Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. Dollar in Trouble—Worse Ahead!

Even amid widespread talk that the recession is ending, ominous developments have been taking place on the monetary front, which are rarely reported. I explained the background for this in my 3-part series “Mortgage Crisis, the Dollar and its Future”, which I recommend you read if you have not already done so. It covers: 1) how inflation, recessions and depressions are caused by the government monetary policies; 2) the mechanism by which the Federal Reserve creates inflation; 3) specific government policies that created the bubble in the housing/mortgage industry; 4) why gold is essential as the basis of the monetary system; and 5) the extent to which the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency is imperiled, and how steps are inexorably being taken throughout the world toward returning to gold as a store of value.

What I predicted in that series of articles is now taking place. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Russia, China and other emerging-market countries in calling for an end to the dollar's reign as the primary international currency of reference. Less than two weeks ago, he said the world “cannot count upon only one currency.” A new United Nations report last week endorsed moving away from the central role of the dollar in the world monetary system.

Last week the dollar fell to its lowest level against the euro since September 2008. It declined far more against some less prominent currencies. It has fallen 21% against Brazil's currency, 17.5% against the Australian dollar, and 14.9% against the Norwegian krone. It has also been declining, though less severely, against the six major currencies that comprise the InterContinental Exchange's U.S. dollar index.

China—which had not bought gold since 2003—has now turned to buying gold. Its gold reserves increased 76 percent so far this year as it bought 600 metric tonnes, according to the International Monetary Fund. Spokesman Cheng Siwei said Beijing is dismayed by the Fed's recourse to easy credit. He said China fears U.S. printing of money will lead to inflation and a hard fall of the dollar. A drastic decline in the dollar would seriously reduce the value of China's holdings. “Most of our foreign reserves are in U.S. bonds and this is very difficult to change, so we will diversify incremental reserves into euros, yen, and other currencies,” said Siwei. “Gold is definitely an alternative, but when we buy, the price goes up. We have to do it carefully so as not to stimulate the markets.”

In addition to buying gold, euros and yen, the People's Bank of China called two months ago for a new international reserve currency based on Special Drawing Rights. SDRs were created in the 1960s based on a basket of major currencies. They were intended to serve as a shared currency for international reserves, but that didn't occur. Now they are used mainly in the IMF's accounting for its transactions with member nations. The difficulty is that they can't be used for transactions in the real world. When the IMF allocates SDRs, recipient countries exchange them at local central banks for local currencies, to be used to buy real assets and facilitate trade. That inflates the money supply of the country receiving the SDRs. Thus SDRs are just another way of creating a paper “asset” without an increase in real wealth. In other words, inflation. So that is not a satisfactory solution and merely leads back to gold again as the only real solution.

China is not the only buyer of U.S. bonds, though it is a very big. The Japanese are big buyers of U.S. debt, and many small Asian countries, taken together, buy a large amount. American institutional investors, e.g., insurance companies and pension funds, are big buyers; but 44% of U.S. Treasury debt is held by foreigners.

We are spending—and plan to continue spending—as much as we like for as long as we like, with the rest of the world funding our profligacy by buying our government's bonds. The creditor nations already own trillions of dollars, and the fear is that if they don't continually roll over our debt to keep the circus going, the dollar and the monetary system will collapse. Thus the creditor nations are stuck in a situation where, essentially, they can't use their bond money for anything but rolling over our debt. They will not put up with that situation indefinitely—especially as it continues to worsen—with our government undertaking spending plans that will result in trillion dollar deficits ten or twenty years from now. Nor will the U.S. citizens of the next generation be willing to undergo the ever-increasing costs of inflation and taxation for the benefit of the dead who lived beyond their means, courtesy of the politicians who promoted this intergenerational theft. The end will come as the dollar is dethroned, ending the inflationary binge, and the world turns increasingly to gold.

