• In Kabul

  • US pres Biden invokes Defense Protection Act to get US producers to make more parts for clean energy

    They also lifted tariffs on solar powers from (not China but) Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand.

    US is investigating if some Chinese companies are circumventing US customs duties by assembling parts in poor countries.

    The same Defense Production Act that Biden used to force more baby food production: Baby formula shortage in USA big plant (Abbot in Michigan) was put on pause by the FDA. After some

  • Phoenix, AZ hottest property market for 33 months straight now

  • Bretton Woods 3 - New world monetary order

    Being talked about by some as having started when Russia invaded Ukraine, and the US (and West) blocked Russia's access to it's money with economic sanctions. Written about for everyone by Zoltan Pozsar, strategist at Credit Suisse.

    The first Bretton Woods (the only formal actual agreement) was in 1944 (700 delegates from 44 allied nations met in New Hampshire for 3 weeks in July, establishing the IMF and a part of what would later be the World Bank). The British Pound was decreasing in value. The US dollar became the world standard. It was pegged to gold. It became the most common reserve currency (when a country exports more than it imports, it will end up holding foreign currency, so it has to decide which foreign currency to hold. Most picked US dollar). The second (informal but considered to be) "Bretton Woods" happened when in 1971 (but Bretton Woods I was considered OVER by 1973) Nixon decided the US was going off US-gold convertibility (after the US decoupled many fixed currencies followed, and currencies were allowed to float relative to each other - fiat currency. Price stability was the job of the central bank, controlling inflation, keeping it low, stable and predictable. (US buying a lot of Chinese goods and China holding US reserve currency was a hallmark of BW2. This Chinese holding of USD peaked in 2014 but is still up there). Dollar hegemony.

    "Bretton Woods 3:" The West imposed severe sanctions on Russia this year, and Russia therefore had access to only $300b of its $600b of foreign reserves. The result is that central banks of every country are now concerned their foreign reserves can be confiscated this way if their actions fall foul of US policy.

    Zoltan Pozsar says the core of our portfolios (and also the monetary system) will be in commodities in the future, and that central banks might have to bail out commodity traders (which seems to people an odd thing to say).

    Zoltan drew an analogy between subprime assets 2008 which triggered the global financial crisis AND Russian commodities, which he considers to be sub prime. Prime assets are non-Russian commodities, which are kind of like treasuries in 2008, the safe haven assets everyone wanted to protect them from the equity storm. Urals (Russian) crude oil currently trades $30 (huge difference) below the price of Brent (delivered in the North Sea).

    China, says Zoltan, will play a large role in bringing those subprime commodities (Russian ones) and prime commodities (non-Russian ones). Because China has lots of reserves and it also has not imposed sanctions on Russia.

    Zoltan sees a multi-polar world emerging, where we're no longer dominated by US dollar trading. We'll use Renminbi when trading with China, Rubles when trading with Russia. Ie weaker dollar and stronger Renminbi. If China wants to do this (bring R subprime and non-R prime commodities back into line, it can: sell treasuries, which would push up the yield in the US and with that money buy Russian commodities. Use some of that money to lease US vessels (raising shipping costs and thereby inflation in the West) and use ships to store commodities if it runs out of storage space in China. Another way China could do this thing is if the Chinese government prints renminbi and use that to buy commodities from Russia. This would also push up US yields (and therefore inflation because its still a supply squeeze) because they wouldn't have to store any dollars in US treasuries, because a big buyer of US treasuries would suddenly disappear.

    If this happened, there would be not just the US dollar "eurodollar" (nothing to do with Euros) market but also a renminbi market. End of US dollar hegemony.

    Either of these two options China has, Zoltan says, will cause higher inflation in the West, higher yet US treasury yields, and higher shipping costs (also inflationary). Another result is commoditiy volatility, rising up fast, crashing down (remember the London nickel exchange crash day written about on this blog?) Commodity traders could fail and become bankrupt. Central clearing counterparties could also fail, leading to government bailouts.

    And, as Larry Fink has talked about, the end of globalization because of resource nationalism (as a defensive measure), stockpiling of commodities, and rethinking (localizing and multiplying) supply chains.

  • "Globalization, which historically was viewed as a barrier to conflict due to the interdependent nature of global trade, has now become a new battleground." - Patrick Boyle

    China recently stated that the US's use of weaponization of global finance (sanctions on Russia [after doing it to Iran's central bank a few years ago]) would be the downfall of it's status as world reserve currency. Ie integrity.

    China has a version of Swift, and India is considering (so far just considering) doing a Ruble-Rupee exchange or working in barter.

    Most of the West is on side, sanctioning Russia, and that makes up the bulk of currency action, but there are still 100 countries or something that are not sanctioning Russia. Brazil is another country that might help Russia work around the sanctions. Boyle said the use of sanctions in the way the US is doing will have many countries wondering if they can still trust the US.


  • "Note that [the US] cannot simultaneously embargo these three places," Samo Burja said about the US going to try to get Venezuela to produce some oil. The US can't embargo Venezuela, China, and Russia all at the same time.

  • "Among the 248 armed conflicts that occurred in 153 regions in the world from 1945 to 2001, 201 were initiated by the US, accounting for 81% of the total number" - Chinese embassy in Russia

    They posted a list on their website.

