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Friday, January 31, 2014
Britain could have lived with a German victory in the first world war, and should have stayed out of the conflict in 1914, according to the historian Niall Ferguson, who described the intervention as "the biggest error in modern history".
In an interview with BBC History Magazine, Ferguson said there had been no immediate threat to Britain, which could have faced a Germany-dominated Europe at a later date on its own terms, instead of rushing in unprepared, which led to catastrophic costs.
"Britain could indeed have lived with a German victory. What's more, it would have been in Britain's interests to stay out in 1914," he said before a documentary based on his book The Pity of War, which will be screened by BBC2 as part of the broadcaster's centenary season.
The Laurence A Tisch professor of history at Harvard University rejected the idea that Britain was forced to act in 1914 to secure its borders and the Channel ports. "This argument, which is very seductive, has one massive flaw in it, which is that Britain tolerated exactly that situation happening when Napoleon overran the European continent, and did not immediately send land forces to Europe. It wasn't until the peninsular war that Britain actually deployed ground forces against Napoleon. So strategically, if Britain had not gone to war in 1914, it would still have had the option to intervene later, just as it had the option to intervene after the revolutionary wars had been under way for some time."
It was remarkable, he said, that Britain intervened on land so early in 1914, when quite unprepared.
"Creating an army more or less from scratch and then sending it into combat against the Germans was a recipe for disastrous losses. And if one asks whether this was the best way for Britain to deal with the challenge posed by imperial Germany, my answer is no.
"Even if Germany had defeated France and Russia, it would have had a pretty massive challenge on its hands trying to run the new German-dominated Europe and would have remained significantly weaker than the British empire in naval and financial terms. Given the resources that Britain had available in 1914, a better strategy would have been to wait and deal with the German challenge later when Britain could respond on its own terms, taking advantage of its much greater naval and financial capability."
For Full Article, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/30/britain-first-world-war-biggest-error-niall-ferguson
This past Sunday evening former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sat down for an interview with German television network ARD. The interview has been intentionally blocked from the US public, with virtually no major broadcast news outlets covering this story. In addition, the video has been taken down almost immediately every time it’s posted on YouTube.
In contrast, this was treated as a major political event in both print and broadcast media, in Germany, and across much of the world. In the interview, Mr. Snowden lays out a succinct case as to how these domestic surveillance programs undermines and erodes human rights and democratic freedom.
He states that his “breaking point” was “seeing Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directly lie under oath to Congress” denying the existence of a domestic spying programs while under questioning in March of last year. Mr. Snowden goes on to state that, “The public had a right to know about these programs. The public had a right to know that which the government is doing in its name, and that which the government is doing against the public.”
It seems clear that the virtual blackout of this insightful interview is yet another deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth from the view of the American public. The media has continually attempted to shill the official government lies about mass domestic surveillance programs, justifying them as necessary to fight the “War on Terror”, while attempting to painting Mr. Snowden as a traitor.
In regards to accusations that he is a traitor or a foreign agent, he states, “ If I am traitor, who did I betray? I gave all my information to the American public, to American journalists who are reporting on American issues. If they see that as treason, I think people really need to consider who they think they’re working for. The public is supposed to be their boss, not their enemy. Beyond that as far as my personal safety, Ill never be fully safe until these systems have changed.”
The attempt to bury this interview by the government/corporate symbiosis has extremely dark implications. Additionally, the fact that government officials have openly talked about assassinating Mr. Snowden cannot be taken lightly, and Mr. Snowden obviously takes these threats to his life very seriously. Sadly, the reality of the US government assassinating an American citizen is not beyond the realm of possibility in the age we live in.
For Full Article, go to: http://benswann.com/media-blacks-out-new-snowden-interview-the-government-doesnt-want-you-to-see/
Thursday, January 30, 2014
For FULL article, go to: http://takimag.com/article/self_esteem_ueber_alles_robert_weissberg/print#axzz2rlO7Nm9c
Around the world, emerging markets are tumbling. Their currencies are getting slammed and equity markets are selling off.
