Thoughts from the Frontline: The Last Argument of Central Banks


Posted on 11th November 2014 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Thoughts from the Frontline: The Last Argument of Central Banks

By John Mauldin


For a central banker, deflation is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, Disease, and Deflation. (We will address later in this letter why War, in the form of a currency war, is not in a central banker’s Apocalypse mix.) It is helpful to understand that, before a person is allowed to join the staff or board of a central bank, he or she is taken into a back room and given DNA replacement therapy, inserting a gene that is viscerally opposed to deflation. Of course, in fairness, it must be noted that central bankers don’t like high inflation, either (although, looking around the world, we see that the definition of high inflation can vary). In the developed world, 2% inflation seems to be the common goal. You wouldn’t think that 2% a year is a significant change in the overall price structure, but the panic among economists that would ensue with a 2% price deflation would border on hysteria.

Inflation and deflation are often topics of discussions as I travel, but I find that there is general confusion about what inflation and deflation actually are. This is understandable, since many economists don’t agree on the definitions, so they are often talking about totally different phenomena. In this week’s letter I have for you a brief essay on the topic of deflation. Depending on your view, you might find some of my thoughts controversial, but I will try to make my case clear, at least. Please note this is the 30,000-foot view and is nowhere close to definitive. If you want great detail, I suggest you get my good friend Gary Shilling’s latest book on deflation (of four that I know of), called The Age of Deleveraging. (It’s only $11.49 on Kindle.)

Definitions of Inflation and Deflation

Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought about inflation. The Austrian school of economic theory, founded by Ludwig von Mises, sees inflation as an increase in the money supply and deflation as a contraction in the money supply. Somewhat similarly (but not entirely!), the monetarist school of economic theory tends to see money supply as the chief determinant of GDP in the short run and of the price level over the long run.

Mainstream economics (generally Keynesian) tend to refer to rising or falling prices as inflation or deflation. They tend to see deflation as a general price decline, often brought about by reductions in available credit, money, or reserves or by the government’s restraint of spending programs.

So when we talk about inflation/deflation, it is important to know whether we’re talking about monetary inflation or price inflation. As we have seen recently, a rising money supply is not necessarily accompanied by rising prices (although there is a certain long-term rhythm to the two different measures).

When I talk to the general public about deflation being something to be avoided, I get confused looks. Don’t we like it when the price of something goes down? Who doesn’t love a sale on something they want to buy? Since the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution, the general tendency for the prices of manufactured goods (in real inflation-adjusted terms) has been to go down as productivity has gone up. This is what Gary Shilling and others refer to as “good deflation.”

You can actually have solid productivity, GDP growth, wealth creation, a general increase in the standard of living, and a buoyant economy during a period of overall price deflation such as we had in the late 1800s – if it is the good kind of deflation.

What is the difference between good deflation and bad deflation? Good deflation is the general fall in prices that comes from an excess supply of goods due to increased productivity and product improvement. From 1870 to 1897 wheat prices fell from $1.06 to 63¢ a bushel, corn from 43¢ to 30¢ a bushel, and cotton from 15¢ to 6¢ a pound. Most of the time farmers received even less for their crops.

While farmers blamed all sorts of people for their falling prices, the primary cause of their problem was overproduction resulting from increases in the acreage of farms and increased yields per acre due to improved farming methods, as well as the advent of railroads that made it easy to get produce to Eastern markets. A farmer had to produce more just to stay even. It didn’t help that global competition from Argentina, Russia, and Canada was added into the mix, as increasingly large oceangoing steamboats made international transportation cheaper and ended an era of American agricultural export advantages.

This period of time saw one-third of farmers move to the cities for other work as they lost their employment on small family farms. That trend in falling farm employment continued until recent years, and farming has seen even greater increases in productivity (yield per acre) in recent decades. Farm and ranch families are just 2% of the US population today. Only 15% of the US workforce produces, processes, and sells the nation food and fiber. Today’s farmers produce almost three times more food with 2% lower inputs than farmers did 60 years ago. A third of American agriculture is strictly for exports.

