Wake-up call: Confronting the abuse of power head-on

The future has never been clearer. If societies continue on the current path set by major political leaders, financial powers, multinational interests and military forces, we can forecast with full confidence that tomorrow will bring more sorrow than joy, more hardship than prosperity, more war than peace, more physical and mental illness than strong bodies and sound minds.

Current events form future trends. It’s all there for those wishing to open their eyes, ears and minds to understand how and why the consequences of geopolitical and socioeconomic actions taken today will shape tomorrow. It’s as simple as cause and effect. That being said, the future is not predestined.

While we make our trend forecasts based on reported facts and available data, we can’t envision underhanded schemes being cooked up behind the scenes. For example, who would have imagined the too-big-to-fail schemes to bail out failing banks, industries and financial institutions in the U.S., the world’s paragon of capitalism? Without being on the inside, who could have imagined the grand Federal Reserve QE experiment and backdoor stimulus schemes that pumped untold trillions in direct subsidies to banks, speculators and financial institutions?

And then there are the wild cards: miscalculations, scandals, terror strikes, assassinations, typhoons, floods, earthquakes, etc. These are the abstract and unpredictable factors that can derail any well-shaped trend line.

However, taking all the unknowns into consideration, we are confident in forecasting a turbulent 2014, equally infused with the potential for significant positive change and the possibility of utter social and economic misery. Absent the wild cards, a more promising future can be attained if “we the people” re-establish the true essence of the Constitution and restore the principles upon which the U.S. and other democratic nations were founded.

To those who are apathetic about restoring these vital principles, take a walk on the wild side with us and see what’s going on around the world and at home. Then decide if you want to help create the future or let others decide it for you. As the 18th-century German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich von Schiller observed, “In today, already walks tomorrow.”

Our journey begins in the Middle East

Egypt is in the grips of a bloody civil war and the people are essentially living under martial law. Even though the military overthrew the democratically-elected government, the White House doesn’t acknowledge that and keeps providing military aid, despite U.S. laws explicitly banning military funding after a coup.

Take a trip to Turkey. Last spring, tens of thousands of citizens staged week-long protests to stop the destruction of an Ottoman-era army barracks and a shopping mall on the site of Gezi Park in downtown Istanbul. The sit-ins were broken up by police, who killed five people, wounded some 8,000 and arrested over 3,000. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the “interest rate lobby” for provoking the demonstrations. Like other emerging markets that were flooded with cash from the Fed’s loose monetary policies, Turkey attracted billions of dollars in portfolio investments. But as interest rates moved higher, the cheap money that flooded in began flowing out and their boom economy turned bust.

Then, in late December, the Erdogan government was again under attack, this time as a result of a massive corruption scandal that spread from government ministers to their family members. On a downward spiral since the middle of 2013, the Turkish lira crashed to new lows against the dollar and borrowing costs soared. Will there be a military coup or civil war? That’s uncertain. But what is certain is that there will be turmoil, the economy will decline and Turkey will be a destabilizing force in an already destabilized region.

As for Turkey’s neighbor Syria, the civil war between the Bashar al-Assad government and rebel forces that are armed, funded and/or supported by the Arab League, Turkey, France, UK and the U.S. has claimed some 170,000 lives and displaced millions since it began in 2011. If Western allies and the Arab League pledge yet more support for the rebels, the war will continue to escalate and more refugees will flood into neighboring countries. Those governments, in turn, will be drawn yet deeper into the Syrian conflict.

Remember Libya? That “humanitarian mission” launched in 2011 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama against a sovereign nation — at the urging of Hillary Clinton, Samantha Powers and Susan Rice — has turned what was once the richest country in North Africa into a bloody hell hole. The “time-limited, scope-limited, kinetic action” has killed tens of thousands of civilians. The UK’s David Cameron and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy also championed this United Nations-sanctioned initiative, which has destabilized the region and ravaged the nation.

Mali, North Sudan and South Sudan, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Congo and Somalia are also bastions of the ongoing unrest and strife reigning across much of the African continent.

Elsewhere, the ongoing civil strife in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed, has generally been ignored by the Western press. Yemen is a tinderbox that keeps growing hotter with each new U.S. drone strike that wipes out “suspected militants,” farmers, wedding parties and other assorted victims of collateral damage.

The Iraq War, started in 2003 by the U.S., Britain and its “coalition of the willing” — under the pretense of the great lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — has devolved into a bloody civil war with no end in sight. (See, “Doing The Iraq Drag,” Trends Journal, December 2004).

And the never-ending Afghan War is now the longest in U.S. history. Having accomplished none of the goals set by Washington, the Pentagon and NATO in 2001, when the U.S. invaded the sovereign nation, the ongoing occupation, and the death and destruction it has wrought, has inflamed anti-American and anti-NATO hatred throughout the region. (See “The 1st Great War of the 21st Century, Trends Journal, Spring 2011)

Uprisings consume the global landscape

Consider the massive ongoing street protests, strikes and acts of civil disobedience in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands undertaken by angry, austerity-ravaged citizens who want to break loose from the euro and the European Union. These uprisings are being further fueled by daily doses of scandals involving politicians, the politically connected and royal families caught stealing millions while millions lose everything and unemployment hits new highs across the eurozone.

“Czechs show scorn for political class” reads the headline of an article in the Financial Times, illustrated with a photo of a barge — sporting a sculpture of a huge hand with the middle finger prominently raised — floating down the Vltava River to signify the people’s disgust for the ruling political parties.

