Author: Numerian

About Numerian

Numerian is a devoted author and poster on The Agonist, specializing in business, finance, the global economy, and politics. In real life he goes by the non-nom de plume of Garrett Glass and hides out in Oak Park, IL, where he spends time writing novels on early Christianity (and an occasional tract on God and religion). You can follow his writing career on his website, jehoshuathebook.com.

Contra Hillary

The Agonist’s editors have taken a principled stand in favor of Hillary Clinton’s nomination by the Democratic Party for president.  In the tradition of The Agonist, contrary opinions are always welcome, and in that spirit I offer arguments against the nomination of Hillary Clinton.  Fundamentally, I find her an unprincipled person, by which I mean two things: her political principles are opportunistic, and her ethical principles are lacking.  In normal circumstances, these failings would not disqualify her from high office.  Bill Clinton, after all, thrived as president, even though he has these exact same faults, because the times were such that the economy, and the population in general, benefited considerably during his eight years as president.  It was a false prosperity, built on an increasingly mountainous pile of private debt, but economic want did not stalk the land, as it does now.

Twenty years later, our situation is radically different, not just nationally, but globally.  What we need are political leaders with vision, a willingness to work for radical change, and a capability to push the “system” along to be able to enact such change.  This is a very tall order, which even Bernie Sanders does not fully meet, but Hillary Clinton doesn’t come close, because she lacks vision entirely.  She is politically opportunistic, grabbing on to whatever policy seems best suited to garner the most votes.  Setting policy through public opinion polling was always a hallmark of the Clinton presidency, and we shouldn’t be under any illusions.  Electing Hillary Clinton as president doesn’t mean necessarily that Bill Clinton will be back in the Oval Office, but it does mean that the Clinton style of governance shall return.  Everything about Hillary Clinton’s political career suggests as much, from her carefully scripted and nuanced public statements meant to offend the fewest amount of people, to her reliance on the same advisers, such as Robert Rubin, who did so much damage during the Clinton administration.

Let us look at several policy positions that she has held throughout her career, which define her as a reactionary, in the limited sense that she reacts to circumstances rather than trying to mold public opinion and political policy toward a different and better future. Continue reading

Meet the Duggars – America’s Favorite Muslim Family

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I’ve come to think of the Duggars as America’s favorite Muslim family.  Not just any Muslim family; a very conservative Muslim family, operating under traditional, strict, patriarchal control.  I thought of this last night while watching Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar spin their way out of any responsibility for their son’s sexual crimes against four of his sisters plus one girl who was a friend of the family visiting them on their set – oops, I mean their Arkansas home where they live and film 19 Kids and Counting.  Last night’s interview was with Megyn Kelly on Fox News, which proved to be a very congenial environment for conservative, beleaguered Christians like the Duggars.  I’ll discuss at the end of this article all the striking parallels between the Duggars and a typical, conservative Muslim family, but first let’s see what they had to say on Fox News.   The interview was scheduled to be all about their son Josh Duggar and his admitted sexual molestation of four of his sisters plus one neighboring girl.  The youngest victim was age 5, Joy-Anna Duggar.

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Wild West Warfare in Waco

America’s escalating reliance on firearms as a means of settling petty arguments ratcheted up another level this weekend, when at least five biker gangs engaged in an all-out gun battle in Waco, Texas.  The matter at issue: a parking spot.  At least nine bikers were killed, and dozens more injured.

The original antagonists were the Cossacks Motorcycle Club of Texas, and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, though at least three other motorcycle clubs from the Dallas/Forth Worth area rushed to the scene and participated in the shooting.  The scene of the shootout was a parking lot of a shopping mall in Waco, where the Twin Peaks Restaurant (think Hooters, but with a less suggestive name) serves as a biker hangout.  Management of the restaurant hosts a Bikers Night promotion every Thursday, and local police are so familiar with disputes arising between biker gangs at this restaurant, that they were at hand before Sunday’s shootout began.  In the end, though, the Waco police were unwilling or unable to mobilize their paramilitary forces to stop the shooting, though the police do report that several officers exchanged gunfire with the bikers and may have injured or killed some of them.

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Clinton-Bush: Now and Forever

first published April 14

The stars are aligning for another Clinton – Bush presidential election campaign.  I’m not referring to Hillary vs. Jeb (or “Heb” as some are now calling him, since it was revealed he identified himself as Hispanic when registering to vote in 2009).  No, I’m thinking ahead to the 2028 campaign, when Chelsea Clinton will be primed to battle George Prescott Bush, Texas Land Commissioner, for the privilege of exercising their family’s timeshare rights to the White House.  Chelsea is the inheritor of the Bill & Hillary political franchise, and George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush, nephew of George Walker Bush, grandson of George Herbert Walker Bush, and great-grandson of Senator and Hitler enabler (it’s a long story) Prescott Bush, is the most prominent of the possible Bush dynasty President-electables.  Chelsea vs. George P. – I can feel the non-excitement building already!

