Monday, March 31, 2008
In what can only be described as a bad April Fool's Day surprise, the Treasury Secretary of a Republican Administration is proposing to begin "socializing" our capitalist system. Secretary Paulson is announcing today his plan to give the Federal Reserve more power and control over our economy. This is the same Federal Reserve whose loose monetary policy from January 2001 to January 2004 created the current housing bubble by lowering the federal funds rate from 6.5% to 1%. This is the same unaccountable monopoly that created bubbles in the 1920s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and now in the first decade of the 21st Century by injecting "new money and credit" into the economy.
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These past few weeks have provided an unfortunate opportunity to discuss inflation. The dollar index has reached new all-time lows. The total money supply, M3, as calculated by private sources, is growing at a disturbing 17% rate. The Fed is pumping dollars into the economy at an alarming rate. Just recently the Fed announced new loan auctions totaling $100 billion. That is new money created from thin air. If these money auctions, combined with the bailout of Bear Stearns, continue to be the trend, we are in for some economic stormy weather. The explanation lies in understanding the basics of money, and why it is dangerous to give government and big banks control over it.
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CNN just had two back-to-back news reports. The first told of Aloha Airlines terminating all of its passenger service, due to financial difficulties. The second story told of the efforts of the U.S. and many European governments to eliminate the restrictions on airlines from one country flying to another. Now, CNN chirped, an American airline could schedule flights from New York to London as freely as it now flies from New York to Chicago. European airlines could schedule flights from London to Los Angeles with the same facility.
These reports could have provided CNN the opportunity to explain to viewers how the present plight of many airlines - as well as other businesses - stems from the restrictive and costly consequences of government regulation. What was presented as a creative effort by Western governments to deal with airline difficulties amounted to nothing more than the "bold" effort to enhance profitability by having governments get out of the way of those seeking profits!
What, instead, did CNN report on immediately after these two? The story of a dog that had been thrown off an overpass and survived!
In response to an LRC review of a (Distortion of) History Channel "documentary" on Sherman’s march to the sea by Clyde Wilson, Valerie Protopapas of Huntington Station, New York, took it upon herself to go to the library and research Sherman herself. Sherman’s History Channel image of a heroic and benevolent egalitarian just sounded like, well, like a lie to her. So out of the blue she wrote Professor Wilson (who now describes himself as a recovering academic historian) that "the truth about Sherman and his genocidal beliefs (and tactics) is, like Lincoln’s views on race and slavery, well reported but ignored."
That is, one can find the facts of history if one looks for them.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Pastimes of Shooting the Messenger and/or Diverting Attention Never Get Old, Do They? (Wilton Alston)
Ah, politics. The more things change, the more they remain the same. I knew there were reasons why I stopped voting and/or caring about national politics a while back, and now I remember what they were. I’ve ridiculed those involved in the mysticism that surrounds politics, and will very likely continue to do so. Hell, I’m not even a voter! I’ve heard voting described as the “suggestion box for slaves” or “two foxes and a sheep deciding on dinner,” and while I love a catchy line as much as the next guy, the simple fact of the matter is this: The people vying for control of the guns of the state don’t give a large rat turd about what I think. Always trying to be fair, they don’t care about your thoughts either! They never did. They never will. Welcome to my world.
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Contrary to what I used to believe, what everyone else believed, and even the artist himself may have believed, Calvin was not a rotten little kid. He had a vivid imagination, amazing coping ability, and an indomitable spirit. In my opinion, his rottenness is almost entirely the fault of well-meaning parents who simply misunderstood him, the poisonous instrument of television, and the hideous nature of regimented schooling.
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Laurence Vance: The Myth of the Just Price
(above video link is updated and does not cut off at the end)
Also see the transcript.
See my Mises Institute Videos blog post for more videos, or see the Mises.org media page.
In addition to initiating two major wars and vastly expanding the warfare state, adding on a whole new program to the costly state socialist health insurance boondoggle, innovating new legal interpretations in order to permit torture of mere suspects (including their children), and subjecting increasing numbers of Americans to government surveillance, George W. Bush is about to pull off one more massive Federal power grab before he leaves office:
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the way the government regulates the nation’s financial services industry from banks and securities firms to mortgage brokers and insurance companies.
The plan would give major new powers to the Federal Reserve, according to a 22-page executive summary obtained by The Associated Press.
The Fed would be given broad authority to oversee financial market stability. That would include new powers to examine the books of any institution deemed to represent a potential threat to the proper functioning of the overall financial system.
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Today, I extend heartfelt greetings to my Chinese brothers and sisters around the world, particularly to those in the People’s Republic of China. In the light of the recent developments in Tibet, I would like to share with you my thoughts concerning relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples, and make a personal appeal to all of you.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in the recent tragic events in Tibet. I am aware that some Chinese have also died. I feel for the victims and their families and pray for them. The recent unrest has clearly demonstrated the gravity of the situation in Tibet and the urgent need to seek a peaceful and mutually beneficial solution through dialogue. Even at this juncture I have expressed my willingness to the Chinese authorities to work together to bring about peace and stability.
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Speak up now against the warmongers before it is too late.
Terrible rumors from Russia continue to swirl around the Middle East that the Cheney-Bush junta has decided to bomb Iran on April 4th or 6th, targeting not only nuclear-power research facilities but ships, planes, antiaircraft installations, and the Iranian pentagon. Apparently the nuclear-power reactor being built by Russian companies will be spared, but not much else. Will it happen? Certainly the neocon hate network is working overtime to make it so. Bush fired the anti-neocon Admiral Fallon. One thing we know for sure: it will be the typical Bush administration snafu, with horrific consequences for the region and the world, not to speak of the Iranian people, and reap much trouble for the US empire. Indeed, it could mark the end of the empire if, as Bill Lind worries, the Iranians in retaliation cut off water-food-ammo supply routes to US troops in Iraq, and, with the help of Shiite militians, capture large numbers of them. Need I mention that Ron Paul, our champion of peace, is the leading opponent of war on Iran?
[UPDATE] Chris Floyd agrees that an attack may well be at hand. If so, it will almost certainly be far worse than Iraq.
[UPDATE] More from Charles Featherstone.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Karen, from what little I have read of the "plan" by the Bush Regime to "regulate" Wall Street, it sounds like one more effort to route the economy through Washington and make it "politically accountable." Even though that kind of "accountability" is exactly what Democrats say they want, not that many will be pleased with this -- they want even more New Deal, especially the "progressives," who see the best chance in a generation to create the kind of social democratic welfare state they've always wanted in the United States.
But two things need to be considered here. First, that the welfare state in whatever form it exists needs constant economic "growth" in order to support increased taxes and social welfare benefits. This is why inflationary central banking is so important to the welfare state, and also why the welfare state is essentially corporatist, whether in its leftist or rightists forms. Increases in production, productivity, income, investment and profits are necessary for business to be the engine by which the excess can be skimmed off (or extracted) and redistributed. This commitment to constant economic growth is such that modern industrial mass economies have been thoroughly rigged to "deliver" such growth as measured by the state.
