Regarding my posts on abolishing the FAA, I received this word from an air traffic controller, and am posting it with his permission: "Out of a normal 8 hour work day… maybe at most 4 1/2 hours is actually spent working by ARTCC controllers. The rest is on break. The east and northeast is rabidly unionized with unionization rates above 90%. Already those of us working west of the Mississippi are being told not to reroute or send anyone direct headed east because of workload concerns. Much of this is union politics, party politics, and political grandstanding."
In response to my latest article, a respondent named Paul provided still more context. He says:
It is hard for Rainbowlandians (what I call Americans) to understand that to those countries that we have invaded we are the terrorists. On the day of the Sandy Hook massacre the US killed 69 Pakistani children in a drone strike. Our kids get killed it's a terrorist attack; we kill their kids and it's democracy in action.
That middle sentence is powerful enough to require being repeated. "On the day of the Sandy Hook massacre the US killed 69 Pakistani children in a drone strike." People, they don't hate us for our freedoms. Also, I love the moniker, "Rainbowlandians" as an indicator of a society who not only believes all that "exceptionalism" propaganda but also blissfully ignore the terror bestowed upon others ostensibly in their names.
CORRECTION: There was NOT a drone strike on the same day as Sandy Hook, fortunately. Unfortunately, there was a Pakistan drone strike October 30, 2006, which killed 69 children at a madrassa, i.e., a school connected to a mosque. Just as bad, just not as coincidental. (Thanks, Bill!)
LRC had a huge week on Facebook,. More than 1,000,000 people saw our updates. Thank you!
But Gov. Devall Patrick says the taxpayers can't know the details.
Bush Library, dedicated today to the man who once boasted that he doesn't read anything.
The $2 trillion underground market.
UPDATE from Chris Westley:
The same guy who made that $100 image also made this. Very funny!
The cable "news" channels are giving us full coverage of the dedication ceremonies for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. A large facility that will house both books, . . . and the man wasn't even through coloring in one of them yet!
As I write this, a murderer, who is armed and dangerous, is currently on the loose in Denver, after murdering someone last night.
So, shouldn't the whole city be shut down now? Shouldn't the swat team be going house to house threatening every citizen at gunpoint to catch this guy? What's the difference between this fugitive and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? If you murder a handful of people the city gets shut down? If you murder only one (that we know of), then it's business as usual? Is it just arithmetic?
It's not the math, of course. When I was a kid, I remember my father installing new window locks in my bedroom because Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) was on the loose in our town. By then, Ramirez had already murdered at least 8 or 9 people and raped 10 people or so. Most of them were strangers to Ramirez, so we were all at risk.
It didn't even occur to us that the police should go door to door forcing everyone out of their homes at gunpoint. But then again, Americans then were not a bunch of hysterical sheep craving government violation of all their rights in the name of safety.
In the end, the cops didn't even catch Ramirez of course. An angry mob chased him down and nearly beat him to death before the cops showed up.
GE, which has had a hand in millions of civilian deaths through its Pentagon contracts, will no longer loan money to gun shops. (Thanks to Travis Holte)
As far back as May 8, 2009, Tom Englehardt (in an LRC article) mentioned reports that drones in Pakistan had killed "hundreds of bystanders". (I haven't searched for the earliest such reports.) By October, 2012, a 36-page study appeared out of Columbia Law School, and I believe it was not the first. Analysts for quite some time had begun saying that drone strikes created more terrorists than they killed, and that the people being targeted were not "high" terrorist figures. There was also a great deal of criticism of second strikes on funerals for the people killed. But drone policy was Obama's baby, and he favored it. Despite the counter-productiveness of drone strikes to achieve the empire's aims, now channeled through Obama, he continued these strikes. If he felt he could not back down, retreat, or show softness in his goal of dominating the politics of the regions being droned, and if he had nothing to put in its place to achieve this aim, then he decided to accept the accompanying costs of creating terrorists. The Boston Marathon bombing is one of those acceptable costs, although I am certain he wishes the FBI had not messed this one up royally.
The adminstration of Obama wants the maximum capacity to use drones without accountability. It doesn't want anyone second-guessing its policies, and that includes Congress. Congress is a flabby and slow contender in the making and control over policy anyway.
The Columbia report complains about the "limited public debate on drones". That's because academics ignore most everything except what other academics say. They're not reading press accounts, or LRC, or Englehardt, or they're not giving much weight, say, even to a former CIA employee who criticizes the drone policy. Most academics don't get ahead except by massaging lots of data, and so we find them complaining that "hard facts" and "information that ought to be provided by the U.S. government" are not being provided. This is called "stonewalling" or "secrecy". It's any government's method of doing what it wishes to do without being constrained by widespread public knowledge of its base activities.
The U.S. government can stand LRC critics and quite a few others because so few Americans are paying attention, and when they do pay attention, they literally do not know whether they should believe what they are reading because their firmly-anchored belief is that the government is not only the authority but also "good" authority. This belief is part of a belief and value system that has been inculcated in them for years. Adults have to go through a period of years to root out such a system, and most people don't do this.
