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“But listening to lies does not make us safer, even though it might make us feel better about ourselves. The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous and more free.”

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Ron Paul:

Ten years ago, shocking and horrific acts of terrorism were carried out on U.S. soil, taking nearly 3,000 innocent American lives. Without a doubt this action demanded retaliation and retribution. However, much has been done in the name of protecting the American people from terrorists that has reduced our prosperity and liberty and even made us less safe.

This is ironic and sad considering that the oft-repeated line concerning the reasoning behind the attacks is that they hate us for who we are – a free prosperous people – that we must not under any circumstances allow the terrorists to win. Though it is hard for many to believe, honest studies show that the real motivation behind the 9/11 attacks, and the vast majority of other instances of suicide terrorism, is not that our enemies are bothered by our way of life, neither is it our religion or our wealth – rather it is primarily occupation. If you were to imagine for a moment how you would feel if another country forcibly occupied the United States, had military bases and armed soldiers present in our hometown, you might begin to understand why foreign occupation upsets people so much.

Robert Pape has extensively researched this issue and goes in-depth in his book “Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It”. In fact, of the 2,200 incidents of suicide attacks he has studied worldwide since 1980, 95% were in response to foreign occupation. Pape notes that before our invasion of Iraq, only about 10% of suicide terrorism was aimed at Americans or American interests. Since then however, not only is suicide terrorism greatly on the rise, but 91% of it is now directed at us.

Yes, the attacks of 9/11 deserved a response, but the manner in which we responded has allowed radicals in the Muslim world to advance a very threatening narrative about us and our motivation in occupying their lands. Osama Bin Laden referred to us as “crusaders” with a religious agenda to convert Muslims, westernize their culture and take control of their resources. If we had targeted our response to only the thugs and criminals who attacked us, and refrained from invading countries that had nothing to do with it, this characterization would seem less plausible to the desperate and displaced. Blaming Islam alone is grossly misleading.

Instead, we chose a course of action that led to the further loss of 8,000 American lives, 40,000 wounded, and has left hundreds of thousands seeking help from the Veterans Administration. We are $3 to $4 trillion poorer. Our military is spread dangerously thin around the globe at the expense of protection here at home. Not only that, but we have allowed our freedoms to be greatly threatened and undermined from within. The PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches and wiretapping, abuse of habeas corpus, useless and humiliating circumstances at the airport, are just a few examples of how we have allowed the terrorists to win by making our country less free. Suicide terrorism did not exist in Iraq before we got there. Now it does. There are no known instances of Iranians committing suicide terrorism. If we invade and occupy Iran, expect that to change, too.

Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable to ask the right questions and face the truth. When a slick politician comes along and gives a much more soothing, self-congratulating version of events, it is very tempting to simply believe what we would like to hear. But listening to lies does not make us safer, even though it might make us feel better about ourselves. The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous and more free.

Social Security is NOT a Ponzi Scheme, It’s Just A Socially Regressive Tax Used To Fund A Mandatory Insurance Scheme

September 11, 2011 2 comments

Lots of talk in the blogosphere about Social Security: is it a Ponzi scheme? Yes, no, maybe so…

I started writing this article thinking “of course its a Ponzi scheme”, then I went to thinking it wasn’t, then back to it was, and finally, I have settled on the conclusion that it is not a Ponzi scheme, “definitely not”, and I’m actually kicking myself for not realizing it sooner.

The short reason why Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme is because Social Security is not an investment scheme; instead it is a mandatory insurance scheme (akin to Obamacare).

Read more…

“Americans have been historically less inclined than Europeans to explosions of social rage, despite suffering more poverty than most other wealthy democracies.”

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

This article makes an important point about the burning luxury cars in Berlin and the American proletariat’s general inaction against its bourgeoisie. It could be America’s strong anti-communist cultural values, but I think an even more likely cause is the large number of lower income, fiscally conservative Republicans. Whether they are fiscally conservative because they are Republican or Republican because they are fiscally conservative is of little consequence: the strange assortment of characters under the GOP’s formerly big tent is united by their unyielding belief in ideology, whatever that ideology may be. You have a mixture of people who don’t understand what tax bracket they are in, or how progressive taxation works.  or else they have noneconomic reasons for voting the way they do: morality (include both Christians and Minarchists here), racism, last place aversion, etc.

