(CJ Opinion) — Rumors are again swirling of an impending false flag chemical weapons attack in Syria, just as they did shortly before the highly suspicious Douma case in April. Warnings from Syrian and Russian intelligence, as well as US war ship movements and an uptick in US funding for the Al Qaeda propaganda firm known as the White Helmets, give these warnings a fair bit of weight. Since the US war machine has both a known regime change agenda in Syria and an extensive history of using lies, propaganda and false flags to justify military interventionism, there’s no legitimate reason to give it the benefit of the doubt on this one. These warnings are worth taking seriously.
So some people are understandably nervous. The way things are set up now, it is technically possible for the jihadist factions inside Syria and their allied imperialist intelligence and defense agencies to keep targeting civilians with chemical weapons and blaming the Assad government for them until they pull one off that is so outrageous that it enables the mass media to manufacture public support for a full-scale assault on Damascus. This would benefit both the US-centralized empire which has been plotting regime change in Syria for decades and the violent Islamist extremists who seek control of the region. It also creates the very real probability of a direct military confrontation with Syria’s allies, including Russia.
But the appropriate response to the threat of a world war erupting in Syria is not really fear, if you think about it. The most appropriate response to this would be unmitigated, howling rage at the western sociopaths who created this situation in the first place.
The United States and its allies started the war in Syria. The narrative that it was an organic uprising brutally attacked by the Assad government is a lie. There is no reasonable doubt about this. The former Prime Minister of Qatar said on television that the US and its allies were involved in the Syrian conflict from the very beginning. A WikiLeaks cable and a declassified CIA memo both show the US government plotting to provoke an uprising in Syria exactly as it occurred, years before it happened. Former Foreign Minister of France Roland Dumas stated that he was informed that the UK was engineering an uprising in Syria two years before the violence erupted in 2011, and General Wesley Clark stated that there were Pentagon plans to take out the Syrian government in 2001. Shortly after the violence started President Obama secretly authorized the arming and training of violent extremist factions for the overthrow of Assad in a CIA program code named Timber Sycamore, which along with Saudi finances has wound up aiding some of the most evil terror groups ever to exist.
Six hundred thousand Syrians have lost their lives as a result of this regime change intervention, many of those lives ending in the most horrific ways imaginable at the hands of depraved jihadists. It was planned, and the people who planned it have names and addresses. They deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law for what they did. We should all be loudly demanding war crimes tribunals and life imprisonment for these vicious criminals.
We need a major adjustment of our emotional posture on this issue. We shouldn’t be sitting around nervously hoping Trump pulls US troops out and western-backed terror groups don’t stage another chemical attack, we should be screaming at these bastards to get their murderous tentacles out of that poor war-torn country immediately. We shouldn’t be meekly trying to justify our skepticism of the establishment Syria narrative while snide Guardian op-eds inform us that we are not permitted to think such things. We know that we are right. We know what these evil monsters did. We should be shouting the imperialists down, not the other way around.
The same depraved sociopaths who raped Iraq are presently raping Iraq’s next-door neighbor Syria for the exact same reasons. They were wrong then. They are wrong now. We should be much more angry and aggressive in pushing back on their pernicious pro-interventionism narratives. There is no excuse for any faction of the western empire to be anywhere inside of that nation’s borders. Out. Now.
Much like medicine, anger can do more harm than good when used improperly. Channeled in a wholesome, conscious direction, however, it can be an indispensable tool for driving out the toxic influence of manipulators and exploiters.
The social engineers who manufacture the narratives which are dispensed to the mass media and repeated as fact to unsuspecting audiences rely heavily on the tactic of generating sympathy. Sympathy opens people up and allows narratives to be imbued with the power of belief in a way that bypasses skepticism and critical thinking. This is why the users and abusers you have known in your personal life are always telling stories about how much wrong has been done to them, or even going out of their way to make themselves look helpless and pathetic; if they can suck you in with sympathy, they can get you to buy into the other stories they need you to believe about who they are, who you are, what your relationship to them is, and how much money/resources/affection/sex/forgiveness you should give them.
