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Italy, the EU, and the Fall of the Roman Empire

The EU has punished Greece for its profligacy – and is set to punish Italy if it flaunts EU fiscal rules.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The EU leadership is trying to contain a crisis that is emerging at increasing speed: this challenge comprises the rise of contumacious states (i.e. the UK, Poland, Hungary and Italy), or of defiant, historic ‘cultural blocs’ (i.e. Catalonia) – all of whom are explicitly disenchanted with the notion of some coerced convergence towards a uniform EU-administered ‘order’, with its austere monetary ‘disciplines’. They even dismiss the EU’s claim to be, somehow, a part of a greater civilizational order of moral values.

If, in the post-war era, the EU represented an attempt to escape the Anglo-American hegemony, these new defiant blocks of ‘cultural resurgence’ which seek to situate themselves as interdependent, sovereign ‘spaces’ are, in their turn, an attempt to escape another type of hegemony: that of an EU administrative ‘uniformity’.

To exit this particular European order (which it originally was hoped, would differ from the Anglo-Americanimperii), the EU nevertheless was forced to lean on the latter’s archetypal construct of ‘liberty’ as empire’s justification (now metamorphosed into the EU’s ‘four freedoms’) on which the EU strict ‘uniformities’ (the ‘level-playing-field’, regulation in all aspects of life, tax and economic harmonization) have been hung. The European ‘project’ has become seen, as it were, as something that hollows out distinct and ancient ‘ways-of-being’.

Indeed, the very fact of their being attempted, at different levels, and in distinct geographical cultural regions, these assays indicate that that EU hegemony has already weakened to the point that it may not be able fully to hinder the emergence of this new wave. What is at stake precisely for the EU, is whether it can succeed to slow down, and curb in every way, the emergence of this process of cultural re-sovereigntisation, which of course, threatens to fragment the EU’s vaunted ‘solidarity’, and to fragment its matrix of a perfectly regulated customs union and common trade area.

It was Carl Schmitt – the political philosopher – however, who warned strongly against the possibility of what he called a negative katechon accelerator. This would seem to apply – exactly – to the situation in which the EU presently finds itself. This was a notion, held by the ancients, that historical events often have a ‘backstage’ contrarian dimension – that is to say that some given ‘intent’ or action (by say, the EU), may end upaccelerating precisely those processes which it was meant to slow down or to halt. For Schmitt, this explained the paradox through which a ‘braking action’ (such as the one being undertaken by the EU) may actually reverse itself, in an unwanted acceleration of the very processes the EU intends to oppose. Schmitt called this an ‘involuntary’ effect, since it produced effects opposed to the original intent. For the ancients, it simply reminded them that we humans often are merely history’s objects, rather than its causal subjects.

It is possible that the ‘braking action’ imposed on Greece, on Britain, on Hungary – and now on Italy – may precisely slide towards Schmitt’s Katechon. Italy has lingered in economic limbo for decades: Its new government feels obliged to relieve, in some way, the accumulated economic stresses of past years, and to try to re-kindle growth. But the state has a high level of debt to GDP, and the EU insists that Italy must endure the consequences: it must obey ‘the rules’.

Professor Michael Hudson (in a new book) explains how the EU’s ‘braking action’ in respect to Italian debt, represents a certain European strand of psychic rigidity that totally ignores historical experience, and may precisely result in Katechon: the opposite of what is intended. Interviewed by John Siman, Hudson says:

“In ancient Mesopotamian societies, it was understood that freedom was preserved by protecting debtors. A corrective model actually existed and flourished in the economic functioning of Mesopotamian societies, during the third and second millennia B.C. It can be termed the Clean Slate amnesty … It consisted of the necessary and periodic erasure of the debts of small farmers — necessary because such farmers are, in any society in which interest on loans is calculated, inevitably subject to being impoverished, then stripped of their property. and finally reduced to servitude … by their creditors.