    Victor Gao of Soochow U said China believes Ukraine has been used by the US and Western countries. He said what the US and Europe were doing with sanctions were destabilizing for the region.

    He said US benefits because they want to sell L&G to Europe without competition from Russia, whose LNG is cheaper and more sustainable.

  • What if sanctions were imposed on all US citizens every time the US invaded another country?

    This question was raised by BreakThrough News, whose commenters said Americans would probably not think that was fair, since they don't have any say in what their government does.

    The sanctions against Russia do not target explicitly citizens but that is who will feel the sanctions.

  • Expectation is inflation will be worse in Europe than US

    US is a net- energy exporter (since 2019).

  • EFF

  • Lots of US headlines about Russia's possible invasion of Ukraine

  • DoD fails another audit

    Fourth in a row I think. But it's 'getting closer.' Current budget is $724b. It doesn't track well it's spending at an enterprise (overall) level.

    This is up since the 80s, but as a percentage of GDP it is lower than the 80s. It's currently between 3 and 4% of GDP (was about 5%).

    Some (?) is debt-financed. Some is misallocated.

  • "US is one of the few demographic countries with a tailwind" - Tom Lee

    Most other countries are going the other way.

    "Most major companies are founded by people in their 20s or 30s. Costco, Blackstone, Bloomberg. ... So if you have more people age 30, you're gonna have more innovation. ... There's a correlation between people age 30-50 and the number of patents filed."

    "If we were just relying on demographics that would mean that we have a bull market through 2029."

    China, Japan, Europe don't have this demographic optimism.
  • "You don't need capitalism anymore" - Tom Lee

    "... Because now there's so much saver capital you don't need an economy," meaning there's enough capital around already.

    "It's like oil. Imagine if we have the reserves. We don't have to import oil anymore."

    "The US essentially could be a supplier of capital to the rest of the world now. ... The capital that's accumulated now will be used to generate returns anywhere in the world."

  • US companies, mandated by Biden to impose vaccines on employees, give employees 2 forms

    ... one they sign to say they will get vaccinated, and another to say that if the vaccine causes a negative reaction the won't sue the company.

  • Why should Americans not lie and fake crimes against themselves when their government does it?

    #Integrity #Leadership #US
  • US won't send officials (diplomats) to Beijing Olympics

    ... because, it says, of China's genocide (Uighurs not Tibetans), crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses.

    Support came from both sides of the Congressional isle.

    US Athletes are still going.

    In 1980, US officials AND athletes weren't allowed to go to the Moscow Summer Games, due to, the US said, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Russia refused to come to the Summer Games in the US in 1984.

  • "Bonds are basically paying for the pandemic response" - Some investor said
  • USA added to 'backsliding democracies' list of IDEA think tank

    ... who says a visible deterioration began in 2019, and that an important point was when Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results (when he lost).

    The list is based of 50 years of democratic indicators in 150 countries.

  • Dangerous metals in spices on US shelves

    According to Consumer Reports, 1/3 of samples contained concerning or dangerous levels.

    Didn't matter if they were 'organic.'

    Every brand tested had lots of lead, arsenic and cadmium.

    Reasons? May be grown in areas where heavy metals are abundant in the soil. Grown and imported in large quantities because they're popular.

    Probably won't harm anyone eating a few times a week, but if combined with other sources of exposure like in water and in foods, it could be dangerous, particularly for children whose bodies are still developing. Heavy metals can't be easily cleared or metabolized, so they accumulate in the body.

    Consumer reports put a list on their website so people could check the dangerous ones and throw them out.

    The industry is largely self-regulated, and checks (FDA) are usually for bacteria (like salmonella).

  • The Hill and others are talking still about the problem of labeling 'half of America' 'domestic terrorists'

    About 3 homicides per year in the US are possibly motivated by racial hatred. There are 15-20k homicides in the US per year.

    Below is a chart the Hill shared, which shows attacks and deaths for each year.

    The second image shows PayPal Park in San Jose, which has a capacity of 18k. So that many people are murdered per year (is that accurate?). Three of those guys on that bleacher over on the other side were possibly motivated by hate, ie possibly 'racial supremacists.'

    When they talk about the current attempt to create a political cause for 'domestic terrorism' critics talk about 'the war on terror' which they see as doing the same thing for the past 20 years.

    According to AP, this many people died in America's 'Longest War' in Afghanistan:

    American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.

    U.S. contractors: 3,846.

    Afghan national military and police: 66,000.

    Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.

    Afghan civilians: 47,245.

    Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.

    Aid workers: 444.

    Journalists: 72

    In the Iraq War (2003-2011), between 151k and 1m Iraqis died, estimated, and 4500 US troop deaths.

  • Fed still saying inflation is transitory

    ... despite, many say, many indicators like rising house prices, rents, wages.

    "Yes, you need to fight the Fed," Komal Sri Kumar said this week, which is the opposite of what most stock investors say and have been saying since the Pandemic. "Because the Fed cannot win at all times.

    "We have had times in history when the Fed goes to extremes, it doesn't anticipate what is going to happen, and then the whole thing fails.

    "One example was effort to keep interest rates, bond yields under control during the 1940s, early 50s, and it just collapsed.

    "2008, Fed did not foresee the crisis."