The late 1800s was a particularly contentious period of history in the United States as farmers blamed railroads, bankers, and industrialists for their problems – a situation not unlike the income inequality debate we have today. And while falling prices weren’t fun for the farmers, the general public enjoyed lower food costs and higher-quality food.

The easiest way to illustrate this trend in the modern area is by looking at the cost of a gigabyte of storage. You can see an interactive version of this chart here. Prices for a gigabyte of storage dropped from $500-700,000 in the early 1980s (depending on what you were buying) to about $0.03 today. Put another way, a gigabyte cost about 2 million times more 35 years ago than it does today. And it has fallen by 50% every few years. The good deflationary fall in prices for data storage has enabled all sorts of industries and products, creating millions of jobs. And we could find dozens of other, similar products whose prices have been falling dramatically.

Measuring Inflation/Deflation

Each month we are greeted by the announcement of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), telling us what the level of general price inflation has been for the previous month and year. I’ve written about CPI extensively in past letters, but basically we need to understand that the CPI is an artificial amalgamation of the prices of various products and services. The composition of the CPI has changed significantly over the last 40 years. As John Williams at Shadow Stats demonstrates, if we used the same measurement methodology that was in force during the Reagan years or the early Clinton years, inflation would be almost 4 percentage points higher now than it is currently calculated to be.

Contrary to some commentators, I do not see this is a conspiracy to mislead investors or consumers, or to slow down the rise in Social Security payments. We should all be grateful that there is a small band of economists who are consumed by the details of what inflation actually is. They go to conferences and vehemently argue with each other (well, vehemently for academic economists) over arcane topics that would bore 99%-plus of the population. They are passionate about trying to find the proper measure of inflation.

My personal feeling is that the adjustments that have been made in the calculation of inflation are generally quite reasonable, if somewhat controversial. With the prices of electronics and many other manufactured goods falling over the decades, how do you measure inflation in those items? Or rather deflation? I still spend about the same amount for a new phone today as I did 10 years ago, but my new iPhone 6+ is a major improvement over the Motorola flip phone I had 10 years ago, by any standard you want to apply. Both could make phone calls, but that is about where the similarity ends. Am I getting better value for my money? More bang for the buck? Absolutely.

Currently, the economists who determine inflation see that increase in value as an actual drop in inflation, and they use a somewhat controversial methodology called hedonics to adjust the prices of a myriad of products for quality. If anti-lock brake systems are now standard whereas before they were optional, then by this doctrine the price of your car went down. (Those who are interested can google hedonics and get a wealth of information on the definition and the controversy.)

Housing is a big component of our spending. Should we use actual housing prices or what the inflation economists call “owner’s equivalent rent prices” as our measure of housing cost increases? If we had used actual housing prices during the 2000s, the inflation figures would have gone through the roof, suggesting to the Federal Reserve that they should be raising interest rates rather than lowering them or keeping them too low. And again, if we had been using actual house prices to calculate inflation during the Great Recession, the economy would have been seen as being swamped by serious deflation. There would’ve been even more weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best-selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.

Important Disclosures

A Mountain of Debt and no Growth


Posted on 24th April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues



Too Many Geezers

So far, we’ve proposed two reasons why the 21st century has been such a dud …

First … the developed nations are cursed with too many geezers. We have nothing against old people (especially as we hope to be one ourselves all too soon). But old people do not build a new economy; young people do. And today, there are not enough young people to power the kind of economic growth we’ve gotten used to.

Second… rules, regulations, subsidies, laws and orders now protect established financial interests against upstart competitors. Businesses get older along with the population, as government creeps over more and more of the economy.