[And was necessary too, as a] constant dynamic of history has been the drive by financial elites to centralize control in their own hands and manage the economy in predatory, extractive ways. Their ostensible freedom [comes] at the expense of the governing authority, and the economy at large. As such, it [stands as] the opposite of liberty – as conceived in Sumerian time …

So it was inevitable [in later centuries], that in Greek and Roman history, increasing numbers of small farmers became irredeemably indebted, and lost their land. It likewise was inevitable that their creditors amassed huge land holdings and established themselves in parasitic oligarchies. This innate tendency to social polarization – arising from debt unforgiveness – is the original and incurable curse on our post-eighth-century-B.C. Western Civilization, the lurid birthmark that cannot be washed away, or excised.

Hudson argues that the long, decline and fall of Rome begins, not as Gibbon had it, with the death of Marcus Aurelius, but four centuries earlier, following Hannibal’s devastation of the Italian countryside during the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.). After that war, the small farmers of Italy never recovered their land, which was systematically swallowed up by the prædia, the great oligarchic estates, as Pliny the Elder observed. [Of course, today it is small and medium sized Italian businesses that are being swallowed up by oligarchic, pan-European corporations.]

But among modern scholars, as Hudson points out, “Arnold Toynbee is almost alone in emphasizing the role of debt in concentrating Roman wealth and property ownership” (p. xviii) — and thus in explaining the decline of the Roman Empire …

“Mesopotamian societies were not interested in equality,” he told his interviewer, “but they were civilized. And they possessed the financial sophistication to understand that, since interest on loans increases exponentially, while economic growth at best follows an S-curve, this means that debtors will, if not protected by a central authority, end up becoming permanent bondservants to their creditors. So Mesopotamian kings regularly rescued debtors who were getting crushed by their debts. They knew that they needed to do this. Again and again, century after century, they proclaimed ‘Clean Slate’ Amnesties.”

The EU has punished Greece for its profligacy – and is set to punish Italy if it flaunts EU fiscal rules. The EU is attempting what Schmitt termed a ‘breaking action’, to maintain its hegemony.

This is however, truly a case of the EU seeing the ‘mote’ (speck) in Italy’s eye, whilst ignoring the ‘beam’ in its own eye. The Economic Cycle Research Institute’s Lakshman Achuthan writes:

“The combined debt of US, the Eurozone, Japan and China has increased more than ten times as much as their combined GDP, over the past year. It’s remarkable that the global economy – slowing in sync, despite soaring debt – finds itself in a situation reminiscent of the Red Queen Effect. As the Red Queen says to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”.

But that – running faster, taking on more debt – can only, in the end, be resolved with a major default (or through inflating the debt away). Look at the US: its GDP is growing at 2.5%; the US Federal debt is at 105% of GDP; the US Treasury is spending $1.5 billion on interest per day, and debt is growing at 5-6% of GDP. It is not sustainable.

Demands by Greece and Italy for debt relief may be regarded by some as special pleading, in the wake of past economic mismanagement; but Sumerian and Babylonian demands were based not on such – but rather, on a conservative tradition grounded in rituals of renewing the calendrical cosmos and its periodicities, Hudson tells us. The Mesopotamian idea of reform had ‘no notion’ of what we would call ‘social progress’. Instead, the measures the king instituted under his debt ‘jubilees’ were measures intended to restore a ‘backstage’, underlying order in society, or maat. “The rules of the game had not been changed, but everyone had been dealt a new hand of cards”.

Hudson notes, “the Greeks and the Romans replaced the cyclical idea of time and societal renewal, with that of linear time” [with convergence toward an ‘End Time’]: “Economic polarization became irreversible, not merely temporary” – as the idea of renewal became lost. Hudson might have added that linear time, and the loss of the imperative of dismemberment and renewal, has played a major role in underpinning all of Europe’s universalist projects of a linear itinerary towards human transformation (or, Utopianism).