Second, the big investment banks are hardly creatures of private enterprise. They are inventions of the state. Those who invest the kinds of sums these big money machines invest have been, since the 19th century at least, heavily backed and subsidized by the state, which has underwritten loans, guaranteed repayment and even ensured collection through the use of military force. The British Empire was not so much built on war as it was on foreclosure.
The fear of the social democrat, either rightist or leftist, is that the economy cannot and will not function without the state. That unless there is guidance and oversight (though maybe not full-fledged planning), we will all starve. Or foment revolution. Or both.
Richard Brookhiser is a National Review senior editor and the author of a readable biography of Alexander Hamilton. But his job in recent years seems to involve repeating neoconservative opinions, perhaps in his capacity as an upper-class WASP with a courteous manner and a soft voice. Typically I skim over Brookhiser’s commentaries as déjà vu, but one morning in late February I broke this habit by noticing a column he had written for the New York Post. I imagined this column, which dealt with Obama and Abraham Lincoln, would not treat Mr. Change very gently. But I was wrong.
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Friday, March 28, 2008
A friend recently turned me on to the CBS television series, Jericho. I watch so little network television that I confess to never having seen the show before this week. Obviously, then, I am quite uninformed as to the overall plot and previous episodes. What I saw Tuesday evening, however, stunned me. Why? Because it very aptly depicted what could become a very real-life scenario for these United States in the not-so-distant future.
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The year 2007 marked the 350th anniversary of the death of John Lilburne, a remarkable Englishman. He became known to his contemporaries as "Freeborn John." He described himself as "a lover of his country and sufferer for the common liberty."
His biographer Pauline Gregg concluded:
He could be called the first English Radical — a great-hearted Liberal — a militant Christian — even if the spirit of his teaching were taken fully into account, the first English democrat. But it is better to leave him without a label, enshrined in the words he spoke for his party: "And posterity we doubt not shall reap the benefit of our endeavours, what ever shall become of us."
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Ryan Horsley of Twin Falls, Idaho can testify from first-hand experience that the Regime ruling us is seeking to criminalize citizen efforts to hold its agents accountable for their misconduct.
Mr. Horsley is manager of Red's Trading Post in Twin Falls, the Gem State's oldest gun store. The family-owned business is in good repute with both customers and local law enforcement agencies: Horsley pointed out to Pro Libertate that "Our clients include police officers both locally and from around the state. And we're on very good terms with [Twin Falls County] Sheriff [Wayne] Tousley."
Despite the fact that he's not an anti-government radical -- he is chairman of the local planning and zoning board, and sits on the local draft board, as well -- Horsley seems to be an upstanding and respectable person who is making an honest living providing a genuinely indispensable public service: Putting firearms in the hands of the citizenry.
Which is all that is necessary in order to attract the Regime's malevolent attention.
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"Utopia" can be defined as "any visionary system of political or social perfection," but we most often hear it in the derogatory sense of "an impractical, idealistic scheme for social and political reform," and it falls thus from the lips of those walnut-brained idiots to whom we've just earnestly explained our vision of how a free-market society would be both peaceful and prosperous, but whose imaginations cannot grasp it. With a form of cognitive dissonance they therefore try to reflect the blame for their failure back to us, and sneer "sounds great, kiddo, but it would never work"; or if their manners are more refined, the sneer is replaced by a condescending smile. A classic case of intellectual sour grapes.
I like to define the word more exactly as "a social system which, if established, could not survive"--that is, one that would be inherently unstable. Let's see how a few alternative, possible social systems match up to that.
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I am often reminded of the time H.L. Mencken was interviewed by a young newspaper reporter. The question was asked: "why, if you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, do you continue to live here?" Mencken responded: "why do people visit zoos?" I share Mencken’s sentiment, even though I regard it as something of a slur upon the rest of the animal world. Should I ever witness California brown bears organizing an invasion of Europe for the purpose of destroying their Russian cousins, I might be inclined to treat the collective madness of the human species as characteristic of all living beings. But there is little evidence of other species devoting their energies to the annihilation of their own kind. Perhaps we are the best evidence for Arthur Koestler’s view that mankind was an evolutionary mistake: providing a killer ape with great intelligence may not have been the wisest of experiments.
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This is, to put it bluntly, a poor book. Any work on American history, even an "overview" (to use a favorite and perhaps overused term of DeHuszar's), has certain tasks that it must perform and standards to which it must cleave. In the first place, the factual material must be rich and not skimpy; the reader must get an idea of the lavish tapestry of American history, and he must get a full and comprehensive picture.
Most of the detailed critique below is devoted to protestations about the great amount of important material that the author has left out of the narrative. Just to pick an isolated instance, I do not think much of a text on American history that does not so much as mention Senator Thomas Hart ("Old Bullion") Benton.
Read the rest, and see Rothbard's own history book set, available on audio for free.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Gringos here in Mexico talk endlessly about how they love and admire the Mexican people, how friendly the natives are, how wonderful the culture is and, by strong implication, how wonderful the gringos are for appreciating Mexico. Actually they don’t. They live in gated communities in the hills, can’t speak three words of Spanish, and have surprisingly little contact with the country. They have invented a Mexico that doesn’t exist, and have fallen in love with it.
Thus many of their ideas about Mexicans are wrong, compounded equally of ideology and wishful thinking. The same happens in America. This will one day give birth to surprising children.
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Rothbardian anarchism has played a central role in the development of my understanding of human action. The state is the central antagonist of history, and most other antagonists mimic the state. The state appears stable because it attacks any potential institution or ideology that might reduce dependency on the state. However, the state is not stable long term, because its very nature is to grow and consume its host society, but create nothing from itself. While there are certainly times when states are undefeatable from the outside, there will eventually come times for every state where its predations weaken it to a point where it will die.
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Joseph Sobran discovered these Garet Garrett essays "one night, long ago, at the office of National Review, where I then worked." As the flagship of modern conservatism, National Review supported the Cold War and the hot war then raging in Vietnam.
"Two questions occurred to me," Sobran writes. "One: 'Why haven't I heard of this man before?' Two: 'If he's right, what am I doing here?"
I discovered these essays at 16 in a Seattle bookstore that specialized in right-wing opinions. The bright blue paperback was called The People's Pottage. The book was one of the twelve "candles" of the mysterious John Birch Society, though the author had died before the society was founded. In his day he had been a member of the mainstream press.
Who was Garet Garrett? He was a stylist, right from the first paragraph. His writing had an unusual clarity of belief, and the ominous tone of a man convinced that his country had been steered down the wrong road.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Rev. Jeremiah Wright has on occasion displayed a gift for anti-social truth-telling. His notorious and much-misrepresented post-9/11 sermon did not minimize the horror inflicted on our nation that day, or the blood guilt of those responsible for the atrocities.
