Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Say Both ...

Is the President Incompetent or Lawless? by Judge Andrew Napolitano.  Allow me to state that GWB was likewise both as well:
It has been well established under the Constitution and throughout our history that the president's job as the chief federal law enforcement officer permits him to put his ideological stamp on the nature of the work done by the executive branch. The courts have characterized this stamp as "discretion."

Thus when exercising their discretion, some presidents veer toward authority, others toward freedom. John Adams prosecuted a congressman whose criticism brought him into disrepute, an act protected by the First Amendment yet punishable under the Alien and Sedition Acts, and Thomas Jefferson declined to enforce the Acts because they punished speech, and pardoned all those convicted. Jimmy Carter asserted vast federal regulatory authority over the trucking and airline industries, and Ronald Reagan undid nearly all of it.

The president has discretion to adapt law enforcement to the needs of the times and to his reading of the wishes of the American people. Yet that discretion has a serious and mandatory guiding light—namely, that the president will do so faithfully.

The word "faithfully" appears in the oath of office that is administered to every president. The reason for its use is to assure Americans that their wishes for government behavior, as manifested in written law, would be carried out even if the president personally disagrees with the laws he swore to enforce.

This has not always worked as planned. President George W. Bush once famously signed into law a statute prohibiting federal agents without a search warrant from reading mail sent to persons other than themselves—and as he was literally holding his pen, he stated he had no intention of enforcing it. That was a rejection of his presidential duties and a violation of his oath.

But today, President Obama has taken the concept of discretion and so distorted it, and has taken the obligation of faithful enforcement and so rejected it, that his job as chief law enforcer has become one of incompetent madness or chief lawbreaker. Time after time, in areas as disparate as civil liberties, immigration, foreign affairs and health care, the president has demonstrated a propensity for rejecting his oath and doing damage to our fabric of liberty that cannot easily be undone by a successor.

Item: He has permitted unconstitutional and unbridled spying on all Americans all the time, and he has dispatched his agents to lie and mislead the American people and their elected representatives in Congress about it. This has resulted in a federal culture in which the supposed servants of the people have become our permanent and intimate monitors and squealers on what they observe.

Item: He has permitted illegal immigrants to remain here and continue to break the law, and he has instructed them on how to get away with it. His encouragement has resulted in the flood of tens of thousands of foreign unaccompanied children being pushed across our borders. This has resulted in culture shock to children now used as political pawns, the impairment of their lives and the imposition of grievous financial burdens upon local and state governments.

Item: His agents fomented a revolution in Libya that resulted in the murder of that country's leader, the killing of the U.S. ambassador and the evacuation of the U.S. embassy. His agents fomented a revolution in Ukraine that resulted in a Russian invasion, an active insurgency, sham elections and the killing of hundreds of innocent passengers flying on a commercial airliner.

Item: He has dispatched CIA agents to fight undeclared and secret wars in Yemen and in Pakistan, and he has dispatched unmanned drones to kill innocents there. He has boasted that some secret reading of public positive law permits him to kill whomever he wishes, even Americans and their children.

Item: His State Department has treated Hamas—a gang of ruthless murderers whose stated purpose is the destruction of Israel—as if it were a legitimate state deserving of diplomatic niceties, and this has encouraged Hamas to persist in attacking our only serious ally in the Middle East.

Item: His Department of Veterans Affairs has so neglected patients in government hospitals that many of them died, and it even destroyed records to hide its misdeeds. His Internal Revenue Service has enforced the law more heavily against his political opponents than against his friends, and it has destroyed government computer records in order to hide its misdeeds.

Item: He has relieved his friends of the burdens of timely compliance with Obamacare, and he has burdened his enemies with tortured interpretations of that law—even interpretations that were rejected by the very Congress that enacted the law and interpretations that were invalidated by the Supreme Court.

He has done all these things with a cool indifference, and he has threatened to continue to do so until the pressure builds on his political opponents to see things his way.

The Framers could not have intended a president so devoid of fidelity to the rule of law that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between incompetence and lawlessness—and I am not sure which is worse. Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said he'd prefer to deal with a smart devil than a stupid one.

But the Framers did give us a remedy, and the remedy is not a frivolous lawsuit that the federal courts will no doubt reject as a political stunt. The remedy is removal from office. This is not to be undertaken lightly, as was the case when this remedy was last used. But it is the remaining constitutional means to save the freedoms the Constitution was intended to guarantee.

The choice is between two more years of government by decree or two years of prosecution. It is a choice the president has imposed upon us all.

Rants, Raves and Comments

Republicans: Grow a pair.  Suing Obama?  Really?  Stand up and go for impeachment if you're that upset.  I'm all for going for impeachment, but suing the POTUS is an embarrassment.  Politicians are gutless as well as scumbags.  All of 'em.

The environment that is America - criticize Obama, you're a racist - and now, if you criticize Israel, you're an anti-Semite.  Yesterday, while chatting with a few people, the Israel/Gaza "situation" (I place that in quotes because that's how someone described it - I called it "destruction") came up and while none of the participants were either Jewish or Muslim to the best of my knowledge, all agreed that Israel "has a right to protect itself".  Hmmm.  "Granted" I stated, however, let's discuss proportionate response.  After I raised my concerns, expressed my thoughts, one person called me a "Jew-hater", another agreed and the others said that I should be more sensitive of the position Israel is in.  Hmmm.  "What about the Palestinian position?"  "They're just terrorists, and that's what they get."   I despair for my country. 

Ever notice the fact that the political zealots (politicians) who rabidly push for gun control are themselves protected by armed bodyguards?  "All animals are created equal; but some are more equal than others."   They themselves are protected and yet they want to deny the constitutional right of the rest of us to do the same. 

Read 1984PleaseRemember too, the classic line from Orwell's other work, Animal Farm: "All animals are created equal; but some are more equal than others." 

When your representatives public servants politicians are attending $32,000 per plate fundraisers, is this not enough of a signal that government is truly broken?  Seriously, I listen to coworkers who are in debt they'll never be able to repay, living week-to-week, support Obama, or Republicans like Ted Cruz, etc., and simply become amazed at the obvious disconnect which they do not see.  There's only one term for people who believe politicians who attend $32k plate fundraisers are looking out for them: sheeple.  Wake up America.

Residents of the District of Columbia may now legally carry their handguns.  I recommend looking into this great news separately, but the point I want to make is this: criminals will always carry weapons regardless of the law.  In other words, the law serves to disarm those who are not criminals, making them easy targets and thus, victims.  Good intentions do not necessarily result in good outcomes.  Advocates of gun-control earnestly believe that simply making it illegal to carry a weapon results in a weaponless society.  Wrong.   Wake up America.

American treasuries are considered the safest investment in the world.  Recall if you will, the phrase that goes something like "secured by the full faith of the U.S. government."  Though much of the shine has faded from these investments over the last decade or so, for now, they still hold the top slot for safety.  However, it just dawned on me as to why these treasuries are considered so safe: coercion.  They're considered safe because the USG can extract from its citizens the taxes necessary to cover its "the good faith".  And when it cannot tax (e.g., during an election cycle), it inflates, thanks to the printing press known as the Federal Reserve.   

