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While We Were Watching…

by Charles Goyette

January 30, 2012

The State of the Union is treated with utmost seriousness by the dominant news media. All four major TV networks and the cable news channels carry the event. My local newspaper devoted most of the front page and big chunks of the inside pages to its coverage: photos, accounts, sidebars, response, and analysis.

But it’s actually a spectacle that crowds out the real news. News about the impact American diplomacy is having on our future standard of living. News about the U.S. dollar’s reserve status winding down.

On the day of the State of the Union address, news flashed around the world – but not on your favorite network or in your morning paper – that India and Iran have agreed to end-run the U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran.

They will use gold to do so.

Those sanctions, which have now been agreed to by the European Union as well, will ratchet up in July. Their enforcement means that banks and financial institutions involved in oil transactions with Iran will be barred from doing any business with financial institutions in the United States and Europe.

According DEBKAfile, a news source based in Israel, Iran has taken steps to bypass American and European banks and their currency desks altogether, agreeing instead to sell its oil to India for gold. China is expected to soon agree to use gold in buying oil from Iran as well. It’s a move that would leave the long-standing global dollar pricing of petroleum in tatters.

The gold-for-oil agreement means three things:

  1. It hastens the unwinding of the U.S. dollar’s global reserve currency status.
  2. The rest of the world is actively developing alternatives to the U.S. dollar. Although it will mean a falling standard of living for the American people, U.S. policies and secretaries of state, like Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, have spurred what will become a stampede away from the dollar. DEBKAfile also reports that both China and Russia have secret mechanisms already in place to pay Iran in non-dollar currencies for its oil. And only a month ago, China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, agreed to develop direct yen/yuan trading, forgoing the dollar as the reserve currency intermediary.

  3. It accelerates the global monetization of gold.
  4. Both China and India have been aggressively adding to their gold reserves. Other countries are following suit. The Keynesians, who have been in charge of American monetary policy, having destroyed the value of the dollar and enabled our ruinous debt, may actually believe that gold is a “barbarous relic.” But it is clear that their opinions have little functional value in the real world. The world is turning to gold more and more as U.S. debt continues to mount. Indeed, is there a better alternative monetary unit to be found? Certainly, it’s not the euro. Jim Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer says gold is the only answer to the question, “if not the dollar, then what?”

  5. It reveals the growing global impotence of the U.S.

Long able to enforce reluctant countries to adhere in its missions and embargoes around the world, the U.S. is finding its will frustrated. Nations that once had to weigh the favor of the U.S. against their own commercial and domestic political interests are increasingly ignoring the global dictates of the U.S. State Department. In 2003, Turkey, where the prospect of a U.S. invasion of Iraq was wildly unpopular, refused even bribes to allow the U.S. to stage the invasion from its soil. Today, the threat of a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran is meeting with growing disapproval, especially from countries like China and India rely heavily on Iranian oil.

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Filed under politics State of the Union Iran India China gold oil sanctions U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran American diplomacy European Union U.S. dollar U.S. foreign policy economy editorial

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Robert Reich Trashes Newt Gingrich

by Robert Wenzel

MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2012

Reich says that even if Gingrich has a 10% chance of beating President Obama, if Gingrich gets the nomination, it’s too much of a risk for Democrats to want a Gingrich nomination. He sees Gingrich as that much of a nutjob. Reich writes:

…no responsible Democrat should be pleased at the prospect that Gingrich could get the GOP nomination. The future of America is too important to accept even a small risk of a Gingrich presidency…

“Weird” is the word I hear most from Republicans who have worked with him. Scott Klug, a former Republican House member from Wisconsin, who hasn’t endorsed anyone yet, says “Newt has ten ideas a day – two of them are good, six are weird and two are very weird.” 

Newt’s latest idea, for example – to colonize the moon – is typically whacky.

The Republican establishment also points to polls showing Gingrich’s supporters to be enthusiastic but his detractors even more fired up. In the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll, 29 percent view Gingrich favorably while 51 percent have an unfavorable view of him…

Independents, who will be key to the general election, are especially alarmed by Gingrich.

As they should be. It’s not just Newt’s weirdness. It’s also the stunning hypocrisy. His personal life makes a mockery of his moralistic bromides. He condemns Washington insiders but had a forty-year Washington career that ended with ethic violations. He fulminates against finance yet drew fat checks from Freddie Mac. He poses as a populist but has had a $500,000 revolving charge at Tiffany’s.