    Many countries have been hiking rates but not in the developed world.

  • US citizens increasingly think 'democracy' under threat

    Over 70% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats think 'democracy' is serious under threat.
  • 6% increase in social security benefits

    Highest increase in 40 years.

    Based on cost of living adjustment (COLA), based on actual government-reported inflation numbers. Retirees need the increase. The average check is going up about $100. Most people receive about $1200 a month on this.

    Ie, inflation. A 2% increase is considered to be high.

    6% is a non-sustainable number.

  • Several sectors in US seeing worker strikes

    Entertainment, health care, UAW.

  • US schools: Conflict over masks and vaccines

    Lots of disagreement in meetings and signs being put up, and some low-key violence like grabbing phones, as well as 'threats of violence' and letters to government.

    In a letter to the president, the National School Boards Assoc Pres Viola Garcia went somewhat nuclear, straight to 'terrorism:'

    "As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes," she wrote.

  • US economy start of October

    Wages going higher, lots of jobs offered (11m openings), savings still high, retail sales very strong, resurgence (V-shaped) in manufacturing which is barely below pre-pandemic.

    General mills expects 7-8% inflation for fiscal 2022.

    Investor confidence high. Yield curve steepening.
    Preparing for tapering and rate increases.

    Labor and supply chain issues have both worsened. No one knows when supply chain issues will be fixed. But they will eventually (after 2022?) be fixed, although wages are 70% of company costs, so it might be different there. Wages and rent.

    The economy is very strong. Profits are high and growing. Profits get recycled into capital expenditure and hiring. The Fed is still acomodative.
    It's considered likely the US will get infrastructure.

    Manufacturers (like Ford) saying US needs to start making chips and minerals like cobalt locally. A local supply chain that's circular.

    Consumer confidence is lowest since Feb.

    Real yields are rising, which is typically a sign of real growth.
  • Report shows CIA had made plans that included options to kill Assange in the embassy in London

    In 2017 the CIA under Pompeo (although the report showed the plans predated Pompeo although he pushed it forward) and the Trump Admin did some work making possible plans to kidnap and possibly kill Assange.

    The following statement can be attributed to Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) executive director Trevor Timm:

    “The CIA is a disgrace. The fact that it contemplated and engaged in so many illegal acts against WikiLeaks, its associates, and even other award-winning journalists is an outright scandal that should be investigated by Congress and the Justice Department. The Biden Administration must drop its charges against Assange immediately. The case already threatens the rights of countless reporters. These new revelations, which involve a shocking disregard of the law, are truly beyond the pale.”

    Trump, as everyone knows, called Assange a hero when he was running for pres, and people looked for him to pardon Assange before he left the White House, but he didn't, although he pardoned other people.

    The US has been trying to have Assange extradited from England to the US for trial, and now people are asking if a nation can legally extradite someone if they had made plans to possibly kill them. Experts say the UK could continue without paying attention to this all, because it's considering on very narrow grands the legitimacy of the US's appeal merits.

    According to YahooNews, the some Obama officials looking at reclassifying Assange and related journalists Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras (who were working on the Snowden documents at the time), as 'information brokers,' which would allow the government to get around a lot of legal guidelines they're expected to follow which prevented them from mounting various types of offensives against the journalists.

    A random commenter on this story wrote, "CIA wanted to assassinate a journalist? They're no better than the Saudi's with Jamal Khashoggi if that's the case. DISGUSTING!"

    Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent at YahooNews

    #YahooNews #Assange #US #FPF
  • Retail sales, which are 30% of GDP, down

    Economic optimism in a recent survey went down 14% in a month (considered significant for a month over month).

    Retail sales in July were 17% above Feb 2020. Growing 3x their normal rate, because govt spending all this money, and now that is over.

    The consumer is 70% of GDP.

  • Biden mentions ' relentless diplomacy' after 'relentless war' in Afghanistan, at UN meeting

    ... amid a speech full of platitudes about the most common topics. He also mentioned 'human rights' and the UN Charter, which might make some viewers at home laugh. The US targets and goals he mentioned were the same as the past eras, and with the same language of urgency (in allying with the US?).

    He mentioned "leading the world toward a more peaceful, prosperous future for ALL people. Instead of continuing to fight the wars of the past we are fixing our eyes on [?Will we get something new or specific here? Nope.] devoting our resources to the challenges that hold the keys to our collective future." Climate, pandemic, global power dynamics, trade, cyber, 'the threat of terrorism as it stands today,' were what he mentioned.

  • Trump interview, talks about 'surviving' in role of president

    He was asked in an interview with FoxNews this month what was hard about being pres. He said:

    "Well, I had 2 forms of presidency. Number 1 I had to run the country, work on the world, and do things. In the other one I had to survive. The survival was much tougher, because I had fake Muller people coming after me, I had 19 really haters after me. I had every form of law enforcement after me. It started from the day I came down the escalator. It never stops. I had every prosecutor after me. They're looking at deals I did years and years ago. I forgot about them. ... But if you don't survive, you can't do a good job in terms of running."

