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Updated: 6 hours 27 min ago

Putin Is Right

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Global forecaster Gerald Celente said Russian President Vladimir Putin was right when he stated today that the West targeted Russia long before the current crisis with Ukraine. In fact, Celente reported almost a year ago that the U.S. had waged a propaganda and misinformation war against Russia.

Putin insisted today: “It’s not payback for Crimea. It’s the cost of our natural desire to preserve Russia as a nation, a civilization and a state.”

Celente agrees. He points to an extensive analysis in the Spring 2014 edition of his Trends Journal,”Stoking a war that can’t be won,” in which he wrote:

“Under the Obama Administration, U.S. conflict with Vladimir Putin’s Russia was part of a trend …”

Putin today also referenced the distorted, damaging way in which Western media covered the Olympic Games in Sochi last winter. Here, too, Celente agrees. Last spring, he wrote:

“Not willing to let an atrocity go to waste, on 29 December 2013, following a terrorist bombing in a train station in Volgograd, a Russian city several hundred miles from where the Sochi 2014 Olympics were to be hosted, headlines across America blared: ‘Terror Attacks Hit Russia Leading Into 2014 Winter Olympics.’ Week after week, leading up to the February games, government officials, ‘credible sources,’ and ‘intelligence experts’ warned Americans that travelling to Sochi was risky. From toothpaste bombs and shoe bombs to black widow bombers, the message was clear.”

And that message was fear. Never mind that none of those predictions came true, said Celente, because they were contrived as part of a larger campaign.

As he wrote in the Spring 2014 Trends Journal: “The fear campaign worked. Just days before the opening ceremony, a February 5 CNN poll showed that 57 percent of Americans believed terror would strike during the Sochi Games.”

Putin’s comments today are not empty, defensive remarks, said Celente. Taking a step back and looking at the larger picture, independent of the force-fed propaganda gushing out at the time, shows an orchestrated effort by the U.S. and its allies to diminish Russia’s standing in the world, he said. The Trends Research Institute concluded a year ago what Putin affirmed today: The crisis in Ukraine was created by the West. It was, indeed, a “virtual” Berlin Wall around Russia.

What’s the Big Deal?

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Recent polls show that, despite the Senate’s torture report, most Americans still support the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture on suspects. Obviously the mainstream media misinform the public, neglecting to tell them that such torture techniques do not even produce reliable information and are mainly used to extract false confessions from innocent detainees.

And on the National Security Agency’s spying on innocent Americans, people love it, and then they hate it, and now they’re back to loving it again. Alas, Most people are ignorant of the actual criminality being committed by the federal goons.

But one American who shows enthusiastic support for NSA intrusions, a Federal Appeals Court judge, says that privacy is “overvalued,” and that “much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct.” If some unauthorized individual intruded into his cell phone, one would find a picture of the judge’s cat and some emails.

“What’s the big deal?” Judge Richard Posner asked, contemptuously wisecracking, “Other people must have really exciting stuff. Do they narrate their adulteries, or something like that?”

So, yeah, he’s all for NSA spying on innocent people without any reason to suspect them of anything.

He is one of those, “well, if you have nothing to hide. . .” kinds of judges, so people should just let government goons have complete access into all their personal information. After all, it’s in the name of “security” and to protect us from “terrorism.”

Never mind the fact that the government and its enforcers having the power to search people’s cell phones, get information on their calls and emails or search their cars and homes is a power which makes the people less secure. And that is the kind of power which enables government tyrants to terrorize the people, as Michael Rozeff correctly noted.

But the obedient defenders of the State and its sick criminality seem to assume that the NSA and other State enterprises such as CIA,TSA, etc., really are protecting people from terrorism.

Like DC District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, who rules based on not wanting to “second-guess” the CIA and its authoritarian judgments, Judge Posner believes that we needn’t second-guess the NSA, as its agents’ authority and judgment ought not be questioned.

So, what kinds of security-protecting deeds have the good folks at the NSA actually been doing that we shouldn’t be concerned about? Well, according to Glenn Greenwald, we know that the GCHQ (Britain’s NSA equivalent) presented the NSA with classified documents on GCHQ’s own sleazy tactics of posting false material on the Internet to destroy reputations and turn people against one another. And GCHQ’s main targets are not even alleged “terrorists” but private companies just doing business, and political activists.

That sure sounds like they are protecting us from terrorism, if you ask me.

And, according to James Ball of the U.K. Guardian, we know that NSA and GCHQ have been infiltrating online gaming networks such as Xbox Live and World of Warcraft to collect gamers’ buddylists, profile photos, geolocation information and chats. But Ball notes that there is no evidence that such gaming network infiltration has thwarted any terrorism plots or even that members of any terror groups actually use these kinds of gaming networks.

A main purpose of such warrantless Internet intrusions is to put together biometric information of gamers and others. Governments just love to have as much information on each individual as possible such as biometric information that includes facial recognition photos, location, personal associations, etc., despite the overwhelming number of false positive matches and incorrect facial recognition results those databases give officials. Such databases of personally identifying information are just as unreliable as fingerprint databases and DNA testing as well.

But Judge Posner says, “What’s the big deal?”

And according to Glenn Greenwald, the NSA uses a tool called XKeyscore to collect “nearly everything a user does on the Internet.” With XKeyscore all the NSA agent needs is a user’s email address or IP address, and is only required to fill out a form giving some general rationalization for such criminal intrusions that don’t even require a warrant. Greenwald notes that NSA agents “can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.”

Obviously, Judge Posner is very comfortable with all this. He isn’t exactly doing a Danny Thomas spit-take when hearing about all this stuff. What could possibly go wrong? And there are many other Americans who don’t mind their personal lives being an open book for the government, despite so much potential for abuse, such as blackmail.

But the truth is, only the most naive and gullible could endorse such powers of intrusion wielded by the State. (Or someone who has been blackmailed, of course.)

As the ACLU has pointed out, J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI and the Chicago Police Department used private, personal information to intentionally blackmail politicians and members of religious and political organizations. I’m sure other law enforcement agencies and bureaus have been doing exactly that since the days of J. Edgar Hoover and 1970s Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

From an interview with Peter B. Collins, Washington’s Blog quotes NSA whistleblower Russell Tice, stating that the NSA has been spying on and targeting “high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress … lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House …”

And Washington’s Blog also quotes other government whistleblowers such as William Binney, Sibel Edmonds and Thomas Drake as to the various blackmail schemes of these criminal government spy agencies.

The NSA, FBI, CIA – the agents of all these bureaucracies take oaths and swear to obey the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights, yet they seem to violate such oaths every chance they can. (Oh, wait – CIA Director John Brennan took his oath of office using an early draft Constitution, without the Bill of Rights included. Never mind, as Emily Litella would say.)

But there are some CIA or NSA employees who really do believe in upholding their Constitutional oaths. Former CIA officer and torture whistleblower John Kiriakou is the only CIA officer in prison – not because of torturing people, but because of revealing information about the CIA’s torture.

But Kiriakou in an interview asserted that the CIA clearly didn’t care about his possibly revealing classified information, as they encouraged him to write op-eds and do interviews as a way to use such communications against him even though information he gave was cleared through the agency.

Kriakou concluded throughout his ordeal that “everyone is corrupt” in that agency. Or most everyone, that is. And the same thing is probably the case in all these other criminal agencies, NSA and so on.

I just can’t imagine anyone with a moral conscience actually inflicting the kinds of sick, deranged and sadistic torment on others as CIA agents have committed.

And I can’t imagine anyone, such as NSA personnel, with any moral conscience actually listening in on people, recording or videotaping them, breaking into their emails of phone calls or their cars or bedrooms without any suspicion, and “digging up some dirt” to use against innocent people including judges and military generals.

But “if you have nothing to hide …” as some judges have asserted, you should be okay with goons watching you and recording your actions. Alas, those who guard themselves against criminal intrusions and attempt to protect their private lives are labeled as “suspicious” in the eyes of the State and its statist defenders, toadies and dupes.

Sadly, “those who resist being inventoried present a problem for the state,” as Wendy McElroy observed.

Yes, honest and moral people are a problem for the State.

As McElroy points out, there should be one standard of morality. If it’s wrong for your neighbors to dig into your private life, it’s wrong for government agents.

To cure the problem, NSA whistleblower William Binney and several other well-intentioned government whistleblowers have presented 21 recommendations toward reforming the NSA. But the truth is, it is impossible to reform an agency that is part of a monopolistic governmental “security” apparatus, unless it is de-monopolized and we remove restrictions on free competition.

In any case, Future of Freedom Foundation President Jacob Hornberger has the best solution I’ve ever heard: Abolish the NSA.

And the CIA has outlived whatever usefulness it may have had after World War II, so we should get rid of that, too.

In fact, as Hornberger has suggested, it really is the entire evil National Security State that has long ago outlived whatever usefulness it may have had after World War II. So the real solution to restoring freedom and security is to thoroughly dismantle the entire National Security State apparatus, root and branch.

The Menace of Egalitarianism

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

[This article is excerpted from the title essay and the introduction to the first edition of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays.]

This essay was delivered at a conference on human differentiation held by the Institute for Humane Studies at Gstaad, Switzerland, in the summer of 1972. A fundamental reason and grounding for liberty are the ineluctable facts of human biology; in particular, the fact that each individual is a unique person, in many ways different from all others. If individual diversity were not the universal rule, then the argument for liberty would be weak indeed. For if individuals were as interchangeable as ants, why should anyone worry about maximizing the opportunity for every person to develop his mind and his faculties and his personality to the fullest extent possible? The essay locates the prime horror of socialism as the egalitarian attempt to stamp out diversity among individuals and groups. In short, it reflects the grounding of libertarianism in individualism and individual diversity.

Murray N. Rothbard 1974

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature

For well over a century, the Left has generally been conceded to have morality, justice, and “idealism” on its side; the conservative opposition to the Left has largely been confined to the “impracticality” of its ideals. A common view, for example, is that socialism is splendid “in theory,” but that it cannot “work” in practical life. What the conservatives failed to see is that while short-run gains can indeed be made by appealing to the impracticality of radical departures from the status quo, that by conceding the ethical and the “ideal” to the Left they were doomed to long-run defeat. For if one side is granted ethics and the “ideal” from the start, then that side will be able to effect gradual but sure changes in its own direction; and as these changes accumulate, the stigma of “impracticality” becomes less and less directly relevant. The conservative opposition, having staked its all on the seemingly firm ground of the “practical” (that is, the status quo) is doomed to lose as thestatus quo moves further in the left direction. The fact that the unreconstructed Stalinists are universally considered to be the “conservatives” in the Soviet Union is a happy logical joke upon conservatism; for in Russia the unrepentant statists are indeed the repositories of at least a superficial “practicality” and of a clinging to the existing status quo.

Never has the virus of “practicality” been more widespread than in the United States, for Americans consider themselves a “practical” people, and hence, the opposition to the Left, while originally stronger than elsewhere, has been perhaps the least firm at its foundation. It is now the advocates of the free market and the free society who have to meet the common charge of “impracticality.”

In no area has the Left been granted justice and morality as extensively and almost universally as in its espousal of massive equality. It is rare indeed in the United States to find anyone, especially any intellectual, challenging the beauty and goodness of the egalitarian ideal. So committed is everyone to this ideal that “impracticality” — that is, the weakening of economic incentives — has been virtually the only criticism against even the most bizarre egalitarian programs. The inexorable march of egalitarianism is indication enough of the impossibility of avoiding ethical commitments; the fiercely “practical” Americans, in attempting to avoid ethical doctrines, cannot help setting forth such doctrines, but they can now only do so in unconscious, ad hoc, and unsystematic fashion. Keynes’s famous insight that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist” — is true all the more of ethical judgments and ethical theory.[1]

The unquestioned ethical status of “equality” may be seen in the common practice of economists. Economists are often caught in a value-judgment bind — eager to make political pronouncements. How can they do so while remaining “scientific” and value free? In the area of egalitarianism, they have been able to make a flat value judgment on behalf of equality with remarkable impunity. Sometimes this judgment has been frankly personal; at other times, the economist has pretended to be the surrogate of “society” in the course of making its value judgment. The result, however, is the same. Consider, for example, the late Henry C. Simons. After properly criticizing various “scientific” arguments for progressive taxation, he came out flatly for progression as follows:

The case for drastic progression in taxation must be rested on the case against inequality — on the ethical or aesthetic judgment that the prevailing distribution of wealth and income reveals a degree (and/or kind) of inequality which is distinctly evil or unlovely.[2]

Another typical tactic may be culled from a standard text on public finance. According to Professor John F. Due,

The strongest argument for progression is the fact that the consensus of opinion in society today regards progression as necessary for equity. This is, in turn, based on the principle that the pattern of income distribution, before taxes, involves excessive inequality.

The latter “can be condemned on the basis of inherent unfairness in terms of the standards accepted by society.”[3]

Whether the economist boldly advances his own value judgments or whether he presumes to reflect the values of “society,” his immunity from criticism has been remarkable nonetheless. While candor in proclaiming one’s values may be admirable, it is surely not enough; in the quest for truth it is scarcely sufficient to proclaim one’s value judgments as if they must be accepted as tablets from above that are not themselves subject to intellectual criticism and evaluation. Is there no requirement that these value judgments be in some sense valid, meaningful, cogent, true?

“It is rare indeed in the United States to find anyone, especially any intellectual, challenging the beauty and goodness of the egalitarian ideal.”

To raise such considerations, of course, is to flout the modern canons of pure wertfreiheit in social science from Max Weber onward, as well as the still older philosophic tradition of the stern separation of “fact and value,” but perhaps it is high time to raise such fundamental questions. Suppose, for example, that Professor Simons’s ethical or aesthetic judgment was not on behalf of equality but of a very different social ideal.

Suppose, for example, he had been in favor of the murder of all short people, of all adults under five feet, six inches in height. And suppose he had then written, “The case for the liquidation of all short people must be rested on the case against the existence of short people — on the ethical or aesthetic judgment that the prevailing number of short adults is distinctly evil or unlovely.” One wonders if the reception accorded to Professor Simons’s remarks by his fellow economists or social scientists would have been quite the same.