The propagandists understand this dynamic all too well. They used people’s emotional reaction to 9/11 to manufacture support for not one but two full-scale ground invasions. They circulate pictures of dead children whenever their deaths can be blamed on a longtime target of western imperialism, but never when their deaths are caused by western imperialism. Today the narratives most prolifically circulated by proponents of regime change interventionism in Syria are almost entirely emotional in nature, consisting of nothing more than constant repetition of nonsensical talking points about civilians being brutalized by a sadistic dictator in various ways for no apparent reason. This is all to generate sympathy in order to bypass people’s skepticism of pro-interventionist narratives.
Anger is sympathy poison. It kills the sympathy you are feeling toward the narratives being promoted by those you are angry with, thus allowing you to see things clearly and eject them like the parasites they are. This is a very useful tool for dealing with the manipulators and exploiters in your personal life, and it is equally useful for the manipulators and exploiters who control western society with money, media manipulation, intelligence agency operations and brute military force. Creating momentum for widespread rage at those who unleashed the horrors inflicted upon the Syrian people immunizes the public from toxic war propaganda narratives by that much.
Six hundred thousand human lives. The chaotic violence which ended them was planned, orchestrated and overseen by the same multinational power establishment whose media propaganda machine has been singing us a seven-year lullaby keeping us from questioning the ongoing military presence and interventionism in that nation and steering us away from seeking justice for those responsible for all that death. If anyone is deserving of our loud, lullaby-shattering howling rage, it is these people.
And of course we will be fought tooth and claw on this by the US-centralized power establishment; no one is going to give us permission to do this. They will do everything they can to maintain control of the narrative and the veil of government opacity which shrouds those responsible for their Syria atrocities. But we will be attacking, which means that they will be forced to defend against those attacks. Rather than playing defensive and trying to justify our right to be skeptical while praying that there isn’t a devastating false flag attack in the illegally-occupied nation of Syria, we should be putting them on the back foot with rage and loud demands for justice. Righteous anger can severely hobble the propaganda machine they intend to use for further interventionism in that nation.
You cannot argue with the rage of someone who is certain that an unforgivable evil has been perpetrated. You simply cannot manipulate and narrative-spin your way around that; it plants an unbreakable, immovable object in the gears of the propaganda machine. By getting unapologetically furious, loud and aggressive and letting the wisdom of our anger guide our response to the situation in Syria, we can shift the zeitgeist of anti-imperialist sentiment from a meek “Oh gosh darn I sure hope the people who decimated Iraq do the right thing in Syria” to a thunderous “FUCK YOU. OUT. NOW.”
Which is where it should be.
A world in which war crimes tribunals are actually carried out for the imperialists responsible for the evils inflicted upon the Syrian people will look very different from the world that we are in now. But shoving angrily and aggressively against the establishment structures which made it possible and screaming for justice and vengeance is the first step toward creating that world.
Let’s not play defense and reaction anymore. Let’s stop waiting for something to go wrong and start forcing things to be right. It’s time to go on the offensive with this thing. Get angry and let it roar through you.
The world transformed and nobody in the West noticed. India and Pakistan have joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The 17 year-old body since its founding on June 15, 2001 has quietly established itself as the main alliance and grouping of nations across Eurasia. Now it has expanded from six nations to eight, and the two new members are the giant nuclear-armed regional powers of South Asia, India, with a population of 1.324 billion and Pakistan, with 193.2 million people (both in 2016).
In other words, the combined population of the SCO powers or already well over 1.5 billion has virtually doubled at a single stroke.
The long-term global consequences of this development are enormous. It is likely to prove the single most important factor insuring peace and removing the threat of nuclear war over South Asia and from 20 percent of the human race. It now raises the total population of the world in the eight SCO nations to 40 percent, including one of the two most powerful thermonuclear armed nations (Russia) and three other nuclear powers (China, India and Pakistan).
This development is a diplomatic triumph especially for Moscow. Russia has been seeking for decades to ease its longtime close strategic ally India into the SCO umbrella. This vision was clearly articulated by one of Russia’s greatest strategic minds of the 20th century, former Premier and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who died in 2015. In the past China quietly but steadfastly blocked the India’s accession, but with Pakistan, China’s ally joining at the same time, the influence of Beijing and Moscow is harmonized.
The move can only boost Russia’s already leading role in the diplomacy and national security of the Asian continent. For both Beijing and Delhi, the road for good relations with each other and the resolution of issues such as sharing the water resources of the Himalayas and investing in the economic development of Africa now runs through Moscow. President Vladimir Putin is ideally placed to be the regular interlocutor between the two giant nations of Asia.