I believe the graphic images of the victims of war should be published and available for all to see.  People die in war, and no amount of sanitizing changes this fact, therefore, the public should witness the tragedy perpetuated upon the world in all its graphic, gory, heart-wrenching tragedy.  Today, the only images of war that most people see are those of destroyed military hardware, burned out vehicles, the scattered wreckage of an airliner, all absent of any bodies.  We should see it all, as horrible as it is, and then maybe, just maybe, people would practice empathy and compassion and call for an end to man's greatest folly: war.

Politics is an evil, period, and not a necessary one at that.

Everything about the Israeli vs. Palestinian war, invasion, whatever you want to call it, is tragic as well as disgusting.  However,  nothing is more disgusting than to use the words "humanitarian" and "ceasefire" in the same sentence/headline.  Show some real courage Israel: together with Hamas, carve out a land they can call home and do for them what the British did for you after WWII.  Give them a country and then see how they run it.  Hamas, time to stop the stupid rhetoric about wiping Israel of the face of the earth: that will not happen.

Quote of the Day

"The Fed's substitution of debt for income has only doomed the nation to a deeper, more painful realignment of real income and expenses." - Charles Hugh Smith, Substituting Debt for Income Is Not Success - Failure on an Epic Scale

Please, read Smith's article and just soak in the charts, which alone, are worth the click on the link.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Latest Must-Reads from Charles Hugh Smith

Once again, just read, absorb and think ... the charts alone tell the entire story ...

The Fed's Failure Complicates Its Endgame

Our Marginal Economy

Health Repository: Exercise and Medicine

A health repository for superb articles on exercise and medicine.

Newer posts will be at the top, in red.  Check back often - your health depends on it!

New: How Sugar Harms Your Brain Health and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic (aka "Sugar Kills and You Won't Even Know It - Literally")

New:  Why Do People Gain Weight? (aka "Never Eat in These 11 Situations" - also explains the "freshman 15" though not explicitly)

New: 9 Signs You Need to Eat More Fat

Must Read: Ketogenic diet beats chemo for almost all cancers Note: Doctor Thomas Seyfried is no quack!

Maybe We Don't All Need Annual Physicals

Fasting diets like the 5:2 'can help prevent diabetes by reducing cholesterol after 10 to 12 hours'

Is Alzheimer’s Caused by an Infection?

Are These the Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat?

Top Ten Ways the American Health Care System Fails

The Importance of Vitamin D for Normalizing Your Cholesterol Levels

How To Workout At Home Without Equipment Or Weights  I liked this, but the language is unnecessary IMHO.  I guess I'm just getting old.

Hero’s Workout Styles You Can’t Miss My favorite set of exercises.  These come courtesy of Neila Rey's Free Visual Workouts

80% of Strokes Are Preventable

The Best Exercise There Is, Hands Down  easy, here it is:
The single best exercise there is, hands down, is the one you’ll do.

69 Kettlebell Exercises That Quickly Help You Get in Shape

7 Simple Ways To Be Healthy And Avoid Getting Sick [watch the video on sugar!]

7 Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat

Can exercising for just 60 seconds a week transform your health? 

How To Lose Fat Fast

Ketogenic Diet Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Numerous Aging Markers

Free Visual Workouts

6 Illustrated Guides To Different Types Of Meditation

Set Goals by Time Instead of Distance or Quantity  [IMHO this is the critical success factor to getting back into an exercise routine.  Don't set distance or quantity goals, i.e., '2 miles' or '20 reps'. It works]

15 Reasons to Sprint More This Year

Placebo Effect Dictates Therapeutic Effect of Headache Medication

Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

"Let That Sink In For a Moment"

Mike Leahy's Why You’re Probably on an NSA Watchlist: [emphasis mine]

I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the more likely that individual would be targeted for “surveillance” by the NSA.

The article went on to say the NSA closely watched user accounts searching for information on non-Windows operating systems like Tails or Linux. The authors of the article suggest the NSA presumes anyone interested in using technology to protect their privacy is a potential threat to national security. On the other hand, those taking no steps to demonstrate privacy concerns (as evidenced by an interest in available tools) are not.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Supporters of the sentiment that security must trump privacy will tell you that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. A more apt statement to be garnered from the article is if you have something to hide, the government has something to fear.

Right now, the NSA operates an Internet surveillance tool called XKeyscore. This program allows them to place every Tor user in the world under ongoing surveillance. This completely negates the supposed anonymity the system was designed to provide.

The NSA’s own description of XKeyscore suggests its use is widespread, collecting metadata and relational information about Internet and telephone usage. This is then stored and is searchable in real time. The interesting point about XKeyscore’s use you should keep in mind is the NSA’s decision that anyone interested in privacy is considered a potential terrorist. Think about that for a moment.

The Pew Research Center Internet and American Life survey found in September 2013 that:
  •  “86% of Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints — ranging from clearing cookies, encrypting their email, and avoiding using their real name, to using virtual networks that mask their Internet protocol (IP) address
  • “55% of Internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.”

Or, more simply, more than half of the population of the United States that uses the Internet is categorized as potential terrorists requiring government surveillance to “protect us.” From whom is the government protecting us?

Apparently, from ourselves.

This is madness.

Aside from this, there’s another important point you need to be aware of. I remember arguments I had with my peers when I was 10 years old. It was the height of the Cold War, and we were debating the need of missiles to stop intercontinental ballistic missiles. But it didn’t stop there. We argued about whether we needed anti-missiles to stop the ICBMs. And anti-anti-missiles to stop those.

Similarly, you might remember the quote attributed to Willie Sutton, who supposedly said that he “robbed banks because that was where the money was.” In the ongoing battle between government snoops and people interested in protecting their privacy, the snoops will always concentrate their activities where they will have the most impact.

Just as Apple computers have not been targeted with viruses by online threats nearly as much as their Windows PC counterparts, growing use of alternate operating systems like Linux, Tor and Tails raises the interest in their users. Quite simply, they choose to “hide” something.

As in all technology-dependent conflicts, each side will reinvent its tools to defeat the tools used by their opponents. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that the tools we use to “enhance” privacy are simply that — tools. The only way to truly keep personal information “private” is to not share it.

Having said that, how many social media platforms (Facebook, et al.) do you participate on?

Think about it.


Mike Leahy

Keith Alexander Goes Corporate (What, You're Surprised?)

Americans, please, wake up!  Please, tell me you're not disturbed by this story about the retired Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Keith Alexander, making up to $1M (yes, that's "million" spelled with an 'm').  I'm all for entrepreneurship but please, when the products and services sold come directly from a career in our nation's most destructive secretive infamous intelligence agency which is funded of course by a nation of taxpayers, it just reeks of everything from conflict of interest to outright criminal theft.  Please, read Shane Harris' The NSA's Cyber-King Goes Corporate: [emphasis mine]

Keith Alexander, the recently retired director of the National Security Agency, left many in Washington slack-jawed when it was reported that he might charge companies up to $1 million a month to help them protect their computer networks from hackers. What insights or expertise about cybersecurity could possibly justify such a sky-high fee, some wondered, even for a man as well-connected in the military-industrial complex as the former head of the nation's largest intelligence agency?

