Archive | April 10th, 2015

The Myths of US Exceptionalism

NOVANEWS
Exceptional in Health, Education & Retirement?

by JACK RASMUS

One of the elements of cultural ideology in the USA is that the United States is somehow exceptional compared to other countries; that is, it is different in a number of positive ways that distinguish it from all other countries.

Exceptional in Health, Education & Retirement?

In a perverted way, there is some truth to this. The United States is exceptional in that it is the only advanced economy in the world that has failed to provide universal health care for its citizens. It has a large, parasitical for-profit health care system, dominated by multi-billion dollar profit making private health insurance companies that suck $1 trillion a year from the wallets of US consumers for pushing paper around, a vast network of ‘for profit’ hospital chains that suck another $900 billion a year, pharmaceutical drug companies that charge $94,000 for drugs to treat someone with hepatitis C (that’s $1,125 per pill) and charge patients $14,000 to $64,000 a month for cancer drugs, and it has the highest paid professional medical personnel in the world. The US spends more than $3 trillion a year, and rising, on health care. That’s about 18% of its $17.4 trillion annual GDP, or almost one dollar out of every five spent on everything is for healthcare. That’s the highest spending on healthcare in the industrial world. In return for that massive spending , it ranks 39th in infant mortality rates, 42nd in adult mortality, and 36th in life expectancy. Yes, the US is exceptional in health care.

It is also exceptional in education. Its college students have become, in effect, indentured servants to the education establishment of overpaid administrators and bankers, owing more than $1.1 trillion in debt just to get a college education—more per capita higher education debt than any other country in the world. The cost of attending a four year college today is, on average, $30,000 to $60,000 a year for a four year undergraduate education. For those who can’t afford college there’s no meaningful job training programs available any longer. Meanwhile, 70% of college professors and instructors in the US are part time/temp workers, many of whom earn poverty wages and have no benefits. That too is ‘exceptional’, I suppose.

US workers work the longest hours among the industrial economies, have the shorted annual paid vacations (on average 7 days paid a year), and face the prospect of poverty when they retire or can no longer work. Social security pensions average only $1,100 a month, private pensions (called 401k plans) average less than $50,000 total savings for those age 60 and approaching retirement, and more than half of US workers live pay check to pay check with no personal savings whatsoever. As 70 million ‘baby boomers’ born after 1945 start to retire, tens of millions of them face the prospect of a penniless, poverty-ridden retirement. No wonder the fastest growing segment of the US workforce is those aged 65-74, as many return to work just to make ends meet.

Income inequality in the US is also the most extreme among the advanced economies, and growing worse every year. CEOs of US corporations make around 400 times the average pay of the average worker in their company—the biggest gap in the industrial world. (In 1980 they made only 35 times).The wealthiest 1% households (investor class nearly all), gained no less than 95% of all the net income growth in the US since 2010, which compares to 65% during the George W. Bush years, 2001-2007, and to 45% during the Clinton years in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the median family income has been declining in the US at 1%-2% every year for the past decade. (Ok, maybe that’s not exceptional, since pay for workers has been steadily declining in Europe and Japan too).

US workers may get only 6 months unemployment benefits, at less than one-third their pay, when they lose their jobs, compared to German workers, for example, who get up to two years in jobless benefits and job retraining to boot. But, what the hell, we got more aircraft carriers than the Germans.

Yes, the US is exceptional. Its workers are the sickest, most indebted, most overworked, insecure, and among the least compensated and the most fearful of the future than any in the advanced industrial world.

The US is also exceptional in that it spends more on its military than all the rest of the advanced economies combined. The US’s true ‘war budget’ is about $1 trillion a year, not the reported $650 billion or so for the Pentagon, which is stuffed away in dozens of corners in its annual economic budget. It has more than 1000 military bases worldwide. It is engaged constantly in more wars worldwide than any other country by far. And it spies every day on more of its, and rest of the world’s, citizens than all the ‘spooks’ in the rest of the world do combined. ‘Exceptional’? You bet.

The Myth of US Economic Exceptionalism

Another favorite focus of late for the ‘US is exceptional’ crowd is the US economy.

Japan may be in its fourth recession since 2009. The Eurozone may be slipping in and out of recession every couple of years. But the US economy is in full recovery. So we’re told. It is growing nicely, while the rest of the world lags behind. Or so the ideological spin goes.

