The Drive to War, Next Phase: Part 2

More questions concerning the bombing of the Saudi oil processing facility at Abqaiq. See my previous post for the beginning of this discussion.

If the Houthis, on whom the Saudis have been waging war for over four years, performed this operation, then there is no need for more speculation. It was a straight-forward military tactic to inflict injury on an opponent in a war. End of story. If it brings the Saudis to a point where they are willing to negotiate an end to the war, then more power to the Houthis. In fact, hit them again. Harder, this time.

But, if the Houthis did not do this, then why did they say they did? Why was that declaration immediate unless they knew in advance that it was going to happen? If they knew in advance that it was coming, then who told them? If someone else told them and they agreed to claim responsibility for it, then what was promised to them for their cooperation? Furthermore, if someone else was responsible for the attack, what was their rationale and purpose behind it?

Perhaps the Houthis actually did execute a high-tech, perfectly synchronized, flawless attack on an enemy’s territory which was supposedly “protected” by the most modern defensive weapons available. Or not. I am highly skeptical. My inclination is to think that another party is involved here. This has all the earmarks of a false-flag designed to persuade and coerce the US (and the American people) into waging yet another Middle-East war. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence presented which makes me think I ought to change my mind. I simply don’t believe the official narrative.

It is easy to focus on the question of who did it and try to pinpoint the perpetrator. The far more important one, though, is who benefits from the action. Cui bono? Merriam-Webster defines the phrase as, “: a principle that probable responsibility for an act or event lies with one having something to gain.” No matter what, the party which would gain the most by having the US attack Iran is unquestionably the state of Israel, with Saudi Arabia tracking closely behind it.

Politically speaking, it is not in Israel’s interest to have widespread peace breaking out in the neighborhood. If this did happen and the antagonistic parties started working out their disagreements civilly and peacefully, then the police state in power in Jerusalem would have less justification to maintain their policies of brutal repression and the continual drive for military dominance and superiority. Where’s the money in that? If the US attacked and destroyed Iran, Israel would have no viable competition left to challenge its dominance in the region.

Neither is it in the Saud’s interest to negotiate a cease-fire with the Houthis, since that would infer a catastrophic defeat of the Kingdom by a vastly inferior foe. This perception alone might be enough to cause a “regime change” and a course correction within the government of the House of Saud, something which the powers-that-be are not willing to tolerate. If the US attacked and destroyed Iran, the price of oil would go up astronomically, conferring an immediate financial benefit on the Saudis which they desperately need. That is, if anyone else could afford to buy it.

Considering this, it’s easy to imagine that either the Israelis or the Saudis (or both) orchestrated this singular event, in the hopes that the US would then jump in and destroy Iran or that it would draw attention away from the fact that the war in Yemen is going badly for Saudi Arabia. Neither of these is far-fetched. The kicker is that if the US doesn’t respond in the hoped-for manner and refuses to attack Iran, then the whole operation has been a colossal failure on the part of the perpetrators. One can hope.

I would like to believe that the Houthis actually did execute this attack and that they can use it (and more like it, if necessary) to drive the Sauds to the negotiating table. Ending the war in Yemen by inflicting severe injuries on the Saudi apparatus is a desirable benefit. My gut instinct, however, tells me differently.

The Drive to War, Next Phase

Who recently bombed the Saudi oil processing facility at Abqaiq, which purportedly cut Saudi Arabia’s oil production in half? Will this event become a catalyst for war with Iran, instantly blamed even though the Houthis in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack? Since Saudi Arabia is not part of NATO nor does the United States have any mutual defense agreement with the Saudis, why is it necessary for the US to retaliate against Iran.

One thing which is not questionable is that if the US and the Saudis, with direct or indirect assistance from Israel, do attack Iran, the price of oil will skyrocket across the globe. Gas prices would spike as a result, perhaps increasing as much as four or five times the current amount. The possibility of gasoline costing $12-15/gallon or even as much as $20/gallon is not out of the question.

One consequence of such a scenario is that the average consumer would drastically cut back on the purchase of gasoline, making non-essential driving a thing of the past. Many, such as myself, would find it extremely difficult to pay for the additional cost of simply driving to work. It is quite probable, in fact almost certain, that world-wide commerce and industry would experience a massive shutdown, causing millions to either lose their jobs outright or going on temporary layoff. Temporary being subject to the system righting itself, of course. No telling how long that would last.