The U.S. government even welcomes a certain amount of criticism as evidence that the government is open, that there is public debate, that this is a viable free-speech democracy, and that the government's policies have been legitimized via this "open" debate. But since the government controls the flow of information to most of a big corporate media that cannot and does not put up any serious criticism, the government need not worry about critics. In addition, it can find and pay off, albeit indirectly, countless academics, columnists and commentators, who have no personal interest in being radical and a great interest in being loyal Americans who spout the ever-shifting party lines. More accurately, the standard analyses that never doubt the goodness of the State and Empire are like a river of Empire flowing between two banks, which are Left and Right. Almost everything that the public hears from first grade onwards is channeled between these two banks. This provides an illusion of a free country, just as the banks provide an illusion of a freely-flowing river.
Now, at least 5 years after drone criticism has begun, the Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing in which a man from Yemen tells them face to face what the effects of the drone policy are on making Yemenis anti-American. This slowness in responding to events on the ground is intentional on the part of Congressional leaders. They only address an issue when, for whatever reasons that are in their interest, they calculate the time is right. Then they schedule hearings and then they invite hand-picked witnesses. Any concern about the loss of innocent lives of foreigners or the retaliation on American soil only enters their calculations indirectly. Power and position are #1, and lives factor in secondarily only insofar as they affect power and position. An extreme cynicism, if you will, is called for in assessing these matters, if only to counteract the programming that most Americans have undergone. However, one need only ask why it has taken so long to address this drone issue, even to the limited extent of holding a hearing? And what does Senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee, stand to gain from having this hearing at this time?
It may be that Durbin's political antenna has picked up some possible gains to his power and position by gingerly moving toward a position that, while not anti-drone, advocates more, as he put it in May, "checks and balances". He also seems carefully to be stepping toward a more anti-war position. He said in May
"From a constitutional viewpoint, it goes to this authorization for the use of military force. I don’t believe many, if any, of us believed when we voted for that – and I did vote for it – that we were voting for the longest war in the history of the United States and putting a stamp of approval on a war policy against terrorism that, 10 years plus later, we’re still using."
I will venture to say that Durbin will remain solidly within the river banks. He may tack his boat a little more in an anti-war direction, but since both the left and right banks have for decades now been heavily mired in a pro-war fog, that direction may be beneath the river's surface. Perhaps he should capsize his boat. In the end, he will if he succeeds gain some points for himself while not altering the Empire by any significant amount.
The Empire flows on.
In a gentlemanly debate at American University, Justin demolishes his opponent, Jonathan Rauch. Advice: start at 8:00.
Someone identified as Bob S. sent an email reminding me that Boston has been a major funding source of the Provisional IRA for many years, and the weapon of choice for the IRA was the bomb. During the past four decades, numerous people, including many innocent bystanders, were killed by these weapons.
(I add that I do not and have not supported British policies during that time, and that the Ulster Protestant Volunteers also set off bombs that killed people. Many people on both sides have justified these attacks as being legitimate tactics of war, but I for one disagree and say a pox on both their houses.)
My larger point is this: When people see the killing of innocents as being simple "collateral damage" in the process of a "greater good," they are more likely to engage in the kind of activity that ultimately can come back upon them. Bostonians are rightly outraged at the bombing at the Marathon, but they were willing to send millions of dollars to people who used the same weapons elsewhere, with the same horrible results.
Today, at least according to the official narrative, two Muslim brothers outraged at what U.S. Armed Forces and the CIA are doing in Muslim countries abroad (and all of us should be outraged at U.S. policies there), do essentially the same thing that the IRA and other paramilitary groups have done: set off bombs to kill others and send a message to everyone else. Many Bostonians have believed that the same actions done in Northern Ireland and Great Britain were legitimate, and they were willing to help fund them, even if that meant innocent bystanders were killed or maimed; now Boston's most visible sporting event has been violated and people ask why it happened and quickly condemn it, but they refuse to see the larger picture.
Wilt Alston in his LRC piece today identifies that "terrorist" attacks often have involved people who could not defeat their occupiers via conventional military means, so they turned to something else. His point, I believe, is correct and for years, the IRA said it was fighting against British occupation of Northern Ireland (not to mention that the Irish have long memories of the past British occupation of the rest of the Emerald Isle as well).
Yet, if that argument were used to legitimize politically the bombs of the IRA, then domestic attacks by Muslims against the country that either bombs or occupies Muslim nations would have to be seen in that same category. People cannot have this both ways. We cannot wash the blood off our hands by using the blood of innocents.
Finally, folks are declaring that the cupcake craze was indeed a bubble and it was indeed ludicrous. Yahoo writes, "More Evidence That the Gourmet Cupcake Bubble Has Popped." Forbes writes, "RIP Cupcakes, Long Live Juice Cleanses? Inside the Fickle Food Trend Bubble." An NPR story asks, "Has the Cupcake Bubble Finally Popped?" And finally, the Wall Street Journal wrote, "Forget Gold, the Gourmet-Cupcake Market is Crashing."
