Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Sometimes There Are No Good Options"

Don Boudreaux at his best in Sometimes There Are No Good Options:
Like many libertarians, I reject the notion that national defense is an arena that is somehow exempt from the rule that politicians and bureaucrats are untrustworthy stewards of the general welfare. And like many libertarians, whenever I express opposition to, or even skepticism of, some U.S. military adventure, I get gushers of grief from people who insist that I’m “naive,” “childish,” and (my favorite, from a recent e-mail) “a stupid America hating dip shit hippie disguised as a free market blogger.”

Despite these compelling arguments against non-interventionism, I cannot escape the following realization: Whenever I hear politicians and their deputies discuss the subject that I know best, economics, they typically get it wrong. And they get it wrong not in minor ways; they get it wrong in fundamental ways. They frequently speak and write as if trade-offs don’t exist – as if the titles of statutes determine the outcomes of statutes – as if prices are arbitrary numbers that can be manipulated by government with no undesirable or unintended consequences – as if the benefits of international trade are “our” exports while the costs of such trade are our imports – as if nations “compete” against each other economically – as if the destruction wrought by natural disasters has an economic upside – as if government officials are immune to the knowledge constraints and self-interested motivations that affect actors in private markets.

In short, when the subject of discussion or the object of action is the economy, politicians and their deputies typically sound and act as if they are imbeciles (or as if the audiences they aim to please are made up largely of imbeciles). So why should I trust that these same politicians and their deputies, when they discuss and act on matters about which I know far less than economics, are not imbeciles? Why should I suppose them to be any more informed, reasonable, and wise – and less politically motivated – than they are when they discuss economics?

I admit it: I don’t know a great deal about foreign affairs and military matters. But I do know that the same politicians and deputies who consistently act in ways that I am certain are ignorant and dangerous when they intrude into the economy are the same politicians and deputies who I am asked to trust when they intrude into foreign affairs.

That I would like that these politicians and their deputies be adequately knowledgeable and level-headed when they turn their attention to military matters is irrelevant. The fact is, I have zero reason actually to suppose them to be adequately knowledgeable and level-headed about such matters. I must judge their likelihood of being knowledgeable and wise about matters on which I am poorly informed on the basis of my assessment of the knowledge and wisdom that they regularly exhibit when they discuss and act on matters about which I am well-informed. And on that basis, I conclude that they are untrustworthy, unwise, and, hence, much more likely than not to take steps that are harmful to the general welfare.

(My colleague Bryan Caplan has expressed a similar thought over at EconLog, but I’m pressed for time now and cannot find the particular link or links.)

Purely A Coincidence!

Not!  Minimum wage effect? From Mark J. Perry's Seattle area restaurant jobs have fallen -900 this year vs. +6,200 food jobs in rest of state:


We Do Know One Thing About the Future ...

... and it's that governments will continue to extract concessions to liberty in the name of safety, thus becoming yet even more large and still failing to provide safety.  And then, in the end, when the crisis of the day fades, it will never surrender the power and concessions it confiscated in the name of protecting those whom it ostensibly represents.

Here's a great quote, courtesy of Bryan Caplan and his post Meta-Crisis:
Whenever new shocking news breaks, I remember what Robert Higgs wrote back in 1987:
[W]e do know something - at least abstractly - about the future.  We know that other great crises will come.  Whether they will be occasioned by foreign wars, economic collapse, or rampant terrorism, no one can predict with assurances.  Yet in one form of another, great crises will surely come again... When they do, governments almost certainly will gain new powers over economic and social affairs... For those who cherish individual liberty and a free society, the prospect is deeply disheartening.
The constant miracle, to my mind, is that so much liberty endures...
I highly recommend Robert Higgs' book Crisis and Leviathan.  The size of our government today is no accident. 

Quote of the Day

"But in practice the Fed can do whatever it thinks best (obviously within reason) and no one will stop them." - Scott Sumner, The Fed is Above the Law

Note: Please read Sumner's entire post.  Please.  To me, the quote is not only very true, but also it's a truly scary thing to read.

Walter Williams asks: "What is the true test of one's commitment to free speech?"

As always, Walter Williams is right on the mark!  His latest is simply called Free Speech:
Recent events at the University of Missouri, Yale University and some other colleges demonstrate an ongoing ignorance and/or contempt for the principles of free speech. So let's examine some of those principles by asking: What is the true test of one's commitment to free speech?

Contrary to the widespread belief of tyrants among college students, professors and administrators, the true test of one's commitment to free speech does not come when one permits people to be free to express those ideas that he finds acceptable. The true test of one's commitment to free speech comes when he permits others to say those things that he finds deeply offensive. In a word, free speech is absolute, or nearly so.

No doubt a campus pseudo-intellectual, particularly in a law school, will chime in suggesting that free speech is not absolute, bringing up the canard that you can't shout "fire" in a crowded theater. Shouting "fire" in a crowded theater is not a free speech issue. A person who shouts "fire" violates the implied contract that theatergoers have to watch a performance undisturbed. Of course, if all patrons were informed when they purchased tickets that someone would falsely shout "fire" during the performance, there would be little problem.

Then there is speech called defamation, which is defined as the action of making a false spoken or written statement damaging to a person's reputation. Defamation is criminalized, but should it be? That question might be best answered by asking: Does your reputation belong to you? In other words, are the thoughts that other people have about you your property?

The principles that apply to one's commitment to free speech also apply to one's commitment to freedom of association. Like the true test of one's commitment to free speech, the true test of one's commitment to freedom of association does not come when he permits people to associate in ways he deems acceptable.

The true test of one's commitment to freedom of association comes when he permits people to be free to associate — or not to associate — in ways he deems offensive.

Permitting discriminatory association practices in publicly owned facilities — such as libraries, parks and beaches — should not be permitted. That is because they are taxpayer-financed and everyone should have a right to equal access. But denying freedom of association in private clubs, private businesses and private schools violates people's right to freely associate.

Christian Americans have been prosecuted for their refusal to cater same-sex weddings. Those who support such attacks might ask themselves whether they would also seek prosecution of an owner of a Jewish delicatessen who refused to provide services for a neo-Nazi affair. Should a black catering company be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan affair? Should the NAACP be forced to open its membership to racist skinheads? Should the Congressional Black Caucus be forced to open its membership to white members of Congress?

Liberty requires bravery. To truly support free speech, one has to accept that some people will say and publish things he finds deeply offensive. Similarly, to be for freedom of association, one has to accept that some people will associate in ways that he finds deeply offensive, such as associating or not associating on the basis of race, sex or religion.

It is worthwhile noting that there is a difference between what people are free to do and what they will find it in their interest to do. For example, a basketball team owner may be free to refuse to hire black players, but would he find it in his interest to do so?

I am all too afraid that most of my fellow Americans are hostile to the principle of liberty in general. Most people want liberty for themselves. I want more than that. I want liberty for me and liberty for my fellow man.

Start With the Politicians First ...

Get a load of this perspective: Beating IS will take ground troops and a proper plan.  First off, stop using the pronoun "we".  Secondly, how the fuck can the same group of people (politicians, known by intellectually weak people as "leaders") who created ISIS in the first place, be in any position to create a "proper plan" to combat their own monster?  Third, any plan for ground troops must first start with the politicians going first, as well as their children of military age.   What "we" need is to keep our hands to ourselves, i.e., stop fucking killing people "over there".  In fact, stop being "over there" altogether. The West has fucked up the Middle East beyond all recognition, and that's saying quite a bit since they fucked themselves up so bad to start off with!  So long as the West continues to support the mother of all jihad, Saudi Arabia, this shit will continue.  One thing I know for sure: do NOT send over any western ground troops, and this includes "advisers".  I continue to be amazed how not killing people is considered to be no option whatsoever.  But then again, given this country, well the entire West for that matter, is a corporate-crony-capitalist-oligarchy, it should be no surprise.  "War is the health of the state" ... that's damn sure ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Idiot, Not a "Leader"

Today in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry contrasted the terrorist attacks that took 129 lives in that city on Friday night with the terrorist attack that took 11 lives at the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January:
There's something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of—not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, "OK, they're really angry because of this and that." This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn't to aggrieve [sic] one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for.
That's not an exaggeration. It was to assault all sense of nationhood and nation-state and rule of law and decency, dignity, and just put fear into the community and say, "Here we are." And for what? What's the platform? What's the grievance? That we're not who they are? They kill people because of who they are, and they kill people because of what they believe.
Kerry quickly backtracked from saying the Charlie Hebdo attack was legitimate and ended up saying it was understandable, which is bad enough. After all, Kerry seemed to be saying, the paper had published some pictures that offended Muslims, so it makes sense that some of them decided to express their displeasure with bullets instead of sharply worded letters to the editor. Similarly, Pope Francis, who expressed incomprehension at Friday's attacks, was more empathetic after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, saying it's only human to respond with violence when someone insults your religion.

