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Turkey replaces the US as Russia’s key Middle Eastern partner from the “other side”

During his meeting with Turkey’s President Erdogan, President Putin made it clear that in spite of some lingering differences, Russia and Turkey have a relationship based on respect, pragmatism and the kind of flexibility that the US President is not allowed to exercise.

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just given a statement along with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, on the progress of a bilateral meeting which lasted over four hours.

The primary goal of the meeting from Erdogan’s perspective was to finalise the deal for the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems. The deal has been delayed because Turkey seeks the schematics of the S-400 in order to one day produce the system domestically while Russia has thus far been unwilling to provide this.

During their statements to the press, neither Erdogan or Putin mentioned the S-400 sale, however, it later emerged that the Turkish Minister stated that the deal had been completed to the satisfaction of both sides.

Putin opened his post-meeting statement by remarking on the progress towards a full normalisation of relations after an extremely strained period beginning in December of 2015, when Turkey downed a Russia jet on the Syria-Turkey border.

Because of Turkey’s increased economic reliance on Russia and Russia’s willingness to cooperate deeply on regional security issues, it is easy to forget that while relations between the two countries is very good, they have still not technically fully normalised. Both leaders expressed their desire to rectify this as soon as possible, with Putin indicating that for all intents and purposes, relations are in fact, fully restored with only a handful of issues remaining to be ironed out.

President Putin further remarked that Russia is keen to begin working on the building of a nuclear power plant in Turkey which should be partly operational by 2023. He also stated that he is happy with the progress of the so-called Turkstream gas pipeline.

Turning to the situation in Syria, Putin stated that Russia and Turkey must continue to enhance efforts in order to ensure the long term normalisation of Syria. He further stated that the two countries should assist Syrians in a political settlement to the current crisis as well as in areas of reconstruction. Putin then defined the main immediate goals in respect of Syria in the following way,

“We must insure we finish off ISIS, insure sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of Syrian state”.

Putin then stated that his recent visit to Iran where he discussed the Syrian situation with Iran’s President and Supreme Leader was productive and that collectively, the Astana Peace Talks have been successful in decreasing violence and creating the conditions of dialogue thanks to cooperation with both Turkey and Iran.

During the most recent Astana meeting, Turkey openly objective to the participation of Kurdish groups in the so-called “pan-Syrian dialogue” which Russia has called for.

These objections are one of the unique areas where Iran, Turkey and Syria have a clear point of view while Russia’s view is far more nuanced. Iran, Turkey and Syria are now on the same page in so far as they consider armed Kurdish led, US proxy militias in Syria to be a terrorist threat and a long-term security issue.

Russia by contrast, has previously welcomed the participation of “moderate” Kurdish factions in a political process to end the Syrian conflict and had previously been somewhat sympathetic to Kurdish demands for federal autonomy in post-conflict Syria.

The rationale for this much over-hyped and gradually closing schism is obvious enough. Syria, Iran and Turkey all have militant Kurdish terrorist groups operating on their own soil and the clear fear is that if one group gets an upper-hand over their respective central government, this could set a dangerous precedent in the region. This is why Turkey and Iran cooperated with Iraq on subduing ethno-nationalist Kurds in northern Iraq in the autumn of 2017.

Russia has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, but at the same time, due to historic links with Kurdish groups, Russia was willing to facilitate the meeting of some Kurdish demands, if possible. This is because, Russia would prefer Kurdish groups to see Russia as a guarantor of peace, rather than the United Stats which Iraqi Kurds have openly said let them down. It is also because in the past, Russia had explored the possibility of a Kurdish buffer-zone between traditional Arab allies and Turkey in order to add one more layer of protection against a once hostile NATO member in the region.

Today, both of these Russian rationales have largely been changed due to new realities on the ground. Russia’s long-time ally Syria has recently stated that it views armed Kurdish groups occupying Syrian territory as no different than Takfiri groups doing the same, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. In naming Kurdish militants as terrorists, Syria has affirmed that it is not planning on taking a soft-line against Kurdish ethno-nationalists after the conflict against Takfiri groups is inevitably won. With Iraq, Iran and Turkey all taking the same line, Russia is not about to fight for a non-state group against four states whose friendship with Russia is key to Moscow’s ability to have good relations in the region and balance out would-be power struggles in the Middle East.