And it’s the flagrant irresponsibility of many of his propositions – for example, that presidents are not bound by Supreme Court rulings, that the liberal Ninth Circuit court of appeals should be abolished….that the First Amendment guarantees freedom “of” religion but not “from” religion…

Yet Democratic pundits, political advisers, officials and former officials are salivating over the possibility of a Gingrich candidacy. They agree with key Republicans that Newt would dramatically increase the odds of Obama’s reelection and would also improve the chances of Democrats taking control over the House and retaining control over the Senate.

I warn you. It’s not worth the risk.

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Filed under politics economy editorial campaign 2012 Gingrich Newt Gingrich Robert Reich

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A change in popular morality

phobiamundi:

John Sentamu’s argument against gay marriage is already lost

The archbishop of York must understand we are not facing a ‘dictatorship’ on gay marriage but a change in popular morality

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, hopes that people will pay attention to other things in his most recent interview than his attack on gay marriage. Fat chance. When he said that the government will be acting as dictators have done if it introduces gay marriage, he put himself squarely in the wrong on a matter that people care about.

Nor does he give what I think are likely to be his real, animating reasons: that he believes gay marriage is bad because it makes being gay look normal and even admirable, and because gay people should not have sex with each other. Around most of the world, and certainly in most of the Anglican Communion, these would be perfectly respectable and uncontroversial things to say. But in modern Britain they are a minority view, and certainly not a respectable one. They are not going to win a political argument – and that’s what he’s fighting here.

He could defend marriage for heterosexuals only on the grounds that the Bible comes out of a culture where gay marriage would be an abomination. But he doesn’t. What he actually talks about in his interview is history and tradition. The trouble for him is that history and tradition are up against the argument from justice. In that contest the argument from justice will always win, unless it inconveniences too many of the powerful. Gay marriage doesn’t.

Sentamu says: “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define marriage” – so whose role is it? It may be that the archbishop supposes it is the church’s role. But he has been a lawyer, and he knows that can’t be true. In Britain the state and the church have long disagreed about the definition of marriage. As soon as civil divorce and remarriage between men and women was allowed, and I think the relevant date is 1915, the state had redefined marriage; and over the next century, the church shuffled slowly into line behind the state and behind society.

The spectacle of “dictators” doing so is not convincing either. I can’t think of a single dictatorship that has legalised gay marriage. There have, it is true, been dictatorships that were profoundly hostile to the family – Soviet Russia comes to mind. But they were not correspondingly in favour of gay marriage or even gay equality. They just wanted nothing to stand in the way of the power of the state.

What the religious conservatives are facing here is not a “dictatorship” but a genuine change in popular morality. Equality has come to seem a sacred value, one which unites society in as much as we all submit to it. And the more grossly this value is defied economically and politically, the more people will treasure it elsewhere.

If a majority of the population favours gay marriage, or can’t see what all the fuss is about, and the government makes it legal it is not imposing, as a dictator might, its views on an unwilling people. It is not even directly imposing them on an unwilling church. No one is going to have to celebrate gay marriages in their churches if they do not want to.

So politically the argument is already lost, and I suspect Sentamu knows this. Why else would he want to draw attention to his other views, on subjects like Jamaica leaving the Commonwealth? That’s not the behaviour of a politician trying to focus on his message.

But when the law is changed, it does exacerbate a huge difficulty for the Church of England: when civil partnerships went through here, the African churches were outraged that the church recognised them as legal. Gay marriage will repeat this pattern, only worse. The Anglican Communion will then demand that the Church of England reject or repudiate it.

In the end, the church may have to choose between communion and establishment. Sentamu has often, loudly, and rightly defended “Britishness” and British traditions. And if it comes to a choice between the Anglican Communion and the Church of England, British history, and British tradition, would then demand that the Anglican Communion be told, politely, to go away and commune with itself: that the archbishop of Lagos has no more jurisdiction in this country than the bishop of Rome.

Filed under Anglican Communion Archbishop of York Church of England Great Britain John Sentamu gay marriage marriage politics popular morality religion editorial

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The Real State of the Union

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From John Stossel:

Has Barack Obama learned nothing in three years? During his State of the Union address, he promised “a blueprint for an economy.” But economies are crushed by blueprints. An economy is really nothing more than people participating in an unfathomably complex spontaneous network of exchanges aimed at improving their material circumstances. It can’t even be diagrammed, much less planned. And any attempt at it will come to grief.