There are a combination of factors behind the sell-off, including the slowdown in China, unwinding of carry trades, domestic political issues, and monetary policy of the world's biggest central banks.
But the escape from emerging markets (EM) has been brewing for a while.
Investors have been shifting out of EM since mid-2013, when long-term interest rates began rising in the U.S. as the Federal Reserve primed the marketplace for a long-awaited reduction in monetary stimulus.
Much of the inflows into EM assets in recent years were predicated on a search for yield in the absence of any in developed markets. But as U.S. interest rates have risen in recent months, there has been less and less of a justification to be invested in EM, and those flows have begun to reverse.
Since the beginning of 2014, however, U.S. Treasury yields have reversed course from multi-year highs and have fallen swiftly. Yet EM currencies have continued to tumble, breaking the relationship with Treasury yields established in 2013, as Chart 1 shows.
And while rising Treasury yields have proven to be a challenge for EM, falling yields in the past week or so have become even more toxic, given the environment in which that drop in yields has occurred.
Disappointing manufacturing data out of China last week and grim headlines on developments in the country's shadow banking system were enough to spark the unwind of levered bets in the hedge fund community that had become too one-sided.For FULL article, go to: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-emerging-markets-are-tanking-2014-1?utm
Testing is terrible for learning, destroys student and teacher morale, and impedes opportunities for productive, meaningful teaching. This oft-repeated axiom has become accepted as true without proof. Opposition to testing and all its associated ills has led to an over-generalization of the word “test” and an unwarranted reputation as the embodiment of all that is wrong with American education.
One researcher believes we are throwing a very effective learning tool out with our educational bathwater, and asserts that we should be testing students more, not less.
Henry L. Roediger III, a cognitive psychologist at Washington University, studies how the brain stores, and later retrieves, memories. He compared the test results of students who used common study methods—such as re-reading material, highlighting, reviewing and writing notes, outlining material and attending study groups—with the results from students who were repeatedly tested on the same material. When he compared the results, Roediger found, “Taking a test on material can have a greater positive effect on future retention of that material than spending an equivalent amount of time restudying the material.” Remarkably, this remains true “even when performance on the test is far from perfect and no feedback is given on missed information.”
While contemporary mythology has it otherwise, the market is not a distinct phenomenon: it is what exists when people interact and otherwise voluntarily transact with each other. The broad definition of the market is simply what people (choose to) do when they are not forced to do otherwise. So it is not surprising that even the Soviet Union, “despite” its anti-market rhetoric, fundamentally relied on markets: foreign markets for prices to guide planners’ economic calculation, and domestic black markets for resource allocation and goods distribution according to people’s real needs and preferences. The black market, indeed, was “a major structural feature” of the Soviet economy.
In other words, we should expect to see markets wherever governments fail. Or, to put it more accurately, markets exist where government cannot sufficiently repress or otherwise crowd out voluntary exchange.
So it should be no surprise that, as The Local reports, Swedes en masse get private health care insurance on the side of the failing welfare systems. This is indirectly a result of the relatively vast liberalization of the Swedish economy over the course of the past 20 years (as I have noted here and here), which has resulted in the “experimental” privatization of several hospitals (even one emergency hospital is privately owned). While previously only the political elite (primarily, members of the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament) had access to private health care through insurance, the country now sees a blossoming and healthy insurance market.
Private health care insurance was initially offered to employees as part of employers’ benefits packages, since this ensured direct access to care when needed, and a faster return to work. This trend was easily recognizable in service sectors heavily dependent on the skill and knowledge of individual employees. Working as a professional consultant in Sweden in the late 1990s and 2000s, I personally experienced and benefited from such private health care insurance through my employer. This type of very affordable insurance provided same-day appointment with GPs and specialists alike, whereas going to the public hospital would have entailed waiting in line during the overcrowded “open access” times or waits of perhaps a week or more to see a GP.
