Posts Tagged ‘US’

The BBC reports that Russia is willing to move the Iskander missiles it placed on its western border as long as the US removes the plans to build a missile shield in Poland.

Was there ever any doubt?

Russia’s foreign minister has said it will abandon plans to station missiles in Kaliningrad if the US does not base part of a missile shield in Europe.

Sergei Lavrov said short-range Iskander missiles would only be deployed in the western enclave, which borders Poland, to neutralise any perceived US threat.

President Dmitri Medvedev unveiled the planned counter-measure a week ago.

The US insists the planned shield is designed solely to guard against attack by “rogue states”, such as Iran.

At present, the system will include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in northern Poland. Moscow says they could threaten its own defences.

These would be in addition to radars and interceptors in Alaska and California in the US, and another radar at Fylingdales in the UK.

Another move in an ongoing game. It appears that the two sides have stalemated, with Russia trying to get the US to remove its missile shield by putting missiles of its own to disrupt said shield. Wouldn’t it be counterintuitive for the US to even keep its shield there if the Russians got jam it with their own ballistics?


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From the Telgraph blog Ways and Means:

Thomas Robert Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population was already well-known, indeed highly controversial, in 1838. But when Darwin read it in October that year, he saw something that no-one else had.

Malthus’ argument was deceptively simple known. Populations increase geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc) whereas the resources on which they depend increase arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). In a moment of inspiration, Darwin recognised that the resulting “resource scarcity” selected some organisms (those better adapted to survival and reproduction) over others. Evolution by natural selection was born.

170 years later it is apparently over – at least for humans – or so reasoned Steve Jones in this newspaper last week. Fewer older fathers, more interbreeding between previously separated communities and greater resistance to nature’s processes of selection means that, for humans, natural selection’s engine has been switched off…

Our uniquely human capacity to improve resource yields seemingly indefinitely has led some to believe that we can pretty much conjure assets out of thin air. Banks traded vast resources that simply weren’t there in the belief that, if we just had enough faith, one day they would be. The Malthusian message of necessary limits was unwelcome at this party of everlasting wealth.

Take a long look at the bolded part: human population grows exponentially while our resources grow arithmetically. Obviously, with time, our population would, theoretically, surpass the total amount of usable resources on the planet. I’m reminded of a chilling quote by Thomas Pynchon from his magnum opus, Gravity’s Rainbow:

The Serpent that announces, “The World is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally-returning,” is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that “productivity” and “earnings” keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity — most of the World, animal, vegetable, and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it’s only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to being with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which must sooner or later crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life.

We are, indeed, living in this system, when we have been our demand for a certain resource, namely money via credit, has surpassed the banks’ stores of actual money — and, to alleviate this, we are simply throwing more money at the problem, which won’t fix things. But I digress, and will return to the real issue at hand: that of job creation.

Obama, earlier today, proposed a plan where he would give businesses tax credits if they created new jobs in the United States over the next two years, according to CNN, trying to get an incentive for businesses to hire new folks, citing that some experts believe that the unemployment rate could be as high as 9% by the end of 2009.

Let’s look back at what Malthus said about natural selection: human population increases exponentially, resources increase arithmetically. By extension, since jobs are (particularly Old-Middle jobs) the application of these resources to fit human needs, or to sell/manage a product, wouldn’t it make sense that jobs also increase arithmetically? Thus, logically, as the human population rises for any given area, the number of jobs in that area isn’t going to be able to match it (at least in the United States; if you live in China, there are cheap jobs abound due to cheap labor), resulting in… You guessed it: unemployment for some people. Of course, this is in the very simplistic abstract, which ignores such jobs that do not require people using/producing “material” things (such as computer programmers). Just food for thought.

Under the Obama plan, the incentive would be for businesses to create jobs, and hopefully make more money in the process. The problem is that the money to pay these new workers has to come from somewhere, and if the tax break doesn’t actually save companies money (meaning the money they save from taxes must be greater than or equal to the wages they’re paying their new workers), why bother doing it at all? Those taxes could be used to pay for the multitude of spending programs Obama has on tap: that money has to come from somewhere, right?

In a discourse about this very subject over at Donklephant, commenter Shawn noted:

I think it’s not necessarily meant to spur the creation of jobs that wouldn’t otherwise exist, but maybe instead to make it more feasible for a company to create jobs in the USA, rather than overseas.

One of the realities of a global market is that for many lines of work, even unskilled american workers are way more expensive than overseas labor. Hopefully a tax credit can help bring the equation more in favor of keeping jobs here.

To which I responded:

I must concede that I had not thought about the implications for lower-middle class labor — perhaps it’ll work as desired to keep jobs here in the states rather than ship them overseas. It’ll have to be a massive tax break though, seeing as the difference between the wage of an unskilled worker here and an unskilled worker in China or Thailand is staggering.