Or, we can ponder Professor Due writing similarly on behalf of the “opinion of society today” in the Germany of the 1930s with regard to the social treatment of Jews. The point is that in all these cases the logical status of Simons’s or Due’s remarks would have been precisely the same, even though their reception by the American intellectual community would have been strikingly different.

My point so far has been twofold:

  1. that it is not enough for an intellectual or social scientist to proclaim his value judgments — that these judgments must be rationally defensible and must be demonstrable to be valid, cogent, and correct: in short, that they must no longer be treated as above intellectual criticism; and
  2. that the goal of equality has for too long been treated uncritically and axiomatically as the ethical ideal.

Thus, economists in favor of egalitarian programs have typically counterbalanced their uncriticized “ideal” against possible disincentive effects on economic productivity; but rarely has the ideal itself been questioned.[4]

Let us proceed, then, to a critique of the egalitarian ideal itself — should equality be granted its current status as an unquestioned ethical ideal? In the first place, we must challenge the very idea of a radical separation between something that is “true in theory” but “not valid in practice.” If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory. The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith. To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.

“The goal of equality has for too long been treated uncritically and axiomatically as the ethical ideal.”

Suppose, for example, that it has come to be adopted as a universal ethical goal that all men be able to fly by flapping their arms. Let us assume that “proflappers” have been generally conceded the beauty and goodness of their goal, but have been criticized as “impractical.” But the result is unending social misery as society tries continually to move in the direction of arm flying, and the preachers of arm flapping make everyone’s lives miserable for being either lax or sinful enough not to live up to the common ideal. The proper critique here is to challenge the “ideal” goal itself; to point out that the goal itself is impossible in view of the physical nature of man and the universe; and, therefore, to free mankind from its enslavement to an inherently impossible and, hence, evil goal.

But this liberation could never occur so long as the anti-arm-fliers continued to be solely in the realm of the “practical” and to concede ethics and “idealism” to the high priests of arm flying. The challenge must take place at the core — at the presumed ethical superiority of a nonsensical goal. The same, I hold, is true of the egalitarian ideal, except that its social consequences are far more pernicious than an endless quest for man’s flying unaided. For the condition of equality would wreak far more damage upon mankind.

What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men — the egalitarian ideal — can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes. The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction — a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.

Indeed, it is precisely in horror fiction where the logical implications of an egalitarian world have been fully drawn. Professor Schoeck has resurrected for us the depiction of such a world in the British anti-utopian novelFacial Justice, by L.P. Hartley, in which envy is institutionalized by the State’s making sure that all girls’ faces are equally pretty, with medical operations being performed on both beautiful and ugly girls to bring all of their faces up or down to the general common denominator.[5]

A short story by Kurt Vonnegut provides an even more comprehensive description of a fully egalitarian society. Thus, Vonnegut begins his story, “Harrison Bergeron”:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

The “handicapping” worked partly as follows:

Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.[6]

The horror we all instinctively feel at these stories is the intuitive recognition that men are not uniform, that the species, mankind, is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation — in short, inequality. An egalitarian society can only hope to achieve its goals by totalitarian methods of coercion; and, even here, we all believe and hope the human spirit of individual man will rise up and thwart any such attempts to achieve an ant-heap world. In short, the portrayal of an egalitarian society is horror fiction because, when the implications of such a world are fully spelled out, we recognize that such a world and such attempts are profoundly antihuman; being antihuman in the deepest sense, the egalitarian goal is, therefore, evil and any attempts in the direction of such a goal must be considered evil as well.

“If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory.”

The great fact of individual difference and variability (that is, inequality) is evident from the long record of human experience; hence, the general recognition of the antihuman nature of a world of coerced uniformity. Socially and economically, this variability manifests itself in the universal division of labor, and in the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” — the insight that, in every organization or activity, a few (generally the most able and/or the most interested) will end up as leaders, with the mass of the membership filling the ranks of the followers. In both cases, the same phenomenon is at work — outstanding success or leadership in any given activity is attained by what Jefferson called a “natural aristocracy” — those who are best attuned to that activity.

The age-old record of inequality seems to indicate that this variability and diversity is rooted in the biological nature of man. But it is precisely such a conclusion about biology and human nature that is the most galling of all possible irritants to our egalitarians. Even egalitarians would be hard put to deny the historical record, but their answer is that “culture” has been to blame; and since they obviously hold that culture is a pure act of the will, then the goal of changing the culture and inculcating society with equality seems to be attainable. In this area, the egalitarians slough off any pretense to scientific caution; they are scarcely content with acknowledging biology and culture as mutually interacting influences. Biology must be read out of court quickly and totally.

Let us ponder an example that is deliberately semifrivolous. Suppose that we observe our culture and find a common dictum to be, ”Redheads are excitable.” Here is a judgment of inequality, a conclusion that redheads as a group tend to differ from the nonredhead population. Suppose, then, that egalitarian sociologists investigate the problem, and they find that redheads do, indeed, tend to be more excitable than nonredheads by a statistically significant amount. Instead of admitting the possibility of some sort of biological difference, the egalitarian will quickly add that the “culture” is responsible for the phenomenon: the generally accepted “stereotype” that redheads are excitable had been instilled into every redheaded child from an early age, and he or she has simply been internalizing these judgments and acting in the way society was expecting him to act. Redheads, in brief, had been “brainwashed” by the predominant nonredhead culture.

While we are not denying the possibility of such a process occurring, this common complaint seems decidedly unlikely on rational analysis. For the egalitarian culture bugaboo implicitly assumes that the “culture” arrives and accumulates haphazardly, with no reference to social facts. The idea that “redheads are excitable” did not originate out of the thin air or as a divine commandment; how, then, did the idea come into being and gain general currency?

One favorite egalitarian device is to attribute all such group-identifying statements to obscure psychological drives. The public had a psychological need to accuse some social group of excitability, and redheads were fastened on as scapegoats. But why were redheads singled out? Why not blonds or brunettes? The horrible suspicion begins to loom that perhaps redheads were singled out because they were and are indeed more excitable and that, therefore, society’s “stereotype” is simply a general insight into the facts of reality. Certainly this explanation accounts for more of the data and the processes at work and is a much simpler explanation besides.

“The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction — a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.”

Regarded objectively, it seems to be a far more sensible explanation than the idea of the culture as an arbitrary and ad hoc bogeyman. If so, then we might conclude that redheads are biologically more excitable and that propaganda beamed at redheads by egalitarians urging them to be less excitable is an attempt to induce redheads to violate their nature; therefore, it is this latter propaganda that may more accurately be called “brainwashing.”

This is not to say, of course, that society can never make a mistake and that its judgments of group identity are always rooted in fact. But it seems to me that the burden of proof is far more on the egalitarians than on their supposedly “unenlightened” opponents.

Since egalitarians begin with the a priori axiom that all people, and hence all groups of peoples, are uniform and equal, it then follows for them that any and all group differences in status, prestige, or authority in societymust be the result of unjust “oppression” and irrational “discrimination.” Statistical proof of the “oppression” of redheads would proceed in a manner all too familiar in American political life; it might be shown, for example, that the median redhead income is lower than nonredheaded income, and further that the proportion of redheaded business executives, university professors, or congressmen is below their quotal representation in the population.

The most recent and conspicuous manifestation of this sort of quotal thinking was in the McGovern movement at the 1972 Democratic Convention. A few groups are singled out as having been “oppressed” by virtue of delegates to previous conventions falling below their quotal proportion of the population as a whole. In particular, women, youth, blacks, Chicanos (or the so-called Third World) were designated as having been oppressed; as a result, the Democratic Party, under the guidance of egalitarian-quota thinking, overrode the choices of the voters in order to compel their due quotal representation of these particular groups.

In some cases, the badge of “oppression” was an almost ludicrous construction. That youths of 18 to 25 years of age had been “underrepresented” could easily have been placed in proper perspective by a reductio ad absurdum, surely some impassioned McGovernite reformer could have risen to point out the grievous “underrepresentation” of five-year-olds at the convention and to urge that the five-year-old bloc receive its immediate due. It is only commonsense biological and social insight to realize that youths win their way into society through a process of apprenticeship; youths know less and have less experience than mature adults, and so it should be clear why they tend to have less status and authority than their elders. But to accept this would be to cast the egalitarian creed into some substantial doubt; further, it would fly in the face of the youth worship that has long been a grave problem of American culture. And so young people have been duly designated as an “oppressed class,” and the coercing of their population quota is conceived as only just reparation for their previously exploited condition.[7]

“Being antihuman in the deepest sense, the egalitarian goal is, therefore, evil and any attempts in the direction of such a goal must be considered evil as well.”

Women are another recently discovered “oppressed class,” and the fact that political delegates have habitually been far more than 50 percent male is now held to be an evident sign of their oppression. Delegates to political conventions come from the ranks of party activists, and since women have not been nearly as politically active as men, their numbers have understandably been low. But, faced with this argument, the widening forces of “women’s liberation” in America again revert to the talismanic argument about “brainwashing” by our “culture.” For the women’s liberationists can hardly deny the fact that every culture and civilization in history, from the simplest to the most complex, has been dominated by males. (In desperation, the liberationists have lately been countering with fantasies about the mighty Amazonian empire.) Their reply, once again, is that from time immemorial a male-dominated culture has brainwashed oppressed females to confine themselves to nurture, home, and the domestic hearth. The task of the liberationists is to effect a revolution in the female condition by sheer will, by the “raising of consciousness.” If most women continue to cleave to domestic concerns, this only reveals the “false consciousness” that must be extirpated.

Of course, one neglected reply is that if, indeed, men have succeeded in dominating every culture, then this in itself is a demonstration of male “superiority”; for if all genders are equal, how is it that male domination emerged in every case? But apart from this question, biology itself is being angrily denied and cast aside. The cry is that there are no, can be no, must be no biological differences between the sexes; all historical or current differences must be due to cultural brainwashing.

In his brilliant refutation of the women’s liberationist Kate Millett, Irving Howe outlines several important biological differences between the sexes, differences important enough to have lasting social effects. They are

  1. “the distinctive female experience of maternity” including what the anthropologist Malinowski calls an “intimate and integral connection with the child … associated with physiological effects and strong emotions”;
  2. “the hormonic components of our bodies as these vary not only between the sexes but at different ages within the sexes”;
  3. “the varying possibilities for work created by varying amounts of musculature and physical controls”; and
  4. “the psychological consequences of different sexual postures and possibilities,” in particular the “fundamental distinction between the active and passive sexual roles” as biologically determined in men and women respectively.[8]

Howe goes on to cite the admission by Dr. Eleanor Maccoby in her study of female intelligence that

it is quite possible that there are genetic factors that differentiate the two sexes and bear upon their intellectual performance…. For example, there is good reason to believe that boys are innately more aggressive than girls — and I mean aggressive in the broader sense, not just as it implies fighting, but as it implies dominance and initiative as well — and if this quality is one which underlies the later growth of analytic thinking, then boys have an advantage which girls … will find difficult to overcome.

Dr. Maccoby adds that “if you try to divide child training among males and females, we might find out that females need to do it and males don’t.”[9]

The sociologist Arnold W. Green points to the repeated emergence of what the egalitarians denounce as “stereotyped sex roles” even in communities originally dedicated to absolute equality. Thus, he cites the record of the Israeli kibbutzim:

The phenomenon is worldwide: women are concentrated in fields which require, singly or in combination, housewifely skills, patience and routine, manual dexterity, sex appeal, contact with children. The generalization holds for the Israeli kibbutz, with its established ideal of sexual equality. A “regression” to a separation of “women’s work” from “men’s work” occurred in the division of labor, to a state of affairs which parallels that elsewhere. The kibbutz is dominated by males and traditional male attitudes, on balance to the content of both sexes.[10]

Irving Howe unerringly perceives that at the root of the women’s liberation movement is resentment against the very existence of women as a distinctive entity:

For what seems to trouble Miss Millett isn’t merely the injustices women have suffered or the discriminations to which they continue to be subject. What troubles her most of all … is the sheer existence of women. Miss Millett dislikes the psychobiological distinctiveness of women, and she will go no further than to recognize — what choice is there, alas? — the inescapable differences of anatomy. She hates the perverse refusal of most women to recognize the magnitude of their humiliation, the shameful dependence they show in regard to (not very independent) men, the maddening pleasures they even take in cooking dinners for the “master group” and wiping the noses of their snotty brats. Raging against the notion that such roles and attitudes are biologically determined, since the very thought of the biological seems to her a way of forever reducing women to subordinate status, she nevertheless attributes to “culture” so staggering a range of customs, outrages, and evils that this culture comes to seem a force more immovable and ominous than biology itself.[11]

In a perceptive critique of the women’s liberation movement, Joan Didion perceives its root to be a rebellion not only against biology but also against the “very organization of nature” itself:

If the necessity for conventional reproduction of the species seemed unfair to women, then let us transcend, via technology, “the very organization of nature,” the oppression, as Shulamith Firestone saw it, “that goes back through recorded history to the animal kingdom itself.” I accept the Universe, Margaret Fuller had finally allowed: Shulamith Firestone did not.[12]

To which one is tempted to paraphrase Carlyle’s admonition: “Egad, madam, you’d better.”

Another widening rebellion against biological sex norms, as well as against natural diversity, has been the recently growing call for bisexuality by Left intellectuals. The avoidance of “rigid, stereotyped” heterosexuality and the adoption of indiscriminate bisexuality is supposed to expand consciousness, to eliminate “artificial” distinctions between the sexes and to make all persons simply and unisexually “human.”

Once again, brainwashing by a dominant culture (in this case, heterosexual) has supposedly oppressed a homosexual minority and blocked off the uniformity and equality inherent in bisexuality. For then every individual could reach his or her fullest “humanity” in the “polymorphous perversity” so dear to the hearts of such leading New Left social philosophers as Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse.

That biology stands like a rock in the face of egalitarian fantasies has been made increasingly clear in recent years. The researches of biochemist Roger J. Williams have repeatedly emphasized the great range of individual diversity throughout the entire human organism. Thus

Individuals differ from each other even in the minutest details of anatomy and body chemistry and physics; finger and toe prints; microscopic texture of hair; hair pattern on the body, ridges and “moons” on the finger and toenails; thickness of skin, its color, its tendency to blister; distribution of nerve endings on the surface of the body; size and shape of ears, of ear canals, or semi-circular canals; length of fingers; character of brain waves (tiny electrical impulses given off by the brain); exact number of muscles in the body; heart action; strength of blood vessels; blood groups; rate of clotting of blood — and so on almost ad infinitum.