The ‘exceptionalists’ like to refer to last summer 2014’s US economic growth figures of 4% to 5% in GDP growth rates, its 200,000 a month new jobs created in 2014, and its ever-rising stock and bond markets as evidence of such economic exceptionalism. But a closer look, at last year’s much hyped 5% GDP growth in the 3rd quarter 2014, and at the data for most recent months in early 2015, show there is nothing exceptional about the US economy.

Long term, it continues to grow at an annual rate about half of what is normal in past decades.

Over the past six years, occasional quarter GDP growth rates of 4-5% typically are followed by a sharp collapse of GDP growth, or even negative GDP, within months. This in fact has happened four times since 2009 resulting in a ‘stop-go’ economic recovery: in the first quarter of 2011, fourth quarter of 2012, first quarter of 2014 last year—and it appears it may happen again a fifth time in the recent first quarter, January-March 2015.

The US economy’s ‘yo-yo’, or ‘seesaw’, economic trajectory is nothing special or exceptional. Japan and Europe have been experiencing the same. Their ‘bouncing’ along the bottom is just at a level closer to the bottom (or even below it) than has been the US economy’s the past five years. Whereas the US economy’s growth spikes up to 4% or so on occasion, only to collapse back again to zero or less growth, the US economic growth longer term has been averaging about 1.7% annually the past five years. That’s about half its normal growth rate compared to US recoveries from recessions in the past. Japan and Europe might spike to only 2% on occasion, but then slip to negative growth—i.e. into a bona fide recession.

So it’s ‘stop-go’ recovery for all three, occurring just at different levels of ‘go’ and of ‘stop’. Nothing exceptional or different economically over the longer term, in other words.

Comparing the US temporary 5% economic growth of last July-September 2014, to what will almost certainly prove to be a 1% or less growth rate for the January-March 2015 period when the final numbers come in later this May, shows that temporary, ‘one-off’ factors occurred last summer 2014 to produce the brief 4%-5% GDP US growth. Those temporary factors have since reversed or disappeared in the first three months of 2015. Take away those one-off factors of nine months ago, and one gets the less than 1% growth likely to register for the most recent three months, January-March 2015. Here’s a brief explanation:

Shale Gas/Oil Industrial Production Boom

In early 2014 the shale gas/oil boom was in full swing in the US. That boosted what is called Industrial Production and much of last year’s jobs growth. But when the global oil price glut began last June, precipitated by Saudi Arabia and its emirate friends attempt to drive the shale gas/oil producers in the US into bankruptcy, the shale boom in the US came to an abrupt halt. Industrial production slowed rapidly after the summer and has continued ever since, turning negative since December. Jobs began to disappear. It is projected that jobs in Texas, the largest shale producer, will decline by 150,000 in early 2015. 

Manufacturing & Exports

In early 2015 US manufacturing and exports continued to grow, as the US dollar remained low giving US exports an advantage. But the collapse of world oil prices and the simultaneous talk by the US central bank it would raise interest rates resulted in a 20% rise in the dollar. Japan and Eurozone QEs pushed it still higher. The result was the beginning of a collapse in late 2014 of the contribution of US manufacturing and exports to US economic growth. That continues into 2015. Manufacturing orders have declined every month since December 2014.

Obamacare Consumer Health Spending

Another one-time boost to US GDP in mid-2014 was the signing up of 9 million of US consumers into the government’s new privatized health insurance coverage program, who couldn’t get health insurance. They started paying monthly premiums, and using health care services. That provided a boost to consumer spending that didn’t previously exist. But by 2015 the sign ups have leveled off. No more additional boost consequently in 2015.

Auto Buying Boom Goes Bust

Another consumer spending element that was peaking last summer was the boom in auto sales in the US. That too has now come to an end, as the market in the US has become saturated in terms of auto sales after four years. Auto sales since December, usually a strong month for auto sales, declined and have continued declining through February. The auto boomlet in the US is over.