A decade ago members of the International Monetary Fund agreed to reduce their gold holdings in an orderly manner in the belief that these weren't needed because monetary paper was an adequate substitute. The IMF engaged in periodic gold sales, and a sale of another 403 tons of gold is already planned and may occur in the next year or two. China has already said it is willing to buy the entire 403 tons and—get this—has said it is willing to buy the entire 3,217 tons held by the IMF! The IMF has the third largest gold holding in the world, with the U.S. being first and Germany second.

Even central banks that agreed a decade ago to a series of gold sales are viewing the metal in a new light. France, the largest seller, says it will sell no more gold. The Austrian central bank said in a recent report that the rise in gold prices and “the concomitant depreciation of the U.S. dollar over the past few years have shown clearly how important gold is as an instrument for a central bank.” Germany's Bundesbank, the world's second largest official holder of gold with 3,417 tons (66.3% of its reserves) has indicated it is now more willing to hold and buy gold. The second quarter of 2009 was the first quarter since 1987 that central banks bought more gold than they sold.

In the first quarter, Russia's gold holdings rose by 29.8 percent, to 523.7 tons, raising to 4% the percentage of its reserves in gold. Then it bought 18.7 tons of gold in June and July and has now bought gold every month for over a year. Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of the Bank of Russia said the bank intends to continue buying and increasing the percentage of its reserves in gold. Ecuador's gold holdings more than doubled in the first quarter, to 54.7 tons, and gold as a percentage of foreign reserves rose to 32%, from 9.8%. Venezuela's gold holding rose to 363.9 tons, to 36% from 23%. So small countries are buying gold too, and the percentage of their assets in the metal is in many cases higher than that of the larger countries. They want to stay ahead of the game and can buy in small amounts without driving the price up sharply in world markets.

Private investors, including small ones, are doing the same thing. The recent spike of gold above $1000 per ounce does not evidence a “footprint” of active buying by the Chinese, according to industry sources. Instead, it seems to be a reaction to weakness of the dollar and fears of future inflation, resulting in widespread interest in such things as gold ETFs (exchange traded funds), as well as traditional gold oriented investments. A new gold-oriented ETF is scheduled to open this week, marking the third such fund in the U.S. SPDR Gold Shares (formerly StreetTRACKSGoldShares), the largest ETF gold fund in the world, owns approximately $35 billion of gold, which is more than many nations have in their reserves. According to the World Gold Council, there are 163,000 metric tons of gold in human hands, with 51% in jewelry and 12% in industrial applications such as electronics and dentistry. Private investments account for 16%, while most of the rest is held by central banks.

Allan Greenspan, before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, once wrote: “The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit....In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.”

It is to protect themselves that people around the world are now turning to gold rather than dollars and other paper currencies. The reign of the dollar will come to an end as the dollar is discredited by the colossal infusion of credit into the world monetary system resulting from the colossal spending the Obama Administration has heaped upon the excessive spending of previous administrations.

In my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, I wrote, “Inflation is a means of transferring wealth form the creditors to the debtors. And who is the biggest debtor of all? The federal government, of course. By acquiring anything it wants through its own debts, the government transfers purchasing power to itself from the people, whose money depreciates proportionally.

“The reason men of force loathe gold is that it is the perfect defense against inflation. It is the bastion which must be overcome if the invasion of monetary value is to succeed. But there is more at stake in the battle than material wealth. Gold represents value uncontrolled by government; it permits men to achieve economic self-determination, to live freely and independently, to work and save and use their wealth for themselves. Gold is the fortress defending every man's right to live his life for its own sake. It is this fortress which must be annihilated if men are to be forced to serve the government and made dependent upon it.”