We now know a great deal about how inheritance works and how it is not only possible but certain that every human being possesses by inheritance an exceedingly complex mosaic, composed of thousands of items, which is distinctive for him alone.[13]

The genetic basis for inequality of intelligence has also become increasingly evident, despite the emotional abuse heaped upon such studies by fellow scientists as well as the lay public. Studies of identical twins raised in contrasting environments have been among the ways that this conclusion has been reached; and Professor Richard Herrnstein has recently estimated that 80 percent of the variability in human intelligence is genetic in origin. Herrnstein concludes that any political attempts to provide environmental equality for all citizens will only intensify the degree of socioeconomic differences caused by genetic variability.[14]

“At the heart of the egalitarian Left is the pathological belief that the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will.”

The egalitarian revolt against biological reality, as significant as it is, is only a subset of a deeper revolt: against the ontological structure of reality itself, against the “very organization of nature”; against the universe as such. At the heart of the egalitarian Left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will — in short, that reality can be instantly transformed by the mere wish or whim of human beings. Surely this sort of infantile thinking is at the heart of Herbert Marcuse’s passionate call for the comprehensive negation of the existing structure of reality and for its transformation into what he divines to be its true potential.

Nowhere is the left-wing attack on ontological reality more apparent than in the utopian dreams of what the future socialist society will look like. In the socialist future of Charles Fourier, according to Ludwig von Mises,

all harmful beasts will have disappeared, and in their places will be animals which will assist man in his labors — or even do his work for him. An antibeaver will see to the fishing; an antiwhale will move sailing ships in a calm; an antihippopotamus will tow the river boats. Instead of the lion there will be an antilion, a steed of wonderful swiftness, upon whose back the rider will sit as comfortably as in a well-sprung carriage. “It will be a pleasure to live in a world with such servants.”[15]

Furthermore, according to Fourier, the very oceans would contain lemonade rather than salt water.[16]

Similarly absurd fantasies are at the root of the Marxian utopia of communism. Freed from the supposed confines of specialization and the division of labor (the heart of any production above the most primitive level and hence of any civilized society), each person in the communist utopia would fully develop all of his powers in every direction.[17] As Engels wrote in his Anti-Dühring, communism would give “each individual the opportunity to develop and exercise all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions.”[18] And Lenin looked forward in 1920 to the “abolition of the division of labor among people … the education, schooling, and training of people with an all-around development and an all-around training, people able to do everything. Communism is marching and must march toward this goal, and will reach it.”[19]

In his trenchant critique of the communist vision, Alexander Gray charges

That each individual should have the opportunity of developing all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions, is a dream which will cheer the vision only of the simpleminded, oblivious of the restrictions imposed by the narrow limits of human life. For life is a series of acts of choice, and each choice is at the same time a renunciation.

Even the inhabitant of Engels’s future fairyland will have to decide sooner or later whether he wishes to be Archbishop of Canterbury or First Sea Lord, whether he should seek to excel as a violinist or as a pugilist, whether he should elect to know all about Chinese literature or about the hidden pages in the life of a mackerel.[20]

Of course one way to try to resolve this dilemma is to fantasize that the New Communist Man of the future will be a superman, superhuman in his abilities to transcend nature. William Godwin thought that, once private property was abolished, man would become immortal. The Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky asserted that in the future communist society, “a new type of man will arise … a superman … an exalted man.” And Leon Trotsky prophesied that under communism

man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, finer. His body more harmonious, his movements more rhythmical, his voice more musical…. The human average will rise to the level of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. Above these other heights new peaks will arise.[21]

We began by considering the common view that the egalitarians, despite a modicum of impracticality, have ethics and moral idealism on their side. We end with the conclusion that egalitarians, however intelligent as individuals, deny the very basis of human intelligence and of human reason: the identification of the ontological structure of reality, of the laws of human nature, and the universe. In so doing, the egalitarians are acting as terribly spoiled children, denying the structure of reality on behalf of the rapid materialization of their own absurd fantasies. Not only spoiled but also highly dangerous; for the power of ideas is such that the egalitarians have a fair chance of destroying the very universe that they wish to deny and transcend, and to bring that universe crashing around all of our ears. Since their methodology and their goals deny the very structure of humanity and of the universe, the egalitarians are profoundly antihuman; and, therefore, their ideology and their activities may be set down as profoundly evil as well. Egalitarians do not have ethics on their side unless one can maintain that the destruction of civilization, and even of the human race itself, may be crowned with the laurel wreath of a high and laudable morality.

Notes

[1] John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936), p. 383.

[2] Henry C. Simons, Personal Income Taxation (1938), pp. 18–19, quoted in Walter J. Blum and Harry Kalven, Jr.,The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), p. 72.

[3] John F. Due, Government Finance (Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin, 1954), pp. 128–29.

[4] Thus:

A third line of objection to progression, and undoubtedly the one which has received the most attention, is that it lessens the economic productivity of the society. Virtually everyone who has advocated progression in an income tax has recognized this as a counterbalancing consideration. (Blum and Kalven, The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation, p. 21)

The “ideal” vs. the “practical” once again!

[5] Helmut Schoeck, Envy (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1970), pp. 149–55.

[6] Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “Harrison Bergeron,” in Welcome to the Monkey House (New York: Dell, 1970), p. 7.

[7] Egalitarians have, among their other activities, been busily at work “correcting” the English language. The use of the word “girl,” for example, is now held to grievously demean and degrade female youth and to imply their natural subservience to adults. As a result, left egalitarians now refer to girls of virtually any age as “women,” and we may confidently look forward to reading about the activities of “a five-year-old woman.”

[8] Irving Howe, “The Middle-Class Mind of Kate Millett,” Harper’s (December, 1970): 125–26.

[9] Ibid., p. 126.

[10] Arnold W. Green, Sociology (6th ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972), p. 305. Green cites the study by A.I. Rabin, “The Sexes: Ideology and Reality in the Israeli Kibbutz,” in G.H. Seward and R.G. Williamson, eds., Sex Roles in Changing Society (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 285–307.

[11] Howe, “The Middle-Class Mind of Kate Millett,” p. 124.

[12] Joan Didion, “The Women’s Movement,” New York Times Review of Books (July 30, 1972), p. 1.

[13] Roger J. Williams, Free and Unequal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1953), pp. 17, 23. See also by Williams Biochemical Individuality (New York: John Wiley, 1963) and You are Extraordinary (New York: Random House, 1967).

[14] Richard Herrnstein, “IQ,” Atlantic Monthly (September, 1971).

[15] Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1951), pp. 163–64.

[16] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1949), p. 71. Mises cites the first and fourth volumes of Fourier’s Oeuvres Complètes.

[17] For more on the communist utopia and the division of labor, see Murray N. Rothbard, Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor (chap. 16, present volume).

[18] Quoted in Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition (London: Long-mans, Green, 1947), p. 328.

[19] Italics are Lenin’s. V.I. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (New York: International Publishers, 1940), p. 34.

[20] Gray, The Socialist Tradition, p. 328.

[21] Quoted in Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 164.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Report Police Abuse Without Fear

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

This article by originally appeared April 5, 2012 in Reason.com. It’s been updated to include new information regarding recent rulings in favor of citizens’ right to record.

Last week the City of Boston agreed to pay Simon Glik $170,000 in damages and legal fees to settle a civil rights lawsuit stemming from his 2007 felony arrest for videotaping police roughing up a suspect. Prior to the settlement, the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Glik had a “constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public.” The Boston Police Department now explicitly instructs its officers not to arrest citizens openly recording them in public.

Slowly but surely the courts are recognizing that recording on-duty police is a protected First Amendment activity. But in the meantime, police around the country continue to intimidate and arrest citizens for doing just that. So if you’re an aspiring cop watcher you must be uniquely prepared to deal with hostile cops.

If you choose to record the police you can reduce the risk of terrible legal consequences and video loss by understanding your state’s laws and carefully adhering to the following rules.

Rule #1: Know the Law (Wherever You Are)

Conceived at a time when pocket-sized recording devices were available only to James Bond types, most eavesdropping laws were originally intended to protect people against snoops, spies, and peeping Toms. Now with this technology in the hands of average citizens, police and prosecutors are abusing these outdated laws to punish citizens merely attempting to document on-duty police.

The law in 38 states plainly allows citizens to record police, as long as you don’t physically interfere with their work. Police might still unfairly harass you, detain you, or confiscate your camera. They might even arrest you for some catchall misdemeanor such as obstruction of justice or disorderly conduct. But you will not be charged for illegally recording police.

Twelve states—California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington—require the consent of all parties for you to record a conversation. But do not despair if you live in these states: All but 2 —Massachusetts and Illinois—have an “expectation of privacy provision” to their all-party laws that courts have ruled does not apply to on-duty police (or anyone in public). In other words, it’s technically legal in those 48 states to openly record on-duty police.

IMPORTANT UPDATES: As mentioned earlier, the First Circuit Court of Appeals covering Massachusetts declared the state’s ban on recording police to be unconstitutional. In May, The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals covering Illinois also declared the state’s harsh recording ban unconstitutional, ordering authorities to stop enforcing it. In November, The Supreme Court of the United States rejected Illinois’ petition to appeal the Seventh Circuit Court’s ruling.

Rule #2 Don’t Secretly Record Police

In most states it’s almost always illegal to record a conversation in which you’re not a party and don’t have consent to record. Massachusetts is the only state to uphold a conviction for recording on-duty police, but that conviction was for a secret recording where the defendant failed to inform police he was recording. (As in the Glik case, Massachusetts courts have ruled that openly recording police is legal, but secretly recording them isn’t.)

Fortunately, judges and juries are soundly rejecting these laws. Illinois, the state with the most notorious anti-recording laws in the land, expressly forbids you from recording on-duty police. Early last month an Illinois judge declared that law unconstitutional, ruling in favor of Chris Drew, a Chicago artist charged with felony eavesdropping for secretly recording his own arrest. Last August a jury acquitted Tiawanda Moore of secretly recording two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators who encouraged her to drop a sexual harassment complaint against another officer. (A juror described the case to a reporter as “a waste of time.”) In September, an Illinois state judge dropped felony charges against Michael Allison. After running afoul of local zoning ordinances, he faced up to 75 years in prison for secretly recording police and attempting to tape his own trial.

The lesson for you is this: If you want to limit your legal exposure and present a strong legal case, record police openly if possible. But if you videotape on-duty police from a distance, such an announcement might not be possible or appropriate unless police approach you.

Rule #3: Respond to “Shit Cops Say” 

When it comes to police encounters, you don’t get to choose whom you’re dealing with. You might get Officer Friendly, or you might get Officer Psycho. You’ll likely get officers between these extremes. But when you “watch the watchmen,” you must be ready to think on your feet.

In most circumstances, officers will not immediately bull rush you for filming them. But if they aren’t properly trained, they might feel like their authority is being challenged. And all too often police are simply ignorant of the law. Part of your task will be to convince them that you’re not a threat while also standing your ground.

“What are you doing?”

Police aren’t celebrities, so they’re not always used to being photographed in public. So even if you’re recording at a safe distance, they might approach and ask what you are doing. Avoid saying things like “I’m recording you to make sure you’re doing your job right” or “I don’t trust you.”

Instead, say something like “Officer, I’m not interfering. I’m asserting my First Amendment rights. You’re being documented and recorded offsite.”

Saying this while remaining calm and cool will likely put police on their best behavior. They might follow up by asking, “Who do you work for?” You may, for example, tell them you’re an independent filmmaker or a citizen journalist with a popular website/blog/YouTube show. Whatever you say, don’t lie—but don’t let police trick you into thinking that the First Amendment only applies to mainstream media journalists. It doesn’t.

“Let me see your ID.”

In the United States there’s no law requiring you to carry a government ID. But in 24 states police may require you to identify yourself if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in criminal activity.

But how can you tell if an officer asking for ID has reasonable suspicion? Police need reasonable suspicion to detain you, so one way to tell if they have reasonable suspicion is to determine if you’re free to go. You can do this by saying “Officer, are you detaining me, or am I free to go?”

If the officer says you’re free to go or you’re not being detained, it’s your choice whether to stay or go. But if you’re detained, you might say something like, “I’m not required to show you ID, but my name is [your full name].” It’s up to you if you want to provide your address and date of birth if asked for it, but I’d stop short of giving them your Social Security number.

“Please stop recording me. It’s against the law.”

Rarely is it advisable to educate officers about the law. But in a tense recording situation where the law is clearly on your side, it might help your case to politely present your knowledge of state law.

For example, if an insecure cop tries to tell you that you’re violating his civil liberties, you might respond by saying “Officer, with all due respect, state law only requires permission from one party in a conversation. I don’t need your permission to record so long as I’m not interfering with your work.”

If you live in one of the 12 all party record states, you might say something like “Officer, I’m familiar with the law, but the courts have ruled that it doesn’t apply to recording on-duty police.”

If protective service officers harass you while filming on federal property, you may remind them of a recently issued directive informing them that there’s no prohibition against public photography at federal buildings.

“Stand back.”

If you’re approaching the scene of an investigation or an accident, police will likely order you to move back. Depending on the circumstances, you might become involved in an intense negotiation to determine the “appropriate” distance you need to stand back to avoid “interfering” with their work.

If you feel you’re already standing at a reasonable distance, you may say something like, “Officer, I have a right to be here. I’m filming for documentation purposes and not interfering with your work.” It’s then up to you to decide how far back you’re willing to stand to avoid arrest.

Rule #4: Don’t Share Your Video with Police

If you capture video of police misconduct or brutality, but otherwise avoid being identified yourself, you can anonymously upload it to YouTube. This seems to be the safest legal option. For example, a Massachusetts woman who videotaped a cop beating a motorist with a flashlight posted the video to the Internet. Afterwards, one of the cops caught at the scene filed criminal wiretapping charges against her. (As usual, the charges against her were later dropped.)