Speaking with commendable courage and mesmerizing passion, Wright described the long train of abuses and outrages committed by the government that rules us -- from the Trail of Tears through Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from Wounded Knee to the first Gulf War -- and asserted that the criminal violence of our rulers did much to sow and nourish what we harvested on that terrible Tuesday morning.
Read the rest, and watch the sermon video.
[UPDATE] Also see this sermon excerpt. Wright's theology is objectionable, but he does tell many unpleasant truths about past and present evils by the state, which is why he is attacked.
The US is the world’s greatest prison state; of that there can be little debate.
By any method of counting we incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country in the world. Even China has fewer total prisoners than the US, and China’s per capita rate is also much smaller than the US rate. Yes my friends, even China has less criminals in jail than we do. Surprised?
"Statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the US Department of Justice, show that at the end of 2006, more than 2.25 million persons were incarcerated in US prisons and jails, an all-time high. This number represents an incarceration rate of 751 per 100,000 US residents, the highest such rate in the world. By contrast, the United Kingdom’s incarceration rate is 148 per 100,000 residents; the rate in Canada is 107; and in France it is 85. The US rate is also substantially higher than that of Libya (217 per 100,000), Iran (212), and China (119)." (Human Rights Watch)
The question is whether the law is a shield that protects "the people" or a club that is used to beat down them down. If we incarcerate many times as many of our citizens per capita than our European allies, can we find an explanation for this difference? Are we really that much more criminally inclined here in the good old USA than populations abroad that seem to be very similar to us?
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
All of the leading presidential aspirants are engaged in a bidding war for votes. Each of them promises to bail out the unfortunates who cannot meet their mortgage obligations and stand to 'lose their homes' (which, properly speaking, were never theirs in the first place, since they put little or no money of their own into buying them). Although this display of surface kind-heartedness makes political sense, it promises only economically adverse effects on the wider economy in the longer run.
Market economies do not work well when people do not honor their contractual obligations. If deadbeat borrowers can expect to be bailed out at public expense, then more deadbeats will arise, and lenders will be less careful about screening out borrowers whose situations and backgrounds do not augur well for the repayment of loans. The long-run effect of such bailouts is heightened uncertainty in the market for loanable funds and a transfer of income from responsible parties to irresponsible parties.
Moreover, the crocodile tears that politicians are now publicly shedding for the 'little people' who cannot make their agreed mortgage payments are themselves a fraud. The real concern is for the big boys who now find themselves holding mortgage-backed assets of questionable value on their balance sheets and who sooner or later must recognize the loss of value these assets have sustained since the housing bust got under way. Like so many other ostensibly kind-hearted government measures, the promised bailouts will have the net effect of transferring money from taxpayers in general to financial fat cats. This scheme is no doubt an example of 'democracy in action,' but it is economically and morally rotten.
Wall Street billionaires don't rush to help me when I am in financial straits. Why should I, or anyone else, be forced to help them? They made their bad-investment beds; now they should have to sleep in them. Bankruptcies are not the worst thing imaginable, and moving assets through receivership from bad managers to good ones has much to be said in its favor.
So, the Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins believes that having the government bulldoze homes would be a way to stabilize real estate prices. My god! Doesn't anyone read Bastiat anymore? Neither is this what Schumpeter had in mind when he wrote of the processes of "creative destruction." Nor do Jenkins' opinions seem to have been informed by history: the dumping of raw milk, and the slaughter of cattle and pigs was FDR's "New Deal" response to falling prices in agriculture, a government practice rendered more obscene for having been engaged in during the Great Depression. This is akin to the nitwits who characterize a devastating hurricane or tornado as an opportunity for economic growth!
Foolishness runs in cycles, does it not? Worse yet, it seems to be the consensus of those who engage in such squirrel-cage thinking that Austrian school thinking is "unrealistic."
When a people choose to worship the idol called the state as their savior, the natural progression will require that eventually they sacrifice themselves or members of their family to insure the growth and survival of this false god.
A flag for your son, father, brother, husband, uncle, nephew or cousin; a flag-draped cold metal box for your mother, sister, wife, aunt, or niece. Of course, the pagan god will refuse any attempt to photograph these sacrifices, returned from the fields of conquest and death, claiming they are protecting the families, while in reality they seek to protect themselves from any awakening to the truth that might occur among their worshipers (slaves).
I continually wonder at the so-called Christian element in this country, their support of illegal wars, worship of the state, and ignorance of their cherished Ten Commandments; especially the first, second, sixth and tenth. Have they not adopted the state as their god, the flag as their graven image, committed murder in the name of the state and coveted that which belongs to their neighbors (oil and other natural resources)? What have they done with the Golden Rule?
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A credit crisis has been spreading through the economic system. It began with the collapse of the housing bubble, which was the result of years of Federal Reserve–sponsored credit expansion. This credit expansion poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the purchase of homes largely by subprime borrowers who never had a realistic capability of repaying their mortgage debts in the first place. And, not surprisingly, large numbers of them in fact stopped making the payments required by their mortgages.
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The current Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule has captured world attention and sympathy. Protests from Katmandu to New York have ensured it stays on TV screens almost everywhere – except China, of course.
China’s government, which has been preparing a massive, carefully orchestrated Olympic summer extravaganza in Beijing, has been deeply embarrassed and lost a great deal of face. The latest Tibetan "intifada" erupted just after China’s party congress was celebrating the nation’s economic upsurge and orderly development.
Who is right about Tibet?
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When the number of Americans killed in Iraq surpassed the 1,000 mark in September of 2004, President Bush said of the families of the dead during a campaign rally: "My promise to them is that we will complete the mission so that their child or their husband or wife has not died in vain." Well, the death count of U.S. soldiers has now reached 4,000, and the completion of the mission is nowhere in sight.
This should come as no surprise since Bush’s promise to complete the mission was a lie before he even uttered the words. Back in 2003, in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, the president announced: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."
And even before we invaded Iraq to begin the war, the Bush administration was awash in lies, as study after study after study has documented.
But not only has Bush’s mission not been completed, it has never been defined. So, just what is this mission that remains to be completed lest the deaths of U.S. soldiers be in vain?
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I can't say enough good things about the film version of "Horton Hears a Who!" now in theaters. I've generally tended to avoid these film adaptations, which stray too far from the original book and introduce strange twists, usually something designed to preach fashionable left-liberal ideology, that just end up being a bother and a distraction.
None of this is true of Horton. Yes, it elaborates on the original but in seamless ways that actually end up enhancing the value of the story.
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Monday, March 24, 2008
Five years ago last week, the US military's "shock and awe" campaign lit up the Baghdad sky. Five years later, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and nearly four thousand Americans dead, we should pause and reflect on just what has been gained and what has been lost.
From the beginning, the march to war was paved with false assumptions and lies. Senior administration officials claimed repeatedly that Iraq was somehow responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. They claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They manipulated the fear of the American people after 9/11 to further a war agenda that they had been planning years before that attack. The mainstream media was complicit in this war propaganda.
