Category Archives: Economy and Meltdown

China’s Terrifying “Social Credit” System Has Already Blocked 11 Million From Taking Flights

China’s terrifying ‘social credit’ system, which is a rating assigned to each citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status, has effectively blocked more than 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips at the end of April, according to a senior government official.

Government officials first announced the proposal for a social credit system in 2014 — where each Chinese citizen would be rated according to their online, social, financial, and legal behavior. Misdeeds, such as late credit card payments, criminal record, jaywalking, using fake IDs, refusal to sign up for required insurance, and failing to pay taxes, could result in a travel ban for an extended period. The penalty for misdeeds went into full effect in May.

China’s Social Scoring System

The government decides who gets these goods and services:

It is still unknown which misdeeds the government cracked down on to induce such a large number of travel bans within the country. Former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, is quoted by the Global Times as saying the system needs a few more tweaks so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”

“If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” Hou was quoted by Sina Finance at an annual credit development forum in Beijing on Saturday.

In addition to blocking the flights and trains, the Global Times noted that the names of 33,000 companies which violated laws had been shamed on a public list, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman for the National Development and Reform Commission, via news website chinanews.com. Those on the list could be denied loans, grants, and other forms of government assistance, Wei added.

“Hou’s phrase that the ‘discredited people become bankrupt’ makes the point, but is an oversimplification,” Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

“How the person is restricted in terms of public services or business opportunities should be in accordance with how and to what extent he or she lost his credibility.”

“The punishment should match the deed.”

“Discredited people deserve legal consequences.”

“This is definitely a step in the right direction to building a society with credibility.”

Since the launch of the ‘social credit’ system, state media has reported that pilot tests have been successful. There is even chatter about a China-wide social credit system expected in the early 2020s. In the meantime, senior government officials plan for eight more pilot credit systems, including the continued testing of Sesame Credit, an Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, that deducts credit points off people who default on court fines.

A screenshot from the Sesame Credit app, showing score 729 on a scale from 350

Many observers have likened China’s ‘social credit’ system to that shown in Netflix’s Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’ in which a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have.

In The Wake Of Mass-Shootings, Parents Reconsider Mass-Schooling

Authored by Kerry McDonald via The Foundation for Economic Education,

In the wake of recent tragic school shootings, anxious parents are contemplating homeschooling to protect their children. After February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Miami Heraldreported that more parents were considering the homeschooling option. And after Friday’s disturbing school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, a local ABC news affiliate in Alabama reported the increasing appeal of homeschooling.

“If I had the time, I would teach my kids myself, and I would know that they’re safe,” a father of four told ABC station, WAAY31.

A public school teacher interviewed by the channel disagreed with the idea of homeschooling. According to the news story, the teacher “says resorting to homeschooling is teaching your children to run from reality.”

But that raises the question: Is compulsory mass schooling “reality”?

Public Schools Are Consuming More and More of Kids’ Time

Segregating children by age into increasingly restrictive, test-driven classrooms where they are forced by law to be unless a parent or caregiver liberates them is hardly “reality.” What’s worse is that young people are spending increasingly more time in this coercive “reality” than ever before.

For young children ages six to eight, schooling increased from an average of five hours a day in 1981-82 to an average of seven hours a day in 2002-03. And for today’s teens, schooling consumes much more of their time than it did for previous generations, seeping into summertime and other historically school-free periods. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42 percent of teens were enrolled in school during July 2016, compared to only 10 percent enrolled in July 1985.

In the case of teens, spending more time in school and school-like activities may be further separating them from the actual real world in which they previously came of age. As Business Insider reports: “Almost 60% of teens in 1979 had a job, compared to 34% in 2015.” Spending more time in the contrived reality of forced schooling and less time in authentic, multi-age, productive communities may be taking its toll on today’s youth.

Compulsory Mass Schooling Is Hurting Our Kids

New findings from researchers at Vanderbilt University show a disturbing correlation between time in school and suicidal thoughts and attempts by young people, which have been increasing over the past decade. Whereas most adults see suicide spikes in July and August, most kids see suicide dips in summer. Children’s suicidal tendencies appear strongest during the school year.