On the other hand, an anonymous videographer uploaded footage of an NYPD officer body-slamming a man on a bicycle to YouTube. Although the videographer was never revealed, the video went viral. Consequently, the manufactured assault charges against the bicyclist were dropped, the officer was fired, and the bicyclist eventually sued the city and won a $65,000 settlement.

Rule #5: Prepare to be Arrested

Keene, New Hampshire resident Dave Ridley is the avatar of the new breed of journalist/activist/filmmaker testing the limits of the First Amendment right to record police. Over the past few years he’s uploaded the most impressive collection of first-person police encounter videos I’ve ever seen.

Ridley’s calm demeanor and knowledge of the law paid off last August after he was arrested for trespassing at an event featuring Vice President Joe Biden. The arresting officers at his trial claimed he refused to leave when ordered to do so. But the judge acquitted him when his confiscated video proved otherwise.

With respect to the law Ridley declares, “If you’re rolling the camera, be very open and upfront about it. And look at it as a potential act of civil disobedience for which you could go to jail.” It’s indeed disturbing that citizens who are not breaking the law should prepare to be arrested, but in the current legal fog this is sage advice.

“Shut it off, or I’ll arrest you.”

At this point you are risking arrest in order to test the boundaries of free speech. So if police say they’ll arrest you, believe them. You may comply by saying something like “Okay, Officer. But I’m turning the camera off under protest.”

If you keep recording, brace yourself for arrest. Try your best not to drop your camera, but do not physically resist. As with any arrest, you have the right to remain silent until you speak with a lawyer. Use it.

Remember that the camera might still be recording. So keep calm and act like you’re being judged by a jury of millions of your YouTube peers, because one day you might be.

Rule #6: Master Your Technology

A majority of Americans now own a smartphone of some kind. If you’re one of them, you should consider installing a streaming video recording and sharing app such as Qik or Bambuser. Both apps are free and easy to use.

Always Passcode Protect Your Smartphone

The magic of both apps is that they can instantly store your video offsite. This is essential for preserving video in case police illegally destroy or confiscate your camera. But even with these apps installed, you’ll want to make sure that your device is always passcode protected. If a cop snatches your camera, this will make it extremely difficult for her to simply delete your videos. (If a cop tries to trick you into revealing your passcode, never, never, never give it up!)

Keep in mind that Qik and Bambuser’s offsite upload feature might be slow or nonexistent in places without Wi-Fi or a strong 3G/4G signal. Regardless, your captured video will be saved locally on your device until you’ve got a good enough signal to upload offsite.

Set Videos to “Private”

Both apps allow you to set your account to automatically upload videos as “private” (only you can see them) or “public” (everyone can see them). But until police are no longer free toraid the homes of citizens who capture and upload YouTube videos of them going berserk, it’s probably wise to keep your default setting to “private.”

With a little bit of practice you should be able to pull your smartphone from your pocket or purse, turn it on, enter your passcode, open the app, and hit record within 10 seconds. Keep your preferred app easily accessible on your home screen to save precious seconds. But don’t try to shave milliseconds off your time by disabling your passcode.

Both apps share an important feature that allows your video to be saved if your phone is turned off put to sleep—even if you’re still recording. So if you anticipate that a cop is about to grab your phone, quickly tap the power button to put it to sleep. Without your passcode, police won’t be able to delete your videos or personal information even if they confiscate or destroy your phone.

With the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy Android devices I tested, when the phone is put to sleep the Qik app immediately stops recording and uploads the video offsite. But if the phone is put to sleep while Bambuser records, the recording continues after the screen goes black.

This Bambuser “black out” feature is a double-edged sword. While it could easily trick cops into thinking you’re not recording them, using it could push you into more dangerous legal territory. As previously mentioned, courts have shown a willingness to convict citizens for secretly recording police. So if you’re somehow caught using this feature it might be easier for a prosecutor to convince a judge or jury that you’ve broken the law. It’s up to you to decide if the increased legal risk is worth the potential to capture incriminating police footage.

Other Recording Options

Cameras lacking offsite recording capability are a less desirable option. As mentioned earlier, if cops delete or destroy your footage—which happens way too often—you might lose your only hope of challenging their version of events in court. But if you can hold on to your camera, there are some good options.

Carlos Miller is a Miami-based photojournalism activist and writer of the popular Photography is Not a Crime blog. While he carries a professional-end Canon XA10 in the field, he says “I never leave home without a Flip camera on a belt pouch. It’s a very decent camera that’s easier to carry around.”

The top-of-the-line Flip UltraHD starts at $178, but earlier models are available for $60 on Amazon. All flip models have one-button recording, which allows you to pull it out of your pocket and shoot within seconds. The built-in USB then lets you upload video to YouTube or other sharing sites through your PC.

Small businessman and “radical technology” educator Justin Holmes recommends the Canon S-series line of cameras. In 2008, his camera captured a police encounter he had while rollerblading in Port Dickenson, New York. His footage provides an outstanding real-life example of how a calm camera-toting citizen can intelligently flex their rights.

“I typically carry a Canon S5-IS,” Holmes says. “But if I was going to buy one new, I’d go for the SX40-HS. If I were on a budget and buying one used, I’d go for S2-IS or S3-IS.” The features he regards as essential include one-touch video, high-quality stereo condenser microphones, fast zoom during video, and 180×270 variable angle LCD. But the last feature he regards as “absolutely essential.” With it the user can glance at the viewfinder while the camera is below or above eye level.

Rule #7: Don’t Point Your Camera Like a Gun

“When filming police you always want to avoid an aggressive posture,” insists Holmes. To do this he keeps his strap-supported camera close to his body at waist level. This way he can hold a conversation while maintaining eye contact with police, quickly glancing at the viewfinder to make sure he’s getting a good shot.

Obviously, those recording with a smartphone lack this angled viewfinder. But you can get a satisfactory shot while holding your device at waist level, tilting it upward a few degrees. This posture might feel awkward at first, but it’s noticeably less confrontational than holding the camera between you and the officer’s face.

Also try to be in control of your camera before an officer approaches. You want to avoid suddenly grasping for it. If a cop thinks you’re reaching for a gun, you could get shot.

Becoming a Hero

If you’ve recently been arrested or charged with a crime after recording police, contact a lawyer with your state’s ACLU chapter for advice as soon as possible. (Do not publicly upload your video before then.) You may also contact Flex Your Rights via Facebook or Twitter. We’re not a law firm, but we’ll do our best to help you.

If your case is strong, the ACLU might offer to take you on as a litigant. If you accept, your brave stand could forever change the way police treat citizens asserting their First Amendment right to record police. This path is not for fools, and it might disrupt your life. But next time you see police in action, don’t forget that a powerful tool for truth and justice might literally be in your hands.

Reprinted from Flex Your Rights.

Alcohol as Medicine?

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Those who eat a balanced and wholesome diet should seldomly become ill. Healthy people are usually able to combat minor infections without showing any symptoms. However, even healthy people become sick when their exposure to pathogens is persistent or they become too lax in their diets. Emotional stress can weaken the immune system too.

Our usual recommendations about the avoidance of most sugars, and a diet featuring vegetables should be disregarded during sickness. While these healthy habits may be ideal for preventing illness, they can actually slow a body’s recovery when an infection has taken hold. During sickness, normal digestion is essentially suspended, and it is very common for the intestinal yeast to overrun the beneficial bacteria that normally helps to digest the more challenging foods, like vegetables.

What the body needs most during routine illnesses are sugary, salty, and fatty foods. Most people crave junk foods when they are sick because the body needs the ingredients of these foods to repair and defend itself. Sugars are generally regarded as villains, but it is important to remember that sugar is what gives the body energy. When a body is busy fighting an infection, sugars will provide emergency energy that a body needs, and they also help the patient to be more active. Foods that are high in fat allow the body to defend the nervous system from attack, and some of the fat will be used for energy production.

Most health-conscious people consume only small amounts of salt due to the categorical slander of salt by the medical establishment. As a result, health-conscious people are often deficient in salt, and the trace minerals that accompany sea salt. Salt helps to defend the body against invaders. Because of this, those who eat processed foods regularly are ironically better protected against routine illnesses than the health conscious are; but of course, those with healthier lifestyles fare much better against serious diseases. The white, minerally-stripped, and processed table salts have contributed to our modern epidemics by lacking the important minerals that salt is supposed to contain, so stick with sea salt if possible. Increasing salt intake during sickness would be a wise approach.

Some processed foods will actually be better for a person who is sick than what we normally consider to be healthy foods. The wisest approach during sickness is to obey any food cravings that arise, because the body knows exactly what it needs.

Some of the people who read this section will assume that our recommendations are terrible because the recommendations will produce an acidic body pH. This is true. However, it is impossible to maintain an alkaline body pH during times of infectious illness. The pattern is so reoccurring that the human body might actually be designed to become more acidic, as a means of creating an inhospitable environment for pathogenic invaders. We certainly know that attempts to maintain an alkaline pH during an infection are futile and counter-productive. Thus, a patient should try to work with whatever the body is doing, instead of against nature. When wellness is obtained again, all of the rules revert back to normal.

The following supplements are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. They will help the body to fight an infection. The dosages provided are just estimates, and minor changes will not be harmful.

The Anti-Virals

  • Colloidal silver (3 fluid ounces 2-4 times a day)
  • Neem * (500 mg. per 125 lbs. of body weight)
  • Echinacea (400 mg. per 100 lbs. of body weight)
  • St. John’s Wort * (300 mg. per 150 lbs. of body weight)
  • Zinc (25 mg. per 100 lbs. of body weight)
  • Yarrow (300 mg. per 150 lbs. of body weight)
  • Goldenseal root (500 mg. per 120 lbs. of body weight)
  • American ginseng (panax ginseng)
  • Feverfew (250 mg. per 150 lbs. of body weight)
  • Vitamin C (1 gram / 1,000 mg. twice a day for adults, and half for children)
  • Alcohol (Explained later)

Read the rest of the article

Santa Bomb Is Coming to Town

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

A “superbomb” storm is being predicted for Christmas Day in the Northeast United states according to WeatherBell Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue who has pointed out it looks to be reminiscent of the Cleveland Superbomb of 1978 aka the “Great New England Blizzard of 1978″.

This GFS forecast model for Christmas Day shows the depth of the low, poised to gather moisture from the Great Lakes and dump it into the Northeastern U.S. over the next 24-48 hours, potentially making Christmas and post-Christmas travel a nightmare, but … there is a twist.

Dr. Maue adds on his Twitter feed:

Exciting to see extreme weather forecasts with an item that requires dusting off the record books. 958 mb low

For reference, a 958 millibar low pressure system is as low as the central pressure for some tropical storms and nearly that of some hurricanes. For example Hurricane Sandy had a central pressure of 940 mbar or 27.76 inHg.

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To the State, We’re Economic Slaves

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Signing of Dodd-Frank – Now Virtually Repealed/Gutted

The NY money center Banks won again in Washington, the second time in a single month. They succeeded in repealing Dodd-Frank and have now succeeded in repealing the Volcker Rule, which it is officially put on “delay” that will be permanent. The Federal Reserve has repealed the Volcker Rule that will let the highly speculative banks hold onto billions of dollars in private-equity and hedge-fund investments for at least two more years until it is delayed again if not just forgotten about silently.

The Fed granted the delay yesterday after banks argued selling their vast positions quickly might force them to accept discount prices. The irony in this is that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has $11.4 billion in private-equity funds, hedge funds and similar investments, while Morgan Stanley has $5 billion, securities current filings show. But Goldman became a “bank” only to get in line for bailouts. They are not a real bank with branch offices taking deposits from little old ladies. They became a “bank” to accept a bailout. Now as a bank, they are altering the entire banking system because they are traders – not bankers. JP Morgan want to be more and more like Goldman Sachs. This is destroying the entire banking system.

Speculating is NOT what a bank was supposed to do. Banks were to lend money to build the economy – not speculate for profit. Goldman Sachs should be returned to an investment bank and JP Morgan should be told to choose – sell all its branches and stop taking deposits becoming an Investment Bank or stop the speculation and be a damn bank.

These politicians are up for sale and that is the entire problem. Indeed, the banks virtually rent space on the floor of Congress. They own the building and almost everyone inside. Nobody gives a damn about the future of the economy and the nation just how much will the banks give them to keep office.

We are headed into another crisis of greater proportions because NY money center banks are no longer about “RELATIONSHIPS”but a free-for-all based solely on TRANSACTION oriented business. One deal to the next without any long-term strategy. We are headed into a vortex that may kill the dollar as the reserve currency on the next decline because the banks will blow up big time on this next round.

Reprinted from Armstrong Economics.

Could You Survive a Blizzard?

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

How do you survive if you become trapped in your vehicle during a blizzard? With winter fast approaching, this is a good question.

The last few years have seen unseasonably cold and snowy winters in the U.S. Along with sustained cold temperatures, many regions experienced blizzard conditions including heavy snow fall and accumulation, combined with strong winds. Numerous areas were affected, including thousands of miles of roads ranging from major commuter highways down to narrow, twisty mountain roads. This became a recipe for motorists getting stuck in their vehicles during these tough weather conditions and they did.

Blizzards and winter storms are generally forecast by our nation’s weather services. What is not easily predicted is the true amount of snow, wind speeds, and the areas where snow and ice will accumulate.

This means that if you live in or are traveling through to an area that gets winter snow storms, regardless of whether it is urban, suburban or rural, you need to be prepared.

Here’s how.

Winterize Your Vehicle, personal gear and emergency equipment

Your Vehicle

  • Get your vehicle winterized including, engine, radiator and windshield washer fluids. Don’t forget new wiper blades as well.
  • Have your battery checked.
  • Get your tires checked. Do they have enough tread to last the winter or do you need to change them for all season or snow tires?
  • Put your tire chains or traction mats in the trunk.
  • Print out this free download of what you should keep in a vehicle emergency kit.