The grooming process for the 2028 race for the White House is already underway.  Chelsea is playing an integral role in her mother’s campaign for president, formally announced this week.  Chelsea is now described by insiders (always nameless people when it comes to the Clintons) as a full and equal member in the family business, which has the public philanthropy part through the Clinton Foundation, and the not-so-public part involved in maintaining ties to the high and mighty who have access to a lot of money necessary to run a modern political campaign.  It’s this second part that is really important.  In 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for reelection, his campaign costs were $196 million.  Hillary’s campaign, according to unnamed sources, is expected to raise $2.5 billion in order to reclaim the White House.

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Take a Deep Breath Before Reading What Follows

Normally I prefer to wait a day or two before posting about any news item.  More than likely there is more information to follow, and time allows for a more judicious interpretation of events.  Not today.  Not with something I read this afternoon.  Here is the text of a letter sent today from the U.S. Senate to Ayatollah Khamenei and other senior leaders of Iran.  The letter was signed by 47 Republican Senators.

 

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Overdue Justice for Ferguson, Missouri

For related articles by Numerian on the Ferguson racial crisis, see America’s Police on Trial, and The Cycle of Fear in Ferguson, Missouri, both posted on the jehoshuathebook.com website.
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The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has released its report on the causes behind the civil disturbances last year in Ferguson, Missouri.  This is a long overdue contribution to the national discussion on race and municipal policing strategies and tactics.  During last year’s protests in Ferguson, several reporters wrote about what appeared to be a side issue: the propensity of the Ferguson city authorities to use the police force and the municipal court as a money-raising mechanism, which relied on harassment to enforce its fines and penalties liberally bestowed upon the African-American population of Ferguson.  This side issue turns out to be the main focus of the Department of Justice report. The report turns attention away from Officer Darren Wilson, who was exonerated by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations, based on what the FBI learned about the shooting of Michael Brown.  The evidence suggests that Officer Wilson was responding reasonably to a threat to his life.  The attention instead turns to the municipal practices in Ferguson which pressured the police department to harass African-Americans as a matter of routine.  City authorities put no constraints on police behavior, and had no concern for community safety standards.  Instead, the police department, and the municipal court system, were turned into profit centers, with business-like monthly targets for revenue generation.  Here is what the report reveals:

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Deflation Swamps Switzerland

originally posted Jan 17

Shocking!  Unprecedented!  Unfair!  These were some of the politer adjectives used by financial experts to describe this week’s decision by the Swiss National Bank to abandon its currency peg to the euro.  As is often the case with major central bank decisions involving currencies, the public finds it very hard to understand what is happening or why it matters.  In Switzerland’s case, the situation was made even more confusing by the central bank lowering its overnight money rate to negative 0.75%.  This means you have to pay interest to the central bank for the privilege of lending them your money, an act that strikes many as contrary to the laws of nature.  Doesn’t the lender always earn interest, and the borrower always pay?  Not in the topsy-turvy world of deflation, which is the strange financial anti-matter world that Switzerland now inhabits.  The Swiss no doubt are asking themselves how they have found themselves in such a situation.  We would all do well to ask the same question, because deflation is the most important financial reality facing the world today. Continue reading

Keep an Eye on the Yen

Global financial crises have a tendency to spring upon the world unsuspected, especially if the foreign exchange markets are involved, since they tie all global markets together (equities, bonds, commodities, derivatives).  That’s why it is necessary to keep one eye fixed for the moment on the yen.

The yen was trading around Yen 100/$ in October.  On Halloween, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda surprised the financial markets with a massive expansion of the central bank’s Quantitative Easing program.  The Japanese central bank is now using QE to buy up every new bond that the Ministry of Finance is issuing.  This constitutes 100% monetization of Japanese debt by its own government, a situation which is unprecedented in modern finance among major industrialized countries.  The foreign exchange markets reacted poorly to this announcement, on that same day driving the yen down to Yen 110/$.  Today it has now crossed the Yen 120/$ threshold, meaning several things.  It is cheaper to buy yen – for every dollar spent, you now get 20 more yen than a few months ago.

This is great news for Japanese exporters, because their products are now 20% cheaper merely because of an exchange rate change.   But the flip side of this is that Japan is exporting its deflation problem (which has persisted for over 20 years now), by forcing its competitors to lower their prices by 20%.  This is a real problem for American and European manufacturers, who can’t afford such a hit to their revenue, but it is devastating for the Chinese export machine, since “Made in China” is the mainstay of the Chinese economy.  China can quietly or not so quietly protest to the Japanese government, but much more likely, China can allow its currency to devalue in order to restore its competitiveness.  This is how currency wars start, and currency wars have been the most frequent source of global financial crises in the past 30 years.

Japan will be under terrific pressure to halt the slide in its currency – but here’s the nub of the problem: Japan is out of tools to defend itself financially.