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The Federal Reserve recently announced new measures to tackle the current financial crisis. They include helping J.P. Morgan Chase acquire Bear Stearns, lowering the discount rate and offering short-term loans to about 20 investment banks—and they came only days after the government said it would inject $200 billion into the financial system. These are the latest steps taken by the U.S. government to solve a problem created in large measure by the government itself.
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I am sure the Tibet trouble was stirred up at this time by US security organs and the neocons and Christian rightists who want a new Cold War with your country. And it is true that you get no credit for perhaps the largest, fastest increase in liberty and prosperity in history, from Mao to now. And the China-Tibet story is far more complicated than the Western media admit. But don't follow the path of Lincoln. Do what you have done so successfully with Hong Kong: allow Tibet to have internal self-government.
[UPDATE] For more on the China/Tibet story, see this article from the Dalai Lama, as well as his reaction to the protests and ensuing crackdowns.
The world was too small for Alexander, Juvenal pointed out, yet in the end he found that a small sarcophagus was sufficient. By way of contrast, the tomb could not contain Jesus, who repeatedly explained that His kingdom is not of this world. For believers, Resurrection Sunday celebrates the victory of Jesus -- the only One truly entitled to be called a king -- over sin and death. It should also prompt us to reflect on our duty to live as free men.
Jesus carried out his ministry in an ignominious province of a globe-spanning Empire on the descending slope of its imperial peak. Yes, several centuries would pass before Rome extinguished itself, but the republic was long dead, and the afflictions that would kill the empire were already well advanced.
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The Chinese are at it again, murdering peaceful Buddhist monks and Tibetan protestors.
Not that Chinese government cruelty is anything new; for instance, China has been detaining, torturing, and executing Falun Gong members and members of other groups for years. Thousands of prisoners have been executed for their organs (video, 5 min 12 sec), which bring huge profit to the regime. And under Mao, tens of millions of Chinese citizens were murdered by their own government.
The news about China 's assaults on Buddhists and others in Tibet last week reminded me of how jaw-droppingly cruel governments are in general. Try to imagine any free-market institution doing what China routinely does, which is to push people around at gunpoint and to murder them (or detain them or torture them) if they resist, and often even if they don't resist. Does Apple Computer do that? Does Stanford University do that? If they did, would we put up with it?
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Sunday, March 23, 2008
My brief, uneducated, off-the-cuff previews for the Sweet 16:
Washington State has limited its opponents to just over 40 point a game, while North Carolina's offense has averaged well over 100; something has to give! It will make for a very interesting game, that's for sure, and Washington St. has a better chance than most people seem to think.
Louisville definitely looks stronger than Tennessee, and they are still my dark horse pick for the Final Four.
Villanova was way overrated during December and January, but they turned things around for the last month or so. However, they have little chance against the strong, balanced Kansas juggernaut.
Wisconsin isn't that fun to watch, but they always seem like put themselves in position to win, and then the proceed to do just that. Will Stephen Curry be able to score at will against one of the best defenses in the country? My hunch is no, although I would love to see Davidson go further!
West Virginia has been inconsistent this year, but they're better than people think. The matchup against Xavier seems to be quite even and could be the best game of the Sweet 16.
Can Western Kentucky continue their run? Probably not against UCLA, even though the Bruins have appeared vulnerable as of late (Texas A&M played well on the "road" for the first time all year and almost beat them, contrary to my pessimism).
Texas gets a "semi-home" game for its game against Stanford, which could be very interesting. The key may be whether the Lopez brothers and Taj Finger can gather offensive rebounds and make putbacks; the stats seem to indicate that they might, but stats other than the final score don't count for anything in the tournament.
Watching Memphis is exciting and painful at alternate times; their talent level and free-flowing offense is awesome, while their lack of anything close to decent free throw shooting is horrible to behold. Michigan St. is playing very well and may well give Memphis a run for its money, especially if the game is close at the end.
Enjoy the rest of the tournament!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Our rulers have abolished our privacy. They are now free to eavesdrop on all of our phone and email conversations without a warrant; our financial records are an open book to the IRS and myriad other federal bureaucracies; they hide behind bushes (literally)waiting to nab us for purchasing too much liquor or cigarettes across the state line; they set up speed traps to ticket us in places like I-85 outside of Atlanta where, because of construction, there are three different speed limits that change about every mile and a half; and they have declared the right to imprison any of us indefinitely without due process if THEY decide you are an "enemy combatant." With PATRIOT Act II our rulers have given themselves the "right" to open our bank safe deposit boxes and confiscate all of the contents if they declare an "emergency." Thus, there is no longer any such thing as a "safe" deposit box at your bank.
None of this applies to our rulers themselves, of course. When it was discovered recently that a couple of beltway bandits (i.e., government contractors) took a peek at Obama's passport itinerary, all hell broke loose in D.C. The lapdog media couldn't talk about anything else for days. Condoleeza Rice promised that the Inspector General will get to the bottom of this crime against humanity. The State Department promises that it will never, ever, happen again; new procedures will be immediately put in place. The entire Washington Establishment was outraged -- OUTRAGED! I tell you!
[UPDATE] Lew Rockwell responds:
Tom, I noticed that the State Department's laughably low-tech computer system alerted the bosses if a politician's or celebrity's file was accessed outside of normal procedures; there is no such system for the rest of us, of course.
The passport itself is a tyrannical device, though we are used to it, boiling-frog style. The feds' much plotted national ID is an internal passport, of the Soviet sort.
The Anticapitalists: Barbarians at the Gate
[UPDATE] Here is the transcript of the talk.
Ron Paul - The Making Of "High Tide Promo"
The sneak peak also features the great "Hope Anthem" by Marc Scibilia, so check it out!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
In times of financial crisis, people want nuts and bolts advice on how to survive, or even better, how to profit from the calamity. “Tell us how to get out of this, not how we got in it,” is the prevailing attitude -- which is ironic, since most investors are calling for more cheap credit, the policy that brought us to disaster’s door in the first place.
The Fed and the government -- the public sector -- will “do what it takes to maintain the stability of our financial system,” according to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and that is precisely why we can expect more of the same -- bailouts, inflation, jittery investors, false euphoria, the continued destruction of the dollar -- not just now but for as long as the government controls the money supply. History tells us so, and theory backs it up.
In his book, Essays on the Great Depression, published in 2000, Ben Bernanke says,
To understand the Great Depression is the Holy Grail of macroeconomics.
The experience of the 1930s continues to influence macroeconomists’ beliefs, policy recommendations, and research agendas. [p. 5]
He says we don’t yet “have our hands on the Grail by any means,” but we’re getting there. According to Bernanke, we’ve made “substantial progress” in the last 15 years.
Bernanke will never find the Holy Grail. To paraphrase an old song, he’s looking for it in all the wrong places. This would hardly be worth mentioning if it weren’t for the job he holds. As such, he’s dragging us and every other prisoner of central banking along on his misguided search.