    "... with Pelosi and Schumer and all of them. That was probably the toughest. Far tougher than a lot of world leaders."
  • Typical Afghanistan news on YT, Sept 11, 2021

    There's a lot of news on the US (and allies) in Afghanistan right now. I think maybe people almost forgot about Afghanistan, they got so used to it, but now with the sudden moves what is left is quite impressive. It's the 20-year anniversary of the World Trade Center event, which many people do not believe the official story. Documents are reported to be soon declassified by Biden.

    Image shows a news story about a base left by the US, and the comments show the general feeling on the events now.

  • $9b in Afghan reserves held outside US

    Afghanistan is highly dependent on US and other countries. If the government meets what US and others want it to meet, US might release these foreign currency reserves. Some say they don't even have funds to pay government workers there.

    A lot of Afghani investors are also currently out of the country.

  • Two bombs at Kabul Airport

    Two spots just outside the airport, one at an entrance and another at the Baron hotel. A dozen US troops reportedly were killed and some civilians, I think.

    Biden: "For those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes American harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay."

    Biden is reportedly Catholic, though, so these words might sound a little strange.

    Some are saying Taliban, whose role it was as the government (for the past less than 2 weeks) to secure the airport, and now they're being questioned whether they're able to carry out that role, as if anyone can prevent that sort of attack.

    A Taliban spokesman said, "Killing innocent civilians is an act of terrorism that has to be condemned by the entire world. And as soon as the airport situation is figured out, and the foreign forces leave, hopefully we will not have such attacks anymore. It is--again--it is because of the presence of foreign forces that such attacks take place."

    Western countries have evac'ed over 100k people in the past little while.

    As a response to the the ariport bombing attacks, the US reported using a drone strike to kill some IS-K notables in another region. IS-K reportedly claimed responsibility for the airport bombing attacks. (Taliban said the US should have them before the US did this drone strike.)

    The US wouldn't identify who the IS-K dead were by name, only saying they were planning future attacks. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby:

    "I am not gonna talk about specific capabilities ISIS might have lost in this strike. They lost a planner and they lost a facilitator and they got one wounded. And the fact that two of these individuals are no longer walkin' on the face of the earth, that's a good thing. It's a good thing for the people of Afghanistan and it's a good thing for our troops and our forces at that airfield and I think I'm just gonna leave it there."

    Many people immediately raised doubts about these events, since they give such a convenient pretext for anything the US may want to do (including changing evac plans). We wait and see whether US will allow Afghanistan to have peace or a chance to try to have their country.

    Why would IS-K want to do it? Would they want US to not leave? Do they fear Taliban will be hard on them if Taliban are left to control the country?

  • $2t is how much US spent on Afghanistan war

    $300m per day for 20 years.

    $800b in direct warfighting costs. $85b to train the Afghan army. $750m per year for Afghan army salaries.

    This money was borrowed as loans, reportedly. Cha-ching for those banks. "This country is unconquerable, you say? so we can just fight it indefinitely?" Thanks, taxpayers, we'll service those loans.

  • Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban Spokesman, government of IAEA, in a TRT interview on One on One

    "We had considered appearing in front of the media if we survived, but we thought we'd be killed before our struggle ended, because we were under a lot of threats. For example, I had a phone, and there were American drones above me, ready to drop bombs. I faced many such dangers. So, we never imagined we would survive this long. I always believed we would succeed in our struggle and one day, rid Kabul and all of Afghanistan from the occupation forces. Afghanistan is only for Afghans. We always believed in this. But I never thought I'd live to see that day. I think God for keeping me alive, but I pray for him to fulfill my wish of martyrdom one day. For now, I think we have been given a chance to serve the people, to fulfill all the promises we made to Afghans, and to keep our word to them. We will work hard to find a way to solve people's problems, anywhere, anytime. We have to answer to God and the people."

    "I guess I had always thought I would be martyred in this war. I never thought I would live to see the revolution suceed. Because as I said before I was always in danger. I couldn't even switch my phone on for an hour because the Americans can easily track anyone on a cellular network and capture or kill them. I thought I'd be martyred that way. It was a very difficult position to be in but I was not afraid. I always wanted to be counted amongst the martyrs. But God had different plans for me. This is also one of his blessings, that he wants me to do good. And I hope we can achieve our goals. We always pray for martyrdom."

    "No one wants to live under the transgressions of an occupying force."

    "If we are terrorists why have we not killed anyone [in the 10 days since entering Kabul]? There is no terrorism here as you can see."

    "We were fighting against foreign occupiers and their puppet regime."

    "The Americans started this war. They attacked us, and got what they deserved. The Americans failed in their mission. The world has seen how they left Afghanistan in a failed state. The situation is not good for the United States. The United States destroyed its reputation in the eyes of the world. THe United States showed its real face to the world. We also saw what they did in Guantanamo and Bagram prisons. They claim to be defenders of human rights, but the world has seen the reality of these tall claims. We saw how the United States conducted itself during war. We have witnessed their reality first-hand."

    "How could they [the Americans] have controlled Afghanistan when they can't even control the airport?"

    "The Americans want Afghans to be dispossessed in refugee camps without a clear future. Thousands of people have been forced to leave without a clear future. Families are being torn apart. Fathers and sons separated."

    "This is a huge issue and hindrance for Afghanistan. Doctors, engineers, teachers, and scholars [fled Afghanistan]. They are the cream of Afghan society. Afghanistan has been in war for a long time. So we have very few skilled professionals. Our motherland needs these skilled professionals."