Will the US go to war with Iran? I have included links to five articles by analysts, here, here, here, here, and here, which attempt to explain what really happened. They are not in agreement as to who pulled the trigger. My own opinion is that there is more here than we are being told. Reach your own conclusions.

The consensus appears to be that an all-out assault on Iran will not happen over this incident. I tend to agree with that, but understand that there are particular individuals (neocons, Israel-firsters, war profiteers, power-brokers, etc.) who do want the war to happen, regardless of the cost. Even if no war occurs over this incident, the odds are that something else will happen in the near future to precipitate it. The whole region of the Middle East is virtually a tinder-box, just waiting for a spark of ignition. Or, as Alex Utopium might have put it, “If this was a cardboard box, it would have “Fragile” stamped all over it.”

The good news is that President Trump seems to be reluctant and averse to attacking Iran. Since he is a professional businessman instead of a professional politician, he probably understands the cost of such a venture far better than his “advisors”, who only understand the use of political power. Appearances are deceiving, however, and it’s best not to take him at his word.

The bad news is that he may not be able to withstand the pressure and might give in to the constant drumbeat for war with Iran. In many quarters, John McCain’s legacy still has a life of its own. “Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb, bomb, Iran.”

The upshot is that we simply do not know what is going to happen and are not able to affect the outcome to any significant degree. All that we can do is to continue living as we are and hope that this will all be sorted out in a way which is beneficial for the world as a whole.

The True Nature of Politics

Hypocrisy in political life is not uncommon. In fact, most people pander to it in one form or another. Both Republican conservatives and Democrat liberals are united in one thing—their shameless inconsistency whenever pet issues are brought up and their support for “righteous” or “virtuous” government whenever it is convenient. See Jacob Hornberger or Laurence Vance for examples of this. See my own articles here and here.

Let’s look at a few issues hotly debated today—abortion, drugs, immigration, and guns. Should these be controlled and regulated by the Feds or by the various states? Sadly, both factions believe that one or the other should hold the controlling reins, depending on what is at stake and the popular political opinion on that specific issue.

For the purposes of this article, Democrats will include anyone who is generally left of center, liberal, and/or progressive. Republicans will include anyone who is generally right of center and conservative. Keep in mind that these are only generalizations on a large scale and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint(s) of any single individual.

Democrats are in favor of the federal government controlling the abortion issue. Roe v. Wade cannot be tampered with or weakened in any way. Any state law which attempts to circumvent it must immediately be stopped. The federal blessing of abortion on demand must be maintained at all costs, no matter what.

Democrats are also in favor of the federal government controlling, regulating, restricting, and/or outlawing and prohibiting guns. In fact, as time brings more mass shootings, the calls for the Feds to “do something” only grow louder. For them, this issue, like abortion, is much too important to be left to the states.

However, when it comes to drugs and immigration, Democrats are usually quite vocal about wresting these issues away from the Feds and allowing the states full control over them. Quite often, liberal-leaning states find themselves at odds with Fed policy on these.

Republicans, on the other hand, tend to favor smaller, more local government when the issue is abortion (Roe v. Wade must be overturned) or guns (the ultimate state’s rights issue), but are in a hurry to grant the Feds a huge amount of power when the conversation turns to drugs (outlaw them all, especially the harder ones like heroin, cocaine, and meth).

For Republicans, immigration also comes under the purview of Federal control, not so much because it is Constitutionally mandated to the Feds, but because the states, especially the liberal ones, simply can’t be trusted to do what is “right” about the limitless hordes pouring across “our” borders.

There are countless others which could be compared in the same way, but I think I have made my point. Both factions adamantly favor federal control over some issues, while vigorously supporting state control over others. The only difference is which side of the political divide one stands on.

Best of Times, Worst of Times

About ten days ago, I started having trouble with my internet connection. Sometimes it would work just fine, the way it was supposed to. Other times, I’d have to fiddle with it, restart the computer, reset the modem, etc, to get it going. Finally, a week ago, it stopped completely and nothing I could do had any effect, so I called the ISP to rectify the problem.

It took a few days before a technician could get here, so my wife and I had a small holiday from the electronic demands of the Internet. Except for the fact that I couldn’t pay bills or juggle the money in my bank account, it didn’t bother me much at all. After the first shock of going ‘cold turkey’, I settled down with a good book (actually a large book of short stories by various authors) and managed to pass the time pleasantly reading. That’s something I haven’t done in a long time.

