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Falling From Grace

Falling From Grace

Years ago, Doug Casey mentioned in a correspondence to me, “Empires fall from grace with alarming speed.”

Every now and then, you receive a comment that, although it may have been stated casually, has a lasting effect, as it offers uncommon insight. For me, this was one of those and it’s one that I’ve kept handy at my desk since that time, as a reminder.

I’m from a British family, one that left the UK just as the British Empire was about to begin its decline. They expatriated to the “New World” to seek promise for the future.

As I’ve spent most of my life centred in a British colony – the Cayman Islands – I’ve had the opportunity to observe many British contract professionals who left the UK seeking advancement, which they almost invariably find in Cayman. Curiously, though, most returned to the UK after a contract or two, in the belief that the UK would bounce back from its decline, and they wanted to be on board when Britain “came back.”

This, of course, never happened. The US replaced the UK as the world’s foremost empire, and although the UK has had its ups and downs over the ensuing decades, it hasn’t returned to its former glory.

And it never will.

If we observe the empires of the world that have existed over the millennia, we see a consistent history of collapse without renewal. Whether we’re looking at the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish Empire, or any other that’s existed at one time, history is remarkably consistent: The decline and fall of any empire never reverses itself; nor does the empire return, once it’s fallen.

But of what importance is this to us today?

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Goodbye to the Dollar

Goodbye to the Dollar

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The inept and corrupt presidency of Donald Trump has unwittingly triggered the fatal blow to the American empire—the abandonment of the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency. Nations around the globe, especially in Europe, have lost confidence in the United States to act rationally, much less lead, in issues of international finance, trade, diplomacy and war. These nations are quietly dismantling the seven-decade-old alliance with the United States and building alternative systems of bilateral trade. This reconfiguring of the world’s financial system will be fatal to the American empire, as the historian Alfred McCoy and the economist Michael Hudsonhave long pointed out. It will trigger an economic death spiral, including high inflation, which will necessitate a massive military contraction overseas and plunge the United States into a prolonged depression. Trump, rather than make America great again, has turned out, unwittingly, to be the empire’s most aggressive gravedigger.

The Trump administration has capriciously sabotaged the global institutions, including NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, which provide cover and lend legitimacy to American imperialism and global economic hegemony. The American empire, as McCoy points out, was always a hybrid of past empires. It developed, he writes, “a distinctive form of global governance that incorporated aspects of antecedent empires, ancient and modern. This unique U.S. imperium was Athenian in its ability to forge coalitions among allies; Roman in its reliance on legions that occupied military bases across most of the known world; and British in its aspiration to merge culture, commerce, and alliances into a comprehensive system that covered the globe.”

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The American Empire Pivots Toward Venezuela

The American Empire Pivots Toward Venezuela

Many people are coming to quick takes on yesterday’s extraordinary decision by the U.S. government to recognize an unelected opposition leader as interim President of Venezuela based on their view of Maduro and his government. Similar to the emotional responses to those first clips of the Covington students and Nathan Phillips, such superficial opinions feel good and confirm biases, but don’t tell you much about what’s really going on. From my seat, the move by the Trump administration to choose the leader of Venezuela by diktat is just straight up imperial geopolitics. Nothing more, nothing less.

A month ago, I reassessed my geopolitical assumptions in the post, Is U.S. Geopolitical Strategy Experiencing a Monumental Shift? In it, I detailed how U.S. foreign policy seemed to be shifting toward a focus on containing China, which would lead to a far more serious confrontation between the world’s number one and number two economies.

I’ve now seen enough to seriously consider that we may be entering an entirely new geopolitical environment dominated by vastly increased tensions between the U.S. and China. If so, it will likely last a lot longer than you think as leaders in both China in the U.S. will be looking for a scapegoat as their crony, financialized economies struggle under unpayable debt and unimaginable levels of corruption.

With the attempt to push Russia back in Syria a clear failure, the neocons in Trump’s administration quickly got to work on their next scheme. Enter Venezuela.

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

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G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

The G20 summits are nominally about how the world’s biggest national economies can cooperate to boost global growth. This year’s gathering – more than ever – shows, however, that rivalry between the US and China is center stage.

Zeroing in further still, the rivalry is an expression of a washed-up American empire desperately trying to reclaim its former power. There is much sound, fury and pretense from the outgoing hegemon – the US – but the ineluctable reality is an empire whose halcyon days are a bygone era.

Ahead of the summit taking place this weekend in Argentina, the Trump administration has been issuing furious ultimatums to China to “change its behavior”. Washington is threatening an escalating trade war if Beijing does not conform to American demands over economic policies.

President Trump has taken long-simmering US complaints about China to boiling point, castigating Beijing for unfair trade, currency manipulation, and theft of intellectual property rights. China rejects this pejorative American characterization of its economic practices.

