Posts Tagged ‘america’

The Economist has an excellent piece up about the disturbing trends in the economy:

This compulsory return to thrift will be deeply painful; consumer spending and housing are almost three-quarters of GDP. Of the 1.2 million, or 0.9%, decline in jobs since December, about 700,000 are directly related to consumers: retail trade, transportation manufacturing and home-building. The rise in unemployment, from 4.4% in 2006 to 6.5% in October, is nearing that of 2001-03 and is not over. On November 19th Federal Reserve policymakers disclosed they expect the recession to last until mid-2009. Their inflation worries have evaporated; indeed, consumer prices plunged a record 1% in October from September, and by 0.1% excluding fuel and food, the first such decline since 1982. The Fed’s vice-chairman, Donald Kohn, said outright deflation “is a risk out there but it’s still small”.

I think this article, in pointing out the trends in the American economy (such as decreased savings by baby boomers as well as the sharp rise in consumer saving in the wake of the sky falling), also reveals the bigger problem in the American psyche: we risk and spend too much when things are going well, and immediately shock the system by saving as soon as things start to go bad, which makes things get worse. It can be argued that the extra saving is a good thing (and I agree that it’s what we should be doing in the first place!), but, simply put, by not spending as much money in an ailing economy, the economy is obviously going to do worse. Of course, it’s likely that what people are spending now is truly what they can afford, rather than their fake plastic money that created the piles of debt that led to this catastrophe in the first place.

What I fear the most is that this country (and the rest of the world) will weather this recession by being savvy spenders and savers, and immediately return to our old ways of boundless spending and unwise use of credit cards, again buying goods we can’t afford with our plastic friends. That would be sure to land us in another recession in the future, as the debt would, again, crash our system.

But, if we could only maintain our unprecedented level of spending with low savings coupled with unlimited amounts of credit, if we were to remain savvy spenders, taking less risks and saving more, would that mean a permanent shrinkage of the economy (proportional, of course, to the amount of workers in the system; as time goes on, the economy will “grow”, due to job creation, but the net spending per person will go down)?

Maybe this period of economic success was nothing but a hallucination, and we are now getting off the hallucinogens and waking up to reality. And that reality may be a smaller economy.


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Well, it’s official: according the MSNBC, all US forces will be out of Iraq by the time 2012 rolls around.

(from the BBC)

Under the deal, US troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns next year, leaving Iraq by the end of 2011.

The decision will need to go before Iraq’s parliament for a final vote.

America’s National Security Council welcomed the cabinet’s vote, saying it was “an important and positive step” towards stability and security.

The pact is necessary to determine the role of US military forces in Iraq after their UN mandate expires on 31 December 2008.

In October, Iraq sent a new round of suggested changes to the draft Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), to which the US responded.

Washington had previously said the pact was “final” and could not be amended.

The UK government, which has 4,100 troops in Iraq, is waiting for the US-Iraqi pact to be approved so they can use it as a template for their own bi-lateral deal.

Well, we had to take out our troops sometime, and 2012 seems reasonable, though I’d prefer that we pulled them out earlier. Still, I think this gives the Iraqi government more than enough time to clean up its act and prepare its troops to actually defend against terrorism.

At the same time, I’m not so sure I like this, considering that we have been using Iraq as a launching pad for attacks against Syria, in addition to using our bases in Afghanistan to conduct strikes in Pakistan. Keeping troops in Iraq for any longer amount of time means that it’s possible that we can conduct cross-border strikes into Syria again, and possibly Iran.

There’s no question that we need our troops out, but it looks like Iraq is an eternal damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t situation. The truth is, we really don’t know what kind of hell we’ll unleash once all of our troops leave the country, and we won’t know for sure until January 1st, 2012.


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In the wake of the financial crisis that’s engulfing the world right now, there have been many on the Left that proclaim that capitalism will cease to exist, since it alone (in their deluded eyes) has caused this collapse.

I’m astonished at their ignorance and lack of gratitude for the monetary system that has, singlehandedly (well, along with the establishment of the United States), lifted much of the world out of poverty and into a culture of freedom, free from the monarchs and Communists.

