America’s got talent, just not political talent

With finalists like Biden and Trump, the reality tv show that is the US election can soon turn into a chaotic nightmare.

By Marwan Bisharaby

August 31, 2020 “Information Clearing House” –  The US presidential elections have the feel of the popular talent competition, America’s Got Talent (AGT).

Like the reality TV show, they are entertaining, emotional and highly competitive, and focus exclusively on the candidates’ talent and character or lack thereof, rather than anything that resembles political substance or agenda.

This is reinforced by the mainstream media’s “horse race journalism”, focusing mainly on the odds, through daily broadcasts of polls throughout.

The elections not only provide cost-free content for corporate media, but the windfall from campaign advertising makes it ever more profitable to treat them like a reality TV drama.

Today, the elections and their coverage are centred almost exclusively on whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden has the character, talent or experience to lead the country in trying times.

Trump insists that it all boils down to leadership, where “talent is more important than experience”.

He reckons, the choice could not be easier between himself, the strong and “stable genius”, and the “weak” and “cognitively challenged” Biden.

And so, in their efforts to anoint Trump the next president/king, the Republicans adopted an elephant and a crown as their 2020 convention logo.

However, it was Biden who had to go through the nomination’s loops and hoops, where like AGT, the gruelling primaries start with smaller auditions on the state level before going national.

While Trump was watching TV or playing golf, Biden was running a serious campaign against 28 other contestants/candidates, the largest number of nominees in recent memory.

And he was able to pull ahead early on, thanks in no small part to his coalition-building and connections within the Democratic Party.

Behind the scenes, party apparatchiks, consultants, and their financial backers, like the judges and producers of AGT, play a major role in vetting the candidates during the primaries, which make up the longest commercial reality TV show on television.

They decide on the schedule, makeup and shape of the highly produced debates and public appearances, where performances are scripted and practised well in advance to draw the loudest applause.

And like AGT, even emotions during the primaries seem rehearsed, packaged and edited for national audiences, to optimise support and participation.

Likewise, the dramatic spotlights on supportive family members beaming and cheering emotionally from the centre or edges of the stage are AGT par excellence.

But this year’s pandemic has disrupted much of the drama during the second half of the election process, frustrating Trump, who has been eager to “get the show back on the road” to catch up with Biden in the polls.

Even the parties’ conventions, which usually promise excitement before the elections, fell flat because of the absence of live-audiences shouting and cheering.

This was especially true for the populist Republicans, who attempted some bizarre stunts to manufacture drama by screaming and yelling at an audience of none.

The gimmickry and trickery reached a new low with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivering a speech from Jerusalem, trading Palestinian rights for evangelical votes for Trump.

Show me the talent

Whether live or virtual, entertaining or boring, the elections now depend on two old men with big egos and small talents of the required kind.

It is indeed tragic that the contest to choose the next leader of the world’s leading democracy is now between two septuagenarians, who espouse no fresh vision for America and its role in the world.

In fact, one is pressed to recall a single original idea, or even a memorable quote uttered by either man during their long careers.

Worse, Trump is unable to speak in full sentences or even read properly from a prepared script on a prompter. And the many who believe that Biden suffers from dementia are only looking for him to stumble on the next sentence.

But whatever the Republican and the Democrat lack in vision, speech and inspiration, they made up for in venom and indignation.

So instead of building themselves up, they have torn each other and the country apart.

Trump called Biden mentally unfit and anti-God, and Biden returned the favour, labeling Trump a racist and a fool.

Trump has inflamed the spirits of and appeals to the “demons of America’s worse nature”, while Biden has calmed the souls of and appeals to “the angels of its better nature”.

Trump has cultivated an image of an aggressive, uncompromising warrior who will fight for his base come what may, while Biden nurtured the image of a caring, compassionate leader who heals wounds and restores dignity to the White House and respect to America.

Biden’s message seems to resonate more, for now. But America may still embrace the warrior over the therapist.

Either way, the decisive votes will be those against a candidate rather than for a candidate, which does not inspire much confidence whoever wins.

All of which makes one wonder why a country as remarkable as the United States, which produces the most talented artists, writers, scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs, ends up with two old, uninspiring leaders.

Politics as showmanship

Many claim the establishment elites and oligarchs have rigged the entire political system through undue influence and big money.

And there is a lot of truth to that.

But there is another crucial factor that has shaped these and the last elections.

The rise of populism in America, and in Western democracies in general, has opened the door for demagogy, disruption and showmanship in the person of Donald Trump.

His unparalleled talent for political and personal spin gives him an edge over Biden as it did over Clinton.

He has already succeeded during the past year in making the presidency and the party, and to some degree the country, all about him.