This is the essential contradiction: that ineluctable economic divarication and polarization is transforming Europe into a continent torn by unresolved internal contradiction. On the one hand it castigates Italy for its debts, and on the other, it has been the ECB which has pursued interest rate ‘repression’ into negative territory, and has monetized debt to the equivalence of one-third of Europe’s global output. How can the EU not have expected banks and businesses not to have loaded up on ‘positive-carry’ debt? How can they have expected Banks not to have inflated their balance sheets with ‘free debt’ to the point of becoming ‘too big to fail’?

The global explosion of debt is a macro problem that vastly transcends the microcosm of Italy. Like the ancient Roman Empire, the EU has atrophied in its ‘order’ to become an obstacle to change, and, with no alternative, but to hold tight to a ‘braking action’ that will ultimately produce effects, completely at odds to the original intent (i.e. involuntary, negative Katechon)

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John Nolan
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John Nolan

When will the public, the surpressed citizens, realize that this banking system, the DEBIT banking system, is the fundamental cause of all global poverty, wars, power games, and is the root poison which has, for a long, long time, through the banksters immoral, dishonest, destructive lust for power and control, crushed us all into submission to their plan of absolute global control, subservience, of all people, nations, clients, you and I, to their evil plan? The only way to stop the insanity in which our world is now trapped, is by citizens relinqishing spineless fear of the banksters, demanding our… Read more »

Michele
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Michele

The EU should be very careful with their decisions to sanction Italy in reference to the Budget / 2019. Actually, here one can see very clearly that the conflict is based mostly on political differences and not on economic differences. Italy is faithful in defending its country, and the right moment has come to defend it. No more no less.

Bill
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Bill

What does nationalizing property mean? Occupants own what they occupy while their mortgage debt is cancelled. Saving are confiscated but a remedy will replace part up to1 million for richer people and up to 1billion for richer corporations. Government would also redress other agreed upon injuries.

Then start over.

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BARR: No collusion by any Americans

Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

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Attorney General Barr found no one in the Trump campaign colluded with “Russia” to meddle in the 2016 US election.

A devastating blow to Democrats and their mainstream media stenographers.

Trump reacted immediately…

Via RT…

With the full report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into claims President Donald Trump colluded with Russia about to be released, Attorney General William Barr is giving a press conference about its findings.

Barr maintains the allegation that the Russian government made efforts to interfere in the election through the Internet Research Agency, an alleged Kremlin-control “troll farm”, as well as “hacking efforts” by the Russian intelligence agency GRU.

The bottom line, Barr says, is that Mueller has found Russia tried to interfere in the election, but “no American” helped it.

Barr explained the White House’s interaction with the Mueller report, whether Trump used executive privilege to block any of its contents from release, as well as on how the Justice Department chose which bits of the 400-page paper to redact.

On the matter of obstruction of justice, Barr said he and his deputy Rod Rosenstein have reviewed Mueller’s evidence and “legal theories”, and found that there is no evidence to show Trump tried to disrupt the investigation.

He said Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

Most of the redactions in the report were made to protect ongoing investigations and personal information of “peripheral third parties”.

Barr said that no-one outside the Justice Department took part in the redacting process or saw the unredacted version, except for the intelligence community, which was given access to parts of it to protect sources.

Trump did not ask to make any changes to Mueller’s report, Barr said.

Trump’s personal counsel was given access to the redacted report before its release.

A number of Trump-affiliated people, as well as Russian nationals, have been indicted, charged or put on trial by Mueller over the course of the past two years, but none for election-related conspiracy. Still, Democrats in Congress as well as numerous establishment media personalities have been insisting that Barr, a Trump pick for AG office, is somehow “spinning” its findings in order to protect and exonerate Trump, and are calling to see the full report as soon as possible.

They have equally condemned Barr’s decision to hold a news conference before the report is release, claiming he is trying to shape the public perception in Trump’s favor.

