Monthly Archives: December 2010

Almost Everything Is a Crime in America Now: 14 of the Most Ridiculous Things That Americans Are Being Arrested For

Doesn’t it seem like almost everything is becoming a crime in America now? Americans are being arrested and charged with crimes for doing things like leaving dog poop on the ground, opening up Christmas presents early, not recycling properly, farting in class and having brown lawns. But is it healthy for our society for the police to be involved in such silly things? Every single day the United States inches closer to becoming a totalitarian society. While there are some that would welcome this shift, the truth is that throughout history the societies that have experienced the greatest economic prosperity have all had at least a certain level of freedom. Business thrives when people feel free to live and work. When a government tightens the grip too much many people just start shutting down. Just look at places like North Korea. Even though the rest of the world is sending them huge amounts of food starvation is still quite common in that totalitarian regime. That is why it is so disturbing that it seems like almost everything has become a crime in America now. As we continue to criminalize relatively normal behavior our slide toward becoming a totalitarian state will only accelerate.

We are throwing anyone and everyone in prison these days. It is getting absolutely ridiculous. Today, the United States leads the world in the number of prisoners and in the percentage of the population in prison. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but approximately 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of the end of 2009 a total of 7,225,800 people were either on probation, in prison or on parole in America.

That is a sign of a very, very sick society. Either we have a massive crime problem or the “control grid” that our leaders have erected for us is wildly out of control.

Or both.

But how in the world are we supposed to have a healthy economy if our entire nation is being turned into one gigantic prison?

Sadly, it is not just hardcore criminals that are being rounded up and abused by authorities these days. The following are 14 of the most ridiculous things that Americans are being arrested for….

#1 A Michigan man has been charged with a felony and could face up to 5 years in prison for reading his wife’s email.

#2 A 49-year-old Queens woman had bruises all over her body after she was handcuffed, arrested and brutally beaten by NYPD officers. So what was her offense? The officers thought that her little dog had left some poop that she didn’t clean up.

#3 A 56-year-old woman who was once a rape victim refused to let airport security officials feel her breasts so she was thrown to the floor, put in handcuffs and arrested.

#4 In Milwaukee, one man was recently fined $500 for swearing on a public bus.

#5 Several years ago a 12-year-old boy in South Carolina was actually arrested by police for opening up a Christmas present early against his family’s wishes.

#6 In some areas of the country, it is now a crime to not recycle properly. For example, the city of Cleveland has announced plans to sort through trash cans to ensure that people are actually recycling according to city guidelines.

#7 A 12-year-old girl from Queens was arrested earlier this year and taken out of her school in handcuffs for writing “Lex was here. 2/1/10″ and “I love my friends Abby and Faith” on her desk.

#8 Back in 2008, a 13-year-old boy in Florida was actually arrested by police for farting in class.

#9 The feds recently raided an Amish farmer at 5 AM in the morning because they claimed that he was engaged in the interstate sale of raw milk in violation of federal law.

#10 A few years ago a 10-year-old girl was arrested and charged with a felony for bringing a small steak knife to school. It turns out that all she wanted to do was to cut up her lunch so that she could eat it.

#11 On June 18th, two Christians decided that they would peacefully pass out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk outside a public Islamic festival in Dearborn, Michigan and within three minutes 8 policemen surrounded them and placed them under arrest.

#12 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 500-dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them to do it.

#13 Once upon a time, a food fight in the cafeteria may have gotten you a detention. Now it may get you locked up. About a year ago, 25 students between the ages of 11 and 15 at a school in Chicago were taken into custody by police for being involved in a huge food fight in the school cafeteria.

#14 A few years ago a 70-year-old grandmother was actually put in handcuffs and hauled off to jail for having a brown lawn.

Why in the world would anyone approve of the police arresting ordinary Americans for such things?

It seems like ever since 9/11 the whole country has gotten “security fever”.

Suddenly we need to “get tough” on everyone.

Yes, crime is making a comeback, but once upon a time the police in this country were able to handle crime quite well and be courteous and helpful to ordinary citizens at the same time.

But today it seems like nearly every single encounter with police ends up being negative.

It does not have to be that way.

The rest of the world sees what is going on in this country and many of them are deciding that they simply do not want to spend their tourist dollars here anymore. That is not a good thing for our economy.

As the government continues to get even bigger and exerts even more control over our lives, many of our own people are getting sick of it and are moving abroad.

America used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

That is no longer true.

Now we get thrown to the floor, handcuffed, beaten and arrested for things that we did not even know were crimes.

If America continues to move in this direction it is going to ruin our economy, our reputation in the world and our national spirit.

Unfortunately, history has shown us that once a free nation starts to lose that freedom it is hard to reverse that slide. Perhaps we will be different. Perhaps the American people will stand up and demand that we restore the principles of liberty and freedom that this country was founded on.

