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Archive for December, 2010

panem et circenses

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The Romans had “Bread and Circuses”.

We have got TV with Sports and Cooking shows.

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Check out what are the top rating TV programmes, or simply how many Sport and cooking shows there are.

For that matter: do a search on WordPress for sports or food blogs.

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If people are worried about the economy or politics, it comes a pretty distant second. Or at the very least, it isn’t what they want to worry about on their time off.  I guess they go to work to worry about that sort of stuff.

Or if unemployment grows, then they probably wont have to worry about it at all.  </s>

Whatever… to each their own huh?

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Prevention…

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If we’ve learnt anything, it should be that it is contradictory to the nature of governments to take the steps necessary to prevent a problem before it happens.

This is government creating the need for its own existence. There is nothing they can do that isn’t better left until after the fact, thereby creating a  “mandate for change.”

Indeed governments create the problems, and do nothing until it becomes a big, festering sore.  And then they always have such “fabulous” solutions – never waste a crisis, they are so useful for the furthering of agenda’s.

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tweet

Insofar as a tweet is a short, succinct idea…

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Why can’t these people see that too much debt is the problem, and subsidizing existing debt or adding more debt will not solve it?

Isn’t it clear by now that the Too Big To Fail Banks are parasites, constantly sucking productive capital out of the global economy, and no amount of austerity will positively impact sovereign debt problems as long as they remain in operation?

Ashvin_Pandurangi

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To Serve and Protect – or to fail…

Back during the Nuremberg trials, the standard defense by many Nazi’s was that they were simply following orders.  That line of argument was famously rejected, and ever since then there has been a principle that a soldier should not follow an “unlawful order”.  That of course is a monkey-puzzle of problems and everyone tries their best not to ever have to test that sort of issue in court.

However, it is an issue worth some consideration, and I have specifically been thinking about it in relation to the Police.

The normal structure of command of the police is that it has a para-military style hierarchy that is superficially very much like an army.  Constables(privates) at the bottom, rising  through sergeants, officers and generals(commissioners) at the top.  The whole organisation answers to the government through a ministry and a minister.  There are some significant differences with the military, they are under separate legal codes, and the obligations and traditions are distinct.  However, they are both sworn services, and owe a duty of service and obedience to the appropriate/legitimate civilian authority.

But then this brings us back to the problem of the Nuremberg defense. As long as they are faithfully following the legally given orders of their political masters, can they be criticised or condemned for that?  In general, no, the Nuremberg trials established the principle that there were legitimate and illegitimate orders. For instance, soldiers or police could clear a street of rioters, for instance, by charging with batons; but shooting down protesters was going too far and the order to do so would be an illegal one that should not be followed.

But where to draw the line?

What is too far, and when is a law a bad law that should not be followed?  There are many instances where police have decided that they will chose not to enforce or prosecute some laws. Sometimes they will also bring a test case to court on the basis of making an issue of the matter and force a higher authority to address something that is nonsensical or unworkable.  The prostitution laws here in New Zealand were a case in point.  I doubt whether the police had a dog in the fight either particular way, they just wanted some resolution to a situation that was unworkable.  As it happens, the jury failed to convict. The judge made a strongly worded statement about the failings of the particular law at issue, the problem was kicked upstairs to Parliament and subsequently the law was changed and the problems for the police in this area went away.  It was no longer anything they were required to get involved with, and they could focus their energy and resources on more important issues.

So far, so good.  A solution, albeit a bureaucratic solution was found. By obeying orders the police were able to force a bad law to be changed by pushing the whole situation to a sticking point.

What about where things are not resolvable in such a way? What about when you know a law is bad, but nothing can be done about it through regular official channels? What is an appropriate response from an organisation, such as the police, to structural problems that have created an unworkable, unresolvable and deteriorating situation.

Can they just say that they are only following orders – even when they know that what they are doing is only making matters worse. They are on the front lines every day dealing with societies problems. They better than almost anyone else will know what works and what doesn’t.  Is it satisfactory for them to keep quiet and follow the program and dictates from above, even when they know it doesn’t work?

Of course the problem is more complicated than that, there is all manner and levels of politics involved.  But still, when does the defense that you are only following orders not hold up any longer?

We are currently in another interesting iteration of this dilemma. We recently had a police officer seriously assaulted by a teenaged delinquent who has been a known dangerous timebomb waiting to explode for years already. In spite of the police union spokesman Greig O’Conner conducting an open-mouth campaign(opening his mouth and letting it flap in the breeze) and calling for all police officers to be armed full time, at least a number of people have recognised that that there are a number of bigger issues involved, and that solution has been rejected.

So that is the political element, and for every issue there are at least a half dozen different opinions and points of view.  But equally, an organisation like the police is supposed to be professional, with highly paid, educated and intelligent people involved. They should be able to liaise with other interested sectors, draw up a rational plan and present it to government so that good policy decision are made and implemented. If they don’t or can’t, then that constitutes a serious failing on their part.  They are the ones on the front lines, they will bear the brunt of poor policies.  It is imperative and incumbent that they are involved and proactive.