Emergency Equipment

  • Verify that you have a windshield scraper, tow rope, jumper cables, flares, or portable emergency roadway lights. If you have a larger vehicle, in particular, make sure your tow rope is up to the task. You don’t want a 10,000 lb. rated tow rope to pull out an Escalade, but you don’t need a 30,000 lb. one for a VW Bug.
  • Include a small folding shovel and bag of sand or cat litter (the old cheap kind, not the newer clumping kind) in case you get stuck and need to dig out or provide extra traction for your tires.
  • Check your first aid kit and replenish any used supplies.
  • Additional items can be found at  Ready.gov

Personal Gear

  • Winterize your emergency gear with a couple of space blankets as well as one wool blanket or sleeping bag. The cheap mylar space blankets are great to have, but they rip easily so you might want to splurge on the reusable, higher-quality ones to keep in your car.
  • Make sure your emergency kit includes, among other things, glow sticks, knife or multi-tool, duct tape, flashlight, extra batteries, a lighter, matches, candles for melting snow, pen and paper.
  • It’s important to have a metal cup or can for melting snow into water. Even an empty soup can will do, provided it’s metal. Most H2O containers will freeze once your vehicle cools down.
  • Store some extra water and high energy foods or snacks like protein bars in the vehicle.
  • Pack a small gear bag with extra clothing. Jacket, hat, socks, and gloves are a minimum – preferably wool or something high tech and waterproof. If you dress up for work, add a complete change of appropriate winter clothing, including snow boots. I also add in a couple packs of chemical hand and foot warmers.

If You Become Stranded

First and foremost, keep calm and stay focused on what you need to do to survive.

Stay With Your Vehicle

It is much easier to spot a vehicle than it is a person. Only leave to seek help if you have 100 yards (a football field) of visibility or more and you have a clear, visible objective to go for. Do not just get out and start walking along the road way hoping someone will find you. That is a good way to freeze to death, literally.

Make Your Car as Visible as Possible, Quickly!

Turn on your emergency flashers and dome lights while your engine is running. Tie something bright, like a bandanna, to your antenna or roof rack, if you have one, or hang something bright out a window. If you have glow sticks, put one in both your front and back windows. This will make your vehicle (and you) much more visible, even when it is snowing and blowing heavily. Finally, when the snow has stops, raise the hood of your car.

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No Need for Immigration

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Beginning in 2015 and escalating from then on, skilled workers from all over the world will have the digital equivalent of green cards. They will be legal to hire. They will flood into America’s middle-class job markets.

The last major barrier is coming down: the language barrier.

Mercantilism is about to get hammered in the world’s labor markets. The free market is about to score another victory. Skype will soon announce to the unemployed, college-educated, 20-something workers of the world: “Y’all come!”

From China, from India, from Singapore, from Latin America, from Spain, and from Greece they will come. They will offer their services to America’s businessemen. “Hire us. We speak fluent English — digitally.”

They will not be living inside America’s borders. So, they will not be illegal aliens. They will be legal aliens.

In flawless English, they will say three words: “I’ll work cheaper.”

There is no way to stop this. The genie is about to leave the bottle. Free trade in services is about to overcome the last great barrier to entry: language.

Those Americans who cry out against the 10 million or 20 million illegal aliens who it would take $500 billion to deport — illegal immigrants who fix roofs — will watch in impotent rage as legal aliens take away their middle-class jobs — legally.

The cries of outrage will be heard across the nationalist blogospshere. “This must be stopped!”

How? Be specific. Tell me how.

How will white-collar Americans compete against low-cost workers who can do their jobs at half the price, and who can speak face-to-face with American employers?

I’ll tell you how. By getting better trained. By working more efficiently. By lowering their prices. By American know-how. By market competition. By offering employers a better deal.

The horror!

With respect to all those people who demand federal protectionism in goods, and who have failed politically to get it for 45 years, protectionism in services is also about to go the way of all flesh.

As Joe Louis might put it regarding protectionists, “They can run, but they can’t hide.”

Advanced economies specialize in services, not manufacturing. America’s economy is a service-based economy. The labor unions are mostly gone. They cannot win elections in the profit-seeking service sector. Now what has happened to union members is about to happen to white-collar workers: wage competition.

Protectionists can scream. “It’s not fair!” Let them scream. Let them scream in a dozen languages on Skype. It’s all over but the screaming.

As a matter of fact, it is fair. It is morally fair. It is economically fair. It is the free market’s principle in action: the right to bid. It is the right to offer customers a better deal. It is liberty in action.

The right to bid. Protectionists hate this principle with every fiber of their being. But it will do them no good in the world that is coming.

The floodgates are about to open. Be prepared. Be prepared to supply a service locally that cannot be supplied over the Internet. Be prepared to compete if you do supply a service over the Internet.

Comprende, amigo?

2015: a Downhill Run for the Dollar?

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Rosy GDP numbers may have cheered the masses, but John Williams of ShadowStats.com says we’re a long way from prosperity. In this interview with The Gold Report, Williams debunks the myth of economic recovery and warns that we still have serious debts to settle. That is why he is recommending caution in 2015 to preserve purchasing power and maintain your standard of living.

The Gold Report: Your hyperinflation report predicted 2014 would be dominated by economic distress, financial crisis and panics. Were you surprised by the performance of the economy this year?

John Williams: No, at least not in terms of the actual performance. We’re getting some fantasy numbers, which I’ll be glad to address. The economic distress continued. If we look at the consumer conditions, generally median household income has continued to be stagnant at a low level of activity, below where it was in 1967 as adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Even though the gross domestic product (GDP) supposedly rebounded in mid-2009—it’s 7% above where it was before the recession started in 2007—there’s very little that confirms that.

If the individual consumer is not out there buying, we don’t have good activity in the bulk of the U.S. economy. Over 70% of the GDP is tied to personal consumption expenditures, and another couple of percent on top of that is tied to residential investment. If we don’t have positive inflation-adjusted growth in income—I’m talking actual household income—we can’t possibly have an economy that will grow faster than income growth, other than for a temporary boost from credit expansion, and that is not happening.

Credit growth is very limited for the consumer. If we look at consumer credit outstanding, although those numbers have gained since the panic of 2008, all the growth there has been in federally owned student loans, not in the type of consumer loans that would usually go into buying washers and dryers and such. Basically, the consumer’s liquidity has been constrained. We are also seeing consumer confidence and sentiment numbers that are typical of a recession, not an economic boom. We have a lack of income growth, a lack of adequate credit availability and, generally, a low level of confidence.

Consider that GDP growth in Q3/14 adjusted for inflation was an annualized 3.9%, and 4.6% in Q2/14. That’s two back-to-back quarters of roughly four percentage points. This is the strongest economy in over a decade if you believe the government’s statistics, yet I’ll challenge you to find someone who thinks that this is that good of an economy. It’s just not there. There may be pockets of strength in Silicon Valley or such, but the average homeowner and the average consumer are not seeing it.

TGR: If there are all of these negative signs going on, why are the GDP numbers so high?

JW: When Lyndon Johnson was president, he would get to review the GDP numbers every quarter. If he didn’t like them, he’d send them back to the Commerce Department and keep sending them back until the Commerce Department gave him what he wanted. We don’t have anything quite that overt happening now, but the government understates inflation. The problem is if you use too low a rate of inflation when adjusting economic numbers for inflation, that tends to overstate economic growth. When there is a roughly 2% annual understatement of GDP inflation, it means that GDP is basically overstated by two percentage points. When we look at the current number, 4% annualized GDP growth, we’re seeing year-to-year growth of 2.4%. So if we take 2% out of that, you’re seeing 0.4% growth. That’s negligible.

As far as what happened in 2014, the economic data do not surprise me that much, because there are always problems with how it is reported. The ongoing problems with the economy continued. We did see a couple of flutters in the stock market. What did surprise me was the strength of the dollar. That’s where the risks run for the immediate future, particularly into 2015.

The dollar is unusually strong, the strongest it’s been in some time. If we look at the factors that drive it, the dollar is very vulnerable. Right now, our economy purportedly is booming, and the rest of the world is in recession. So that, on the surface, would tend to result in a strong dollar. I’ll contend, though, that our economic growth is not real. The numbers will weaken. Retail sales and industrial production actually have much higher credibility than the GDP in that we’ll see indications there of renewed recession. We’ve already seen a sharp slowing so far in the data for Q4/14.

TGR: How, in your view, did quantitative easing (QE) and tapering impact the dollar?

JW: QE was a fraud in how it was put forth. The idea here is that the Federal Reserve was doing this to help the economy. But even as he was expanding QE, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explicitly expressed that there is very little the Fed can do to stimulate the economy at this point. The systemic financial panic of 2008 brought the financial system, particularly the banking system, to the brink of collapse. That’s where it was headed. The Fed and the Treasury did whatever they had to do to prevent total collapse. They created whatever money they had to create. They lent whatever money they had to; they spent it; they bailed out whatever firms they had to; they guaranteed all deposits.

When QE was introduced, the Fed flooded the banking system with cash. Normally, banks would take that money and put it into circulation. If they let it go into the normal flow of commerce, we would have had things pick up in lending, and that would have helped turn the economy around. That didn’t happen. What the banks did was deposit the funds back into the Federal Reserve as excess reserves in the monetary base. It didn’t help businesses at all. This policy was designed to help banking. That’s the Fed’s primary function in life, to keep the banking system afloat.

Because of what happened during 2008, it wasn’t really a good idea politically to say, “Hey, we’re still bailing out the banking system.” So the Fed cloaked this policy as an attempt to stimulate the economy. And as the economy remained weak, it would use the weak economy as political cover for increasing the QE. It was helping the banks, but it did nothing to help the domestic economy other than by preventing a complete collapse of the financial system.

TGR: Is that why it didn’t have the effect on the dollar that everyone was predicting?

JW: It did have an effect on the dollar early on. Whenever there was a rumor that the Fed was going to have to ease more, the dollar would take a hit and gold would rally. When tapering was indicated, the dollar would rally and gold would sink. There was a very direct relationship there.

Some months back, the economic numbers all of a sudden started to take off in a manner not seen in a decade, not supported by any underlying fundamentals. Then the Fed said it would cut back on its tapering and eliminate its purchases of new Treasury securities, which was seen as a positive for the dollar because it meant the Fed was going to shy away from further, open debasement of the dollar.

But here’s where the risk comes: The U.S. economy has not recovered. It’s still in trouble. The numbers, as we move forward into 2015, are going to get much weaker. That’s going to, again, increase the speculation of a QE4. That will all be very negative for the dollar and very positive for gold.

Relative government stability is another big factor in a currency’s value. Over the last year, we’ve seen the domestic political circumstances go from bad to worse. I think the political situation is going to continue to deteriorate.

We can look at the domestic fiscal circumstances. Now, the cash-based federal deficit shrank this year to less than $0.5 trillion—supposedly good news, but what people don’t seem to be thinking about is that the Fed actually monetized 80% of that deficit through quantitative easing. The U.S. government wasn’t out there in the markets borrowing openly and honestly. Whatever it was borrowing was also being purchased and taken out of the market by the Fed.

If we look at the annual deficit using generally accepted accounting principles and account for unfunded liabilities for programs such as Social Security, that deficit increases by about $6 trillion ($6T) per year. On an aggregate basis, including roughly $18T worth of gross federal debt, total federal obligations right now are up around $100T in net present value. That’s what the government needs to cover its obligations. It doesn’t have that and never will. What that means is the federal government does not have a sustainable financial future. That’s the long-term fate of the system here.

TGR: Do you think the dollar is in a bubble right now and is going to crash?

JW: I guess you could call it a bubble. I do think it’s going to crash. With that crash will come a big spike in oil prices, a big spike in gold and silver prices. The Fed is going to have to ease again. A weak economy means more stress on the banking system, and the Fed is always looking to prop up the banking system.

What you have to keep in mind with inflation and deflation is that there are different ways of looking at them. I’m looking at inflation and deflation basically from the standpoint of consumer expenditures, what people see in the way of prices of what they’re purchasing, as opposed to asset inflation or deflation, where we’re looking at financial market values. We can also look at growth in the money supply as a measure of inflation and deflation. Money supply growth actually will start to pick up very sharply as the dollar comes under heavy selling pressure.

There are some major problems with how inflation is viewed. I’m talking now about practical, day-to-day household operations. How much did it cost me to live last year? How much is it going to cost me to live same way this year? However much that number increases—the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living—is the rate of inflation as far as the average person is concerned. That is the rate of inflation to use for targeting income growth or investment return. The government no longer reports it quite that way; the CPI does not measure inflation from the standpoint of maintaining a constant standard of living, or even from the standpoint of reflecting out-of- pocket expenses.

But central banks want to create inflation to prop up their economies and markets. Just blindly creating inflation, however, doesn’t make any sense.

The positive type of inflation is created by strong demand for products, and because of short supplies, prices rise, but production also will be increasing. That’s how the system would normally adjust for it. In this scenario, people are employed, their salaries are increasing, and the economy is growing. The Fed can’t create that kind of inflation, at present. They would like to, but they can’t. The central banks can’t create that type of inflation, certainly not by flooding the system with cheap money that’s not being lent to the consumer. They can only create the type of inflation that is driven by currency weakness.

I’m looking for the dollar to sell off sharply, actually suffer a massive decline, which, in turn, will be reflected in a very strong rise in commodity prices, pushing costs higher, pushing inflation higher, but not strengthening the economy. That’s what the central banks are pushing for, which is nonsensical.

TGR: I recently wrote an article based on comments from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that he gave at the New Orleans Investment Conference. He denied that the Fed was responsible for the housing bubble and explained that bubbles are easy to see but difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint when they will implode. Do you agree? What bubbles do you see out there?

JW: Greenspan is a very interesting character. He has a wonderful vocabulary and was certainly a very influential politician and Fed chairman over the years, but what you just said is largely nonsense. In fact, you can make a strong case for laying the problems that we have right now in the lap of the former Fed chairman.

There are two things at work here. One, starting about 1970, the U.S. embarked on all sorts of trade practices that encouraged sharp growth in the trade deficit and the weakening of the dollar. As the dollar fell and as domestic production increasingly moved offshore, higher-paying production jobs disappeared. If we look at the government’s numbers on the inflation-adjusted income of production workers in the U.S., it is 10–15% below where it was in 1970, and it’s been flat for the last couple of decades. This is where the problems developed with consumer income. We can’t build wealth on producing hamburgers and providing services. We’ve become a service-based economy. That does not build wealth as does, let’s say, manufacturing automobiles or tanks.