If the Democrats were the gun nuts, rather than the Republicans, we might be seeing protests here that are more riotous and violent in character, similar to what tends to happen in Europe as of late (France 2005, UK 2010/11, Germany 2011). For now, perhaps the banker’s sleep better at night knowing that the party of our nation’s proletariat is also the party of its peaceniks.

 

 

 

Kids Smoke Marijuana, White House Drug Czar Shocked and Outraged, Blames Medical Marijuana

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

“Alarming” increases in marijuana use upon teenagers according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Reporting that they’ve smoked pot in the last month: 6.6% of teenagers in 2009 increased to 6.9% in 2010 (I can hear society crumbling around me as I write this).

I can’t find a video of Gil Kerlikowske’s press conference (the drug czar aka head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy) talking about the results of the survey, but supposedly he said this:

“Emerging research reveals potential links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a written statement. ” I urge every family – but particularly those in states targeted by pro-drug political campaigns – to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal drug use.”

Here is my added emphasis in bold: “Emerging research reveals potential (what does that mean? I am potentially a millionaire if I buy a  lotto ticket) links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use, (ah duh… giving people the right to do something usually leads to some people exercising that right). I urge every family – but particularly those in states targeted by pro-drug (I could get all syntactical but what’s the point) political campaigns – to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal (but not legal) drug use.”

Couldn’t agree more that we should shield young people from the serious and real health and safety consequences, of which with marijuana there is very few. Despite the commercials, there has never been a reported case of any kid smoking weed and blowing his brains out on accident with his dad’s gun, or running over a little girl as you exit the drive thru (I could be wrong, if so, please link me to a story, I would like to know). I can’t find any news stories or anecdotes that are of concern when I search for “marijuana related deaths” except for stories about law enforcement killing Mexican Mafia members. “Marijuana related injuries” returns similar stories of people being hurt while being arrested by police.

Read more…

This is What Plutarchy Looks Like:

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

This is What An Oligopoly Looks Like:

This is What A Plutocracy Looks Like:

 

 

EDIT: According to this, the four big banks only have 34% of the market as measured by total deposits.

How many of you were pissed off at the bailouts and still keep your money with one of these banks? Going down to your local credit union and opening an account is a better form of social protest than doing nothing.

 

 

Crisis of Confidence

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

John Lanchester:

Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.

Three reasons why this might be the case:

1) Belgium is special: somehow, someway, their economy is just generally more robust, regardless of government. (I don’t buy this)

2) Austerity is a bad idea: lack of austerity in Belgian has kept the economy chugging along, thanks to spending in the public sector.

3) Psychological effects and expectations: with no government, the Belgian private sector economy has clearer expectations about the short-to-medium term future, and feels more confident in its ability to make investment decisions.

Probably it is a combination of 2) and 3), although I give more credence to the psychological effects that result from incompetent governance.

After this summer’s debt ceiling fiasco, and the subsequent S&P rating downgrade, it has become clear that most of what is wrong with today’s economy is a lack of confidence. In an economy without bureaucratic badgering or government intervention, it is relatively easy to make investment decisions based upon the data provided by markets. In today’s political climate, however, business owners, households, and investors are not sure what the future will bring. The Tea Party is responsible for a great deal of this disruptive atmosphere, but I think the current administration is equally culpable. There is no leadership coming from either side of the aisle, no one with convictions AND smarts to stand up and lay out the grand narrative of what is happening, and what needs to happen for the economy to recover. Obama’s strategy has seemed more aligned with placation than innovation, and it is innovation that drives economic growth. Despite what the Tea Party says they want (smaller government), what would really make them shut up is an economic recovery. The problem with Obama listening to them, taking their outrage at face value, and attempting to appease them through compromise, is that their narrative of the economic situation is misinformed, and their prescription to heal our economic maladies is not the right one. All too often within the realm of economics, it is a confusion between the short and long term that creates misunderstanding, and I think the Tea Party’s ideas fall into this. Austerity is a fix for long-term problems, but we have a short-term problem of a completely different nature that requires a different strategy so that we arrive at the long-term on decent footing; we need more spending and direction from the public sector.