The great economist Ludwig von Mises once said that sound money, such as gold, is as important to human freedom as constitutions and bills of rights. It is no coincidence that government monetary management, wealth redistribution, and welfarism which are destroying the value of the dollar are at the same time destroying the safeguards which the Founding Fathers built into the Constitution—as protections against government! The intent of the Founders is no longer honored as the Constitution has been “interpreted” to mean whatever the politicians and the courts want it to mean—not what the Founders intended it to mean. The result has been an expansion of the role of the federal government and a concomitant growth in federal debt and the loss of individual freedom. President Obama has said he will not nominate to the Supreme Court people such as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are noted for interpreting the Constitution according to original intent. Thus the outlook for individual rights and liberty in America is pointing downward along with the future of the U.S. dollar.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pat Buchanan's Apologia for Hitler

This month marked the 70 anniversary of the beginning of World War II. On September 1, 1939, the Nazi army crossed into Poland, and the first shots of the war were fired at point blank range at a Polish shore installation by the battleship Schleswig-Holstein, which was moored in the Polish harbor of Danzig on a friendship visit.

Scarcely two weeks later, on September 17, the Soviet army attacked Poland from the east. The previous month the Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, which contained a secret protocol whereby Stalin would get the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) and part of Poland if he did not interfere with Hitler's invasion and conquest of the rest of Poland.

Foreign leaders from 20 countries gathered to mark the September 1 anniversary with wreath-laying and speeches. Russian Prime Minister Putin said, “Russians and Poles had fought side by side against a common enemy” and the Russians “had looked upon Poles as their brothers in arms.” Polish President Lech Kaczynski contradicted him by stating flatly that Poland was “stabbed in the back” by the Russians.

The Poles have not forgotten, too, that during the Warsaw Uprising near the end of the war, the Soviet army could be seen just across the river but made no move to help the Poles. The Soviet policy was to let the Nazis and the Poles kill each other as much as possible, and then the Russians would walk in and take over. So much for helping their “brothers in arms.”

Nor have the Poles forgotten the murders of over 20,000 Polish officers and other leaders at the Katyn Forest by the Soviets, atrocities for which the Russians refused to admit responsibility for a half century, until 1990.

Putin said the two countries should “rise above the problems of the past...and solve the problems of the future.” This cause was not furthered by the Russian defense ministry using its internet website in June to blame Poland for provoking World War II by refusing to concede to the “moderate” demands of Nazi Germany. Even a day before the ceremony marking the anniversary, President Medvedev used public TV to blame Poland for WWII. That atrocious claim is surprising even coming from a Russian official—but it is even more surprising and despicable to hear it put forth by Patrick Buchanan in his column “Did World War II Have to Happen?” (http://original.antiwar.com/buchanan/2009/08/31/did-hitler-want-war/) More about that in a moment.

The Poles also resent the Russians not only for saddling them with a satellite communist government in their own country for decades after WWII but for the part of Poland that was seized, occupied and annexed to Russia—not as a result of a Nazi-Soviet Pact but because of agreements by the victorious Allies! A huge chunk of Poland—80,000 square miles—was lopped off of eastern Poland and made a part of Russia. Nobody talks about that any more, just as, I suppose, nobody will talk about the part of Georgia that Russia recently seized; in a few decades it will just be taken for granted as part of Russia like the part of old Poland is now taken for granted by the rest of the world as part of Russia. But the Poles remember.

The part of Poland that Russia received was given away by the conferences at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945. Just as at Munich, some world leaders decided to give away another country's territory without the people there having anything to say about it: at Munich it was Czechoslovakia's territory; at Yalta and Potsdam, it was Poland's. Churchill was opposed to this giveaway, just as he was opposed to the Munich pact. In fact, he was furious. So much so that he even ordered the British military to make a study of the feasibility of invading Russia. After all, his country had gone to war to protect the territorial integrity of Poland, and he did not want to be a party to doing just the opposite. But Britain was weak, Churchill could do nothing by himself, and Roosevelt sided with Stalin. Roosevelt did not oppose the idea of giving a big slice of Poland to Russia because he looked at it as a way of rewarding Stalin for being on the Allied side in the war. And it is well known that Roosevelt wanted Stalin to like him.

As partial compensation for the Polish territory given to Russia, Poland was given 60,000 square miles of eastern Germany. Since Germany started the war, there was no sympathy for her loss of territory. In effect, the country of Poland was shifted from east to west—and lost 20,000 square miles in the process, to say nothing of the hardships of all the people involved. West Germany was slow to accept the new border with Poland, keeping hopes alive that someday it would regain the territory from Poland. Finally, in 1971, when Willy Brandt was chancellor of West Germany, he announced that his government was accepting the border (the Oder-Neisse line) and renouncing all claims to the land east of it.