General US Consumer Spending

Consumer spending in general has turned negative, starting in December. The US indicator, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index (PCE) declined in December-January, was flat in February and suggests no change in March. Consumer spending was supposed to surge, according to mainstream economists, as consumers enjoyed lower gasoline prices. Instead, consumers saved the lower gasoline prices or used it to help pay off their massive debt loads (which this writer predicted would be the case last year). US retail sales, which constitute the largest part of consumer spending, grew at a 4%-5% rate over last summer. But once again has turned negative since December 2014, falling by -1.0%, -0.9%, -0.6%, December through February, and likely falling again in March 2015. So both retail sales and consumer spending in general have turned negative.

Business Spending 

In the third quarter, July-September, of the year for the past five years, businesses in the US have boosted their spending, building up their inventories, in anticipation of a rise in year end holiday consumer spending. But the holiday spending then typically falls short of expectations, and businesses ‘work off’ the inventories in the first quarter, January-March, of the following year. This has happened yet again in 2015. Another element of business spending, on new equipment, is barely inching along, growing only 0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2014 and likely no more or even less in the first quarter.

Government Defense Spending 

It is a well-known and documented fact that in the US, every other year in which there is a national election, the federal government holds off spending early in the year so it can release it in the summer before the election. That occurred in 2012 before the national presidential elections and in 2014 before the midterm Congressional elections. That government spending gives an added boost in the July-September quarter, as politicians try to create the impression the economy is doing better than it is longer term. That too happened last summer. But that spending will contract early in 2015 relative to last summer.

US Jobs Creation 

Job creation always lags the real economy. And after growing jobs at a rate of 200,000 a month last year (mostly low paid, part time/temp, service jobs), jobs growth in March rose by only 126,000. Preceding months of January-February were also reduced. The employment data thus are now confirming the general economic slowdown in the first quarter 2015 as well. Apologists for the politicians will no doubt use the excuse of ‘bad weather’ for the feeble March jobs numbers. But what’s really happening is job creation is, and will continue, to slow due to real reasons. The ‘canary in the jobs mine’ is jobs in the goods producing sector, which have been slowing rapidly for several months and now turned negative in March. That reflects the collapse in manufacturing, mining, and good production that began late last year and now continues. The

Ideology of US Exceptionalism

In short, there is nothing exceptional about the US economy when one looks behind the ideological spin. It continues on its stop-go trajectory of the past five years. The economy weakens significantly every 4th quarter/1st quarter and the weak growth is ‘made up’ the following summer. Smoothing and averaging it all out over the year produces the longer term sub-historical average growth rate of around 1.8%–i.e. half of normal. And nothing exceptional. Japan and Europe are doing the same, just at a lower level of ‘stop-go’, sub-normal.

Long term US GDP growth is averaging 1.8% vs. 0.5% (Europe) vs. 0% (Japan). Does that make the US economy exceptional? Not really. 20 million are still jobless in the US; roughly the same as in the Eurozone. That’s not exceptional. Prices are now flat in the US (i.e. no change) and heading toward deflation; price stagnation also exists today in Europe and Japan . Real investment is declining in the US as in Europe and Japan—again nothing exceptional. And real wage incomes continue to decline for median income workers in the US—as they do for workers in Europe and Japan.

One of the favorite ideological strategies of ruling elites and classes is to convince their working classes that they are exceptional—i.e. meaning their situation may not be great, and may even be declining, but at least they are not as bad off as others. ‘It could be worse, just look at those poor workers in country X and Y. It may not be great here, but what the hell, we’re not so bad off, are we?’ The appeal to exceptionalism is just another ideological ploy to get working classes to accept their deteriorating conditions. It’s just another ideological tool to immobilize people. To accept their reality as their fate. To make them believe that, as their living conditions are getting worse, it’s not really that bad. But it is….

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The U.S. and I$raHell: Diverging Interests

NOVANEWS
The Special Relationship is Becoming a Harder and Harder Sell

by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON

It is often alleged that the basis for U.S.-Israeli relations lies in “shared concerns and interests.” However, what really holds the relationship together is a systemic aspect of American politics – the system of special interest lobbying and the money that underlies it. That practice is just about as old as the country itself, and the Zionist lobby is a past-master at exploiting this system. With the Supreme Court rulings telling us that political spending and donations are forms of free speech, this rather perverse aspect of U.S. politics is not going to change in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, one would assume that the present deterioration in relations between the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as refreshing as it is, only represents a temporary glitch rather than a permanent breach in the alliance between the two countries. Well, perhaps, but getting the relationship back to the status quo ante may be harder than many expect.

