Trump’s Wall is on the Fence

by Serban V.C. Enache

Trump’s Government hasn’t put in a single mile of new wall, pardon me, fence, in the clear part of the US-Mexico border in the 30 months since he took office. And no, Mexico didn’t pay for it either. Is it any wonder that ‘white nationalists’ like Richard Spencer are totally disillusioned with Donald Trump? And even conservatives like Ann Coulter are equally disappointed by the “wimp.” Only Alex Jones, who in the past equated Trump to Moses, remains unshakable in his support for the president. But with his vile character assassination campaign against Ilhan Omar, effectively equating her with Satan, Jones proves how dishonorable he can be and a complete shill for Netanyahu and his Apartheid regime to boot. He only manages to cast a more negative light on Donald Trump, which is what the Mainstream media craves really. But I digress…

Last week, the Customs and Border Protection confirmed that all the fencing done since Trump took office is “in place of dilapidated designs,” because the existing fence required replacement. The agency said it built 51 miles of steel bollard fence with funding given in the last two fiscal years. But while the funds were meant to both replace outdated barriers and put new ones in, only the replacement projects were carried out.

Of course, the Democrats obstructed and the approval process for environmental and zoning permits is a bureaucratic drag, but still… Trump’s other deals with the traditional oligarchic interests, within and without the US, were not only given the green light faster, but they were also brought to completion or are nearing completion. Last year I gave some suggestions with regard to how Trump can boost demand, revive manufacturing, and get things done without getting bogged down with the [arbitrary] fiscal and debt to GDP ratio constraints.

Trump’s 2020 campaign kicked off last year at a rally in Texas with the slogan, “Finish the Wall.” Utterly duplicitous; he really thinks we’re all fools, including his base. Finish the wall that you haven’t started? Try starting it first, building at least 50 percent, then you can proudly say, let’s finish it. He didn’t give the crowd any ‘wall’ numbers, though. When Trump doesn’t have numbers to back up his claims, he makes recourse to hyperbole – even when reality is diametrically opposed to his claims.

Currently, if the Iranians don’t take mercy on him and agree to a slightly edited JCPOA, like Mexico and Canada did with NAFTA/USMCA, he’s going to look foolish, a softer war hawk than Bolton, but a war hawk nonetheless and one without bearing. By the way, while Trump is busy not building a wall or a fence, the CIA is busy training MEK [Mujahedin-e Khalq] mercenaries/terrorists in Kosovo and Macedonia to use against Iran.

Meanwhile, Trump’s foreign policy toward South America is creating more economic migrants and refugees. If it really is entirely the fault of countries like Venezuela, why does the US bar economic agents from these countries from trading with its economic agents and with the rest of the world, particularly the West, over which the US has tremendous political and military leverage? Economic warfare produces suffering and casualties and creates migrants and refugees. To correct the president, socialism hasn’t been faithfully implemented in Venezuela [since the private sector still accounts for most of the GDP], but US-sponsored economic sabotage has certainly been faithfully implemented – especially since Trump took office.

The Trump administration was sued this year after diverting 6.6 billion in military and other department funds to use for border wall construction. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the next few weeks. Why get mired in so much technical and legal stuff to achieve a very simple, albeit unpopular objective with more than 51 percent of the country? Trump could send the Army Corps of Engineers to build the fence immediately, if he really did regard it as a national security issue. Ditto for the lead-water poisoning in Flint. As for money, he could just issue a Government loan toward the institution tasked with the project. The loan would appear on the asset side of the Federal Government’s balance sheet, so it wouldn’t add to the fiscal deficit or the national debt. The accounting is no different than when a regular bank makes a loan to a customer. When the loan is approved, the bank doesn’t take a hit to its equity. For that to happen, the loan has to go bad first, all things being equal. Since a wall, pardon me, a fence, doesn’t have a money yield attached to it, the institution who received the loan won’t have the funds to pay it back – but who cares? Let the bankruptcy court take care of it, and any exposure to the Federal Government will be handled, in the usual, technical, boring manner in the future; but at least the barrier and Trump’s campaign pledge will be complete.

There are numerous gimmicks Trump can pull to bypass financial constraints on the Executive. Another way would be to have the Federal Reserve purchase IOUs emitted by the agency responsible with building the fence. The FED would accept the IOU and in turn, credit the agency’s account with reserves. No budgeting rules broken. Just like the FED needed no political agreement from the two branches of Government, when it decided to engage in an Alphabet Soup of special lending programs during the Great Financial Crisis.

In conclusion, Trump is a master of dissimulation. He has failed on many of his promises, while on others he did complete 180s. Where’s that declassification of the 9/11 report? I’m sure the families of the victims and they’re friends are still waiting. At this point, all I’m hoping out of Trump’s first term is a smaller death tally compared to his predecessors. I’m hoping that Trump was and is the lesser evil.