When I talk about manufacturing, I’m not talking about having an assembly plant. I’m talking about actually having all the subcontractors that make the parts. That’s disappeared, and that put the American consumer in a circumstance where he or she just could not support the economy. Alan Greenspan recognized that. So what he did was encourage debt expansion, particularly in areas such as home equity loans. And the debt expansion that followed was what provided the bulk of the growth in the U.S. economy for the decade before the panic in 2008.

TGR: The housing bubble.

JW: That was a deliberate policy decision at his end. Had the economy taken a hit much earlier, say back in the time of the 1987 stock market crash, there would have been a period of financial discomfort, but the system would have been cleansed of a lot of abuses that had built up over time, and we could have had positive growth going forward. What we did with the debt expansion was to borrow as much growth as we could from the future and pull it into the earlier periods. There had to be a day of reckoning there.

TGR: Have we had that cleansing? Did 2008 get all of that out of the system?

JW: No. All sorts of things are still at work there because the system was not allowed to collapse as it would have. As much as could be was pushed off into the future. We still don’t have a healthy, sustainable system. The panic of 2008 is still with us; it’s just been pushed a couple of years into the future. We’re coming up on it again.

But let me make one other point here because it’s an important one regarding Mr. Greenspan’s involvement. A lot of the bubble and its detrimental effects were created by all these derivative instruments—mortgage-backed securities and such—that were created as new investment vehicles and sold to the rest of the world. That area was highly touted by Alan Greenspan and by the Federal Reserve under his control as a way that the banks could spread risk. For example, insurance companies could take that risk by buying these derivative instruments. It was a way of distributing risk within the system.

The U.S. central bank can be credited with both encouraging an extraordinary debt bubble and in creating and encouraging the derivative instruments that were used to build debt leverage on top of debt leverage that resulted in the collapse in 2008. The Fed and the federal government never addressed the core of the economy’s problems, never addressed why is it suffering from a liquidity standpoint. What they did was look for how we could borrow economic growth from the future. They came up with some very creative ways of doing it. When you borrow things from the future, usually you have a period of payback. That’s what we’re seeing now. That’s why we can’t get the economy to grow.

TGR: Can you give us a picture of what we can expect in 2015 and how we can prepare for it?

JW: I’ll give you a couple of things to look for in 2015. Fundamental economic activity as measured in areas such as retail sales, industrial production, housing starts, payroll numbers and the broadest measure of unemployment—all those numbers are going to deteriorate. The economy is going to head down as we get into reporting in early 2015. Along with that will come renewed expectations of action by the Federal Reserve to accommodate the financial system, particularly the banking system, and the combination of those factors will, I believe, help to trigger a massive decline in the U.S. dollar. As a result of that, we will see spikes in commodity prices, such as oil. We will see a flight to quality in areas such as the precious metals—gold and silver. We will see the stock market and the bond market generally suffer some real selling pressure.

If interest rates go up, they would start to reflect in inflation numbers. Traditionally, long-term interest rates tend to move with inflation. You might see some upside movement there in the longer-term interest rates, which would depress the bond prices. A return to an accommodative mode for the Fed might rally stocks. But guess what? If we value those stocks in either inflation-adjusted dollars or in Swiss francs, we’ll find that the real value of the domestic stock market will be in contraction.

Even though the Dow could rally to new highs, I would shy away from stocks. I know gold and silver have taken tremendous hits in this last year, but I would suggest holding physical gold and silver as hedges against the loss of purchasing power in the U.S. dollar. If you can put your liquid assets into something like gold, which will preserve the purchasing power of those assets and continue to provide liquidity. Such an investment would likely help you to get through the inflation crisis and whatever crises follow that. When things settle down, you should still be able to function well, having maintained the purchasing power and liquidity of your assets and wealth.

It’s an extraordinary time. I did move my hyperinflation forecast from 2014 into 2015. But the dollar selling can start at any time, with little warning. And there are things that the central bank may do to try and prop up the dollar, but once heavy selling is in place, it’s going to be a downhill run for the dollar.

TGR: Thank you for sharing your insights with us.

Reprinted with permission from Streetwise Reports.

The Delirium Phase

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Virtually every day there is an eruption of lunacy from one central bank or another somewhere in the world. Today it was the Swiss central bank’s turn, and it didn’t pull any punches with regard to Russian billionaires seeking a safe haven from the ruble-rubble in Moscow or investors from all around its borders fleeing Mario Draghi’s impending euro-trashing campaign. The essence of its action was that your money is not welcome in Switzerland; and if you do bring it, we will extract a rental payment from your deposits.

For the time being, that levy amounts to a negative 25 bps on deposits with the Swiss Central bank—-a maneuver that is designed to drive Swiss Libor into the realm of negative interest rates as well. But the more significant implication is that the Swiss are prepared to print endless amounts of their own currency to enforce this utterly unnatural edict on savers and depositors within its borders.

Yes, the once and former pillar of monetary rectitude, the SNB, has gone all-in for money printing. Indeed, it now aims to become the BOJ on steroids—-a monetary Godzilla.

So its current plunge into the netherworld of negative interest rates is nothing new. It’s just the next step in its long-standing campaign to put a floor under the Swiss Franc at 120. That means effectively that it stands ready to print enough francs to purchase any and all euros (and other currencies) on offer without limit.

And print it has. During the last 80 months, the SNB’s balance sheet has soared from 100B CHF to 530B CHF——a 5X explosion that would make even Bernanke envious. Better still, a balance sheet which stood at 20% of Swiss GDP in early 2008—-now towers at a world record 80% of the alpine nation’s total output. Kuroda-san, with a balance sheet at 50% of Japan’s GDP, can only pine for the efficiency of the SNB’s printing presses.

As per the usual Keynesian folly, this is all being done in the name of protecting Switzerland’s fabled export industries.

Let’s see. During the most recent year, Switzerland did export $265 billion of goods, representing an impressive 41% of GDP. But then again, it also imported $250 billion of stuff. Accordingly, for every dollar of watches, ball point pens, (Logitech) mouses, top-end pharmaceuticals and state of the art high speed elevators it exported, it imported 95 cents worth of petroleum, raw and intermediate materials, semi-finished components and expensive German cars.

Accordingly, allowing the market to drive its FX rate below the magic 120 floor (i.e. appreciating the CHF) would not bring on Armageddon —just a reduction in its giant import bill to offset any loss of earnings from its export trades. Instead, however, the mad money printers at the SNB are pursuing an altogether different financial proposition. Namely, they are going massively and incorrigibly “long” the Euro, and, in fact, have already stuffed their bulging one-half trillion dollar balance sheet with vast emissions of the ECB’s unwanted euros.

Now why in the world would any rational investor want to get massively long the squabbling, dissembling monetary crackpots who run the ECB and the even worse gang of self-serving parasites who urge them on from Brussels?  Needless to say, that question doesn’t require much contemplation. The fact is, the SNB’s crazy money printing scheme to throttle CHF appreciation is just plain irrational.

Yet this very irrationality is part and parcel of the central bank race to the currency bottom that is driving the global financial system toward a monumental implosion. Prior to Mario Draghi’s accidental discovery in mid-2012 that by the mere emission of words (“whatever it takes”), he could temporarily park a $1.3 trillion chunk of his balance sheet with the fast money traders of London and New York (i.e. they and the various national banks front-ran the promised QE), the ECB’s balance sheet had expanded at a blistering pace, as well.

In fact, between 2007 and early 2012, the ECB printing presses had been working overtime, tripling their footings in a relative heart-beat of historical time.

Facing this tsunami of euro, the SNB simply responded in kind. After only a modest rise in the CHF exchange rate, it has launched  a veritable monetary rampage. Consequently, it has now committed what amounts to one-year’s output by the Swiss people to the dubious proposition that something will not go bump in the night among the German, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Dutch etc. patriots—–financially illiterate as they may be—who malinger in Frankfurt.

So add Thomas J. Jordan, Chairman of the SNB and PhD economist, to the rogue’s gallery of financial arsonists who are setting up the global financial system for a fiery conflagration. To nearly every last man and woman, these central bankers are now daily espousing pure monetary rubbish, making up theories as they go along to justify an out of control spiral of debt monetization and extreme interest rate repression.

To reprise, there is no “deflation” threat whatsoever in the Eurozone. It’s just made-up chatter among the financial apparatchiks based on the fact that the long-suffering citizens of these countries are finally enjoying a moment of price stability compared to the official 2% inflation “target” . Yet there is not a shred of proof that cutting the purchasing power of savings in half every working generation—–that’s what 2% compounds to over 30 years—-results in more growth and wealth.

Stated differently, the ECB is fixing to unleash a new round of QE based on mere ritual incantation. Buying the junk bonds of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece cannot possibly generate more productivity, enterprise or investment in the euro-zone. Interest rates are already at the zero-bound and households, business and banks are already saturated with “peak debt” and have been so since 2008.

What QE in the Eurozone will do is enable fiscal fraud in the peripheral countries and a further inflation of already lunatic valuations of sovereign debt. It is now an established fact that the Italian government, for example, cannot get out of its own way, and that its public debt is in a death spiral. Yet today the Italian 10-year is trading at a 1.9% yield because the fast money traders are happy to hold it on zero cost repo—- until the ECB takes it off their hands at an enormous windfall gain a few months down the road.

The above pictures are no more anomalous than today’s 35 bps yield on 10-year JGBs——the debt of a government which is hopelessly bankrupt and for which there is virtually not a single bid anywhere outside of the open market desk of the BOJ. Nor does it make any more sense than today’s heated rip on Wall Street based on the word “patient” at a point in the cycle where 71 months of free carry trade money has already inflated financial asset values to the nose-bleed section of history.

In short, the central banks of the world are embroiled in a group-think mania so extreme and irrational that it puts one in mind of the spasm of witchcraft trials that erupted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony nearly four centuries ago.  As a practical matter, this mania amounts to a race to the currency bottom and the final extinguishment of the price discovery mechanism in every financial market on the planet.

Flying blind, the financial markets are thus bubbling–in the delirium phase—-like never before. That is, until they don’t.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

Shake Your Bottle of Champagne

Sat, 12/20/2014 - 02:01

Most people hoping to celebrate with glass or two of champagne this festive season will probably try to avoid agitating their bottle of bubbly before serving.

Shaking bottles of champagne has become widely associated with flying corks and the kind of messy spraying of liquid normally restricted to the winners podium in Formula One.

But new research now suggests that actually giving your bottle of champagne a good shake before serving may help to reduce the risk of unwanted explosions upon opening.

French scientists have found that vigorously shaking a bottle of champagne can actually decrease the pressure that builds up inside the bottle.

The key, it seems, is waiting for the right amount of time before opening the bottle.

They found that although the pressure initially drops when champagne is shaken, huge numbers of ‘super critical’ bubbles form in the neck of the bottle.

This is what leads to the characteristic effervescence that occurs when a bottle is opened.

However, after around 40 seconds the number of bubbles in this state begins to decrease until they have completely disappeared 220 seconds – just over three and half minutes – after shaking.

At the same time, the pressure inside the bottle starts to increase again but plateaus around 0.1 bar less than the original value.

Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, who led the research at the University of Reims in Champagne-Ardenne, said: ‘A popular belief is that the pressure increases when a bottle is shaken and that is the reason for gushing of the liquid when the bottle is opened.

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I’m Not Buying It

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01
First comes production. Then comes income. Spending and savings follow. All the rest is debt…….unless you believe in a magic Keynesian ether called “aggregate demand” and a blatant stab-in-the-dark called “potential GDP”.I don’t.  So let’s start with a pretty startling contrast between two bellwether data trends since the pre-crisis peak in late 2007—debt versus production.Not surprisingly, we have racked up a lot more debt—notwithstanding all the phony palaver about “deleveraging”.  In fact, total credit market debt outstanding—-government, business, household and finance—-is up by 16% since the last peak—from $50 trillion to $58 trillion. And that 2007 peak, in turn, was up 80% from the previous peak (2001); and that was up 103% from the business cycle peak before that (July 1990).Yes, the debt mountain just keeps on growing. It now stands 4.2X higher than the $13.6 trillion outstanding just 24 years ago.

As a proxy for “production” I am using non-durable manufactures rather than the overall industrial production index for three good reasons. The former excludes utility output, which incorporates a lot of weather related noise, and also excludes oil and gas production, which, as we are now learning, embodies a whole lot of debt. Besides, if the US economy has any hope of growing, non-durables should not still be migrating off-shore at this late stage of the global cycle; nor are they subject to fashion or lumpy replacement cycles like cars and refrigerators.

Moreover, the virtue of the industrial production index is that it is a measure of physical output, not sales dollars which reflect inflation. And unlike indicators that are deflated into “real” terms, it is not distorted by Washington’s fudging and finagling of the prices indices.

So how are we doing on production of things the American economy consumes day-in-and-day out?  Well, at the most recent data point for November, production had soared…….all the way back to where it was in January 2003!

That’s right. Domestic output of food and beverages, paper, chemicals, plastics, textiles and finished energy products (e.g. gasoline), to name just a few, has experienced no net growth for nearly 11 years.

Now that’s a lot more informative than the Keynesian GDP accounts, which presume that government output is actually worth something and that do not know the difference between current period “spending” derived from production and “spending” funded by hocking future income, that is, by borrowing.

Stated differently, the current capitalism suffocating regime of Keynesian central banking and extreme financial repression has created systematic bias and noise in the so-called “in-coming data”. These distortions are the result of mis-allocations and malinvestments reflecting artificial, sub-economic costs of debt and capital. The resulting bubbles and booms, in turn, cause highly aggregated measures of economic activity to be flattered by the unsustainable production, spending and investment trends underneath at the sector level.

Thus, during the peak-to-peak cycle between 2000 and 2007, industrial production was reported to have generated a modest 1.5% per year growth rate. But that was almost entirely accounted for by construction materials and defense equipment. Production of non-durable manufactured goods during that period, by contrast, expanded at just a 0.2% annual rate.

But, alas, defense production inherently destroyers economic wealth, whether it provides for the national security or not. And the housing and commercial real estate construction boom did not add to permanent output growth and wealth at all; it amounted to a bubble round trip that has gone nowhere on a net basis during the last 11 years. And the graph below which documents this truth is in nominal terms, meaning that real private construction spending for residential housing, offices, retail and other commercial facilities actually declined by 10-15% after inflation during that period.

