In this first article Jan Markell contemplates the presence of so many emerging signs of this last generation.
Last Thursday, Mozilla, the company that’s home to the web browser Firefox, forced the resignation of CEO Brendan Eich. What, precisely, had Eich done wrong? Back in 2008, Eich had donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 effort backing traditional marriage in California. Dating website OKCupid posted a ban on Firefox traffic, issuing a message to Firefox users instead: “Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.” That ban reportedly prompted the action at Mozilla.
Of course, it was the people pushing for Eich’s ouster who were enforcing “misery, shame, and frustration.” Eich had never brought his politics into the workplace. Mozilla had no history of treating homosexuals differently, and no single instance of Eich doing so could be documented. Nonetheless, he had violated the dictates of the Thought Police. And thus he was ousted.
It’s a disturbing story, to be sure. But it’s also just the tip of the iceberg: Unfortunately, the same folks administering the private Thought Police would love to extend their control into the realm of government. These are not libertarians arguing for the right to hire and fire as you see fit in the private market. These are power brokers seeking to use whatever means necessary to quash opposition.
When fascism comes, it will come not with jackboots but with promises of a better world. The jackboots come later, when we’ve all been shamed into silence — when we’ve been taught that to allow that with which we disagree is to agree with it, and when we’ve accepted that the best method of preventing such disagreement is government power. We’re on the verge. All it will take is the silence of good people — people on all sides of the political aisle — who fall prey to the ultimate temptation in a republic: the temptation to force their values on others utilizing the machinery of government. We’re already more than halfway there.
To anyone who even casually monitors international agencies — such as the UN, the OECD, and the IMF — it will come as no surprise that those agencies have long wanted stable sources of funding that they could count on, rather than relying on handouts from governments around the world. But it would likely come as a surprise to most that we will likely see the initial operation of a world tax regime to fund international entities by 2015.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — a 34-member (presently) international economic organization that works to influence world financial operations — openly announced plans to advance the longtime socialist-backed dream of a planetary taxation regime. The plans call for legitimate governments and dictatorships worldwide to share all private financial data on citizens. It is all openly inspired by, and modeled on, Obama’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) aimed at coercing banks and governments around the world into reporting all accounts and assets held by “U.S. persons” to the IRS. (Click here to see related FATCA article.) And that, experts say, in conjunction with other related machinations, such as an emerging plan to force businesses to pay equally high corporate taxes in all jurisdictions of the world rather than setting up shop in lower-tax nations, will lay the foundation upon which to build a “World Tax Organization.”
In mid-February, in fact, the OECD officially unveiled its plan informally called GATCA (Global Account Tax Compliance Act) by analysts. Calling its ploy to put the final nail in the coffin for financial privacy “game changing,” the tax-funded OECD said it would require governments to collect massive amounts of sensitive personal information on individuals from banks and other financial institutions in their jurisdictions. “The reality will be that for the automatic exchange of information rules should cover what kind of information is to be exchanged, how often, who should collect the information, to whom it should be sent, and in what format,” claimed Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, speaking as if the plot were already a done deal.
Borrowing money from stock brokers to buy stocks has now hit an all-time high, triggering fears of a downward market adjustment and a collapse of the brokerage-made loan market investors typically use to fuel continued bull market growth.
Data published by the New York Stock Exchange at the end of March shows margin debt – the loans made by stock brokers to permit investor clients to buy stocks on credit – has reached a record high of $466 billion, approaching for the first time a half-trillion dollars.
Analysis of NYSE margin debt shows previous peaks have foreshadowed severe market corrections.
It happened in the summer of 2000 just before the dot.com stock market crash and in the summer of 2007, preceding the bursting of the housing bubble that caused the dramatic economic downturn that began in 2008.
Stock market technical analysts have recently drawn attention to the rising level of margin debt. They note that when, as now, the margin debt drops below its 12-month moving average a strong signal is being given to investors to get out of the stock market because “investors are using less of the rocket fuel (i.e., margin debt) needed to keep stock prices artificially high.”
Recent concerns about margin debt nearing $500 billion have added to concerns that the Federal Reserve’s ability to continue boosting the U.S. stock markets by buying U.S. debt may be coming to an end, with a downward market adjustment becoming more likely in the next few months.
With Nato assessments that there are some 40,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border ready to move at a few hours' notice, the heightening war of words between Moscow and Kiev raises a genuine prospect of conflict.
If Russia requires a pretext to move into eastern Ukraine, then many of the elements of that narrative are already in place.
But what of the Russian military's capabilities? What can be deduced from what we have seen so far of Russian operations in Crimea?
Nato has warned Russia that further intervention in Ukraine would be a "historic mistake" with grave consequences.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Moscow must pull back troops it has massed on the Ukrainian border.
Ukraine has regained control of one of the government buildings occupied by pro-Russian activists in the east of the country, in the city of Kharkiv.
However, armed militants are refusing to withdraw in another city, Luhansk.
Moscow has said that using force to end the protests could lead to civil war.
"I urge Russia to step back and not escalate the situation in east Ukraine," Mr Rasmussen said in Paris where he was attending a seminar on Nato reforms.
A senior Russian parliamentarian, Senator Viktor Ozerov, stressed that President Putin could theoretically send troops anywhere in Ukraine under the powers given to him by parliament that allowed him to move forces into Crimea.
Hundreds of pro-Russia demonstrators seized government buildings in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk on Sunday night, barricading themselves inside and raising Russian flags, with calls for Moscow to send in "peacekeepers".
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian authorities said they had retaken control of the building in Kharkiv, detaining some 70 people in a bloodless operation.
But in Luhansk, officials accused "radicals" occupying the state security building of placing explosives and holding about 60 people against their will.