Read the rest
As of today, March 20, the debacle that is the war in Iraq has now dragged on for
I really don’t know what else can be said about this war. It is immoral, aggressive, unjust, unconstitutional, unscriptural, unnecessary, wasteful, and pointless. It has made more terrorists and more enemies of the United States than Osama bin Laden could make in ten lifetimes. It was based on a mountain of lies, misrepresentations, and manipulated intelligence. It was the worst possible response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It "may well turn out to be," according to Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, "the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."
As long as this war continues, there are more than years that we will be counting.
When I wrote about the war on its third anniversary, 2,317 American soldiers had already been killed. When I wrote about the war last year on its fourth anniversary, the total number of dead American soldiers had risen to 3,218. As I write about the war on this its fifth anniversary, that number has now increased to 3,992. How many wasted American lives will it take before the American people say enough is enough? It took almost 60,000 in Vietnam.
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We all want to live well and no one wants their living standard to decline. That makes sense, right? It's just the way we are made.
What does not make any sense is the strange article of faith that has descended over Washington, DC, that says that no prices must ever be permitted to decline due to recessionary pressures. All resources in the national treasury, every conceivable monetary manipulation, all efforts of every regulatory body must be marshaled toward the great national goal of re-pumping the economy, which must never ever be permitted to fall even a tiny bit.
Welcome to the War on Recession, which is being pursued with the same vehemence and folly as the War on Terror, and will likely prove just as spectacularly destructive of its own aims as well as liberty itself. Maybe we need songs, banners, and little ribbon pins too.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
In his novel 1984, George Orwell created a nightmare vision of the future in which an all-powerful Party exerts totalitarian control over society by forcing the citizens to master the technique of "doublethink," which requires them "to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them." Orwell's doublethink is usually regarded as a wonderful literary device, but, of course, one with no referent in reality since it is obviously impossible to believe both halves of a contradiction. In my opinion, this assessment is quite mistaken. Not only is it possible for people to believe both halves of a contradiction, it is something they do every day with no apparent difficulty.
Consider, for example, people's beliefs about the legal system. They are obviously aware that the law is inherently political. The common complaint that members of Congress are corrupt, or are legislating for their own political benefit or for that of special interest groups demonstrates that citizens understand that the laws under which they live are a product of political forces rather than the embodiment of the ideal of justice. Further, as evidenced by the political battles fought over the recent nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, the public obviously believes that the ideology of the people who serve as judges influences the way the law is interpreted.
Read the rest of this excellent essay, and make sure to take the quiz at the beginning!
I remember my first March Madness office pool. The year was 1992, I was about to leave my teenage years behind. I had just nabbed my first real actual journalism job, working for out-of-state tuition as a junior copy editor at a farming magazine in Oregon. I recall that the whole bracket thing was a strange and off-putting experience.
The keeper of the brackets was one of the publishing partners at the company. His name was Jeff, I think. Jeff was one of the pioneers in "business casual," coming to work every day in a polo shirt with the embroidered logo of some golf course or other. Everywhere he went, he carried a cellular phone the size of a Subway sandwich.
During a weekly meeting (there was no mass e-mail in the Stone Age), he announced that we'd be having, once again, the annual office bracket contest. Ten-dollar fees and completed brackets would be due into him on Wednesday. Everybody knew how it worked, except for a few secretaries. And me.
"So we fill the bracket out, the whole thing?" I asked him privately afterwards, hoping to save myself some public embarrassment.
"Yes, jackass, the whole thing," came the reply. "That's how you win, see."
I'd filled out brackets before, sure, but not like that. And people don't believe me when I say this, but I haven't filled out a bracket like that since 2003. And I know I don't have time -- the deadline's coming up fast -- but I'm going to try and convince you that you shouldn't either. Don't fill out a bracket this week.
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Note: I've entered one office pool in my life (in 2002, and if Oklahoma would have beaten 5-seed Indiana or had Maryland lost in the final I would have won), and I don't intend to enter another. I do enter brackets on ESPN every year, but Kyle's article helped me realize that perhaps I spend too much effort even doing that.
The Federal Reserve is trying a range of new tricks to push new forms of lending as a means of preventing what they fear may otherwise be a major collapse in financial markets. What all these strategies have in common is an unwillingness to come to terms with the reality that the crisis is based on real factors and can't be merely papered over without grave consequence to economic health.
Thus, last Tuesday (March 11), in response to the looming troubles with the Bear Stearns investment bank, the US central bank said that it would offer primary dealers up to $200 billion in Treasury securities for 28 days in exchange for triple A rated mortgage backed securities (MBS) as collateral. As the problems with Bear Stearns intensified and clients started to pull out cash the Fed announced that it was ready to do much more.
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Don't you love it when a member of the ruling class slips up and admits to the peasants what they're really up to?
For years, I've called for the complete shutdown of America's massive archipelago of mandatory government youth propaganda camps. The defenders of this Largest Jobs Program in History shriek and bellow that I must be "against education," which is sort of like charging those who opposed slave galleys with being against ocean navigation.
Read de Tocqueville for his amazement at the high level of literacy – including an ability to discuss complex political issues – found among American workingmen of the 1830s – 20 years before Dewey and Mann launched today's government-run youth camps on the Prussian model in Massachusetts in 1852.
The New York Times reported Feb. 27 that fewer than half of American teenagers know when the Civil War was fought, and one in four believe Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750. About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany's chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him in a multiple-choice test as a munitions maker or premier of Austria.
Why is anyone surprised? The academic curriculum is the "cover," the "front." The real goal is not to ensure education, but rather to ensure against successive generations developing a cohesive philosophy of self-sufficiency, a code of ethics appropriate to a free people living under a government of limited powers. The goal is to make sure successive generations are powerless to muster the historical and economic context, logic and critical thinking skills necessary to see through the latest scheme to seize yet more of our wealth and use the loot to hire more bureaucrats to regulate yet another portion of our lives, our industry, our commerce.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Alan Greenspan’s instinct for self-exculpation reached new heights in the March 17, 2008, Financial Times. In "We Will Never Have a Perfect Model for Risk," he writes a model essay intended to eliminate risk – the risk he might be held accountable for the imploding banking system that he failed to regulate. Nowhere would the reader glean the author had a hand in the topics he speaks of with such authority. Nowhere would the reader detect a hint that the practices and models the former Federal Reserve chairman now condemns were once either blessed or ignored under his authority.
We read in the FT: "The crisis will leave many casualties. Particularly hard hit will be much of today’s financial risk-valuation system, significant parts of which failed under stress. Those of us who look to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder equity have to be in a state of shocked disbelief."
His shock and disbelief should be directed to his own failure.
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As the neocons ramp up their hate machine against Obama, the real nature of the US regime becomes even clearer. No free country would have an anti-free speech PC industry like ours. This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, the ex-congressman Scarborough was interrogating an Obama aide about her boss's views on various topics of importance to the regime, in ugly commie fashion. It was all very Red Guardist. Did Obama agree with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on this point or that. Here is the basic charge: Obama knows a man with politically incorrect views. Therefore, destroy him. My view: So what? All that matters are his own views, and he should not give in to the neocons and sacrifice his minister to the state PC code.