Why the Religious Right Can’t Win Against Islam

by Serban V.C. Enache

Before I explain why the Religious Right can’t win morally and legally against Islam, the reader has to understand what I mean by ‘Religious Right.’ I’m referring to the Jewish and Christian religious right. I’ll give a singular example, but a thoroughly relevant one.

In 2017, Ilhan Omar [the Muslim Congresswoman who was given asylum to the US as a kid from Somalia] had mixed feelings regarding a bill in the Minnesota State House. The legislation would make it “a felony for parents to subject their daughters to the procedure [female genital mutilation] and calls for loss of custody and prison terms from five to 20 years, depending on the extent of the injuries,” with an increase in “penalties for those who perform the procedure.”

Omar was quoted: “I don’t want us to create laws because we want to get into the media and because we want a flashy headline.” A back and forth between the members of Minnesota’s Civil Law committee can be found here. Nevertheless, Ilhan Omar agreed that the practice of female genital mutilation was “heinous” and voted for the bill. But the fate of that bill was counter-intuitive. The Republican-dominated State Senate in Minnesota rejected the legislation. Mind you, this bill against female genital mutilation was authored only by Republicans.

Minnesota State Republican Representative Mary Francon said, ”
“We need to end the identity politics and do what’s right. FGM [female genital mutilation] is a human’s right issue, a woman’s health issue and a gender violence issue. It has no place in the United States of America.” Franson introduced the bill in response to reports that a Detroit-area doctor had performed such a [female genital mutilation] procedure on two girls, 7-year-olds from the state of Minnesota. Mary Franson was disillusioned with the [Republican-controlled] Senate’s decision to reject her bill. “If we were talking about any other body part, perhaps the Senate would take female genital mutilation seriously. However, it seems misogyny has won out this year [2017],” Franson said.

A year later, a federal judge [a libertarian nominated by President Ronald Reagan] in Michigan rejected federal criminal charges against a group of Muslim defendants who had carried out FGM on young girls, ruling a federal ban [on the practice] unconstitutional.

Now, then, let’s return to the article’s thesis. Why the Religious Right can’t win against Islam. First of all, they share a common ancestor – all three of them are Abrahamic religions. In the USA, the practice of circumcision is widely spread, not just among Jews, but among Christians too. In 1997, in the US, the great majority of newborn boys were circumcised. By contrast, in Europe, neonatal circumcision is a rarity. The non-religious justification for subjecting one’s child to circumcision says that it leads to better genital cleanliness and thus better genital health, reduced risk of cancer etc. I believe it’s bs. I’m sure my detractors will be quick to cite numerous papers to prove me wrong. I’ll just say this on the medical aspect, no large-scale randomized controlled trial has assessed the benefit of neonatal male circumcision throughout several decades, which is when many of the potential health benefits would be realized.

Finally, we’re nearing the conclusion. The law can’t punish female genital mutilation without being de jure and de facto hypocritical and creating a double standard – for the law allows male genital mutilation. Circumcising baby boys IS genital mutilation, and both parents and doctors are responsible for it. Lest we forget, the anti-FGM bill mentioned earlier punished doctors who performed the deed too.

I’ll be blunt, the Religious Right is, on many issues [domestic and foreign] synonymous with Christian Zionism and Jewish Zionism implicitly. Therefore, the interest of children [girls and boys] can’t be given top priority, because the interest of the Abrahamic religions reign supreme in a country that’s supposed to be laic. Circumcision is defended as a covenant between God and Abraham, and circumcision is practiced widely in the Muslim world alongside FGM. The latter is done to ‘minimize women’s sexual desire / pleasure,’ in the logic of decreasing marriage infidelity on the woman’s part – even though under Sharia law, it’s de jure and de facto implausible to prove a rape situation [unless the crime was witnessed by many people, considered honorable in the community; and a woman’s testimony is worth only half a man’s]. Circumcision and FGM are justified in Islam under the Hadith.

The Christian and Jewish Right face a dilemma. They have no moral ammo against Islam – because if they pursue a truly non-hypocritical stance against Islam, they invite Muslims to use the same arguments against them. It’s a self-defeating exercise. Ditto for the secular voices who wish to see Islamic customs vanish from their societies. If they give a pass to Judaism and Christianity, they’ll be hypocrites. On the other hand, if they don’t give anyone a pass, they’ll be attacked as being illiberal, because individuals and communities have the right to organize themselves and pursue a faith, with all the rituals inherent to it. And then the whole thing grows and mutates into related arguments: interventionist social authorities vs passive social authorities? what are rights? where do rights come from? what should be a liberty, what should be a right? where and when do a person’s rights and liberties infringe on someone else’s? Etc.