Nevertheless, if Beijing does not comply with US diktats then the Trump administration says it will slap increasing tariffs on Chinese exports.

The gravity of the situation was highlighted by the comments this week of China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, who warned that the “lessons of history” show trade wars can lead to catastrophic shooting wars. He urged the Trump administration to be reasonable and to seek a negotiated settlement of disputes.

The problem is that Washington is demanding the impossible. It’s like as if the US wants China to turn the clock back to some imagined former era of robust American capitalism. But it is not in China’s power to do that. The global economy has shifted structurally away from US dominance. The wheels of production and growth are in China’s domain of Eurasia.

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The Coming Bankruptcy of the American Empire

The Coming Bankruptcy of the American Empire

Better to bring the troops home on our terms than wait for a debt crisis to do it for us.

The chickens are coming home to roost. It’s only a question of when.

Herbert Stein was chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and is the father of the more well known Ben Stein. In 1976, he propounded what he called “Stein’s Law”: if something cannot go on forever, it will stop. Stein was referring to economic trends, but the same law applies just as much to foreign policy and the concept of empire.

Stein’s Law at first glance might seem like a banal platitude. But we should be fully cognizant of its implications: an unsustainable system must have an end. The American empire is internally flawed, a fact that anti-imperialists both left and right should appreciate.

The United States’ national debt is approaching $22 trillion with a current federal budget deficit of over $800 billion. As Senator Rand Paul often points out, bankruptcy is the Sword of Damocles hanging perilously close to Uncle Sam’s neck. Outside of a handful of libertarian gadflies in Congress such as Paul, there is no serious political movement to curb the country’s wayward spending. It would take some upset of multiple times greater magnitude than Donald Trump’s 2016 victory to alter this course.

The United States holds the most debt of any country in the history of the world. In fairness, when our debt-to-GDP ratio is factored in, there are many countries in far more perilous economic situations than the U.S. But there will come a tipping point. How much debt can the system hold?

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Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

A Glimpse Beyond the Unipolar Moment

A Glimpse Beyond the Unipolar Moment

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“Potentially the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia and perhaps Iran, an ‘anti-hegemonic’ coalition, united not by ideology but by complementary grievances” —Zbigniew Brzezinski

Are we reaching the penultimate and petulant back-end of the American Empire’s Unipolar Moment, a denouement hastened by a raft of sanctions regimes as imperiously doled out as they are laden with unconsidered paradox?

Though the sun is prohibited from casting its light between them, Nation and Empire are not an organically indivisible formation. Indeed Americans, no less than others, should relish the prospect of a resumed, unalloyed nationhood after decades of Empire co-optation. Few Americans realize the skulking entity that looms in the shadows of their overrun and diminished formal institutions as being a separable imposition capable of (to use a Benjamin Netanyahu phrase) drying up and blowing away.

Empire overlay is an uninvited and usurping agent bent on hostile, world-conquering aims to which America plays safe harbor and unwitting hostage in equal parts. Though the mode of exploitation varies, no nation on the world stage is left untouched by transnational exploitation.

EMPIRE EXPANSION

America, like all nations, is a boundaried fixity; whereas Empire despite travelling under the former’s name is a projective and extraterritorial expanse whose designs exceed the devise and interests of the nation-host itself. Invariably Empire doesn’t so much succumb to overreach as it overreaches the capacities of its nation-host; wrecking the balance sheet, debauching the currency, taxing the capacities of the deputized military and (most importantly as we shall see) sullying the conceptual coordinates so central to a nation’s actionable sense of self.

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Could Donald Trump be the Last World Emperor? States and Empires After the End of the Fossil Age

Could Donald Trump be the Last World Emperor? States and Empires After the End of the Fossil Age

Empires are short-lived structures created and kept together by the availability of mineral resources, fossil fuels in our times. They tend to decline and fall with the decline of the resources that created them, and that’s the destiny of the current World Empire: the American one. Will new empires be possible with the gradual disappearance of the abundant mineral resources of the past? Maybe not, and Donald Trump could be the last great emperor in history.

A warlord named Sargon of Akkad was perhaps the first man in history to rule a true empire, around mid 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Before him, humans had been warring against each other for millennia, but the largest social structures they had developed were no larger than city-states. Gradually, new forms of social aggregation emerged: kingdoms and empires, structures kept together by a central government that, normally, involves a larger than life male figure, emperor or king, who keeps the state together using a combination of force, prestige, and gifts.