    "The British want Americans to fail. They want more war. Americans have made the most sacrifices compared to their allies. British political leaders want the war to continue. We remember British leader Tony Blair encouraging Americans to go to war with the Afghans in 2001, and left the Americans alone. ... War benefits no one, but if they want war, they will get war."

    "As I said before, Afghans will not submit to pressure by any country [regarding sanctions]. ... I think Afghanistan should form a diplomatic relation with the US. It's good to listen to one another and work out our differences to find solutions. They bombed us for 20 years. They kept putting our people in agony. Stop this cruelty. Our people have lost patience. We can solve our differences in a diplomatic way. There is no other way except this."

    "Over time, we observed how systems in different Afghan cities operate. We have returned with this knowledge to improve things."

    "... all those opposed to us--the police, the army, and others, have been safe. ... We have enemies here we fought for 20 years, but no one has been touched."

    "Amrullah Saleh [a politician who claimed the office of acting president when president Ghani fled] also says he wants to fight, but like his predecessor, he can't afford to go to war. He will fail. Anyone would. He should not risk the lives of ordinary Afghans. The people of Afghanistan don't want war. ..."

    "We have maintained that we want good relations with Turkey [the only Islamic NATO member] so they could share their immense experience with us, and similarly, if they could provide economic support, we would welcome it."

    "Pakistan's role in Afghanistan is that of a good neighbor. ... We do not stand by the asuumption that Pakistan has stood with us, or given us an ideology and support. This news is just not correct, and has been part of a propaganda for 20 years. It will be proven that Pakistan is our neighbor, nothing more. We want good relations with them. ... because they are our neighbors."

    "They have frozen our funds [$10b of Afghan reserves] despite the current situation. We request the United States to release our national funds and give Afghanistan the money it desperately needs. I say the general situation will get better."


    The same day Western news was plastered with 'an explosion at Kabul airport.' Reports have it 13 are dead, including 4 US servicemen (the first to die in the country in a while). The Biden Whitehouse called it a 'complex attack.' Experts say it will now be more difficult to withdraw by Aug 31 [the deadline, but news has for a week or more been asking whether that could be extended, seeming like the US wants to but the Taliban says no] and also more difficult to engage in some retaliatory military action 'against terrorist targets on the ground.' At least that is the line many Western media are publishing. I don't see how that makes sense. Why does Biden need to militarily respond to an attack on their occupation force after 20 years of fighting? IS claimed they did it, and Taliban condemned it.


    So Afghanistan now has a government that has been working very hard for 20 years, thinking about and testing ideas in their minds, living under constant possibility of death and accepting it, and believing in their goal, which they have been considering and refining, pondering questions of actions.

    Will they be allowed by the US and others to do whatever they intend to do?

    YT: Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban Spokesman  
  • Future political change in US, taking apart Big Tech - Stoller's guess

    (Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project)

    'The pace setters of our ideology right now, of these dominant centers of power, and ignoring that power to just sort of focus on other questions that matter but that don't touch power directly, that don't touch concentrated commercial power. This is big tech. It's Amazon, it's Facebook, it's Google, it's Apple, it's Microsoft. These are the pace setters of our economic order. And I think that we're going to be taking those apart. And as we take those apart, because they are too powerful, and the Right and Left have both kind of come to that conclusion, there are going to be so many other consequences of that choice.

    'To take apart the most powerful firms in your economy means that you're really restructuring how you think about political philosophy and political economy, and that's going to have lots of consequences in every industry across the board, and you're already kind of seeing it.'

  • Afghanistan and Vietnam, Assange 'endless war'

    Many over the past week or two since the Taliban's swift occupation of Kabul have looked at the saddening images of Afghanis attempting to board and hold onto fleeing US transport planes, some falling to their death, and comparing it to the US withdrawal from Vietnam, which produced similar scenes on the day of departure.

    'There are parallels in that it is the most extraordinary humiliation of the West. And the imagery is the same. But the total difference is the Americans were forced to leave South Vietnam. They were hemorrhaging lives. It was an incredibly toxic political issue. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, demonstrating, demanding withdrawal. And it was one of the most costly interventions the Americans did. And they couldn't fight the North Vietnamese army. This is ... totally different. 2500 soldiers. Almost no casualties. Almost no cost. And a little bit of air support. They weren't driven out of the country. They could've remained indefinitely.' - British MP Rory Stewart, who has been involved in Afghanistan for decades

    I think people are a bit surprised and confused at the moment, given how quickly it seems to have happened (despite the months-long process), and are thinking about what it means for their assessment of America.

    The war was supposed to be so direly necessary, an existential threat, the most expensive overseas base ever, and, although very few US soldiers died (none in the past 18 months), suddenly it was just of no importance to the West, according to some critics.

    Many have also been referencing and republishing an old Assange interview in which he said the Americans never wanted the war to be won, but instead wanted an endless war to wash money out of the tax base in the US and Europe and through Afghanistan and back into the hands of the transnational security elite, etc. These voices also point to the recent Biden speech in which he 'reaffirmed his support for war' in saying they were pulling out of Afghanistan but were going to still be fighting other fights, and mentioned Somalia, Yemen, and Syria.