Secondly, with Turkey’s relationship with Russia and its relationship with Iran improving at a fast pace and with Ankara’s relations with Washington downgrading at an equally frantic pace, the idea of a ‘buffer zone’ is becoming largely outdated. Any would-be Kurdish statelete would be US/Israeli puppet state that would only strain the regional balance of power that Russia is so keen to stabilise.

Turkey and Iran will both be happy by Russia abandoning its moderate version of Project Kurd. In return, Russia will no be well placed to insure that after remaining issues are settled, Turkey does not end up permanently occupying Syria’s Idlib, thus alleviating a grave concern of Damascus.

A longer term issue will be balancing out Iran’s legal partnership with Syria against Israel’s illegal but seemingly unstoppable threat to continue to occupy and strike Syrian targets under the pretext of Iran’s presence (however limited) in Syria.

In this sense, Russia’s deal-making with Turkey, could prove to be a useful precedent in working out a solution that keeps Syria safe once the conflict formally ends, while also insuring that Russia maintains good will with Iran, while acting to quietly restrain Israeli aggression. The progress Russia has made in terms of turning Turkey from an outspoken enemy of Syria into a country that cooperates with both Russia and Iran (as Syrian allies) is a significant achievement. Convincing Israel to cease its hostility against Syria while allowing Syria and Iran to pursue their alliance will be the next great task of Russia, as Russia is the only power capable of speaking on friendly terms with all parties in the Middle East, including the occupier entity.

It is clear that while Turkey and Russia still have a fair share of disagreements on regional security, that Turkey and Russia are now the key leaders on ‘both sides’ of the international community who will help to bring the conflict to the close in Syria.

Previously, it was thought that Russia and the United States would fulfil that role, but increasingly the US is becoming diplomatically irreverent in Syria. The illegal presence of US troops remains a concern to Syria and clearly this issue will need to be dealt with, quite possibly though Russian diplomatic channels, but when it comes to actually facilitating a settlement to the conflict which preserves Syria’s independence and territorial unity, Russia will be working primarily with Turkey, rather than the United States.

Russia of course will also be working with Iran, but as Russia and Iran are both allies of Syria, it is important that any final agreement that is signed between both Russia and Iran, also includes a geo-strategic ‘counter-weight’. As a Sunni Muslim state which for years worked against Syria’s interests, Turkey coming to the peace table is now symbolic of the defeat of Takfiri terrorism in Syria, as Ankara is now working with Russia and Iran to end a conflict that Turkey once contributed to. The US could have been in a similar position, but the failure of US diplomats to engage in meaningful discussions with Russia has left the door open for Turkey which seems all too willing to fill the void left by the United States. In order to show the Takfiris that there game is up, one of their former allies sitting at the peace table is key. That country, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is Turkey.

President Putin’s feelings on his frequent and friendly meetings with Erdogan were described in the following way,

“These meetings are free from bureaucracy, from all sorts of quasi-diplomatic procedures and protocol

I believe the meetings are very productive and are grateful for that and we intend to continue in this way”.

President Erdogan responded by thanking President Putin and remarked that this is his third visit to Russia this year and his sixth meeting with Putin over all this year.

Calling Putin a “dear friend”, he agreed that it is crucial to strengthen bilateral relations and intense contacts through frequent meetings and telephone calls.

He said that he believes next year will be a “turning point in relations” as Russia hosts a year of Turkish culture and Turkey hosts a year of Russian culture.

It is clear that in spite of differences, Russia and Turkey are having a deeply productive relationship which minus the close economic ties of Russia and Turkey, could have been the kind of attitude in a would-be pragmatic and more cooperative relationship between the US and Russia.

Ultimately, the US has refused to allow Donald Trump to get close to President Putin, even in a physical sense and thus, President Erdogan who unlike Trump, is fully in charge of his country,  has filled that void. While Russia’s most important Middle Eastern allies country to be Syria and Iran, in terms of a close partner that has come in from the cold, this country is Turkey. The US, which once more or less ruled half of the middle east from another hemisphere, is nowhere to be found. The US still has the ability to invade, occupy and ultimately fail in its Middle East missions, but diplomatically, outside of a few Arab states on the Persian Gulf and Israel, its diplomatic capital is largely expired.