Danzig, where WWII began, and the rest of the part of Germany that became Polish after the war, had been Polish to begin with. Poland has had the unfortunate geography of being located between larger—and more warlike—states, Germanic on one side and Russian on the other, which over the centuries were detrimental to Poland. At one time, the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania was larger than the Holy Roman Empire ever was. But it was a weak state, could not defend its borders, and so her territory was taken from her. In the 18th century, there was a series of partitions: the surrounding countries simply annexed parts of Poland to their own countries. Prussia, Russia, and Austria divided Poland among them, with each country taking a cut on three separate occasions. Poland was helpless to resist. The final partition was under the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, in 1795, after which there was nothing left of Poland. The nation did not exist for more than 120 years. It wasn't until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that she was restored as a national state. That happened because Paderewski, the world's most famous pianist, maintained contacts with many world leaders and persuaded Woodrow Wilson to include restoration of Poland as a national state as one of his Fourteen Points for the Treaty ending World War I. Paderewski signed the treaty for his country and became his nation's first prime minister.

When Poland was re-established by the Treaty of Versailles, it included Danzig because it was felt the country needed a seaport. It's true that at that time it was populated largely by Germans; but that city, as well as the rest of eastern Germany that became part of Poland after WWII, had previously been Polish. A thousand years ago the Polish state was founded not by foreign conquest but simply by the unification of all the tribes of Poles. Boleslaw Chrobry was Poland's first king, but even before him the tribes, according to the oldest Polish chronicle, extended as far north as the Baltic. Boleslaw's dynasty lasted five centuries.

Furthermore, the names of cities and towns themselves tell us the Poles were there first. For example, the present city of Gdansk was known as Danzig before Poland's sovereignty was restored. Since the names are similar, one name must have been derived from the other. Which came first? Gdansk refers to amber, the colored stones used for jewelry, which were collected along the seacoast here from the time of the Romans. The Romans valued these semi-precious jewels, but Italy had no natural amber; the amber they had came all the way from the Gdansk area. What does Danzig mean? Dancing. It's seems unlikely that long ago people named this city for dancing. More likely, they derived the name from Gdansk. Also, consider Szczeczyn. Parenthetically, here is a short lesson in some Polish pronunciations. Polish is actually very easy once you know a few simple rules. It's much easier than English, which has so many variations and irregularities; Polish is completely regular. Don't let that jumble of consonants discourage you! There are no phonetic sounds here you don't already know from English! For example, the combination "sz" is pronounced like "sh" in English (e.g. "shirt"), and "cz" is pronounced like "ch" in English (e.g. "church".) Now, you may think that the combination "szcz" does not exist in English--but it does! Just not in the same word. But it is there when we put words together: "lush cherries," "fresh cheese", "fish chowder", "plush chair". And, unlike English, every Polish vowel has only one sound. For “e” the sound is like the “e” in the English word “met.” Now try Szczeczyn as: "Shche chin". That wasn't so bad after all, was it? (By the way, in Polish the accent is always on the next-to-last syllable. Nice and regular. No exceptions. Ever.) Back to our example. The German name of this municipality was "Stettin". That word has no meaning whatsoever. Did people simply make up a name with no meaning and decide to call a city that? Not likely. But in Polish, szczeczyn refers to the stiff hairs on the end of a pigs tail, which are used in brushes. Maybe there were lots of pigs raised in this area, or maybe it was a community known for making good brushes. At any rate, szczeczyn means something; stettin has no meaning at all. So which do you think came first? A Polish scholar once recited to me a whole list of towns in this (former) part of Germany and explained what each of those names meant in Polish but said they all had no meaning in German. This territory was in the part of Poland that was seized by Prussia in the 18th century.

