Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.
Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.
This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.
Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.
The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.
The only thing he left out was the Federal Reserve keeping the whole scam going by lowering the Federal funds rate 11 times, from 6.5% (May 2000) to 1.75% (December 2001) and then dropping it to 1% in 2003.
The fed was spewing money into the housing market like a fire hose while the social engineering in congress assured that unqualified buyers would get the loans. The only thing unfettered and unregulated was the government's intervention in the housing market, a power I do not see delegated to either congress or the executive in article 1 or 2 of the Constitution.
The were plenty of banks, like BB&T, who stayed out of subprimes and are doing OK even in the current lunacy. There are plenty of people like me who didn't buy a house they couldn't afford or invest in financial chimera they didn't understand. Banks like BB&T should not have to pay with punishing regulation for something they didn't do and regular people should not be handed a bigger tax burden for someone elses mistakes. No matter how much it gets dressed up doing more of the same is only going to make it worse in the long run.
Let them fail!
Make your own with this blank and join me.
Click on the pictures for full size images you can use.
You can find you're representative's fax number here:
Thursday, September 25, 2008
There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. Garet Garrett, The Revolution Was (1938)
The future of law enforcement: The 193rd Military Police Battalion, Colorado National Guard, trains at Ft. Carson last July 12 in preparation for deployment as part of JTF-DNC -- the military component of security arrangements for the Democratic Convention in Denver.
The seamless integration of the military and law enforcement into a single "Internal Security Force" is the defining characteristic of a fully realized police state. Once this fusion is accomplished, the question becomes not "whether" a police state exists, but rather how acute its institutional violence against the subject population will become.
That condition now exists in the country that still calls itself -- without any apparent irony -- the United States of America.Pro Libertate: Rubicon in the Rear-View, Part I: Militarizing the Police
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
[T]he quaint notion that America has a free market economic system is gone. In reality, our government is manipulating nearly every aspect of our economy in an inefficient and horribly unjust manner. Market forces, which normally function to sort out winners and losers, have been largely replaced by arbitrary government diktats.
For instance, our government is straining every fiber of its regulatory muscle to raise real estate prices (in a vain attempt to re-inflate the housing bubble). But this is not a socially neutral endeavor. After all, for every person who sells a house, there is also a buyer. When the government manipulates housing prices upward, the practical effect is to steal money from buyers and give the loot to the sellers.
Or consider our interest rates. The Federal Reserve has been holding interest rates at absurdly low levels (even below the inflation rate) for years, because easy credit policies give a short-term "stimulus" to the economy (and help to keep the bankrupt federal government from paying higher finance charges).
But for every borrower, there is a lender. If the government uses its influence to lower interest rates, it is essentially stealing money from lenders for the benefit of borrowers. Thus, folks who buy bonds or CDs are getting a far lower return on their investments because of the interventionist policies of their own government.
Another example is the carefully orchestrated campaign to keep stock prices inflated. It is a poorly-kept secret that our government maintains a "plunge protection team" whose main duty is to prop up the Dow and prevent any major downturns in stock prices.
Aside from the issue of whether stock prices are any of the government’s business at all (they aren’t), the government’s actions are again unfair and confiscatory. If a hypothetical investor analyzes the market and decides that stocks are overpriced, his most logical strategy is to sell short. If this assessment is correct and the market falls, he’ll make money. But government intervention to re-inflate stock prices steals wealth from the short sellers and gives it to long buyers.
In essence, our government has implemented a series of massive interventions in the marketplace which harm certain individuals for the unearned benefit of others.
By what right does the government do this? Why should a person who buys a house, or lends money, or short-sells stocks have his financial livelihood undermined by his own government? Are not lenders also citizens of our republic? Don’t short sellers pay taxes too?
And why should those who sell houses, borrow money, or take a "long" position in stocks be the beneficiaries of arbitrary government interventions? Is the world somehow a better place because these individuals make money at the expense of those on the other side of the trades?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
By Robert Higgs
After several days of violent fluctuations, the world’s stock markets registered a massive increase in share prices on Thursday afternoon and on Friday, September 18 and 19, 2008. Why? As the Associated Press put it, “investors stormed back into the market, relieved that the government plans to restore calm to the financial system by rescuing banks from billions of dollars in bad debt. The Dow Jones industrials rose about 365 points, giving them a massive gain of about 775 over two days.”
The impending measures come close on the heels of a series of wrong-headed actions undertaken by the government, including the bailout/takeover of Fannie, Freddie, and AIG; massive injections of new credit by the Fed and other major central banks; and the SEC’s prohibition of short-selling for almost 800 financial-company stocks. If, as anticipated, the Treasury moves next to assume the rotten paper currently being held by banks and other lenders (presumably mortgages and related securities, for the most part), then it is fair to conclude that the government has given up entirely on the free market and has decided to occupy the wasteland where outright socialism and economic fascism meet.