Yes, though the Rev. Dr. Wright is correct on much, he is wrong on some things. Again, so what? No, the US government didn't invent AIDS to kill black people. But the US government does maintain a vast etablishment at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, dedicated to making every manner of plague and other biological weapon to sicken and kill its enemies. To mention, let alone criticize, that hellish establishment is also "anti-American."
I don't know whether the least warlike major candidate will be smeared to death by the neocons. But I do know this with all my heart: everyone who enables, let alone participates, in the anti-free speech, anti-free press, anti-free thought PC movement is an enemy of mankind.
[UPDATE] Also see Justin Raimondo's article about the smear campaign.
The slowdown of the American economy and the ensuing devaluation of the US dollar deliver gloomy headlines as timely as weather forecasts. The weakening currency may excite entrepreneurs anticipating increased exports. As well, it might have a stimulating effect for American professionals who are paid in return for our services.
However, the total effect is negative insofar as it will curb the trend toward the expansion of the international division of labor. Less outsourcing means higher labor costs for American business, which means less productivity overall.
Foreign workers are increasingly affected by what is called negative translation exposure — losing money while swapping their hard-earned but depreciating US dollars for their rising home currencies.
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A friend of mine who is involved in youth politics asked me to put together a curriculum for Ron Paul libertarians, a four-year course of study that will take students from the basics of free-market economics and the Constitution into the deeper waters where theory, history, and policy meet. Here’s the tentative curriculum I’ve come up with:
- Ron Paul The Revolution: A Manifesto
- Barry Goldwater The Conscience of a Conservative
- Tom Paine Common Sense, The Crisis
- The Federalist (selections)
- The Anti-Federalist Papers (selections)
- The Constitution of the United States of America
- Douglas Hyde Dedication and Leadership
- Henry Hazlitt Economics in One Lesson
- Murray Rothbard What Has Government Done to Our Money?
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Whereas historians obsessively trace every event's causal lineage further and further into the past, nonhistorians tend toward the opposite extreme: they assume in effect that the world began immediately before the event they have in mind. I call this unfortunate tendency "truncating the antecedents." Among the general public, it has given rise to mistaken interpretations of historical causation in cases too numerous to mention, and mistakes of this sort continue to occur frequently, in part because politicians and other conniving parties have an interest in propagating them.
I was recently struck by this tendency while reading comments at a group blog associated with the History News Network. A commentator there had mentioned that the blame for World War II is not as cut and dried as Americans typically assume it to be, and hence some revisionism is long overdue. In response, another discussant, whose previous contributions to the blog show that he is an intelligent man, expressed bafflement: "Yes, obviously some revisionism regarding the 'great allied leaders' of WWII is called for. But an attempt to be revisionist about the justness of a war where U.S. territory is attacked by one opponent and war is declared on the U.S. by the other opponent is sort of like justifying the War on Iraq on the basis of mythical WMD."
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Monday, March 17, 2008
What we commonly find, in going through the histories of substantial or prolonged inflations in various countries, is that, in the early stages, prices rise by less than the increase in the quantity of money; that in the middle stages they may rise in rough proportion to the increase in the quantity of money (after making due allowance for changes that may also occur in the supply of goods); but that, when an inflation has been prolonged beyond a certain point, or has shown signs of acceleration, prices rise by more than the increase in the quantity of money. Putting the matter another way, the value of the monetary unit, at the beginning of an inflation, commonly does not fall by as much as the increase in the quantity of money, whereas, in the late stage of inflation, the value of the monetary unit falls much faster than the increase in the quantity of money. As a result, the larger supply of money actually has a smaller total purchasing power than the previous lower supply of money. There are, therefore, paradoxically, complaints of a "shortage of money."
What is the real explanation of this?
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"Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends."
~ Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine
Too often history is viewed through the blinders of what ruler made what decision, or what war occurred, on what date. This had led to many not understanding the effects the state and its leadership could or will have on their lives.
This, I believe, also leads to one of the reasons for a continuing admiration, if not adoration, of the state and the state leadership.
We don’t know or aren’t told what effect such and such ruler’s decisions had on the masses of people and their lives. What did they feel or think? How did it change their lives? What was the people’s response; was it flight, fright, or fight?
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House Democrats recently adopted a budget with massive tax hikes, many of which are directed at those Americans who can least afford them. By allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2010, this budget will raise income taxes not only on those in the highest income brackets, but raises the lowest bracket from 10% to 15% as well. Estates would again be taxed at 55%. The child tax credit would drop from $1000 to $500. Senior citizens relying on investment income would be hurt by increases in dividend and capital gains taxes. It's not just that the Democrats want to raises taxes on the rich. They want to raises taxes on everybody.
The problem is, policing the world is expensive, and if elected officials insist upon continuing to fund our current foreign policy, the money has to come from somewhere. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost us over $1 trillion. The Democrats' budget gives the President all the funding he needs for his foreign policy, so one wonders how serious they ever were about ending the war. While Democrats propose to tax and spend, many Republicans aim to borrow and spend, which hurts the taxpayer just as much in the long run.
Supporting a welfare state is expensive as well. Over half of our budget goes to mandatory entitlements. The total cost of government now eats up over half of our national income, as calculated by Americans for Tax Reform, and government is growing at an unprecedented rate. Our current financial situation is completely untenable, and the worst part is, as government is becoming more and more voracious, the economy is shrinking.
The bottom line is that Washington has a serious spending addiction. While both parties debate how to raise the revenue, both parties seem happy to spend over $3 trillion of your money in various ways. While some in Washington criticize the war in Iraq, very few are criticizing the interventionist mindset that got us into the war in the first place. Many so-called "Iraq War critics," criticize this administration rather than truly opposing the decades old policies that led to war. They claim they will eventually get the troops out of Iraq, but the danger is that they simply plan to move them around to other countries, not bring them home. The American people want peace. Minding our own business is the best way to achieve it. Not only is it also a whole lot cheaper, but free trade and friendship with other countries benefits all involved.
This spending spree is exactly the wrong policy for an economy on the brink of recession. History has shown that all empires eventually crumble under a worthless currency and with an exhausted military. Since too many of our nation's leaders haven't taken the time to learn from history, we are seeing mistakes repeated through recently enacted policies such as the new House budget.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Pick to win: Kansas
Dark Horse: Louisville
Cinderalla: Boy, the teams I was looking forward to pick were Gonzaga and Davidson, but they play each other in the first round, and the winner of that game gets Georgetown, which is playing as well as anyone! So, for any team 9 or lower, I think
Good luck with your picks, folks!
[UPDATE] After looking at the bracket, I see that many small conference teams are playing each other in the first round! Do you think by limiting the amount of games BCS schools have to face "mid-majors," NCAA and CBS are trying to avoid another scenario like 2006, where Wichita State played George Mason in the Sweet 16?