The answer, Alexander said in an interview Monday, is a new technology, based on a patented and "unique" approach to detecting malicious hackers and cyber-intruders that the retired Army general said he has invented, along with his business partners at IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., the company he co-founded after leaving the government and retiring from military service in March. But the technology is also directly informed by the years of experience Alexander has had tracking hackers, and the insights he gained from classified operations as the director of the NSA, which give him a rare competitive advantage over the many firms competing for a share of the cybersecurity market.

The fact that Alexander is building what he believes is a new kind of technology for countering hackers hasn't been previously reported. And it helps to explain why he feels confident in charging banks, trade associations, and large corporations millions of dollars a year to keep their networks safe. Alexander said he'll file at least nine patents, and possibly more, for a system to detect so-called advanced persistent threats, or hackers who clandestinely burrow into a computer network in order to steal secrets or damage the network itself. It was those kinds of hackers who Alexander, when he was running the NSA, said were responsible for "the greatest transfer of wealth in American history" because they were routinely stealing trade secrets and competitive information from U.S. companies and giving it to their competitors, often in China.

Alexander is believed to be the first ex-director of the NSA to file patents on technology that's directly related to the job he had in government. He said that he had spoken to lawyers at the NSA, and privately, to ensure that his new patents were "ironclad" and didn't rely on any work that he'd done for the agency -- which still holds the intellectual property rights to other technology Alexander invented while he ran the agency.

Alexander is on firm legal ground so long as he can demonstrate that his invention is original and sufficiently distinct from any other patented technologies. Government employees are allowed to retain the patents for technology they invent while working in public service, but only under certain conditions, patent lawyers said. If an NSA employee's job, for instance, is to research and develop new cybersecurity technologies or techniques, then the government would likely retain any patent, because the invention was directly related to the employee's job. However, if the employee invented the technology on his own time and separate from his core duties, he might have a stronger argument to retain the exclusive rights to the patent.

"There is no easy black-and-white answer to this," said Scott Felder, a partner with the law firm Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, adding that it's not uncommon for government employees to be granted patents to their inventions.

A source familiar with Alexander's situation, who asked not to be identified, said that the former director developed this new technology on his private time, and that he addressed any potential infractions before deciding to seek his patents.

But Alexander started his company almost immediately after stepping down from the NSA. As for how much the highly classified knowledge in his head influenced his latest creation, only Alexander knows.

In the interview, Alexander insisted that the cybersecurity technology he's inventing now is distinct enough from his work at the NSA that he can file for new patents -- and reap all the benefits that come with them. A patent prohibits any other individual, company, or government agency from using the underlying invention without a license from the patent holder.

But even if Alexander's new technology is legally unique, it is shaped by the nearly nine years he spent running an intelligence colossus. He was the longest-serving director in the history of the NSA and the first commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, responsible for all cybersecurity personnel -- defensive and offensive -- in the military and the Defense Department. From those two perches, Alexander had access to the government's most highly classified intelligence about hackers trying to steal U.S. secrets and disable critical infrastructure, such as the electrical power grid. Indeed, he helped to invent new techniques for finding those hackers and filed seven patents on cybersecurity technologies while working for the NSA.

Alexander used his influence to warn companies that they were blind to cyberthreats that only the NSA could see, and that unless they accepted his help, they risked devastating losses. Alexander wanted to install monitoring equipment on financial companies' websites, but he was rebuffed, according to financial executives who took part in the discussions. His attempts to make the NSA a cyber-watchdog on corporate networks were seen as a significant intrusion by government into private business.

Few, if any, independent inventors have seen such detailed, classified information about the way hackers work and what classified means the government has developed to fight them, all of which gives Alexander a competitive advantage in his new life as a businessman. That insider knowledge has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, where Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has publicly questioned whether Alexander is effectively selling classified information in exchange for his huge consulting fee. (Bloomberg reported that the figure dropped to $600,000 after the $1 million figure raised hackles in Washington and among computer-security experts.)

Alexander said that his new approach is different than anything that's been done before because it uses "behavioral models" to help predict what a hacker is likely to do. Rather than relying on analysis of malicious software to try to catch a hacker in the act, Alexander aims to spot them early on in their plots. Only the market will tell whether his approach is as novel as he claims. (One former national security official with decades of experience in security technology, and who asked to remain anonymous, said the behavioral-model approach is highly speculative and has never been used successfully.)

The former NSA chief said that IronNet has already signed contracts with three companies -- which he declined to name -- and that he hopes to finish testing the system by the end of September.

"We've got a great solution. We've got to prove that it works," Alexander said. "It will be another way of looking at cybersecurity that gives us greater capabilities than we've had in the past."

Asked why he didn't share this new approach with the federal government when he was in charge of protecting its most important computer systems, Alexander said the key insight about using behavior models came from one of his business partners, whom he also declined to name, and that it takes an approach that the government hadn't considered. It's these methods that Alexander said he will seek to patent.

Alexander said that if he determines that he needs to use technology or methods that the NSA has patented, he will pay for a license, including for anything he helped to invent while he was in office and for which he doesn't own the rights. During his time at the NSA, Alexander said he filed seven patents, four of which are still pending, that relate to an "end-to-end cybersecurity solution." Alexander said his co-inventor on the patents was Patrick Dowd, the chief technical officer and chief architect of the NSA. Alexander said the patented solution, which he wouldn't describe in detail given the sensitive nature of the work, involved "a line of thought about how you'd systematically do cybersecurity in a network."

That sounds hard to distinguish from Alexander's new venture. But, he insisted, the behavior modeling and other key characteristics represent a fundamentally new approach that will "jump" ahead of the technology that's now being used in government and in the private sector.

Alexander said he was persuaded to start a security business and apply for patents after hearing from potential customers, including company executives, who said they were worried about hackers who could steal or even erase the proprietary data on their companies' computers. Alexander said they were particularly worried about threats like the Wiper virus, a malicious computer program that targeted the Iranian Oil Ministry in April 2012, erasing files and data.  [SR: Hmmm. what about the ordinary Americans worried about their privacy and data? "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others." - George Orwell, Animal Farm]

That will come as a supreme irony to many computer security experts, who say that Wiper is a cousin of the notorious Stuxnet virus, which was built by the NSA -- while Alexander was in charge -- in cooperation with Israeli intelligence. The program disabled centrifuges in a nuclear plant in Iran in a classified operation known as Olympic Games. The United States has never acknowledged its involvement.

The United States isn't the only government capable of building data-erasing malware. Iran is building a formidable cyber-army, U.S. intelligence officials say, and is believed to be behind a 2012 attack on an oil company in Saudi Arabia that erased data from more than 30,000 computers. Iranian hackers also launched a series of cyberattacks on major U.S. bank websites the same year, intelligence officials say. The strike took Washington by surprise because it was so sophisticated and aggressive. The hackers hijacked data centers consisting of thousands of computers each and used them to flood the bank websites with digital traffic, causing them to crash.

