we have an administration that’s trying to go backward.

JD: Well, when you come back to Congress, your second stint from 1997 until 2012, was marked by really two things that stick out. One is that you were strongly against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and you were involved in promoting noninterventionism. The other thing is that you were involved in monetary policy going back and forth with first Alan Greenspan and later Ben Bernanke. Give us your overriding thoughts about your second go in Congress.

RP: It was quite a bit different than the first time I ran. There was more attention and especially from 2008 on, from the presidential election in ’08 and ’12. It was just astounding and it was the issues that I liked to talk about, such as civil liberty issues.

I remember that I was totally shocked when I arrived at the University of Michigan, it was after a debate we had in Detroit, and there was a group of young people who had waited because I was late. But, we came over and that’s where they started shouting “end the Fed” and that’s where I remembered them doing that. I didn’t tell people. I didn’t have cards, hold cards up or say let’s end the Fed. It was spontaneous, so I knew something was going on, where people wanted to hear this message.

The other big issue was the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]. College kids started talking about that or bringing it up to me even before I was hitting hard about it. The main concern was the authority to arrest Americans and hold Americans without due process which has continued.

Those were the issues I like to talk about and of course, one of my biggest events — might have been the biggest one — was at the Berkeley campus. Things were going along and we got more attention on the Federal Reserve and people, even today, I think have a much healthier attitude about the Federal Reserve. I remember at the time seeing a poll conducted by a television station asking whose fault the recession was. I think that 66 percent agreed it was the Fed’s fault and I thought, “wow.” And this wasn’t on your website or my website. This was on the CNBC website. And I thought, well, something interesting is going on. They’re not going to get away with what they’ve gotten away with for a long time because we’re going to have another crisis and the media will say it’s the Fed’s fault.

JD: You knew Alan Greenspan a little bit and he understood gold and he understood Austrian economics. He’s a brilliant man.

RP: We had a little bit of fun at times and I had visited with him after some hearings about Murray Rothbard and different things because he knew Murray from the Rand group. I think the most fascinating little incident was because I remember his article in The Objectivist Newsletter and he was coming to one of our hearings and we were able to go and have a one-on-one, sit down and get a picture and say a few words. And not everybody did it, but I was interested in it. That’s generally not my thing, but for Greenspan, I thought, I might as well take advantage of this. I had the original green pamphlet, which was The Objectivist Newsletter and it was in 1966 and it was when Greenspan had his article first published. I said, “do you recognize this?” He knew what it was. “What I’d like you to do is sign this article for me.” So, he got his pen out and he signed this. I said, do  you want to put a disclaimer on it? And he said, “I just read that recently and I still support all those views.” What am I going to make of all that?

I’ve tried to get him on the Liberty Report, can’t get him on. I thought I could have some fun.

JD: Maybe if you pay his $200,000 speaking fee.

RP: Yes, probably.

JD: I recall you also had a breakfast with Ben Bernanke when he was Fed Chair. How did that go? Was that polite or was it frosty?

RP: It was polite and boring, in a way.

JD: He wasn’t the ideologue that Greenspan was.

RP: It might have been me not being aggressive enough or something. But, I’d have a much easier conversation with Volcker. Volcker, I got to know a lot better than I knew Bernanke and in the early 80s, there was a thing called the Monetary Control Act and there was a major part of it which was opening up the door for the Fed to monetize anything they want, especially foreign bonds. So, I complained about it and complained about it in my little way at the conference and Volcker invited me over. He said, “I’d like you to come over and have breakfast and we’ll talk about it some more.” But, it was sort of an academic thing, the way it was. It wasn’t like, “I’m going to straighten you out.” That wasn’t his attitude. So, this had to have been in ’79, most likely or ’80.

JD: Mr. Volcker should be on your show. He’s got a new biography.

RP: I don’t know whether we’ve reached out to him. He was more sympathetic to gold than some. So, when we went in, it was a one-on-one breakfast and we went over and the aide I had was somebody by the name of Lew Rockwell. We walk in and we got there a couple minutes early and Volcker’s staff was in the room where we were supposed to meet. So, we were just chatting away there in friendly conversation and then Volcker walks in, you can’t miss him because I think he’s about six-and-a-half feet tall. So, he walks in and I thought, “well I have to shake his hand and say hello.” He didn’t even look at me. He didn’t come to me. He went straight to his staff and he said, “what’s the price of gold?” So, I thought, “gold is important to him” and I still think it’s every bit as important to Fed people now because it is the ultimate measurement of the dollar. They can rig it and monkey around with it and play games, but ultimately, the market will have its say. That’s the way that Bretton Woods broke down the market. But then, of course, we talked and had the meeting and he didn’t convert me, but it was very polite. But, what I really remember about that was, he was very interested in what the price of gold was that morning.