Activists in the building denied having explosives or hostages but said they had seized an armoury full of automatic rifles.
In his speech on Friday April 4, Hassan Nasrallah said that henceforth his Hizballah fighters would strike Israel from their positions on the Syrian Golan.
This confronts Damascus with a difficulty. The Syrian army is legally constrained from deploying tanks and armored vehicles for operations against the rebels under the Syrian-Israeli 1974 ceasefire agreement which ended the war of attrition following the Yom Kippur war. This agreement restored 5 percent of the plateau to Syrian control provided it was incorporated in a demilitarized zone to the east and policed by UN peacekeepers.
But on Tuesday evening, April 8, the Syrian air force bombarded the rebels holding Tel al-Ahmar, with Iranian-made explosives in breach of that agreement. The response to that violation poses Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz with some major decisions:
1. Should the Syrian Army be allowed to drive the rebels from Tel al-Ahmar?
2. To achieve this, Syrian forces would have to use heavy weaponry, a further violation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement with Israel. How many violations can the IDF tolerate?
3. Should Israel permit hostile foreign troops, such as the Lebanese Hizballah and the Iraqi Shiites,to take up positions on its northern border?
4. How will the IDF deal with the almost inevitably spillover of battles, explosions and bombardments taking place in this tiny area into Israel?
5. Will Israel continue to provide medical care for wounded rebels in the battle for Tel al-Ahmar? If so, Israeli medical teams and hospitals may find they are treating jihadis associated with Al Qaeda.
Israelis living in the north and trippers to favorite resorts there had better not expect the coming eight-day Passover festival to pass quietly.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved forward with punitive steps Tuesday in response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s application to international bodies, ordering government officials not to meet with their Palestinian counterparts.
“In response to the Palestinian violation of their commitments under peace talks… Israel government ministers have been told to refrain from meeting their Palestinian counterparts,” an official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year.
Next Tuesday morning, the moon will be eclipsed by Earth's shadow. This total lunar eclipse will be visible across the Western Hemisphere. The total phase will last 78 minutes, beginning at 3:06 a.m. ET and ending at 4:24 a.m. ET.
The moon will be rising in the western Pacific, and so only the last half of the eclipse will be visible there. In much of Europe and Africa, the moon will be setting, so there won't be much, if anything, to see.
On April 29, the Southern Hemisphere will be treated to a rare type of solar eclipse.
In all, four eclipses will occur this year, two lunar and two solar.
Tuesday's lunar eclipse may damage a NASA spacecraft that's been circling the moon since fall. But no worries: it's near the end of its mission.
Beijing: In a face-off between the defence chiefs of China and the US, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Chinese counterpart on Tuesday that his country does not have the right to unilaterally establish an air defence zone over disputed islands with no consultation.
And he said America will protect Japan, the Philippines and other allies locked in disputes with China, as laid out in US treaty obligations.
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan said his country will not take the initiative to stir up troubles with Japan, but warned that Beijing is ready to use its military if needed to safeguard its territory. And he said the US must "stay vigilant" against Japan's actions and "not be permissive and supportive" of Tokyo.
Gov. Brian Sandoval on Tuesday accused the Bureau of Land Management of violating Nevadans’ constitutional rights to protest a BLM roundup of cattle on federal land and slammed the agency for creating an “atmosphere of intimidation.”
Sandoval called on the BLM to dismantle a so-called “First Amendment Area” the agency designated to allow demonstrators to protest the gathering of rancher Cliven Bundy’s 500 head of cattle. The federal government is rounding up the cattle around Bunkerville because Bundy has refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees.
“Due to the roundup by the BLM, my office has received numerous complaints of BLM conduct, road closures and other disturbances,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I have recently met with state legislators, county officials and concerned citizens to listen to their concerns.”
“I have expressed those concerns directly to the BLM,” he added. “Most disturbing to me is the BLM’s establishment of a ‘First Amendment Area’ that tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
A former federal judge, Sandoval said he told the agency “that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately.”
“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” the Republican governor said. “The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”
The BLM didn’t immediately respond to Sandoval’s criticisms. Agency spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said the BLM and the National Park Service would address his statement during a planned Wednesday conference call with media.
But Park Service spokeswoman Christie Vanover said Tuesday the First Amendment zones were created to promote free speech and not be a burden.
“While anybody can express their free speech anytime on open public lands in accordance with the codes and ordinances that exist, there are temporary closures of some of the public lands related to this impound operation and those are in place for public safety,” she said.
On Sunday, Bundy’s son, Dave, was arrested during the roundup on public land 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The 37-year-old said heavily armed federal agents roughed him up and arrested him for exercising his constitutional rights on a state highway in northeast Clark County. He was released on Monday.
“They got on their loudspeaker and said that everyone needed to leave,” Dave Bundy said Monday, explaining he was taking photos and protesting peacefully at the time. “I stood there and continued to express my First Amendment right to protest, and they approached me and said that if I didn’t leave, they’d arrest me.”
Bundy was cited on misdemeanor charges of “refusing to disperse” and resisting arrest, according to the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office. The BLM’s Cannon said Bundy was taken into custody to “protect public safety and maintain the peace.”
“The Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service support the public’s right to express opinions peacefully and lawfully. However, if an individual threatens, intimidates or assaults another individual or impedes the impoundment, they may be arrested in accordance with local, state or Federal laws,” Cannon said in a statement Monday.
On Tuesday, the BLM and Park Service said 277 cows have been corralled since Saturday from a 1,200-square-mile area closed to the public for the operation. The roundup could cost the federal government at least $1 million, according to government contracting records reviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The BLM said Bundy has racked up more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees while losing federal court cases on the matter. Rangers contend his cattle also are treading on protected habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.
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