The move also must be seen as a most significant reaction by India to the increasing volatility and unpredictability of the United States in the global arena. In Washington and Western Europe, it is fashionable and indeed reflexively inevitable that this is entirely blamed on President Donald Trump.
But in reality this alarming trend goes back at least to the bombing of Kosovo by the United States and its NATO allies in 1998, defying the lack of sanction in international law for any such action at the time because other key members of the United Nations Security Council opposed it.
Since then, under four successive presidents, the US appetite for unpredictable military interventions around the world – usually bungled and open-ended – has inflicted suffering and instability on a wide range of nations, primarily in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen) but also in Eurasia (Ukraine) and South Asia (Afghanistan).
The accession of both India and Pakistan to the SCO is also a stunning repudiation of the United States.
The US has been Pakistan’s main strategic ally and protector over the past more than 70 years since it achieved independence (Dean Acheson, secretary of state through the 1949-53 Truman administration was notorious for his racist contempt for all Indians, as well as for his anti-Semitism and hatred of the Irish).
US-Pakistan relations have steadily deteriorated even since the United States charged into Afghanistan in November 2001, but through it all, US policymakers have always taken for granted that Islamabad at the end of the day would “stay on the reservation” and ultimately dance to their tune.
The United States has courted India for 17 years since President Bill Clinton’s state visit in 2000, which I covered in his press party. Current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a Joint Session of Congress in 2016, the ultimate accolade of approval by the US political establishment for any foreign leader.
US policymakers and pundits have endlessly pontificated that India, as an English speaking democracy would become America‘s ideological and strategic partner in opposing the inevitable rise of China on the world stage. It turned out to be a fantasy.
During the era of the Cold War, the “loss” of any nation of the size and standing of India or Pakistan to a rival or just independent ideological camp and security grouping would have provoked waves of shock, hurt, rage and even openly expressed fear in the US media.
However, what we have seen following this latest epochal development is far more extraordinary. The decisions by Delhi and Islamabad have not been praised, condemned or even acknowledged in the mainstream of US political and strategic debate. They have just been entirely ignored. To see the leaders and opinion-shapers of a major superpower that still imagines it is the dominant hyper-power conduct its affairs in this way is potentially worrying and alarming.
The reality is that we live in a multipolar world – and that we have clearly done so at least since 2001. However, this obvious truth will continue to be denied in Washington, London and Paris in flat defiance of the abundantly clear facts.
A Debate on Demonic Possession by Darkmoon Commenters
edited by Lasha Darkmoon
These selected comments on exorcism and demonic possession are directed at the sceptics. At least two of our commenters claim to have had personal experiences of the Devil.
ETHAN HUFF (by way of introduction) : An Ivy League-educated psychiatrist is convinced that there’s a growing epidemic of demonic possession in the world today, and that most everyday people now recognize the dark reality of this scary situation.
Dr. Richard Gallagher, who boasts degrees from both Princeton University and Yale University, says that, despite conflicting opinions within mainstream medical science, demonic possession is both real and rampant.
With 25 years of experience under his belt as a private psychiatrist that complements his two teaching positions at both New York Medical College and Columbia University, Dr. Gallagher believes he holds a unique vantage point in discerning between human and non-human, or satanic, behavior.
HP (aka “Homer”) : “They’re very, very smart,” Dr. Gallagher is quoted as saying about the beings that occupy the demonic realm. “The intelligence level of a fallen angel, which is what I call them, is far superior to human beings.”
There are many classes of demons in the Hindu pantheon. Indian sages have been discussing these esoteric matters for millennia. Thus it is written:
“Mother Yasoda was firmly convinced that she should protect her child from different kinds of evil spirits and ghosts: namely Dakinis, Yatudhanis, Kusmandas, Yaksas, Raksasas, Vinayakas, Kotaras, Revatis, Jyesthas, Putanas, Matrkas, Unmadas and similar other evil spirits, who cause persons to forget their own existence and give trouble to the life airs and the senses.
Sometimes they appear in dreams and cause much perturbation; sometimes they appear as old women and suck the blood of small children. But all such ghosts and evil spirits cannot remain where there is chanting of the holy name of God.”