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Ukraine President Poroshenko moves to steal Russian Orthodox Church property

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 84.

Dmitry Babich

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The press service of the Patriarch of All Russias announced that the first person in the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, will visit Istanbul on August 31, 2018, for a “very important talk” with his colleague, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

All Russia and all of Ukraine will be watching this meeting with their hearts beating. Bartholomew, even though not playing in the Orthodox world the same role as the Pope plays in the Catholic one, is in a “make or break” position now. Bartholomew has been asked by the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to separate the Ukrainian “sister church” from the Moscow Patriarchate. The problem is that Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox believers belonged to the same church since Russia’s baptism in 988 AD, which makes it more than 1000 years. (Kirill is traditionally called the Patriarch of All Russias, meaning the White Russia, i.e. Belarus, and Small Russia, i.e. Ukraine.)

The head of the un-recognized pro-Poroshenko “alternative” Ukrainian church, Filaret Denisenko, said that Bartholomew’s agreement will mean an immediate confiscation of all the temples, chapels and monasteries in the country from the “pro-Moscow” church to the newly formed Unified Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which president Poroshenko announced would be founded right after getting Bartholomew’s eventual permission. Bartholomew’s response is awaited in September, so the visit of the Russian Patriarch to Bartholomew’s office in Istanbul has an urgent character. In Ukraine, several deputies warned of “bloody consequences” if the buildings of prayer start to be taken away from the traditional church.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Political Analyst with Sputnik International, Dmitry Babich, discuss the move by Ukraine President Poroshenko to divide the Russian Orthodox Church and execute a massive land grab against the Russian Church that would be historic in size and scope.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.


TURMOIL AROUND THE ANNIVERSARY

In The end of July 2018, on the eve of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus, an Eastern Slavic proto-state, on whose territory the three modern states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are located today, the events of that long past epoch were suddenly echoed by some very modern pains. The authorities in Kiev, the site of baptism performed by prince Vladimir in 988 AD and currently the capital of Ukraine, spread fears among believers. Fears unheard of since Christianity was de facto “rehabilitated” in the former Soviet Union during the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism – under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988.

The heads of Ukrainian transportation companies said in their many conversations with Ukrainian priests that they got “recommendations” from the authorities not to provide buses at the request of  peripheral parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UPTsMP in the local abbreviation). The aim of the authorities was to prevent UPTsMP from busing the believers into Kiev and holding a mass march there. Since UPTsMP openly condemns the ongoing civil war in Ukraine, refusing to call it a “Russian aggression” and retaining the word “Moscow” in its name, the authorities’ concerns are easy to explain. They were afraid that the march could be seen as a sign of the believers’ opposition to certain policies of the ruling regime in Ukraine. Namely, the policies aimed at total cut of ties to Moscow, advocated by the ruling regime in Ukraine.

PROBLEMS OF TRANSPORTATION

“We called dozens of various [transportation] companies and everywhere we heard total refusal. In the end, one of the heads of these companies confessed: they were unofficially prohibited to transport the believers to Kiev under threat of a physical violence,” the official site of the Ukrainian church quoted archpriest Oleg Dominsky as saying. Dominsky represented the Ovruch diocese of UPTsMP. https://ria.ru/religion/20180726/1525416709.html

Ovruch is located in the north-west of Ukraine, a few hundreds of miles away from Kiev. Similar complaints came from the Odessa, Nezhin and Chernovtsy regions of Ukraine. The metropolitan of the Ovruch diocese Vissarion said in an interview to the Kiev-based Ukrainian television channel  112UA: “Not only the transportation companies, but even simple believers face obstacles [on their way to Kiev]. People are… intimidated, some of them face threats of having problems with their jobs,” Vissarion said on 112UA channel. https://ria.ru/religion/20180726/1525416709.html

“SEPARATISTS” IN THE MAJORITY

However, on July 27, the UPTsMP’s  march in honor of the 1030th anniversary did take place, with about 250 thousand people attending it, according to the church’s own estimates. The deputy of Ukraine’s interior minister, Sergei Yarovoi, came with a much more modest estimate, telling the journalists that “about 20 thousand people took part” in the march of the church which the pro-government Ukrainian nationalist organizations often accuse of being “a pro-Moscow group of separatists in priests’ attire.”