HT: Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing

Everything Looks Safe from a Thousand Miles Away

When I read a quote from an American politician, especially a neo-con like John McCain, who claims the world is a better place because of American intervention, in this case Libya, simply infuriates me to no end.  Politicians are bad enough, but when I hear the same utterances from my fellow Americans, sitting around a conference room table here in Philadelphia, thousands of miles away from the death and destruction that is Libya, Afghanistan, Gaza, and Ukraine, repeat the same trash, my fury turns to hopelessness.  The lack of even a smidgen of empathy is appalling.  Please, read this article entitled Senator John McCain On The Libya Intervention: “The World Is Now A Better Place” 

Note:  Here's what it really looks like - Chaos - All of the Countries which the U.S. “Regime Changed” – Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – Have Descended into Brutal Chaos

Russia Officially Goes After Tor

Bruce Schneier's Russia Paying for a Tor Break:

Russia has put out a tender on its official government procurement website for anyone who can identify Tor users. The reward of $114,000 seems pretty cheap for this capability. And we now get to debate whether 1) Russia cannot currently deaonymize Tor users, or 2) Russia can, and this is a ruse to make us think they can't.

The Price of Cooperation with the NSA

Kim Zetter's Personal Privacy Is Only One of the Costs of NSA Surveillance: [note: this article came out before China's recent activities against Microsoft throughout the country]

There is no doubt the integrity of our communications and the privacy of our online activities have been the biggest casualty of the NSA’s unfettered surveillance of our digital lives. But the ongoing revelations of government eavesdropping has had a profound impact on the economy, the security of the internet and the credibility of the U.S. government’s leadership when it comes to online governance.

These are among the many serious costs and consequences the NSA and those who sanctioned its activities—including the White House, the Justice Department and lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein—apparently have not considered, or acknowledged, according to a report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

“Too often, we have discussed the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs through the distorting lens of a simplistic ‘security versus privacy’ narrative,” said Danielle Kehl, policy analyst at the Open Technology Institute and primary author of the report. “But if you look closer, the more accurate story is that in the name of security, we’re trading away not only privacy, but also the U.S. tech economy, internet openness, America’s foreign policy interests and cybersecurity.”
Over the last year, documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, have disclosed numerous NSA spy operations that have gone beyond what many considered acceptable surveillance activity. These included infecting the computers of network administrators working for a Belgian telecom in order to undermine the company’s routers and siphon mobile traffic; working with companies to install backdoors in their products or network infrastructure or to devise ways to undermine encryption; intercepting products that U.S. companies send to customers overseas to install spy equipment in them before they reach customers.

The Foundation’s report, released today, outlines some of the collateral damage of NSA surveillance in several areas, including:
  • Economic losses to US businesses due to lost sales and declining customer trust.
  • The deterioration of internet security as a result of the NSA stockpiling zero-day vulnerabilities, undermining encryption and installing backdoors in software and hardware products.
  • Undermining the government’s credibility and leadership on “internet freedom” and governance issues such as censorship.

Economic Costs to U.S. Business

The economic costs of NSA surveillance can be difficult to gauge, given that it can be hard to know when the erosion of a company’s business is due solely to anger over government spying. Sometimes, there is little more than anecdotal evidence to go on. But when the German government, for example, specifically cites NSA surveillance as the reason it canceled a lucrative network contract with Verizon, there is little doubt that U.S. spying policies are having a negative impact on business.

“[T]he ties revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms in the wake of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) affair show that the German government needs a very high level of security for its critical networks,” Germany’s Interior Ministry said in a statement over the canceled contract.
Could the German government simply be leveraging the surveillance revelations to get a better contract or to put the US on the defensive in foreign policy negotiations? Sure. That may also be part of the agenda behind data localization proposals in Germany and elsewhere that would force telecoms and internet service providers to route and store the data of their citizens locally, rather than let it pass through the U.S.

But, as the report points out, the Germans have not been alone in making business decisions based on NSA spying. Brazil reportedly scuttled a $4.5 billion fighter jet contract with Boeing and gave it to Saab instead. Sources told Bloomberg News “[t]he NSA problem ruined it” for the US defense contractor.

Governments aren’t the only ones shunning US businesses. American firms in the cloud computing sector are feeling the pressure as consumers and corporate clients reconsider using third-party storage companies in the U.S. for their data. Companies like Dropbox and Amazon Web Services reportedly have lost business to overseas competitors like Artmotion, a Swiss hosting provider. The CEO of the European firm reported that within a month after the first revelations of NSA spying went public, his company’s business jumped 45 percent. Similarly, 25 percent of respondents in a survey of 300 British and Canadian businesses earlier this year said they were moving their data outside the US as a result of NSA spying.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has estimated that repercussions from the spying could cost the U.S. cloud computing industry some $22 to $35 billion over the next few years in lost business.

Will the NSA spying revelations have long-term effects? Or will customers return to U.S. companies once the news fades into the background? It’s hard to tell.

But German chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested that Europe build a separate permanent internet to keep data local and prevent it from traversing networks the NSA can more easily monitor. Germany also has instituted new data rules that prohibit any company from obtaining a federal contract unless it can guarantee that it will protect data stored in Germany from foreign authorities. These kinds of policies and infrastructure changes tend to remain long after the circumstances that spawned them have passed.

Deterioration of Cybersecurity

Out of all the revelations to come to light in the past year, the most shocking may well be the NSA’s persistent campaign to undermine encryption, install backdoors in hardware and software and amass a stockpile of zero-day vulnerabilities and exploits.

“For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” according to a 2010 memo from Government Communications Headquarters, the NSA’s counterpart in the UK, leaked by Edward Snowden.

Furthermore, a story from Pro Publica noted, the NSA “actively engages the US and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products’ designs” to make them more amenable to the NSA’s data collection programs and more susceptible to exploitation by the spy agency.

The NSA, with help from the CIA and FBI, also has intercepted network routers from US manufacturers like Cisco to install spy tools before they’re shipped to overseas buyers, further undermining customer trust in US companies. Cisco senior vice president Mark Chandler wrote in a company blog post that his and other companies ought to be able to count on the government not interfering “with the lawful delivery of our products in the form in which we have manufactured them. To do otherwise, and to violate legitimate privacy rights of individuals and institutions around the world, undermines confidence in our industry.”

All of these activities are at direct odds with the Obama administration’s stated goal of securing the internet and critical infrastructure and undermine global trust in the internet and the safety of communications. The actions are particularly troubling because the insertion of backdoors and vulnerabilities in systems doesn’t just undermine them for exploitation by the NSA but makes them more susceptible for exploitation by other governments as well as by criminal hackers.

“The existence of these programs, in addition to undermining confidence in the internet industry, creates real security concerns,” the authors of the report note.

Undermining U.S. Support for Internet Freedom

Finally, the NSA’s spying activities have greatly undermined the government’s policies in support of internet freedom around the world and its work in advocating for freedom of expression and combating censorship and oppression.

“As the birthplace for so many of these technologies, including the internet itself, we have a responsibility to see them used for good,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2010 speech launching a campaign in support of internet freedom. But while “the US government promotes free expression abroad and aims to prevent repressive governments from monitoring and censoring their citizens,” the New American report notes, it is “simultaneously supporting domestic laws that authorize surveillance and bulk data collection.” The widespread collection of data, which has a chilling effect on freedom of expression, is precisely the kind of activity for which the U.S. condemns other countries.