No, it is not understandable, and it is not only human, which implies that it's natural and expected. Beating someone for disrespecting your deity, let alone killing him, is immoral, illiberal, uncivilized, and barbaric. If any act of violence is an attack on "everything that we do stand for," surely a murderous assault aimed at punishing and deterring heresy qualifies. Pace Kerry, the point of Al Qaeda's attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices was precisely "to terrorize people," to make them think twice about expressing opinions that might rub religious fanatics with guns the wrong way. The freedom to say what you think without fear of death is surely more important than the "sense of nationhood and nation-state" that Kerry fetishizes.

Nor is Kerry right to say that there was no discernible grievance underlying last week's attacks. The gunmen themselves proclaimed that they were retaliating for France's attacks on ISIS in Syria. In other words, they were "really angry because of this and that." Yet in Kerry's view, that is not "a rationale that you could attach yourself to."

Needless to say, no matter what you may think about France's intervention in Syria's civil war, indiscriminate attacks on diners and concertgoers are not an appropriate reaction to decisions made by politicians and carried out by soldiers. Last week terrorists responded to violence with violence, recognizing no moral distinction between combatants and civilians. Last January terrorists responded to cartoons with violence, recognizing no moral distinction between speech and assault. When Kerry implies that the latter conflation is less troubling, he does no service to the Enlightenment values he is ostensibly defending.


An excellent piece from David Stockman, Blowback - The Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home To Roost.

Defense Ministers

A picture is worth a thousand words ...

HT: Newmark's Door

Random Thoughts for The Sage, Thomas Sowell

Random Thoughts: [emphasis mine]
Random thoughts on the passing scene:

Some financial institutions may be considered "too big to fail," but contemporary Western society may be too frivolous to survive. The Romans had bread and circuses to keep the masses passive and unthinking. We have electronic gadgets, drugs and pornography. Like the Roman Empire, we too may decline and fall. What happened in Paris may be just the beginning. 
[Semper Ratio: I'm disappointed though in the Sage's use of the Paris tragedy as an example to support his main point.]

With the "global warming" zealots predicting catastrophic consequences over the next century, I wonder if anyone has studied how accurate five-day weather forecasts turn out to be.

Cheap shots at the police by politicians and the media are in fact very expensive, in terms of the human lives that are lost when the effectiveness of law enforcement is undermined. The sharp increase in murders in places like Baltimore, New York and other places where the police have been trashed, shows how expensive.

It is bad enough to hear someone boasting about his past achievements. What is truly repulsive is hearing someone boasting about the future achievements he thinks he is going to have, as Donald Trump does repeatedly.

Why have a national debt ceiling if it doesn't really put a ceiling on the national debt? What the national debt ceiling does is allow Democrats to gain votes by spending the government's money -- and then force Republicans to share responsibility for raising the national debt ceiling, under threat of being blamed for shutting down the government if they don't.
[Semper Ratio: I believe the Republicans are as equally guilty of raising the debt ceiling when it's in their interest to do so - which is always.]

Since doctors have the same 24 hours a day as the rest of us, do believers in Obamacare understand that every hour a doctor spends filling out government forms is an hour that is not spent treating patients?

With all the charges of "racism" against conservatives, has anyone noticed that Dr. Ben Carson's strongest supporters are in the conservative wing of the Republican party?

In what part of the world is the situation better for America than it was when Barack Obama became President and Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State? If you want an easier question, in what part of the world is the situation worse?

How can anyone consider it to be either logical or moral to force other people to be defenseless because of a theory without any factual evidence? Yet that is what gun control laws amount to.

Some Americans will never appreciate America, until after they have helped destroy it, and have then begun to suffer the consequences.

People who argue that the hostility to Israel in the Middle East is due to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians should explain why hostility to Jews in the Middle East was so great back in the 1930s that Middle East leaders were pro-Hitler. This was long before there was a modern state of Israel or a Palestinian problem.
[Semper Ratio: Disappointed again.  I care not about those argue whether the hostility toward Israel is due to their treatment of the Palestinians or not.  The point is they do treat them horribly and they have a right to self-determination.  Period]

If the 2016 election comes down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump, my advice to the younger generation would be to try to find some other country to live in. Australia or New Zealand might be a good place to start looking.

Now that President Obama has sent a few dozen American troops into Syria, will they be wearing sneakers, so that he can claim that he has kept his promise not to put "boots on the ground"?

Racism is not dead. But it is on life-support, kept alive mainly by the people who use it for an excuse or to keep minority communities fearful or resentful enough to turn out as a voting bloc on election day.

The way the Obama administration's Department of Justice has been used politically to put local police under siege, and to shield the administration's own law-breakers, suggests that the Department of Justice should be taken out of the control of any future administration, and made an independent agency like the Government Accountability Office.

Have we become a country whose leaders are charlatans, and whose people are sheep?
[Semper Ratio: Yes! A resounding "yes" ... and by the way, stop referring to those charlatans as "leaders"!]

Our situation today reminds me of what Winston Churchill said to his bodyguard, after the king appointed Churchill prime minister in the darkest days during World War II: "All I hope is that it is not too late. I am very much afraid it is. We can only do our best." He had tears in his eyes.

"Do not expect to get a higher real rate of interest on your savings — ever."

Richard Rahn's Bad News for Savers:
Do not expect to get a higher real rate of interest on your savings — ever. Traditionally, people could expect to receive 2 or 3 percent more than the rate of inflation on their savings or money market accounts. For instance, if inflation was 2 percent, many people received 5 percent interest per year on their government-insured savings accounts. The Internal Revenue Service would then tax the entire amount of interest received (even the portion due only to inflation, which is obviously not income, but who expects the IRS to be ethical?). So, even after inflation and taxes, most received a small, 1.5 to 2 percent real positive rate of return on their savings.

Contrast the current situation with what people traditionally expected. Now, if you are lucky, you may be receiving a half percent or so interest rate, about equal to the rate of inflation, yet the IRS still taxes you on this meager amount even though you have had no real interest income. So, at the end of the year, you are worse off — a negative return — because you did the responsible thing, and that was to save for your retirement or for various emergencies that come along with life.

The following is a simplified but accurate description of how we got into the mess and why the situation will not get better. Back in 2009 during the Great Recession, the government greatly increased spending, all of which was borrowed. At the same time, the Federal Reserve decided it needed to strengthen the balance sheets of the big banks. Without going through all of the mechanics, to accomplish those two operations, — large banks bought bonds from the U.S. Treasury (at restricted auctions) and then sold many of these U.S. government bonds to the Fed at a small profit. Using this mechanism, the U.S. Treasury was able to sell more than a trillion of dollars of debt at very low interest rates.

The Fed earns interest on the U.S. government bonds that it holds, but at the end of the year it remits its interest earnings — after deducting a couple of billion dollars to pay for its own operations — back to the Treasury. Currently, it is remitting back more than $100 billion a year, making the government’s cost of debt service very low. Again, it is important to understand that Fed and the Treasury are running an unsustainable scheme — whereby the Fed creates an artificial demand for government debt, driving down the interest rates, and then remits most of the interest earned back to the Treasury. If a private party engaged in such activities, it would be called “money laundering,” and the participants might well go to jail.