When Pat Buchanan proposes that Danzig should have been given to Germany, he evades the moral issue of how the land was acquired and who is rightfully entitled to it. He substitutes a “might-makes-right” policy that rewards some people for forcefully depriving others of their land. According to his policy, Poland would not even exist today: its land would instead still be parts of the nations, and their descendants, that seized and divided it among themselves in the 18th century. And tens of millions of Poles born on that land since 1919 would have been deprived of living in a country of their own, just as their ancestors were for over 120 years.

Danzig was a free city, guaranteed by the Treaty of Versailles. So the Germans could use it freely. They were not restricted by the Polish government. But it was not unreasonable for the Poles to fear they would not enjoy freedom of the city, as Germans did, if the city was in German hands.

Buchanan asks, “Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia?” Sounds like he is trying to tell us the war was the fault of the Poles for not giving Hitler what he wanted. Did he learn nothing from Munich? Sounds, too, like he is favoring the same type of immoral solution regarding Slovakia that was done at Munich, Yalta and Potsdam, i.e, some people giving away land from other people's country. Why does he think such a policy here would avoid WWII—bring “peace in our time”—when it didn't at Munich? And why does he think the Poles could trust Hitler to keep any agreement he might have signed with them? Hitler violated his agreement at Munich, violated the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and double-crossed Stalin by violating his non-aggression pact with Russia. There is also very clear evidence that Hitler intended to double-cross Britain at an appropriate time if the alliance he sought with that government (which Buchanan mentions) came about. He wanted that alliance only for Britain's help in defeating France, after which he planned eventually to turn on his partner Britain.

Buchanan says the war simply “had come out of a quarrel over a town [Danzig] the size of Ocean City, Md.,” as though that fact really had no further significance. He also says, “Hitler had never wanted war with Poland.”[!] And he scoffs at the idea that Hitler wanted to invade Russia: “Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?” (Here's a hint, Pat: Poland lay between Germany and Russia.) On May 23, 1939, Hitler told his military leaders, including Goring, Halder and Raeder, “It is not Danzig that is at stake. For us it is a matter of expanding our living space to the east and making food supplies secure....It is necessary, therefore, to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity.” He also stated that “further success cannot be won without bloodshed.” (See volume 2 of Richard J. Evans authoritative three volume work The Third Reich in Power.)

Jeremy Noakes, in Hitler and 'Lebensraum' in the East, writes, “Between 1921 and 1925 Adolf Hitler developed the belief that Germany [with its growing population] required 'Lebensraum' (living space) in order to survive. The conviction that this living space could be gained only in the east, and specifically from Russia [are you listening, Patrick?], formed the core of his ideas, and shaped his policy after his take-over of power in Germany in 1933.” (emphasis added.)

“At his first meeting with all of the leading generals and admirals of the Reich on February 3, 1933,” says historian Gerhard Weinberg, “Hitler spoke of 'conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanization' as his ultimate foreign policy objectives.”

According to answers.Google.com, “Hitler's version of Lebensraum differed from the traditional imperial model in that the Nazis proposed to pursue a continental empire rather than a colonial one....A continental empire required only a large army, and the resources could be secured through land invasion and conquest.” (emphasis added.) [This helps to answer Buchanan's question “Why did he start the war with no surface fleet, no troop transports, and only 29 oceangoing submarines? How do you conquer the world with a navy that can’t get out of the Baltic Sea?”]

“The Nazi plan was to unify the Germanic peoples, and then to expand eastward into Russia and the Ukraine, securing large areas of land and access to the oil and other natural resources that lay in those areas.” (emphasis added.)

Hitler himself wrote: "For it is not in colonial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory for settlement.” (emphasis added) --Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)

Paul Schmidt, who was Hitler's interpreter and therefore very knowledgeable, testified at the German war crimes trials: “The general objectives of National Socialism were known from the start - namely, the domination of the European continent, to be achieved first by the incorporation of all German-speaking groups into the Reich, and secondly, by territorial expansion under the slogan of 'Lebensraum'." (emphasis added.)