My experience is first-hand with both alternatives, and they were at the time as different as night and day. While talking heads in the media cried out that private insurance created a “fast track” for “the rich,” the net effect for the already overwhelmed public health care system was relief through decreased demand. As we should expect from any shift toward market, everybody was ultimately better off thanks to this (limited) marketization of Swedish health care (perhaps excepting bureaucrats who previously enjoyed the power to directly control health care).
For FULL article, go to: http://mises.org/daily/6649/The-Market-is-Taking-Over-Swedens-Health-Care
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Another day, another dose of bad news for ObamaCare. On Thursday, Moody’s Investor Service announced it was downgrading its outlook for America’s healthcare insurance sector from “stable” to “negative,” due to ObamaCare. “While all of these issues had been on our radar screen as we approached 2014, a new development and a key factor for the change in outlook is the unstable and evolving regulatory environment under which the sector is operating,” Moody’s said. “Notably, new regulations and presidential announcements over the last several months with respect to the ACA have imposed operational changes well after product and pricing decisions had been finalized.”
Moody’s is being polite. It is no secret that President Obama has made unilateral and constitutionally suspect decisions to postpone or alter major sections of the law. His ham-fisted attempts to mitigate the political damage attending the disastrous website rollout, and his oft-repeated lie that Americans could keep their insurance policies and doctors, has wreaked havoc on insurers struggling to keep up with the massive fiscal adjustments those decisions engendered.
Moody’s also cited the the lack of enrollment by younger, healthier Americans needed to keep the healthcare plan fiscally viable as another reason for the downgrade. “Uncertainty over the demographics of those enrolling in individual products through the exchanges is a key factor in Moody’s outlook change,” the ratings agency added.
Moody’s must be referring to uncertainty going forward, because it’s not uncertain as to what the demographic totals are so far. On January 13, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced that only 24 percent of Americans signing up for ObamaCare were part of the coveted youth demographic. That’s well below the 39 percent the White House contended was necessary for the law to work. They also revealed that as of Dec. 28, the totalnumber of signups for ObamaCare had reached 2.2 million, well below the 3.3 million they had targeted to sign up by that time.For FULL article, go to: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/arnold-ahlert/downgraded-insurance-companies-taste-wrath-of-obamacare/
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States was a disaster. In endorsing an executive order that required 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry to be removed from their homes and confined in detention camps, the court relied on wartime hysteria streaked with racism, sullying its reputation and damaging the constitutional principles it was meant to uphold.
Justice Antonin Scalia has rankedKorematsu alongside Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that black slaves were property and not citizens, as among the court’s most shameful blunders.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer has written that Korematsu has lost all potency as precedent. “The decision has been so thoroughly discredited,” he wrote in a recent book, “that it is hard to conceive of any future court referring to it favorably or relying on it.”
But Korematsu has never been overruled.
Calls for the Supreme Court to renounce the ruling started almost immediately after it was issued, and have persisted for 70 years. “Public expiation in the case of the internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast would be good for the court, and for the country,” Eugene V. Rostow wrote in 1945 in The Yale Law Journal.
The jurisprudential problem for the court is that it needs a proper setting in which to overrule a decision. It rules on live controversies, and the mass detention of citizens has not arisen again.
The failure to make a definitive statement may also reflect a lack of judicial creativity. The court can say what it likes about its earlier rulings, and it would cost nothing but ink to say something about Korematsu.
For FULL article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/28/us/time-for-supreme-court-to-overrule-korematsu-verdict.html
For FULL article, go to: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/evolution-the-culture-war/#post-comments
“Privacy is dead in the digital world that we live in,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at San Jose, California-based Zscaler. “I tell people, unless you are comfortable putting that statement on a billboard in Times Square and having everyone see it, I would not share that information digitally.”
The latest disclosures from Snowden underscore how vast a treasure trove mobile apps are, and not only for the advertisers that sweep them for consumer data. Zscaler’s analysis found that 96 percent of the top 25 social-networking apps request e-mail access, 92 percent ask for access to users’ address books and 84 percent inquire about their physical locations. Sutton said most people give the apps what they want.
Applications for smartphones and tablets present a challenge when it comes to security because, unlike with computer software, most apps depend almost entirely on ads to make money.