From the Democratic party comes the familiar outline of bipartisan "compromise": if Republicans want to spend $500 billion on a bailout, Democrats want $500 billion more for homeowner relief, infrastructure construction, and relief for hard-hit states and cities. Great -- let's just make it an even trillion. We'll be long gone before the victims -- our children and grandchildren -- find out how we stabbed them in the back, even as we hollowly claimed to "love" them.
MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom agreed to explore for natural gas in Bolivia with France’s Total SA as Russia strives to regain influence in Latin America.Bolivia President in Panama
The two companies may spend as much as $4.5 billion developing deposits with Bolivia’s national energy producer YPF Bolivianos, Russian state broadcaster Vesti-24 reported on Friday.
Panama, Sep 19 (Prensa Latina) The signing of bilateral accords and a tour of the Panama Canal Zone are among the aims of Bolivian President Evo Morales' visit to this country Friday, official sources reported.Russia Builds Ties in Latin America to Challenge U.S.
The agenda of Morales, who will stay here five hours, also includes a meeting in private with his Panamanian counterpart Martin Torrijos.
Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russia is in talks to build a space center in Cuba as it forges closer ties with Latin American countries opposed to the U.S. in the wake of Cold War-era tensions sparked by the Georgia conflict.Russia may attempt to extend Arctic control: Canada
The head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, Anatoly Perminov, who visited Havana with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin earlier this week, made the announcement in a statement posted today on the agency's Web Site.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suggested that Russia may disregard international law and try to extend its control over the Arctic.Canada concerned about Russia's Arctic intentions
He says Canada has increased its military presence in the region in response.
TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday that his government was taking steps to bolster Canada's presence in the Arctic amid concerns about Russian intentions in the frigid zone.Venezuela says oil reserves now at 142.31 billion bbl
Harper charged that Russia has been showing signs of flaunting international norms in the region.
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 18 -- Venezuela's ministry of energy and petroleum has added 7.43 billion bbl to the country's oil reserves, raising them to 142.31 billion bbl.Venezuela-Russia ties deepen despite US pressure
The ministry said the new proved reserves are in the Junin, Junin Block 1, Campos Iguana Zuata, and Zuata North areas in the Orinoco belt, which covers 53,314 sq km around the northern section of the Orinoco River.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela and Russia are strengthening their strategic alliance with new plans to cooperate on oil production, weapons and even wireless technology, the governments said as two visiting Russian Tu-160 bombers left for home on Thursday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, traveling to Moscow next week at the invitation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is planning new oil projects with Russian companies and joint military exercises with Russian warplanes and ships in the Caribbean by December.
The underlying reason for the fall is bad investments, unwisely made. The banks decided, directly and indirectly, to loan money to homebuyers who had no visible way of paying the money back. No matter what the paperwork might say, that is not a loan. It's a property speculation: the only way for the bank to get back its money (much less show a profit) would be for the property values to rise. As we all know, they didn't; they've instead been plummeting.
It is right for people who cannot pay the mortgages that they themselves signed to be foreclosed on and thrown out of their homes. It is right for banks to lose money, or even to be bankrupted themselves, because they unwisely made loans to people who could not pay for houses that are not worth the money spent on them. It is right for the tycoons of Wall Street who speculate in the hundreds of billions where ordinary folks might speculate in the thousands, to lose equally vast fortunes - all based on the results of their own free decisions.
Wealth is not a ratchet, and in a free economy, it's not supposed to be. The American dream says that every American has the opportunity to better themselves, and if they work hard and are lucky, to become rich. But for this to be possible, it is an absolute requirement for the converse to be true: if you are lazy, unlucky or unwise, you can become poor even if you start out wealthy. An investment with no risk is not a path to wealth; where it is, as with the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who donated heavily to Democratic politicians in order to obtain and retain their cushy posts, it's a fraud; their newfound wealth is actually stolen from your pocket.
Read the rest...
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anxious investors hacked away at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs on Wednesday, sending shares of the two largest investment banks lower and boosting their debt-insurance prices higher amid rising fears over their ability to survive a deepening financial crisis.
Perhaps I was too distracted to notice, but I don't recall a spontaneous outpouring of public demand for a taxpayer-financed bailout of Fannie and Freddie, the costs of which will eventually run into the trillions of dollars. In that case, however, there is an almost imperceptibly thin thread of public accountability, since Congress -- acting with the desperate haste it displays only when carrying out an errand on behalf of the Power Elite -- passed a patently unconstitutional measure "authorizing" the Secretary of the Treasury to bail out Fannie and Freddie.Pro Libertate: Dispossession by Decree
This means that the electorate, which installed and tolerates Congress, shares some responsibility for this crime.