This hypocrisy has opened a door for repressive regimes to question the US role in internet governance bodies and has allowed them to argue in favor of their own governments having greater control over the internet. At the UN Human Rights Council in September 2013, the report notes, a representative from Pakistan—speaking on behalf of Cuba, Iran, China and other countries—said the surveillance programs highlighted the need for their nations to have a greater role in governing the internet.

The report makes a number of recommendations to address the problems the NSA’s spying has created. These include strengthening privacy protections for Americans and non-Americans, developing clear policies about whether and under what legal standards it is permissible for the government to secretly install malware on a computer or network, and working to restore trust encryption systems and standards.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

And Yet More WTF??!!!! "Typical Household Wealth Has Plunged 36% Since 2003"

Nothing to see here! Keep moving.  Everything's fine.  America's Lost Decade: Typical Household Wealth Has Plunged 36% Since 2003.  Please, open the link and read. I'm too down to copy and paste it.  It's all just one big frickin' Ponzi scheme.  Really.

Yet More WTF??!!!!

And to think "they" (substitute "terrorist") hate us because of our freedoms! Some freedom.  Read this and be stunned (or not) - Mass Incarceration: 21 Amazing Facts About America’s Obsession With Prison: [note: I've emphasized the conclusion]
Nobody in the world loves locking people behind bars as much as Americans do. We have more people in prison than any other nation on the planet. We also have a higher percentage of our population locked up than anyone else does by a very large margin. But has all of this imprisonment actually made us safer? Well, the last time I checked, crime was still wildly out of control in America and for the most recent year that we have numbers for violent crime was up 15 percent. The number of people that we have locked up has quadrupled since 1980, but this is not solving any of our problems. Clearly, what we are doing is not working.

Nobody wants more crime. And it seems logical that locking more people up and keeping them in prison for longer terms would “clean up our streets” and make our communities safer. But instead, we have spawned a “prison industrial complex” that costs taxpayers more than 60 billion dollars a year but that does very little to turn the lives of the men and women inside around. The chart posted below is a bit old, but it shows that we have a massive problem with recidivism in this country…

So what should we do?

To keep people from committing the same crimes should we just lock them up even longer?

Should we penalize a young kid for the rest of his life for a non-violent mistake that he made when he was 19 years old?

Should we continue to tear apart families and communities just so that we can have the illusion of feeling a little bit safer?

Or could it be possible that there is a better way to deal with all of this crime?

The following are 21 amazing facts about America’s obsession with prison…

#1 There are more than 2.4 million people behind bars in America as you read this article.

#2 Since 1980, the number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons has quadrupled.

#3 The incarceration rate in the United States is more than 4 times higher than the incarceration rate in the UK and more than 6 times higher than the incarceration rate in Canada.

#4 Approximately 12 million people cycle through local jails in the U.S. each and every year.

#5 Overall, the United States has the largest prison population and the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

#6 Approximately one out of every four prisoners on the entire planet are in U.S. prisons, but the United States only accounts for about five percent of the total global population.

#7 The state of Maryland (total population 5.9 million) has more people in prison than Iraq (total population 31.9 million).

#8 The state of Ohio (total population 11.6 million) has more people in prison than Pakistan (total population 192.1 million).

#9 Incredibly, 41 percent of all young people in America have been arrested by the time they turn 23.

#10 Between 1990 and 2009 the number of Americans in private prisons increased by about 1600 percent.

#11 At this point, private prison companies operate more than 50 percent of all “youth correctional facilities” in this nation.

#12 There are more African-Americans under “correctional supervision” right now than were in slavery in the United States in 1850.

#13 Approximately 90 percent of those being held in prisons in the United States are men.

#14 The incarceration rate for African-American men is more than 6 times higher than it is for white men.

#15 An astounding 37.2 percent of African-American men from age 20 to age 34 with less than a high school education were incarcerated in 2008.

#16 Police in New York City conducted nearly 700,000 “stop-and-frisk searches” in 2011 alone.

#17 The “SWATification” of America has gotten completely and totally out of control. Back in 1980, there were only about 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States for the entire year. Today, there are more than 80,000 SWAT raids in the United States every single year.

#18 Illegal immigrants make up approximately 30 percent of the total population in our federal, state and local prisons.

#19 The average “minimum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $21,000 a year.

#20 The average “maximum security” inmate in federal prison costs U.S. taxpayers $33,000 a year.

#21 Overall, it costs more than 60 billion dollars a year to keep all of these people locked up.

And it certainly does not help that we treat ex-cons as pariahs once they leave prison.

Most people will not hire them, and in many cases public assistance is not available to them. Often their wives and families have abandoned them, and they have no roots in their communities after being away for so long. Without any options, it is really easy for many of them to fall back into crime. And that is the last thing that we should want to see happen.

It is almost as if we give up on someone once that person is convicted of a felony. We want criminals locked up for as long as possible, and then once they get out we make it extremely difficult for them to reintegrate into society.

Without a doubt, there are a lot of really bad people locked up in our prisons. And criminals should be punished for their crimes. But there are also a whole lot of people that made one stupid mistake when they were young, and there are also a whole lot of people that do not deserve to be there at all.

Perhaps instead of totally rejecting our prison population, we should have a little bit more love and compassion for them.

Perhaps instead of treating them as worthless pariahs, we should be doing more to change their hearts and to help them eventually reintegrate into society.

In the end, the truth is that none of us is perfect.

We all need grace and we all need forgiveness.

Perhaps we should remember that.

WTF??!!!! "77 Million Americans Have a Debt in Collections"

This is truly, truly, scar sh*t to read: Deadbeat Nation: A Shocking 77 Million Americans Face Debt Collectors:

We have been warning for years that as a result of the Fed's disastrous policies, America's middle class is being disintegrated and US adults are surviving only thanks to insurmountable debtloads. But not even we had an appreciation of how serious the problem truly was. We now know, and it is a shocker: according to new research by the Urban Institute, about 77 million Americans have a debt in collections.

The breakdown by region:

As the Washington Post reports, that amounts to 35 percent of consumers with credit files or data reported to a major credit bureau, according to the study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group's Consumer Credit Research Institute. "It’s a stunning number," said Caroline Ratcliffe, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of the report. "And it threads through nearly all communities."

The report analyzed 2013 credit data from TransUnion to calculate how many Americans were falling behind on their bills. It looked at how many people had non-mortgage bills, such as credit card bills, child support payments and medical bills, that are so past due that the account has since been closed and placed in collections.