Indeed, the talented Mr Trump has turned his entire tenure as president into a long and determined campaign to win the next election.

And it is why Trump, who is behind in the polls, is already going far and wide to discredit the elections, threatening to reject an unfavourable outcome.

This promises to turn the elections from an entertaining show into a chaotic nightmare.

If Biden’s victory is anything less than sweeping, America may end up weeping well after the show.

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.

Lessons in Social Justice from the 16th century

It was a damp evening in the early 1560s when Walter Kapell was marched through a silent crowd in the town square.

He had just been convicted of heresy by the Inquisition, and he would only have a few more minutes to live.

Kapell was a wealthy man and beloved by the townspeople of his native Diksmuide in modern day Belgium. He reportedly gave much of his wealth away to feed and clothe the poor, and his many beneficiaries turned up to watch his execution in horror.

This was a period in history when the Catholic Church, having long ruled over European society, was starting to lose its grip on power.

Martin Luther famously wrote his ‘95 Theses’ in 1517, which was one of the first popular works that questioned the Church’s practices. And a revolutionary movement quickly picked up steam.

Countless Europeans began breaking away from the Catholic Church. And by the mid-1500s, dozens of Protestant religious groups had formed all over Europe.

The Church fought back aggressively against this threat to its power, and it quickly enlisted the support of friendly governments.

Philip II of the Holy Roman Empire was a zealous ally to the Church; he decreed that Protestant heretics should be snuffed out and executed, and the Inquisition that he established in the ‘United Provinces’ (which includes modern day Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) was legendary for its brutality.

People the United Provinces were overwhelmingly Catholic. But for the most part the average citizen was easy-going and supported religious freedom for Protestants.

In 1558, for example, when the Inquisition in Rotterdam sentenced several protestants to death, local Catholic citizens rescued them from the stake.

Any execution that did take place was horrifying for Catholics and Protestants alike.

And then, in the 1560s, a few particularly gruesome executions took place.

One of them was Walter Kapell. Again, Kapell was loved by everyone– Catholic and Protestant.

And his death was so painful that a Flemish peasant threw himself onto the very pyre where Kapell was being burned to death, reportedly screaming:

“Ye are bloody murderers! That man has done no wrong but given me bread to eat.”

Another victim, an Anabaptist whose name has been lost to history, was hacked to death with a rusty blade in front of his family.

Thomas Calberg, a weaver from the town of Tournay in modern Belgium, was burned alive because he had some Protestant hymns in his possession.

These executions prompted both Catholics and Protestants in the United Provinces to say ‘enough is enough’.

And in the summer of 1566, the United Provinces exploded into full blown social revolution.

On June 28th, 6,000 people gathered in Tournay (where Thomas Calberg was executed). Within two days their ranks had swelled to 10,000. Within a week, 20,000.

The protests quickly spread across the provinces.

In Antwerp, one of the most commercially important cities of the day, 30,000 protesters gathered, many of them armed.

It didn’t take long for things to become violent.

On August 14th , a crowd of ‘peaceful protestors’ broke into numerous churches across the provinces and destroyed the property inside.

On the 16th and 17th, a mob in Antwerp entered the great cathedral and destroyed everything in sight. They ripped down Catholic monuments and set church libraries ablaze.

In Tournay (again, where Thomas Calberg was executed), EVERY church in the town was razed.

Around the same time, prominent Dutch noblemen from the region saw the political tides shifting, and they began to swear allegiance to the protestors.

The most prominent local politician was William of Orange; he came from a wealthy landowning family in the Netherlands and was born a Protestant.

But then he switched to Catholicism as a young man in order to gain favor with the ruling Holy Roman Empire.

At the outbreak of the revolt, William maintained his loyalty to the Empire and remained a Catholic.

Only after the revolt had carried on for several years did he switch back to Protestantism and claimed that he had been a lifelong Protestant.

(Most people saw right through his self-serving BS.)

Many prominent noblemen supported the sacking of churches; they insisted that most of the protests were peaceful, and that any property destruction was less important than the fact that so many Protestants had been burned alive.

Eventually the violence spread to individuals.

Catholics were routinely beaten and maimed… even though the majority of Catholics in the United Provinces supported the Protestants and their religious freedom.

In March 1568, angry mobs (which included many Catholics), stormed into churches and cut off the ears of priests.

As historian John Motley wrote of the mob, “[Catholics] had ceased to be human in their eyes. . .” Anyone who did not vocally and publicly disavow their identity as a Catholic was in danger.

And even though the mob was only a small percent of the population, it was able to take over local governments.

They almost immediately imposed their own version of the Inquisition, stamping out anyone who practiced or tolerated Catholicism.