However, it's impossible to blame the electorate for the most recent act of mega-larceny, the Federal Reserve's $85 billion bailout of the American International Group. This was done by the FED -- an nominally private entity that exercises immense political and economic power without constitutional standing or accountability of any kind.
Monday, September 15, 2008
It’s a weird situation in South Carolina. The state’s Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, is up for reelection and is considered all but unbeatable. The Democrats wrote off the race, allowing an unabashed conservative, Bob Conley, to grab their nomination. Now, when Conley speaks, the cars carrying his supporters to the speech sport bumper stickers for Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin…anyone but McCain or Obama. The rest...
I'd probably disagree with him on what he might call economic justice issues, but when it comes to the rule of law and civil liberties, there are few around who can come close to Glenn Greenwald.
What illegal "things" was the government doing in 2001-2004?
For the second consecutive day, The Washington Post has published an excerpt from reporter Barton Gellman's new book on the Cheney Vice Presidency, and it provides still more details on the intense confrontation in March, 2004 between the Bush Justice Department and the Cheney-led White House over the DOJ's refusal to certify the legality of the NSA's domestic spying activities. As has been known ever since Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the Senate in May, 2007, all of the top-level DOJ officials -- including Attorney General John Ashcroft, Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller -- told President Bush they would resign immediately because Bush ordered the NSA surveillance program to continue even after his own Justice Department told him it was patently illegal. Comey drafted his resignation letter, calling Bush's spying activities "an apocalyptic situation" because he had "been asked to be a part of something that is fundamentally wrong."
It gets better...
September 15: Today In History.
Pakistan says troop fire turns U.S. helicopters back: ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani security officials said on Monday that troops had fired on U.S. military helicopters and forced them to turn back to Afghanistan, but both the Pakistani and American militaries denied the incident.
More to come...
From Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
There is something supernally appropriate to the fact that, in order to find the most suitable definition for just right word to describe the ongoing crisis of the financial system, we have to refer to a dictionary published in 1913.
We are now into the second year of the unraveling of the world financial system. It could be described as the Great Denouement (or final act) of a plot that began in 1913, when Congress created the Federal Reserve System, aka the Focus of Evil in the Modern World. So far the effects of the unraveling have had minimal impact on the larger economy.
This is about to change.
Last Friday, there were five globe-bestriding Wall Street investment banks. Today there are three. Lehman Brothers, a 158-year-old financial colossus, is headed for bankruptcy and oblivion. Merrill Lynch, which was following the same trajectory, was bought by Bank of America.
Tellingly, the markets greeted that acquisition by selling off Bank of America shares, despite CEO Ken Lewis's happy prattle about the "synergies" supposedly catalyzed by this buy-out. Likwise, the bank's credit rating took a hit following the transaction. This is exactly the opposite of what we would expect to see when one business demonstrates its vitality by purchasing another. In this case, however, it is well understood that BofA wasn't gaining assets, but rather taking on an infection.
Read the rest... Pro Libertate: The Denouement (Updated)
I'm sure they were smirking at him then, too.
If Fannie and Freddie were not underwritten by the federal government, investors would demand Fannie and Freddie provide assurance that they follow accepted management and accounting practices.
Ironically, by transferring the risk of a widespread mortgage default, the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market. This is because the special privileges granted to Fannie and Freddie have distorted the housing market by allowing them to attract capital they could not attract under pure market conditions.~Ron Paul September 10, 2003!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Back in August of this year I came across this at The Libertarian Enterprise:
“Bob Barr (who was knocked out of office by anti-drug-war libertarians) voted for the Patriot Act, was active in pursuing the war on drugs, he helped weaken habeus corpus appeals, voted to establish the Department of Homeland Security, and he worked for the CIA.” ~Kat Kanning, Funeral for the Libertarian Party
At the time I said
That’s really not what I have against Bob Barr. Not that he did these things, we’ve all done bad thing. I know I have. It is that he has not renounced and made amends for the things he’s done.
If he were to do all these things then I would support him with my time and my money and vote for him in a heart beat.
- If he were to come out and say voting for the Patriot Act was a mistake and wrong and that as President he would not seek to tinker with it, but to repeal it completely
- If he were to abjectly apologize for the people he helped to send to prison for non-violent drug offenses and offer complete pardons with restitution
- If he were to advocate repealing the Military Commissions Act, abolishing the Department of Homeland Security and make public his knowledge of all CIA operations that did not impact immediate immanent national security threats;
Till then? Not a chance.
Well, today I came across this.
It is obvious that, like Prohibition's effort to eradicate alcohol usage, drug prohibition has not succeeded. Despite enormous law enforcement efforts -- including the dedicated service of many thousands of professional men and women -- the government has not halted drug use. Indeed, the problem is worse today than in 1972, when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase "War on Drugs."OK, it's a start. Patriot Act? Military Commissions Act?