Stated differently, bubble finance does not create growth; it funds phony  booms that end up as destructive round trips.

Yet, here we are again. The graph below reflects production of oil and gas, coal and other mining products including iron ore and copper. It has soared by 35% since the 2007 peak, and accounts for virtually all of the gain in industrial production ex-utilities over the last seven years.

Yet the plain fact is, the above explosion of mainly oil and gas production did not reflect the natural economics of the free market, and certainly no technological innovation called “fracking”. The later wasn’t a miracle; it was just a standard oilfield production technique that was long known to the industry, if not to CNBC. It became artificially economic during recent years only due to the massive and continuous distortions of both commodity prices and capital costs caused by the world’s central bankers.

Indeed, there are two charts which capture the central bank complicity in the latest bubble distortion of the “in-coming” data. These are the charts of plunging junk bond yields and soaring oil prices which materialized after the world’s central banks went all-in powering-up their printing presses after September 2008.

At the time of the 2008 financial crisis, what remained of honest price discovery in the capital markets caused a hissy fit among traders and money managers—–who had been stuck when the music stopped with hundreds of billions in dodgy junk bonds issued during the prior bubble.  Accordingly, yields soared to upwards of 20% when massively overleveraged LBOs and other financial engineering gambits went bust.

Needless to say, that urgently needed cleansing was stopped cold in its tracks when Bernanke tripled the Fed’s balance sheets in less than a year after the Lehman crisis, and then officially adopted ZIRP and the greatest spree of debt monetization in recorded history. The resulting desperate scramble for yield among professional money managers and home gamers alike caused nominal interest rates on junk to be driven to levels once reserved for risk free treasuries.

But it wasn’t cheap debt alone that fueled the energy bubble. The 10- year graph of the crude oil marker price (WTI) shown below is an even greater artifact of central bank financial repression. The unprecedented global credit expansion since 2005, and especially after the financial crisis in China and the EM, caused several decades worth of normal GDP expansion to be telescoped into an artificially brief period of time.

As a result, demand for industrial commodities temporarily ran far ahead of new capacity—–even as the latter was being fueled by low-cost capital. That’s why iron ore prices, for example, soared from $20 per ton prior to the China boom to $200 per ton at the peak in 2012, and have now plummeted all the way back to $60 ton. This implosion is still not over. Owing to this extended period of artificial sky-high prices for  the iron ore commodity, the massive investment boom they triggered in mining capacity and transportation infrastructure is still coming on-stream, adding even more increments to supply even as prices plunge.

Call it “operation twist” compliments of central bank bubble finance. It embodies a temporally twisted imbalance of supply and demand that inherently results from false prices in the capital and commodity markets.

Yet this condition is neither sustainable nor stable. Indeed, now we see the back side of this central bank bubble cycle as capacity races past sustainable consumption requirements, causing prices, profits margins and new investment to plunge in a violent correction. Iron ore is just the canary in the mine shaft. The same thing is true of nickel, copper, aluminum and most especially hydrocarbon liquids.

So the oil price chart below does not represent a momentary dip. This time the central banks are out of dry powder because they are at the zero  bound or close in the greater part of world GDP, while the lagged impact of the bloated industrial investment boom continues to pour into the supply-side.

Needless to say, the emerging worldwide liquidation of the energy bubble will hit the highest cost provinces first—-which is to say, the shale patch and oils sands of North America. When drilling rigs start being demobilized by the hundreds rather than just by the score—-and its only a matter of weeks and months—the present the US mining production index shown above will bend back toward the flat-line just as housing and real estate construction did last time around.

Stated differently, there is no “escape velocity” in the forward outlook—– notwithstanding the delusional expectations unloaded again this afternoon by Yellen and her merry band of money printers. Much of what meager production and job growth there has been in recent years will soon be taken back as the energy bubble comes back to earth.

Needless to say, the Keynesian pettifoggers at the Fed and the other central banks around the world see none of this coming. So once again in its post-meeting statement, the Fed majority could not bring itself to let go of ZIRP, choosing to assert that it will remain “patient” as far as the eye can see—– while presiding over a meaningless policy change which might be called  N-ZIRP. That is, “nearly” zero cost money, and just as destructive.

Needless to say, the promise of almost free money for the carry trades is all the Wall Street speculators needed to hear. Within a minute or two, the robo-traders and gamblers managed to put a half-trillion dollars of fairy-tale money back on the screen.

But here’s the thing. The meaning of the oil crash is that the central bank fueled bubble of this century is over and done. We are now entering an age of global cooling, drastic industrial deflation,  serial bubble blow-ups and faltering corporate profits.

So if some headline grabbing algos want to hyper-ventilate because the clueless money printers in the Eccles Building have now emitted the word “patient”, so be it. But why would you pay 20X for the S&P 500’s bubble bloated profits which have already peaked, and which will be subject to fierce global headwinds as far as the eye can see?

Indeed, the Fed’s lunatic assurance this afternoon that the Wall Street casino will have had free money for 76 months running, and that it will remain quasi-free long thereafter only means that the current financial bubbles in virtually every class of “risk assets” will become even more artificial, unstable and incendiary.

In any event, it ought to be evident by now that “potential GDP” is a fairy tale and that N-ZIRP has no more chance of generating that magic ether called “aggregate demand” than did ZIRP. We are at “peak debt” in nearly every precinct of the world economy, and that means that central banks cannot close this wholly theoretical and imaginary gap; they can only blow dangerous bubbles trying.

What counts is production of real goods and services based on honest prices and the efficient utilization of labor and capital. And it goes without saying that cannot happen under the current  central banking regime of false prices and drastic misallocation of economic resources.

The current illusion of recovery is a result mainly of windfalls to the financial asset owning upper strata, the explosion of transfer payments funded with borrowed public money and another supply-side bubble—-this time in the energy sector and its suppliers and infrastructure.

But that’s not real growth or wealth. Indeed, the desultory truth about the latter is better revealed by the fact that the American economy is not even maintaining its 20th century level of breadwinner jobs. And the real state of affairs is further testified to by the lamentable trend in real median household incomes. That figure—-not distorted by the bubble at the top of the income ladder——is still lower than it was two decades ago.

So much for the Keynesian rap. Yet that’s about all that underpins the latest Wall Street rip.

Breadwinner Economy – Click to enlarge

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

Open the Door and Get Out of the Way

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

President Obama today took a bold and surprising step toward ending the futile 50 year US embargo of Cuba. The president announced he would begin normalizing relations, including upgrading the diplomatic mission in Havana to embassy status. The president also said he was taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information between the US and Cuba.

President Obama said that the half-century US embargo of Cuba was an “outdated approach” that “failed to advance our interests.” He rightly noted that decades of US sanctions have “had little effect.”

He noted, as I have often pointed out, that the US has had economic and diplomatic relations with communist China for 35 years and has even established productive relations with a Vietnam, where the US fought a brutal war just over four decades ago.

I was delighted to see the president make such a dramatic foreign policy move that will result in more freedom and liberty for Americans. I have always believed that the US embargo of Cuba was primarily an anti-American policy, as the US government has no business telling Americans with whom they can trade or visit. Of course the average Cuban suffered greatly under the inhuman US embargo of their country, and I hope this policy shift may result in better lives for them as well.

What is particularly encouraging about this move is that the 50 year freeze in US/Cuba relations was thawed by a simple telephone call between President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. I have opposed the isolationist policies of sanctions and embargoes and have encouraged US presidents to simply use diplomacy – even a simple telephone call – to clear up differences. There is a lesson in this for similarly tense US relations with Iran, Russia, Syria, and others.

I am optimistic about this policy shift by the US government but I am also very cautious.

Permitting travel to and trade with Cuba is a step in the right direction, but if the US government uses this opening to increase its meddling in internal Cuban affairs it will be one step forward and one step back. We have recently read of yet another hare-brained scheme by the US Agency for International Development to foment regime change in Cuba, this time by co-opting Cuban musicians. Before that, the US was funneling money to NGOs to create a phony Twitter program that was supposed to overthrow the Cuban government. Improving relations should not be seen as a Trojan horse to infiltrate more regime change NGOs into Cuba.

Some neoconservatives are applauding this policy shift for that very reason. Max Boot, a well-known neocon war advocate, praised Obama’s Cuba shift in Commentary Magazine today. His reasoning was very different than ours, however. Without shame or embarrassment, Boot thought the opening would provide excellent cover for increased US subversion activities inside Cuba – under the cover of “human rights” advocacy. He wrote:

“The restoration of diplomatic relations will, in any case, deliver some benefits to the U.S. by allowing us to beef up the staff of the American interests section in Havana, thus increasing our ability to (at least in theory) subvert the regime through the promotion of human rights.”

President Obama also seemed to suggest that the US would continue meddling in internal Cuban affairs, stating that the United States “will continue to support the civil society” in Cuba. That likely means a deal to allow US NGOs in to Cuba to work toward regime change.

I have a better suggestion if the US truly wants Cuba to become a free and prosperous country: the US government should completely remove all restrictions on US citizens and then step aside. American tourists, businessmen, students, and scholars can do far more to promote real American values than bureaucrats, government-funded NGOs, and US-funded propaganda broadcasts.

A better future for the United States and Cuba simply requires our government opening the door and getting the heck out of the way!

Time To Lay Off the Stolen Donuts

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

Their job is to protect and serve – but it seems some police officers interpret this as an excuse to enjoy too many extra servings at the lunch table.

A study has revealed US cops have the highest rates of obesity among any profession in the country.

Along with firefighters and security guards, nearly 41 per cent of boys in blue are obese, according to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Social workers, clergy and counsellors come in second, with 35.6 per cent having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – the standard definition of obese used by the study.

Home health aides and massage therapists are third at 34.8 per cent.

Surprisingly sedentary professions such as truckers, bus drivers and crane operators, come in only fifth in a group with garbage collectors on nearly 32.8 per cent.

The slimmest workers are economists, scientists and psychologists, of whom 14.2 per cent are classed as obese.

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14 Sights To Catch

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

Here are 14 highlights of a beguiling Caribbean nation about to go through a fundamental shift

Wander Old Havana

There are many, many sides to the Cuban capital but it’s the enticing Old Havana (La Habana Vieja), a Unesco World Heritage site, which has the city’s prettiest buildings. And it’s here you should spend most of your time wandering.

For an in-depth itinerary to the city, read our guide to spending a weekend in… Havana

Take a stroll along Havana harbour

The Malecón – the miles-long promenade on the Havana waterfront – was built to protect the city from the water, and is often used by strolling locals. From here, you can see the 17th-century Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro. This castle’s neighbour, the huge 18th-century Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña is the largest fort in Latin America

Drink a mojito in the place where it was invented

La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the best known places to drink in the entire country, partly due its celebrated clientele (past drinkers have included Salvador Allende, Pablo Neruda and Ernest Hemingway), and partly due to its most famous invention, the mojito. James Bond enjoyed one in 2002’s Die Another Day.

Smoke a Cuban cigar

The legendary Cuban cigar looks set to become a lot more commonplace around the world as the geopolitical thaw takes hold. Even non-smokers may be tempted to take a puff in-situ, before the export run begins.

Hotel Conde de Villanueva (Mercaderes, corner of Lamparilla; hotelcondevillanueva.com), with its renowned cigar shop La Casa del Habano (official purveyor of Cuban smokes), is a five-minute walk from the cruise terminal. In February Havana hosts an annual cigar festival (habanos.com).

The beautiful tobacco heartlands of Viñales

Now see where the tobacco is grown. Rent a car and head west down to Viñales valley, Cuba’s most beautiful corner, where striking limestone outcrops rise out of tobacco-growing fields – recommended as a winter-sun destination.

The crumbling, colonial town of Trinidad

This is how Telegraph Travel writer, Ian Henderson, describes the town on the south of the island:

“The town is a UNESCO heritage site for good reason, attracting coachloads of tourists; old houses filled with the finest crystal and porcelain bought with vast profits from sugar and slaves, crumbling frescos and elaborate facades lining narrow cobbled streets.”

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Do Illegal Immigrants Steal Americans’ Jobs?

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

This is another cliché of protectionism. I keep adding more, here:

http://www.garynorth.com/public/department162.cfmThe logic of economics applies across borders: county, state, and national. Deny this, and you deny economics.

Conservatives deny economics. They promote tariffs and import quotas across national borders, but not state and county borders.

Ludwig von Mises had a word for this: polylogism. This means multiple systems of logic.

Conservatives usually oppose trade union restrictions on hiring. They understand vaguely that the politicians have gotten into the act, and they have created legal restrictions on employers who wish to hire workers who are not members of a trade union. A few conservatives may even understand that restrictions on hiring non-union members discriminates against non-union members. The law forces non-union members to seek employment from non-unionized businesses, which pay lower wages.

A very few conservatives may recognize that this form of labor discrimination is a subsidy to non-unionized businesses, which can hire non-union workers at below-market (government-protected market) wages. Usually, only libertarians are willing and able to follow the logic of unionized labor this far.

What we find, over and over, is that conservatives who reject the idea of union discrimination in the labor markets favor tariffs, import quotas, and laws against employing people who are not American citizens or green-card holders. In other words, as soon as they see an invisible line where a customs gate is located, they adopt exactly the same economic logic that is used by union members to justify discrimination that subsidizes them. This is polylogism.

It works both ways. There are liberals who favor free trade, but they also favor government-protected labor unions. The most famous liberal in this regard was Lyndon Johnson. But Teddy Kennedy was right up there. Jack Kennedy was not far behind. You may have heard of the Kennedy Round of GATT negotiations. GATT was the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Wikipedia reports:

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was a multilateral agreement regulating international trade. According to its preamble, its purpose was the “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis.” It was negotiated during the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment and was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was signed in 1947, took effect in 1948, and lasted until 1994; it was replaced by the World Trade Organization in 1995.