Why was the Ukrainian government so much against the march commemorating something that happened 1030 years ago? “It had been clear long before the anniversary that this march would reveal the spiritual bonds between Ukrainians and Russians, since prince Vladimir during the baptism did not make any difference between these two nations. So, the authorities tried to prevent the march, while giving maximum support to an alternative event, organized by the so called Ukrainian church of Kiev Patriarchate, which is loyal to the authorities and calls the war in Ukraine a ‘Russian aggression,” said Vladimir Sinelnikov, the Ukrainian-born correspondent of the Russian Vesti FM radio station in Kiev. https://radiovesti.ru/brand/61178/episode/1860284/

According to Sinelnikov and several Ukrainian media outlets, the authorities are giving a clear preference to an “alternative” Ukrainian Orthodox church, the so called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate (UPTs KP), not recognized by any of the world’s Orthodox Patriarchates. This so called “church” is headed by “patriarch” Filaret Denisenko, an excommunicated former member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church who founded UPTsKP on the basis of Ukrainian nationalism and total rejection of any “spiritual communion” with Russia in 1992.

APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION

“We know that participants in the march organized by citizen Denisenko and his followers were bused in to Kiev by none other than the local administrations and other government bodies,” said Alexander Shchipkov, deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for relations with society and media. “However, experience shows that excommunicated Denisenko and his so called church never attain the same numbers of supporters as the canonical Ukrainian church, which is officially a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, sharing its apostolic tradition and many hundreds of years of history. For every true believer, this is more important than the government’s graces.”

According to historical records, Kievan Rus was officially baptized by prince Vladimir in the tenth century AD with the support and participation of the Greek Church in Constantinople, then the official church of the East Roman Empire, later referred to by historians as Byzantine. (In reality, the Byzantine emperors and their subjects called themselves Romans and considered their empire the same state as the legendary Roman empire of Julius Caesar. It is from Caesar that the word “tsar” emerged in the Russian language to designate the monarch, while Roman history became the root of the theory of “Moscow as the third Rome,” which presumed Moscow’s succession to the imperial city of Rome and its previous successor of Constantinople, the second Rome, that fell to Turkish hands in the fifteenth century.)

The first Orthodox bishops and metropolitans in Russia were Greeks from Constantinople, who got their “apostolic succession” from Christ’s own disciples, which visited Rome and Greece on many occasions, starting the tradition of “ordaining” new bishops and priests, which lasts to this day. Today, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are in fact celebrating the 1030th anniversary of this unbroken tradition.

UNWANTED SEPARATION

“The strength of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister UPTs MP lies in the apostolic succession, which the current Ukrainian government can neither provide nor imitate,” Moscow Patriarchate’s Shchipkov said. “The state cannot “create” a church, nor should it aspire to do it. But this is exactly what the Ukrainian authorities are trying to do, urging the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to merge with Denisenko’s entity and asking from the ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople an autocephalous status for this new “united” Ukrainian church of their own invention.” In April this year, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko and the country’s parliament did ask the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew to give “patriarch” Denisenko and his church an “autocephalous” status, thus breaking the more than 1000 years old link to Russia. Bartholomew is still considering that request. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate protested, saying that it did not empower Poroshenko and Rada to ask Constantinople for any special new status for it. “This initiative is an abuse of power, an interference of state into church affairs,” the Church’s statement said. http://news.church.ua/2018/04/21/zayavlenie-ovcs-ukrainskoj-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-po-povodu-obrashheniya-prezidenta-ukrainy-k-vselenskomu-patriarxu-varfolomeyu-otnositelno-predostavleniya-tomosa-ob-avtokefalii-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-v-ukr/?lang=ru

SPIRITUAL LINK

However, besides a purely religious significance, today’s anniversary has an important humanitarian element, which goes far beyond the sphere of religion alone. Joint celebration of the Eastern Slavs’ baptism provides an enduring spiritual link between tens of millions of people, who in the 1990s suddenly became divided by newly emerged borders. Ukraine again gives the most vivid – and dramatic – example of this.