Boston College psychology professor Dr. Peter Gray believes that increasingly oppressive schooling is leading to serious psychological damage in some children. He writes on his blog at Psychology Today:

Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs, and the work of schooling is often more burdensome and stress-inducing than that of a typical adult job. A century ago we came to the conclusion that full-time child labor was child abuse, so we outlawed it; but now school is the equivalent of full-time child labor. The increased time, tedium, and stress of schooling is bringing many kids to the breaking point or beyond, and more and more people are becoming aware of that. It can no longer be believed that schooling is a benign experience for children. The evidence that it induces pathology is overwhelming.”

Recent school shootings may be extreme examples of this rising school-induced pathology.

Instead of overreacting, parents who decide to remove their children from school to homeschool them may be acknowledging the disconnect between the inherent coercion of compulsory mass schooling and the freedom to live in the genuine world around us. Rather than sheltering their children, parents who select the homeschooling option may be endeavoring to widen their child’s community, broaden their experiences, and restore their emotional well-being.

Former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, writes in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling about his growing disillusionment with mass schooling:

I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of , the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.”

Parents who remove their children from the confines of the conventional classroom are not running away from reality. They are running towards it.

Signs From The Peak: Carlyle Group’s Rubenstein Admits “Never Been Easier” To Raise Money

In the latest indication of just how much money is sloshing around the global financial system after nine years of unceasing central bank asset purchases, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein admits that it’s “never been easier” to raise money.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Rubenstein said he’s seeing more money flowing into private equity right now than at any point during his three-decade career, even as the facile “global synchronous recovery” narrative is unraveling.

Rubenstein

He added that raising money is “one of the biggest trends” in asset management, he said. Of course, when investors are handing out money to anybody with a CFA, that’s a clear warning to be careful.

The private equity industry brought in $453 billion globally in 2017, according to Preqin data cited by Bloomberg. And that sum is expected to climb as higher yields push investors to look for better returns.

Carlyle alone is purportedly on track to meet a four-year fundraising goal of $100 billion by the end of 2019, Rubenstein said. He expects to raise $25 billion this year, following $43.3 billion raised in 2017.

“When you take a look at what the biggest trends are right now, number one: There is a lot of money that’s being raised,” Rubenstein said at a conference hosted by the Investment Company Institute in Washington Tuesday.

“It’s easier to raise money than anytime I’ve been in the business over the past 30 years or so.”

Of course, nobody can say with certainty where exactly we are in the business cycle (for all we know, we could be in the middle of the longest expansion on record, or the recession could be just around the corner). But not everybody shares Rubenstein’s optimism. Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett said in his latest report that we are now “so long in the vermouth” that the late-cycle is getting “tipsy”.

And when growth falters, there isn’t much the Fed will be able to do. As the chart shows, we’ve reached peak policy stimulus as the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in a decade.

Policy

And the liquidity supernova that has kept asset prices inflated is due to disappear as central banks start reducing their asset purchases.

Supernova

But Rubenstein’s firm likely stands to benefit in either case. If a recession does arrive in 2019, something that many investors, including Jeffrey Gundlach, fear could happen, interest rates would likely be wrestled lower again, bolstering the appeal of private equity and other investment strategies that can offer better returns.

Decades Of Unconstitutional Wars

Authored by Adam Dick via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Despite United States Congress members insisting that Congress debate and vote on US military actions overseas, congressional leadership has chosen inaction, allowing military actions unilaterally pursued by the executive branch to continue unrestrained.

And, when, this year, consideration has begun to move forward on an authorization for use of military force (AUMF), it is in the form of legislation (S.J.Res. 59) sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) that would rubber-stamp the US government’s existing wars and sweepingly authorize the executive branch to choose to pursue much more additional military action across the world.

How did we reach this situation so far removed from the US Constitution’s dictate that Congress alone decides if the US goes to war, as well as what is the scope of any such wars? Constitutional scholar Louis Fisher examines this question in detail in his article “Unconstitutional Wars from Truman Forward” in the latest issue of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship’s journal Humanitas.