“That slogan 'Lebensraum'...was from the earliest days an openly avowed part of the Nazi doctrine - yet any thinking person must have known that it would lead inevitably to war."

[In a totalitarian state] “any means justifies the end, and the immediate end was ruthlessly to gain complete control of the German State and to brutalise and train its people for war.... [T]he plans for aggression required a nation trained in brutality, and taught that it was both necessary and heroic to invade other countries."

The Nazis policy was to kill, deport, or enslave the Polish, Russian and other Slavic Untermenschen (sub-human) populations, and to replace them with Germanic peoples. The entire urban population was to be exterminated by starvation, leaving agricultural surpluses for the German upper class.

Some historians debate whether Hitler's Lebensraum was “globalist”—world domination—or “continentalist”—-limited to Europe. Even within the Nazi regime there were differences of opinion. But those positions were not contradictory but, rather, compatible in a broader “stufenplan”, or “plan in stages.” Evidence can be cited for both sides of the argument.

On the one hand, Hitler knew nothing about naval warfare—and knew it. He was no expert in land warfare either, but he thought he was and constantly interfered with the plans of his generals, ignored their advice, and frequently reversed his own decisions, to their enormous frustration and the loss of situational military advantages. Not so with naval decisions. He left those to Admiral Doenitz, whose military judgment he respected. It is interesting, too, that Doenitz never joined the Nazi Party, yet he was Hitler's hand-picked successor to be the second and last fuhrer of the Third Reich, an office he held for just 23 days after Hitler's suicide.

We know, too, from fairly recent but very convincing research, that, contrary to the popular assumption, Hitler never intended to invade Britain. His bombing campaign there was undertaken with the expectation that it would compel the British to beg for peace, which he would then grant on his own terms and thus achieve his objective without an actual invasion. (Of course, he hadn't counted on the stubborn defiance of Winston Churchill.) When a senior Nazi military official once asked about the invasion, Hitler cited the 20 miles of water in the English Channel as a reason for avoiding it. If his army couldn't drive to the battle, he didn't want to go there. He had no idea how to conduct an invasion across the channel and had no means of transporting his army there. All this helps to explain why he concentrated his money and efforts on building submarines to attack Atlantic shipping, to try to subdue Britain by denying her much needed supplies (along with the bombing raids), instead of building surface warships and troop transports for an invasion. As early as 1935, in clear violation of the arms limitations required by the Versailles treaty, Hitler had begun a clandestine program of building submarines.

On the other hand, Germany began building “pocket battleships” as early as 1931—before Hitler came to power and more or less in agreement with Versailles limitations. These were very heavily armed but relative small ships that acquired their name from the British reference to them as “a battleship that fits in a pocket.” The Treaty of Versailles set a displacement limit of 10,000 tons for these armored ships, with the intent of limiting Germany to coastal defense ships. But all ships of this class were over the weight limit, constructed initially as 10,600 ton and later enlarged to 12,100 tons, although Germany always misrepresented them as being within the treaty limit. Other, even larger ships were subsequently constructed in the 1930s in blatant violation of the treaty limits. In 1936 the keel was laid for the Bismark, the most famous warship of WWII, which displaced 50,000 tons. She was the world's largest warship when she was launched on February 14,1939.

The millions of lives lost in WWII are most regrettable, but Buchanan is shortsighted and naive to think the world would have been better off if the war with Germany had been avoided. The death total—particularly of civilians—would have been far greater, given Hitler's intent to exterminate the entire populations of countries, the urban areas by starvation and the rural ones by other means, to be replaced by agrarian German settlers. The world was saved from that horrible fate by millions of courageous people, like the Poles, who, like our Founding Fathers, thought liberty was worth fighting for—even dying for if necessary. Besides, how could the U.S. have avoided war with Germany when Germany declared war on us first? After it did, the U.S. Senate voted 88-0 to declare war, and the House vote was 393-0.

Hitler said, “I have seen my enemies in Munich, and they are worms.” If Patrick Buchanan had been at Munich, he would have been one of the worms.