What was the Kennedy Round? Another Wikipedia entry says:

The Kennedy Round was the sixth session of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) trade negotiations held between 1964 and 1967 in Geneva, Switzerland. Congressional passage of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act in 1962 authorized the White House to conduct mutual tariff negotiations, ultimately leading to the Kennedy Round. Participation greatly increased over previous rounds. Sixty-six nations, representing 80% of world trade, attended the official opening on May 4, 1964, at the Palais des Nations. Despite several disagreements over details, the director general announced the round’s success on May 15, 1967, and the final agreement was signed on June 30, 1967–the very last day permitted under the Trade Expansion Act. The round was named after U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated six months before the opening negotiations.

IMMIGRANT WORKERS AND LABOR UNIONS

Teddy Kennedy was the ramrod in the Senate for the Immigration Act of 1965. Lyndon Johnson signed it in 1968. This pried open borders, and low-wage workers by the millions streamed through. These workers were a threat to the labor union movement. Cesar Chavez organized a labor union in 1962 to keep non-union workers from lowering wages and working conditions in the fields. His first major strike was in 1965. The following Wikipedia article mentions the split in the Kennedy family.

When Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike on September 8, 1965, to protest for higher wages, Chavez eagerly supported them. Six months later, Chavez and the NFWA led a strike of California grape pickers on the historic farmworkers march from Delano to the California state capitol in Sacramento for similar goals. The UFW encouraged all Americans to boycott table grapes as a show of support. The strike lasted five years and attracted national attention. In March 1966, the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare’s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor held hearings in California on the strike. During the hearings, subcommittee member Robert F. Kennedy expressed his support for the striking workers.

The signing into law of the new immigration law undermined the plans of Chavez.

Chavez was beloved by liberals in the late 1960’s. But it was Teddy Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who engineered the massive influx of competing immigrant workers in the fields. Chavez’s United Farm Workers, whenever successful, forced non-union workers into the fields of non-unionized growers at lower wages. Liberal Democrats never mention this. They are polylogists, and the two related facts bother them.

Conservatives are happy to see legal union-busting. But they are unhappy to see free trade and immigrant workers extend their influence. They do not want to admit that free trade and immigrant workers were twin battering rams that smashed the union movement in the United States. They are polylogists. The two related facts bother them. They prefer to ignore the relationship

STEALING AMERICANS’ JOBS

I received a brief note from a man named Wayne.

I used to hire wetbacks in Texas and Florida when I needed workers on my homes I was remodeling until my son who was in roofing had no jobs. Wetbacks from Texas came to Florida and stole all the roofing jobs so my son had no work. If you can pay $5 an hour for a Mojado why pay $10 for an American to do the same work. The fact they are illegal and pay no taxes or SS did not bother me until my son was starving with a kid. Now I will not allow anyone to bring a worker on my property unless he is an American. As a semi-libertarian I had to say no to cheaper costs to support my fellow Americans who need jobs. If the factories were brought back to the US then less people would be on welfare and food stamps. The CEOs don’t care about us but I do now.

At this assessment of immigrant workers who somehow steal American jobs is identical to the outlook of labor union members, who argue exactly the same thing with respect to any worker who is not a labor union member. Such workers are dismissed as “scabs.” Such workers are regarded as union-busting workers. Such workers are regarded as scum. In the past, union violence has been used to stop such workers.

In what way does being born in America entitle anyone to a job? In what way does joining a labor union entitle anyone to a job? In what way is a job offer from an employer anything except a temporary arrangement, which may be governed by a contract? Union members believe that they can strike a business, and legally keep out nonunion members from replacing them. This means that union members believe that they have a property right in their jobs. Under some conditions, the National Labor Relations Board agrees with them. Conservatives have always understood that the claim is preposterous, and yet conservatives make exactly the same claim with respect to jobs offered by any employer inside the geographical boundaries of the United States of America. The invisible line of a national border is believed by conservatives to confer upon all Americans exactly the same kind of protected legal status that union members claim they possess, merely because they got here first. Union members argue that they got the job at first, and now nobody who is not a union member will be allowed to offer to work for less money.

The economic logic of the two positions is identical. But conservatives don’t like to admit this, because they are polylogists. They have special interests. They want their jobs protected by the federal government. They want the jobs of their children protected by the federal government. In exactly the same way that labor union members (1) want their jobs protected by the federal government, and (2) want their children to become union members, so that their jobs will be protected, so do conservatives want a property right established to jobs in general inside the national borders of the United States.

If someone has been given a $20 gold piece by his grandfather, he has a property right in that $20 gold piece. The presumption is that his grandfather did not steal it. The property right is a right of ownership that can be legally transferred.

There are some rights that are not legally transferable. Men do not have the legal right to sell their wives into prostitution, or give their lives away. In Great Britain for over 200 years, there were public auctions held where men auctioned off their wives. These were not legal, but they were customary, and the civil government looked the other way. Similarly, you are not allowed to sell your church membership to the highest bidder. You are not allowed to sell your right to vote to the highest bidder. These are not commercial rights of property.

The legal right to property is conceptually, morally, and judicially different from the legal right to vote in a church election or an election of civil government. The idea of property is that it can legally be exchanged. That’s what a property right is. Men do not have legal property rights to their wives.

Therefore, the argument against immigrants’ right to vote is different from the argument against immigrants’ right to bid for employment. They are conceptually different, because the right to vote is a legal right that is inherent to citizenship, and citizenship cannot be sold. It is therefore not an aspect of the economics of property rights.

There is no more right to a job by union members than there is a right to a job by Americans. The idea of a job is that it is part of a property right, and either party has the legal right to stop cooperating with the other party. Either party to the transaction has a right to bargain with others who are willing to offer the same services. The very idea of property rights demands the right to make a bid.

Wayne and millions of conservatives just like him, who believe that simply being American entitles a worker to an exclusive right to bid on a job, do not understand the nature of property rights. They have no appreciation of the meaning of a property right, namely, the legal right to make a bid. It is the right to sell something. It is the right to buy something. It is the right to give away something. It is the right to have a bonfire, and burn the thing in full public view.

Conservatives do not believe this. They do not believe that labor union members have a legitimate right to the jobs which they presently hold, but they do believe that Americans in general, or green card holders in general, have a legal right to send in a government agent and forbid an employer to bargain with a worker who is neither an American citizen or a green card holder.

The conservative may shout: “It’s the law!” Yes, it is, and so is the Wagner Act, which set up the National Labor Relations Board, which has granted to labor union members exactly the same kind of right of exclusive bargaining, and exactly the same right of the government to send out an agent to forbid an employer to negotiate with a nonunion member.

CONCLUSION

No one has a right to a job apart from a legal contract between him and his employer. That is because the employer has a property right, namely, the right to entertain a competing bid. To deny that an employer has this right is to undermine the very concept of property rights. But conservatives who understand this principle with respect to trade union membership categorically reject this principle when it is applied to immigrant workers. The conservative says that these job-applicants must be government-licensed workers. The union member says exactly the same thing regarding government-licensed union members. the conservative rejects this line of reasoning when it is presented by a labor union economist, but he accepts it when it is provided by an economist who argues that the principle of nationalism overrides economic logic and property rights.

People hold their economic positions very often in terms of personal self-interest. A labor union member holds his view regarding his intrinsic right to a job which he already possesses, and a conservative nationalist holds his view regarding the intrinsic right to a job that is possessed by American workers in general. In both cases, the argument is motivated by economic self-interest. People hold competing views of economic reasoning in terms of this question: “Which possession better butters my bread?”

To maximize the buttering of bread over the long run, enforce property rights. A crucial property right is the right to make an offer. It is the right to bid. There is no right to work. There is no right to a job. There is only a right to make a bid, which is matched on the other side of the transaction by the right to accept the bid or reject it.

Illegal immigrants cannot steal jobs from Americans if Americans do not have a legal right to those jobs. If the right is simply granted by Congress, and not granted in terms of moral principle, then the law is an unjust law. The law is simply a grant of privilege to a special-interest group. It is not a good economic policy to set forth your economic principles when the truth or falsity of those principles is based on special-interest legislation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *This is economic logic. What are the economic facts of illegal immigrants?

There are at least 10 million of them. There may be 20 million.

It costs around $23,000 to deport one illegal alien. These are the easy cases. The courts could not handle 10 million deportations, let alone 20 million. The cost of deporting 10 million of them would be $230 billion. But it would actually be a lot more. The law of decreasing returns would raise the price far above $23,000 per deportation.

How would conservatives who say they want to balance the federal budget pay for this while balancing the budget?

All talk about excluding all illegal aliens from the labor force is fantasy talk. It cannot be done. Period.

Conservatives abandon economic logic and also the doctrine of property rights in order to defend a policy that no one in Washington will ever enforce, and which conservatives are not willing to tax themselves in order to pay for.

It is all for show. “Well, we have a right to exclude offers.” Really? Let’s see you enforce this so-called right to exclude.

If a law cannot be enforced, it isn’t a law. It’s a symbol. It’s a token.

The sons and daughter of the illegals who are born here are citizens. You cannot close the door on them. It is just a matter of time. They will vote.

It’s over. The free market won. The right to bid and accept bids is here to stay.

They are here to stay.

In short, give it a rest.

Reprinted with permission from Gary North.

A Manifesto for the Masses

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

Massive  movements often are accompanied by the written word in the form of very short books that can be easily grasped by the masses. Thomas Paine’s short book, Common Sense, played an important role in fueling the fire of the revolutionaries during the American Revolution.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and The Little Red Book by Mao helped fuel mass movements of a different nature. To be sure, these last two books helped launch horrific movements, but it is the case that the books were there to support the movements.

Libertarianism now has this type of short book that can support a movement. A book that could fuel a trend toward the good, an anracho-capitalist movement, a private society movement, if you will. It is a small book, only 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall, and only 74 pages. But it is brilliant.

I am referring to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s new book From Aristocracy to Monarchy to Democracy: A Tale of Moral and Economic Folly and Decay.

The book is a powerful discussion of the nature of the development of government. Hoppe examines, in a manner that any clear thinking person can understand, how wise men settlers of disputes, evolved into feudal lordships, then constitutional monarchies and finally into democratic governments. He examines each step of this evolution and why things moved from good to bad to worse.

He points his finger at democratic governments and explains why they are the worst of the lot.

He writes:

What then has been the morale of my story? I have tried to make the current world intelligible, to reconstruct it as a predictable result of a series of successive and cumulative moral and economic errors.

He magnificently succeeded in this task. But he is not through, after leading us through an understanding of the “cumulative moral and economic errors,” he writes of the path to reverse these errors:

As indicated, the democratic system is on the verge of economic collapse…In this situation, not quite unlike the situation after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, countless decentralizing, separatist and secessionist movements and tendencies have gained momentum, and I would advocate that as much ideological support be given to these movements.

For even if as a result of such decentralization tendencies new State governments should spring up, whether democratic or otherwise, territorially smaller States and increased political competition will tend to encourage moderation as regards a State’s exploitation of productive people. Just look at Liechtenstein, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong and even Switzerland…

This is a great book. Buy it for yourself and get to know it cold..and buy it for your friends. This book can, without question, launch a great understanding of the true nature of government and what needs to be done to make things better.

Reprinted with permission from Target Liberty.

Sneaky Toxins

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

It seems that everywhere you look today you can find a source for toxins—food, clothes, children’s toys…you get the idea. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, toxins can sneak past you, infiltrating your home and body. It never hurts to arm yourself with a healthy dose of awareness and prevention, two components that can protect you and your family from unseen attackers.

12 Ways Toxins Can Sneak into Your Life

Toxins really are everywhere, and it is almost impossible to avoid them 100% of the time. Still, you can limit your exposure to harmful endocrine disruptors, not to mention a plethora of other compounds. Here are just 12 sneaky ways that toxins are infiltrating your life and what you can do about it.

1. In Your Bottled Water

In a collaborative study from Nanjing University in China and the University of Florida, scientists studied plastic water bottles exposed to varying temperatures over four weeks. In the bottles left at higher temperatures, like the temperature in a hot car, levels of BPA and antimony increased. [1] Most of us have heard of BPA, a toxin that mimics estrogen and is thought to disrupt hormone balance, but antimony is also bad news, playing a role in lung, heart, and gastrointestinal diseases. [2

2. In Your Pots and Pans

Sure, Teflon is an amazingly convenient invention that saves time; however, there’s recent evidence suggesting exposure to C8, a chemical involved in the production of Teflon, could be responsible for medical issues like kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and ulcerative colitis. [3]

(Note:  Here’s Lew Rockwell’s recommendation for products he uses.)

3. In Your Furniture

There’s probably more than you think lurking beneath the surface of your couch. Furniture that has been treated with flame retardants seems like a smart choice, but flame-retardant chemicals might be taking a toll on your health. These toxins have links to cancer, issues with fertility, and disruptions in sexual and neurological function.

4. In Your Clothes

According to many toxicology reports, not even clothes are safe against toxin levels. In an October 2014 report from the Swedish Chemicals Agency, 2,400 substances were identified in clothing, with about 10% of that number posing a threat to humans and the environment. [5]

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10 Great Movies for Christmas

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:01

The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

‘Ernst Lubitsch’s bittersweet classic makes the Christmas shopping season the occasion for a forlorn epistolary romance. Little does Margaret Sullavan know it’s her least favourite store-clerk, Jimmy Stewart, whose words she’s falling for.’

Meet Me In St Louis (1944)

‘Vincent Minnelli’s sumptuous musical about family love and romantic awakening gives us an entire year in the life of the Smith family but it is perfect Christmas viewing not only because it contains the melancholy beauty of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, sung by Judy Garland, but also because the values it displays amidst the comedy and the drama are ones you will want to cherish. And it snows in a satisfyingly deep manner.’

It’s A Wondeful Life (1946)

‘What Christmas needs is schmaltz and snow and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life has both by the hamper full. James Stewart is George Bailey, a businessman on the brink of suicide until a fat, elderly angel called Clarence intervenes to show him what a difference he’s made to his neighbours’ lives. Weeping guaranteed.’

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

‘America’s favourite Christmas movie, with English actor Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, a Santa Claus at Macy’s New York department store who may just be the real thing. It’s disarming and delightful, though hard-headed too, with extensive product placement for Macy’s and rivals Gimbel’s.’

Scrooge (1951)

‘No performer, past, present or yet to come, can possibly hope to match Alastair Sim’s glorious turn as Ebenezer Scrooge in this deliciously shiversome adaptation of Charles Dickens’ festive ghost story.’

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