    I don't know but it sort of feels like it might have been a real turning point in American history. And also for the West by extension, as everyone was politically on that side of things and so their actions reflect on all the Western countries, I guess.

    The next time America wants to go to war, whatever reason it gives, who will believe them? What credibility or store of trust do they have left? With Afghanistan, is it a case where the people who wanted the war, whether for money profit or political cause or whatever other reason, got their way, but at the expense of America's last shreds of integrity? Will they find any allies to join them? nevermind the response of non-allies. Or perhaps the question is what new reason will it come up? The Soviets, the spread of Communism, the War on Drugs, Terrorism, ...

    Is the time in which America had the chance to lead the world (which started with its military heroism against aggressors and its creation of ideas like legal human and civil rights and national treaty alliances) over? And if it is over, is it because of a deeper issue, that perhaps it was impossible for it to be positive in a general sense, due to the accommodation within the system of individuals or small groups who wanted to abuse all others for whatever profit, and perhaps the idea of attempting leadership was seen as futile by those close enough to the center, and perhaps those who saw it in some sense wanted its end?

    On the other hand, this total loss of credibility of the US gov may finally embolden politicians at the state and local levels, as well as organizations like the National Guard, to take positions against them. or to take positions just generally more in favor of the general welfare and good, and to try to make some headway towards a nation with some integrity again. Afghanistan may come to serve as the example used why you must never let your government, even under the auspices of the greatest threats it wants to say, pass laws and treat citizens and nations in the way that has become common there in the past 20 years.

    Good follows evil. Evil has the ability to appear to us as good, which is why we participate in it, but once time passes it plays itself out and we see the fools we've been. It's said that in medieval days the greatest attribute a man could possess was a good memory. Perhaps a memory to be able to recall to the level of persuasion of ourselves and others a great number of these pairs.

    Another possibility is that the work is done. Not Afghanistan, but the general existential and political threats that perhaps existed in the 90s or 2000s with developing Islamic nations seem neutralized now. Iraq and Afghanistan and other nations, which alternatively could have risen to more power and organization, are now put in a place where they're not really seen as a military or political threat to the West or anyone else.

    Many people think there was a deal made between the Taliban and the US government, otherwise things wouldn't be going the way they're going.

  • Women, girls and minorities

    This seems to be the mantra used by mass media, voicing the US gov side of the Afghan issue.

    The Taliban has said their government won't be like a Western democracy but will protect everyone's rights, but critics doubt this given the Taliban's record for ...

    Is this because Western govs can't really say they protect rights anymore? and really just have a few things they really hold up (some say unfairly positively prejudice in favor of)? Those three things.
  • Some US National Guards seeking to limit their deployment unless a state of war is actually declared by Congress

    'The mission for the National Guard has to be changed,' said one vet.

    Traditionally, the National Guard is activated by the states to deal with domestic emergencies (natural disasters, civil disturbances, pandemics). And support and backup for overseas military operations. Lots served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    They were a strategic reserve, and are now 'a combat operationally-focused reserve capability,' according to some.

    States are obligated to make them available in 'national security threats.' The issue is 'What is a national security threat?' The 2001 War on Terror resolution has allowed the last 4 presidents to use them for their wars, and they all have done so. Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Some, like Congresswoman Idaho Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, believe undeclared wars (all American wars since WWII) are not included, according to Article 1 of the Constitution. Article 1, for allowing Federal use of the state's militia, is for executing the laws of the nation, suppressing insurrection, and repelling invasions.

    'Defend the Guard' is the name of one of the groups doing this.

    However, the states might not be able to limit Federal control of the Guard after it 'has been mobilized for Federal service in the context of any law, or mobilized for Federal training as a reserve of the army or air force, the states have no control over what the president or the DoD does with those units once they're in that status.' (Brig. Gen. David McGinnis (Red.))

    One thing the Fed can do is limit funding for the Guard if they don't come when called on. Hundreds of millions per year.

    Some say the Guard, as a result of it's militarization and combat deployments, is better trained, equipped, and more integrated with the active military.

    But is that a good type of better for doing state domestic emergencies?

    WIkipedia: Article One of the United States Constitution
  • 60% of Americans paid no federal income tax last year (2020)

    107m households paid none. So around 20m households paid, ti looks like. For reference to a normal year, in 2019 76m households didn't pay any -- it's been around this number for the last decade.

    Tax credits and higher unemployment during the pandemic is the reason. An example is a household that almost reached the income rate where they would pay taxes, but then received a few stimulus payments, which put them into the category of nonpayers.

    Fed income taxes don't include payroll taxes. 80% of households paid at least payroll taxes in 2020.

    The number is expected to go down this year just a few percent (to 57%) and then return to around 40% in 2022, as long as the economy recovers. However, Congress made some changes for 2021 which will have less households paying, such as an increased child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and child and dependent care tax credit (affects millions of families).

    The country is undecided how to deal with tax revenue. In 2020 80% of fed income taxes were paid by the top 20% of earners (30% of fed income taxes were paid by the top 1%, which is up from 25% in 2019). Democrats want high earners to pay more, while Republicans say they already pay quite a bit.

    CNBC: 61% of Americans paid no federal income taxes in 2020, Tax Policy Center says   
  • Assange case: Bit of progress for US gov side

    Many are heartbroken.