Margaret of Parma (the governor of the United Provinces) summed it up when she wrote to Philip II, “Anything and everything is now tolerated in this country, except the Catholic religion.”

The lawlessness and chaos was so pronounced that citizens across the United Provinces—both Catholic and Protestant—wondered whether the new Inquisition was actually worse than the old one.

The economic effects were devastating. Antwerp and Amsterdam emptied out. Businesses shuttered, and many prominent entrepreneurs left altogether and fled to England.

Entire industries left the United Provinces, never to return. Their businesses relocated to other countries, vastly benefitting those foreign economies.

And this chaos in the United Provinces raged on, literally for more than eight decades.

Modern pundits often write that what’s happening in the United States today is reboot of the 1960s. Honestly it seems a lot closer to the 1560s.

The U.S. Will See a Monetary Regime Change

  | Aug 29, 2020

Earlier this year, today’s guest editor, Dan Denning, predicted the S&P 500 would rise to 3,500… and then crash 50%.

This week, after surging 56% since late March, the S&P 500 just crashed through the 3,500 barrier for the first time ever.

Buoyed up by the feds’ promises and money printing, it seems stock investors have put the recent crash firmly in the rearview mirror.

So what about the second half of Dan’s prediction? Today, Dan looks behind all the effusive headlines to see what’s really going on… and concludes that there will be a heavy price to pay for this excess and euphoria…


I’m not buying it. Things like that don’t happen in America. If anything, the dollar will be the last man standing. You guys are going to lose a lot of money.”

That was the response of a friend in the investment industry who reads my work. He obviously took issue with my claim about what’s driving all asset prices.

The claim?

That what you’re witnessing in financial markets is the decline of paper money relative to precious metals. This “monetary regime change” is driven by government debts over 100% of GDP and rising annual government deficits.

My friend is more interested in Apple than gold bullion. That’s fine. More power to him. It wouldn’t be a market if there weren’t different views and values.

But let me share this crucial information with you. It reinforces that no matter what happens in the short term, in the long term, the U.S. dollar is a dead man walking.

Past the Point of No Return

When gross government debt is greater than 130% of GDP, a default is almost assured.

U.S. government gross debt will be 141% of GDP by the end of 2020, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). By 2030, the IMF projects it will be 160%.

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We have passed the point of no return in the destruction of the dollar. The annual deficits and total debt will almost certainly be higher than projections from the IMF or Congressional Budget Office.

Debt levels this high have nearly always resulted in some form of devaluation, according to research from Hirschmann Capital.

Since 1800, 51 out of 52 countries with gross government debt greater than 100% have defaulted on their debts. By defaulted, I mean either a restructuring of the debt, a devaluation of the currency, outright default, or (what we expect) deliberately high inflation to make refinancing/repayment of existing debts more affordable.

This is one of those occasions where what you call it doesn’t really matter. As a saver and investor, what you need to focus on is the net effect of high debt levels on the value of the currency. The value goes down. And so does the value of your savings.

It’s important you don’t get hung up on the technical definition of a default. Why?

Technically, the U.S. government NEVER has to default on its debt. After all, it prints the money in which the debt is denominated. Even if there was a tax revolt, or the economy shrunk by 50%, or there was a second Civil War after the November election, the government could keep cranking the printing press to pay back owners of U.S. Treasury bills, notes, and bonds.

It wouldn’t be a default, at least not in name. But the value of the dollar would be in freefall. In real terms – the only ones that really matter – you’d lose your fortune.

That’s why any of the other alternatives – restructuring, devaluation, high inflation – all end in the same place: the destruction of wealth.

Happening Right Now

In today’s America, you have a monetary policy which favors a tiny portion of the population. You have an unsustainable fiscal policy that, historically, guarantees a monetary crisis.

And you have millions of people who are angry about the status quo but can’t figure out exactly why.

When the Fed’s policies ultimately fail, stocks and the U.S. dollar will fall.

The failure of the money system will strain the bonds of civil society and lead to more authoritarian politics. Not only CAN these things happen in America, they’re happening right now.

And the stock market seems to have no idea.

Bold Prediction

Earlier this year, I told Bonner-Denning Letter readers that the S&P 500 would climb to 3,500… and then crash 50%. [Paid-up Bonner-Denning Letter subscribers can catch up on my prediction here.]

The first part of that prediction is happening right on schedule.

Signs of excess and euphoria abound. For example, a London-based firm says the Nasdaq 100 will hit 90,948 by 2040 as tech consumes the world. [It’s currently at 12,000.] It says value investing is dead. Under its scenario, you’ll see an almost eight-fold increase in big tech stocks.