Do you think that will happen? Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

Source: Economic Collapse Blog.

January 1, 2011

Copyright © 2011 Economic Collapse Blog

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What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010

What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010

What WikiLeaks revealed to the world in 2010

AP

Throughout this year I’ve devoted substantial attention to WikiLeaks, particularly in the last four weeks as calls for its destruction intensified.  To understand why I’ve done so, and to see what motivates the increasing devotion of the U.S. Government and those influenced by it to destroying that organization, it’s well worth reviewing exactly what WikiLeaks exposed to the world just in the last year:  the breadth of the corruption, deceit, brutality and criminality on the part of the world’s most powerful factions.

As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing.  The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them:  WikiLeaks and (allegedly) Bradley Manning.  A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing.  That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon’s own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence — zero — that any of WikiLeaks’ actions has caused even a single death.  Meanwhile, the American establishment media — even in the face of all these revelations — continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing New™ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Security™ through its disclosures.

It’s unsurprising that political leaders would want to convince people that the true criminals are those who expose acts of high-level political corruption and criminality, rather than those who perpetrate them.  Every political leader would love for that self-serving piety to take hold.  But what’s startling is how many citizens and, especially, “journalists” now vehemently believe that as well.  In light of what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world about numerous governments, just fathom the authoritarian mindset that would lead a citizen — and especially a “journalist” — to react with anger that these things have been revealed; to insist that these facts should have been kept concealed and it’d be better if we didn’t know; and, most of all, to demand that those who made us aware of it all be punished (the True Criminals) while those who did these things (The Good Authorities) be shielded:

Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2010:


Daily Mail, April 7, 2010:

The Guardian, October 22, 2010:

The Guardian, October 22, 2010:

Foreign Policy, November 29, 2010:

Mother Jones, December 1, 2010:

El Pais, November 30, 2010:

 

TRANSLATIONU.S. maneuvered to stop High Court cases:   American embassy issued threats over the cases of ‘Guantanamo’, ‘Couso’ and ‘CIA flights’ – Politicians and Spanish prosecutors collaborated on the strategy

Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer, responding to the cables from Spain, December 1, 2010:

ACLU, November 20, 2010:

Der Spiegel, December 9, 2010:

Ellen Knickmeyer, ex-Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief, The Daily Beast, October 25, 2010:

 

Sydney Morning Herald, November 29, 2010:

Salon, December 9, 2010:

BBC, December 17, 2010:

BBC, December 22, 2010:

Reuters, December, 1, 2010:

MSNBC, December 11, 2010:

The Guatemala Times, November 28, 2010:

CBS News, November 29, 2010:

The Guardian, November 30, 2010:

Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, July 27, 2010:

The Guardian, July 25, 2010:

Those are just some of the truths that led WikiLeaks — and whoever the leaker(s) is — to sacrifice their own interests in order to disclose these secrets to the world.

Source

In Defense of Shopping Malls

From LewRockwell.com:

In Defense of Shopping Malls
By Gary North

A standard critique of American capitalism is that it produces shopping malls. Shopping malls are said to be ugly. They all look alike, and they all clutter the landscape with mediocrity. They have replaced diversity with uniformity. They replace traditional architecture with cookie-cutter architecture.

This is a short-sighted criticism. Whatever they have replaced was said at the time to have done the same to whatever existed before. Villages replaced woods and plains. Towns replaced villages, except when villages turned into ghost towns, just as they still do today.

Shopping mall architecture is dismissed as cookie-cutter architecture. But what is so wrong with cookie cutters? Cookie cutters long ago replaced knives. They made shaping cookies easier. The cookies looked the same, thereby overcoming diversity, and also saving time and trouble. I imagine that some master baker cursed the day that some inventor came up with the idea of a low-cost cookie cutter, which made acceptable bakers out of people who could not be trusted with a knife.

I like shopping malls. Yes, they are similar to each other. I like this about them. I can look at a shopping mall or a strip mall and know if that’s where I want to shop. I see a recognizable store. As with fast food restaurants and restaurant chains, shopping malls save me time. Time is my most precious resource. I do my best not to waste it.

In my youth, if I was visiting a medium-sized town, I would recognize Sears or J. C. Penney, but beyond that, it was guess work. Which hardware store had what I wanted? Where was it located? There was no Lowe’s, no Home Depot, which have just about anything anyone wants. Where to stay overnight before Holiday Inn? Where to eat a meal before restaurant chains? The only restaurant chain I can recall in my pre-teen years was Bob’s Big Boy. I only remember the one in the San Fernando Valley, because my aunt took me there on visits. There were a few other Bob’s stores in southern California. If you did not want a hamburger or a spoon-thick milk shake, you were out of luck.