Researchers relied on a random sample of 7 million people with data reported to the credit bureaus in 2013 to estimate what share of the 220 million Americans with credit files have debts in collection. About 22 million low-income adults who did not have credit files were not represented in the study.
While we understand why someone owing tens if not hundreds of thousands can just do what the US government does so well, and simply decide to stop paying their debt (if unlike the government, without the option to roll it), what is scary is that there are people who are in collection on amount as tiny as $25.
The debts sent to collections ranged from $25 on the low end and to more than $125,000 on the high end. Many consumers were burned for relatively small amounts -- about 10 percent of the debts were smaller than $125, Ratcliffe says. But the median debt, $1,350, is still pretty substantial, she adds.
The geographic breakdown is not surprising, headed by the state that hosts Las Vegas, where an unprecedented 47% of all consumers have debt in some stage of collection.
Nevada was hit the hardest, with 47 percent of consumers with a credit file showing a debt in collections -- a mark researchers said may stem from the housing crisis when people struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments may have fallen behind on other financial obligations.
It's not just Nevada. It's, well, everywhere else too:
In 12 states, including the District of Columbia, more than 40 percent of residents with a credit file have a bill in collections. That includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
But how is it possible that tens of millions of Americans are in such dire straits? After all, banks have been reporting better delinquency data for years. The answer: the study found that the share of people with debt past due, meaning they are at least 30 days late with payment on a non-mortgage debt, was much smaller: 1 in 20 people. That includes people who are late with credit card bills, student loan payments and auto loans. The majority of those people, 79 percent, also had debt in collections. However, because certain bills, such as medical bills and parking tickets, may not show up on a person's credit score until they are sent to collections, the total share of people falling behind on their bills may actually be much higher.

The flowchart:

And the breakdown by state: the stunner, again, is that the share of Americans with debt in collections is 7 times greater than those with merely debt past due:

The report's punchline, via AP:
The Urban Institute's Ratcliffe said that stagnant incomes are key to why some parts of the country are struggling to repay their debt.

Wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five-year recovery, according to Labor Department figures. And a separate measure by Wells Fargo found that after-tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.
But.. recovery? And consumer confidence at 2007 highs? Or did the Conference Board decide to just poll the residents of 15 CPW and 740 Park?

Of course, there is a simple solution to all of the above: instead of being deadbeats, if only these 77 million Americans had BTFD as the the S&P's chief market valuation officer, Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke before her, had advised them, then the US would truly be a crony capitalist-cum-socialist nirvana by now. Sadly, the way it is right now, the US Department of Truth will have to put this record number of deadbeats out of the labor pool (and hook them to the government handouts machine), while pretending that what once used to be known as the economy, and now is nothing but pure propaganda, is getting "better."

Must Read: Just War Theory

The single best (short) post I've read describing the Just War Theory comes from A. Barton Hinkle and is entitled The Case for Just War Theory:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both GOP presidential aspirants, recently had what one might call a frank exchange of views on foreign policy. After Paul wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal opposing further intervention in Iraq, Perry suggested Paul is (paraphrasing here) a hopeless naïf whose fraidy-cat isolationism presents a standing invitation for terrorists to bomb America into rubble. Paul replied that Perry is a shoot-first maniac who would send American sons and daughters to their deaths because he refuses to learn from the past. “Any future military action by the United States,” Paul wrote, “must always be based on an assessment of what has worked and what hasn’t.”

That would be a good start. But only a start. The foreign policy debate shouldn’t end there — although, unfortunately, it often does.

Perry’s and Paul’s concern over what works and what doesn’t ignores an equally important consideration: what’s right and what’s wrong. Except for one brief clause, in which he credits Ronald Reagan with “moral and strategic clarity,” Perry ignores the question. So does Paul, aside from arguing that the best approach is one that “seeks peace, faces war reluctantly, and when necessary acts fully and decisively.”

Maybe they both ignore the question because they assume the U.S. can do no wrong. It’s lovely to think so. It’s also treacherous. Nothing guarantees that future presidents and congresses will always choose wisely. What’s more, assuming they will could increase the odds they won’t: Certainty breeds arrogance. Arrogance is dangerous, and doubly so when military force is at issue.

Unless you think nations are little more than rival mafia families, which wage peace and war only to gain tactical or strategic advantage, you need an ethical framework for thinking about the role of force in the world. Fortunately, history has provided one: just-war theory, a body of thought that began (roughly) with St. Augustine and that others have improved upon over time.

Just-war theory’s two prongs are jus ad bellum, which judges the entry into conflict, and jus in bello, which judges the conduct of it. Briefly, the theory holds that no war is justified unless it meets several criteria:

(1) It must be launched for morally justifiable reasons, such as self-defense or protecting the innocent from genocide.

(2) It must be waged with the right intention. Even a war begun in self-defense can be unjust if the defending nation intends to exterminate every citizen of the aggressor country.

(3) It must be commenced by the proper authority. In the U.S., this means Congress. (Almost by definition, an illegitimate government, such as North Korea’s, cannot be a proper authority.)

(4) It must be a last resort.

(5) It must have some reasonable chance of success.

(6) It must be proportional: The harm done by the war must be, in some sense, “worth it.” While the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was wrong, it would not have justified global thermonuclear Armageddon.

Failure to meet any one of those criteria renders a war unjust. Likewise, failure to meet the criteria for rightful conduct within the war also renders it unjust. Those criteria are:

(1) Discrimination. As Michael Walzer, a widely regarded contemporary just-war theorist, has put it, soldiers should target only those who are “engaged in harm.” Never intentionally target innocent civilians, or butcher soldiers who have surrendered, and strive always to minimize the unintended harm inflicted on the innocent.

(2) Proportionality. Leveling an entire city to destroy one munitions factory is not proportional.

This is the barest summary of a subject that fills whole library shelves, and different sources present the subject in different ways. Some, for instance, include prohibitions against methods malum in se, or evil in themselves, such as poison gas, and some include jus post bellum, or justice in the conclusion of warfare (e.g., war crimes of the victors should be punished as well as those of the losers).

This is the barest summary of a subject that fills whole library shelves, and different sources present the subject in different ways. Some, for instance, include prohibitions against methods malum in se, or evil in themselves, such as poison gas, and some include jus post bellum, or justice in the conclusion of warfare (e.g., war crimes of the victors should be punished as well as those of the losers).

Just-war theory sometimes takes heat from “realists” who consider it excessively idealistic, and from more pacifist types who think it tries to put a moral face on an intrinsically evil business. If an unwilling conscript fights only because a tyrannical regime will kill his entire family if he does not, it is fair to ask whether killing him — even in a firefight — ever could be considered an act of justice.
Most people, however, intuitively accept some, if not all, of the just-war tenets: We understand that unprovoked aggression is wrong; that slaughtering people because you hate who they are, or covet what they have, is heinous; that it is one thing to shoot a soldier who is shooting at you, and something different to shoot a soldier who is shaving outside his tent. Just-war theory offers a systematic framework for thinking about such questions.

What’s more, it also helps to clarify contemporary situations that can get muddied by ancestral disputes. We do not have to re-litigate the 1667 Treaty of Andrusovo to consider Vladimir Putin’s incursions in Ukraine unjustified aggression. We don’t have to dissect the entire history of the Middle East to find the ethical calculus of the current Israeli-Hamas conflict highly asymmetrical. (And — attention, Rand Paul — applying just-war ideas to relations between the government and the individual also can offer a grounding for libertarian domestic policy. When is the state ever justified in initiating force against a person who is peaceably minding his own business?)

Just-war theory shows that, throughout history, most wars are unjust. Most of them are, in fact, little short of cold-blooded murder. Which is why politicians should concern themselves with far more than “what has worked and what hasn’t.” Any common cutthroat can ask himself that.