In his article, Fisher, who is a member of the Ron Paul Institute Academic Board, lays out the clear direction in the Constitution that it is Congress alone that has the power to place the US into war as well as to define the limits of any war it authorizes. Fisher supports this argument with a discussion of both the wording of the Constitution and context including statements of Founding Fathers.

The legislature’s power over war, Fisher notes, was recognized in the judiciary in the early years of the US. As an example, Fisher discusses an 1804 US Supreme Court decision requiring the payment of damages for a US naval captain seizing a Danish ship that was sailing from a French port. President John Adams, in ordering the seizing of ships sailing to or from French ports in the Quasi-War, had ordered actions beyond the scope of congressional authorization that only said ships could be seized that were sailing to French ports.

Then, in 1936, the US Supreme Court decision in the case United States v. Curtis-Wright Export Corporation included dicta (comments made in a decision though not part of the decision’s holding or the reasoning used to reach the holding) supporting expansive presidential power to unilaterally pursue war. While Fisher, in his article, shows in detail the faults with the dicta, he also notes that the argument presented in the dicta has “expanded presidential power from one decade to the next.”

Another avenue supporting expanded presidential powers in regard to war, which Fisher explores in detail, is presidents pointing to international organizations, whether the United Nations (UN) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to improperly attempt to justify military actions without congressional authorization.

Similarly, Fisher critiques arguments rooted in the War Powers Resolution and the 2001 AUMF related to the September 11, 2001 attacks in America and the 2002 AUMF regarding Iraq for excusing the executive branch unilaterally pursuing military actions around the world.

Read Fisher’s article here.

Here’s The Viral Interview Of Exiled Saudi Prince Calling For Regime Change In Riyadh

A videotaped interview of an exiled Saudi prince living in Europe who is calling for regime change in his home country went viral this week. Prince Khaled bin Farhan was exiled from Saudi Arabia and given given political asylum in Germany in 2013, where he’s not infrequently given interviews exposing the inner workings of the royal family, though he himself is distant in the line of succession.

While we don’t expect the West to ever give close US-ally Saudi Arabia the Syria treatment of setting up a government in exile or establishing a “Free Saudi Army” to topple Riyadh, the fascinating interview given this week by the dissident prince included a brazen call for his uncles to take action to depose King Salman and the crown prince and take over the country. 

Screen capture from Monday’s published Middle East Eye interview with exiled Prince Khaled bin Farhan.

Speaking to Middle East Eye early this week, Prince Khaled appealed specifically for his relatives Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz to mount a coup, saying that “99 percent of the members of the royal family, the security services and the army would stand behind them.” Ahmed bin Abdulaziz was longtime deputy minister of interior from 1975 to 2012 and briefly served as minister of interior in 2012; and Muqrin bin Abdulaziz was briefly named crown prince in 2015 before quickly being replaced, and was head of Saudi intelligence until 2012. 

“There is so much anger within the royal family,” Prince Khaled told Middle East Eye, “I took this information and appeal to my uncles Ahmed and Muqrin, who are the sons of Abdulaziz and are highly educated, well versed and able to change things for the better. I can say that we are all behind them and support them.”

Though it’s unclear how much clout, if any, Prince Khaled actually has inside the kingdom, his interview went viral this week amidst speculation and wild rumors claiming that Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) was injured or killed after not being seen in public since April 21 — the same day gunfire was widely reported near the prince’s residence, which the Saudis blamed on a toy drone breaching the security perimeter.

The Saudis appear to have quieted the stories questioning bin Salman’s whereabouts and status by releasing a official photo of him chairing a meeting of government ministers. Much of the initial sourcing behind claims that the toy drone incident was actually a coup attempt come from both Iranian state media and a mysterious Saudi opposition blogger only known under the pseudonym Mujtahidd.

Prince Khaled, however, said the drone was a cover story which makes no sense: “I personally believe that this was not necessarily an attempt to bring down Mohammed bin Salman but rather an act of protest against him” he explained. 