Whether we like it or not, tens of millions of Americans have used and will continue to use drugs. Yet in 2005 we spent more than $12 billion on federal drug enforcement efforts. Another $30 billion went to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.
These people must live forever with the scarlet letter P for prison. Only luck saved even presidents and candidates for president from bearing the same mark, which would have disqualified them from not only high political office, but also many more commonplace jobs.
We simply must bring our system back into balance. First, the federal government should get out of the "drug war" and allow states to determine their own drug policies. Rather than continuing to arrest and imprison people for offenses that do not directly harm other people, we should focus federal law enforcement on crimes involving serious fraud or violence, with identifiable victims. Even then, only where there is a clear and specific federal interest, should the federal government be involved.
As president, I would also begin dismantling the vast bureaucracies that have grown up as part of the drug war. My drug "czar" would diminish rather than expand the office. Importantly, the vast power of the federal government would no longer be employed to override the decision of the citizens of the states to reform their drug laws.
I also would review my presidential pardon and commutation powers as a possible means to reduce the number of people in federal prison for non-violent drug offenses. We can no longer afford the human and economic costs of imprisoning so many thousands of people for drug possession. This is the most destructive impact of drug prohibition. Federal Drug War Rethought, by Bob Barr...
I'm still waiting.
Ike kills 2 in Louisiana, floods homes: LAKE CHARLES, La. - Hurricane Ike spared Louisiana a direct hit, but its winds and waters killed two people as coastal areas were inundated with a storm surge that crawled some 30 miles inland, flooding tens of thousands of homes and making many roads impassable.
Officials Still Unsure of Ike Death Toll, Damage Costs: From the sea-swamped neighborhoods of Galveston to the pine-covered hills north of Houston, people across Southeast Texas awoke Saturday to a stunning tableau of devastation caused by the passage of Hurricane Ike, the first hurricane in a quarter-century to score a direct hit on the state's most populous region.
Tropical Depression IKE Public Advisory: The NHC has issued its final advisory on this system. Public Advisories from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center will provide updates as long as the system remains a flood threat.
Hurricane remnants blamed for 3 deaths in Midwest: MUNSTER, Ind. - A father and son drowned in northwest Indiana while trying to rescue children from a flooded ditch as heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ike forced hundreds of evacuations across the Midwest on Sunday.
Typhoon injures 14, cancels flights in Taiwan: TAIPEI (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon packing winds of up to 160 kph (100 mph) hit northeastern Taiwan on Sunday, dumping up to a meter of rain, causing hundreds of mudslides, injuring 14 and forcing the cancellation of dozens of flights.
Hackers infiltrate Large Hadron Collider systems and mock IT security: As the first particles were circulating in the machine near Geneva where the world wide web was born, a Greek group hacked into the facility, posting a warning about weaknesses in its infrastructure.
Plane Crash in Russia Kills All 88 Aboard: MOSCOW -- A plane carrying 88 people crashed in central Russia early Sunday killing all aboard, an emergency official said.
Death toll from China mine mudslide climbs to 254: BEIJING (Reuters) - The death toll from a mudslide caused by the collapse of a mine waste reservoir in northern China has climbed to 254, state media said on Sunday.
Turkmenistan clashes 'kill police': At least 20 members of the Turkmenistan's security forces have reportedly been killed in clashes in the capital Ashgabat, according to to media reports and diplomatic sources.
Russians troops leave west, but remain in Georgia: TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Russian soldiers and armored vehicles pulled back from positions deep in western Georgia on Saturday, meeting a closely watched withdrawal deadline a month after the war between the former Soviet republics.
Venezuelan military holds anti-invasion exercises: CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has observed military exercises with planes dropping bombs and commandos resisting a mock invasion.
Venezuela's Bonds Tumble After Chavez Expels U.S. Ambassador: Venezuela's bonds plunged to the lowest since June 2004 after President Hugo Chavez called for the expulsion of the American ambassador and threatened to cut off oil exports to the U.S.
U.S. in push for foreign arms deals: report: NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Bush administration is pushing through a wide range of foreign weapons deals in a bid to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan and contain North Korea and Iran, The New York Times reported.
Pakistan order to kill US invaders: KEY corps commanders of Pakistan's 600,000-strong army issued orders last night to retaliate against "invading" US forces that enter the country to attack militant targets.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
September 13: Today In History.
Hurricane Ike Slams Texas: GALVESTON, Texas (AP) -- Howling ashore with 110 mph winds, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas coast Saturday, flooding thousands of homes and businesses, shattering windows in Houston's skyscrapers and knocking out power to millions of people.
Bolivia's Morales defiant after sign of compromise: LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales defied rightist opponents on Saturday by vowing to introduce divisive reforms just hours after signs of a compromise had emerged to halt violence that has killed 17 people and prompted martial law.