The reason this monetary game has not resulted in inflation up to now is that even though the Fed is buying the bonds from the banks with money created out of thin air, the banks are increasingly subject to greater regulatory restraints on what they can do with the money. The big banks have “bank accounts” with the Fed. The Fed started paying a small amount of interest on these accounts to the banks. So the big banks, in essence, get free money from the government on which the government pays them interest. If the banks lend the money to private parties who are willing to pay a higher interest rate, the banks risk fines, or worse, if the loans happen to go bad. As a result, the banks increasingly restrict their lending to big companies and the politically favored where the risks are perceived to be lower — rather than to small business and entrepreneurial enterprises that create most of real jobs.

Because of all of the new financial regulatory restrictions that make it more difficult to borrow, the demand for loans is artificially depressed. At the same time, the population pyramid is changing. Young people typically are borrowers — for education, homes and autos. As people get older, they tend to increase their savings rates to prepare for old age and borrow less. As a result of the decline in birth rates and an aging population, there are fewer borrowers and more savers. As the real return on savings declines, many save more, as the Japanese have been doing for the last few decades, to make up for the lower rate of return on the savings.

The Fed has no costless way to wind down its massive holdings of U.S. government debt and its holdings of government-backed mortgages that it bought from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Who would buy all of this stuff if the Fed decided to sell, and at what price? If the Fed interest rate subsidy to the Treasury stops — the cost of debt service will soar, either crowding out other spending or forcing massive tax increases or inflation.

Rapid economic growth is the only real solution to the government debt problem and negative interest rates for savers. Such growth will require large cuts in regulatory costs, a far less damaging tax system, and major real cuts in government spending. Which politician is going to deliver that? 
Conclusion then?  Simple: the government has turned everyone into speculators (which politicians supposedly hate).  The only market which people can "save" or "invest" is the stock market.  This my friends, will not end well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Truly Progressive (Disgusting) Headline

This disgusts me: The Paris attacks: Effective leadership is the key to winning the fight against terror.  Really?  Once again, I detest the association of "leadership" with "politician".  These are two mutually exclusive terms.  Here's the liberal position:
After every terrorist attack, world leaders issue very similar obligatory statements. What they have not done is develop an effective strategy to neutralize the radicalized ideology of the terrorists. In addition to defensive strategies that include security screening at airports and at high profile public events, the gathering of intelligence and the monitoring of radical groups, offensive strategies are needed beyond bombing terrorist targets in the Middle East. How do you change a terrorist’s ideology? How do you prevent young people from becoming radicalized? Our leaders better figure that out.
No, what they (world leaders) have not done is to stop the practice of killing people "over there".  An "effective strategy to neutralize the radicalized ideology of the terrorists" is simple: stop killing people!  Also, why should "our leaders" figure out how to "prevent young people from becoming radicalized"? First off, these supposed leaders are not my leaders.  No, I can think and act for myself. The only thing these "leaders" can do for me is get out of my way and allow me to take care of myself.

Next up, is this summary:
We in the U.S. should feel vulnerable. One wonders what additional steps our leaders in the U.S. need to take to protect us against terrorists entering our country, or ones who are home-grown.
First off, no, "we" shouldn't feel vulnerable, but we should be aware and armed.  Again, this nation's politicians are not "leaders" and regardless, they are incapable of providing protection for anything.  Besides, walls do not keep people out, but they do keep people in.  Our supposed leaders have to stop killing people - period, especially those outside our own borders.

Next up:
We are in a war of civilizations. We are in a war with those who share no values or cultural norms of the civilized world. This war is between those who embrace enlightenment and those who embrace darkness, between those who place the highest value on freedom of speech and the freedom to live our daily lives the way we choose and those who do not, between those that cherish freedom of thought and religion (and from religion) and those who are enslaved by theirs, and between those who celebrate life versus those who celebrate death.
 I disagree: they do share one strong value: don't kill my family!  Next, it's a very strong contradiction to use the word "civilization" when it's the US and its allies killing people around the world!  So exactly, who is embracing darkness?  The rest of the paragraph is drivel, straight out of America's MSM.

Random Thoughts

Another phrase that absolutely irks me to no end, especially when it's applied to the victims of terrorism: "They lost their lives ....".  No, they didn't "lose" their fucking lives: their lives were taking away from them! They were murdered!.  "It's just semantics, don't let it bother you!" is what I hear when I mention my disdain for the phrase.  My retort? "You're obviously not thinking."  No one "loses their life" - period.  It's taken away, often violently and worse, with malice aforethought. 

Along the same lines: "Suicide bomber".  Stop it!  There are no "suicide bombers", rather, they're "murder bombers".  It's not about the fucking moron who's killed himself, no, it's about those that "lost their lives" were murdered.

It's long past time to return to "Armistice Day".  This incessant praise of everything military, especially on Veterans Day, is just short of disgusting.  This nation should be remembering those that were murdered in war and the sacrifice these people made, which is what the original date (end of WWI) was intended to do.

Blowback: nations reap what they sow.

Non-interventionism is NOT isolationism.  However, if your definition of an "isolationist" is a person who believes "we" shouldn't be killing people, then fine, I accept the moniker ... proudly.

Let's stop associating politicians with "leadership".  Seriously, I wouldn't follow any politician in the world today for any reason whatsoever.   Politicians are hardwired to be exactly what is opposite of a real leader: each one is all about themselves.  Period.  Also, when you hear pundits say "we" need "stronger leadership", do one of two things (or both in some cases): hold onto your wallets; hold on to your life.  As soon as a politician resigns from their office to pick up a rifle and lead, I may then begin to give him or her a thought, otherwise, they're simply the scumbags they're born and bred to be.

Ron Paul on the Paris Attacks

Ron Paul's Paris and What Should Be Done:
The horrific attacks in Paris on Friday have, predictably, led to much over-reaction and demands that we do more of the exact things that radicalize people and make them want to attack us. The French military wasted no time bombing Syria in retaliation for the attacks, though it is not known where exactly the attackers were from. Thousands of ISIS fighters in Syria are not Syrian, but came to Syria to overthrow the Assad government from a number of foreign countries -- including from France and the US.

Ironically, the overthrow of Assad has also been the goal of both the US and France since at least 2011.

Because the US and its allies are essentially on the same side as ISIS and other groups – seeking the overthrow of Assad – many of the weapons they have sent to the more “moderate” factions also seeking Assad’s ouster have ended up in the hands of radicals. Moderate groups have joined more radical factions over and over, taking their US-provided training and weapons with them. Other moderate groups have been captured or killed, their US-provided weapons also going to the radicals. Thus the more radical factions have become better equipped and better trained, while occasionally being attacked by US or allied planes.

Does anyone not believe this is a recipe for the kind of disaster we have now seen in Paris? The French in particular have been very active in arming even the more radical groups in Syria, as they push for more political influence in the region. Why do they still refuse to believe in the concept of blowback? Is it because the explanation that, “they hate us because we are free,” makes it easier to escalate abroad and crack down at home?

It may not be popular to say this as emotions run high and calls ring out for more bombing in the Middle East, but there is another way to address the problem. There is an alternative to using more military intervention to address a problem that was caused by military intervention in the first place.

That solution is to reject the militarists and isolationists. It is to finally reject the policy of using “regime change” to further perceived US and western foreign policy goals, whether in Iraq, Libya, Syria, or elsewhere. It is to reject the foolish idea that we can ship hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to “moderates” in the Middle East and expect none of them to fall into the hands of radicals.