Whether it is because they are too institutionalised, too busy and overworked, or not well enough led; there quite obviously is a serious problem. Working harder to enforce unworkable laws is not good enough, and in the final analysis it is not doing their job properly.  Drugs, drink-driving, gangs, domestic violence, assaults and robberies, fraud and theft, parol violations… being nothing more than an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff is completely unsatisfactory.  Policy is also part of their workspace.

Interestingly, police have to go through quiet a rigorous vetting procedure in order to join up.  And I am not suggesting that we would want to eliminate that, but the comment has been made that psychometric testing doesn’t determine if you are competent, it determines if you are compliant.  Do you fit the corporate mold, will you follow orders and not make trouble, do you fit with the culture?  A good culture will encourage its people to question, innovate and explore, a poor culture will take advantage of people to suppress and indoctrinate.  And bureaucracies are engines of inertia.  If an innovative police officer does well in the system it will be inspite of, not because of it.

It is quite possibly too late for the police, or any other government dept, to reform themselves voluntarily – short of a revolution.  The bureaucracies don’t want to be changed, they will promote the types of people who will maintain the status-quo and frustrate initiative.  But for every officer and indeed for the police in general, the question will always remain…

Is it satisfactory simply to claim that you are just doing your job and following orders?

It is not so much that you may have done something wrong, as much as that by not doing anything at all you haven’t done what was needed.  Following orders has proven to be a path that can take us to very dark places we do not want to go.  It can take our whole society gradually and almost imperceptibly, places we do not want to be.  We are already well along a slippery slope.  We need to do a lot, lot better if we are to have the sort of society we want to live in.  We need to be involved, take responsibility and stand up for what is right.

It is time to step up.

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A straight cut and paste here folks.

This addresses exactly what I was talking about in my Post: Drugs Theoretically

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The Market Ticker ®

~ Karl Denninger     Yet Another Idiotic “Policy” Crumbles: Drugs

.               It’s time to “man up” the headline reads….

With the exception of, perhaps, Texas governor Rick Perry, no public official wants to publicly admit an obvious fact: The United States of America will likely be forced to invade Mexico. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  The question then becomes: What to do with Mexico after we invade it and wipe out the drug cartels (as much as can be). Does the United States merely return Mexico to a nation state of corrupt politicians, failed economic policies, and lawlessness, or do we annex Mexico and turn it into the 51st state?

Uh huh.

The rest of the article chronicles facts.  They’re facts all right.  But nowhere is the obvious question asked:

Why is it that there is a monstrous black market for these substances, thereby creating billion-dollar industries that would otherwise not exist with profit margins in the thousands of percent from one end of the supply chain to the other?

That’s easy: We refuse to face the fact that drug prohibition has failed.

We faced it with alcohol.  Bereft of common sense our government actually passed a Constitutional Amendmentto ban the importation or interstate transport and sale of alcohol.  That was “Prohibition”, and unlike the current drug war which is entirely unconstitutional, this was “done right.”

Well, ok, “done legally.”

It created an overnight billion-dollar industry – at a time when a billion dollars really meant something.  It provided the money for Tommy Guns, ammunition, and “protection rackets” for the “speakeasy” and its patrons – and more importantly, its suppliers.

Eventually, needing the tax revenue, the government gave up and repealed Prohibition – the same way it enacted it, via the lawful process of Constitutional Amendment.

But no such process was followed with drug prohibition.  There we simply had “titans of industry”, including the Hearsts who were very concerned about the patenting of a “de-corticating machine” for hemp (marijuana.)  See, hemp makes really high-quality paper, and a de-corticating machine was the necessary element to get the pulp out of the stem of the hemp plant – very difficult compared to trees, which are quite a bit larger and easy to extract the pulp of the wood from.

The Hearsts had a vertical monopoly.  They owned a majority of not only the big newspaper publishing houses, but also the means of production – the forest lands and paper mills.  The development of a machine that would make possible production of paper at a fraction of their overall cost threatened to destroy that empire.

The nascent pharmaceutical industry loved this angle and jumped in as well.

So now we’ve been at this in one form or another for close to 100 years, and we’ve utterly failed.  The policies trace their roots to 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.

But it was in 1937, when The Marijuana Transfer Tax Act was passed, that things really got out of control.  DuPont, manufacturer of (among other things) synthetic fibers, was threatened by hemp as well, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, was heavily invested in these synthetics – nylon in particular.  (Ed: Gee, where have we seen that sort of conflict of interest recently?  The more things change the more they stay the same, no?)

Nixon ramped it up even further, and then George HW Bush (Bush I) got the CIA and military involved inforeign interdiction (there’s nothing like forcing our policies on the world via covert, classified operations, right?)  Bush I also created the ONDCP (and the “Drug Czar”) which Clinton (sorry, all you so-called “progressives”) elevated to a cabinet-level position.