How many restaurant chains there are! In the good old days, there were diners and a few nice restaurants in town. There was a Mexican restaurant or two in southern California, and a couple of Chinese restaurants in most towns. There was a burger shop/soda fountain. But you had a narrow choice of restaurants locally. Inside a chain today, you know what will be available and how it will taste. There may be limited menu choices inside, but there is a wide range of choices of chains. These are not chains of bondage. They are chains of choice.

CHAINS OF CHOICE

Inside a Wal-Mart or a Target or a Sam’s Club, I have a range of choices so spectacular that nothing in my youth compares with it. There were no such local emporiums in my youth. The famous multi-story department stores did offer a wide range of choices, but not at low prices like today. There were not many such stores. There were half a dozen in a major city. People knew about Macy vs. Gimbels. In Los Angeles, there was the May Company. These were the kinds of stores we saw in Miracle on 34th Street. People in the suburbs did not have anything like them.

Mid-sized cities had a Sears and a Montgomery Ward. Small towns had the catalogue published by the national retail stores. The Sears catalogue was a marvel, but the buyer had to trust the advertising copywriters and photographs. She could not hold the item in her hand. She could not go to a cash register and buy it on credit. She had to send a check or else put it on her Sears credit card, which was where the big profit was for Sears.

The range of choices keeps growing. One estimate of the number of different physical products marked by an SKU number (the famous bar code) in the region around New York City is 10 billion. This is inconceivable. It takes computers to track it all.

The supreme economic issue is the range of choices. The best definition of economic growth is this: “an increased number of choices.” The more choices you can afford to make, the richer you are. We are rich indeed in the United States. The single most representative architectural mark of this cornucopia is the shopping mall.

I have a friend who had contacts with top Communist Party members in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s. He sold and installed satellite dishes in the USSR. He dealt with people who were rich enough and politically correct enough to be allowed to buy satellite dishes.

Occasionally, one of them would visit him in his Bay Area home. One visitor asked my friend to take him shopping, so he could see how Americans lived. So, my friend drove him to a local commercial area south of San Francisco. He took the man inside. “No,” his guest said. “I want to see a real store.” My friend assured him that this was a real store. The man denied that this was anything but a store for the elite. “I want to see a store where the average person shops.” My friend took him to another store. Same response.

“All right,” my friend said. “I’ll drive. You point to any store you want to go into.” The man agreed. When they entered the first store, the man stood in the middle of an aisle. He began to weep. Then he said: “They lied. They lied.” His worldview came unglued in that aisle.

A WALK DOWN AN AISLE

When I am in a Wal-Mart or a Sam’s Club, I look and listen at shoppers. They come in all colors. Most of them dress alike. I cannot tell where they came from by how they dress. I saw the same thing on a trip to the Middle East in 1985. Except for old men dressed in leather in Constantinople, every man was dressed in jeans and a cotton shirt. He was wearing what looked like Nike shoes. I could not tell where I was, based on clothing styles.

I hear families chattering in unknown tongues. We are all there for the same reason: to find a deal. That is the American way: the quest for a better deal. This quest has governed all cultures in history, but Americans have made it a distinctive cultural trait. We spend more time looking for deals than any society in history ever has. Why? Because there are so many deals available. When your choice is “take it or leave it,” and you have little money or few choices, it does not take much time to decide. Sorting through a cornucopia takes more time.

The economist defines “cost” as “the most valuable thing that you must forego in order to buy what you want.” This is called “opportunity cost.” In America, it takes a lot of time and effort to identify that highest-cost item. There are so many choices. Which opportunity is the highest value option foregone? The more the choices, the more likely that individuals will spend more shopping time for additional goods. The more we shop, the more that things cost. Why? Because we keep finding other sweet deals. The sweetest deal foregone is the true cost. We pay less money, but we spend more time shopping. So many deals, so little time!

So, I look and listen as I walk down the aisles. I think: “I wonder if these people understand the system of competing bids that has produced this cornucopia.” Everyone in the store appreciates the wide range of choices. Everyone is looking for a sweet deal. We share this common trait: the quest for a better deal. We are all Americans here!

But not many people understand the workings of the Great American Auction. They do not understand the system of private property, of contracts, of monetary policy, of free trade inside the nation’s borders. They do not understand that the very prospect of their bidding against each other today at the auction was what motivated producers to produce all these goods. The hope of profit and the fear of losses guided producers. Buyers vs. buyers, sellers vs. sellers: the Great American Auction goes on day and night in the local Wal-Mart Supercenter.

In London after 10 p.m., you can buy a few hundred items at a local store owned by an immigrant: maybe a Pakistani. In the USA, you can buy from a selection of 100,000 items at 3 a.m. at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. We sing our national anthem: “O, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light?” By the dawn’s early light, I can see cars in the Supercenter parking lot.