I stand by my remarks, but, to be cliché, time will tell whether Barack’s plan will get us out of the hole we’re in, or, at the very least, start to get us out. One thing’s for sure: it will take a long time to start the healing process for this country’s economy.

We left off with the invasion of Afghanistan under false pretenses.

Our government’s fear mongering continued with the passing of The USA PATRIOT Act, or the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (Worst. Acronym. Ever.). PATRIOT was highly controversial and fueled “Big Brother” comparisons as in George Orwell’s 1984 (more on the War on Terror : 1984 comparison in part 4). In particular, Title II of the act gives the government the authority to:

  • Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to terrorism
  • Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses
  • Authority to share electronic, wire and oral interception information
  • Roving surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978
  • Seizure of voice-mail messages pursuant to warrants
  • Pen register and trap and trace authority under FISA
  • Access to records and other items under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Immunity for compliance with FISA wiretap

So, what’s this FISA you keep hearing about? It’s the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was created in 1979 to surveil “foreign powers” and “foreign agents”, meaning people of other countries’ governments were fair game with our without a warrant (if there was no warrant, the Attorney General could authorize surveillance for one year as long as it pertained to foreign intelligence). This act was recently amended.

The Patriot Act is in conflict with the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution; that is, the article that prevents unauthorized search and seizure. With the government’s ability to surveil anyone and listen to their phone calls (though it only pertains to terrorism/national security), they are, plainly, spying on their citizens in the name of “National Security”. In addition, in 2007, an audit found that the FBI misused and, at times, illegally used the Patriot Act in order to get information on citizens. It also underreported how many times it went to businesses telling them to hand over customer data. The DOJ audit also found 26 violations in its use of national security letters. How did we come to let our government agencies spy on citizens illegally? Were our elected officials asleep on the senate floor?

Turns out they were. What’s shocking is that the bill was passed with surprisingly fast speed through the Senate, with our Senators probably believing that anything that would combat terrorism would be welcome in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, he recorded a senator saying that “no Senator read the bill”. We elect these people into office, and they don’t read a bill that’s infringing on our constitutional rights? How could this have happened?

To add insult to injury, the NSA warrant-less wiretapping program (yet another program to illegally spy on people, with at least one of them being overseas) was implemented for… You guessed it, “national security”. This caused quite a stir in the media and the Justice Department (and deservedly so) because anonymous sources came forward and said the NSA tapped “domestic calls” (i.e. had nothing pertaining to terrorism or issues of national security). Another day, another American citizen’s liberties get thrown out the window. Totally routine with this administration. And here’s the best part: the buffoon we elected into office to run this whole shebang, going by the alias of “Dubya”, said this:

This authorisation is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States.

That is insane. Bush has no awareness of what’s actually in the constitution and what constitutes “civil liberties”, does he? I’ll tell you this much: Bush does not care about the civil liberties of the American people or people in other countries. He thinks you’ve got civil liberty if you’re alive, have a “God Bless America” or “Support the Troops” bumper sticker on your Hummer, and go to church every Sunday.

* * * * *

Another massive controversy is the use of CCTV in cities, and especially in the UK. They have been in the UK for quite a long time (London has 500,000 cameras), and exist in huge numbers, drawing yet more comparisons to “Big Brother surveillance”. Can anyone guess why they’re installed in the first place?

That’s right, “security”.

The problem is, they don’t do anything to deter crime, at all. There is no hard evidence to support that they’ve helped lower crime rates, and probably wouldn’t do anything in the event of a terrorist attack. The irony is that the cameras have grown in popularity since the September 11 attacks for obvious reasons: people are scared of a terrorist attack and think that the cameras would do some good. Wrong.

Here’s the kicker: a UK watchdog has said that up to 90% of the CCTV cameras in the UK (there’s 1 camera for every 14 people, astonishingly) are illegal.

Our research shows that up to 90 per cent of CCTV installations fail to comply with the Information Commissioner’s code of practice, and that many installations are operated illegally. That has profound implications for the reputation of the CCTV and camera surveillance industry and all concerned with it.

* * * * *

The worst part is that someone who supports the PATRIOT Act will inevitably say, “Well, no terrorist attacks have happened since 2001, so the acts are doing their jobs, right?”

Again, wrong. There’s no proof whatsoever that the provisions of the Patriot Act have actually let the government catch terrorists or people planning an attack. All acts like PATRIOT do are take away our freedoms, very slowly, until we realize that they’re gone. As much as I hate to sound like a right-wing radio host, our freedom is our most powerful right and tool. If they take that away, what are we?

In fear and faith, we lose our freedoms.
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