The Christian Right also has a problem with its own history in the United States. They’ve a romantic, albeit untrue story of the country’s foundation. The US was founded as a Masonic state, not a Christian state. Nine of the 56 men that signed the Declaration of Independence were Masons, and about 13 of the 39 that signed the US Constitution were too. Much of the early republic’s elites [landlords, financiers, lawyers, judges, industrialists, and politicians] were under Masonic allegiance. The first president of the US was a Mason, and 1/3 of all US presidents were Masons. As an interesting, historical observation, Freemasonry was banned in Nazi Germany, in Fascist Italy [even though many in the Grand Lodge were fascists and helped to bring Mussolini to power], and in all the Communist states [with the exception of Cuba].

By attacking Ilhan Omar’s sentiments for Somalia – a country with a rich tradition in the Islamic Slave Trade [a phenomenon which spanned 13 centuries], in oppressing women and non-Muslims, like Animists and Christians – the Right only looks hypocritical. For the Right never attacks those politicians with dual citizenship in the top echelons of the State, those Israel-Firsters who maintain control over the domestic narrative and especially over the USA’s foreign policy – getting the US military to do Israel’s dirty work. And no, this isn’t about Israel’s “right to exist” or “right to defend itself” – it’s about the Greater Israel project, which can only be achieved through double-dealing, exploitation, theft, violence, and war.

You either oppose politicians with dual citizenship from getting into key State institutions across the board, or you’re biased [you favor some foreign countries over other foreign countries and implicitly over the US] and you lose the moral high ground. What does the Bible say? One can’t serve two masters.

BBC interviews Iran’s Javad Zarif

HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi was in New York for a rare interview with Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who was attending high level talks at the UN. Though it’s called HARDtalk, it should be called soft, because when Zarif calls out Western bs, the interviewer quickly deflects by changing the subject and is utterly uninterested in the plight of the Iranian people under US sanctions. Kudos to Zarif for giving his precious time to talk to such a lowly institution as the BBC whose so-called journalist, so thin that she looks like a zombie, is only capable of regurgitating Government talking points.

The 2nd Zimbabwean Hyperinflation

by Serban V.C. Enache

Zimbabwe is once again facing rampant inflation, a rate of almost 100 percent recorded in the month of May.

I felt the need to investigate its macros. As usual, the graphs are based on info from tradingeconomcis. An important development is that last month, the Government removed the legal tender status of foreign currencies and made the new Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS] the sole legal tender.

The country dropped its national currency back in 2009, and replaced it with a multi [foreign] currency system in efforts to combat hyperinflation at the time. The recent reverse measure, taken by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, comes in response to dire commodity shortages across the country. Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe as president two years ago in a coup. However, without sufficient US dollars to pay for imports, the country’s fuel stations have frequently run out and gasoline prices more than doubled between the months of January and April.

Fuel going up, coupled with the currency’s depreciation, made the cost of food, transportation, and housing utilities to soar. Due to the lack of confidence, as expected, more and more vendors set prices in US dollars.

In a milestone deal with the IMF last month, the Government agreed to cease net money creation [deficit spending] in order to pay its bills, which was a root cause of the sudden hyperinflation. The IMF is monitoring economic reforms for a year under a mutually agreed program. Debt relief was promised at the end of this year, provided the Government respects the deal. Companies are meant to trade RTGS dollars on an official market, but there were few takers. Analysts said that the Government’s gamble to force greater adoption of the RTGS might very well backfire, pushing transactions in foreign currencies underground.

With all these developments in mind, let’s see Zimbabwe’s flow of funds, and later on we’ll look at other indicators. The country has been a net exporter of Aggregate Demand and a net importer of goods for ten years straight. The Domestic Private sector [composed of domestic firms and households] has been going severely into debt for those same ten years. Only in the last two years was it able to net save financial assets, when the Government seriously expanded fiscal deficit spending.

We also see how the country’s money supply shot up, especially in 2018 and 2019. The M2 measurement [which includes cash and checking deposits + savings deposits, money market securities, mutual funds, and other time deposits] reached an all time high of 10.55 billion US dollars last March.

The unemployment figure has remained stable throughout years, but I don’t put much faith in the accuracy of this data, simply because of how the State defines being unemployed. For example, people like subsistence farmers, who consume all of their own output, are categorized as employed. And more to the point, the graph below is based on the “strict unemployed” definition [one who has been without work, is available for work and is actively seeking work]. The broader definition doesn’t require the latter condition.