More bombs will not solve the problems in the Middle East. But a more promising approach to the Middle East is currently under fire from the isolationists in Washington. The nuclear deal with Iran ends UN sanctions and opens that country to international trade. Just last week the presidents of France and Iran met to discuss a number of trade deals. Other countries have followed. Trade and respect for national sovereignty trumps violence, but Washington still doesn’t seem to get it. Most presidential candidates compete to thump the table loudest against any deal with Iran. They will use this attack to propagandize against approving trade with Iran even though Iran has condemned the attack and is also in the crosshairs of ISIS.

 Here is the alternative: Focus on trade and friendly relations, stop shipping weapons, abandon “regime change” and other manipulations, respect national sovereignty, and maintain a strong defense at home including protecting the borders from those who may seek to do us harm.

We should abandon the failed policies of the past, before it’s too late.

The Article Few Have the Courage to Read

I can understand why people are horrified over the terrorist attacks in Paris but, for the life of me, I just cannot understand why they are shocked by it. People who are shocked by the attacks are definitely suffering from a severe case of obtuseness and denial.

Ever since 9/11, we libertarians have been saying that terrorism is one of the prices that people pay for living under an empire, one that engages in foreign interventions. Have all those shocked people not been listening?
For example, six years ago I wrote an article entitled “Terrorism Is a Cost of Empire,” in which I pointed out that no one should be surprised when terrorism strikes because that’s just part and parcel of living under an empire. I wrote:

But as I’ve pointed out for years, the U.S. Empire has become the world’s biggest terrorist-producing machine. The more people it kills over there, the more the ranks of those who wish to retaliate against Americans are swelled.

In other words, the pro-empire advocates say, “We’re over there to kill them before they come over here and kill us.” But what’s actually happening is this: They’re coming over here to kill us because the Empire is over there killing them….

What the American people need to finally realize is that with Empire comes costs, including: The constant threat of terrorist retaliation.”
We have actually been pointing this out since the 9/11 attacks. No, correct that, we were also saying it before the 9/11 attacks.

Yet look at the editorial pages and op-ed pages of the mainstream press. All you see are angry denunciations of ISIS, terrorists, and radical Muslims and reasons why we need to keep bombing, assassinating, and killing them. You won’t find anything about terrorist blowback from U.S., French, and British imperialism and interventionism in the Middle East within the pages of the mainstream press.

Take a wild guess what the editorialists and op-ed writers are saying should be done about the Paris attacks. You guessed — bomb ISIS, kill more terrorists, support foreign regimes, and refortify the U.S. national-security state, both military-wise and with respect to intelligence-gathering machinery (i.e., more secret surveillance schemes to keep us safe from the enemies the Empire produces). In other words, double down and keep doing what you’ve been doing and expect a different result.

What does it take for these people to finally be able to confront the evil and immoral interventionist policies of their own government, policies that have brought into existence (as I pointed out in that article six years ago), the greatest terrorist producing machine in history? After all, for every person they kill in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, ten more people hate the United States as well as its partners in the “coalition of the willing.” As the French are discovering, some of those angry people are even willing to commit suicide in revenge for the people that France, Great Britain, and the United States have killed in the Middle East, including countries that once suffered as British and French colonies (e.g., Iraq and Syria).

We see this mindset of denial and obtuseness in Christian churches all across America. Christian ministers exhort their congregation to pray for peace in the Middle East and an end to terrorism in that part of the world. At the same time, they exhort them to pray for the troops for “defending our freedoms” here at home.

In other words, they’re praying that people in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. stop resisting the United States, France, and Great Britain. If all those terrorists would just stop opposing what these three colonial powers want to accomplish in the Middle East, there would be peace.

Of course, it never occurs to such ministers to exhort people to pray for the troops to be brought home and for the U.S. Empire to finally leave the people of the Middle East alone. They also never exhort their congregations to pray for the victims of the U.S. Empire in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Instead, the Empire has been erected into one great big idol, one that can do no wrong.

Well, the interventionists can dream and fantasize all they want but we are still left with reality and one undeniable fact: As long as the United States, Britain, and France are meddling in the Middle East, there is going to be terrorist retaliation. Terrorism is what comes with empire and intervention (along with out-of-control federal spending and borrowing, destruction of civil liberties, torture, assassination, and secret national surveillance programs).

We can condemn terrorism until we are blue in the face. It won’t change a thing. Terrorism will continue to be the weapon for third-world people seeking to exact revenge on an all-powerful first-world military.

There is but one solution to all this: Leave the people of the Middle East and Afghanistan alone. Bring all the foreign troops home and discharge them. Stop the regime-change operations. Terminate foreign aid to foreign regimes, especially the dictatorships (e.g., Egypt). Dismantle the U.S. national-security state, including the military-industrial complex, CIA, and NSA. No more invasions, occupations, and assassinations. That’s the only way to begin the shift toward peace, prosperity, harmony, and liberty. Otherwise, don’t be shocked when the next terrorist attack comes.
It's very simple really: kill people, and their friends and family want to kill you.  Yep, that simple.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Best Idea I've Heard In a Long Time!

Another Veterans Day, another celebration of those who served in America’s military. The holiday began as Armistice Day after World War I, marking the end of that horrific conflict. In 1954 Congress renamed the day to honor all of America’s military personnel.

Memorial Day typically is more somber, since it commemorates those who died while serving. But Veterans Day reaches far more people, covering all whose lives were touched by military service—many wounded, some grievously; others mentally scarred by the horrors of combat; large numbers conscripted into other nations’ conflicts. Of which there have been far too many.

Veterans Day is a holiday filled with public rhapsodies about the bravery and sacrifice of military personnel. For the vast majority of veterans such accolades are justified. Some pay with their lives. Others are injured, often suffering from mismanaged health care at home. Even away from combat life can be tough, with government controlling one’s future. For everyone serving there is arbitrary bureaucracy; their families endure constant moves and much more. Dependents—military brats like me—simultaneously enjoy and suffer from a lifestyle bizarre by most Americans’ standards.

Veterans have become an important lobby. The Civil War spawned the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization drawn from the North’s armies. The Veterans of Foreign Wars was established in 1899 by men who served in the Spanish-American War and sought health care and pensions. Membership increased with those who fought to suppress Filipino independence fighters. The VFW dramatically expanded after World War I and especially World War II, during which 16 million Americans served in the military. A series of smaller conflicts added new members in recent years.

Unfortunately, that process continues. Despite the end of the Cold War Americans have been constantly in combat. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning U.S. president expanded and extended the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, intervened in Libya, reentered Iraq, and crashed Syria’s civil war. The latter two commitments remain small, but hint of expanded combat to come. Indeed, the U.S. experience is that no Middle East intervention actually ever ends. Rather, every new war creates unintended consequences, generating conflict and chaos, causing Washington to intervene again.

Of course, every Veterans Day ostentatious political patriots attempt to outdo each other to win votes. Many never got close to a uniform, like Dick “I had other priorities” Cheney, who avoided serving in Vietnam but today plots multiple wars. Those who studiously avoided service even more loudly praise those they send into combat for bravely defending America’s security and Americans’ freedom.

The U.S. was born in war. Sometimes military action is necessary. But not often. Indeed, virtually never these days. Almost all of the conflicts so often initiated or joined by Washington implicate no important, let alone vital, interests. Most are far more likely to undermine than advance liberty and peace.

In short, military personnel usually do not in fact fight—and die—for Americans’ freedoms. Rather, veterans are employed to advance whatever policies, preferences, desires, or fantasies dominate the denizens of Washington. Alas, only rarely do those objectives reflect Americans’ interests.

To criticize the wars in which veterans fought is not to blame those in uniform. They believe in their nation; they desire to serve those around them. They believe their political leaders. Unfortunately, the latter have routinely abused veterans’ trust. Too many officials treat military personnel as gambit pawns in a never-ending global chess game. Of course, the ultimate responsibility lies with the American people, who elect and reelect irresponsible presidents and congressmen, who treat war like just another pork barrel program.