The complexity of the system of production, delivery, purchase, and re-stocking in a Wal-Mart Supercenter is beyond anyone’s ability to conceptualize. Computers do much of the work. But the system is more than just computer entries. Think of the highway support system that lets the trucks roll day and night.

We trust in the continuity of the system. We expect it to be there tomorrow and next year. We walk down those aisles, and we think, “I can buy this now or later.” We do not really understand how this is possible.

Everyone in the store has faith in the store’s ability to re-stock the shelves, almost invisibly. The shelves are filled with goods. A person in a Third World society does not understand how this is done in America. But neither do most shoppers here.

RE-STOCKING HAPPENS

Think about this. You walk out of a store, item in hand. Should the store manager re-stock it? Maybe not this week: the week after Christmas. Or maybe he should. If he is to stay in business, he must decide accurately.

In a modern mass retail center, a computer decides. Before a buyer exits Wal-Mart, the computer has placed an order for the replacement item. The chain of delivery begins. The item will be ordered from the manufacturer, delivered to a Wal-Mart trucking center, and sent on its way to a regional center. Then the container section will be unhooked and left for the deliveries locally. The company’s inventory is in 18-wheelers, not in warehouses. The savings are passed on to the buyers.

We take it for granted that the shelves will be full the next time we shop. But why should we take this for granted? Do we even understand the process? Few do. Few ever have. In 1845, the French author and (later) politician Frédéric Bastiat wrote this paragraph.

On coming to Paris for a visit, I said to myself: Here are a million human beings who would all die in a few days if supplies of all sorts did not flow into this great metropolis. It staggers the imagination to try to comprehend the vast multiplicity of objects that must pass through its gates tomorrow, if its inhabitants are to be preserved from the horrors of famine, insurrection, and pillage. And yet all are sleeping peacefully at this moment, without being disturbed for a single instant by the idea of so frightful a prospect. On the other hand, eighty departments have worked today, without co-operative planning or mutual arrangements, to keep Paris supplied. How does each succeeding day manage to bring to this gigantic market just what is necessary – neither too much nor too little? What, then, is the resourceful and secret power that governs the amazing regularity of such complicated movements, a regularity in which everyone has such implicit faith, although his prosperity and his very life depend upon it? That power is an absolute principle, the principle of free exchange. We put our faith in that inner light which Providence has placed in the hearts of all men, and to which has been entrusted the preservation and the unlimited improvement of our species, a light we term self-interest, which is so illuminating, so constant, and so penetrating, when it is left free of every hindrance.

This system of supply and demand, all governed by the auction’s principle of “high bid wins,” delivers the goods literally. It rests on private property, contract, accounting, and a monetary system. No one is in charge. No committee oversees the outcome.

Bastiat’s concern was that the government would interfere with the operation of this system. There would be then committees overseeing the delivery of goods into Paris.

Where would you be, inhabitants of Paris, if some cabinet minister decided to substitute for that power contrivances of his own invention, however superior we might suppose them to be; if he proposed to subject this prodigious mechanism to his supreme direction, to take control of all of it into his own hands, to determine by whom, where, how, and under what conditions everything should be produced, transported, exchanged, and consumed? Although there may be much suffering within your walls, although misery, despair, and perhaps starvation, cause more tears to flow than your warmhearted charity can wipe away, it is probable, I dare say it is certain, that the arbitrary intervention of the government would infinitely multiply this suffering and spread among all of you the ills that now affect only a small number of your fellow citizens.

This should be everyone’s concern. As regulations pile up at the rate of 80,000 pages per year in the Federal Register, as Congress passes more laws for the executive agencies to multiply in their implementation of new rules, and as state and local governments intervene with their own regulations, producers must factor the relevant rules into their plans.

Then, every six weeks, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve System decides how much Federal government debt to buy in order to stimulate the economy. This, too, must be factored into the decisions we all make, day by day, regarding profit and loss in the future.

Re-stocking happens, but it gets ever-more risky, ever more uncertain, as government officials and Federal Reserve officials decide how best to regulate a system of ten billion products, plus services.

We know this much: we could not do this effectively. Yet, as voters, we assume that a series of government officials all protected from being fired, none of whom have any money at stake, can and will regulate this system to our benefit. This way, the shelves will be re-stocked.

CONCLUSION

The shopping mall is one of the great social institutions of our time. They did not exist in most cities as recently as 1950. They bring to the suburbs what only the great cities had in my youth.

The shopping mall delivers the goods. It brings the goods we want to buy to shelves located a few minutes away from our front doors. It faces competition from FedEx and UPS, which bring the goods to our front doors.

The shopping mall drove out of business the hardware store that was located downtown three decades ago. It forced other small businesses to close. But the shopping mall is the agent of consumers. We keep demanding better deals. We should blame ourselves for the demise of those abandoned businesses and abandoned dreams.