Please Stop Helping Us

The latest from Walter E. Williams is entitled Please Stop Helping Us:

While reading the first chapter of Jason Riley's new book, "Please Stop Helping Us," I thought about Will Rogers' Prohibition-era observation that "Oklahomans vote dry as long as they can stagger to the polls." Demonstrative of similar dedication, one member of Congress told Vanderbilt University political scientist Carol Swain that "one of the advantages and disadvantages of representing blacks is their shameless loyalty. ... You can almost get away with raping babies and be forgiven. You don't have any vigilance about your performance." In my opinion, there appear to be no standards of performance low enough for blacks to lose their loyalty to their black political representatives.

Riley says that between 1970 and 2001, the number of black elected officials skyrocketed from fewer than 1,500 to more than 9,000, but black poverty has remained roughly the same. Between 1940 and 1960, when black political power was virtually nonexistent, the black poverty rate fell from 87 percent to 47 percent. Riley points out that there has been significant achievement among the black middle class but that wide black-white gaps remain with respect to income, educational achievement, unemployment, labor force participation, incarceration rates and other measures. Despite political gains, there have been dramatic reversals in teen unemployment, crime, out-of-wedlock births and family stability. Political power is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for socio-economic progress.

Riley lays out the devastating deal black political leaders and civil rights leaders have made with labor unions, in his aptly named chapter "Mandating Unemployment." Black leaders of the past recognized that labor unions were hostile to the interests of ordinary blacks. Frederick Douglass, in his 1874 essay "The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions," argued that unions were not friends of blacks. W.E.B. Du Bois called unions "the greatest enemy of the black working man." Booker T. Washington also opposed unions because of their adverse impact on blacks.

Today's black leaders have little reservation about giving their support to union policies that harm their constituents.

They support minimum wage increases, which have had a devastating impact on black employment, particularly that of teenagers. Recently, black teen unemployment reached 44 percent, but few people realize that during the late 1940s, before rapid minimum wage escalation, it was less than 10 percent and lower than white teen unemployment. Black leaders also give their support to a super-minimum wage law known as the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. The legislative history of Davis-Bacon makes clear that its union and congressional supporters sought to eliminate black employment in the construction trades.

Riley's "Educational Freedom" chapter details the sorry story of black education. Between 1970 and today, educational spending has tripled and the school workforce has doubled, far outpacing student enrollment. Despite these massive increases in resources, black academic achievement is a national disgrace. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card, black 17-year-olds score at the same level as white 13-year-olds in reading and math. White 13-year-olds score higher than black 17-year-olds in science.

A number of studies show that black students who attend private and charter schools do far better than their peers in public schools. If there were greater parental choice, through educational vouchers, black achievement would be higher. However, teachers unions see school choice as a threat to their monopoly, and virtually every black politician, including the president, backs the teachers unions.

At an 1865 gathering of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Douglass said everybody had asked, "What should we do with the Negro?" Douglass said: "I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us." Later on, Washington explained, "It is important and right that all privileges of the law be ours, but it is vastly more important that we be prepared for the exercise of these privileges." It's the abandonment of these visions that accounts for the many problems of today that Riley's book does a masterful job of explaining.

An Economic and Moral Case for Legalizing Cocaine and Heroin

I have long advocated the decriminalization of what we today call "illegal" drugs, to then be followed by their legalization and taxation.  The War on Drugs is an utter failure, and was doomed to be so from its inception over 40 years ago.  Prohibition does not work, period.  It only drives the prohibited activity underground, resulting in violence and death.  In an article I wish I had penned, Jeffrey Miron makes such a case in An Economic and Moral Case for Legalizing Cocaine and Heroin:
We’ve come a long way since Reefer Madness. Over the past two decades, 16 states have de-criminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and 22 have legalized it for medical purposes. In November 2012, Colorado and Washington went further, legalizing marijuana under state law for recreational purposes. Public attitudes toward marijuana have also changed; in a November 2013 Gallup Poll, 58 percent of Americans supported marijuana legalization.

Yet amidst these cultural and political shifts, American attitudes and U.S. policy toward other drugs have remained static. No state has decriminalized, medicalized, or legalized cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. And a recent poll suggests only about 10 percent of Americans favor legalization of cocaine or heroin. Many who advocate marijuana legalization draw a sharp distinction between marijuana and “hard drugs.”

That’s understandable: Different drugs do carry different risks, and the potential for serious harm from marijuana is less than for cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine. Marijuana, for example, appears incapable of causing a lethal overdose, but cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine can kill if taken in excess or under the wrong circumstances.

But if the goal is to minimize harm — to people here and abroad— the right policy is to legalize all drugs, not just marijuana.

In fact, many legal goods cause serious harm, including death. In recent years, about 40 people per year have died from skiing or snowboarding accidents; almost 800 from bicycle accidents; several thousand from drowning in swimming pools; more than 20,000 per year from pharmaceuticals; more than 30,000 annually from auto accidents; and at least 38,000 from excessive alcohol use.

Few people want to ban these goods, mainly because while harmful when misused, they provide substantial benefit to most people in most circumstances.

The same condition holds for hard drugs. Media accounts focus on users who experience bad outcomes, since these are dramatic or newsworthy. Yet millions risk arrest, elevated prices, impurities, and the vagaries of black markets to purchase these goods, suggesting people do derive benefits from use.

That means even if prohibition could eliminate drug use, at no cost, it would probably do more harm than good. Numerous moderate and responsible drug users would be worse off, while only a few abusive users would be better off.

And prohibition does, in fact, have huge costs, regardless of how harmful drugs might be.

First, a few Economics 101 basics: Prohibiting a good does not eliminate the market for that good. Prohibition may shrink the market, by raising costs and therefore price, but even under strongly enforced prohibitions, a substantial black market emerges in which production and use continue. And black markets generate numerous unwanted side effects.

Black markets increase violence because buyers and sellers can’t resolve disputes with courts, lawyers, or arbitration, so they turn to guns instead. Black markets generate corruption, too, since participants have a greater incentive to bribe police, prosecutors, judges, and prison guards. They also inhibit quality control, which causes more accidental poisonings and overdoses.

The bottom line: Even if hard drugs carry greater health risks than marijuana, rationally, we can’t ban them without comparing the harm from prohibition against the harms from drugs themselves. What’s more, prohibition creates health risks that wouldn’t exist in a legal market. Because prohibition raises heroin prices, users have a greater incentive to inject because this offers a bigger bang for the buck. Plus, prohibition generates restrictions on the sale of clean needles (because this might “send the wrong message”). Many users therefore share contaminated needles, which transmit HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. In 2010, 8 percent of new HIV cases in the United States were attributed to IV drug use.

Prohibition enforcement also encourages infringements on civil liberties, such as no-knock warrants (which have killed dozens of innocent bystanders) and racial profiling (which generates much higher arrest rates for blacks than whites despite similar drug use rates). It also costs a lot to enforce prohibition, and it means we can’t collect taxes on drugs; my estimates suggest U.S. governments could improve their budgets by at least $85 billion annually by legalizing — and taxing — all drugs. U.S. insistence that source countries outlaw drugs means increased violence and corruption there as well (think Columbia, Mexico, or Afghanistan).