After the Maidan revolution in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent crackdown by the new authorities on all things Russian in that country, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UPTsMP) remained the only public organization in Ukraine which still legally has the word “Moscow” in its name. For millions of Ukrainian citizens, ethnic Russians or not, any kind of legal linkage to Russia is valuable and important. Besides the Cyrillic alphabet, which was given to both Russians and Ukrainians by the saintly teachers Cyril and Method in the 9th century, there are few non-Internet links that remain between the two countries. Already in the beginning of its rule in 2014, the new regime in Kiev terminated air flights between the two countries and banished Russian television and radio from Ukraine’s cable networks. Constant attempts to shut down the Russian embassy and to introduce a visa regime or just to close the borders are made from the Ukrainian side.

CHURCH SUCCEEDS WHERE GORBACHEV FAILS

But why does the church endure where diplomacy does not?

In the period of collapse of the Soviet Union as a successor to the Russian empire, which culminated in the country’s dissolution in 1991, the Russian church proved to be much wiser and more flexible than the Soviet state. It succeeded where the last president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev failed.

“Russian Orthodox Church then gave its “periphery” so much autonomy, that this prevented the collapse of the whole structure. The unified state might collapse in tears, but the church did not follow it. It remained alive and did not give up its right to cater to believers on all sides of the newly emerged borders,” explains Yevgeny Nikiforov, the head of the Orthodox-oriented radio station Radonezh and a specialist in Russian church’s history.

Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow Patriarchate allowed the sister churches in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to have their own budgets, to appoint their own bishops and to run all of their “earthly” activities (education, production of church items, etc.) without consulting anyone in Moscow. In return, the Russian Orthodox Church remained in “eucharistic union” with them, with representatives of these churches participating in the election of the Russian Patriarch of ROC. But what is most important, all believers in these countries and Russia can satisfy their religious needs on equal footing in any of these sister churches.

PATRIARCH IN DREAM OF KIEV

After his election in 2009, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill became much more active than his predecessors in propagating the idea of the “Russian world,” a free spiritual community of the individuals sharing Christian Orthodox values, anchored in Russian culture and having some knowledge (not necessarily proficiency) of the Russian language.

The tragic wars in Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, when Christian Orthodox believers killed each other on both sides of the fronts, led to innumerable losses for both the church and its Orthodox parishioners. Dozens of Orthodox priests had to emigrate from Ukraine to Russia because of accusations of being “Moscow stooges.” But this suffering did not shatter the belief of Patriarch Kirill in the feasibility of Russian world and its benign nature.

For Kirill, there is a personal side to these conflicts: the tradition to celebrate the anniversaries of Prince Vladimir’s Baptism of Rus in Kiev, established by Kirill’s predecessors back in 2008, can no longer be continued because of the Ukrainian government’s negative stance towards him personally.

“The Patriarch feels very badly about the fact that the Ukrainian authorities do not let him visit Kiev, the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy,” explained Vladimir Legoyda, ROC’s representative in the Holy Synod’s department on public affairs. “For many centuries, this is the first time that the head of the Russian orthodox Church is facing such a constraint on his movement. But the Patriarch is sure that sooner or later such a visit will be possible again. We don’t support any sides in Ukraine’s war. We just want this war to end as soon as possible.”

Speaking to a convention of the world’s Orthodox churches’ representatives in Moscow on July 27, Patriarch Kirill denounced the attempts to divide and subdue the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he condemned its discrimination and the attempts to disown it of its most famous  Pochayiv monastery and Kiev-Pechersk one. “For our church, Kiev is the same kind of a holy place as Jerusalem is for Christians of all creeds or Kosovo is for the Serb Orthodox church,” Kirill explained. He also asked the Ukrainian authorities not to “cut away” the Ukrainian church from the Moscow Patriarchate.

But will the official Kiev hear the Patriarch?  It may not, but after all, the link between the Russian and Ukrainian believers is really not of an earthly nature. And what God has tied together, will the governments be able to severe? Every true believer knows the answer to this question.

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Judicial Watch Calls for Re-Opening of Hillary Email Investigation After More Classified Info Found

Judicial Watching is calling for a re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after finding more classified information on the former Secretary of State’s non-“state.gov” email system.