Khaled further warned of more upheaval to come, referencing MbS’ very first act after coming to power — his  infamous rounding up of close to 400 royals and other prominent officials who were perhaps less than completely loyal, locking them in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton, with some reportedly tortured and made to hand over their fortunes. 

MbS staying in power will result in a continued “volcano” of instability according to Khaled, who explained: “I would like to say to the Europeans that the situation in Saudi Arabia resembles a volcano that is about to erupt. If it erupts, it will affect not only the situation inside Saudi Arabia or in the Arab region but it will have an effect on you too.”

Referencing the kingdom’s volatile mixture of autocratic rule and Wahhabi clerical establishment, he said Islamic terrorism would explode in the region and throughout the world should a coup be successful coming from outside the royal family: “So, if Saudi Arabia descends into a state of chaos, there will be global chaos, and it [Saudi Arabia] will be a source of terrorism for the entire world as it will support and sustain international terrorism,” Prince Khaled said. Though of course we would add that while the Saudi regime presents itself as ‘firefighter’ of the terrorist scourge, it is in reality the arsonist which uses its Wahhabi militants abroad, especially in places like North African and Syria, as the New York Times has pointed out. 

“I have received a large number of emails from within the police and army in support of my call” – Exiled Prince https://t.co/tGtiIa0oT1

— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) May 21, 2018

Concerning last November’s supposed ‘anti-corruption purge’ — which aimed at recovering $800 billion in total assets for Saudi state coffers (according to WSJ figures, though the Saudis say they’ve netted $100bn) — Khaled said that while the over 300 detained royals were released, they are no longer free men as they have monitoring devices fitted to their legs, have their cell phones monitored, and are prevented from travel outside the country. 

He said the prolonged detention, which drove world headlines for weeks and months, humiliated the royal family: “It was a shock for the entire family because prominent figures in the family were detained, in a way that held a great deal of humiliation. It was a shock for the entire family. The family is now facing the undermining of its standing in the eyes of the people. And this will inevitably undermine its legitimacy.”

Of MbS’ reform agenda, which includes lifting the ban of women driving and opening cinemas and liberalizing the workplace, Khaled dismissed as the attempt to create a smokescreen to appease the West, hiding the true nature of the Saudi oppressive top-down system, which places absolute powers to appoint judges and government members in the hands of the king. Indeed the continued crackdown and arrests this week of women’s rights activists who campaigned against the ban in the first place seems to confirm this. 

“The make-up of the state will constantly change with the personality of the king,” Prince Khaled said. “Where is the strategic plan for the state? We need to have a clear goal that we’re working towards. And it’s the role of the king to come up with a tactical plan to help us enact these strategies.”

He continued, “But, with the way we’re going, our country will be late reaching them. We’re already late. We use to think that we had financial assets and educated individuals, but unfortunately the situation right now is taking us back years.”

Prince Khaled, who the Saudis have reportedly tried to lure back to the kingdom in order to detain and silence, has come under the protection of German intelligence, who have also warned him against any travel outside their borders for fear that Saudi intelligence would kidnap him. 

This is unsurprising given that Khaled has also gone on record to describe MbS as mentally unstable and long suffering from “psychological problems” while revealing embarrassing internal family dynamics from MbS’ youth. “I wouldn’t say he was violent,” Prince Khaled recounted to Middle East Eye, “but when he was younger, in the royal family, he didn’t have status. He was an ordinary member of the family. His brothers had higher positions, and they had a voice within the Saudi ruling elite. Of course, his cousins were older, more experienced, better positioned, more educated and everything else.”

“So I think he developed psychological problems, because one of his cousins whom he arrested, when he would meet him, he [Mohammed bin Salman] would have to ask for an appointment, and maybe the prince would meet him, or maybe not. So this created within him a psychological problem and today he is taking his revenge against his cousins.”

Though it’s impossible to verify many aspects of the exiled prince’s testimony, one thing does seem certain — we are only one year into MbS’ de facto rule (and he’s not even king yet as his aging and ailing father is still on the throne), and yet the “volcano” of instability that Prince Khaled describes has already shown signs it is beginning to erupt.