 

Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is a Geezer

August 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I feel like I am doing this guy a huge favor by linking to this diatribe against the entire so-called “millennial” generation. Basically, it is the same “Kids today have no respect” garbage that has been the hallmark theme of inter-generational relations since forever. The tl;dr summary version of his article is just the typical establishment line of “get back to work, stop asking questions and demanding answers”.

Ruben Navarrette, Jr. is jealous. He is jealous that employers are trying to make their positions more appealing to young people.

It’s called social change, it’s been happening for a while. I can imagine a 19th century version of Navarrette, decrying the new 8 hour work day, or the end of child labor.

Employers want to recruit young people because they have to, because young people are the future. It really is as simple as that. Employers don’t want to, they NEED to figure us out, otherwise someone else will. They will employ us and make a lot of money and put the old businesses out of business.

Young workers have bargaining power; we can live with mom and dad longer, we do know what work/life balance means, we don’t want to do the same thing most of our parents did. So yeah, corporate America, you have some selling to do if you want us to jump on your bandwagon, especially the best and brightest of us. Why would we go to work for your stodgy institutions when we can build new ones for ourselves, ones that are responsive to our needs? Think I am being idealistic? Look at the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley, look at the average age of their executives and rank-and-file, look at the kind of perks they offer their employees.

Whom Navarrette is mainly referring to are the kids who aren’t the best and brightest, who are holding out for the cool job instead of working at McDonalds, who may never get that cool job, and subsequently will never be employable because of the long gap in their experience. I think this entire idea of the “perpetually unemployed because I never started that entry level job in a field I didn’t like” is bullshit. Successful companies and innovators find ways to harness that potential; that is why they are successful and innovative. 20% youth unemployment for 5-10 years is human capital begging to be put to use. Part of Navarrette’s prejudice is that he is used to the old world paradigm of a homogeneous human capital stock, where there are “jobs” and people go and “do them”. What is happening right now in the world economy is a huge reconfiguration of what those “jobs” are; many have moved or disappeared, but many more will be imagined and created, especially in an economy as dynamic as the United States. We are still the world’s leading innovator and still have the most liquid financial capital market in the world, with competitively relaxed capital controls and a surplus of people with “educations”.

Some people still don’t understand the new paradigms. They are still living in a world of 7% year-over-year GDP growth. They are still primarily motivated by dead ideas about material accumulation and social status. They still think that our society is a meritocracy, and they still believe in the benevolence of the US government and the integrity of our democracy.

You see, Mr. Navarrette, we are more educated and tech savvy than you. We did hear about your generation’s mixed success at social revolution, and we also saw how you abandoned your principles and let “Greed is good” replace “Flower power” as your slogan. We saw how you got old and fat, and marginalized the social malcontents by calling their (your) revolution “failed” and acting ashamed of your own personal “youthful transgressions”.

“But hold on,” you say, “I WASN’T one of them. I wasn’t a dirty hippie pothead, I was a Goldwater Republican…” or “I was a Vietnam veteran turned successful small business owner, not one of those burnouts…”

Okay, maybe you weren’t one of them Mr. Navarrette. Maybe it’s completely unfair and unrealistic to judge people based solely on their birth date. Maybe stereotyping an entire age cohort is a little irresponsible, a little prejudiced…

Maybe…

But the fact still remains that “we” (all of us, I am speaking about anyone under 30 because I know, I am under 30 after all) don’t want to be like you. I know it is not the thanks you wanted, but thanks for showing us how not to do it. Thanks for showing me that a moderately “successful” nationally syndicated columnist, who probably has a 5 bedroom house in the North County suburbs of San Diego with a pair of late model cars parked in the garage, can still have a stick up his ass and be not only out-of-touch, but resentful.