Those working in the grey [informal] economy include people who do unpaid labor for a family business or paid employees who are not entitled to sick leave or paid holidays. In Zimbabwe, there are a great many who work in these circumstances. If we count as employed those workers on a payroll with taxes deducted at source and pension coverage, then the unemployment estimate is huge.

On to trade. South Africa owns the largest share of Zimbabwe’s exports. In my opinion, the country is far too dependent on its southern neighbor for commerce, and South Africa’s socio-political stability looks bleak these days. It would be better to seek out markets in different countries, in order to minimize risk and better handle potential negative demand shocks [for Zimbabwean exports] and negative supply shocks [for Zimbabwean imports].

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s exports by countries of destination.

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s imports by countries of source.

According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s exports sector as percentage of GDP last year was 22.9 percent and its imports sector 25.5 percent.

It’s safe to say that strategic bilateral relations cannot be formed, so long as Zimbabwe’s political class doesn’t compromise on a certain vector the country needs to maintain long term. Foreign investors [state and private agents] won’t be willing to come in, if they believe their investments will be at risk at the next election cycle, or if the chances for political instability and social upheaval are high. In recent years, Russia has been paying more attention to Africa, the northern states in particular, investing mostly in oil rigs and nuclear power plant deals. That’s one potential partner state with which the Mnangagwa administration should seek to do business.

Going back to Zimbabwe’s main trade partner, South Africa… that country is experiencing serious problems in rising criminality, and Ramaphosa’s land reform [confiscation without compensation] is bound to fail. In South Africa, since 1994, 21 percent of farms were put into Black African ownership. But more than 80 percent of those farms failed to remain economically active. If you ask Black farmers the reason for that miserable success rate, they blame the Government, and that’s absolutely true. That’s how you know it was a simulation of reform and not a legit effort behind it; because a singular reform, in and of itself, can’t be successful when everything else remains the same. In order to be a commercial success, an agribusiness requires access to infrastructure, to financial and physical capital, crop insurance, skilled labor, competent management, and access to markets capable of absorbing its output at a price which covers operation costs plus the markup.

South Africa [and Zimbabwe] needs a holistic approach to its national problems, and that means a combination of measures. Changing ownership doesn’t fix anything. The goal should be to decommodify land, which can be done via nationalization or [my personal preference] through site value taxation. Complementary measures should include: community land trusts, community banking, a national infrastructure investment plan, a national health care and education service, a national trade strategy, and last but not least, asset-side reform of the financial sector.

Reducing bureaucracy should be a priority as well. Currently, Zimbabwe is ranked 155th in 190 countries in the category of ‘ease of doing business.’ The more complex the laws and regulations are, the more wasteful and corrupt the system is. The State-dirigist method and Single Tax philosophy don’t require more time spent between citizen and bureaucrat, quite the opposite!

After Mugabe’s land reform, Zimbabwe isn’t out of the woods, and its population is growing too.

Using the printing press without any regard to budgetary rules, without any clear goal in mind, will only make the situation worse. The Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS], in order to appreciate in value, requires a combination of tighter supply and higher demand for it. The Government’s specialists need to determine the country’s potential output vis-a-vis actual output and adjust fiscal policy in consequence. A negative output gap occurs when actual output is less than what the economy can produce at full capacity – while a positive output gap is the reverse and is inflationary.

The Government should aim for a near zero fiscal deficit; should temporarily ban the importation of luxury items, at least for a few years if not several years; should prioritize the importation of vital commodities – fuel, water, pharmaceuticals, grain, milk, and the like. The Central Bank should be ordered to run permanent zero interest rate policy. Reduced interest payments into the economy means a smaller supply of Zimbabwean currency. And the Government should only accept RTGS in payment of its exports, and it should only guarantee bank deposits denominated in RTGS. This combo would be sufficient to halt inflation, bring price stability and political confidence in state institutions and fuel hope for a better tomorrow.

The Duran: Ann Widdecombe causes UK meltdown

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the firestorm created by Ann Widdecombe’s speech before the EU, Strasbourg parliament, where the Brexit Party MEP compared the European Union to oppressors – and that people are rising up against their owners, their feudal masters. Widdecombe also singled out Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator.

My comment: Labour MP David Lammy, in the all too characteristic fashion of the identitarian left, was quick to exploit Widdecombe’s speech to express how offended he was by it; and made it all about race, “his ancestors” throwing off the bonds of slavery. Obviously, Lammy doesn’t know much about European history [European countries subjugating and killing each other in past epochs]. I applaud Ann Widdecombe. She’s a person who says what she thinks, and isn’t bothered if some people dislike her opinions. She’s a non-misandrist feminist and an ardent critic of misandrist ones, which is refreshing. I don’t agree with her on all issues, but if I was pro-exit, which I am, I’d be happy to have her on my side.

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