Saudi scholar issues TV death fatwa: A Saudi scholar has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of television networks broadcasting "depravation and debauchery".
I think this borders on brilliance, but if anyone ever tried to implement it the jackboots would be out in force.
Non-territorial self-determination means that each person has a right to determine (or choose) the government or governing institutions that he or she wants, on a voluntary and non-compelled basis. This means that in a given region, there may co-exist a number of governments. And persons choose the one or perhaps ones they wish to join. These governments may retain the sovereignty and legitimacy that the subject peoples grant them, but they will differ drastically from existing governments in one respect: they will not necessarily be territorial. They will not force everyone in a given region to be under their rule. (They can be territorial to the extent that people willingly aggregate land and separate themselves.)
We can move forward. But to do so we need the liberty to have competing governments on the soil we now call America in the same way that we have competing churches, supermarkets, towns, states, and universities. We can open up the immense possibilities of handling our governance in more effective ways. They will be ways of self-government that involve freely-chosen governance, in which it will be possible to opt out easily from badly-functioning governance.
It should be as easy to stop feeding a government we dislike with our hard-earned resources as it is to change gas stations. It should be as easy to change schools as it is to change the supermarkets we patronize.
We take government for granted because we each have so little influence on it. We take the short view. In doing that, we shortchange ourselves and our progeny. If we think about changing the basic structure of government, then we will start doing some important homework that we tend to neglect. If we had a choice of governance institutions, not just candidates for a given form of government, we’d pay far more attention to governance.
There are clues to progress that we need to investigate. Some governments are better than others. We should ask why. Governments sometimes do some things better than other things. We should ask why. Government frequently does far worse than no government at all. We should ask why. Governments frequently start out in hope and end in despair. We should ask why.
We cannot move ahead unless we are willing to abandon the erroneous beliefs we take for granted and do not question. Chief among these is that government must be territorial and control vast amounts of territory and the people who live in them.
Everything the Government Touches
Then reality set in.
Rather than leading a technical team through interesting challenges it seemed my main task was to sell our services. I'm not a good salesman. It takes more brass than I have to go knocking on the door at General Dynamics or Douglas Aircraft offering to do a better, faster cheaper job than their own quality assurance department.
It took about a year for everyone involved to realize I wasn't the man for the job. For a short time I went back to being an inspector, but it was too difficult to work side-by-side with people I used to manage.
My adventure ended with me driving across the country with everything I owned packed in a Toyota Celica to turn up tale between my legs at my sister's house in Pennsylvania. Home is that place where when you have to go there they have to let you in.
Is it a hate crime if it is directed at the entire human race?
We can make little progress in working toward optimum population size until we explicitly exorcize the spirit of Adam Smith in the field of practical demography. In economic affairs, The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized the "invisible hand," the idea that an individual who "intends only his own gain," is, as it were, "led by an invisible hand to promote . . . the public interest". Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, and perhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to a dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society. If this assumption is correct it justifies the continuance of our present policy of laissez-faire in reproduction. If it is correct we can assume that men will control their individual fecundity so as to produce the optimum population. If the assumption is not correct, we need to reexamine our individual freedoms to see which ones are defensible.**Emphasis added by me.
The Tragedy of the Commons
I Should Stop Using The Internet. It just gets more and more depressing...
So, the President Can Just Kill Anybody He Pleases, Right?
By Robert Higgs on Sep 12, 2008
Among the many cock-and-bull stories set afoot by the Bush administration during the leadup to its attack on Iraq was the one about the now-infamous drones of death. Later, it became sufficiently clear that this alleged threat had no more substance than the others the administration and the lapdog mainstream media had served up to a credulous public.
Although the ludicrously primitive Iraqi drones had no capacity whatsoever to harm the American public, the lethality of U.S. drones is another matter. Predator drones equipped with Hellfire missiles now provide the U.S. government with a means of flying over territory that U.S. ground troops dare not penetrate, observing activities on the ground, and killing people there with, shall we say, a minimum of due process.
And this is the kicker...
What an awesome power the president and, with his authorization, his subordinate officers possess: they can kill people at will, including those persons’ wives and children, with no risk whatever of receiving return fire or other retribution. Surely this is the long-sought culmination of the Republican’s quest to establish “law and order.”
What leads me to remark on this matter, however, is not its technological nuts and bolts or its connection with master-puppet relations in southwest Asia, but rather the complete insouciance with which the American public greets reports of deaths by drone. I do not exaggerate if I say that the general reaction is “ho-hum.” Well, the average American says, that disposes nicely of another “bad guy.” The gratuitous murder of the bad guy’s family members, neighbors, and other innocent persons in the vicinity appears to create no blip on the average American’s moral radar screen.
The dismal rest...
Friday, September 12, 2008
It was an interesting time to grow up.