Politicians like Obama believe they are the best judges of how we should conduct our lives. Of course a word like “blueprint” would occur to the president. He, like most who want his job, aspires to be the architect of a new society.

But we who love our lives and our freedom say: No, thanks. We need no social architect. We need liberty under law. That’s it.

Obama — and most Republicans are no different — doesn’t understand the real liberal revolution that transformed civilization. The crux of that revolution is that law should define general visible rules of just conduct, applicable to all, with no eye to particular outcomes. In other words, as Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek taught, the only “purpose” of law is to enable us all to pursue our individual purposes in peace.

If Obama really wanted, as he says, a society in which “everybody gets a fair shot,” he would work to shrink government so that the sphere of freedom could expand. Instead, he expands government and raises taxes on wealthier people, as though giving politicians more money were a way to make society better. Instead, the interventionist state rigs the game on behalf of special interests.

What should Obama have said in his speech? Here’s what I wish he’d said:

Read full article…

Filed under politics editorial State of the Union John Stossel Obama central planning Libertarianism Ron Paul 2012 liberty

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America’s Choice: Ron Paul or Unlimited Government

JANUARY 22, 2012 BY 

Americans do have a choice in this election, but it is not between Obama and one of the other Republicans. There is no substantive difference there. The true choice is between Ron Paul and unlimited government, which is government under Obama, Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum. That means a government that can tax you for anything it wishes to, can detain and search you without warrant or probable cause, and can send soldiers to arrest you and imprison you indefinitely without legal representation, a hearing, or a trial. It is a government whose power knows no limits, that can forcefully control every area of your life and force you to pay for its domination of the entire globe. Whatever happens in the years ahead, Americans cannot say that they did not have an opportunity to choose liberty over tyranny. This may be their last chance.

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Filed under politics campaign 2012 election 2012 GOP candidates Obama Gingrich Romney Santorum Paul Ron Paul Ron Paul 2012 Libertarianism libertarian editorial big government liberty Presidential primaries unlimited government

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Tip of the Spear

by SIMON BLACK  January 24, 2012

Criminalizing travel, which is the effective net result of the current passenger screening process, has minimal impact on weeding out the boogeyman. There are so many holes in the TSA procedures– medication, baby formula, pilot exceptions. Not to mention a whole world of softer targets. Who needs airplanes when you have shopping malls?

One of the first things I learned in the intelligence business years ago is that smart enemies will always adapt their tactics. It’s not rocket science; Sun-Tzu wrote the same 2,500 years ago– focusing on a single approach (like airport security) is useless.

Thing is, TSA airport security has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with making sure that every human being who transits within or through a US commercial airport knows exactly who is in charge. We call it the Tip of the Spear.

The idea is to desensitize people to government intrusion, generally with something shocking (like treating a 6-year old girl as a criminal terrorist). That’s the tip of the spear. As the spear drives further and further into its target, subsequent intrusions seem less and less acute.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini, whose writings on influence and persuasion have been read by millions across the world in dozens of languages, discusses three key principles which apply to this ‘Tip of the Spear’ approach.

The first is called social proof. It’s easy to understand– like lemmings, sheep, or milk cows, people standing in the security line watching everyone else get patted down and go through body scanners, will most likely comply with the social norm. Monkey see, monkey do.

The second is the principle of authority. Also easy to understand– people will obey authority figures even if it requires taking objectionable action. Uniforms establish an authority image, as do the training programs that teach intimidation tactics to government agents– voice projection, direct eye contact, use of professional vocabulary, etc.

The third is a bit more complex; Cialdini calls it the principle of commitment and consistency. Simply put, if people commit to an idea in word or deed, their future actions will be consistent with this idea because it becomes part of their own self-image.

In this context, people who submit to government intrusion the first time (e.g. watch their children receive pat-downs at TSA checkpoints) are more likely to continue acceding to further government intrusions down the road. It’s a bit of a boiling frog approach.