When the technician showed up yesterday, she swapped out the modem and the radio receiver at the antenna and, voila! Instant gratification again!! Back to the digital drug of looking at anything I want to!!! And my wife is able to view Pinterest at will, which she is happy about.

Nevertheless, I was born before there were computers, grew up with a black box on the wall called a telephone, never knew what the Internet was until the early 90’s, and while I have to admit the advantages of modern technology, I could just as easily go back to a time without all that new-fangled stuff. Being without it was an inconvenience, but it didn’t come anywhere near destroying my life.

If the electricity ever goes out for good, I’ll just start living like the Amish.

Failure of Prohibition: A History and a Prediction

There have been times when government tried, but failed, to remove from society certain consumer products.

The Prohibition era began with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, outlawing all manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic products. Prohibition of such “crimes” began on January 17, 1920 and lasted until December 5th, 1933 when the 21st Amendment repealed the practice. It did not eliminate the consumption or demand for alcohol, however, but only drove the supply out of public sight. Numerous people, otherwise innocent, were prosecuted, fined, jailed, or simply killed outright as a consequence of this policy.

In April, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order outlawing private ownership of gold coins, bullion, and certificates. He prosecuted and punished a few people, using well-publicized methods, to ensure that everyone else got the message and relinquished their holdings. Ultimately, however, all that was accomplished was that privately held gold went underground. Eventually, in 1974, President Gerald R. Ford lifted the ban and allowed gold to circulate freely, as it has done since.

In the 1970’s, President Richard M. Nixon’s administration declared the ‘War on Drugs’ to eliminate all illicit drugs from private ownership and usage. Today, millions of people are in prisons and jails, not because they are criminals, but because they possessed and/or used certain items which the government had disallowed. Like alcohol and gold in the early part of the century, however, illegal drugs did not go out of existence. They simply went underground and disappeared from public view. Currently, marijuana is legal in some form or another in a majority of states throughout the country and will eventually be legal everywhere, probably regulated like alcohol is.

So it will be for guns if private ownership is outlawed, prohibited, or regulated in an extreme manner. Guns, like alcohol, gold and drugs, will not simply disappear from society, instead, they will be driven out of sight. People who own them will be vilified, prosecuted, jailed, and fined, perhaps even killed, not because they used those guns against others violently, but because they possessed an item the government decided they shouldn’t have. If gun control is ever seriously legislated, scores of millions of Americans will be forced to choose between giving up what they consider to be their rightfully owned property or run the risk of heavy-handed punishment, up to and including the loss of their lives and freedom.

Government can regulate any consumer item out of the visible, public market, but it cannot destroy the demand for it. There always will be a market for alcohol, gold, drugs, guns, and many other items, which people consider valuable. The demand for such items is private and individual and can only be eliminated by private, individual choice. It cannot be extirpated from society by collective will or force, but may only be suppressed for an indefinite period of time, during which the relevant demand will be met–illegally, undercover, and quite often, violently.

Diabetes and Gun Violence: The way we treat disease.

As America grapples with the menace posed by mass shootings and (seemingly) random violence, it is worth noting that the phenomenon can be considered an indication that our society is sick. Sick, getting sicker, with no way to heal the body except for a dramatic transformation in the way we live. This is similar in scope to many physical diseases prevalent today, for instance, diabetes.

Think about the way modern society treats illnesses today. A person gets sick, goes to see a physician, gets a diagnosis, a prescription for a drug, an assurance that this will put her right, and goes home, trusting completely on the pill to cure the problem. Depending on the situation, the drug might or might not restore her to health. Quite often it only masks the symptoms.

In the case of diabetes, she contracts the disease, perhaps as a result of years and years of gorging herself on fast, junk food and a lack of exercise to work off the excess. There may be little or no attempt at all to lose the obesity or a change in diet to bring it under control. In situations like this, the medication is expected only to treat the symptoms by keeping the blood sugar at a tolerable level, but it is not meant to cure the underlying disease. It is essentially nothing more than a bandage over a hemorrhage.

(Note: Diabetes can be contracted by people who are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through strict adherence to diet and exercise. This article is not meant for them. They have my respect and I wish them well.)