As a percentage of the population those incarcerated in America remained more-or-less constant from 1929 until 1980.  However, since that time, when George Bush I decided to “escalate” this “war”, our incarceration rate has quadrupled.

More than half of all federal prisoners are there for drug offenses, and about a quarter of state prisons.  The majority of the rest in state prisons are there for economic and violent crimes related to the acquisition of drugswhich could be panhandled for were they not illegal. The victims of these property and violent crimes number in the millions and virtually each and every one of those victims were in fact victimized as a direct and proximate consequence of the war on drugs – not the drug use or abuse itself.

Some “success” you have had there eh Mr. Government Man?

In the mean time we’ve destabilized multiple nations with our nonsense policies.  Mexico is not the first – but it’s the closest.  We’ve had multiple “endeavors” with El Salvador, Colombia, Nicaragua and of course Afghanistan, where we are today.  Much of Afghanistan’s insurgency and the Taliban are funded by – surprise-surprise – opium poppy cultivation.

Cut off the drug money, cut off the insurgencies and violence at the knees – not by bombing, spraying or shooting – but by destruction of the profit margin in the business.

Economics is a short suit among our policy makers.  Or is it?

This much is certain – it was only a matter of time before the problem got close enough to us that we would be forced to do something here, lest our people get shot and ultimately invaded.

That day has now arrived with the Mexican drug gangs pressing northward just as they press throughout the Mexican nation.  We cannot solve this problem with gunships and war, just as nobody has managed to cut it off in Columbia or Afghanistan.

It can only be stopped via the destruction of operating profit margins in the narcotics business, and that can only happen via legalization and taxation, which in turn causes an immediate price collapse at the production and wholesale level and effective de-funds the thugs and gangs.

Wake up America.   [ends]

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We can’t ever hammer this theme too hard, or too often.

It is insane that we even need to have this conversation, but as long as the status quo prevails, we need to keep shouting this simple truth from the rooftops.

Until the laws are changed, we are only involved in an act of self immolation.

~ Recision

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p.s.

Btw – if the US thinks it has some problems in Afghanistan, you ain’t seen nothing compared to invading Mexico. The blowback on an idea that stupid is entirely capable of destroying the United States.

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This post is about inflation and hyper-inflation. I found a great article and decided it was worthy of some wider circulation

If you too are interested, then you had better be REALLY interested, and enjoy a lot of reading and have a lot of time to spare.  The article linked is 127 pages+notes (lots of dense type and dense argument).

But if you want a good education, then it is worth it.

Jens Parsson – Dying Of Money

Enjoy  🙂

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Brief:

Dying of Money:

Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations.

by Jens O. Parsson

” …governments have been perpetually rediscovering first the splendors and later the woes of inflation. Each new government discoverer of the splendors seems to believe that no one has ever beheld such splendors before. Each new discoverer of the woes professes not to understand any connection with the earlier splendors. In the thousands of years of inflation’s history, there has been nothing really new about inflation, and there still is not…

The twentieth century brought the institution of inflation to its ultimate perfection. When economic systems are so highly organized as they became in the twentieth century, so that people are completely dependent on money trading for the necessaries of life, there is no place to take shelter from inflation. Inflations in the twentieth century became like inflations in no other century.

The two principal inflations that occurred in advanced industrial nations in the twentieth century will probably prove to have done more to influence the course of history itself than any other inflation. One of these was the German inflation that had its roots in World War I, grew to a giddy height and a precipitous fall in 1923, and contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler and World War II. The other was the great American inflation that had its roots in World War II, grew in the decade of the 1960’s toward an almost equally giddy height…

The past is prologue, it is said. No more instructive prologue to the American inflation… still unfinished, could be chosen than the German inflation “

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What we can say is that inflation is a choice, governments do it deliberately. Because it’s seen as being in their best interests. The fact that it steals from the rest of us is neither here nor there, not their problem. And that’s what governments DO, anyway – appropriate, one way or another.

As long as it is working for the top, the rest of us can get screwed…

It’s amazing how simple it all is really.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we (the sheeple) could learn from history…

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Btw – one more little take away from all of this:

” Still another pronounced tendency of an inflationary boom is to channel its growth into fringe activities, which means activities that constitute the overhead of society and do not directly generate any well-being for its members. Germany had this tendency acutely, and the United States did too. Inflation’s most prominent characteristic is feverish hyperactivity, and generally it is indiscriminate activity at forced draft for its own sake and without any considered connection to a useful purpose. Inflation has no tendency to stimulate productive activity most, but quite the opposite.

What was clear…was that capital investment can be valueless, bad capital investment is total waste, and the strong tendency of capital investment in an inflation is to be misdirected and to exceed all valid requirements. “

For a essay written about the period of the 60’s – 70’s, it could easily have be written about now.

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