The highly publicized protests of Ukrainian demonstrators wanting to join the EU rather than strengthen ties with their Russian neighbor simmered after a deal was struck whereby Russia agreed to buy Ukrainian debt and slash the price Kiev pays for its gas. But the calmness was short lived. As the new year unfolded, and Ukrainian leaders introduced new laws against public protest, the uprisings turned more and more violent. The surging opposition to the established power structure was taking its toll. The Ukrainian prime minister resigned, the parliament revoked the anti-democratic laws it just passed and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, claiming exhaustion, took sick leave. Meanwhile, Moscow was withholding its promised funds to bail out Ukraine, while the country teetered on civil war.

Not making the news were the mass rallies of Bulgarians calling for their prime mini
ster to resign, nor reports of the tens of thousands of Romanians marching against their government for striking a deal with oil giant Chevron, which they fear will ravage the land.

In June, Brazil was hit by the largest protests in two decades as hundreds of thousands marched against rising food and public transportation prices, government corruption, poor health services and higher taxes. As with other emerging markets, Brazil was a benefactor of the Fed’s loose money policies that led to the nation being flooded with hot investment money. As the Fed’s money flow slowed, so too did Brazil’s economy. Hit by falling investment, by year’s end the country suffered its worst performance in five years. As the global economy further slows, so too will Brazil’s.

As the economy declines, civil strife will escalate. And decline it will. Faced with rising inflation risks and attempting to pump up its pummeled real, which has fallen 7 percent since April, Brazil recently raised its key rate to 10.5 percent. As with other emerging markets in decline, the higher the rise in interest rates, the deeper the economies will sink.

Back in November, Argentina had its biggest anti-government demonstration in a decade. Hundreds of thousands of Argentines marched in protest of President Cristina Kirchner’s policies. A crashing peso, decade high interest rates, rampant inflation (up some 25 percent this year), growing unemployment, a weakening economy, widespread corruption and attempts by Kirchner to amend the constitution so she could run for a third term. With nothing but more of the same coming in 2014, expect an escalation of civil strife and social unrest to spread across the nation.

Stakes are high in the Pacific

Across the Pacific, the deck is stacked with wild cards. The Korean Peninsula remains an explosive threat to the entire region. Cambodians by the tens of thousands staged rallies against the three-decade-old ruling government and protested slave-labor working conditions. Thailand is on the brink of a civil war and/or a military coup as opposition parties have divided the country and engulfed Bangkok.

Relations between China, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have deteriorated over conflicting territorial claims in the East China and South China seas. This past December, tensions over the disputed islands escalated when China announced it had expanded its air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The U.S., which said its security treaty with Japan warrants intervention, tested China’s resolve by sending B-52 bombers into the zone. And Secretary of State John Kerry immediately jetted to the Philippines to close a $40 million “assistance” program to sell its government U.S. frigates and cut a deal that would allow more U.S. troops on Philippine soil and permit aircraft and ships to pass through as needed.

Having waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya over the past decade — combined with foreign policy initiatives that have helped destabilize and radicalize the Middle East — the Obama administration’s new “pivot to Asia” scheme will now entangle the U.S. in the simmering South East Asian battleground. Hillary Clinton, arguing for the “pivot” when she was Secretary of State, declared: “The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics … just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions has paid off many time over…the time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power.”

For its part, it was Japan that had upped the ante in the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets when, in September 2012, the government announced it had purchased three islets from a private owner and had nationalized them. Moreover, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had run on a platform to amend the country’s constitution, which limits Japan’s military to self-defense, to allow building more muscular armed services and give the military more freedom of action. Abe also drafted a security plan that calls for closer military ties with the U.S. to counterbalance China’s military expansion and “intrusions” into waters around the disputed islands, and to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.

In late December 2012, Prime Minster Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 high-ranking convicted WWII war criminals, triggered strong protests from China, North Korea, South Korea and other nations that had suffered from Japan’s brutal wartime aggression. To keep the fires of hatred burning, on Jan. 1 of this year a Japanese cabinet member, Internal Affairs Minister Yoshitaka Shindo, paid a follow-up visit to the shrine that victims of Tokyo’s wartime aggression consider a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Should a war break out in Asia involving China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan and America, it will truly be not only “the war to end all wars,” but the war that will end life on the planet as we know it.

The common thread of unrest

We can go on. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, which has seen its first riots in 40 years, are included on the endless list of nations experiencing war, terror, economic turbulence or social unrest. But the story we would tell in each case is the same. Around the globe, growing class warfare and the backlash against oppressive political and governmental power are erupting. It is often linked to a specific issue or circumstance, but at its core, the abuse of power that has left so many behind fuels the upheavals.

The young, who are providing much of the energy behind these uprisings, are not likely to abate their efforts, particularly with about one quarter of the world’s youth without jobs or an education. They are restless, angry, without hope and thoroughly distrustful of the power structures that rule their lives.

While the protests have been most apparent across Europe and the Middle East, the underlying determinants of the unrest are global. And the U.S. is far from immune. The Associated Press reported last August that, in what once was the most egalitarian nation on earth, four out of five Americans face near-poverty and no prospects for meaningful work. The cause of these trend lines “points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as the reason….”

It was a trend that was long in the making and one that we had long predicted. But now it’s not only the mainstream media reporting on this social tragedy, so too is the Pope.

On Christmas Day last year, Pope Francis attacked the global economic system as an “idolatry of money” and beseeched governments to guarantee its citizens “dignified work, education, and health care.” Pope Francis condemned the mega-salaries and big bonuses of the one percent as symptoms of economies based on greed and inequality. And he warned of the rising risks of income disparity in both developed and emerging economies.

Yes, indeed, “When people lose everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

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