When the dust settled from that now mythical time I was in the Air Force dodging the draft like many young men my age. That may seem oxymoronic, but given the choices of carrying a rifle in Vietnam, Canada and a potential felony conviction or working on transport planes in Arkansas, enlisting in the Air Force was a great way to not get killed or end up in prison.
Upon leaving the Air Force in 1975, I spent about a year enrolling in and then dropping out of an engineering program then hit the road with my guitar and beautiful delusions. In 1987 I finally got a real job because not being a rock star was not paying off.
My alcoholic uncle had a friend in his AA meeting who ran a small mechanical inspection lab performing third party compliance testing for aerospace, automotive and other precision manufacturing markets.
I started of with simple hand tools, micrometer and calipers and soon worked my way up to something called a coordinate measuring machine. It's not something that can be explained easily, but it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I learned to think in three dimensions. You may not realize it, but you probably don't.
Eventually, I made a horrible mistake and allowed myself to get promoted to a management position.
They transferred me to Corona, California, about a 90 minute drive from L.A. I began full of optimism.
The Bolivian government says it has declared martial law in an eastern province where at least eight people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government activists.
On Friday, troops took control of the airport in the capital of Pando province and fired shots to disperse protesters, according to an Associated Press report.
Earlier, Evo Morales, the president, said he had ruled out the use of force to clampdown on pro-autonomy protests that have raged across the country for several days. More...
Two months ago, President Bush won congressional approval to immunize the nation's telecommunications companies from lawsuits accusing them of helping Bush funnel Americans' electronic communications to the National Security Agency without warrants -- all in the name of national security following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
But the telecoms, facing 36 lawsuits commingled as one in a San Francisco federal court, still haven't been granted immunity in the lawsuits alleging they breached their customers' Fourth Amendment right to privacy. On Friday, however, Justice Department special counsel Anthony Coppolino said the government would comply with the immunity bill's procedural hurdles by Sept. 19 to seek blanket immunity on behalf of the companies. More...
September 12: Today In History.
U.S. Sanctions Ratchet Up Pressure on Venezuela: ELORZA, Venezuela -- The U.S. government, ratcheting up a diplomatic crisis with one of its leading suppliers of crude oil, placed sanctions on several high-ranking Venezuelan officials Friday, accusing them of aiding the drug trafficking of Colombia's main guerrilla army.
US Reported to Kill 12 in Pakistan: Islamabad, Pakistan - As the American campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan's tribal areas seemed to intensify on Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted American aircraft killed 12 people on Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and television reports.
Hurricane Ike could be "potential catastrophe": GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) - Massive Hurricane Ike bore down on the Texas coast on Friday with a wall of water that threatened a potential catastrophe for the United States.
Credit Crisis Strains: A year into a credit crisis that started with troubled mortgages to sketchy borrowers, the financial system is reeling once again, casting a pall over a widening array of financial institutions just days after history-making efforts by policy makers to contain the problem.
Ticking Time Bomb Explodes, Public Shocked: The failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, setting in motion the biggest government bailout/takeover in U.S. history, brings a grim sense of fulfillment to competent economists. After all, what did people expect, that water would flow uphill forever?
New York Fed Holds Emergency Meeting On Lehman's Future: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York held an emergency meeting Friday night with top Wall Street executives to discuss the future of venerable firm Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the parlous state of U.S. financial markets.
Near-Death Experiences: What Really Happens?: Many reports of near-death experiences sound the same: a welcoming white light and a replay of memories. But now scientists aim to study what really happens to the brain and consciousness when someone is on the verge of dying.
Secession and Slavery: An interesting commentary, “Lincoln, Secession, and Slavery” by Tibor Machan, published by the Cato Institute on June 1, 2002, was recently brought to my attention. I should say at the outset that I have long been a fan of Machan, and have the utmost respect for his positions. I just think he got it way wrong here.
Our Trillion-Dollar War: No, it’s not the War in Iraq—it’s the War on Poverty. Incredible as it may seem, Americans transfer more than a trillion dollars each year to low-income families through a bewildering variety of programs, all in the name of fighting poverty and inequality. That’s about seven times the cost of the Iraq war.
More to come...
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In March 2007, the RNC in St. Paul was designated a National Security Special Event (NSSE). Shortly thereafter, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department began hiring and deploying infiltrators. According to Sheriff Bob Fletcher, his department, working through the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, was involved in a nation-wide effort to track down and keep suspected protesters under surveillance.
Ramsey County's Special Investigations Unit has an interesting relationship with the federal government. It was the chief local federal subcontractor for the crack-down on dissent during the RNC. But it was also being investigated by the FBI for corruption. And in one of those bits of historical symmetry one would find implausible in a novel, those two developments intersected in the days immediately prior to the RNC. More...
September 11: Today In History.