These Leftists spout useless drivel about how it’s capitalism’s fault that people are losing their jobs, that it’s capitalism’s fault that the banks did ill-advised lending, that it’s capitalism’s fault that people are in poverty in undeveloped countries, that it’s capitalism’s fault for somehow putting a gun to the head of our legislators and “making” them institute a $700 billion bailout for these banks. It’s not capitalism’s fault, and I can guarantee that those people who lost jobs wouldn’t have had them in the first place without it, that the banks would commit more fraud without it, and there would be more government intervention without it.

And then they say that capitalism is not moral; that it doesn’t give people living wages and it makes them poor. Except, naturally, they forget that capitalism has lifted hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and into work, that it allowed people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to make millions with a vision for the future and the drive needed to make that dream a reality. Capitalism has let people make money with their work and their skill. It allows the individual to pursue the course that they want (economically), and they are rewarded for their competence – nothing more, nothing less.

It is these hypocrites that do not know what they’re saying when they say, “Capitalism must go!”, because they, truly, don’t have an idea of what capitalism is. They scream that the capitalist system must go, but they have no idea what economic system to put in its place; it is this fact that makes these people ignorant and nothing more than sheep. They don’t understand that, in eliminating capitalism, you must erect something with the structure of socialism (perhaps even Communism) in its place, which would surely destroy the framework of this country and all the worlds’ economies. Surely, if we’re going to remove capitalism, where capital is held and moved primarily by the private sector, we must consolidate it within the public sector – giving more control of the economy to the state.

It is this that reveals the true hypocrisy of these fools. These are probably the same people who (correctly) say that our government has grossly mishandled and misled us into two wars, the government that is putting most of its money into feeding the military-industrial complex in doing so, and is corrupt to the core. But, in destroying capitalism, these people are advocating letting the very same government run our economy, giving out handouts as they wish. How does that make any sense? Our main legislative body has a single-digit approval rating, and these imbeciles think that we should give them more control over the country?

This is why capitalism cannot and will not fall: the citizenry will wake up and realize that more (bad) government isn’t the remedy to the situation. In fact, it’s more poison.


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He is, indeed, a true American hero, and his work, from Common Sense to the Age of Reason, is recommended to anyone with a brain. A few money quotes:

From The Age of Reason (which I’m currently reading):

Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

The Christian Mythologists, after having confined Satan in a pit, were obliged to let him out again to bring on the sequel of the fable. He is then introduced into the Garden of Eden, in the shape of a snake or a serpent, and in that shape he enters into familiar conversation with Eve, who is no way surprised to hear a snake talk; and the issue of this tete-a-tete is that he persuades her to eat an apple, and the eating of that apple damns all mankind.

After giving Satan this triumph over the whole creation, one would have supposed that the Church Mythologists would have been kind enough to send him back again to the pit; or, if they had not done this, that they would have put a mountain upon him (for they say that their faith can remove a mountain), or have put him under a mountain, as the former mythologists had done, to prevent his getting again among the women and doing more mischief. But instead of this they leave him at large, without even obliging him to give his parole—the secret of which is, that they could not do without him; and after being at the trouble of making him, they bribed him to stay. They promised him ALL the Jews, ALL the Turks by anticipation, nine-tenths of the world beside, and Mahomet into the bargain. After this, who can doubt the bountifulness of the Christian Mythology?

Having thus made an insurrection and a battle in Heaven, in which none of the combatants could be either killed or wounded—put Satan into the pit—let him out again—giving him a triumph over the whole creation—damned all mankind by the eating of an apple, these Christian Mythologists bring the two ends of their fable together. They represent this virtuous and amiable man, Jesus Christ, to be at once both God and Man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing had eaten an apple.

From Common Sense:

Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.

Youth is the seed time of good habits, as well in nations as in individuals.

From The Rights of Man:

I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away and controlled and contracted for by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead, and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living. There was a time when kings disposed of their crowns by will upon their death-beds, and consigned the people, like beasts of the field, to whatever successor they appointed. This is now so exploded as scarcely to be remembered, and so monstrous as hardly to be believed. But the Parliamentary clauses upon which Mr. Burke builds his political church are of the same nature.

Every government that does not act on the principle of a Republic, or in other words, that does not make the res-publica its whole and sole object, is not a good government. Republican government is no other than government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively. It is not necessarily connected with any particular form, but it most naturally associates with the representative form, as being best calculated to secure the end for which a nation is at the expense of supporting it.