(Krsna Book, Chapter 6, Classes of Demons)
LD : Homer is an American expert on Vedanta and Hindu metaphysics who has been studying this subject for decades. I have known him for many years and regard him as my mentor. While firmly rooted in the great Oriental religions, Homer is deeply sympathetic to Christianity and its fundamental moral precepts. He firmly believes that after his crucifixion, the risen Christ, still bearing his physical wounds, made his way to the Himalayas and settled in Kashmir where he spent the rest of his life teaching and dispensing wisdom.
MADAME BUTTERFLY : Thanks, Homer. Most enlightening! I had no idea there were so many different types of demon. Sitting on the bus and train every day, all I see is the demon-haunted eyes of my fellow passengers.
I wish I had the Magic Sunglasses to see if THEY LIVE! The demon faces behind the human ones.
Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror, a demon looks back at me and snarls, “Why are you staring at me, bitch?”
It’s scary. I am afraid of looking in mirrors. I haven’t looked at one for six months now. At this rate, I won’t know what I look like soon.
I can’t even remember if I’m beautiful or ugly any more. Guess I’ll have to ask someone. I dread the answer.
HP : Madame B, by the sound of things you see well enough without the glasses. But we knew that…
MADAME BUTTERFLY : Flattery will get you somewhere! 🙂
SARDONICUS : Demons are much more than metaphors for evil people. They inhabit an unseen realm of their own, undetectable by 99.9% of the population. There are high frequency sounds, beyond the reach of the human ear, which can be heard quite distinctly by cats and dogs.
So it is with demons.
They can detected by others, either directly by sight and sound (called “hallucinations” by most psychiatrists and skeptics) or, as in LD’s case, by the sense of smell.
JOHN KIRBY : Mumbo Jumbo!
PAT : A belief in demons would require a belief in witch doctors. I dismiss all of that nonsense!
GILBERT HUNTLY : Pat – like Thomas Beckett said: “We really cannot argue that which will only become known after we expire. Physicals law tells us that for every action, there is a reaction. Likewise, I believe that for there to be Good, there must be Evil.”
How good and evil are manifested is a matter of perception. No one has the same perception of these phenomena. Some people are more “in tune” than others, seeing things that others cannot see.
KENDRA BLEWITT : Lately I have been reading the martyred Nazi philosopher, Rosenberg, who was martyred in that his only crime was his writing, yet he was hanged. According to Rosenberg, belief in demons has come to us from the inferior race and culture of the people of the ancient Near East. I personally find Rosenberg refreshing in many ways.
ARCH STANTON : “All truth can be tested” – Sufi saying
SARDONICUS : LD [Lasha Darkmoon] has had personal experience of demons for many years. Though she prefers not to talk about it, and never has in public, as far as I know.
Demonic possession, she once told me in an email, is exceptionally rare. But there are degrees of demonic possession, ranging from full possession (as in “The Exorcist”), to medium and low possession at the other end of the spectrum. Full possession requires an exorcist for a cure; medium possession, prayer and fasting — “This kind (of demon) cometh not out but by prayer and fasting”, Christ notes in the Gospels; and light possession, cured by regular meditation and constant vigilance.
LD has the “gift of smell”, a rare faculty analogous to the “Nose” in wine testing, whereby those who are possessed by demons can be detected by being literally “sniffed out”. They emanate an unmistakeable odour, a sickly sweet smell like the smell of burning tyres. Or sometimes like rotten eggs laced with honey or molasses. It’s always a “cloying” smell, she tells me. Sweet but sickly.
GILBERT HUNTLY : John Henry Newman preached the most beautiful piece of prose I have ever read, and William Peter Blatty featured it in his book The Exorcist. I had the good fortune to meet Blatty at a Georgetown party one evening, and he told me he incorporated part of Newman’s sermon into his novel for that very reason. I had committed it to memory when I was in high school. For any of you who have read it, you will understand. I will not recite it here, but the gist of it is the never-ending renewal of life, a perpetual struggle between Good and Evil.
SARDONICUS: I wish Gilbert had given a link to this “most beautiful piece of prose” or Newman sermon he is referring to. Never mind! Perhaps he is referring to the most beautiful Christian hymn ever written, a hymn so outstanding that even Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, would keep quoting it all the time — particularly the line: “One step enough for me.” In other words: “Let’s take each day as it comes, one step at a time. I’m referring to Newman’s hymn, originally a poem written in 1833.