Which of America’s recent wars was necessary? The Islamic State is a nasty creature, wreaking havoc in the Sunni territories of Iraq and Syria, but does not threaten the U.S. Indeed, unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL avoided terrorism, preferring to create a geographically bounded state (or “caliphate”). Attacking America or Americans, other than those who were captured traveling to the region, would inevitably have drawn in the U.S., threatening the Islamic State’s larger objective. The movement is evil, but challenges virtually every nation in the region; collectively they are capable of defeating ISIS/ISIL, but most have little incentive to act so long as Washington is determined to do the job for them. In fact, the Arab members of the administration’s much-celebrated international coalition have largely gone home.

There is no security justification for intervening in Syria’s civil war, whether by arming insurgents, establishing no-fly zones, or anything else. The Assad regime is horrid, but many of its opponents are worse. Ousting the regime likely would loose even more vicious forces—as happened in Libya and Iraq. Most U.S. analysts realize that getting involved in Libya’s civil war was a mistake; today weapons, violence, chaos, refugees, and terrorism radiate from the failed state across North Africa into Europe.

Invading Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy decisions ever: thousands of Americans died, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, trillions of dollars were wasted, Iranian influence was enhanced, and both al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State were spawned. While Washington had little choice but to invade Afghanistan to strike al-Qaeda and punish the Taliban for hosting terrorist training camps, sticking around for 14 years attempting to create a liberal Western democracy in Central Asia proved a fool’s errand.

Wars against the Bosnians Serbs and Yugoslavia were equally senseless. The Balkans matters to Europe, not America. The West allowed every ethnic group to break away from Serb-dominated territories, but opposed allowing Serbs to break away from any ethnic Albanian-, Bosnian-, or Croatian-dominated territory. The U.S. ignored atrocities and terrorism against Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, and mass ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Kosovo. The latter turned into a gangster state while Bosnia remains an artificial, unstable nation.

Vietnam was a foolish diversion. The only domino to fall was Cambodia, and Vietnam soon ousted the brutal Khmer Rouge. Not much later Vietnam—united and communist—turned to the U.S. against China. Fourteen years after South Vietnam’s collapse the Berlin Wall had fallen. For what did hundreds of thousands of Americans serve and tens of thousands die?

The Korean War can be defended as an aspect of the Cold War, after the U.S. divided the Korean peninsula with the Soviet Union, helping set the conditions for war. World War II was caused by others, as Japan attacked and Germany declared war on the U.S. But this conflict grew out of World War I, a foolish imperial slugfest. America’s involvement in that horrid human charnel house was even dumber than the invasion of Iraq. Washington destroyed the possibility of a negotiated peace and allowed imposition of the irresponsible Versailles Treaty. The “peace” unleashed communism, fascism, and Nazism, and left a miasma of unfinished business, out of which developed World War II.

The Spanish-American War, the country’s first overseas conflict, was little better. Washington attacked decrepit Spain, seizing Cuba and Philippines. In the latter Americans conducted a vicious three-year campaign to prevent the archipelago’s independence. About 200,000 Filipinos died in a conflict far deadlier than the much criticized Spanish fight against Cuban insurgents which helped spark America’s attack on Spain.

In short, most of America’s foreign wars were stupid, dumb, and unnecessary, conflicts which U.S. political leaders could and should have avoided. The one with the greatest justification for entering, World War II, was a logical, even inevitable outgrowth of the one which least warranted America’s involvement, World War I. As a result, many of America’s veterans have served, and a large number have died, unnecessarily, even in vain. The fault, of course, lies with others—U.S. policymakers, backed by the people who elected them.

The best way for Americans to celebrate Veterans Day and honor America’s veterans would be to pledge to make the battle against the Islamic State America’s last foreign war. Of course, other nations could take that decision away from Washington by attacking America. But the last time the U.S. was struck was 2001. Before that was 1941. And before that was 1812. No state today—China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, or any other—has either the ability or desire to battle America. Very likely war will remain a choice rather than necessity for Washington, a choice that should not be made in any likely circumstance.

America’s veterans deserve respect and honor. But not the conflicts in which they served. U.S. policymakers should make foreign wars a thing of the past, choosing peace whenever possible. Then Americans really could celebrate future Veterans Days.
No more war ... no more ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Just Sayin'

White lives matter too .... well, that's not very good of me, of course ALL lives matter, yet I just can't fathom the lack of outrage ...  Sorry, I fell off the path today ... have to get back on the cushion ...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Everything's Fine, Nothing To See Here ...

The definitive measure of the global economy (my opinion): It's Official: The Baltic Dry Index Has Crashed To Its Lowest November Level In History

The Game of Politicians: War

Richard Ebeling's War, Big Government, and Lost Freedom is a must read!

Think A Bit ...

Two from Bryan Caplan ...

Cochrane's Questions About Inequality

Gonzalez on the Multicultural Threat

So It Does! It's What Washington Does Best: Make Enemies

Speculation had simmered for weeks that the United States intended to conduct naval patrols in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims there. Pentagon leaders seemed especially eager to defy China’s position that building “reclaimed” or artificial reefs or islands also created rights to new territorial waters surrounding those creations. The widespread speculation was confirmed on October 27, when the Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen on a “freedom of navigation” patrol within 12-miles of man-made islands.

Beijing’s reaction was immediate and vehement. Chinese naval vessels monitored, followed, and warned the Lassen, although they did not, fortunately, take any further action. The Chinese foreign ministry issued a curt rebuke to the United States, urging Washington to “immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threaten China’s sovereignty and security interests. U.S. officials clearly intend to ignore that protest and plan to conduct additional patrols.

This move on Washington’s part is a dangerous escalation of already worrisome tensions in the South China Sea. It is understandable that, as the world’s leading maritime power, the United States is unwilling to accept Beijing’s extremely broad territorial claims in that body of water. The full extent of China’s claims would cover nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea. Given the extensive oceanic commerce that passes through that area (some $5 trillion per year), much of which is vital to South Korea, Japan, and other U.S. allies in East Asia, Washington’s recalcitrance is unsurprising.

The creation of reclaimed and man-made islands and reefs also creates a murky issue under international law. Although Beijing has never issued a formal declaration, the implicit Chinese position is that the waters surrounding such entities are the same as territorial waters around other islands, and that includes both a 12-mile limit with full sovereignty and a larger exclusive economic zone. Since such sizable constructs have never existed before, international law on the subject is unclear. Wholly artificial structures do not lead to existence of a sovereignty zone, but reclaimed land from the sea may be another matter. Yet Washington has chosen to summarily reject China’s position.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter states that, “the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea is not and will not be an exception.” It is hardly surprising that the United States would insist on a firm defense of international navigation rights. But there are less confrontational ways to pursue that objective without the kind of “in your face” challenge symbolized by the Lassen voyage and future planned patrols. A diplomatic statement asserting that Washington does not necessarily accept claims to a 12-mile sovereignty belt around artificial or reclaimed islands, accompanied by highly visible U.S. naval patrols in the South China Sea that nevertheless remain outside the claimed 12-mile limits, would have been an appropriate compromise. It is unfortunate that U.S. officials instead chose to adopt a much more provocative stance.

Chinese leaders also are watching to see what the United States does about the artificial reefs that both Vietnam and the Philippines have built. Those projects are less numerous and smaller than China’s versions, but they raise the same questions under international law. That creates a dilemma for U.S. officials. If they send naval vessels into waters close to such islands, the action is likely to annoy Hanoi and Manila and undercut their territorial claims. However, if the U.S. Navy conveniently fails to assert navigation rights against those claims, Chinese officials will consider that clear evidence that Washington is applying a double standard. That suspicion is already prominent with regard to U.S. actions regarding the overall, multi-sided territorial controversies involving the South China Sea. Despite assurances from both the Bush and Obama administrations that the United States remains neutral with respect to the disputes, Washington’s unsubtle policy tilts toward Vietnam and the Philippines suggest an “anybody but China” attitude.