    Last January a London court (Judge Baraitser) ruled he couldn't be extradited to the US over concerns of 'risk of suicide' (and some mental health concerns) while not opposing the US gov on the more central political issue.

    In the US's appeal, now Britain's High Court has granted permission to the US to expand their grounds for appealing the decision to not send Assange to the US.

    Next trail date is Oct 29.

    APnews: US granted more grounds to appeal on Assange extradition  
  • Venezuela: opposing parties to meet

    ... Maduro and Guaido will meet in Mexico, they say, to try to resolve things.

    Guiado's power has waned over the past years, and his popularity has sunk, and international governments are starting to turn away from their recognition of him as leader. It didn't happen that they were able to get Maduro out of power. The US and some other countries want 'free and fair elections' in Venezuela, which would give a winner validity in international eyes.

    Maybe Guiado wants to meet just to ensure his party's survival, some have commented.

    All parties are unpopular with the people in Venezuela.

  • Some say diplomacy in the US done less by (career) diplomats and more by people from political backgrounds

    Highlighted by the recent talks between China and the US in Anchorage, where the US government was represented by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which the US reportedly brought a list of demands/complaints against China, and which didn't go over very well with the Chinese.

    Now Wendy Sherman will head a mission to China. China may send only lower level officials to talk to her.

    Wendy Sherman is a diplomat and politician since the Clinton presidency, and also active under Hillary.

    But the question being raised is 'How much does Sherman know about China or Chinese?' She might have some superficial armchair knowledge, but no real competency, it is thought.

    The Russians and Chinese do use career diplomats, real career professionals.

    This idea came to our attention by a vlog by Alexander Mercouris.

    US is criticized for trying to 'coerce' China into doing things the US wants. Treating China as an adversary or enemy, and only talking to China really when the US wants it to do something.

    China's diplomacy

    China has also been considered to alienate its global partners through it's foreign policy. China frequently makes criticisms of America that are a great stretch, such as equating China's current human rights abuses with those that took place in America 100 years ago.

    China's 'wolf warrior diplomacy,' where it acts forcefully abroad, may be popular within China, but it may be alienating other countries, including Asian countries (reported rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in the region). What place do wolves have in society?

    'I think (the non-issuance of Chinese visas to US students, due reportedly to China's non-infection policy during the pandemic, while China wants removed the US political sanction on Chinese students who want to study in the US) is a good thing actually. The US side should put forward such demands, such concerns, because this is engagement. The US side will say, "I want Beijing to do this and that," the Chinese side will say, "I want Washington to do this and that." In this way, we can cooperate and reduce their concerns," commented Qinduo Xu of Pangoal and CGTN.

  • China announces sanctions on seven Americans, including HRW's Sophie Richardson

    China's foreign ministry spokesperson also referred to American 'preaching' and 'arrogance.'

  • Economic concerns raised by former Wells Fargo CEO

    ... Kevin Kovacevich: Inflation (2-3% increase in salary for average worker, and 4-5% inflation on just the basics like food, gas, consumer goods); trillion dollar deficits already and trillion more if Biden admin gets budget passed.

    Markets at all time high. Kovacevich's idea is that the market is priced alright based on where rates are now, but once that changes in the coming year or years the market will look differently.

  • Virginia still top business state

    ... according to CNBC's annual state competitiveness rankings. It's done very well in the past 15 years in this survey.

    Reasons include a strong workforce (40% have at least a bachelors, according to the US Census Bureau, although the state has a relative shortage of workers and relatively few outsiders move there for work - it also has slightly below-average unemployment) and solid education system, reportedly.

    Virginia scored high points in Cost of Doing Business, Infrastructure, Life Health and Inclusion (formerly Quality of Life), and Workforce. Although its score for Education looks low in its rankings, it represents the second highest state after Mass. and CNBC considers it key to winning the survey.

    'Education is the best tool we have to make our Commonwealth a better, more equitable place for everyone,' according to Gov. Northam.

    Virginia like other US states is currently focusing heavily on change in the form of forcing diversity, sustainability and connectivity. It also has a high cost of living and high wages.

    The other top 5 were N.C., Utah, Texas and Tennessee.

  • UAE princess capture helped by FBI, says USA Today investigation

    Reportedly, they gave the UAE gov the geolocation of Princess Sheikha Latifa's yacht as she fled the kingdom in 2018, after getting it from a US internet provider.

    Reports have it the FBI was misled by the UAE, that they had been told she was kidnapped.

    The US org might have broken protocol to do this, not first subpoenaing the provider.

  • Last US troops leave Bagram Airfield in the night

    ... without telling the new Afghan commander.

    The base, about an hour away from Kabul, has made headlines over the years for horrible accounts of the US forces there torturing Afghanis, sometimes to death.

    The Afghan soldiers now guarding the base have said they look to the government and the village to support them with resources. 'the Americans destroyed everything here.' Much of the supplies (boots, exercise machines - The Americans took their sophisticated modern military tools) left by the troops has made it's way to scrapyards and second-hand shops.

    Some have said they are glad the Americans left, that now Afghanistan can have peace, which the Americans didn't bring.

  • Afghanistan after America

    Now it's the Afghan govt versus the Taliban, which is reported to be retaking ground, on the offensive. Since Biden announced the US's complete withdrawal a couple months ago, Taliban took about 1/4 (127, 10 of those again retaken by the Afghan military) of the districts of Afghanistan, where they are implementing Sharia and blocking media.