Sargon’s Empire went through the normal destiny of the empires that came after it: glory and plunder at the beginning, then struggle, destruction and, finally, collapse. Nothing unusual for a cycle that would span millennia of human history. Taagenpera shows how empires come and go (image source)

The rise and fall of empires looks like a chemical reaction, flaring and then subsidizing, as a reaction running out of reactants — then restarting when new reactants have accumulated. For empires, the reactants might have been mineral resources — it may well be that Sargon’s empire was the result of silver having become a standard medium of exchange in Mesopotamia.
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How Executive Order 6102 Doomed America

BUENOS AIRES – Today, we woke up in Buenos Aires with a disagreeable headache… and a depressing hypothesis:

First, it doesn’t matter whether Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court or not; one more Deep State toad won’t make any difference.

Second, the Supreme Court has been derelict in its duty for the last 80 years.

For years, the Court has looked the other way as the feds robbed one class of citizen (ordinary, working people) and rewarded another (the elite).

Third, as a result, the American empire faces a catastrophic money crisis… probably accompanied by internal schisms, social breakdowns, and dangerous political scuffles.

Let’s begin by looking again at the connection between time and money.

Losing Time

If you work by the hour, the guy with money can buy your time. That’s what it really means to say someone is “rich” – he has more time because he can control not only his own, but yours, too.

The guy who had $1,000 worth of stocks in 1971 could buy approximately 250 of the average working man’s hours. Today, that $1,000 worth of stocks is worth about $28,000… which, at today’s $26-per-hour average, will buy 1,077 hours of the typical working man’s time – four times as much as in 1971.

In other words, compared to the wage earner, the capitalist is four times as rich.

Invert it, and you see about the same thing. A working man would have had to labor for 212 hours to buy the 30 Dow stocks in 1971. Today, his time is much less valuable; he has to sweat for 1,000 hours to buy the Dow.

That’s why the liberals whine about “inequality”… and probably why Donald J. Trump was elected. Few people may have done the math, but a lot of people suspected a rat.

And they were right.

Many – including the president – pointed their fingers… but at the wrong rat!

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Naked Emperors Don’t Get Much Respect

Naked Emperors Don’t Get Much Respect

What happens when most of your military infrastructure is suddenly obsolete?

The emperor was the last to realize he was naked. This is not unusual, emperors are the last to find out anything. Who has the fortitude to tell them the truth, especially an upsetting truth? And so it is with the US’s empire, the existence of which most of its citizens, media organs, and officials are unaware or won’t acknowledge. The truth is, the American empire, acknowledged or not, is over. It will be years before that’s accepted by the governing class. They’ll never officially inform their subjects, who are stuck with the tab for its immensely wasteful spending.

Empires are built on military strength. The American empire was no exception. Many Americans still think the US military enjoys the dominance it had back in 1946, a notion Vladimir Putin buried March 1. On that date he announced new weaponry which will render our naval surface fleet, ground forces, worldwide bases, and antiballistic systems obsolete (see here, here, and here). The US military leadership has grudgingly acknowledged many of Putin’s claims.

The unmistakable conclusion: most US military spending is the welfare state with epaulets. It pays for weapons, bases, and personnel whose uselessness would be revealed within half an hour after a non-nuclear war with Russia began. We have no conventional defenses against Russia’s new weaponry.

It’s cold comfort that US land installation, submarine, and airborne nuclear deterrents are still relevant. If Russia or anyone else launched a conventional or nuclear attack against us, we can annihilate the aggressor. The destruction we bore would be matched in kind, but the planet might be rendered uninhabitable.

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Why the American empire has lost control—and its failure is imminent

Why the American empire has lost control—and its failure is imminent

Pretending the world isn’t bleak feeds the mania for unreal hope that exists within American culture, argues Chris Hedges

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Adrian Lee)

Chris Hedges—Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, ordained Presbyterian minister, ferocious anti-corporate activist and prolific author—has long occupied an isolated spot among American public intellectuals, as much a moral crusader as a political critic. But as American, and Western, politics continue to decay and xenophobic nativism continues to rise, Hedges, 61, seems less and less an outlier, his critique of contemporary America more acceptable to his countrymen. And that’s without walking back any of his analysis. If Hedges was worried nine years ago in Empire of Illusion that his nation—like all republics before it—would fail to survive the acquisition of an empire, he’s now convinced it won’t. The title of his newest book, America: The Farewell Tour, says it all. In powerfully reported chapters—including “Decay” (deindustrialization), “Heroin” (the opioid epidemic), “Sadism” (the pornography-industrial complex), and “Hate” (racism)—Hedges talks to the most oppressed and dispossessed citizens of an empire he thinks has not much more than a decade of life left.

Q: A very bleak and wide-ranging report. The Farewell Tour is, in its way, the antithesis of Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now.