The feds use monopoly force to prevent competition and reward today’s voters and capital owners. The baby born in 2015 finds himself subject to debts, obligations and restrictions that were meant to benefit his grandparents. Today, we give you another reason for the flop that is the 21st century. As you will see, they are all related…


1-2014-3_FR pages_webimage2013Pages in the Federal Register. There was a brief reprieve from over-regulation in the Reagan era, but shortly thereafter the regulatory State went into action again at full blast. Capitalism is slowly but surely asphyxiated, and with it any chance to escape the debt trap is dying with it (chart source: the George Washington University regulatory studies center) – click to enlarge.


Caveat Creditor

We begin with this report from Fox Business:


Inequality of Wealth


Posted on 23rd April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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1904 Standard_oil_octopus Cartoon

1904 View of Standard Oil

During the Progressive Era around 1910, the Marxist view of the world was all about the massive wealth of the very rich like Rockefeller. Standard Oil would always rule the world. How could that possibly change? They argued this was undermining economic opportunity for others. The government championed the progressive income tax and attacked inheritance taxes to solve what everyone assumed was not fair – the inequality of wealth. We are talking about total net worth, not income.


(If you have a household net worth of X … you rank in the Y percentile):

$50,000 … 60th percentile
$93,000 … 50th percentile
$100,000 … 48th percentile
$200,000 … 34th percentile
$500,000 … 18th percentile
$750,000 … 12th percentile
$827,000 … 10th percentile
$1 million … 8th percentile
$1.4 million … 5th percentile
$6 million … 1st percentile

Inequality in wealth is approaching record levels again as everyone now harps on not the 1%, by the top 10%. The top 10% of families own 75.3% of the nation’s wealth. So if you have $827,000 in total net worth (real estate, stocks, savings, everything), that’s you. The bottom half of families own 1.1% of it. The families squished in between those two groups own 24.6% of the national wealth.


Hillary Rodham ClintonThe fascinating solution is always to tax the rich bastards more to drag them down to even the scale. This is like seeing someone with a nice watch and you go take it because it is not fair they have something you do not. Hillary, who is clearly in the top 1%, claims she stands for toppling the top 1%. I suppose her goal is to make everyone equally poor except her and her backers. When she was championing healthcare, her response to a question that it would put small mom and pop stores out of business was crude. IF they could not afford it, then they should not be in business.

Nobody ever looks at what is keeping the bottom 90% of families from reaching the top 10%. Two primary factors come into play. Government cares nothing about what they preach and neither do the hosts on MSNBC who champion hating the rich, yet they themselves all earn enough to be in that top 10%. On top of that, four of MSNBC hosts had serious tax liens against them and owe the government millions. Al Sharpton allegedly has owes $4.5 million so he is in the top 1%.


A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse – David Graeber on “The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”


Posted on 22nd April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues


Guest Post by Michael Krieger

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.25.14 PM

Graeber’s argument is similar to one he made in a 2013 article called “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”, in which he argued that, in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century technology would have advanced sufficiently that in countries such as the UK and the US we’d be on 15-hour weeks. “In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshalled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. Huge swaths of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they believe to be unnecessary. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.”

But what happened between the Apollo moon landing and now? Graeber’s theory is that in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was mounting fear about a society of hippie proles with too much time on their hands. “The ruling class had a freak out about robots replacing all the workers. There was a general feeling that ‘My God, if it’s bad now with the hippies, imagine what it’ll be like if the entire working class becomes unemployed.’ You never know how conscious it was but decisions were made about research priorities.” Consider, he suggests, medicine and the life sciences since the late 1960s. “Cancer? No, that’s still here.” Instead, the most dramatic breakthroughs have been with drugs such as Ritalin, Zoloft and Prozac – all of which, Graeber writes, are “tailor-made, one might say, so that these new professional demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally, crazy”


Our Enemies, the Saudis


Posted on 20th April 2015 by Zarathustra in Politics |Social Issues

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They’re invading Yemen to empower Al Qaeda

April 20, 2015
Let’s get this straight: Saudi Arabia is Al Qaeda. If there was any doubt about that, the Kingdom’s invasion of Yemen makes it plain as day.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

“A brazen territorial grab by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen – together with a $1-million bank heist, a prison break and capture of a military base – has given the terrorist group fundraising and recruitment tools that suggest it is following the brutal path blazed by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

“Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which was long forced into the shadows by US drone strikes and commando raids, has taken advantage of the growing chaos in Yemen’s multi-sided war to carve out a potential haven that counter-terrorism experts say could help it launch terrorist attacks.”