The strip mall brings the cornucopia even close to our front doors. Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and the other dollar stores offer even cheaper goods for our consideration, and in smaller buildings than those in the main malls. They save us both money and time.

Are strip malls beautiful? They are more beautiful than the run-down districts in every city, where we do not live close to or shop.

The aging downtowns in fading communities across the land are legacies of dreams abandoned. Dreams abandoned are the inevitable cost of newer dreams realized.

I see closed-up shops in a strip mall, and I think: “Less-good deals.” When we got richer, we shop for better deals.

When was the last time you were in a butcher shop? A locally owned TV/appliance store? A diner where old men meet every morning for coffee and rolls?

There is an old rule: “Never eat at a place called Mom’s.” I violated this rule only once, in a small town in Louisiana. It was the worst food I ever ate. I walked out, leaving a bowl of gumbo behind. If the rule holds true in a Cajun restaurant in Louisiana, where all food is good, it holds everywhere.

At Wendy’s, I know what I will get. Better yet, it’s located right across the street from a mall.

 

January 1, 2011

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2011 Gary North

Privacy and Social Networking

A sobering analysis from The Daily Bell:

The Social Networking Buzz

The SEC is reportedly investigating trading on secondary markets like SecondMarket and SharesPost in the stock of social media companies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Zynga. The SEC is said to be focusing on whether the secondary market trading has brought the number of shareholders in a company like Facebook above 500. Reaching that threshold triggers requirements for more public financial disclosures, a requirement that in the past has driven companies like Google and Microsoft to pursue IPOs. – Forbes

Dominant Social Theme: Social networking is the next stock market wave.

Free-Market Analysis: Social networking as epitomized by Facebook is “hot.” Mark Zuckerberg, the ludicrously young inventor of the Facebook is on the cover of Time Magazine as the Person of the Year. There is even a huge, hit movie out about him. Now we learn the ever-vigilant US Securities and Exchange Commission has cast its eye on private equities trading of “social network” trading companies like Facebook. Leaving aside the larger issue of whether the SEC should be involved at all, the lingering implication is that these companies are a kind of “catnip” for investors currently.

We think we can tell a sub dominant social theme when we see one. Social network companies get a lot of press and attention because they represent the controllable side of the Internet, in our view. Social networking is the “softer side” of the Internet from a power elite standpoint. A small intergenerational, familial elite has seen its secrecy ripped asunder by the Internet. But these sites, especially Facebook with some 500 million users, are far less challenging to elite plans for global centralization. If anything, one could argue that such networks offer the kind of naïve openness and frivolity that the elite is pleased to take advantage of.

Social networking is perhaps a preferable Internet construct. It is an Internet full of self-revelations about social events, parties, drinking and music and movie “favs.” It is self-revelatory in the most basic way and often mundane in terms of what is discussed among friends and electronic social circles. For these reasons, we believe this sort of activity is actively encouraged. It seemingly undercuts the Internet as a tool of serious research and historical revisionism. It also provides a far more controllable template for manipulating public use of electronic communications.

Basically social networking seems to provide people with prefabricated and tightly constricted personal websites. Is it by design? It is open knowledge within the Internet community that such fast-growing companies attract the attention of the American intel community – and often attract funding as well.

The two companies that are whispered about the most within this context are Google, which apparently has set up an insider network for US intelligence agencies, and Facebook which allows US intel officials to set up numerous information-tracking facilities of social network users. Here’s an article excerpt from Global Research back in 2009 describing the growth of Facebook:

Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US 500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC. The second round of funding into Facebook ($US 12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies”.

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the Internet. Dr. Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence. She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA’s Information Awareness Office that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects. Wikipedia’s IAO page says: “the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.”

The Facebook saga has all the hallmarks of a controlled promotion. Promising companies are discovered at Harvard, which funnels brilliant young individuals into a controlled environment where they can be noticed and noted by intelligence authorities. The backstory regarding these companies is that they are in fact the inspiration of these agencies; but they are not.

Outfits like the CIA never create such ventures, it seems; but they do apparently encourage the growth of the ones that they deem most useful. In the process, they can cultivate the founders and ensure that the entity remains complaisant with the values and goals of the larger military-industrial complex and the Anglo-American power-elite itself.

Conclusion: The explosion of social networking websites, especially Facebook, may be a welcome event for the powers-that-be. But as ubiquitous as these social networking sites are becoming, they are still by design fairly rigid in their formats and restrictive in terms of content. Thus the larger Internet with its flexible, customized websites, remains a formidable alternative. Facebook-style sites may offer an Internet experience, but not one in our view that at any point will be able to fully co-opt the larger truth-telling of the Internet.

 

The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be – Where the opportunities are

From TechCrunch:

The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be
by Jon Evans

My advice for the new year: go East and South, young man and woman … and investor. America, Europe, and Japan are stagnant and ponderous. More and more, in the coming years, the real moving and shaking will happen elsewhere.