A: That book is the modern version of Candide. I mean it is completely unplugged from reality. Pinker, who has spent his life in academic gardens like Harvard, just doesn’t understand what societies look like when they break down. I’ve been there. I’m not an academic. I was primarily a war correspondent for 28 years. Pinker doesn’t get the dark side of human nature and how technology has, in degenerated societies, accelerated the power to commit wholesale slaughter. People love his book. It’s what they want to hear. But it’s not real.

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Is Germany Moving SWIFT-ly To CIPS?

Is Germany Moving SWIFT-ly To CIPS?

We have detailed how Russia and China have developed independent global payment systems that run parallel to the dollar based SWIFT system. We recently discussed how sanctions against Russia were actually “crushing the American empire“. The dollar based system is now obsolete and the entire world is questioning why the current system is the only way to conduct global trade. Well, it’s not.

The Federal Reserve Note (FRN), U.S. dollar is under attack in a variety of ways. We have been documenting the astronomical growth of the yuan backed futures oil contract and how this is going to impact the FRN and the American economy. We have also pointed out that Russia has dumped approximately 82% of their entire U.S. treasuries and Turkey recently announced they will be offloading approximately 50% of their treasury holdings.

At the most recent BRICS Summit, held in July, one of biggest take-aways was the fact the BRICS alliance was in talks with Turkey and the possibility of Turkey, which is a NATO “partner”, could join BRICS! This is to say nothing of China, which heads the BRICS alliance, is also in talks with Argentina and Venezuela.

Now we learn that Germany is on board with moving away from SWIFT and the “trade wars”, sanctions against Russia and President Trump forcing NATO “partners” to pay up. President Trump’s actions have pushed Germany away from their alliance with the U.S.. The German / Russian partnership is very important to the overall German economy and Trump’s recent demand that Germany stop doing oil business with Russia seems to have pushed them over the edge. There may be more at play here, but most all geopolitical issues in the 21st century boil down to oil, oil production and how to get the cheapest oil possible.

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The American Empire and its Media

The American Empire and its Media

Largely unbeknownst to the general public, executives and top journalists of almost all major US news outlets have long been members of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Established in 1921 as a private, bipartisan organization to “awaken America to its worldwide responsibilities”, the CFR and its close to 5000 elite members have for decades shaped U.S. foreign policy and public discourse about it. As a well-known Council member once explained, the goal has indeed been to establish a global Empire, albeit a “benevolent” one.

Based on official membership rosters, the following illustration for the first time depicts the extensive media network of the CFR and its two main international affiliate organizations: the Bilderberg Group(covering mainly the U.S. and Europe) and the Trilateral Commission (covering North America, Europe and East Asia), both established by Council leaders to foster elite cooperation at the international level.

CFR Media NetworkClick to enlarge 🔎

In a column entitled “Ruling Class Journalists”, former Washington Post senior editor and ombudsman Richard Harwood once described the Council and its members approvingly as “the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States”.

Harwood continued: “The membership of these journalists in the Council, however they may think of themselves, is an acknowledgment of their active and important role in public affairs and of their ascension into the American ruling class. They do not merely analyze and interpret foreign policy for the United States; they help make it. () They are part of that establishment whether they like it or not, sharing most of its values and world views.”

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U.S. Empire Still Incoherent After All These Years

U.S. Empire Still Incoherent After All These Years 

Exclusive: Without solid economic, political and ideological bases, the U.S. lacks the legitimacy and authority it needs to operate beyond its borders, argues Nicolas J.S. Davies in this essay.


I recently reread Michael Mann’s book, Incoherent Empire, which he wrote in 2003, soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Mann is a sociology professor at UCLA and the author of a four-volume series called The Sources of Social Power, in which he explained the major developments of world history as the interplay between four types of power: military, economic, political, and ideological.

In Incoherent Empire, Mann used the same framework to examine what he called the U.S.’s “new imperialism” after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He predicted that, “The American Empire will turn out to be a military giant; a back-seat economic driver; a political schizophrenic; and an ideological phantom.”

What struck me most forcefully as I reread Incoherent Empire was that absolutely nothing has changed in the “incoherence” of U.S. imperialism.  If I picked up the book for the first time today and didn’t know it was written 15 years ago, I could read nearly all of it as a perceptive critique of American imperialism exactly as it exists today.

In the intervening 15 years, U.S. policy failures have resulted in ever-spreading violence and chaos that affect hundreds of millions of people in at least a dozen countries. The U.S. has utterly failed to bring any of its neo-imperial wars to a stable or peaceful end.  And yet the U.S. imperial project sails on, seemingly blind to its consistently catastrophic results.

Instead, U.S. civilian and military leaders shamelessly blame their victims for the violence and chaos they have unleashed on them, and endlessly repackage the same old war propaganda to justify record military budgets and threaten new wars.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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