It’s also critical to analyze whether prohibition actually reduces drug use; if the effects are small, then prohibition is virtually all cost and no benefit.

On that question, available evidence is far from ideal, but none of it suggests that prohibition has a substantial impact on drug use. States and countries that decriminalize or medicalize see little or no increase in drug use. And differences in enforcement across time or place bear little correlation with uses. This evidence does not bear directly on what would occur under full legalization, since that might allow advertising and more efficient, large-scale production. But data on cirrhosis from repeal of U.S. Alcohol Prohibition suggest only a modest increase in alcohol consumption.

To the extent prohibition does reduce drug use, the effect is likely smaller for hard drugs than for marijuana. That’s because the demands for cocaine and heroin appear less responsive to price. From this perspective, the case is even stronger for legalizing cocaine or heroin than marijuana; for hard drugs, prohibition mainly raises the price, which increases the resources devoted to the black market while having minimal impact on use.

But perhaps the best reason to legalize hard drugs is that people who wish to consume them have the same liberty to determine their own well-being as those who consume alcohol, or marijuana, or anything else. In a free society, the presumption must always be that individuals, not government, get to decide what is in their own best interest.  

Defend Thyself ...

... South Korea, and by the way America, let them do so!  Seriously, the fact that we spend our money and more importantly, place the lives of our own precious military in potential danger, is almost incomprehensible today.  There are no rational reasons for defending a country that is more than capable of defending itself.  Of course, there are criminal irrational cronyism corporate welfare reasons, namely the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICS) that makes money (our money) on providing the tools of war.   

Quote of the Day

"Social engineers never seem to learn. It is hard enough to redesign and remake individuals, families, and communities in the United States. It is far harder to do so overseas.  Nation-building requires surmounting often vast differences in tradition, culture, history, religion, ethnicity, ideology, geography, and more. Doing so also requires suppressing people's natural desire to govern themselves." - Doug Bandow, Back in Iraq?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hmmm ....

The CF That Is Libya

As I read the following piece from Daniel McAdams, my jaw dropped in utter disbelief.  The disconnect between reality and American foreign policy beggars comprehension.  To go, in just one month, from congratulating the Libyan people on an election to evacuating the embassy, is just mind numbing.  Once again,  a small group of American politicians have done so much harm to so many, in this case, the people of Libya.

Please, read Saigon Redux: US Embassy Flees “Liberated” Libya: [emphasis mine]

One month ago today, President Obama was congratulating Libya on a “milestone” election — even though the disintegration of the country after the 2011 US invasion was ongoing.
Said Obama in June:
I congratulate the Libyan people on the conclusion of the elections for a new Council of Representatives, a milestone in their courageous efforts to transition from four decades of dictatorship toward a full democracy.
Today, the US announced it has evacuated all US personnel from Libya. They piled into vehicles and escaped to Tunisia.

The only thing left behind was the hollow words of hollow State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf:
Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya.. …We reiterate that Libyans must immediately cease hostilities and begin negotiations to resolve their grievances.
Nothing better demonstrates the enormous disconnect between Washington’s rhetoric and actual reality than this, an emergency evacuation of the entire US diplomatic and military presence in Libya just weeks after a “milestone” election and just over three years after a US/NATO attack that was to bring democracy and prosperity to the country.

As the US and NATO attacked Libya in March, 2011, President Obama addressed the American people to explain his decision to attack.

Gaddafi was killing his own people, Obama claimed. That was a lie. He was fighting the very insurgents whose ongoing violence has forced the United States to flee the country.
US intervention would stop the violence, Obama claimed. That was a lie.

“Qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous,” said Obama.

But Gaddafi was forced from power — sodomized and murdered by US allies in Libya. The country is more dangerous than ever. The US has been forced to evacuate.

Obama claimed that the US/NATO invasion would end the violence in Libya:
[W]e were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.  We had a unique ability to stop that violence:  an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.
That was a lie. The violence worsened.

America was exceptional, claimed Obama in his 2011 speech. That is why we had to invade Libya:
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.
Libya was supposed to be the next “domino” in the fantasy of an “Arab Spring” pushed so hard by the US administration and its compliant media. Instead, Egypt is ruled by a US-backed dictator who overthrew an elected government and Libya is a completely destroyed no-go zone.

Reality caught up with Obama and the murderous rhetoric of the interventionists and neocons.
Moscow is next on their target list. Those in the US who push back against the lies designed to provoke a war with Russia are called “Putin’s best friend” and “Russian agents.” Just like they were called “Saddam’s best friend” and “Iraqi agents” just like they were called “Gaddafi’s best friend” and “Libyan agents.” The lies are the same, the results are always a disaster.

Will Americans notice what failures their leaders are? Will Americans demand an end to the disastrous interventions?

Let this sink in: three years after the US invasion of Libya that would “free” the country, the US has been forced to have a Saigon moment.

The French Implosion

Let me start with a disclaimer: I love France.  I do.  So it pains me to read about how France is on the brink of implosion, as one socialist president after another so firmly believe that squeezing blood from a stone is possible.  Though disturbed now for years with what has been going on in France, chills went up my spine when I read that 87% of French citizens want a "strongman" to lead them, to which I penned a post entitled How Hitler's Come Into Power ... by Request.  Trust me when I say that I do not believe the U.S. is any better off, especially after our president claims the power to kill people, including Americans, and that our government likewise believes it can borrow and spend its way to "prosperity."  Unfortunately, France has now fallen back on the oldest of all tricks to cover the cluelessness of its leaders: war in Mali, and let's not forget, their leadership in Libya.

The reports only get worse ...

French Government Fears 'Social Implosions Or Explosions' by Wolf Richter.  Try this exercise: read just the first sentence of each paragraph ... truly scary sh*t.

French Workers Threaten To Blow Up Their Factory by Wolf Richter

French Socialist Nightmare: 'The State Cannot Do Everything' by Wolf Richter

Draconian Cash Controls Are Coming To France by Wolf Richter

They Tell The French Illusions and Lies.’ by Wolf Richter

A Century Of French And Italian Economic Decline by Tyler Durden

My Talk With An Endangered Species: An Entrepreneur In France by Wolf Richter

The French Government Spirals Elegantly Into Self-Destruction by Wolf Richter

The French Government’s Exquisite Bullying by Wolf Richter

 France Jobseekers Hit Another All-Time Record by Tyler Durden

Room For Hope? Fourth Largest Industry In France: It’s “Never Been This Catastrophic”  by Wolf Richter  Note: Please, read this closely, as it's truly mind-boggling to witness the damage politicians can do to an economy.

No Crisis? France’s Private Sector In Deeper Trouble Than In 2009 by Wolf Richter

France's Choice: Job Preservation Over Job Creation by Hilary Barnes

French Joblessness Soars To Record High; Rises For 36th Month In A Row from Tyler Durden

New: No Politician Is Allowed to Oppose Banks For Long, Not Even the French President by Wolf Richter

New: France’s Relentlessly Deteriorating Unemployment Fiasco by Wolf Richter