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Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Important events have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks that underline how the overall political reconfiguration of the region is in full swing. The Shia axis continues its diplomatic relations and, following Rouhani’s meeting in Baghdad, it was the turn of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be received in Tehran by the highest government and religious authorities. Among the many statements released, two in particular reveal the high level of cooperation between the two countries, as well as demonstrating how the Shia axis is in full bloom, carrying significant prospects for the region. Abdul-Mahdi also reiterated that Iraq will not allow itself to be used as a platform from which to attack Iran: “Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to launch any attacks against Iran. The plan is to export electricity and gas for other countries in the region.”

Considering that these two countries were mortal enemies during Saddam Hussein’s time, their rapprochement is quite a (geo)political miracle, owing much of its success to Russia’s involvement in the region. The 4+1 coalition (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria plus Hezbollah) and the anti-terrorism center in Baghdad came about as a result of Russia’s desire to coordinate all the allied parties in a single front. Russia’s military support of Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah (together with China’s economic support) has allowed Iran to begin to transform the region such that the Shia axis can effectively counteract the destabilizing chaos unleashed by the trio of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One of the gaps to be filled in the Shia axis lies in Lebanon, which has long experienced an internal conflict between the many religious and political currents in the country. The decision by Washington to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel pushed the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, to make an important symbolic visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin.

Once again, the destabilizing efforts of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are having the unintended effect of strengthening the Shia axis. It seems that this trio fails to understood how such acts as murdering Khashoggi, using civilian planes to hide behind in order to conduct bombing runs in Syria, recognizing the occupied territories like the Golan Heights – how these produce the opposite effects to the ones desired.

The supply of S-300 systems to Syria after the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane took place as a result of Tel Aviv failing to think ahead and anticipate how Russia may respond.

What is surprising in Moscow’s actions is the versatility of its diplomacy, from the deployment of the S-300s in Syria, or the bombers in Iran, to the prompt meetings with Netanyahu in Moscow and Mohammad bin Salman at the G20. The ability of the Russian Federation to mediate and be present in almost every conflict on the globe restores to the country the international stature that is indispensable in counterbalancing the belligerence of the United States.

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange. Another military and economic example can be found in a third axis; not the Shia or Saudi-Israeli-US one but the Turkish-Qatari one. In Syria, Erdogan started from positions that were exactly opposite to those of Putin and Assad. But with decisive military action and skilled diplomacy, the creation of the Astana format between Iran, Turkey and Russia made Turkey and Qatar publicly take the defense of Islamist takfiris and criminals in Idlib. Qatar for its part has a two-way connection with Turkey, but it is also in open conflict with the Saudi-Israeli axis, with the prospect of abandoning OPEC within a few weeks. This situation has allowed Moscow to open a series of negotiations with Doha on the topic of LNG, with these two players controlling most of the LNG on the planet. It is evident that also the Turkish-Qatari axis is strongly conditioned by Moscow and by the potential military agreements between Turkey and Russia (sale of S-400) and economic and energy agreements between Moscow and Doha.

America’s actions in the region risks combining the Qatari-Turkish front with the Shia axis, again thanks to Moscow’s skilful diplomatic work. The recent sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, together with the withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iranian nuclear agreement), has created concern and bewilderment in the region and among Washington’s allies. The act of recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel has brought together the Arab world as few events have done in recent times. Added to this, Trump’s open complaints about OPEC’s high pricing of oil has forced Riyadh to start wondering out aloud whether to start selling oil in a currency other than the dollar. This rumination was quickly denied, but it had already been aired. Such a decision would have grave implications for the petrodollar and most of the financial and economic power of the United States.

If the Shia axis, with Russian protection, is strengthened throughout the Middle East, the Saudi-Israel-American triad loses momentum and falls apart, as seen in Libya, with Haftar now one step closer in unifying the country thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia, with Fayez al-Sarraj now abandoned by the Italians and Americans awaiting his final defeat.

While the globe continues its multipolar transformation, the delicate balancing role played by Russia in the Middle East and North Africa is emphasized. The Venezuelan foreign minister’s recent visit to Syria shows how the front opposed to US imperialist bullying is not confined to the Middle East, with countries in direct or indirect conflict with Washington gathering together under the same protective Sino-Russian umbrella.

Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with the conviction of American exceptionalism, is driving international relations towards two poles rather than multipolar ones, pushing China, Russia and all other countries opposed to the US to unite in order to collectively resist US diktats.

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Nigel Farage stuns political elite, as Brexit Party and UKIP surge in polls (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 144.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party’s stunning rise in the latest UK polls, which show Tory support splintering and collapsing to new lows. Theresa May’s Brexit debacle has all but destroyed the Conservative party, which is now seeing voters turn to UKIP and The Brexit Party.

Corbyn’s Labour Party is not finding much favor from UK voters either, as anger over how Britain’s two main parties conspired to sell out the country to EU globalists, is now being voiced in various polling data ahead of EU Parliament elections.

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Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk:


The Guardian reports Tories Hit by New Defections and Slump in Opinion Polls as Party Divide Widens.

The bitter fallout from Brexit is threatening to break the Tory party apart, as a Europhile former cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell on Sunday announces he is defecting to the independent MPs’ group Change UK, and a new opinion poll shows Conservative support plummeting to a five-year low as anti-EU parties surge.

The latest defections come as a new Opinium poll for the Observer shows a dramatic fall in Tory support in the past two weeks and a surge for anti-EU parties. The Conservatives have fallen by six percentage points to 29% compared to a fortnight ago. It is their worst position since December 2014. Labour is up one point on 36% while Ukip is up two points on 11%.

Even more alarmingly for the Tories, their prospects for the European elections appear dire. Only 17% of those certain to vote said they would choose the Conservatives in the European poll, while 29% would back Labour, and 25% either Ukip (13%) or Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party (12%).

YouGov Poll

A more recent YouGov Poll looks even worse for the Tories

In the YouGov poll, UKIP and BREX total 29%.

Polls Volatile

Eurointellingence has these thoughts on the polls.

We have noted before that classic opinion polls at a time like this are next to useless. But we found an interesting constituency-level poll, by Electoral Calculus, showing for the first time that Labour would get enough constituency MPs to form a minority government with the support of the SNP. This is a shift from previous such exercises, which predicted a continuation of the status quo with the Tories still in command.

This latest poll, too, is subject to our observation of massively intruding volatility. It says that some of the Tory’s most prominent MPs would be at risk, including Amber Rudd and Iain Duncan-Smith. And we agree with the bottom-line analysis of John Curtice, the pollster, who said the abrupt fall in support for Tories is due entirely to their failure to have delivered Brexit on time.

The Tories are facing two electoral tests in May – local elections on May 2 and European elections on May 23. Early polls are show Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party shooting up, taking votes away from the Tories. If European elections were held, we would expect the Brexit party to come ahead of the Tories. Labour is rock-solid in the polls, but Labour unity is at risk as the pro-referendum supporters want Jeremy Corbyn to put the second referendum on the party’s manifesto.

Tory Labour Talks

The Tory/Labour talks on a compromise have stalled, but are set to continue next week with three working groups: on security, on environmental protection, and on workers’ rights. A separate meeting is scheduled between Philip Hammond and John McDonnell, the chancellor and shadow chancellor. The big outstanding issue is the customs union. Theresa May has not yet moved on this one. We noted David Liddington, the effective deputy prime minister, saying that the minimum outcome of the talks would be an agreed and binding decision-making procedure to flush out all options but one in a series of parliamentary votes.

May’s task is to get at least half of her party on board for a compromise. What makes a deal attractive to the Tories is that May would resign soon afterwards, giving enough time for the Tory conference in October to select a successor before possible elections in early 2020.

This relative alignment of interests is why we would not rule out a deal – either on an agreed joint future relationship, or at least on a method to deliver an outcome.

Customs Union

A customs union, depending on how it is structured, would likely be worse than remaining. The UK would have to abide by all the EU rules and regulations without having any say.

Effectively, it will not be delivering Brexit.

Perhaps May’s deal has a resurrection.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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