While technology companies often encrypt what they collect to shield it from prying eyes, the advertising services they work with frequently don’t, said Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder and chief technology officer of Lookout Inc. in San Francisco.
Lookout studied 30,000 apps a day this month and found that 38 percent of those for Android systems could determine locations, that half could access the unique code assigned to a person’s device and that 15 percent could grab phone numbers.
The reach of apps, and of the networks advertisers use to pass data around, make them natural eavesdropping targets and are aiding a shift in the focus of surveillance efforts away from personal computers, Mahaffey said.
“They have a lot of valuable information and they’re everywhere,” he said. “Everyone from the NSA to Microsoft to Google see mobile as the future.”
Google, based in Mountain View, California, declined to comment and referred to a statement from the Application Developers Alliance, a trade group to which it belongs.
For FULL article, go to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/nsa-spying-on-apps-shows-perils-of-google-candy-crush-.html
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt's revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble.
Ayman's Arabic-language teacher told him to cover his tattoo in class. Instead of complying, the young man defiantly pulled out the cross that hung around his neck, making it visible. His teacher flew into a rage and began choking him, goading the young man's Muslim classmates by saying, "What are you going to do with him?"
Ayman's classmates then beat him to death. False statements were given to police, and two boyswere taken into custody only after Ayman's terror-stricken family spoke out.
Ayman's suffering is not an isolated case in Egypt or the region.
The Arab Spring, and to a lesser extent the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, were touted as the catalysts for a major historic shift in the region. From Egypt to Syria to Iraq, the Middle East's dictatorships would be succeeded by liberal, democratic regimes. Years later, however, there is very little liberality or democracy to show. Indeed, what these upheavals have bequeathed to history is a baleful, and barely noticed legacy: The near-annihilation of the world's most ancient communities of Christians.
The persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East, as well as the silence with which it has been met in the West, are the subject of journalist Ed West's Kindle Single "The Silence of Our Friends." The booklet is a brisk and chilling litany of horrors: Discriminatory laws, mass graves, unofficial pogroms, and exile. The persecuted are not just Coptic and Nestorian Christians who have relatively few co-communicants in the West, but Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants as well.
For FULL article, go to: http://theweek.com/article/index/255403/the-worlds-most-ancient-christian-communities-are-being-destroyed-mdash-and-no-one-cares
June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the multinational Habsburg realms, resplendent in the dress uniform of an Austrian cavalry general, but also absurd in his plumed headdress, was shot at close range by Gavrilo Princip, a local student dropout obsessed with the Serbian national cause. Sarajevo was one of history’s most purple passages: there was the drama of bungled security and hamfisted conspiracy; spectacle and gore; the play of intention and chance; the clash of generations and civilizations, of the old monarchical Europe and the modern terrorist cell.
But of course the Sarajevo assassination captivates posterity for its consequences. Piqued in its prestige and fearful of the threat to its status as a great power by subversion fanned from Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian government delivered an ultimatum to its obstreperous little Balkan neighbor, demanding a say in the management of its internal affairs.
Russia stepped in to protect its Serbian clients; the Germans supported their Austrian allies; the French marched to fulfill their treaty obligations to Russia; Great Britain honored its commitment to come to the aid of France. Within five weeks a great war had broken out. At the very least, this is a gripping tale. Sean McMeekin’s chronicle of these weeks in July 1914: Countdown to War is almost impossible to put down.