Beijing’s suspicions about U.S. motives in the South China Sea are already at a high level. The Lassen incident and the planned additional naval patrols are certain to intensify those suspicions. The South China Sea dispute has now emerged as the most prominent issue that could irrevocably damage relations between the United States and China. Naval patrols brazenly challenging China’s position regarding the man-made islands are unnecessarily provocative. Washington needs to take a step back before it ignites a major crisis. 

The Business of Religion

A worthy read indeed. Religion is big business, with much money to throw around, especially when it comes to beatification!  Bugged Priests and Sainthood For Sale

The Wickedness of Our Foreign Policy

Individual persons who did no harm to anyone are being slaughtered and starved with the help of American politicians and military bureaucrats.

If you want to see how inhumane people can be, just watch those who make and execute foreign policy. We could spend all day discussing the cruelties that politicians and bureaucrats commit against people who live inside the United States. Think how many are caged like wild animals because they manufacture, sell, or consume disapproved substances; gamble where government has forbade it; traded sexual services for money; possessed a gun they weren't "supposed" to possess; etc. ad infinitum. Naturally, America leads the world in locking up people. But at least the policy of mass imprisonment gets increasing attention. Subject to far less scrutiny is how America's (mis)leaders, (mis)representatives, and public (self-)servants treat foreigners, especially those with dark skin and a still-unfamiliar religion.

When we talk about foreign policy, how easy it is to get wrapped up in abstractions like empire, intervention, nonintervention, and kinetic military action. These are important concepts to understand, of course, but foreign-policy conversations often become sterile examinations of "policy," when what we need is a full awareness of the harm to individual human beings, and the destruction of their families, homes, communities, and societies. These persons are the victims of our rulers' geopolitical stratagems, which seemly outrank all other considerations. Yet each victim has a story embodying unique relationships and aspirations, a story that is permanently changed by an American cluster bomb, drone-launched missile, or special-ops mission.

The best that can be said of the perpetrators of this carnage and social devastation is that they are guilty of gross negligence. Many of their acts, however, cross into the territory of premeditated murder and the infliction of mayhem with malice aforethought.

One need not look hard for the most egregious examples taking place right at this moment. In Yemen the Obama administration gives indispensable material support to Saudi Arabia's barbaric war - war ought not to require a qualifier like barbaric, but it seems necessary these days - on the poorest population in the region. The U.S.-facilitated starvation blockade and cluster-bombing take an untold number of Yemeni lives while devastating the social order. Policymakers (a euphemism for the architects of devastation) can rationalize this cruelty in geopolitical terms—the Houthis, who incidentally are fighting al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadis, are (falsely) said to be instruments of Iran—but the fact remains that individual persons who did no harm to anyone are being slaughtered and starved with the help of American politicians and military bureaucrats.

Or how about Syria? U.S. conduct carries out a seemingly incoherent policy of simultaneously targeting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and one of his chief adversaries, the Islamic State, while helping another Islamist group, al-Nusra Front, that has pledged allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor as head of al-Qaeda, perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. Estimates of the death total in Syria's civil war reach as high as 340,000, a number that represents the toll at the hands of both government and rebel forces. (The total is sometimes invidiously attributed to Assad's military alone.) The injured and refugees are probably uncountable.

What must be understood is that most of these deaths, injuries, and dispossessions would probably not have occurred had the Obama administration - most especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—not early on intensified the civil war by declaring Assad's regime "illegitimate," demanding that he "go" (i.e., die), and overseeing the transfer weapons and jihadi fighters from Benghazi, Libya. While doing all this, the Obama administration was thwarting promising efforts toward a negotiated settlement, which might have stopped or at least reduced the killing of innocent persons. For details see these three articles by the excellent investigate journalist Jonathan Marshall.

And then there's Libya itself, which Clinton boasts is an example of "smart power at its best." In 2011 she had egg on her face because she was on the wrong side of the Arab Spring, having defended Egypt's military dictator, Hosni Mubarak, as a family friend and trusted world leader to the bitter end while throngs of aggrieved Egyptians were in the streets demanding his exit. Needing to clean up her image (perhaps in preparation for her quest for the presidency), she along with administration national-security VIPs Samantha Power and Susan Rice persuaded a reluctant Obama that the residents of Benghazi had to be saved from Col. Muammar Gaddafi's alleged genocidal designs. The only problem was that Gaddafi had no genocidal designs. (Also see this and this.) And in a classic exhibition of mission-creep, the U.S.-led NATO air campaign went from protecting Benghazi to changing the regime in Tripoli, prompting Clinton to gloat, "We came. We saw. He died." (Gaddafi was killed extrajudicially, reportedly in a most gruesome manner.)

Since the U.S. intervention, Libya has been wracked by sectarian civil war—even the Islamic State now holds territory there—prompting many Libyans to flee to Europe, which now has to contend with a growing refugee crisis. As noted, the Libyan power vacuum, featuring the unlocking of Gaddafi's arsenal of heavy weapons, helped to boost the Islamist rebel militias in Syria, to the delight of U.S. allies Turkey (which fears the Kurds) and Saudi Arabia (which fears Iran and the Shi'ites). After the nightmare in Iraq, one has to wonder what Clinton was thinking. The closest thing we have to an answer is from then-Secretary of War Robert Gates, an opponent of the intervention, who said, "we were playing it by ear." (And let's not forget: destabilization itself can be an objective.)

Of course we could point to Iraq, George W. Bush's invasion of which in 2003 set most of the aforementioned mayhem in motion, and Afghanistan, but the story is largely the same: innocent lives are sacrificed to the politicians' grand agenda. Little people living small lives can't be allowed to stand in the way.
There are people for whom I wonder how they can sleep at night, most of whom are in government, and GWB, Hillary Clinton and BHO are but three of them.  

Today's WTF Story!!

This just shouldn't happen.  Period.  Absolutely tragic: dying over an inspection sticker!  Angry, Upset Cop Kills Shocked, Unarmed Man Face Down on the Ground Over Expired Inspection Stickers; Naturally, Acquitted of All Charges

Not upset enough?  Read this one:  Cop Pulls Teen Over for Flashing High Beams, Tases Him, Eventually Shoots and Kills Him.

Read This!

Oops! Low oil prices are related to a debt bubble

No, They Don't; In Fact, Most Likely Couldn't Find Syria On a Fucking Map!

Dear Fellow Americans: Do You Have Any Idea What’s Being Done In Your Name In Syria?:
Americans have some vague understanding that the U.S. wants Syria’s Assad to go, while Russia wants him to stay.

And Americans know that the U.S. “war against ISIS” hasn’t done much, while the Russians have been pounding Syrian targets with jets.

But Americans have no idea that the U.S. is deploying fighter jets designed solely to engage in plane-to-plane dogfighting … in order to counter the Russians.

And we don’t understand that the U.S. is arming the Syrian “rebels” with shoulder-fired weapons to bring down airplanes (this comes a week after ISIS may have used a Manpad to shoot down a Russian civilian airliner.)

Americans don’t know that sending Manpads into Syria and trying to establish a no-fly zone is what Al Qaeda leaders have been ASKING FOR, and that ISIS and Al Qaeda will end up with all of the weapons which the U.S. sends to Syria.

Americans don’t know the history of American regime change in Syria:
Americans don’t know that it was the “rebels” – not the Syrian government – who carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria.

Americans don't know that U.S. backed rebels told Christians, “Either you convert to Islam or you will be beheaded.”   Syrian rebels slit the throat of Christian man who refused to convert to Islam, taunting his fiance by yelling: “Jesus didn’t come to save him!”  A former Syrian Jihadi says the rebels have a “9/11 ideology”.  Indeed, they’re literally singing Bin Laden's praises and celebrating the 9/11 attack.

Americans don’t know that the U.S. and its allies are largely responsible for creating ISIS, that U.S., Turkey and Israel have all been acting as ISIS’ air force, and that influential American figures are calling for openly arming Al Qaeda … and perhaps even ISIS.