The best part is this: you can have all his books for free here. Read them, and read them swiftly.

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In a predictable response to the US missile shield deployed in Poland in August, Russia has made its move. The BBC reports:

Russia is to deploy new missiles in a Baltic enclave near Nato member Poland, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says.

Short-range Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region would “neutralise” the planned US anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, he said.

The US says its shield is a defence against missiles from “rogue” nations, but Moscow sees it as a direct threat.

This was, again, an easily foreseeable move on Russia’s part, and brings back vestiges of the Cold War. I don’t think Eastern Europe is doomed yet, but, if a second Cold War were to return, Europe would collapse due to Russia’s stranglehold on the oil industry.

There have been comparisons between President-Elect Obama and John F. Kennedy. Maybe Obama will have to prove himself against the Russians much like Kennedy did.

This editorial in the Guardian’s pretty good:

Thanks to America’s insistence on a shield of unproven worth, and Poland’s backing for it, eastern Europe now faces the nightmare return of the short-range missile. Go back 16 years to discover just how dangerous this bluff was. Taking the chips off the table is going to be more difficult, even though Barack Obama told Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, about his doubts concerning the effectiveness of the missile shield. Whatever the truth about the Pentagon’s claim that the shield is not aimed at Russia, the installation has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Pawn to D5. White, your move.

Here it is:

The fact that many of them expect government entitlements like Social Security, like Medicare, and don’t expect a corresponding tax increase to pay for them. They think that the money to pay for things can just be conjured out of thin air, and they’ll be all set because they expect the government to, quite literally, hand out the service to them (hence the term entitlement). This sense of entitlement is what is going to kill this country economically; we need someone high up in government to realize that Medicaid and Social Security are going to sink us with all the Baby Boomers retiring in the next 8 years or so. What happens when taxes aren’t raised enough so the government can pay for these programs? We borrow. And anyone who has watched the economy all over the world freeze over the past couple of months knows the effects of borrowing en masse.

More on this tomorrow.

The BBC reports:

More than 20 people have been killed in two suspected US missile attacks in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, security officials said.

About 15, including an al-Qaeda leader, were killed in an attack near the village of Mirali, North Waziristan.

In a second attack, seven people were killed in South Waziristan.

The US military has not commented. It has launched many missile strikes from Afghanistan against suspected militant targets recently.

Officials named the al-Qaeda leader in Mirali as Abu Akash, believed to be Iraqi.

Local officials told the BBC that at 2030 (1430 GMT), a drone fired two missiles and destroyed the target – a house in the Esori area about 30km from the town of Mirali.

Are you kidding me? Refer to yesterday’s post. By conducting attacks on other nations’ soil, we are doing nothing but helping al-Qaeda & Co. with their recruiting. We are, in an attempt to destroy them, becoming like them, except with full-fledged state sponsorship and a professional military. These attacks are doing nothing but helping them justify their anti-Western ideology.

When will we learn?

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Within the past two months, we have launched two attacks to capture al-Qaeda leaders in other countries’ (that is, countries that aren’t named Iraq and Afghanistan) territory. Yes, I realize that we were potentially going after high value targets, but that doesn’t justify going into a sovereign nation’s territory and killing innocent civilians in order to track down a terrorist. Our government seems to forge that this is the real world, and that there are actual international laws to be complied with. To not do so, obviously, will have implications.

That is, if other countries, including our allies, are willing to call us out on it.

Here’s what I find most unsettling about our actions in the Middle East: Russia invades Georgia because of Georgia’s human rights abuses in Georgia’s own unethical invasion of their own territory (see here), and our leaders are up in arms, saying that Russia has no business invading a sovereign nation and we are all Georgians and all that other nonsense. (Let’s also note that Barack Obama jumped on that bandwagon as well, pandering to those whose primary source of news is cable television, which accounts for 70% of the population, if I were to estimate that figure.)

But we send troops into Pakistan and Syria to pursue our own agenda, capturing al-Qaeda members, without the consent of said countries. How is this not different than Russia’s “invasion of Georgia”, except on a much smaller scale? Violating a sovereign country’s territory is crime enough, no matter the size of the invasion.