The approach to mass shootings is pretty much the same. Feed society on the idea that young men and women can join the military and shoot other people they don’t know. Feed society on Hollywood movies which glorify gun violence as a means of solving problems. Feed society on video games marketed to young children which depict gun violence as a pleasurable game. Feed society on the idea that if you wind up pregnant, you can make the problem go away by killing the unborn child. Feed society on the philosophy that all morality is subjective to the individual person and situation. Feed society on political divisiveness and hatred. Feed society on personal irresponsibility and refusing to teach children about the consequences of their actions or to hold them accountable from an early age.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These things (and many more unmentioned) are the junk food that America gorges itself on daily, year after year, decade after decade. Then, inevitably, when a symptom (mass shootings) shows up, address it by prescribing a treatment (background checks, red flag laws, gun restrictions, etc.) which have the effect of assuring the patient (society) that the disease (violent behavior) is being treated effectively.

This treatment, however, will have as much lasting effect as that of an obese, inactive person taking a pill to counter and control diabetes, while refusing to change her lifestyle in a meaningful, positive way. Modern medicine treats the symptom of the disease, but does not address the cause. So too with modern society.

An obese, inactive person can overcome diabetes by adopting a radical change in lifestyle. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It will require, not only the obvious changes in diet and exercise, but also the attitude of personal change—the idea that unless personal action is taken to correct the problem, nothing at all will change. Nobody else can do it.

So too with America. Because society is composed of individuals acting personally, society can be transformed by individuals changing their attitudes and lifestyles in meaningful and positive ways. It will take time. It will not be obvious immediately, but in the long run, it will be noticeable. And well worth it.

I can’t do anything about the random acts of violence which are perpetrated in society on a regular basis, but I can make the necessary changes to minimize and eliminate violence in my own life. This will require, first of all, a change in the way I think about myself, my relationship to other people, and my relationship to God. After that, it is simply a matter of living it out.

Loans, Bad Loans, and Usury

I read Zero Hedge on a daily basis. I like to know what’s going on in the world without having to resort to mainstream or social media. Many of the articles are well written. Some aren’t worth the ‘digital paper’ they’re written on. However, this one concerning usury caught my eye today.

Obviously, the author has some experience in finance and did his best to make sense of the definition of usury. Unfortunately, I think all he did was to muddy the waters, so I made a comment, which may have made the matter worse. Who knows? I can’t say that I know exactly what usury is, but this is what I think. Whether it is correct or not is debatable, but many dictionary definitions attribute a moral value to the concept, as do I.


“Usury is a loan when the borrower is subtracting equity.”–Monetary Metals

This statement makes it sound like when you’re making money off the loan, you’re not engaging in usury, but if you lose money, then you are. In reality, this is throwing the unwise borrower under the bus, because it’s his fault that he didn’t make sound business decisions. Or maybe borrowed the money to take his wife on a vacation to Tahiti, with no way to pay it back when he returns. Stupid, yes, but not a legal matter.

No one is forced to borrow money at interest. There is always a time when the borrower can just say no. Borrowing at interest is a voluntary transaction and because of that, there are no limits to the amount of interest which can be charged–as long as the borrower is willing to pay. If he can’t, he suffers the consequences.

My definition of usury is that it is the practice by a lender to loan money at interest to a person who is destitute and desperately in need of help. Think homeless person today. He has no collateral, no property, no job, no income, probably sick and starving, at the end of his rope. We’ve all seen them.

To offer this person a sum of money on the promise that it will be paid back with interest is, biblically speaking (Old Testament) criminal. Any interest at all, even a very low percentage, would be outlawed. In fact, a loan under these conditions would not even be proper or wise since the payback would be impossible for the recipient to fulfill. Instead, the person with the money was expected to simply give the down-and-outer whatever he might need in order to survive–at that moment, but only at that moment. It was not a long-term welfare program. 

There is nothing wrong or immoral about interest in a normal situation, but interest charged to anyone who has nothing except his life and probably only a tenuous hold on that is usury. The people who commit it are those who do not hesitate to squeeze the last drop from anyone who is desperate, so that they can become richer. To put this in modern terms, it would be like taking away the shopping cart, the tent, the blanket, and the trash bags filled with stuff–all to satisfy a loan with interest added.

The practice of usury is a moral, not a financial issue. What is needed here is compassion and generosity. We can all develop those.