Americans don’t know that Russia and China are catching up to the U.S. military, and that this isn’t a mere proxy war … but is “one step closer” to all out war between the U.S. and Russia.

And Americans don’t know that  history shows that empires collapse when they overextend themselves militarily … and fight one too many wars.

Postscript.  Americans also don’t know how close we’ve come to the worst-case scenario:
  • We came very close to nuclear war with Russia numerous times in the past … and only the courage of a handful of men to disobey the commands of their superiors saved the world
  • In 1962, the head of the U.S. Air Force – General Curtis LeMay – pushed president Kennedy to use the “opportunity” to launch a nuclear war against Russia, and was bitterly disappointed that Kennedy instead opted for peace.  As highly-regarded reporter David Talbot said recently:
The military in this country and the CIA thought that we could take, you know, Castro out. During the Cuban missile crisis, they were prepared to go to a nuclear war to do that. President Kennedy thought people like Curtis LeMay, who was head of the Air Force, General Curtis LeMay, was half-mad. He said, “I don’t even see this man in my—you know, in my sight,” because he was pushing for a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. And even years later, Curtis LeMay, after years after Kennedy is dead, in an interview that I quote from in the book, bitterly complains that Kennedy didn’t take this opportunity to go nuclear over Cuba. So, President Kennedy basically, I think, saved my life—I was 12 years old at the time—saved a lot of our lives, because he did stand his ground. He took a hard line against the national security people and said, “No, we’re going to peacefully resolve the Cuban missile crisis.”
  • One of the world’s leading physicists (Michio Kaku) revealed declassified plans for the U.S. to launch a first-strike nuclear war against Russia in the 1987 book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans.  The forward was written by the former Attorney General of the United States, Ramsey Clarke
  • American, Russian and other experts warn that U.S. and Russian conflicts elsewhere could lead to nuclear war

Monday, November 2, 2015

Must Reads from Charles Hugh Smith

Though I have CHS on my blogroll, I feel the need to post these gems:

Three Strategies to Make Your Life Easier as Times Get Harder  [Note #2. It's SO important ...]

You Can't Separate Empire, the State, Financialization and Crony Capitalism: It's One Indivisible System 

The Dangerous Illusion That Risk Can Be Offloaded Onto Others

When the Aristocracy Leaves the Commoners in the Dust, The Empire Is Doomed

The Real Trouble Begins When Rising Inequality Splinters the Elites

Will this Manic Stock Market Rally End in Tears? [Note: YES!]  

Don't Think the Status Quo Will Save You 

The Federal Reserve: Illusion of Understanding, Illusion of Control 

All Hail Our New Lord and Master, the Stock Market 

Untangling America from the American Empire

Worthy Security Reads from Bruce Schneier

Jamming Wi-Fi

Soviet Spying on US Selectric Typewriters

Automatic Face Recognition and Surveillance  (some truly scary sh*t)

How GCHQ Tracks Internet Users

The MICS: Personified

Here's the Military, Industrial, Congressional, Security (MICS) complex, personified: The Military Industrial Complex Unicorn – Former NSA Chief Raises $32.5 Million for Startup Company.  This is so wrong on so many levels ...


The Hillary Doctrine

So damn true! The Hillary Doctrine: Create Instability, Wing it, Then Refuse to 'Retreat': [Note: for whatever it's worth, I am still convinced she will be this nation's next president, and that is truly horrifying]
In her opening statement to the Benghazi Select Committee this morning, former Secretary of State and current Democratic Party 2016 presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton continued to justify the United States' 2011 intervention in Libya in terms that should be worrying to the wide swath of the American polity that has grown allergic to haphazardly-planned, open-ended military conflicts:
America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. […]

We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. […]

Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead.
Under questioning, Clinton also characterized the Libya intervention as "remarkable," echoing her assertion last week that it was "smart power at its best."

What's more remarkable is how this justification translates as doctrine. President Barack Obama's official justification for this pre-emptive war of choice was that it was necessary to prevent "a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world." The president "refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action."

Bar thus lowered, the president—actively pushed by his more-interventionist secretary of state—then refused to seek congressional approval for the initial attack, refused to withdraw troops after 60 days in the absence of said congressional approval (in defiance of the War Powers Resolution), ignored the advice of his own Office of Legal Counsel to comply with the Act, chose instead the legal advice of the White House Counsel, and then declared with a straight face in an imperious letter to Congress that America's war-making did not amount to the WPR's definition of "hostilities."

It was a remarkably Cheneyesque flourish, particularly for a man who campaigned heavily on the notion that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." So what Hillary Clinton is doing today is reiterating that she doesn’t even feel the need to pretend to care about restraints on the White House's war-making authority.

It gets worse. So, America must act in open defiance of Congress before there's a potential massacre in the Middle East, but does it need to, you know, plan this stuff out? Not according to then-secretary of defense Robert Gates, an internal opponent to the intervention, who has just told The Daily Beast that "We were playing it by ear." The Beast's Nancy A. Youssef continues:
[American] attacks spread from the eastern city of Benghazi, where civilians were endangered, to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, 635 miles away. No one ever explained why the change in goal or who might succeed Gaddafi afterward.

During revolutionary-era Libya, no one in the upper ranks of the U.S. government seriously considered whether the newly created Transitional National Council, a rival government in rebel-held areas like Benghazi, could govern the oil-rich state. Nor did Clinton or top leaders ask about unintended consequences of an air campaign, especially if it successfully ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, according to the senior defense official who was part of the conversation at the time. And as the country was falling apart, it seems no one in the higher reaches of Clinton’s department took note. If they did, they did not take action.
Even if you chalk the above up to payback from disgruntled former colleagues, and unfair renderings from a hostile journalist, there is no denying the facts on the ground. The results of America's intervention bear little resemblance to what Democratic cheerleaders were bragging about in August 2011. Libya has transformed from a shitty country misruled by a dictator to an open civil-war zone spitting out terrorists, refugees, and regional instability.

So what's Hillary Clinton's response to the instability she helped cause? To say the magical phrase, Retreat from the world is not an option. In other words, lather, rinse, repeat. And, if you happen to be an American on the front lines of Washington's carelessness, die.

What, You're Surprised To Learn About ...

Reports from the federal Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) are essentially snapshots of the absurdly expensive cronyist feeding trough that "nation-building" in that country actually is.

You may remember SIGAR for previous hits like "The Case of the $3.6 Million Goat Carcass," and "Hey, Has Anybody Seen All Our Foreign Aid?" Its latest report is just as enraging, but even more frustrating, it's just one among many.

The United States (as in, you and me), paid $43 million to build a compressed natural gas (CNG) station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan. SIGAR researched and determined similar stations in Pakistan cost a mere $500,000 or less to build. That's not even the punch line. The punch line is that the Department of Defense apparently has no idea how this happened or where the money went. Wait, no, that's not the punch line, either. The punch line is that the purpose of this project by the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFSBO) was to "demonstrate the commercial viability of CNG for automobiles as part of a broader effort to take advantage of Afghanistan's domestic natural gas reserves and reduce the country's reliance on energy imports."

Oh, I would say certainly something was taken advantage of.

Why can't anybody account for all this spending? According to the Department of Defense, the TBFSO shut down six months ago and they're claiming that there's nobody around anymore who can speak to where all the money went.

According to SIGAR's report, the contract to build the gas station (to Central Asian Engineering, on land owned by the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum) was just $3 million. Yet, between 2011 and 2014, TBFSO spent more than $12 million on construction and more than $30 million on "overhead." After DOD responded to SIGAR's request with a big ol' shrug, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko noted:
"It is both surprising and troubling that only a few months following the closure of TFBSO, DOD has not been able to find anyone who knows anything about TFBSO activities, despite the fact that TFBSO reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, operated in Afghanistan for over five years, and was shut down in March 2015."
SIGAR learned that apparently no feasibility studies were done to determine if the region had the necessary infrastructure for CNG transmission and vehicle operation (it did not). "In sum," the report concludes, "it is not clear why TFBSO believed the CNG filling project should be undertaken. … In fact, an economic impact assessment performed at the request of TFBSO found that the CNG filling station project produced no discernable economic gains and a discounted a net loss of $31 million."