In January 2011, I wrote about the announcement that Crumbs Bake Shop was going public via a $66M merger. I mentioned that the stock was a terrific target for a short sell. I was then attacked by cupcake-loving readers who were upset that I would cast aspersions on an industry that was representative of the free market, free choice, and non-coercion. However, there's a major distinction between (1) criticizing a trend or fad for its underlying cultural-financial inanities and (2) calling for government intervention to coerce peaceful people during the course of their voluntary transactions. I never did the latter, so why all of the outrage? The stock for Crumbs Bake Shop nows sits at just above $1/share.
I said the trend wasn't based on real wealth, but instead, the inane obsession with cupcakes was born out of credit expansion and artifically low interest rates. The cupcake craze has been a great example of malinvestment - too many people with too much credit spending too much money building up and/or expanding businesses based in faddish fixations that appeared, to them, to be prime investments. Thus small cupcake bakeries became booming businesses with hordes of consumers trying to become a part of the latest trend that was made popular by such cultural icons as "Sex in the City." Cupcakes became the "hot" item for all of the wannabee consumers who had a need to fit in with the latest cultural rage. Therefore, the $5 cupcake became a statement of fashion. As Joe Queenan once wrote, America has had a "fawning subservience to the cupcake."
However, the one thing all the media stories are missing on this issue is that this cupcake craze was one of many puerile trends that came about as a result of cultural changes spurred on by the boom-bubble-bust economic period. Dumbed-down, adult America became infatuated with cupcakes. The more outlandish and childish, the better. And then, stimulus policies, along with the Federal Reserve’s fight to keep credit cheap and money plentiful, kept skewing the market and distorting time preferences, making even the ridiculous seem profitable and real. Adults developed a strange obsession with enormous, sugar-laden, pricey mounds of sweets all dressed up in toppings and flavors suitable for the most discriminating 5-year-olds.
And now, the cupcake investors are the latest laughingstock of the financial world. Seeking Alpha put together a fantastic financial obituary of Crumbs Bake Shop for your reading pleasure. Except when challenged with the question, "What went wrong," the author notes:
Based on the pricing, Crumbs has no reason not to be successful. Following a sampling of several cupcake stores in the Washington, DC area, Crumbs cupcakes appear to be the least expensive, and the shareable "signature size" cupcakes offer very good value. Reviews on Yelp seem relatively good, and the cupcakes are tasty (in my opinion, at least). Perhaps cupcakes have just been a fad and is now in secular decline? I have little hard evidence for or against this, but let's take a look at the Google search trends for Crumbs and its two most famous competitors: Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcakes.
The cupcake boom-bust has little to do with pricing strategies, perceived value, Yelp reviews, taste, or pure fads. These people who address these market quirks just don't understand basic economics, including business cycles and economic intervention on the part of government and it's monetary-banking sector.
With all things considered, the cupcake novelty has worn off, so get over it people. Thanks to the many wonderful readers who sent me these articles.
In a recent post, I made the statement that the FAA should be abolished. An air traffic controller (a good guy--he reads Mises) wrote to say that he doesn't see how it could be done since air traffic is a true monopoly. I don't either, but some smarter men than I have some ideas, like in this recent post by Dan Mitchell that I highly recommend.
. . . to be able to prevent such terrorist acts." This is the song-and-dance that always come from the political establishment. These people imagine that all that is needed to achieve any desirable end is more information about more people. It is an illusion shared by those who have yet to learn the basic lesson from the study of chaos: other than in a very short time-frame (e.g., forecasting tomorrow's weather) it is impossible to predict outcomes in complex systems. The capacity to predict requires a "sensitive dependence on initial conditions," which translates into having precise knowledge of all factors that can influence outcomes. Contrary to Plato's vision, there are simply too many (and constantly changing) variables at work within any society of human beings to be able to identify and assess their impacts. But as vertically-structured systems depend upon illusions to the contrary, the philosopher-kings - along with the philosopher-kings-in-waiting - will continue promoting their repressive and invasive schemes in search of magical ways of circumventing the inherent uncertainties arising from complexities.
John Lofton's exchange with a cashier lady at a local bookstore when buying a newspaper:
ME (gesturing toward "Thank A Soldier" items): "What should I thank them for?"
LADY (after slight pause): "For protecting you."
ME: "Are they REALLY doing that? Or are they putting me in greater danger because of the unGodly, unConstitutional wars they are waging."
LADY: "That's the government's doing."
ME: "But I thought the soldiers work for the government."
LADY: "They are just doing what the government tells them to do."
ME: "The Nazis at Nuremberg tried that only-following-orders defense and they were hung by the neck until dead."
LADY: "My son is in the military and I looked at one of his ID cards and it said he is the property of the US government." She shrugs as if to say, "Ain't that something?"