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Making Fools of the Fed

Just about everything the Federal Reserve Bank does speaks of dignity.  Dignified premises, dignified public relations, dignified people running and staffing the institution.  The same applies to all the other major central banks, like the Bank of England, the Banque de France, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan.  You would think such dignified institutions with such distinguished people running them would not easily be fooled, or be easily made to look foolish, but fools they have been, and fools they continue to be, judging how once again the giant international commercial banks have been found to be perpetrators of large-scale, deliberate, and criminal fraud. Continue reading

Let the Recriminations Begin!

These mid-term elections were never going to be easy for the Democrats.  They had way too many seats at stake in the Senate, many of them Democrats who won reliably Republican seats during the enthusiasm for Obama in 2008.  Their chances in the House were dismal to non-existent, since gerrymandering has carved up almost all of the 435 seats into a lock-proof majority for the Republicans.  Still, in cases where there was some hope for the Democrats, the Republicans pulled through, even handsomely, as with the reelection of Governor Sam Brownback, the man who broke the back of Kansas with his “experiment” in neoliberal, supply-side economics.

Does this mean Kansans are happy with the disaster that has befallen their state budget and resulted in cutbacks in education, police and fire services, healthcare, and pretty much anything else the government can provide?  Probably not.  But what are the voters to do?  Vote for the guy who is going to raise taxes, even if only on the wealthy?  Republicans in a die-hard Republican state like Kansas have been trained all their life to reject any candidate contemplating raising taxes.  It’s the Grover Norquist principle at stake.  And even if it weren’t a matter of principle, Republicans in Kansas are like Americans everywhere – poorer, and less able to absorb any further taxes. Continue reading

Just When You Thought QE Had Ended

(originally posted Oct 31)
This week the Federal Reserve put an end to their fourth round of Quantitative Easing, having exploded their balance sheet from $800 billion at the start of QE, to over $3 trillion today. Everyone thought that the financial markets would now have to live without the monetary dope that has been fueling euphoria in stock markets in the U.S. and elsewhere. Everyone was wrong. In a completely unexpected move, the Bank of Japan announced it was expanding its Quantitative Easing program from 70 trillion yen to 80 trillion yen, bringing its monetary base to the equivalent of $750 billion. The purpose of all this liquidity? The Bank of Japan is desperately trying to achieve its target of 2% price inflation. Continue reading

A Climate of Unaccountability

They’re back!  John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney – the people who pushed the U.S. into the devastating mistake that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, have discovered yet another existential threat ready and able to destroy the world.  Back then it was Saddam Hussein and his mythical cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Now it is ISIS and its army of fanatical jihadists who are torturing, raping, crucifying, decapitating and genocidally killing anyone who stands in the way of the new caliphate they are building in what is left of the nations of Iraq and Syria.  It is precisely because there is a political, military, and economic vacuum in the heart of the Middle East that ISIS is able to thrive and expand.

The tragedy of American foreign policy is that the people who helped create that vacuum – who set into motion a war of aggression and choice – have never been held accountable for their mistake.  So here they are, this time doing the bidding of ISIS, spreading terror and fear into the hearts of the American people, priming the country for yet another war of aggression.  The foreign policy of these cheerleaders is encapsulated in one sentence, which ought to be carved on the tombstone of Bill Kristol, the man who said this: “What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?”   Continue reading

Obama Despair

It seems like so very long ago, many of us here at The Agonist gave up on Barack Obama.  It was long ago – six years now – which is a long time considering the progress the United States could have made had Obama been the leader he promised to be.  My disillusionment was almost instantaneous, the minute he announced that the nation must look “forward and not backward” when it came to the criminal behavior of those in government who committed torture.  That was quickly followed by the surprise and disgust I felt when he appointed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.  Wasn’t Obama serious about reforming the banking industry and Wall Street?  He had said all the right things on the campaign trail, so why was he putting in power people who had been instrumental in causing the problem?  Sean Paul and others at The Agonist came to the same, quick, disappointment in Obama, and we all announced our sense of betrayal publicly, which was not a safe thing to do in liberal land. Continue reading

Reporters Arrested!!!

How many exclamation points should be added to the headline above? I sure hope three is enough to reflect the shock of the news that reporters from both The Huffington Post and The Washington Post were arrested last night in Ferguson, Missouri. Worse – they were just doing their job, sitting at a McDonald’s, writing copy, when a SWAT patrol entered and ordered everyone in the restaurant to leave immediately. The reporters were arrested because they refused to give the police their names. Worst of all – one of the reporters had his head slammed into a window, entirely gratuitously, and was given no apology by the police!!!!

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Stove-Piping Your Emotions

Dick Cheney has been in the news lately, entertaining us with his informed opinions about the situation in Syria and Iraq. It’s all Barack Obama’s fault. He pulled out of Iraq prematurely, destroying all the hope and promise that the Surge had produced for those unfortunate people. And now the Democracy, American-Style that Dick Cheney had promised the Iraqis is stillborn. You get the impression Dick Cheney doesn’t like Barack Obama, and thinks of him as a Kenyan-born usurping Muslim abortionist, destroying the pregnant future for Iraq that Cheney himself had planted in the womb of the Birthplace of Civilization. Continue reading