JD: The other huge and unfortunate series of events that marked your second time in Congress were 9/11 and then our subsequent invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking back, talk about that terrible period with Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Wolfowitz. The Republicans in Congress were horrible too.

RP: We started this interview off with talking about how bad the Depression was and World War II, and Korea, and Vietnam. But then when you look at some trends today, some things are almost worse because of our aggressiveness. Back then, it was sort of dumb economic policy and Fed policy that gave us Depression and war. But, we had a declaration of war and it seemed like it was more acceptable, given the circumstances. But in the 21st century, things dramatically changed after 9/11, and the US has become far more aggressive. After all, 9/11 wasn’t the reason for the wars that followed. It was the excuse. Washington policymakers already knew what they wanted to do in the Middle East before 9/11 even happened.

My first speech, my first effort at peace, was shortly after I went back into Congress. I think it was 1998. It was the Iraq Freedom Act or I forget what it was called, but it was just intervention and threats and sanctions, that kind of stuff. I was saying those measures will lead to war. But, nobody was even talking about it in ’98, but it kept ratcheting up and getting worse and worse and worse.

It just was sort of unbelievable that’s what we were doing, and of course I wasn’t able to stop the war. I thought I was supposed to be there to help stop the wars, but they’re still going on.

JD: We’re going to feel the effects of these for decades and decades with the young people who’ve been hurt and need VA care.

RP: It’s horrible.

JD: And for all of your troubles, if you recall, there was that article in National Review from David Frum which called you and some other people, Pat Buchanan, “unpatriotic conservatives.” I always thought that you were neither. I think even some libertarians think of you as a conservative, but really you’re not in any political sense of that word.

RP: No, it’s a tricky word. Because some people could argue that if you technically want to follow the only oath that we take as members of Congress, that’s sort of conservative, to obey the oath and follow it. But “conservative” in the sense of being a warmonger, and supporting the war on drugs, and not having an understanding of civil liberties. That’s not a good kind of “conservative.” Also, conservatives today, they don’t admit it, but they’re big spenders, they’re huge spenders. So no, in that sense, we libertarians are not conservative. Besides, Mises and other libertarians never liked to be called conservatives. They wanted to be called liberals. That’s the trickiness of language. I generally steer clear of the labels.

I like to divide things into two parts: authoritarianism and volunteerism. On the one side are people who think that your life ought to be done on voluntary terms, as long as you reject aggression. On the other side are the authoritarians and they think they know what’s best for others. They really do. People I knew in Washington are convinced that people are idiots and therefore they can’t be responsible for themselves.

That’s why they don’t want ordinary people to own guns — and government should have all the guns. If you wanted to compare the number of people who die from government guns versus private guns — historically, government kills about 95 percent of the people. Maybe it’s worse than that, when you think of the 20th century.

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Mapping Where Firearm Deaths Are Most Prevalent

Firearm deaths in the United States receive an awful lot of attention.

Rightfully so, as a developed nation, the rate of violent deaths involving a firearm, and the horrendously frequent shootings targeting schools, is high.

Infographic: Where Firearm Deaths Are Most Prevalent | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

However, as Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes, compared to the whole world, the U.S. rate comes in well below countries such as El Salvador and Venezuela which had 72.5 and 64.3 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, respectively.

According to the Small Arms Survey, in the U.S. this rate is 3.1.

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The Crimean Bridge-Bombing Article Shows How Infowars Are Waged

Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,

A writer for the Washington Examiner called upon Ukraine to bomb the newly opened Crimean Bridge.

Tom Rogan implored the US’ newest Eastern European ally to hit Russia’s latest infrastructure project with airstrikes in order to render it temporarily unusable in a fantastical operation that he suggests could even receive American military support.

“…Ukraine should now destroy elements of the bridge. While that course of action would be an escalation against Putin and … almost certainly spark Russian retaliation, this bridge is an outrageous affront to Ukraine’s very credibility as a nation.

…from Putin’s perspective that’s the whole point. The bridge cost Russia’s near-bankrupt government billions of dollars, but it offers Putin a formal physical and psychological appropriation of Ukrainian territory…

Ukraine has the means to launch air strikes against the bridge in a manner that would render it at least temporarily unusable. Because of its significant length, the Ukrainian air force could strike the bridge while mitigating the risk of casualties by those traversing it…”

While recognizing that Russia would almost certainly retaliate, Rogan believes that the soft power benefits outweigh the hard power costs because of the immense symbolism of Ukraine bombing the bridge, an ultra-extremist position that proves his ideological radicalism.

He’s basically calling for Kiev to commit a terrorist attack against a civilian asset, an egregious crime that could in turn provoke an overwhelming Russian military response that obliterates the attacking party, and all of this just to make a propaganda point against President Putin.