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Authored by Joseph Jankowski via PlanetFreeWill.com,


On Thursday, the watchdog revealed that it had received two batches, 184 pages and 45 pagesof newly uncovered emails belonging to Hillary Clinton from the U.S. Department of State sent and received over her unsecured server.

The emails were uncovered by a FOIA lawsuit filed on May 6, 2015, after the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015 FOIA request seeking all emails sent or received by Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State, as well as all emails by other State Department employees to Clinton regarding her non-“state.gov” email address.

Judicial Watch broke down what they found:

  • On June 7, 2011, Clinton received classified information on her non-secure email account from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which Blair also forwarded to Jake Sullivan, about Blair’s Middle East negotiations with Israel, the Palestinians and the French
  • On January 26, 2010, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan sent classified information via his unsecure Blackberry to Huma Abedin’s State Department email account that he’d earlier sent to Clinton’s and Abedin’s non-secure @clintonemail.com email accounts about U.K. negotiations with Northern Ireland.
  • On October 28, 2010, Clinton exchanges information with her friend Marty Torrey – a congressional aide – who asks Clinton in an email if she would advise that Torrey meet with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Clinton responds through her non-secure email account approving the meeting and notes that she is emailing him from Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • An email chain dated April 8, 2010, which contains a memo from Sid Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton related to the change of government in Kyrgyzstan, contains information classified “confidential” and is redacted as “foreign government information” and “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Blumenthal urges Clinton to “develop relations” with the new government in Kyrgyzstan.

These emails caused Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton to call for the Department of Justice to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time in office.

“These emails were undercovered from the emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete or otherwise hide from the American people,” Fitton said in a video posted Thursday. “These new emails once again show why the Clinton email investigation needs to be re-opened by the Justice Department.”

The batch of emails also disclosed a January 26, 2010, email to Hillary Clinton’s private server from her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, that is classified “confidential” and contains a “call sheet” that Clinton received prior to a call with Northern Ireland political leaders.

Interesting, but not surprising, is also an email that shows a meeting scheduled between Hillary Clinton and leftwing billionaire George Soros.

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Doug Casey on Social Media: “Facebook enshrines stupidity”

“Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook.”

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Authored by Joel Bowman via InternationalMan.com:


Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Doug Casey: No problem, Joel. It’s a pleasure to hear your Australian accent come across the ether from Mexico.

Joel: Let’s dive right in. A week or two ago, Facebook registered the largest single day loss for any one company in stock market history – roughly $122 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg lost around $15 billion himself, as much as the annual GDP of several resource-rich, West African nations.

Looking back to 2000, during the go-go days of the dot.com boom, Intel and Microsoft both registered staggering single-day losses, too… $90 billion and $80 billion, respectively. And we know what happened next in that case…

So, investors want to know… is past prologue? What’s next for Silicon Valley’s tech darlings?

Doug: Talking about losing multiple billions in a single day, it’s really a sign of the times. I remember when the only billionaires in the world were Howard Hughes, John Paul Getty and John Beresford Tipton– the mythical billionaire on a 1950’s-era show called “The Millionaire.”

These days, however, it seems everyone’s a billionaire. In fact, there are several thousand billionaires roaming the planet today, with new ones being minted almost every day.

Of course, much of this so-called wealth is just paper. It’s not real. In fact, it’s pretty clear to me that we’re in a stock market bubble. Which is being driven by the bond market hyper-bubble. And that, in turn, is fueling a real estate bubble, which I believe is just now beginning to deflate in major cities around the world.

None of this augurs well for the stock market. You’ve got bubbles all over the place. Except in the resource market. That’s the one place that hasn’t inflated. In fact, it’s been going down since it’s last peak in 2011.

Getting back to Facebook, I hope it goes bankrupt. I hate it as an institution. I hate what it does. I don’t like its policies. I don’t like its management. I don’t like the fact that it’s causing people to destroy whatever privacy they have left. While turning their brains to mush sending out selfies all day.

Joel: You’ve put a lot on the table there, Doug. Let’s unpack a bit of that, starting with the general tendency toward cerebral rot…

Many younger readers may not remember this, but there actually existed a time before everybody knew everything, when people had to read books and discuss them, engage in healthy debate and rigorous dialectic in order to learn and develop intellectually.