For statistics, no site is better than Ken Pomeroy's KenPom.com! He provides a wealth of information on each team and ranks teams by their efficiency on offense and defense, with no regard to whether they win or lose. It shouldn't be the only site to consult, but as an example, Ken currently has Big 10 tournament finaslist Illinois ranked 36th, when they aren't on the radar anywhere else.
Speaking of Ken Pomeroy, he writes periodically for BasketballProspectus.com, which has some excellent articles with great insight into the game. John Gassaway, formerly the "Big Ten Wonk," also writes for the site.
Another great site for rankings is Jeff Sagarin's site, which routinely makes better picks in the tournament than the RPI!
And if you're looking for that small conference team that could make a run, you should check out Kyle Whelliston's MidMajority.com, where he focuses almost exclusively on the "little guys."
I'll blog later on some of my picks, once the brackets are announced!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
As there are uses and abuses, by commission and omission, of history, theology, sociology, psychology, etc., in the service of ideology and politics, so also there are uses and abuses by commission and omission of religious liturgy for the same purposes. Just in case your Palm Sunday and Holy Week liturgies do not communicate it clearly, or just in case your priest, minister, bishop, preacher or pastor do not tell you it from the pulpit, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are 100% about the victorious and salvific Nonviolent Coming of God into His Nonviolent Kingdom through the Nonviolent Messiah Jesus.
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Friday, March 14, 2008
By now everyone in the information world knows about the sex scandal that forced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer out of office. For those who have been on Mars the past few days, Governor Spitzer was caught in an FBI wiretap probe involving an expensive prostitution service. Apparently, the governor has been utilizing these prostitution services for some ten years and has spent tens of thousands of dollars for his numerous trysts. The sting that caught him involved a banking institution alerting federal authorities (as they do millions--yes millions--of times every year) to "suspicious" financial transactions between Spitzer and the call girl service, The Emperors Club VIP. At the time of this writing, no criminal charges have been filed against Spitzer. (They seldom are in these cases.) Obviously, the embarrassment of the revelation forced Spitzer to resign.
Should Governor Spitzer have resigned? Of course. Elected officials who practice adultery betray more than their families; they betray the trust of the people who elected them. In the old days, adultery would even have disqualified a person from military or government promotion--perhaps even their very position. Adultery is the cause of countless divorces and the source of many children's and teenagers' societal malfunction. It is a curse on our country. No one abhors adultery more than I do.
That said, there is a nagging question in the back of my mind, Why did the hammer fall on Governor Spitzer now? After all, it is no hyperbole to say that when it comes to big league politics, adultery and fornication are, sadly, par for the course. And readers don't need to write and tell me how judgmental I am, because it is the truth.
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It has been said that “he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.” And in the case of Eliot Spitzer this couldn’t be more true. In his case it’s the political sword, as his enemies rejoice in his downfall. Most people, it seems, believe he got exactly what he deserved.
The illegal tools of the state brought Spitzer down, but think of all the harm done by Spitzer in using the same tools against so many other innocent people. He practiced what could be termed “economic McCarthyism,” using illegitimate government power to build his political career on the ruined lives of others.
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Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to address the House tonight about the budget because there has been a lot of concern expressed here today on both sides of the aisle about the kind of financial trouble we're in. And there's no doubt about that. But sometimes I think we go back and forth spending more time blaming each other rather than dealing with the real problem.
One of the contentions I've had about the budget is that we look at it as an accounting problem rather than a philosophy problem because the spending occurs because of what we accept as the proper role of government. And right now, it's assumed by the country as well as the Congress that the proper role of government is to run our lives, run the economy, run the welfare state, and police the world. And all of a sudden, it puts a lot of pressure on the budget.
Today, the national debt is going up almost $600 billion. And the economy is getting weaker, there's no doubt about it. We're in a recession, it's going to get much worse, which means that the deficit is going to get a lot worse. And I'm predicting within a couple of years, it will not surprise me one bit to see the national debt, the national obligation for future generations to rise in 1 year three-quarters of $1 trillion. And that is a very possible number.
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A few nights ago, at the end of a day devoted to productive and pacific pursuits, after you had surrendered to a few hours of well-earned sleep, the people who presume to rule us raided your bank accounts.
No, I'm not referring to the Regime's ability to monitor your financial transactions, a power displayed to dramatic effect in the prostitution sting that ended Eliot Spitzer's lamentable career. Yes, you've probably been subject to totalitarian scrutiny of that sort at some point as well, but that's a topic for another occasion.
Right now, I'm talking about the Federal Reserve's most recent wealth redistribution plan, through which hundreds of billions of "dollars" will be created in an effort to stave off bank failures -- an effort that will not succeed.
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To Austrian economists, the so-called international credit market crisis is a prima facie case of the inherent destructive tendency of government-controlled paper money: it is the consequence of an excessive expansion of credit and money, which encourages uneconomic investment and leads to unsustainable debt burdens. The inflation-provoked cluster of errors (this time in the financial sphere) eventually triggers an economic and political disaster.
Once the inflation-fueled boom (the time span in which malinvestment occurs) is about to turn into bust (the period in which malinvestment is corrected), the government-sponsored central bank steps in and lowers the interest rate, in an effort to reverse the economic downswing into a boom. This is because a policy of pushing down the interest rate via expanding credit and money supply is typically seen as the solution for, rather than the very cause of, the crisis.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008
President Bush began his second term with a big push for "Social Security privatization." I put the words in quotes to point out that neither his plan, nor any mainstream plan, is actual privatization. What he proposed was the gradual replacement of a publicly funded welfare program – those premiums you pay are really just taxes – with a mandatory private scheme.
Before we go on, let me explain. Let's say the government provided you lunch every day. The food was bad and the price for taxpayers was sky high. So instead, some Beltway policy wonk suggests that government not do this anymore. To be sure, lunch will be eaten. In fact, government will force you to both pay for and eat lunch. To assure its quality, government will designate certain spots where you will eat. It will have authorized restaurants and meal packages.
The plan is proposed by people calling themselves "market liberals." They say it is a step in the right direction, toward freedom. From the point of view of everyone else, what do you think? It's not like you can now skip lunch and save the money. And who can't but notice that there is a large sector of lunch-providers that now have a stake in the program? The lunch business is being subsidized in a big way. We might even say that the previously private lunch industry has been nationalized.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Each week, if not every day, brings in its train another illustration of the fact that those who scrutinize us cannot abide reciprocal scrutiny. Witness the apparent demise of the "Rate My Cop" website.
Carly Kullman, a one-time police cadet, explains that Rate My Cop was to be a national database of police officers and agencies. Users would be able "to browse through their own local police department and see how their local police force stacks up" when compared to other agencies across the country. The site would deal only in publicly available information about agencies and individual officers. Each officer would be rated on the basis of three criteria: authority, fairness, and satisfaction.