Thus was unleashed the calamitous conflict that, more than any other series of events, has shaped the world ever since; without it we can doubt that communism would have taken hold in Russia, fascism in Italy, and Nazism in Germany, or that global empires would have disintegrated so rapidly and so chaotically. A century on we still search for its causes, and very often, if possible, for people to blame. In the immediate aftermath of war that seemed clear to many: Germany, and especially its leaders, had been responsible; the Austrians too, as accomplices, in lesser degree. The Treaty of Versailles made this official, as the victorious powers there spoke of a “war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” This was the notorious guilt clause used to justify severe “reparation” payments stretching far into the future. It was a widespread view, and ordinary Germans might have shared it if the vanquishers had not gone for the premise of collective responsibility, which undermined attempts to build a fresh German regime untainted by the past.For FULL article, go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/feb/06/greatest-catastrophe-world-has-seen/?insrc=hpma
After the deluge: Japan’s response to the 2011 tsunami demonstrated its enduring strengths ©PA
David Pilling is the Asia Editor of the Financial Times. He was its Tokyo Bureau Chief from 2002-2008 and he has drawn on his time in Japan in his new book, “Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival” (Allen Lane, £20). Pilling’s book begins and ends with the earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan in March 2011. But the story he tells is a much bigger one: of Japan’s ability to overcome “successive waves of adversity from would-be Mongolian invasions to repeated natural disasters”. Japan’s national genius, Pilling implies, lies in the art of recovery. I talked to him during his recent visit to London from Hong Kong.
JD: The title of your book, Bending Adversity, comes from a Japanese proverb about turning bad fortune into good. But this doesn’t just give you a title does it? It’s your organising metaphor too.
DP: It’s a sort of organising principle, yes. After the tsunami, I called an old friend of mine, someone who’d been a vice-governor of the Bank of Japan, and he quoted this saying to me. It says something like, “Make the best of a bad situation.” I wanted a more literal transition and I came up with: “Bend adversity and turn it into fortune.” I thought this was an interesting way of organising a book that was going to start and finish with the tsunami.
People have often thought of Japan as a place where nothing changes until there’s a huge crisis and then everything changes. The two data points, as Bill Emmott memorably put it in a review of my book, are the Meiji Restoration, where Japan ripped up feudalism and established a parliamentary democracy of sorts in a very short space of time, and the second was ditching its attempt to become a “great power” by building up an empire and changed to becoming a “great power” through economic development. But even the feudal Japan that preceded the Meiji Restoration had actually been changing in all sorts of ways already—this was not just some static, feudal society that had been ever thus. And so it was primed for adversity. It was ready. So when adversity came it could move quite quickly. I think that’s a more sensible way of looking Japan. Another way that people tend to talk about Japan is to see it as change-averse. But I think it is adaptive. It adapts and changes like many other societies do.
This point about Japan’s way of bending with, or adapting to, adversity is also central to your account of the so-called “lost decades” of the 1990s and 2000s. You suggest that those years weren’t quite as lost as the standard story makes out. Do you think the way Japan has dealt with years of apparent economic stagnation is a kind of object-lesson for the west, as it contemplates the possibility that it too might now be mired in what some economists have been calling “secular”, or long-term, stagnation?
I think Japan has done better than people think, but the idea that it’s any kind of model is way over done. It did make some serious policy mistakes, one being to allow deflation to take such a grip. Certainly, it has to some extent been in what is called a “deflationary equilibrium” in which, in some senses, living standards have been preserved and real growth per capita has been at western levels or thereabouts. Just to step back a bit: we greatly exaggerated the threat posed by this astonishing economy that was emerging in the 1980s and was supposed to be going to overtake America. If we didn’t organise our own companies on Japanese lines, with people bowing and singing company songs, they were going to smash the hell out of us. That was the ridiculous story in the Eighties.
The ridiculous story we’ve been given in more recent years is that everything Japan did was wrong and inevitably led to this stagnant, non-changing, non-adaptive society. But neither of those stories was true. They’re both exaggerations and one is perhaps a reaction to the other. So I think the last 20 years [of Japanese] history needs to be reassessed.
As for whether Japan is a model or not—a lesson from Japan is the danger of bubbles. You could argue that Japan is still getting over a bubble that burst in 1990. Companies have built up massive savings post-bubble and because they’re sitting on all these savings, there’s a huge problem for Japanese demand, which has had to be filled by the government. I think Japan should have dealt with all this earlier and more radically.
Does it follow from you said about the danger of bubbles that the reasons for Japanese decline in the Nineties aren’t distinctive or specific to Japan? In other words, was this just a textbook case of irrational exuberance?
