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Eric Margolis

Beijing Bingo

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My father, a New York financier, used to call dubious stocks or bonds, “Chinese paper.” Last week, we saw a blizzard of Chinese paper, both in China and around the world. 

As manager of a sizeable investment portfolio (an unwelcome second job from my main work, journalism), I watched last week’s near death experience on world markets with a mixture of cynicism and alarm. First of all, remember when Americans – and particularly Republicans – demonized Mao’s China and endlessly warned about the perils of Communism? 

Well, the Chinese seemed to have listened. China ditched Communism and embraced runaway capitalism – or at least a hybrid of 1900 raw capitalism and state socialism. But Chairman Mao was proven right. He warned his people against the evils of “casino capitalism” and money lending. 

The near collapse of China’s stock market in recent weeks scared the hell out of the entire world but, at least so far, really has not mattered very much. China’s markets are insulated from the rest of the world. They serve as a way of letting average people share some of China’s growth and as a form of national lottery – call it Beijing bingo.

Western stock markets are also semi-rigged casino games in which the big boys and their ultra high speed computer systems almost always win at the expense of small fry.
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Destroying Syria to Make it Safe for American Values

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“The Turks have passed by here; all is in ruins and mourning. “


So wrote France’s great writer, Victor Hugo, of the horrors he had witnessed during the Balkan liberation wars of the 1880’s. If Hugo were alive today, he might well have used the same haunting lines to describe the smoking wreckage of the Mideast. Except this time it was the United States, France, and Britain who wrought havoc in the Arab world, assisted by modern Turkey. 

The UN’s refugee czar, Antonio Guterres, just asserted that there are now 4,013,000 Syrian refugees outside their homeland, and another 7.6 million as internal refugees from the war raging there since 2011.

That total’s some 11.6 million refugees – a staggering 50 percent of Syria’s population. Over a quarter million are refugees in Europe; the rest spread across the Mideast with the largest numbers in Lebanon and Jordan. 
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The Ghosts of Vietnam Should Haunt Us – But Don’t

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It was 1967. The war in Vietnam was raging. 


I was 24 years old, just out of graduate school in New York City. Cambridge University had accepted me to do a doctorate history. 

But no. In a burst of youthful patriotism, I concluded it was every citizen’s duty to join the armed forces in wartime. So I enlisted as an infantry officer candidate in the US Army and was packed off to basic training.

Life can only be understood in retrospect. With the wisdom of hindsight, most people consider the 20-year long Vietnam War a terrible mistake, even a crime. But at the time, US military involvement in Indochina appeared to make sense.  It certainly did to me. I was proud to wear my nation’s uniform. 
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March to Folly in Ukraine

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The United States has just made an exceptionally dangerous, even reckless decision over Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, warns it may lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Rule number one of geopolitics: nuclear-armed powers must never, ever fight.

Yet Washington just announced that by spring, it will deploy unspecified numbers of military “trainers” to Ukraine to help build Kiev’s ramshackle national guard. Also being sent are significant numbers of US special heavy, mine resistant armored vehicles that have been widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US and Poland are currently covertly supplying Ukraine with some weapons.

The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”
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