The classic poem came to Newman in a burst of inspiration while he was travelling in Italy as a young priest and fell so desperately ill that he was unable to continue his journey for three weeks. In his own words:
Before starting from my inn, I sat down on my bed and began to sob bitterly. My servant, who had acted as my nurse, asked what ailed me. I could only answer, “I have a work to do in England.” I was aching to get home, yet for want of a vessel I was kept at Palermo for three weeks. I began to visit the churches, and they calmed my impatience, though I did not attend any services. At last I got off in an orange boat, bound for Marseilles. We were becalmed for a whole week in the Straits of Bonifacio, and it was there that I wrote the lines, Lead, Kindly Light, which have since become so well known.
This poem, Lead Kindly Light, later to become a world-famous hymn, is highly relevant to any discussion of demonic possession because it was written by a demon-haunted man at a highly sensitive moment of his life:
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,—
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene,—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
Shouldst lead me on:
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish days, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long thy power hath blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on;
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
Suffice to say that Newman would have had no problem believing in demons and demonic possession. He had his own demons, as Dostoevsky was to have later. Indeed, one of Dostoevsky’s greatest novels was called “The Demons”, otherwise translated as “The Possessed.”
Ed: And now the star comment of this series, written by a man who has actually had personal encounters with the demonically possessed and moved in exorcist circles:
UNGENIUS : I happened to remember that I had commented on casting out devils four years ago on the Darkmoon site, so I am reposting it again with appropriate date changes. During 2012, I investigated casting out devils. Being a follower of the teachings of Jesus, my investigation was in the Gospels. From that investigation, I learned the following:
1. Jesus only spoke of casting out devils in general, not of casting out the devil, Satan.
2. Jesus cast out devils in person and without the person being exorcised necessarily present.
3. Jesus did not pray to cast out a devil, he commanded it to leave.
4. Jesus told us to cast out devils in our fellowman.
5. It must not be difficult or requiring elaborate instructions to do this, since a man not associated with Jesus and his disciples was casting out devils using the name of Jesus.
6. If a devil is not cast out with a command, the person attempting to cast out a devil needed to pray and fast. Obviously, this was to increase the faith of the person commanding the exorcism ceremony.
7. The person possessed by a devil or devils displays symptoms of wanting to do bodily harm to themselves like cutting themselves or falling into a fire.
8. Permission of the possessed person is not needed before casting out a devil(s).
During June of 2016, I encountered a woman that witnessed a devil being cast out of her mother. She said she saw it leave. I wanted more informational detail from the person that did it. The woman refused to give me contact info on the woman that did the casting out until I read the woman’s book about how to do it. Jesus’ words of “give freely that which is freely given” came to mind.
Shortly afterward, I did bring up the topic of casting out devils on my weekly conference call with fellow Christian truth seekers (one being a biblical scholar), but did not learn anything that I did not know from my investigation four years earlier. The biblical scholar said that he believed that everyone has a devil. A point I rejected, given that Jesus did not cast any devils out of his Apostles.
During October of 2016, a friend and I were discussing possessions by a devil. This friend is the same one that raised a man from the dead in the middle of a church sermon in the presence of medical witnesses in 2012. I asked him why he was asking and he said he thought that a friend of his might be possessed. He said that she was scratching herself to the point of bleeding in reaction to bugs that did not exist. He also said that his friend had lead a life of sex, drugs, and alcohol abuse all of her adult life, that he had known her since she was a child, and that they had kept in touch throughout their life.
He said that she has spent three months living in his house after becoming homeless, but that she had relocated two hours away. They continued to stay in frequent contact after she relocated. He said that she was suffering from constant headaches, back pain, and digestive problems to the point of being miserable. His attempt to perform a healing on her did not work.
We discussed him casting out a devil from his female friend. I told him everything I knew about it from my investigation and assured him that he could do it with a verbal command using Jesus’ name. That same evening, he prayed to the Heavenly Father for increased faith, and then commanded:
“Jesus, remove all devils from (her name) and cast them into Hell!”
The next day, his friend called him and said that something totally unexpected had happened. She awoke from sleep and all her pain was gone. She also said that all she wanted to do after waking was to pray, which she did.