Russian bombers will return in days from Venezuela: Two Russian long-range bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons will return to base from Venezuela in four days, the Air Force was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying on Thursday.
US expels Bolivian ambassador: The US has ordered the expulsion of the Bolivian ambassador in an escalating diplomatic row after Washington's envoy to Bolivia was expelled by Evo Morales, the president.
Venezuela expels US ambassador: Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has ordered the US ambassador to leave the country amid a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Bolivia and the US.
Hurricane Ike takes aim at Texas coast, Houston: GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people fled coastal areas in the path of Hurricane Ike on Thursday as the storm gathered strength on a collision course with the Texas Gulf Coast, threatening to swamp populous areas around Houston under a massive wave of water.
Small Fannie, Freddie Holders Take Issue With Washington: Adam Freid, a general contractor in Thousand Oaks, Calif., says he was through day-trading stocks and instead looking for a promising long-term investment when he read some of Henry Paulson's recent comments about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Lehman in sale talks as survival questioned-sources: NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc was forced into talks about a possible sale after the Wall Street investment bank's shares plunged more than 40 percent on Thursday, raising questions about its survival.
The American secessionist streak: In a recent poll, one in five agreed that states have the right to peacefully secede from the Union.
Stop the Bailout: It was the singular achievement of Murray Rothbard's America's Great Depression to have demonstrated that the Great Depression was a crisis manufactured and prolonged by the attempts to stop an inevitable downturn. The policy response – creating more money, propping up prices, ginning up employment, and a host of other devices – took a stock-market price collapse and a banking liquidation and spread the mess throughout every sector of the economy. What might have lasted a year to 18 months instead lasted 16 years.
More to come...
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Barr arrived at 11:50, and I saw Iraq War Veteran Against the War and Barr backer Adam Kokesh walking towards his room, looking purposeful and pissed off.
The print press asked for more details on Barr's offer to Paul and details on what Barr supported from the message of that earlier event. Kokesh raised his hand and started talking; Barr campaign chairman Russ Verney asked him to identify his media organization. "I'm an independent blogger," Kokesh said. Verney and Kokesh talked over each other for about 30 seconds, Verney trying to move on, Kokesh explaining what had made him so angry. "Leadership is not just about knowing when to lead, but knowing when to follow," Kokesh said. "You failed that test today and I retract my endorsement of you."
There were more harsh questions (is Barr a Republican agent trying to destroy the LP?) but nothing quite that harsh. The conference emptied out and Barr's staff kept on message: All respect to Ron Paul, but "support one of these nice candidates" is not a libertarian campaign. "Dr. Paul is allowing the Ron Paul Revolution to wither," said Barr aide Shane Cory.
Oh, and some other guy was saying if you don't like your choices you could always take your pick among some others, from the left and the right, who agree that:
Imagine if the independents, the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party and the Greens totaled 20 to 30% of the votes. Then imagine if someone like Jesse Ventura goes after them and the base of whichever of the Democrats or Republicans lose in 2008. 2012 would bring the death of whichever party loses this year.
Hey, a fellow can dream, can't he?
Anybody But Them
UPDATE: Bob Barr explains why he declined to attend Ron Paul’s press conference: At 10 am today, Wednesday, September 10, former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Joining him behind the dais were Cynthia McKinney, presidential candidate of the Green Party, Chuck Baldwin, presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, and Ralph Nader, Independent candidate for president.
September 10: Today In History
RealNews: Full spectrum dominance: Pepe Escobar: Welcome to the new Cold War
Al Jazeera: North Korea denies Kim is ill: Senior North Korean officials have rejected suggestions that the country's leader, Kim Jong-il, is seriously ill amid mounting international speculation over his health.
Al Jazeera: Pakistan condemns US attack: Pakistan's military chief has lashed out at the US air strike from Afghanistan that killed civilians inside Pakistan last week, saying his country's sovereignty would be defended "at all cost".
Wired: Could Life Evolve on the Internet?: If principles of life are universal, could life emerge on the internet?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
WSJ: Fannie, Freddie To Be Removed From S&P 500: Standard & Poor's will remove Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from its S&P 500 Index after the close of trading Wednesday.
Alfalfa Sprouts Recalled in Salmonella Outbreak: New incident reported in Washington state. With the Salmonella-St. Paul outbreak finally contained, the Food and Drug Administration reports 13 cases of Salmonella Typhimirium in Oregon and Washington State. The outbreak is apparently linked with the consumption of raw alfalfa sprouts.
Ike gives Cuba final kick, moves to Gulf of Mexico : HAVANA - Hurricane Ike moved into the warm waters of the Gulf and took aim at the U.S. and Mexican coasts Tuesday after bringing down aging buildings in Havana and tearing through western Cuba's tobacco country.