The Times piece confirms that the Saudis, who have never lifted a finger to strike at Al Qaeda, are now enabling their mutant offspring to seize and hold territory:

“With the Saudis focused on the Houthis, AQAP fighters launched a jailbreak near Mukalla that freed about 300 prisoners, including several dozen of their comrades, officials and residents said. … After seizing a regional airport and a coastal oil terminal this week, Al Qaeda militants consolidated their gains Friday in Mukalla, an Arabian Sea port. Fighters stormed a weapons depot and seized armored vehicles and rockets after apparently forging a truce with local tribes and forcing government troops to flee.”


The Creature from Jekyll Island


Posted on 16th April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues



This is like being asked to criticize the Bible since so many people believe every word written in this book. Well here goes and probably thousands of hatemails will flood in but conspiracy-myths be damned, they are a cover-up for the real culprit – Congress. Some hate central banks so much because of this book they believe Andrew Jackson was a hero and are oblivious to the fact he set off a round of Wildcat banking that ended in yet another sovereign debt default among the States who then tried to bailout their own banks.Well fiction be damned. I will say this. “The Creature From Jekyll Island” is amateurish at best and just another total misrepresentation of the facts and events. It is very one-sided and ignores the real political manipulation of the Fed by government for their own self-interest. It promotes the very same Marxist/socialistic beliefs from the Progressive Era that gave us the New Deal and has robbed everyone of their future beside altering the family structure in the West forever.

The entire original design of the Fed was to be private for banks were to contribute to fund their own bailouts as JP Morgan had done taking the lead during the Panic of 1907. It was not to be a government bailout operation. The United States had no central bank at that time. There was never any intent to create the institution as it exists today for its original design was altered dramatically by lawyers who never understood the madness of their own mind in their pursuit of power as politicians.


Morgan Christendom
We must also look at the context of the era from which Griffin draws his ideas. We must be EXTREMELY careful for much of what was being said was sheer propaganda directed at the bankers to support the rise of Marxism – the new Progressive Movement. This movement finally won with the New Deal with the Great Depression completely blaming the bankers when in fact Europe collapsed into a Sovereign Debt Crisis in 1931, which had sent the dollar soaring and a capital concentration from around the world made the 1929 high just as the Nikkei peaked in Japan during 1989. To look at this era we absolutely MUST step back and look at the whole thing dispassionately. If we do not put this conspiracy aside, then we will never understand what needs to be really reformed.

How Christianity Allowed Tyranny In America … And How Christians Can Restore Liberty


Posted on 15th April 2015 by Stucky in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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The United States of America was birthed in revolution, war, bloodshed and death. This was approved of and led by the leaders of this nation, better known as the Founding Fathers (most of whom were Christian and, if not, lived and governed by Christian principles). The citizenry in this newborn Christian nation also approved of this violent insurrection as a means to an end … Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit Of Happiness.

I use “Christian nation” in an all-inclusive sense. Meaning, Catholics and all their offshoots, Protestants and their many variant denominations, Puritans, Quakers, Deists, and so on. In other words, anyone who follows Jesus, regardless of HOW they understand it to be done. Also, this nation’s morals, laws, morays, and cultural heritage are based on those found in the Judeo-Christian worldview. It certainly isn’t based on Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other religion.

I am not in the least bit interested in engaging in the ridiculous practice of being a Christ Fruit Inspector – meaning, the intellectual exercise of determining which person or group is a “real” Christian, or not. First, that task is best left to God. Second, this article will not engage in spiritual warfare – meaning, I have zero interest in how a particular Bible verse pertains to spiritual topics or the world/life after this one. I am only interested in how a particular passage affects the current world we live in, especially as it relates to politics.