Apart from how strategically counterproductive Rogan’s suggestion is to the same cause of Ukrainian statehood that he purports to uphold, his rant for the Washington Examiner is an abuse of the freedom of speech because it’s being used to rationalize terrorism and preemptively excuse it.

Not only that, but the author would certainly be investigated, if not immediately detained and interviewed by, the FBI if he publicly urged anyone to bomb an American bridge.

The Russian Investigative Committee (RIC) has opened a criminal case against the American journalist Tom Rogan, who implored the Ukraine to blow up the Crimean Bridge

Just like it usually happens though, the infowar aggressor is now presenting himself as the victim and vice-versa, with Rogan courting sympathy after he was pranked by some famous Russian comedians and had a criminal case opened against him in Moscow.

This is how perception management operations typically work because they oftentimes see a provocateur saying something absolutely absurd in order to prompt a reaction from the targeted party, after which the victimized person or country’s response is then reframed as a hostile and unprovoked attack that feeds into the desired audience’s confirmation bias.

Whether that was Rogan’s true intention or not, it looks like he’s trying to become the torchbearer of McCain’s anti-Russian crusade after the Senator passes away.

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Caught On Video: Islamist Mob Attacks Refugees In Greece “For Not Observing Ramadan”

Graphic video has emerged online showing a mob of baton-wielding Islamists attacking other Muslims in a refugee camp in Greece reportedly for not observing the Ramadan fast. Early unconfirmed Kurdish media reports claim 4 men were killed and many others injured as the group of attackers entered refugee tents with weapons Friday afternoon at a crowded camp in Moria on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

However, initial Greek media reporting indicates authorities are refuting rumors of the deaths, instead only confirming large clashes between Arab and Kurdish asylum seekers which resulted in injuries and evacuations.

One Greek news broadcast showed seriously injured victims being carried out of the camp, while viral video of the attack itself appears to show up to three bloodied men lying motionless on the ground with attackers carrying large metal batons standing over them, which could suggest the early reports of fatalities are indeed accurate. 

The UK-based Kurdish Solidarity Campaign said the men were brutally attacked by Islamists in the refugee camp specifically “for not observing Ramadan.” The Kurdish rights group identified at least three Kurds among the dead, while Iraq-based Kurdistan 24 identified a 60-year old man as among those brutally beaten,  his legs broken after being hit with metal bars. 

Warning: graphic content

Raman Ghavami, a freelance journalist and Jerusalem Post author, said the reports of deaths are accurate: “I was speaking to a member of EASO [the EU’s European Asylum Support Office] about the clashes in one of the refugees camps in Greece. She told me that some radical Muslims attacked Kurdish refugees (from Syria) who weren’t fasting with knives and metal bars. Three Kurds have lost their lives and 22 have been injured.’

Greek broadcast footage showing wounded victims being evacuated from the scene:

Kurdistan 24 interviewed victims and eyewitnesses, many of them transported to medical clinics on the island:

Moro Tarbush, a Syrian Kurdish refugee living in the aforementioned camp said four of his countrymen were killed in the clashes.

“Syrian and Iraqi Arab refugees in the camp attacked Kurdish families driven by sectarian and ethnic hatred against the Kurds and killed four people. Among them were my cousins Izzat Tarbush and Kaniwar Tarbush as well as Ahmad and Kaniwar from Afrin,” he said.

Within the context of the Syrian war, Kurds are often maligned by anti-Assad Sunni militants as “aetheistic”, not only due to historic ethnic enmity, but because the dominant Kurdish political and paramilitary groups are secular and far-left leaning.

During the years-long refugee crisis there’s been a string of similarly gruesome attacks on Kurdish refugee populations across Europe. Last year a Syrian-Kurdish refugee in Oldenburg, Germany was stabbed to death for smoking a cigarette and refusing to observe Ramadan the Islamic holy month during which practicing Muslims avoid eating, drinking liquids, and smoking in the daytime. And another major incident in Hamburg in 2014 resulted in riots breaking out as ISIS-sympathizers reportedly attacked a group of Kurdish protesters

But unlike a number of prior migrant on migrant attacks in Europe, Friday’s Greek refugee camp incident was caught on video; however, early Kurdish media reports say Greek authorities failed to act as the Islamist mob descended on the tents. At least one attacker covered his face, but some of what appear to be the lead attackers are pictured visibly on the videos. 

Middle East based Rudaw News reported “100s” of Arabs and Kurds involved in broader clashes in the camp — only a small snippet of which was caught on video, but denied that the wounded had actually died of their injuries. Early media reports continue to dispute whether or not 4 deaths resulted, though all confirm very serious injuries as a result of the violence. 