Take this hypothetical, for example: suppose we received word that Russia launched a helicopter raid in the US, trying to track down a criminal ex-KGB officer, who killed innocent civilians, and so on. In the process of the raid, they killed a few innocent Americans. What’s more, the Russians failed to release an official statement regarding the attack, or its violation of the United States’s border security.

Would we not retaliate against the Russians, citing their unlawful “invasion”, even though the raid would only consist of a number of troops in the double digits (at most!)? Wouldn’t America be up in arms that Russia killed civilians? Wouldn’t we whine to our allies in the European Union and the UN that Russia broke international law? Of course we would. Now, when the Syrian foreign minister accuses us of using “criminal and terrorist aggression”, we know exactly where he’s coming from. If we were in his shoes, we’d think the same exact thing.

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In light of the current economic troubles the world is going through right now, this seemed all too appropriate:

“Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” ~Thomas Jefferson

I won’t waste any words with a loquacious beginning, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the Cold War, though we supposedly “won” it, has come back to bite us, to be cliché, almost 20 years since the collapse of the USSR.

To put it bluntly: our Cold War policies of trying to to prevent the spread of Communism are the real reasons for us being at war right now (or, at least, planted the seeds; I still hold the Administration wholly responsible for getting us into these wars) — we created our enemies with our foreign policy of interventionism for the sake of stopping the spread of Communism, or, as it’s euphemistically called, “spreading the ideals of liberty and freedom and democracy”.

I’ve been over this before; in a comment (responding to a conservative) on Will Rhodes’s blog, I said:

But all you do tell us how awesome it is for us to go into nations and bomb people into liking democracy and freedom at the point of a gun, saying how wonderful “liberty” is. Who are we to police the world? Shouldn’t we be keeping to ourselves and worrying about our problems here at home rather than going around liberating people from awful governments? I’m not saying I don’t empathize with those in Afghanistan under the Taliban or those in Iraq under Hussein, but I feel like it’s their issue, and not ours. Yes, you can talk about how this nation building bullshit is all about the “common good”, but, really, is it? How many people have lost their lives because of this war? If we really cared about our troops, wouldn’t we avoid altercation at any cost? I digress. The irony is my “liberal” point of view is actually more “conservative” than your own.

It’s funny how you mention the Taliban and Hussein’s regimes as the specific reasons for us going and creating freedom for the people. Want to know how they got into power? WE GAVE THEM MONEY AND GUNS. We created the Muhajadeen in Afghanistan, fighting a proxy war there, during the Cold War. We gave them money and guns, and after the Soviet Union collapsed, those with guns assumed power in Afghanistan. Thus, we gave birth to a regime that we had to come back and kill 15 or so years later because they were too oppressive. By “liberating” the people from one oppressor (the Soviets), we created another one.

The same goes for Iraq. Saddam was put in power because he was part of a CIA organized conspiracy to usurp the Iraqi monarchy. The Baath party, helped by the CIA, established a coup, and they took control of the government. The CIA endorsed the fighting within the Baath party after they assumed power, and Saddam and his “master” quickly assumed power. During the 1980 invasion of Iran, Saddam received arms and money from our government, IE the WMDs we tried to find but disappeared. WE were the ones who put Saddam in power, and he quickly became a dictator. It should be noted that Saddam, a Sunni, was put in power to establish a balance of power between Shia-dominated Iran; there were fears that, with a Shia government, Iran would swallow Iraq. The point is, we’ve tried to build nations before, and they’ve come back to bite us 10-20 years. If we didn’t try to build nations during the Cold War, we wouldn’t be in any war right now!

Yes, during the Cold War, we did, indeed, establish nations for the sake of combating Communism. Now, we’re just engaging in nation building for the sake of combating terrorism. The latter is no different than the former; we just slap a tag on whatever seems to be the “greatest threat of our time” and use it to justify interventionism in countries that don’t want our help. As I said above, what’s the point of nation building if the regimes we erect end up despising us? It’s just a bad investment, and something that we should try to avoid, but our leaders insist on trying to expand the American Empire for no reason other than to “combat Communism” or “combat terrorism”. As we’ve seen over the past 8 years, that is no way to run a stable nation, let alone an empire. And now the country, the empire, is crashing down, mired in debt, our military stretched too thin.

Bush and his cronies thought that they could make America the next Rome. They may not have succeeded, but they are making us collapse like Rome did.