Apparently, a person possessed by a devil also has health problems.
Since my first post on this topic in 2016, I have not discovered anything that would alter my perception.
LD : An outstanding comment in every way. This deserves the widest possible circulation. I have never personally seen a demon in my life, but my mother has: a demonic entity haunting our house in East Dulwich, London, when I was in my teens. He used to show up at odd times, lurking on the stairwell or on the landing, grinning horribly through the yellow stumps of his teeth and with a distinct harelip, often dribbling at the mouth and cackling inanely. My mother even had a name for this disgusting creature: “Harelip”.
“Harelip” suddenly left the house when an eccentric lodger living on the top floor was removed to a mental institution. I’m sure “Harelip” was this weirdo’s personal demon. What became of the man? I have no idea. I know only this, from many experiences over the years: if a demonic realm does not exist, the world makes no sense whatever. We sometimes need Satan to pitchfork us into God’s arms. Many reach Mons Mysticus, the Mystical Mountain bathed in eternal sunlight, only after passing through the Valley of Darkness.
The great French poet Charles Baudelaire said it best: La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas. — “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”
President Trump dramatically resumed a trade war footing this week with Beijing, threatening to impose tariffs on virtually all imported Chinese goods to the US.
After earlier negotiations this month appeared to avert a clash, the Trump administration is back to full trade war mode. With fiery language, the US president and his trade advisors said they have run out of patience with what they claim to be “predatory practices” by Beijing.
For its part, China quickly hit back, condemning “unacceptable blackmail” by Washington. Beijing said it will not hesitate to respond in kind with counter-tariffs on American exports.
Markets in Asia, Europe and America tumbled, with companies and investors panicked by the prospect of a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and the uncertain repercussions from such a titanic clash.
Trump is gambling big time. He is betting that China will be the “first to blink”, as the New York Times reported. That’s because the Trump administration reckons that with China’s huge trade surplus, Beijing has much more to suffer financially if it goes toe-to-toe with the US in a trade showdown.
“China has a lot more to lose than we do,” said Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, who is a hawk when it comes to dealing with Beijing. Navarro, like Trump, has continually accused China of ripping off the American economy and workers through alleged unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property from US tech companies.
During his election campaign, Trump fired up voters with tirades slamming China for “raping America”. Recently, the president railed against “China taking $500 billion out of our economy every year”.
But typical of Trump, the emotive charges and figures are not what they appear to be.
For a start, the US economy has been running a chronic trade deficit with the rest of the world for the past four decades. That’s largely because of a structural change in American capitalism whereby US companies and investors bailed out of the country to set up in cheaper labor territories, such as China.
To accuse China of being the problem is a deceitful distraction from the way American capitalists have historically cheated US workers with layoffs and downsizing. One of those capitalists profiting very nicely from setting up in China is Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka whose clothes business profits from manufacturing in China and exporting to the US, thereby contributing to the American trade deficit.
Another issue is that whatever complaints the Trump administration may have about trade with China it should settle those disputes through the legal mechanisms of the World Trade Organization. If Trump thinks he has a case against unfair Chinese practices then he should trust the multilateral trading authority. Otherwise it’s a recipe for international chaos and a slippery slope to conflict, as history has shown.
But, as with many other facets of this administration, there is a contempt for multilateralism, and a resort to high-handed unilateralism. Rules, laws, what’s that? As one White House official was quoted recently as saying of the Trump’s administration’s attitude towards the rest of world: “We’re America, bitch!”
Trump is playing hardball with China in the belief that its bullying will see Beijing cave to its demands for rectifying trade imbalances. The Americans are trying to solve their structural, inherent flaws by strong-arming China into making concessions. Because China’s $500 billion annual exports to the US are about four-fold what the US sells to Beijing, Trump is betting that his Mad Max approach will scare into submission.
Trump’s browbeating manner is also grandstanding for his voter base in rustbelt states, who might feel a patriotic surge in sticking it to the Chinese. Mid-term congressional elections in November are no doubt on Trump’s mind to get the Republican vote out.
However, the president’s best laid plans are in danger of veering into a political train wreck.
Beijing has said it will not back down to intimidation. In an editorial in the Global Times, which reflects government thinking, the tone was combative: “It is US arrogance to believe that a trade war will exhaust China. But the boot is on the other foot. Trade is mutually beneficial to both the US and China. Scuppering bilateral trade would cause similar suffering to both sides.”