Rebecca Costell, a creator of Rate My Cop, said that the objective was to combat an emerging stereotype of police as abusive, violence-prone revenue hogs: "Our website's purpose is to break that stereotype that people have that cops are all bad by having officers become responsible for their actions."
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Note: See the website RateMyCop.com. There were reports that the site was taken down, but as if this writing it's up and running!
[UPDATE] See Carly Kullman's original article here (thanks Carly for the link in your comment!)
Ron Paul on Cavuto: Federal Reserve's $200 Billion Injection
"Seniors hurt in Ponzi scam" headlined the story of elderly Southern Californians bilked in a pyramid scheme. While sad, the story reminded me of Social Security, since it is also a Ponzi scheme involving those older, with high payoffs to early recipients coming from pockets of later participants. With Social Security, however, it benefits those older at others' expense.
Pyramid scams collapse when they run out of enough new "investors" to pay earlier promises. Some use this fact to deny that Social Security is really a massive redistribution scheme, since it has lasted over 70 years. That assertion misses two substantial differences between Social Security and other Ponzi schemes however: Social Security involves far longer generations, with people collecting on current promises far into the future; and it has been not one, but a series of Ponzi schemes.
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We live in one of the most difficult times in history for guarding against an expanding central government. We are seeing a steady erosion of our freedoms. We have arrived here because our ideas, our words—and the actions that follow—have consequences. Homeschoolers, by-and-large, understand that bad ideas have bad consequences, and even the best of intentions can have unintended consequences. We need to understand exactly what ideas brought us to this point. We can then, I hope, reject the bad ideas and reform our thinking toward a better set of intellectual parameters. Our goal should be to identify what ideas are now shaping our culture and work to sow the seeds of liberty for the generations who will come after us.
Read the rest of the intro, or download the article (PDF), or the entire issue of Homeschooling Today (PDF).
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Over the past several months, I have been privileged to attend (and sometimes endure) several significant gatherings of a variety of conservatives. Some of the meetings were large; others were small. The meetings sometimes featured mostly grassroots activists and sometimes very high-profile and notable conservative icons. In some of these meetings, I was allowed a platform to speak; in others, I was merely a spectator. In most of the meetings, there was a large percentage of Christian conservatives present. The meetings occurred in locations all over the country.
After witnessing the philosophizing, postulating, and pontificating of the various conservative speakers (or those to whom I spoke in private conversation), I am left with the very profound and distinct impression that the so-called conservative movement is dead. It is not dying: it is dead. Totally and thoroughly dead.
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What the Fed is doing with its Term Auction Facility (TAF) is not at all the standard injection of reserves that balloons the money supply. To understand the effects, we need to look at the TAF closely. The following is a first stab at seeing what is going on. We do not know all of what will happen. But we have enough to get an outline.
The banks get a loan of U.S. Treasury bonds from the Fed, a renewable 28-day loan. The Fed becomes a creditor of the bank by making this loan.
The Fed charges the banks a preferentially low interest rate on this loan.
The bank gives the Fed some securities as collateral on the loan, and the Fed gives the U.S. Treasuries in return. The banks sends the Fed debts it owns that are far more risky and far more toxic than Treasuries, such as mortgage-backed securities. Some of it is bad paper, probably a very great deal of it. Its credit rating is misleading, because the credit agencies have failed to downgrade lots of shaky credits.
Some large banks are probably the main beneficiaries. Their asset quality improves while the Fed's asset quality diminishes. The bank's financing (its sources of funds, its own liabilities and equity on the right-hand side of its balance sheet) has now changed. The Fed has become a major creditor of the bank.
The Fed has thus partially nationalized these banks. By injecting $200 billion, it has become a major virtual "owner" of the banks. $200 billion is a significant number compared to the net worth (equity) of the banking system, and that number may grow.
The risk borne by the remaining creditors of the banks is reduced, at least temporarily. It is shifted to the Fed. The banks will probably renew these term loans for quite a long time, while the mortgage payments are made. The bank's equity holders and lenders therefore gain as the assets of the banks improve in quality.
Should these mortgage payments fall short of what the Fed would otherwise have made on the U.S. Treasuries, and that is to be expected, there will be less money to turn over to the U.S. Treasury. (The Fed turns most of its earnings back to the Treasury.) That means that the U.S. taxpayer will end up footing the bill for the bad loans made by the banks.
The Fed is robbing the taxpayer as well as nationalizing the banks covertly.
That is how I see this financial manipulation at this time.
This [tar and feathering] is what Americans used to do to government bureaucrats who came into their neighborhoods to steal from and harass them. I was reminded of this by a TV news story last week while I was in South Florida. The kind neighbors of a disabled WW II veteran built him a wheelchair ramp so that he could get in out of his new house. When the local government building inspector showed up, according to the TV account, he ordered them to take the wheelchair ramp down or face serious fines. They complied, and the disabled veteran was put on a three-month waiting list to get his ramp built by Officially Licensed ramp builders.
Spitzer built a successful career out of targeting certain people as "criminals," and then inventing the "crimes" after the fact. There is a certain symmetry to be found in the fact that his political career has been grievously (one hopes mortally) wounded because he eagerly and arrogantly committed a non-crime -- solicitation of sex for money -- that provided him with prime opportunities for prosecutorial preening.
But the sobering aspect of this story -- apart from the vivid reminder it offers of the damage that morally undisciplined men can do to their wives and families -- is found in this fact: The inquiry into Spitzer's conduct began when his bank reported that he was moving large amounts of cash out of his account.
His powerful conclusion:
It's tempting -- almost overpoweringly so -- to set aside one's principles in the eager wish to see the author of that threat experience just a taste of what he's force-fed so many others. But there would be nothing to gain by doing so: Because of the perversions of law he has abetted, and his connections in the Power Elite he has so faithfully cultivated, Eliot Spitzer probably doesn't need our sympathy. In the system Spitzer has served, punishment is reserved for those who are innocent and powerless, and mercy is reserved for the powerful and guilty.
Read the entire article
"Ruling sends chills through home-schooling community," says last Friday’s Los Angeles Times headline. If there’s any reason to subscribe to the propaganda piece called the Los Angeles Times, it’s for headlines such as these. The brouhaha, and it is a big one, is all about a recent California Appellate Court case, about which Steven Greenhut has so eloquently written. "If the ruling stands," according to the Los Angeles Times, "home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation."
That seems to be reason enough to leave this crazy state, for my family and for many others.
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While Sovereign Wealth Funds have existed for several decades, it has only been in the last few years that their investment schemes have been investigated and scrutinized. While their portfolios and long-term goals vary, one common trait every state-controlled investment fund shares is that the initial seed money came from the pockets of coerced taxpayers or nationalized resources.
Furthermore, not only are they politically controlled by individuals unduly tempted by outside influence (e.g., bribery), but underneath the euphemism of "investment vehicle" these funds are no different than any other government-managed investment scheme.
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