For example, on 29 March 2015 the New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton met with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to let him know that she wants to “improve relations with Israel.” That sort of statement is a standard prerequisite for anyone planning to run for the presidency in 2016. While there was no elaboration on the meeting coming from Clinton’s office, Mr. Hoenlein was quite forthcoming. According to him, “Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israeli relationship to a constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests.”

Wishful thinking aside, is that really possible? While Clinton is attuned to her political interest in keeping the Zionist lobby bipartisan in 2016, Mr. Hoenlein seems blind to the fact that the U.S. and Israel no longer have any “shared concerns and interests” in the Middle East. In fact, looked at it objectively, their “concerns and interests” are now in opposition.

A Major Foreign Policy Goal Since 2001

Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, a major foreign policy goal of the U.S. government has been the pursuit and destruction of the Sunni extremist organization al-Qaeda and its offshoots. To that end the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and, more problematically, Iraq in 2003. The popular frustrations that resulted from those wars brought Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 in order change tactics, but not the goal. In other words, the American public still approved going after al-Qaeda, but were tired of the costly war-making approach characteristic of the Bush Republicans and their neoconservative advisers. In truth the Bush approach of invasion and “regime change” proved disastrously counter-productive. It caused the collapse of political stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq thus creating power vacuums that became breeding grounds for al-Qaeda.

Obama rationalized the anti-al-Qaeda campaign. He ended the unpopular American occupation of Iraq and wound down the Afghan war. In their places he substituted drone warfare. Drones kill jihadists (and a lot more folks as well) with no great risk to American lives (though harm to the psychological health of the computer jockeys guiding these weaponized model airplanes is certainly a cost). You just remotely steer the drones to the place where your informants say your target happens to be (dinner party, family visit, wedding, etc.) and launch the drone’s missiles into that spot. Straightforward, except for the fact that, on average, drones kill 28 civilians for every enemy individual they target. In fact, that is what the U.S. was doing in Yemen before the Saudis started their present, much more indiscriminate, bombing campaign (using real airplanes) throughout that country.

U.S. allies in the region, specifically Israel and Saudi Arabia, had no problem with the drone attacks against al-Qaeda until 2011. That was when civil war broke out in Syria and when al-Qaeda and its offshoots showed up to fight against the embattled Assad regime in Damascus. Keep in mind that Assad was seen as an enemy of Israel. Syria called for help from Shiite Iran and Hezbollah (also enemies of Israel). Soon the fighting spread across the border into northern Iraq, and the Iraqi government also called for help from Iran.

From an American, anti-al-Qaeda perspective, things began to look really bad. ISIS (aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), an al-Qaeda inspired movement operating in both Syria and Iraq, declared itself the “new caliphate” and started to take and hold territory while cutting off the heads of anyone who got in the way. The Obama administration did not want to go back into another Middle East war (they still had residual troops on the ground in Afghanistan) but fortunately “boots on the ground” proved unnecessary. Why? Because there was another power right in the region willing to pick up the slack – a power which was just as much an enemy of al-Qaeda as the U.S. was. That power was Iran.

That meant that certainly by 2014 the United States and Iran understood that they were on the same side of a struggle that, in the U.S., represented a primary concern of the American people for the past 15 years. On the Iranian side the concern was even more immediate, because the aggressive behavior of ISIS threatened Iran’s western border as well as its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. Given this situation, the last thing both countries wanted was open hostilities with each other. That encouraged both parties to work hard to settle the dispute over Iranian nuclear power.

Divergence

Unfortunately, Israel, and by extension the American Zionist lobby, had lost interest in U.S. concerns about al-Qaeda. Indeed, Tel Aviv had come to take the opposite point of view, seeing some merit in Islamic terrorists as long as they were Sunnis. One has to keep in mind that the Israelis are obsessed with Shiite Iran and its nuclear energy program, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has hysterically proclaimed a danger to the survival of Israel. From that point of view any enemy of Iran is a friend of Israel – even if it is al-Qaeda.

Indeed, in 2013 Michael Oren, then Israeli ambassador to the United States (actually he grew up in West Orange, New Jersey), told the Jerusalem Post, “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” A year later he was at an Aspen Institute Conference and declared that Israel would prefer the victory of ISIS to the continuation of an Iranian-backed Assad. Nor have the Israelis been shy about acting on this preference. They have established a non-aggression pact with an al-Qaeda Syrian affiliate called the al-Nusra Front, cared for al-Nusra wounded in Israeli hospitals, and mounted attacks on the Lebanese and Iranian forces opposing al-Nusra.