“2011 will be the year Android explodes!” cried a recent headline, citing a new Broadcom chipset that will reportedly make sub-$100 unsubsidized smartphones ubiquitous. Maybe so, but I second MG’s skepticism: North American carriers will fight this tooth and nail, and even when they lose, we’ll still have to wait for the three-year contracts that are status quo here to finally die. If that chipset is real, though, the headline’s not wrong; Android will explode … in the developing world, where virtually all phone service is pre-paid. (As, ahem, I predicted 20 months ago.)

There’s a larger trend here. Mobile phones and 3G service became ubiquitous in Africa so rapidly in part because they never had to compete with landlines. Kenyans flocked to mobile-phone money transfer services, because they had no consumer banks: now M-Pesa, the largest, handles money equal to a mindboggling 10% of Kenya’s GDP every year. (The US equivalent would be $1.4 trillion/year. By contrast, PayPal handles less than $100 billion/year worldwide, of which mobile-phone payments are but a small fraction.) Now much of Kenya is quickly adopting distributed, flexible, resilient solar power, largely because their monolithic, sclerotic, vulnerable grid doesn’t reach much of the country.

As the poor world grows richer, we can expect more of the same: unencumbered by entrenched customs, regulations, special interests and legacy infrastructure, they’ll make the most of new technologies far faster than us laggards in the West. Why does cable TV still exist, in this BitTorrent era? Because the cable companies are like tapeworms in our economies’ guts, sucking life from their hosts as they die with agonizing slowness. Why are universal electronic health records so hard to implement? Because the multi-trillion-dollar health industry is set firmly in its antediluvian ways and has no incentive to change. But these parasites and foot-draggers are far less established in the developing world, and that’s why the future will increasingly happen there, not here.

This doesn’t mean they’ll be better off – we’ll be vastly wealthier for some decades yet – but they’re using their blank-slate advantage to evolve far faster. if you want to see the world’s real hothouse of change, or build a business that can change the lives of (or make money from) many tens of millions in the space of a few years, get ahead of the curve and aim at the 70% of humanity who live in Asia, where they already get new smartphones first, or Africa, which despite its Dark Continent reputation is rapidly growing wealthier.

“May you live in interesting times,” says the alleged ancient Chinese curse. If only. Here in the First World we’re increasingly trapped in yesterday’s tedium. In the 21st century, it’s the rest of the world who will live on the bleeding edge of the future.

Bradley Manning: One Soldier Who Really Did “Defend Our Freedom”

From C4SS:

Bradley Manning:  One Soldier Who Really Did “Defend Our Freedom”
By Kevin Carson

When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag. I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous. Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.

But I can think of one exception.  If there’s a soldier anywhere in the world who’s fought and suffered for my freedom, it’s Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning is frequently portrayed, among the knuckle-draggers on right-wing message boards, as some sort of spoiled brat or ingrate, acting on an adolescent whim.  But that’s not quite what happened, according to Johann Hari (“The under-appreciated heroes of 2010,” The Independent, Dec. 24).

Manning, like many young soldiers, joined up in the naive belief that he was defending the freedom of his fellow Americans. When he got to Iraq, he found himself working under orders “to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements.” The people he arrested, and handed over for torture, were guilty of such “crimes” as writing “scholarly critiques” of the U.S. occupation forces and its puppet government. When he expressed his moral reservations to his supervisor, Manning “was told to shut up and get back to herding up Iraqis.”

The people Manning saw tortured, by the way, were frequently the very same people who had been tortured by Saddam: Trade unionists, members of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and other freedom-loving people who had no more use for Halliburton and Blackwater than they had for the Baath Party.

For exposing his government’s crimes against humanity, Manning has spent seven months in solitary confinement –  a torture deliberately calculated to break the human mind.

We see a lot of “serious thinkers” on the op-ed pages and talking head shows, people like David Gergen, Chris Matthews and Michael Kinsley, going on about all the stuff that Manning’s leaks have impaired the ability of “our government” to do.

He’s impaired the ability of the U.S. government to conduct diplomacy in pursuit of some fabled “national interest” that I supposedly have in common with Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Disney. He’s risked untold numbers of innocent lives, according to the very same people who have ordered the deaths of untold thousands of innocent people.  According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Manning’s exposure of secret U.S. collusion with authoritarian governments in the Middle East, to promote policies that their peoples would find abhorrent, undermines America’s ability to promote “democracy, open government, and free and open societies.”

But I’ll tell you what Manning’s really impaired government’s ability to do.

He’s impaired the U.S. government’s ability to lie us into wars where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of foreigners are murdered.

He’s impaired its ability to use such wars — under the guise of promoting “democracy” — to install puppet governments like the Coalition Provisional Authority, that will rubber stamp neoliberal “free trade” agreements (including harsh “intellectual property” provisions written by the proprietary content industries) and cut special deals with American crony capitalists.