[Note: For ease of navigation and searching, major sections are delineated in red caps, Founding Father quotes are green italicized, and all Scripture verses are blue italicized.)


Polls vary widely, but a minimum of 20% and a maximum of 40% of Americans attend some type of Judeo-Christian service WEEKLY. That’s roughly between 64 million and 128 million people listening to a sermon each and every week.

With that in mind, my minor premise is that sermons have an effect on how people live their lives, not only on a “spiritual” level, but also in our day-to-day lives including what is often erroneously referred to as “politics”.

As just one example, Jesus unequivocally commands his followers on several occasions to feed the hungry. Such a simple command. Is it mostly a spiritual command in that Jesus meant feed the poor in spirit? Is it a political command so that Democrats can justify SNAP cards? Or, are the Republicans correct that yes, we should feed the poor … but only if they work? Whatever it is, it is a command to DO something in the real world we live in.


Is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Really Guilty?


Posted on 13th April 2015 by Stucky in Economy

This article seems to cast Reasonable Doubt at the minimum.


Boston Marathon Bombings’ Guilty Verdict Exposed as a Gross Travesty of Justice

Despite Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleading not guilty to the 30 counts (17 carrying the death penalty) he was charged within a week after the April 15th bombings last year, his lead defense attorney Judy Clark several days ago conceded to the jury that her client was guilty in her closing argument. Apparently blaming the dead brother whose due process was denied became Dzhokhar’s only defense strategy. The defense team insisted that he was coerced and bullied by his older brother into committing alleged acts of terrorism. Considering no real solid proof other than photos placing Dzhokhar and older brother Tamerlan both wearing backpacks at the scene of the crime where the two bombs exploded was even presented at the trial, no justice for either the Tsarnaevs nor the many victims can possibly come from this guilty verdict.

If the purpose of the US judicial system in criminal trials is to ensure that all factual evidence surrounding an alleged crime or crimes be accurately and fairly presented so that the jurors can properly assess the best semblance of the truth as presented by both prosecution and defense in order for the jury to adjudicate and decide a defendant’s true guilt or innocence, this trial was a complete travesty of justice. And if a basic tenet of the justice system in the United States holds that a defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, then again this verdict outcome is an obscene farce and a shameful joke exposing America’s justice system for its gross injustice. Just as the 9/11 commission failed to adequately address and answer dozens of questions that its official narrative failed to deliver, and years earlier the Warren Commission failed JFK and America, so does the prosecution’s case of evidence of Tsarnaev’s guilt fail to be convincing, much less provide definitive and unequivocal proof that the 21-year old Chechen American with his brother committed the Boston Marathon crimes.


Gee, Who Whizzed In The Wheaties?


Posted on 13th April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Guest Post by Karl Denninger


I’ve raised hell about this for more than a decade and literally zero attention has been paid to it.

A popular visa program allegedly is being misused by U.S. companies to lay off thousands of American workers and replace them with foreign labor.

And, adding insult to injury, many of the laid-off workers allegedly have been forced to train their replacements, in what one anonymous whistleblower called a “humiliating” experience.

This has been going on in the IT industry for a very long time; at least 20 years.  It is one of the reasons that I have cautioned people interested in any sort of programming or “computer science” degree generally; companies have “outsourced” entire divisions to India (in particular) or brought in folks on H1bs from (again, India specifically.)

The law supposedly requires the prevailing wage to be paid.  Uh huh.  Let’s do the math here — you go to school at a $20,000 a year college and come out with $50,000+ in student loan debt.  The Indian dude goes to college subsidized over there and comes out with zero debt.  Which of you is willing and able to work for less money, and what does that pressure do to the wages of everyone in the industry over here?