When you step back and look at the big picture, ‘security’ is an utter farce. The moral argument for such measures is rooted in a silly myth that men in caves wish to do us harm. The legal argument is questionable at best. Many folks forget that the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

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Filed under politics travel TSA air travel airport security Fourth Amendment desensitization body scanners security authority editorial

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YET ANOTHER REMINDER THAT DEMOCRACY IS AN ILLUSION
by SIMON BLACK  January 23, 2012

With over 150 million registered users, the file sharing site MegaUpload.com is one of the most popular on the Internet. At least, it was.
The site has now been seized by the US government and its homepage converted to an FBI anti-piracy warning. Its founder, a high tech entrepreneur named Kim Dotcom (yes, he had it legally changed), was arrested in New Zealand after his homes were raided and assets seized.
These actions were all at the behest of the US government. And it’s just the latest example of Big Brother overextending its authority across the entire world.
[…]

 The government is using its bureaucracy to completely circumvent due process and make an example of somebody that they consider a nuisance.
So why should they care? What interest could the US government possibly have in a silly file sharing site? None. But the entertainment industry does.
You see, we don’t live in a representative democracy. Democracy is an illusion to make people believe that they’re free. Instead, it’s blocs of large corporations who are really in control. If the entertainment business wants Kim Dotcom to go away, the government will invent or break any law necessary to make it happen. They’re all in bed together.

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YET ANOTHER REMINDER THAT DEMOCRACY IS AN ILLUSION

by SIMON BLACK  January 23, 2012

With over 150 million registered users, the file sharing site MegaUpload.com is one of the most popular on the Internet. At least, it was.

The site has now been seized by the US government and its homepage converted to an FBI anti-piracy warning. Its founder, a high tech entrepreneur named Kim Dotcom (yes, he had it legally changed), was arrested in New Zealand after his homes were raided and assets seized.

These actions were all at the behest of the US government. And it’s just the latest example of Big Brother overextending its authority across the entire world.

[…]

 The government is using its bureaucracy to completely circumvent due process and make an example of somebody that they consider a nuisance.

So why should they care? What interest could the US government possibly have in a silly file sharing site? None. But the entertainment industry does.

You see, we don’t live in a representative democracy. Democracy is an illusion to make people believe that they’re free. Instead, it’s blocs of large corporations who are really in control. If the entertainment business wants Kim Dotcom to go away, the government will invent or break any law necessary to make it happen. They’re all in bed together.

Read more »

Filed under politics economics news editorial MegaUpload MegaUpload.com democracy US government FBI anti-piracy Big Brother bureaucracy entertainment industry Hollywood corporations corporatism

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Do Americans even want freedom?

I think it is time for those of us who do want freedom to admit the possibility that we may be in the minority. I believe most of what Ron Paul says is true, but I’m beginning to have my doubts that most Americans truly desire freedom and liberty. It is difficult to be free, to be responsible for choices in one’s life. It is far easier to rely upon the State to decide what is good for us, what is best, what is allowed and what disallowed. We’ve been doing just that for so long we’ve forgotten even what constitutes freedom. All that remains is the ballot box with no bottom. It matters little whether we vote yea or nay because in the end it will all be decided by politicians, judges, bankers and big corporations. That we still have a say in our government is just an illusion useful to the elites to grant us to maintain our servitude.

Sure we still stand up at ballgames and sing the national anthem. But the “land of the free and the home of the brave” is now a phrase that no longer burns in our individual hearts as it did in every American heart in 1814 when the British were attacking Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry” which later became the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner. Singing those words has become a matter of habit and routine, a pale phantom of what it once was, little more now than cheering for the home team. And we pay no attention at all to the third stanza of our national anthem which avows: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

In his landmark book Escape from Freedom psychologist Erich Fromm asks,Can freedom become a burden, too heavy for man to bear, something he tries to escape from?..Is there not also, perhaps, besides an innate desire for freedom, an instinctive wish for submission?” He quotes the educational philosopher John Dewey: “The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority…The battlefield is also accordingly here—within ourselves and our institutions.

The worst kind of slavery by far is the kind in which the enslaved do not even recognize that they are slaves. This unfortunately is the state of most Americans today. Congressman Paul, great patriot that he is, may be crying in the wind. Americans may claim they wish to be free. But the truth that would make them free is for the most part the truth which they prefer not to hear. The future may well belong to Paul and his loyal young followers as I have stated elsewhere, but it is questionable whether any of them will themselves see the Promised Land. There is a generation or two of vipers that must first depart the political scene. That will take some time. It remains to be seen whether their departure will be the result of evolution or revolution. But then, of course, the young are not generally known to be interminably patient.

Filed under Erich Fromm Harriet Tubman Occupy Movement Ron Paul campaign 2012 economy editorial freedom liberty occupy politics slavery slaves Americans revolution change

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