So, at least in Syria, Israel is actively supporting a group that had, in an early incarnation, attacked the U.S. – one that represents forces that still pose a major worldwide risk to U.S. security. Perhaps someone ought to update Congress on this point.

This rearrangement of allies has made for strange bedfellows – not only the U.S. and Iran, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia. And that brings us to the present situation in Yemen. Until the recent Saudi air strikes in Yemen, that country was the most active site of U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaeda operatives. But the Saudis don’t see the war on al-Qaeda as any more important than the Israelis. Their main concern is, once more, Shiite Iran whom they see as much more an enemy than either jihadists or Zionists. So the Saudis have thrown a temper tantrum over the recent deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Part of their acting out was to tell Washington to pull its drone operators out of Yemen because the Saudis were going to bomb that country and particularly its Shiite Houthi population to ruination. Ruination of course, means the creation of a power vacuum in Yemen, and just as in Syria and Iraq, power vacuums create the ideal breeding ground  for extremist groups like al-Qaeda. Finally, there are unconfirmed reports that at least some of the munitions the Saudis are dropping on Yemen are made in Israel.

Conclusion

Obviously the real “concerns and interests” of the United States in the Middle East have noticeably diverged from those of Israel. As a consequence Israel is now loudly complaining that Washington has abandoned it. Well, Washington might do well to play the same game – to loudly complain about Israel’s traitorous behavior. After all, the U.S. gives that country a lot of money and weaponry and now the Israelis chose to support their benefactor’s enemy.

We can count on the Zionist lobby to try to obfuscate this fact. And, given that their financial and ideological power helps shape self-serving political interests in Congress, they may be able to pull it off, at least in that venue. They are also financially backing the Republicans when it comes to the 2016 presidential race. Can those politicians who support the Israeli perspective win that election?

Hopefully, the Israeli point of view will now prove to be a hard sell when it comes to the American voter. The recent agreement with Iran has created a new reality for the country’s foreign policy – one that is consistent with the popular desire for no further U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. It is going to be difficult for bought-off politicians, even those allied with Fox TV, to throw everything into reverse and declare al-Qaeda an ally and Iran still the mortal enemy. Hopefully, that will translate into political failure in 2016 for anyone who wants to undo the new accord with Iran.

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Eurasian Emporium or Nuclear War?

NOVANEWS
When in Doubt, Bully

by PEPE ESCOBAR

A high-level European diplomatic source has confirmed to Asia Times that German chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has vigorously approached Beijing in an effort to disrupt its multi-front strategic partnership with Russia.

Beijing won’t necessarily listen to this political gesture from Berlin, as China is tuning the strings on its pan-Eurasian New Silk Road project, which implies close trade/commerce/business ties with both Germany and Russia.

The German gambit reveals yet more pressure by hawkish sectors of the U.S. government who are intent on targeting and encircling Russia. For all the talk about Merkel’s outrage over the U.S. National Security Agency’s tapping shenanigans, the chancellor walks Washington’s walk.  Real “outrage” means nothing unless she unilaterally ends sanctions on Russia. In the absence of such a response by Merkel, we’re in the realm of good guy-bad guy negotiating tactics.

The bottom line is that Washington cannot possibly tolerate a close Germany-Russia trade/political relationship, as it directly threatens its hegemony in the Empire of Chaos.

Thus, the whole Ukraine tragedy has absolutely nothing to do with human rights or the sanctity of borders. NATO ripped Kosovo away from Yugoslavia-Serbia without even bothering to hold a vote, such as the one that took place in Crimea.

Watch those S-500s

In parallel, another fascinating gambit is developing. Some sectors of U.S. Think Tankland – with their cozy CIA ties – are now hedging their bets about Cold War 2.0, out of fear that they have misjudged what really happens on the geopolitical chessboard.

I’ve just returned from Moscow, and there’s a feeling the Federal Security Bureau and Russian military intelligence are increasingly fed up with the endless stream of Washington/NATO provocations – from the Baltics to Central Asia, from Poland to Romania, from Azerbaijan to Turkey.