The options at Beijing’s disposal could wreak havoc for the US economy and Trump’s political future. Trump’s inability to see that speaks to his and his advisors’ petulance.
If China goes ahead with threats to impose counter-tariffs on US agricultural products, such as soybeans, corn and meat, the impact on farm states like Iowa, Idaho and Illinois across the mid-west will be severe. Voters from these states were crucial to Trump getting elected to the White House in 2016. By taking the US into a trade war with China, Trump will end up hitting his own political base hardest.
Another repercussion is higher retail prices for consumer goods like televisions and footwear imported from China, if Trump slaps on punitive tariffs. That will inflate consumer prices and crimp household budgets, especially among the lower-income population, who again tended to vote for Trump. Net result is that the fragile American economy would likely tank from cash-strapped consumers, who are already living on the edge.
The far-reaching injurious effects of a trade war seem to have escaped the Trump administration’s planning. The president seems to have been carried away with a hubristic notion of American power and an irrational ideological hostility towards China. It’s all very well for him and his rich advisors to antagonize China over perceived wrongs. What about ordinary Americans though? So much for the famed deal-maker. Trump’s short-term recklessness betrays someone who is playing tiddlywinks instead of chess.
Yet, in this accounting, the real pain hasn’t even begun. China’s ultimate trade weapon is its massive holdings of US Treasury bonds. With nearly $1.2 trillion-worth in holdings of US federal debt, China is by far the world’s largest creditor for Washington. US-based news outlet Bloomberg calls it Beijing’s “nuclear option”.
“It can just stop buying US Treasury debt,” warns Bloomberg. “China is the world’s biggest Treasury investor, keeping US borrowing costs low, helping us buy more stuff from China. Ending this symbiotic relationship just when US budget deficits are soaring would devastate the US economy.”
Bloomberg adds that such a “doomsday” option “could blow up” China’s economy too. It compares the abysmal scenario to “mutually assured destruction”.
Arguably though, such mutually devastating economic consequences for China are moot. It has the alternative sphere of Eurasian economic integration and the new Silk Roads it has busily been building with Russia and others over the past decade.
If Trump pushes Washington’s belligerence too far with Beijing, the economic ramifications will be wide-ranging and dire for the globe.
China may just survive to trade another day with the rest of the world.
But one thing seems sure. With its chronic debts, deficits and dodo-like dollar, America will be ruined beyond salvation. Ruined by a president who brags about his “art of the deal”.
Time feels real to people. But it doesn’t even exist, according to quantum physics. “There is no time variable in the fundamental equations that describe the world,” theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli tells Quartz.
If you met him socially, Rovelli wouldn’t assault you with abstractions and math to prove this point. He’d “rather not ruin a party with physics,” he says. We don’t have to understand the mechanics of the universe to go about our daily lives. But it’s good to take a step back every once in a while.
“Time is a fascinating topic because it touches our deepest emotions. Time opens up life and takes everything away. Wondering about time is wondering about the very sense of our life. This is [why] I have spent my life studying time,” Rovelli explains.
Rovelli’s new book, The Order of Time, published in April, is about our experience of time’s passage as humans, and the fact of its absence at minuscule and vast scales. He makes a compelling argument that chronology and continuity are just a story we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our existence.
Time, Rovelli contends, is merely a perspective, rather than a universal truth. It’s a point of view that humans share as a result of our biology and evolution, our place on Earth, and the planet’s place in the universe.
“From our perspective, the perspective of creatures who make up a small part of the world—we see that world flowing in time,” the physicist writes. At the quantum level, however, durations are so short that they can’t be divided and there is no such thing as time.
In fact, Rovelli explains, there are actually no things at all. Instead, the universe is made up of countless events. Even what might seem like a thing—a stone, say—is really an event taking place at a rate we can’t register. The stone is in a continual state of transformation, and on a long enough timeline, even it is fleeting, destined to take on some other form.
In the “elementary grammar of the world, there is neither space nor time—only processes that transform physical quantities from one to another, from which it is possible to calculate possibilities and relations,” the scientist writes.