Now that everyone apparently has plenty of time to Instagram their kale salads and “like” one and other’s cat pictures, are we to assume mankind has finally reached the End of Learning…some new Age of Enlightenment?

Or might Facebook and its (anti)social media cousins represent – in addition to the potential fallout for investors – another, hidden cost to society?

Doug: Perhaps humanity is bifurcating into the Morlocks and the Eloi at this point. It’s true that people used to go to libraries. But even the Library of Congress has only a tiny fraction the world’s data available; libraries are quaint and delightful, but they’re dinosaurs.

All the knowledge in the world is now at our fingertips on the Internet. The Internet is one of the greatest inventions in history, on a par with moveable type and the Gutenburg printing press. A few people are using it to educate and better themselves—but relatively few.

Most people just use it for trivial amusement, as you mentioned. Facebook adds very little value to the equation. In fact, I can’t see that it does much that’s productive. It’s basically a vehicle for gossip and watching cat videos.

Joel: And it’s less than that. Aside from the general degradation of public discourse, social media also represents a kind of unalterable historical record of bad jokes and regrettable moments, accessible to anyone who may wish to besmirch one’s character or skittle one’s reputation.

We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t. To err is to be human, after all. What do you make of a world in which everyone’s worst moments are readily available to everyone else – including potential enemies – at the click of a mouse?

Doug: Facebook enshrines stupidity. A heavy Facebook user is, in effect, saying: “Look at me! I’m a thoughtless person who doesn’t have anything better to do with his time”. That’s on top of the fact that users are exposing their thoughts, actions, and whereabouts to the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and any of a hundred other nefarious agencies. In fact, there are credible allegations that Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, are willing tools of these intelligence agencies. No good can come of being a Facebookista.

But that’s about whether you should use Facebook. Whether you should own Facebook stock is a different question. Even after the recent selloff, Facebook still has a market cap of about $500 billion, which impresses me as a lot for a chat site cum advertising vehicle. Especially one where most of its growth is behind it. A lot of users are getting hip to the fact they’re not customers, they’re the product.

Facebook was a clever innovation ten years ago. But you know, there’s an old saying in the stock market: High Tech, Big Wreck!

Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook. My understanding is that kids now see Facebook as something used by old people– people over 21 years of age. So if it’s going nowhere with the younger generation, where’s it’s future? Maybe it picks up a billion new users in the Third World. Ultimately, what’s that worth?

Facebook may not be a terminal short sale, but I certainly won’t be putting any of my own money into the stock.

Joel: Assuming you’re correct and Facebook 2.0 does displace the current market leader, are you hopeful that such a platform may serve to promote a heightened level of discourse? Perhaps people might find their way into “phyles,” that is, subgroups based on commonly shared values that actually have real world meaning?

Doug: I hope that, in a year or two, International Man itself grows into a community of likeminded people with above average I.Q.s, libertarian values, and real world experience. IM might, itself, even branch off to become its own kind of Facebook. A private version.

I know there’s a lot of talk about regulating FB, or breaking it up. That’s a bad idea; the government should have zero to do with business in general—and areas related to free speech in particular. I’m disgusted by the fact FB has kicked Alex Jones and others off their platform. But they have a right to do so, as a private company. Although, on the other hand, they’re almost a creature of the State.

But that’s not an excuse for the government to “step in”. What will happen is that a newer, better Facebook lookalike—or a dozen of them—will replace them. FB will self-destruct. It’s a non-problem.

To be frank, you and I don’t really have that much in common with most of the 7.3 billion people on this planet. In fact, while I like many individual humans, I despise humanity in general. The more people you put together in a group, the more they act like chimpanzees. Big groups force down the lowest common denominator.

There’s some cause for optimism, but only on a person-to-person basis. I prefer the company of people who value free minds and free markets—and I suspect most people who are reading this now feel the same way.

Joel: That’s probably a very good note to end this conversation on, Doug. Thanks, as always, for taking the time.

Doug: Meanwhile, we’ll look for something with the potential of Facebook in 2008… and stay away from Facebook today.

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