In total over 60,000 migrants and asylum seekers attempting to make their way to northern Europe have been stuck in Greece after multiple European nations closed their doors, partly out of fears that accepting masses of unvetted migrants could include Islamists bent on violence and acts of terror. 

* * *

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported this week that violent clashes between Greeks and migrants erupted as tensions continue to soar on Lesbos — the same island of Friday’s videotaped migrant-on-migrant Ramadan attack. 

Clashes between locals and migrants began after this bizarre scene:

About 200 Afghans had been camped for several days in a central square of Mytilene, the main port city of Lesbos, to protest living conditions in the government-run camps and delays in processing their asylum applications. Lesbos is one of the areas most burdened by the refugee crisis; about 8,700 of the 60,000 migrants living in Greek camps are housed there.

The clashes involved chants of “burn them alive” by locals enraged at the presence of overcrowded camps on the island:

On Sunday, local residents gathered in Mytilene to object to the presence of the Afghans, a demonstration that escalated into violence. Some of the protesters pelted the migrants in the square with flares, firecrackers and stones broken off sidewalks, and some chanted “burn them alive,” according to local news media.

No doubt, Greece’s already tattered economy and dire unemployment will hasten both authorities and locals to take extreme measures in any further confrontations involving refugees and migrants   which means things are certain to get worse before they get better. 

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12 Indications That The Next Major Global Economic Crisis Could Be Just Around The Corner

Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

There have not been so many trouble signs for the global economy in a very long time.  Analysts are sounding the alarm about junk bond defaults, the smart money is getting out of stocks at an astounding rate, mortgage rates are absolutely skyrocketing, and Europe is already facing a full blown financial meltdown. 

Of course expectations that another global economic crisis will happen among the general population are probably at an all-time low right now, but the reality of the matter is that we are probably closer to a new one erupting than at any point since the last one in 2008. 

Since the last financial crisis our long-term debt problems have just continued to grow, and there are many that believe that the next crisis will actually be far worse than what we experienced ten years ago.

So how bad are things at this moment?

The following are 12 indications that the next major global economic crisis could be just around the corner…

#1 The “smart money” is getting out of stocks at a rate that we haven’t seen since just before the financial crisis of 2008.

#2 Moody’s is warning that a “particularly large wave” of junk bond defaults is coming.  And as I have written about so many times before, junk bonds are often an early warning indicator for a major financial crisis.

#3 According to the FDIC, a closely watched category known as “assets of problem banks” more than tripled during the first quarter of 2018.  What that means is that some really big banks are now officially in “problem” territory.

#4 U.S. Treasury bonds are having the worst start to a year since the Great Depression.

#5 Mortgage interest rates just hit a 7 year high, and they have been rising at the fastest pace in nearly 50 years.  This is going to be absolutely crippling for the real estate and housing industries.

#6 Retail industry debt defaults have hit a record high in 2018.

#7 We are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings ever.

#8 The two largest economies on the entire globe are on the verge of starting an international trade war.

#9 The 9th largest economy in the world, Italy, is in the midst of yet another financial meltdown.  In fact, this one appears to be the worst yet, and there are fears that it could spread to other areas of the eurozone.

#10 Italian banking stocks crashed really hard this week.

#11 Italian two year bond yields are the highest that they have been since the crisis of 2014.

#12 German banking giant Deutsche Bank just announced that it will be cutting another 7,000 jobs as it “seeks to turn the page on years of losses”.  Those of you that have followed my work for a long time know that I have written extensively about Deutsche Bank, and it really is amazing that it has survived for this long.  If Deutsche Bank fails in 2018, it will essentially be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for the entire planet.

The mainstream media in the United States almost entirely ignores Europe, but I believe that what is going on over there is the key right now.

Italy is a financial basket case, and Europe isn’t going to be able to handle a complete and total Italian financial collapse.  If you will remember, Europe could barely handle what happened in Greece, and the Italian economy is many times the size of Greece.

The can has been kicked down the road several times before on the Italian crisis, but now we are getting to the point where it simply won’t be able to be kicked down the road any further.

And once things start unraveling over in Europe, we will be deeply affected in the United States as well.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever before, and at this point we are even more vulnerable than we were just prior to the crisis of 2008.

When this thing breaks loose, it won’t matter who is in the White House, who is in Congress or who is running the Federal Reserve.

When this bubble bursts there is nothing that anyone will be able to do to stop it.

Global central banks have been able to buy a few extra years of time by engaging in unprecedented levels of intervention, but now they are almost out of ammunition and events are beginning to escalate at a very frightening pace.

We shall see if they can pull another rabbit out of a hat in 2018, but I wouldn’t count on it…

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