He’s impaired its ability to seize good, decent people who — unlike most soldiers — really are fighting for freedom, and hand them over to thuggish governments for torture with power tools.

Let’s get something straight. Bradley Manning may be a criminal by the standards of the American state. But by all human standards of morality, the government and its functionaries that Manning exposed to the light of day are criminals. And Manning is a hero of freedom for doing it.

So if you’re one of the authoritarian state-worshipers, one of the groveling sycophants of power, who are cheering on Manning’s punishment and calling for even harsher treatment, all I can say is that you’d probably have been there at the crucifixion urging Pontius Pilate to lay the lashes on a little harder. You’d have told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding. You’re unworthy of the freedoms which so many heroes and martyrs  throughout history — heroes like Bradley Manning — have fought to give you.

Hyperinflation will drive gold to unthinkable heights

Hyperinflation will drive gold to unthinkable heights

By Egon von Greyerz , December 31, 2010 @ 1:31 pm In Commentary,English

HYPERINFLATION WILL DRIVE GOLD TO UNTHINKABLE HEIGHTS

by Egon von Greyerz

We now live in a world where governments print worthless pieces of paper to buy other worthless pieces of paper that combined with worthless derivatives, finance assets whose values are totally dependent on all these worthless debt instruments.  Thus most of these assets are also worth-less.

So the world financial system is a house of cards where each instrument’s false value is artificially supported by another instrument’s false value. The fuse of the world financial market time bomb has been lit.  There is no longer a question of IF it will happen but only WHEN and HOW.  The world lives in blissful ignorance of this. Stockmarkets remain strong and investors worldwide have piled into government bonds in a perceived flight to safety. Due to a century of money creation (and in particular since the 1970s) by governments and by the fractal banking system, investors believe that stocks, bonds and property can only go up. Understanding risk and sound investment principles has not been necessary in these casino markets with guaranteed payouts for anyone who plays the game. Maximum leverage and derivatives have in the last 10-15 years driven markets to unfathomable risk levels, with massive rewards for the participants.

In the meantime central banks are cranking up the printing presses but as Bernanke recently said quantitative easing is an “inappropriate” description of what should be called “securities purchases”!  Who is he kidding? What the Fed is buying has nothing to do with “securities”. There is no security whatsoever in the rubbish the Fed is purchasing. They are buying worthless pieces of paper with worthless pieces of paper. This is the Ponzi scheme of all Ponzi schemes.

Let us be very clear, this financial Shangri-La is now coming to an end. The financial system is broke, many western sovereign states are bankrupt and governments will continue to apply the only remedy they know which is issuing debt that will never ever be repaid with normal money.

So why does the world still believe that the financial system is sound?

  • Firstly, because this is what totally clueless governments are telling everyone and this is what investors want to hear.
  • Secondly, whether governments apply austerity like in parts of Europe or money printing as in the US, investors want to  believe that any action by government is good, however inept.
  • Thirdly, market participants are in a state of false security due to shortsightedness and limited understanding of history.
  • Fourthly, as long as they can benefit from inflated and false asset values, the market participants will continue to manipulate markets.
  • Fifthly, there has been a very skilful campaign by the US to divert the attention from their bankrupt economy and banks `to small European countries like Greece, Ireland or Portugal. These nations, albeit in real trouble, have problems which are miniscule compared to the combined difficulties of the US Federal Government, states, cities and municipalities.

Euro zone members can’t print money. Many EU countries are downgraded by US rating agencies which don’t dare to touch the US rating. The AAA rating of the US is an absolute sham and totally politically motivated. True to form, rating agencies will only downgrade debt once it has become worthless but never before.

Hyperinflation Watch

The result of massive money printing is a collapsing currency, leading to escalating prices and eventually hyperinflation. This is in simple terms how every hyperinflationary period in history has happened. If in addition, there are world shortages of food, energy and other commodities, this will accelerate the process.

There are currently a number of indicators all pointing to escalating money printing and an imminent start of a hyperinflationary era. Here are some of them:

  1. Fiscal Gap widening at alarming rates in many major economies.
  2. Commodity prices at all-time highs.
  3. Long term interest rates rising.
  4. Most Currencies falling.
  5. Precious Metals at all-time highs against most currencies.

Fiscal Gap

Tax receipts are collapsing and government expenditure soaring in many major economies including virtually all southern European countries as well as in the UK. James Turk has produced on his fgmr.com site two excellent graphs for the USA and the UK showing the extreme severity of these two countries’ deficits.

US & UK ON THEIR WAY TO BANKRUPTCY

The USA and the UK are the favourites to reach hyperinflation first amongst major economies. Both these countries will experience major problems in 2011.  Also many other nations have unsustainable debt levels which will never be repaid with normal money.