The American Consumer Will Never Be Back


Posted on 11th April 2015 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues


Submitted by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

That title may be a bit much, granted, because never is a very long time. I might instead have said “The American Consumer Won’t Be Back For A Very Long Time”. Still, I simply don’t see any time in the future that would see Americans start spending again at a rate anywhere near what would be required for an economic recovery. Looks pretty infinity and beyond to me.

However, that is by no means a generally accepted point of view in the financial press. There’s reality, and then there’s whatever it is they’re smoking, and never the twain shall meet. Admittedly, my title may be a bit provocative, but in my view not nearly as provocative, if not offensive, as Peter Coy’s at Bloomberg, who named his latest effort “US Consumers Will Open Their Wallets Soon Enough”.

I know, sometimes they make it just too easy to whackamole ‘em down and into the ground. But even then, these issues must be addressed time and again until people begin to understand, and quit making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons. People have a right to know what’s truly happening to their lives, and their societies. And they’re not nearly getting enough of it through the ‘official’ press. So here goes nothing:

US Consumers Will Open Their Wallets Soon Enough

People are constantly exhorted to save, but as soon as they do, economists pop up to complain they aren’t spending enough to keep the economy growing. A new blogger named Ben Bernanke wrote on April 1 that there’s still a “global savings glut.” Two days later the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the weakest job growth since 2013, which economists quickly attributed to soft consumer spending. (more…)

How the GOP became Israel’s Personal Bitch


Posted on 11th April 2015 by Zarathustra in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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How the GOP Became the Israel Party

Bill Kristol and John McCain have replaced Robert Novak and Pat Buchanan in Republican foreign policy influence.

Speaker John Boehner / Flickr

When the unexpectedly detailed P5+1 framework agreement with Iran was announced last Thursday, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk made a bizarre comment. “We all know” said the senator, that this is going to end with “a mushroom cloud somewhere near Tehran”—a result of Israel having to go to war to “clean up the mess” made by American and European negotiators. A few days earlier John McCain had expressed the wish that Israel “go rogue” and attack Iran in order to upend the Iran negotiations.

It would have been one thing if such comments had come from backbench congressmen. But McCain is a former GOP presidential nominee, one of his party’s most prominent foreign policy spokesmen. Kirk is the co-sponsor of what was, until recently, the major Senate legislation intended to scuttle the Iran negotiations—a leader in GOP “pro-Israel” circles. Yet neither remark sparked a repudiation, or even any reaction at all. They were what one expects from the GOP these days, recklessness about war and peace fused with a passion for Israel. It was if all the diffuse sentiments which once fueled American nationalism and militarism were concentrated into a tight stream and displaced onto Israel, turning the country into the fantasy surrogate of American hawks. The conservative belief in American exceptionalism is like Zionism, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol boasted. Kirk and McCain may know that Americans have little enthusiasm for another Mideast war; the U.S. Army understands perfectly well that no occupation of Iran could be sustained, and America would have zero international support if it tried. But no matter, they have Israel.


The Iranian Agreement: Much Better than Advertised


Posted on 11th April 2015 by MuckAbout in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

Courtesy of David Stockman’s Contra Corner:


It seems that all is not as reported by the MSM nor the Republican Party as far as the framework of the Iranian nuke talks in Lucerne last week.  It turns out that it is a workable agreement, with great potential  and possibilities within it may even allow re-entry of Iran into the political club of Nations……  I know this is not what you’ve heard, nor possibly believe, but we owe Mr. Stockman a large “Thanks” for running out the facts for us in a manner that is both clear and succinct.





The Iranian framework agreement is an astonishingly good deal, and has the potential to become a historic game-changer. As Robert Parry astutely observed, its about much more than sheaving the threat that Iran will get the bomb:

The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.

The saliency of that observation lies in the fact that there is virtually nothing in the substance of the deal for the War Party to attack. So what they are doing is desperately hurtling the Iranian axis-of-evil narrative at the agreement, claiming that the regime is so untrustworthy, diabolical and existentially dangerous that no product of mere diplomacy is valid. The Iranians are by axiom hell-bent on evil and no mere “scrap of paper” will stop them.