Meanwhile, the market value of U.S. stocks as a percentage of GDP – the “Buffett Indicator,” that tells you whether stocks are expensive or cheap – is at 180%. The recent surge in markets has raised the market value of publicly listed companies by $11 trillion to $35 trillion.

And while Apple became the first $2 trillion company in history in August, it’s Tesla shares that boggle the mind. The stock is up 520% from the pandemic lows.

Tesla now has a larger market cap than Ford, GM, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, VW, and Honda – combined.

And not long after blasting through $2,000/per share, one analyst said pent-up demand for electric vehicles in China could drive the share price to $3,500!

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Crash Indicators

Soaring valuations, ridiculous price forecasts, and the total absence of bears and short sellers are ALL pre-incident indicators of a crash. Short interest in S&P 500 stocks is at a 15-year low, according to research from Goldman Sachs published by the Financial Times.

It’s a momentum market. And the momentum is almost out of control. But I’m not going to try to convince you of the risk. At this point, if you’re still reading my work, you know it’s there. The question is, what should you do?

Simple: Use the tech euphoria and any selloff in gold or silver to add to your bullion positions. This may be your last chance for a long time to buy gold under $2,000 per ounce. Don’t miss it!

Dan Denning
Coauthor, The Bonner-Denning Letter

P.S. The ruination of America’s money continues unchecked. There are huge financial and economic moves afoot. And for the most part, the dire consequences of these moves are being entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

How Blockchain Tech Can Secure Elections

  | Aug 28, 2020

America is the greatest democracy on the planet. So the one thing I believe we can all agree on is the need for secure elections, with results we can trust.

Every vote must count. We can’t afford to wonder if our elections have been tampered with.

This concern has led to a battle playing out between the White House and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The controversy surrounding the “hows” and “whys” isn’t what I want to focus on.

Instead, I want to talk about a solution that can forever secure the sanctity of our country’s election process…

You see, our current method of delivering ballots through the mail is outdated. There’s not enough accountability and no efficient way to ensure your vote will be counted.

The solution to this problem lies in what I call “the fourth technological revolution.”

I’ve been pounding the table on it for years, telling anyone who’ll listen that this tech will upend the traditional financial system.

But in recent months, I’ve come to realize its potential goes way beyond money. It could protect our democracy, too.

The full story is one the mainstream press is completely missing…

A Truly Secure Voting System

As you know, the coronavirus pandemic has made it risky for Americans to stand in long lines in public. So to keep voters safe, many states are turning to mail-in ballots.

The problem is: No matter what you think of mail-in voting, as I mentioned, it’s an outdated system.

With tens of millions of people expected to vote by mail this fall… there are just too many points where someone can tamper with our ballots.

Now, I’m not saying voter fraud is widespread or anything like that… What I am saying is there’s a better way to secure our elections. And it’s through the blockchain.

As you may already know, blockchain is the innovative tech behind bitcoin. It uses a public ledger to verify every transaction.

That’s because at its core, blockchain is really just a very secure way to store information. In fact, I believe it’s the safest way to store information that’s ever been devised.

For instance, the blockchain powering the bitcoin network uses advanced cryptography coupled with a unique way of verifying information that, so far, has made it unhackable.

That’s why the USPS just patented a form of blockchain for voting

Earlier this month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office made the USPS application public. It’s called “Secure Voting System.” And it describes using blockchain technology to secure mail-in voting:

A registered voter receives a computer-readable code in the mail and confirms identity and confirms correct ballot information in an election. The system separates voter identification and votes to ensure vote anonymity, and stores votes on a distributed ledger in a blockchain.

You don’t need to understand the nuts and bolts of how it works. Just know that it’s a tamperproof way to easily cast your ballot.

The U.S. (and other countries) are embracing blockchain tech because it’s one of the most secure ways to send information.

The Defense Department is testing blockchain for national security… NASA is eyeing it to secure aircraft flight data… The Department of Health and Human Services is adopting it to streamline contracts… The list goes on and on.

So it’s no surprise the USPS wants to harness it to secure one of our most precious rights – voting.

A Non-Partisan Way to Profit

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about the fourth technological revolution…

For the first time in history, we have an asset that allows us to directly profit from a technological shift: cryptocurrencies.

That’s what’s so revolutionary about blockchain. Investors can take a stake directly in the technology in a way they never could during other tech revolutions like the internet.

If you believe – as I do – that blockchain will make our lives better… then you’ll want to place your stake in this technology now.

Friends, it doesn’t matter if you identify as Democrat, Republican, or Independent…

Those who recognize blockchain as the future will take small grubstakes in cryptos… and potentially see them turn into life-changing gains.