GOVERNMENT DEBT WILL NEVER BE REPAID

Commodity Prices
Commodity prices have increased 26% in the last 12 months and 77% in the last 24 months based on the Continuous Commodity Index (CCI). So whilst most economies publish inflation rates of 1-3%, the real cost of food and energy is surging. The US government, which doesn’t eat or use energy, recently published the adjusted 12 months’ Consumer Price Index (ex food and energy) of 0.8% per annum. Whilst most people are struggling with a massive increase in their cost of living, the US government is continuously adjusting and manipulating the published figures.  There are lies damn lies and US government statistics. Who are they fooling!Long Term Interest Rates

In spite of US government debt being totally worthless, investors have bought more than ever, with virtually no return, in a world drowning in sovereign debt paper. We have for some time stated that the US bond market is one of the biggest financial bubbles ever. As we forecast back then, the market turned down (rates up) in January 2009.  A 14 month correction ended in August 2010. Since then both the 10 year and 30 year US Treasury bonds have moved up one full per cent. So investors are finally waking up to the enormous risks in the financial system by selling government debt. We expect both short and long interest to surge in 2011 in many countries and to reach well into double digits in the next few years.

INTEREST RATES WILL RISE STRONGLY

In spite of interest rates at minimal levels, both sovereign states and individuals have major problems servicing current debt. With interest rates likely to rise to at least 12-15% and probably higher, no one will be able to service debt with “normal money”. Add to that the fact that government debt will surge in most countries. The US debt is currently $ 14 trillion. It is likely to rise to at least $20 trillion in the next few years and probably a lot higher. The interest cost for the US government at that stage is likely to be at least double the tax revenue. One would assume that the US government is well aware of what their ruinous actions are leading to. But in spite of this, they continue to increase the deficit by reducing fiscal revenues and increasing spending. What planet are they living on!  What is absolutely self-evident is that they will not clear up their own mess, as the present government will be a one term wonder!

Currencies Declining

Since 1971, the value of the US dollar (paper money) has gone down 97.5% against real money (gold). Since Nixon abolished gold backing of the US dollar in 1971, both the dollar and most other currencies have been totally destroyed by reckless government. Nixon should not have been impeached for Watergate. Instead he should have been prosecuted and jailed for destroying the world’s currency system. Concurrently, banking developed into a fractal system whereby banks could lend massive multiples of their deposits and capital. All of this has served to drive up asset prices to totally unsustainable levels.

All currencies are declining against gold but some faster than others. The US dollar for example is down 78% against the Swiss Francs since 1972. During the same period the pound has declined a massive 85% against the Swiss Franc. Both the dollar and the pound are now at all-time lows against the Swiss currency. But the Swissy is only strong relative to weak paper currencies because against real money/gold the Swiss Franc has declined 87% since 1972.

DOLLAR DECLINE WILL ACCELERATE IN 2011

As a consequence of accelerated money printing, all paper currencies will fall precipitously against gold in the next few years. Therefore all paper money should be avoided and especially the Dollar, the Pound and the Euro.

Precious Metals to reach unthinkable heights

Gold has gone up 40 times against the Dollar in the last 40 years and almost 6 times in the last 11 years. Very few investors have participated in this rise since the 1999 low at $ 250. Less than 1% of world financial assets are invested in gold and gold stocks. Between 1920 and 1980 circa 25% of financial assets were invested in gold and gold stocks.

THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH GOLD

The major rise in gold in the last 11 years has been a stealth move with very few investors participating. The dilemma is that there is not enough gold to satisfy the coming increase in demand. We have in previous articles forecasted the gold price to reach anywhere between $ 6,000 and $ 10,000 in the next few years – see “Gold entering a virtuous circle”. As we explained at the time, these are totally realistic targets without the effect of hyperinflation.

GOLD WILL SURGE IN 2011

Bearing in mind that we are likely to see hyperinflation in the US, the UK and many European countries, the $6-10,000 target for gold is much too low. The dilemma is that it is absolutely impossible to predict how much money will be printed by governments. In the Weimar republic gold reached DM 100 trillion. But it is really irrelevant what level gold and other precious metals will reach in hyperinflationary money.
What is much more important to understand is that physical gold (and silver) will protect investors against losing virtually 100% of the purchasing power of their money. Whatever real capital appreciation gold will have in the next few years is of less importance. But what is vital, is that physical gold (stored outside the banking system) is the ultimate form of wealth protection both against a deflationary collapse and a hyperinflationary destruction of paper money.

Throughout history gold has protected investors against various calamities but this time, holding physical gold will be absolutely critical to financial survival.

Matterhorn Asset Management AG
Bahnhofstrasse 28a
CH 8001 ZURICH
Switzerland
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+41 43 456 97 11 – Fax
matterhornassetmanagement.com


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