    Last US troops leave Sept 1 (the last 650 that remain, contra to the Doha agreement, after most of the 4000-strong force left), and then we'll really see what Taliban will do.

    "This land belongs to you and us," said an Afghan soldier, "The Russians were here and they left. Then the Americans came and now they have left. This country is ours, and we will protect it even without pay or equipment."

    Reports are that the Taliban aren't willing to go sit at the negotiating table, where Afghan govt negotiators are waiting.

    There are lineups at passport offices, people wanting to leave, remembering the 90s.
  • Rumsfeld died, age 88

    Forum boards were a list of comments that were either negative and critical of the harms he is believed to have caused, or dismissive or joking. I read through them and didn't see any on the other side of the fence.

  • US bombing in Iraq again

    ... without asking Congress, the Whitehouse bombed some targets (Kitab Hezbollah and Kitab Saeed Ashahada) on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.

    The act may fall under jurisdiction that requires authorization under War Powers, but the White House didn't seek that from Congress.

    The DoD said they targeted Iran-backed militias who had used UAVs against US personnel and facilities in Iraq.

    Iraq's military condemned the act, saying it was a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security.

    The popular mobilization forces are part of Iraq's security structure, so the US did bomb an ally, analysts say, although the US said those groups had attacked US targets first.

    Kitab Saeed Ashahada announced an open war again US targets in Iraq as a response.

    Biden's second use of military force.

  • Americans overwhelmingly don't want to go back to their jobs this year

    A recent poll found almost 100% of people don't want to return to the office after being in their homes over the past year. They prefer the life of spending more time with friends and family. They're considering finding a new job.

    There are also more jobs available then ever. 9.3m jobs in April.

    People are asking whether the stimulus so far or the stimulus expected in the future have contributed to people not wanting to get jobs, but data doesn't seem convincing one way or another.

  • Lordstown Motors CEO and CFO have resigned

    ... amid shortselling investigation, but having more to do perhaps with the company saying they had 'substantial doubt' they could continue next year. Shares were down 10%.

  • Lots of talk about billionaires not paying taxes

    No one knows how the journalists at ProPublica got hold of tax records for several years for some of the richest Americans.

    Bezos, Musk, Soros, Buffet, etc., paid what appear to be small dollar figures in income tax for certain years (some years $0, some years around $70k were the most quoted figures, dating back to the year 2011). This is because they don't generally make income (particularly when you're talking about each year). Instead, they hold assets. Their largest asset is generally company stock, which is only taxed if it is sold (capital gains). Some years, they need to raise cash and so they take loans against their assets. This is not taxable.

  • US Republicans very much enjoying Kamala Harris' not visiting the US/Mexico border

    They're counting the days (now about 80) since she's held a news conference on the immigration issue.

    She's been down in Guatemala, tasked with addressing the root cause of the immigration crisis.

    According to Ted Cruz in a recent criticism of the Biden government, the US is seeing the highest rate of illegal immigration in 20 years.

  • Most disruptive infrastructure attack ever on U.S. soil

    Apparently. Colonial Pipeline hack. This pipeline sends a lot of the oil from Texas to New Jersey, from where it's distributed to other places. Hackers gained control of Colonial's system and are doing a ransomware action. Colonial took their all their operations offline because they didn't want the hackers to gain access to the IT that controls the pipes. They're currently handling some segments of the pipelines manually.

    We don't know too many details because Colonial hasn't given them to the DHS, reportedly.

    Some gas stations have run dry. Price of gas has already gone up 7 cents in the week, following the regular demand-supply equation. There's been panic buying and long queues, and the airline industry has been affected. Flights have been stopped and they've additional stops in order for planes to fuel up.

    The pipelines serve 90 U.S. military installations and 26 oil refineries, so the ripple effects are still to be seen.

    FBI is saying the hacker is Darkside from Russia, who usually works on big money ransom projects. They have a published list of things they won't hack, and don't seem to want to hurt normal people, although in this case gas prices effects everyone.

    A massive effort is expected to get things running again about a week after the problem started, involving the FBI and other government agencies and a task force assembled by the White House. But it depends whether they can resolve the ransomware situation.

    In recent years, the U.S. has scaled up its oil production and became a net exporter, but is now looking at returning to being an importer of oil.

  • There's talk about making Puerto Rico the 51st US state
  • Convicts in private prisons serve 90 days longer than public prisons

    This is about 5% longer.

    In private prisons, the company's contract has it that they are payed a per diem for each occupied bed.

    "The delayed release erodes half of the cost savings offered by private contracting and is linked to the greater likelihood of conduct violations in private prisons. The additional days served do not lead to apparent changes in inmate recidivism," according to the author.*

    Mukherjee, Anita. "Impacts of Private Prison Contracting on Inmate Time Served and Recidivism."

  • 400 people moving to Dallas every day

    Other hot real estate markets right now include Phoenix, Austin, and Atlanta.

    Line up to buy and buy as soon you can, with prices for new homes less than for old homes for the first time in 15 years due to inflated building costs (lumber notably up 400% this year), although different from 15 years ago buyers are actually qualified to buy.