I think there’s a lot in that. There may be other factors as well. For instance, Japan’s demography began to change in the 1990s. I would also add that, after the Second World War, Japan had a very good catch-up model, the best the world had ever seen—a model of how to move from being a poorish country to one as rich as many European countries and catching up with American living standards in terms of GDP per capita. It was based on manufacturing, on continually improving the manufacturing process, making things westerners made but making them better. It was brilliant at that. But that model has run out of steam in the digital age. It’s adapted less well to the digital world where systems, openness and integration have become more important. The classic case is Sony. It had this brilliant product, the Walkman, which revolutionised the way we listened to music. It had all the technology to produce something like the iPod and it never did, because it was stuck in this engineering mindset.
Certainly Japan’s strengths in the catch-up phase are still important, and probably underrated even today, but the world has moved on and Japan has not necessarily moved on as quickly as it ought to have done. There are exceptions to that—there are interesting things going on—but certainly Japan is no longer the powerhouse it was in the manufacturing, analogue age.
The book has a wide historical sweep. A crucial part of the story you’re telling is the Meiji Restoration in the second half of the 19th century, what one might describe as Japan’s entry into modernity.
Japan looked at China, the great power that it had looked up to for centuries, and it saw it being chopped up like a melon. A small British contingent brought the Chinese empire to its knees. And so the modernist thinkers in Japan—among them Fukuzawa Yukichi—came to the conclusion that Japan needed to embrace the west, to learn from it. Fukuzawa was one of the most subtle thinkers of the time. There were those who thought Japan had to learn the tricks of the west in order to repel it. Fukuzawa was more subtle: he said, no, the west is about rational thought and scientific discovery. He thought Japan needed an enlightenment. But you could argue that his hope has never fully been fulfilled. The two important data points that I mentioned earlier—the Meiji Restoration and the postwar economic recovery—were both revolutions imposed from above. In the first instance, a clique of Samurai decided that Japan needed to rejuvenate, because otherwise it was going to be overrun. And then the change after the Second World War was ushered in by the Americans.
For FULL article, go to: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/derbyshire/the-rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-japan-an-interview-with-david-pilling/#.Uuet29LnZkg
For FULL article, go to: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/01/publishes-holocaust-trivia.html
El Salvador: A War By Proxy
Keith Preston, Black House Publishing, 145 Pages
Available for purchase from Amazon here
Reviewed by Gilbert Cavanaugh
A few weeks ago, I was reading Sam Francis'sEssential Writings on Race at work, and a co-worker I knew to be an anarchist gave the book a queer look and asked about it. As you might imagine, our conversation did not proceed pleasantly. At one point I asked him what he made of the blood-and-soil movements left-wingers seem sympathetic to, such as the Zapatistas in Central America or the Basques in the Iberian Peninsula. He gave a non-answer, and the conversation petered out.
Although experience has taught me to expect exactly the above (or worse) from anarchists I personally encounter, Keith Preston is an unapologetic and admirable exception. As a National Anarchist, he respects the desires of all anti-globalist dissidents, and has now spent several years devoting himself to the thankless task of trying to organize them into a united anti-System front. After spending some time bouncing from one dissident website to another (e.g.. Takimag andLewRockwell), he became a mainstay on Alternative Right, and then founded his own website Attack the System. He is also a regular at the H.L. Mencken Club, hasspoken at NPI events, and is all over the Reason Radio Network, both interviewing and being interviewed.
Likely his most famous work (which I cannot recommend too highly) is his essay, "Free Enterprise: The Antidote to Corporate Plutocracy," which won him the 2008 Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize. Both the above essay, and Mr. Preston's work in general, possess a unique way of tackling issues in a very thorough and direct manner, always employing facts instead of hearsay and following the logic of arguments to their natural end. His ability to stay level headed likely contributes to his methodological way of deconstructing left-wing perspectives on this or that issue. An impressive author, through and through. But I was not asked to review Keith Preston himself, or his career, but to review his latest book, El Salvador: A War by Proxy.