This is an extensive but still only partial summary of what’s seen all across Russia as an existential threat: Washington/NATO’s intent to block Russia’s Eurasian trade and development; destroy its defense perimeter; and entice it into a shooting war.

A shooting war is not exactly a brilliant idea. Russia’s S-500 anti-missile missiles and anti-aircraft missiles can intercept any existing ICBM, cruise missile or aircraft. S-500s travel at 15,480 miles an hour; reach an altitude of 115 miles; travel horizontally 2,174 miles; and can intercept up to ten incoming missiles. They simply cannot be stopped by any American anti-missile system.

Some on the U.S. side say  the  S-500 system is being rolled out in a crash program, as an American intel source told Asia Times. There’s been no Russian confirmation. Officially, Moscow says the system is slated to be rolled out in 2017. End result, now or later: it will seal Russian airspace. It’s easy to draw the necessary conclusions.

That makes the Obama administration’s “policy” of promoting war hysteria, coupled with unleashing a sanction, ruble and oil war against Russia, the work of a bunch of sub-zoology specimens.

Some adults in the EU have already seen the writing on the (nuclear) wall. NATO’s conventional defenses are a joke. Any military buildup – as it’s happening now – is also a joke, as it could be demolished by the 5,000 tactical nuclear weapons Moscow would be able to use.

When in doubt, bully

Of course it takes time to turn the current Cold War 2.0 mindset around, but there are indications the Masters of the Universe are listening – as this essay shows. Call it the first (public) break in the ice.

Let’s assume Russia decided to mobilize five million troops, and switch to military production. The “West” would back down to an entente cordiale in a flash. And let’s assume Moscow decided to confiscate what remains of dodgy oligarch wealth. Vladimir Putin’s approval rate – which is not exactly shabby as it stands – would soar to at least 98%. Putin has been quite restrained so far. And still his childishly hysterical demonization persists.

It’s a non-stop escalation scenario. Color revolutions. The Maidan coup. Sanctions; “evil” Hitler/Putin; Ukraine to enter NATO; NATO bases all over. And yet reality – as in the Crimean counter coup, and the battlefield victories by the armies of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk – has derailed the most elaborate U.S. State Department/NATO plans. On top of it Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande were forced into an entente cordiale with Russia – on Minsk 2 – because they knew that would be the only way to stop Washington from further weaponizing Kiev.

Putin is essentially committed to a very complex preservation/flowering process of Russia’s history and culture, with overtones of pan-Slavism and Eurasianism. Comparing him to Hitler does not even qualify as a kindergarten prank.

Yet don’t expect Washington neo-cons to understand Russian history or culture. Most of them would not even survive a Q&A on their beloved heroes Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt. Moreover, their anti-intellectualism and exceptionalist arrogance creates only a privileged space for undiluted bullying.

A U.S. academic, one of my sources, sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi copied to a notorious neo-con, the husband of Victoria, the Queen of Nulandistan. Here’s the neo-con’s response, via his Brookings Institution email: “Why don’t you go (expletive deleted)  yourself?” Yet another graphic case of husband and wife deserving each other.

At least there seem to be sound IQs in the Beltway driven to combat the neo-con cell inside the State Department, the neo-con infested editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, an array of think tanks, and of course NATO, whose current military leader, Gen. Breedlove/Breedhate, is working hard on his post-mod impersonation of Dr. Strangelove.

Russian “aggression” is a myth. Moscow’s strategy, so far, has been pure self-defense. Moscow in a flash will strongly advance a strategic cooperation with the West if the West understands Russia’s security interests. If those are violated – as in provoking the bear – the bear will respond. A minimum understanding of history reveals that the bear knows one or two things about enduring suffering. It simply won’t collapse – or melt away.

Meanwhile, another myth has also been debunked: That sanctions would badly hurt Russia’s exports and trade surpluses. Of course there was hurt, but bearable. Russia enjoys a wealth of raw materials and massive internal production capability – enough to meet the bulk of internal demand.

So we’re back to the EU, Russia and China, and everyone in between, all joining the greatest trade emporium in history across the whole of Eurasia. That’s what Putin proposed in Germany a few years ago, and that’s what the Chinese are already doing. And what do the neo-cons propose? A nuclear war on European soil.

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