Even what might seem like a thing—a stone, say—is really an event taking place at a rate we can’t register. Rovelli argues that time only seems to pass in an ordered fashion because we happen to be on Earth, which has a certain, unique entropic relationship to the rest of the universe. Essentially, the way our planet moves creates a sensation of order for us that’s not necessarily the case everywhere in the universe. Just as orchids grow in Florida swamps and not in California’s deserts, so is time a product of the planet we are on and its relation to the surroundings; a fluke, not inherent to the universe.
The world seems ordered, going from past to present, linking cause and effect, because of our perspective. We superimpose order upon it, fixing events into a particular, linear series. We link events to outcomes, and this give us a sense of time.
But the universe is much more complex and chaotic than we can allow for, according to Rovelli. Humans rely on approximate descriptions that actually ignore most of the other events, relations, and possibilities. Our limitations create a false, or incomplete, sense of order that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The physicist argues that, in fact, we “blur” the world to focus on it, blind ourselves to see. For that reason, Rovelli writes, “Time is ignorance.”
If all this sounds terribly abstract, that’s because it is. But there’s some relatively simple proof to support the notion time is a fluid, human concept—an experience, rather than inherent to the universe.
Imagine, for example, that you are on Earth, viewing a far-off planet, called Proxima b, through a telescope. Rovelli explains that “now” doesn’t describe the same present on Earth and that planet. The light you on Earth see when looking at Proxima b is old news, conveying what was on that planet four years ago. “There is no special moment of Proxima b that corresponds to the present here and now,” Rovelli writes.
This might sound strange, until you consider something as mundane as making an international call. You’re in New York, talking to friends in London. When their words reach your ears, milliseconds have passed, and “now” is no longer the same “now” as it was when the person on the line replied, “I can hear you now.”
You only share the same time with people in a limited place, and even that is a relatively new invention. Consider, too, that we don’t share the same time in different places. Someone in London is always experiencing a different point in their day than someone in New York. Your New York morning is their afternoon. Your evening is their midnight. You only share the same time with people in a limited place, and even that is a relatively new invention.
It was not until the 19th century, when train travel demanded uniformity, that “noon” came at the same time in New York and Boston, say. Before we needed to agree on time precisely, every place—even relatively close villages—operated on slightly different times. “Noon” was when the sun was highest in the sky and, in Europe, church bells signaled when this time arrived—ringing at different times in every place. By the 20th century, we had agreed upon time zones. But it was a business decision, not a fact of the universe.
Time even passes at different rates from place to place, Rovelli notes. On a mountaintop, time passes faster than at sea level. Similarly, the hands of a clock on the floor will move slightly slower than the hands of a clock on a tabletop.
Likewise, time will seem to pass slower or faster depending on what you’re doing. The minutes in a quantum physics class might crawl by, seeming interminable, while the hours of a party fly.
All these differences are evidence that “times are legion,” according to the physicist. And none of these are exactly true, describing time in its entirety.
“Time is a multilayered, complex concept with multiple, distinct properties deriving from various different approximations,” Rovelli writes. “The temporal structure of the world is different from the naïve image that we have of it.” The simple sense of time that we share works, more or less, in our lives. But it just isn’t accurate when describing the universe “in its minute folds or its vastness.”
Though physics gives us insights into the mystery of time, ultimately, the scientist argues, that too is unsatisfactory to us as humans. The simple feeling we have that time passes by, or flows—borne of a fluke, naiveté, and limitations—is precisely what time is for us.
Rovelli argues that what we experience as time’s passage is a mental process happening in the space between memory and anticipation. “Time is the form in which we beings whose brains are made up essentially of memory and foresight interact with our world: it is the source of our identity,” he writes.
“Time is the form in which we beings whose brains are made up essentially of memory and foresight interact with our world: it is the source of our identity.” Basically, he believes, time is a story we’re always telling ourselves in the present tense, individually and together. It’s a collective act of introspection and narrative, record-keeping and expectation, that’s based on our relationship to prior events and the sense that happenings are impending. It is this tale that gives us our sense of self as well, a feeling that many neuroscientists, mystics, and the physicist argue is a mass delusion.
Without a record—or memory—and expectations of continuation, we would not experience time’s passage or even know who we are, Rovelli contends. Time, then, is an emotional and psychological experience. “It’s loosely connected with external reality,” he says, “but it is mostly something that happens now in our head.”.