Of course, Sopko is kind of deliberately playing dumb here. If he knew where all the money went and whose pockets it lined, then he'd probably know why it got built. But since the DOD won't tell him, he has to play this game.

Read the full report here and ask yourself if this sort of repeat and shameless grifting of the taxpayers is why our troops are still stuck in the country, risking their lives.
America's leviathan government is just one large blood-sucking, money-sucking, murderous black fucking hole.  And yet, this country's citizens continue to get what they consistently vote for, so in essence, they get what they fucking deserve.

The Pope Makes Us Pay

SEPTA is the Philadelphia area's public transportation system, and I've just learned that the Pope weekend cost SEPTA $3.9M.  What most Philadelphia area people do not realize is that a significant portion of SEPTA is financed through local, state and federal taxes, meaning if SEPTA had to operate solely on its revenues (fares) it would quickly go bankrupt unless it drastically cut inefficient routes, etc.  (Note: this is true for most public transportation systems in the country, including of course, Amtrak) So, when I read the "weekend cost SEPTA $3.9M", what I read is that it COST the taxpayers of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and all other American's throughout the country $3.9M, meaning, we/they will have to pony up the extra money.  Trust me, SEPTA will not find "other areas" "... to achieve savings."  The entire "Pope Weekend" was one giant CF.

The Truth Behind Why There Are Wars

HT: ZeroHedge

Boots On the Ground in Syria, and ...

... Americans absolutely do not give a sh*t about it, nor do they ponder the potential consequences.  Let me see here: Russia is bombing ISIS and anti-Assad militants, and Obama authorizes Special Ops forces to be on the ground with the latter.  No chance of these Americans being hit by Russian bombs, right?  This has to be the most stupid move yet made by Obama and yet no one seems to care.  Nothing is as dangerous as a 2nd term president seeking a legacy, especially one who is in a pissing contest with Russia's president Putin.  This will not end well, especially for the precious lives of this nation's servicemen.  Please, read US Sends Troops To Syria: Here Are The Questions The Media Should Be Asking.

So Absolutely True

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Mess That Is the Middle East, In One Chart


Yeah, this is a picture of peace - not!

Source: Solve for the equilibrium Israel and Palestine

So They Have

More than 50 percent of the electorate are women and the United States hasn’t had a woman leader in a long time, thus many voters want to re-elect Hillary Clinton. Although given that her track record during the two years that she was in charge of the country was disastrous, if re-elected, she probably wouldn’t be any worse at being president than George W. Bush. Of course, that is damning her by very faint praise. Nevertheless, Hillary deserved better than the abuse and demagoguery she got at the Benghazi hearing in the House of Representatives.

Before people think that I learned American history in a parallel universe or at least at the University of Mars, I should clarify my previous text. Conventional wisdom is that the United States has never had a female leader, which is just not true. During the almost year-and-a-half from October 1919, when then-President Woodrow Wilson had an incapacitating stroke, to March 1921, when his second term expired, his wife, the un-elected Edith Wilson, secretly ran the country. The reins of power should have passed to the vice president, but Mrs. Wilson hid the extent of the president’s medical debilitation from Congress and the American people and essentially assumed the powers of his office clandestinely.

More important for this discussion, although the United States has never formally elected a woman as president, Hillary Clinton served informally as co-president during Bill Clinton’s first two years in office, and many analysts think that she was the dominant of the two Clintons during that time.

Most of Bill Clinton’s advisers at the time were horrified at Hillary’s “Rube Goldberg” (journalist Evan Thomas’s description) healthcare scheme that made even the later abysmal Obamacare look efficient and cost-effective.

Also, Hillary, again contrary to the advice of Clinton’s best advisers, demanded that this complex and costly scheme be considered by Congress before Clinton’s proposal for welfare reform. His advisers convincingly thought that passing welfare reform on a bi-partisan basis would make passing health care easier, given the good will engendered among Republicans. Hillary would have none of it and insisted that her health care concoction be taken up first and that President Bill threaten to veto any compromise that didn’t provide coverage for 100 percent of Americans. Strangely, Bill went along with all of this, even in the face of congressional proposals providing coverage for between 91 and 95 percent of Americans. Like Woodrow Wilson’s failure to compromise on his beloved League of Nations proposal during his wife’s rein, Hillary’s similar arrogant refusal to compromise fortunately led Congress to reject her health care monstrosity.

Also, again against the wishes of Bill’s staff, Hillary refused to publicly release the records from her time at the Rose law firm while Bill was governor of Arkansas. The records likely showed embarrassing things about the shady Whitewater land deal, overbilling of clients, Hillary’s earning a 1,000 percent return on a sweetheart deal in cattle futures, and her flouting of conflict of interest rules in failing to recuse herself from representing clients doing business with the Arkansas state government. If she had released such documents, there never would have been an independent counsel appointed to investigate Whitewater. Ken Starr then would never have been able to abuse his power as independent counsel and try to entrap Bill in his unrelated sex life after Starr’s investigation of Whitewater failed to pan out. Thus, Clinton wouldn’t have been impeached by the Republican House for lying and obstructing justice over personal sexual matters that had little to do with governing the country.

According to historian William H. Chafe, Bill’s letting Hillary run wild on health care and on her refusal to publicly release Rose law firm records resulted from him owing her for his election in the first place by supporting him in the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal and Hillary’s subsequent backing of him during other sex scandals. Also, Hillary’s choices for Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General flamed out; she fired the White House travel office and then claimed no involvement; and hating the press (which she still does), she closed them off from the White House press secretary’s office, thus ruining an important relationship for quite some time.

And Hillary’s bad judgment and questionable honesty transcended her two years as co-president into her years as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. As a senator, she voted for Bush’s moronic invasion of Iraq in 2003, the primary reason that she lost the race to be Democratic nominee for president in 2008 versus Barack Obama, who was smart enough to have voted against it. Her defensiveness and evasiveness about her private e-mail server as Secretary of State should remind people of the failure to release the Rose law firm records. Her arrogance that norms and rules don’t apply to her is demonstrated by her doing all her business on a private e-mail account housed on the private server.

Lastly, more pertinent recently, after the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq, she was, as Secretary of State, gung ho about toppling another oppressive regime in Libya, again creating chaos, civil war, and terrorist havens. However, what has now saved Hillary is that instead of focusing on her continued unbelievably bad judgment on key decisions, the Republican-led House Benghazi committee continued to focus on the tragic killing of four Americans in Benghazi. Yes, security at the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi could have been better but the Secretary of State is not usually involved on a day-to-day basis with each of thousands of U.S. overseas facilities, and the White House may very well have tried to spin the attack as not being an organized terrorist attack to look better for the upcoming election. It is tragic that the four dedicated Americans died, but this type of spinning was after the attack had already occurred. When compared to George W. Bush’s lying the nation into an unnecessary and ill-fated invasion of Iraq that cost roughly 4,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, it is small potatoes.

If the Republicans had wanted to criticize the four deaths as resulting from the chaos induced in Libya by using military force to overthrow Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in the first place, that would have been more acceptable. But the Republicans couldn’t criticize Hillary’s vociferous support for the aggressive policy toward Libya, because most of them were equally enthusiastic about vanquishing “bad guy” Gaddafi.

The Republican buffoons on the committee, their political witch hunt exposed by their own majority leader and a former committee staff member, played right into Hillary’s hands and proceeded to hand her the Democratic nomination. In the constricted American political system, a voter only gets two real choices for president, so it all depends now on who the Republicans put up against her. Will it be a carnival barker or a serious candidate? Somehow, in the end, I doubt that the American people will be given a sensible choice for whom to vote.