Will the Large Hadron Collider Destroy Earth? The potential for the world's largest atom smasher to destroy Earth is one question weighing on the minds of some lay people as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) prepares to go online Wednesday.
Takimag: The Palin Illusion: Having been listening to happy talk for more than a week about the “Palin factor,” courtesy of all my local friends and the commentaries of Pat Buchanan, and having felt at least for a few minutes some of the same euphoria about the GOP vice-presidential candidate, it now seems appropriate to look at the gaping hole in the donut.
Monday, September 8, 2008
September 8: Today In History
WSJ: Fannie and Freddie Likely to Plunge, Searing Investors: The government's plan to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may help the housing market and boost the value of the firm's bonds, but it's a body blow to stockholders that include some of the country's best known mutual funds and biggest banks.
Salmonellosis Outbreak Prompts Sprout Recall: Oregon public health officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a recall of Sprouter's Northwest brand alfalfa sprouts due to a salmonellosis outbreak.
Takimag: Freddie and Fannie--Too Big to Bail: One amusing aspect of the New York Times’s coverage of the government takeovers of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is that throughout the Gray Lady’s 2000-word lead essay, it’s never once mentioned that the two lending institutions have, well, already been federal organizations for the past 70 years (!).
BBC: Russia: Potential Flashpoints: The Russia-Georgia conflict has focused attention on other potential flashpoints that have their origin in the Soviet era, which ended in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The One Rule: Most everyone who speaks a European language natively is familiar with the Golden Rule, attributed to Jesus Christ: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. This is usually simplified to Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Even more concisely as Love your neighbor as yourself.
NewsVine: US Military Deaths In Afghanistan Region At 514: As of Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, at least 514 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. The department last updated its figures Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
LHCb sees where the antimatter’s gone
ALICE looks at collisions of lead ions
CMS and ATLAS are two of a kind
They’re looking for whatever new particles they can find.
The LHC accelerates the protons and the lead
And the things that it discovers will rock you in the head.
September 7: Today In HistoryPakistan Cuts Supply Lines to NATO Troops in Afghanistan: In a major development, the federal government on Friday announced disconnection of supply lines to the allied forces stationed in Afghanistan through Pakistan in an apparent reaction to a ground attack on a border village in South Waziristan agency by the Nato forces.
Russia Today Covers Rally for The Republic (YouTube): Texas Congressman Ron Paul may not be the next US President. But the firebrand Republican, who failed to win the party's nomination this year, is still hugely popular with grassroots supporters.
BBC: US Takes Over Key Mortgage Firms: US financial officials have outlined plans for the government to take over the failing mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
BBC: Caribbean Lashed By Hurricane Ike: Thousands of people have taken refuge across the Caribbean as one of the season's fiercest hurricanes barrels across the islands, on course for Cuba.
TimesOnline: Scramble For Cash As Central Banks Dry Up: British banks soon could be scrambling for short-term funding once more amid reports that supplies from Threadneedle Street and from Frankfurt may be drying up.
LiveScience: The Top 10 Mad Scientists: From mildly eccentric to downright wacky, these 10 hyper-intelligent characters didn't just march to a different beat, they each played their own tune altogether, all while changing how we look at the world.
Venezuela, Russia May Hold Joint Naval Exercises: President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuelan and Russian ships could soon hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean — a move that would likely raise concerns in Washington.
Asia bourses cheer US bailout: Asian stock markets have soared following the US government's takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
September 6 : Today In History
General Principles: While other top brass played press agents for the administration’s war, William Odom told the truth about Iraq—though few listened.
Shimon Peres warns Israel’s hawks over Iran strike: Israel's president, Shimon Peres, has warned the prime minister that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could provoke a broader conflict.
The Large Hadron Collider: End of the world, or God's own particle?: A bewildered Cole Moreton goes in search of the science behind the spin.
US-Russia tensions deepen over Georgia: Tensions between Russia and the United States over Georgia intensified Saturday with Vice President Dick Cheney casting Moscow as a brutal regime that aims to recapture its Soviet-era dominance.
I love it when someone gets it just right.
Yes, the prospect of an Obama presidency is terrifying — not necessarily because of the candidate himself, but because of the success the conservative movement has enjoyed in endowing the presidency with autocratic powers.
For entirely self-serving reasons, the Republican Party’s base, which until recently treated Bush the Lesser with the same slack-jawed, glassy-eyed adoration rendered to Obama by his more devoted supporters, is just now awakening to the dangers of executive aggrandizement.
But such concerns will evaporate among the GOP faithful if McCain is victorious in November. Indeed, tumultuous applause greeted every derogatory allusion to the Bill of Rights offered by Palin and her warm-up act, the Polystyrene Panderer from Massachusetts. The salient fear displayed by the Republicans is that Obama will inherit a distended office and destroy what remains of our liberty before the Republicans have a chance to finish that job themselves.